“But you couldn’t be in the company in any event. You look more like rebels than soldiers, with your gray jackets and trousers”—for the boys still wore their Acredale uniform, an imitation of the West Point cadet’s costume. “We shall be on the march in a few minutes, and there is only one of two things to be done. Remain here in the ‘unassigned’ camp, where you may be transferred into any regiment in the service that needs recruits; or go, as Colonel Grandison has very kindly consented to have you, as orderlies or clerks.”
The very possibility of being sent into some unknown regiment was a terror so great that the other alternative became less odious to the boys, and they trotted after Jack, as he stalked moody and distracted to Major Mike McGoyle’s tent, now the only habitable spot left where a few hours before a symmetrical little city had stood.
“And so ye want to be solgers, me foine b’yes? Well, well, ’tis litter for yer mothers’ knees ye are, with yer rosy cheeks and curling locks. It’s a poor place here for yer bright oies and soft hands, me lads; but I’m not the wan to throw the dish after th’ milk when it’s spilt!”
He stroked the bared heads of the blushing lads, and, turning to their unhappy sponsor, he added with official brevity: “I will put Twiggs’s son at me papers in the adjutant’s office. Young Pearley can remain with your company until I make out a detail for him.”
It was impossible for Jack to sustain the role of frowning displeasure as Dick skipped back with him to the company. He remembered his own delight three months before, even with the haunting thoughts of his mother’s reproaches to dampen his ardor, and he was soon dazzling the neophyte with the wonders that were just about to begin.
It was the afternoon of the 16th of July, and the hillsides, which the day before were covered with tents as far as the eye could see on every hand, were now blue with masses of men, while other masses had been passing on the red highways since early morning, taking the direction of the Potomac bridges.
AN ARMY WITH BANNERS.
It has always seemed to me that the life, the routine, the many small haps in the daily function of a soldier, which in sum made up to him all that there was in the devoir of death, ought to be read with interest by the millions whose kin were part of the civil war, as well as by those who knew of it only as we know Napoleon’s wars or Washington’s. For my part, I would find a livelier pleasure in the diary of a common soldier, in any of the great wars, than I do in the confusing pamphlets, bound in volumes called history. I like to read of war as our Uncle Toby related it. I like to know what two observing eyes saw and the feelings that sometimes made the timidest heroes—sometimes cravens.