Such ladies! Why shouldn’t they pass? Was it not safe for the cause and just as safe for them? Was not every maid and matron of them in the “Ladies’ Society of the Confederate Army”—whereof Miss Callender was a secretary and Miss Valcour one of the treasurers? And had not the fellows there, owing to an influence or two in the camp itself and another or two just outside it, all become, in a strong, fine sense and high degree, ladies’ men? It was good for them spiritually, and good for their field artillery evolutions, to be watched by maidenly and matronly eyes. Quite as good was it, too, for their occasional heavy-gun practice with two or three huge, new-cast, big-breeched “hell-hounds,” as Charlie and others called them, whose tapering black snouts lay out on the parapet’s superior slope, fondled by the soft Gulf winds that came up the river, and snuffing them for the taint of the enemy.
One afternoon when field-gun manoeuvres were at a close, Kincaid spoke from the saddle. Facing him stood his entire command, “in order in the line,” their six shining pieces and dark caissons and their twice six six-horse teams stretching back in six statuesque rows; each of the three lieutenants—Bartleson, Villeneuve, Tracy—in the front line, midway between his two guns, the artificers just six yards out on the left, and guidon and buglers just six on the right. At the commander’s back was the levee. Only now it had been empty of spectators, and he was seizing this advantage.
“Soldiers!” It was his first attempt since the flag presentation, and it looked as though he would falter, but he hardened his brow: “Some days ago you were told not to expect marching orders for a week. Well the week’s up and we’re told to wait another. Now that makes me every bit as mad as it makes you! I feel as restless as any man in this battery, and I told the commanding general to-day that you’re the worst discontented lot I’ve yet seen, and that I was proud of you for it. That’s all I said to him. But! if there’s a man here who doesn’t yet know the difference between a soldierly discontent and unsoldierly grumbling I want him to GO! Kincaid’s Battery is not for him. Let him transfer to infantry or cavalry. Oh, I know it’s only that you want to be in the very first fight, and that’s all right! But what we can’t get we don’t grumble for in Kincaid’s Battery!”
He paused. With his inspired eyes on the splendid array, visions of its awful destiny only exalted him. Yet signs which he dared not heed lest he be confounded told him that every eye so fixed on his was aware of some droll distraction. He must speak on.