Oh, but!—as the dingy, lean-faced Hilary cried, springing from the ground where he lay and jerking his pipe from his teeth—was it not enough for a world’s pity that to her it seemed so? How it seemed to the Callenders in particular was a point no one dared raise where he was. To them had come conditions so peculiarly distressing and isolating that they were not sharers of the common lot around them, but of one strangely, incalculably worse. Rarely and only in guarded tones were they spoken of now in Kincaid’s Battery, lately arrived here, covered with the glory of their part in Bragg’s autumn and winter campaign through Tennessee and Kentucky, and with Perryville, Murfreesboro’ and Stone River added to the long list on their standard. Lately arrived, yes; but bringing with them as well as meeting here a word apparently so authentic and certainly so crushing, (as to those sweet Callenders), that no one ever let himself hint toward it in the hearing even of Charlie Valcour, much less of their battle-scarred, prison-wasted, march-worn, grief-torn, yet still bright-eyed, brave-stepping, brave-riding Major. Major of Kincaid’s Battalion he was now, whose whole twelve brass pieces had that morning helped the big iron batteries fight Porter’s gunboats.
“Finding Grand Gulf too strong,” says Grant, “I moved the army below, running the batteries there as we had done at Vicksburg. Learning here that there was a good road from Bruinsburg up to Port Gibson” (both in Mississippi), “I determined to cross—”
How pleasantly familiar were those names in New Orleans. Alike commercially and socially they meant parterres, walks, bowers in her great back-garden. From the homes of the rich planters around the towns and landings so entitled, and from others all up and down the river from Natchez to Vicksburg and the Bends, hailed many a Carondelet Street nabob and came yearly those towering steamboat-loads—those floating cliffs—of cotton-bales that filled presses, ships and bank-boxes and bought her imports—plows, shoes, bagging, spices, silks and wines: came also their dashing sons and daughters, to share and heighten the splendors of her carnivals and lure away her beaux and belles to summer outings and their logical results. In all the region there was hardly a family with which some half-dozen of the battery were not acquainted, or even related.
“Home again, home again from a foreign shore,”
sang the whole eighty-odd, every ladies’ man of them, around out-of-tune pianos with girls whose brothers were all away in Georgia and Virginia, some forever at rest, some about to fight Chancellorsville. Such a chorus was singing that night within ear-shot of the headquarters group when Ned Ferry, once of the battery, but transferred to Harper’s cavalry, rode up and was led by Hilary to the commanding general to say that Grant had crossed the river. Piano and song hushed as the bugles rang, and by daybreak all camps had vanished and the gray columns were hurrying, horse, foot, and wheels, down every southerly road to crush the invader.