As he spoke the Union flag he had seen came forward, but it was in the hands of a rebel bearer, and was upside down in mockery. The sight was enough. He fired the shots as agreed upon, firing two at the group marching heedlessly forward, as the skirmish-line was far ahead, or they supposed it was, for the two men disabled by Jack and Barney were the advance, as it was not supposed that any but stragglers were near at hand, and the company were returning to their regiment. In an instant a fierce volley is returned, and Barney, who is fairly in the bush behind a huge tree, hears a low groan. He looks where Jack had been and sees him lying on the ground, stifling an agonized cry by holding his left arm over his mouth. Barney might have escaped, at least he might have delayed capture, but coming from behind the tree, he holds up his hands, and flinging himself on the ground beside his comrade takes his head upon his knee and awaits the worst.
There were not so many millions of Americans in 1861 as there are to-day. But they were more American then than they are now. That is, the Old World had not sent the millions to our shores that now people the waste places of the West. It was not until after the civil war that those prodigious hosts came—enough to make the populace of such empires as fill the largest space in history. That part of the land that loved the flag cherished it with a fervor deeper than the half-alien race that first flung it to the breeze under Washington. They loved the republic with something of that passionate idolatry that made the Greek’s ideal joy—death for the fatherland; some of that burning zeal and godlike pride that made the earlier Roman esteem his citizenship more precious than a foreign crown. But until the battle on that awful 21st of July proved the war real—with the added horror of civil hate—Secretary Seward’s epigram of ninety days clung fast in the public mind.
Up to Bull Run there was a vague feeling that our army, in proper time, would march down upon the rebels like the hosts of Joshua, and scatter them and the rebellion to uttermost destruction in one action. It was upon this assumption that the journals of the North satirized, abused, vilified Scott, and clamored day by day for an “advance upon Richmond.” The damnation of public clamor, and not the incompetency of the general, set the inchoate armies of Scott upon that fatal adventure. But that humiliating, incredible, and for years misunderstood Sunday, on the plateaus of Manassas, where, after all, blundering and imbecility brought disaster, but not shame, upon the devoted soldiery, aroused the sense of the North to the reality of war, as the overthrow at Jemmapes in 1793 convinced the Prussian oligarchy that the republic in France was a fact.