Strangely slow travelled news in ‘61. After thirty hours’ bombardment Fort Sumter had fallen before any person in New Orleans was sure the attack had been made. When five days later a yet more stupendous though quieter thing occurred, the tidings reached Kincaid’s Battery only on the afternoon of the next one in fair time to be read at the close of dress parade. But then what shoutings! The wondering Callenders were just starting for a drive up-town. At the grove gate their horses were frightened out of all propriety by an opening peal, down in the camp, from “Roaring Betsy.” And listen!
The black driver drew in. From Jackson Square came distant thunders and across the great bend of the river they could see the white puff of each discharge. What could it mean?
“Oh, Nan, the Abolitionists must have sued for peace!” exclaimed the sister.
“No-no!” cried Miranda. “Hark!”
Behind them the battery band had begun—
“O, carry me back to old Vir—”
“Virginia!” sang the three. “Virginia is out! Oh, Virginia is out!” They clapped their mitted hands and squeezed each other’s and laughed with tears and told the coachman and said it over and over.
In Canal Street lo! it was true. Across the Neutral Ground they saw a strange sight; General Brodnax bareheaded! bareheaded yet in splendid uniform, riding quietly through the crowd in a brilliantly mounted group that included Irby and Kincaid, while everybody told everybody, with admiring laughter, how the old Virginian, dining at the St. Charles Hotel, had sallied into the street cheering, whooping, and weeping, thrown his beautiful cap into the air, jumped on it as it fell, and kicked it before him up to one corner and down again to the other. Now he and his cavalcade came round the Clay statue and passed the carriage saluting. What glory was in their eyes! How could our trio help but wave or the crowd hold back its cheers!
Up at Odd Fellows’ Hall a large company was organizing a great military fair. There the Callenders were awaited by Flora and Madame, thither they came, and there reappeared the General and his train. There, too, things had been so admirably cut and dried that in a few minutes the workers were sorted and busy all over the hall like classes in a Sunday-school.
The Callenders, Valcours, and Victorine were a committee by themselves and could meet at Callender House. So when Kincaid and Irby introduced a naval lieutenant whose amazingly swift despatch-boat was bound on a short errand a bend or so below English Turn, it was agreed with him in a twinkling—a few twinklings, mainly Miranda’s—to dismiss horses, take the trip, and on the return be set ashore at Camp Callender by early moonlight.