Indeed, my son, each man ran for his life, the excitement increasing at every step, until the race became general; and in this way it was kept up until our grand army of gallant militiamen reached the forts, when they breathed freer and felt safe. This was a dark day for Washington and the nation, which became bowed down with sorrow and disappointment. The brave general followed his army into Washington; and I have heard it intimated that he boasted of having the most fleet-footed divisions history had any account of.
You will see, my son, that forts have a moral as well as a material effect. The enemy might, had he known our forlorn condition, have followed up his victory and marched into Washington with flying colors. He was probably restrained by his fears of what we might have in store for him when he reached the forts. As to the provisions for the feast, we left them for the enemy to enjoy, which he did with many thanks to us for the bounty, his own fare being very scanty. And now, my son, I shall leave to my artist the task of giving you an exact picture of our army as it appeared on its way to Washington after the battle of Bull-Run.
The wise men of Washington agreed that McDowell was not the general we took him for, so we sent for George B. McClellan, who had been whipping the rebels up in Northern Virginia. We felt sure that he was the man who would whip the rebels for us, and gain us victories; who would dispel the gloom hanging over the land, and bring us plenty of sunshine. Indeed, my son, the nation began to feel very happy in the possession of such a man; for, according to the newspapers, he had displayed remarkable military traits when only a boy, such as great attention to the study of maps, and the making of little dirt piles. It was also added that while yet a youth he was very obedient to his father, and affectionately fond of his mother. And these excellent traits of character, in one so young, it was held by our wise men, must, when improved and enlarged by manhood, make the man, who had given his mind to the study of arms a great general. So, my son, you see what an opportunity there is before you.
Well, George came to us flush from the field of his glories, and we proceeded at once to make him a hero before he had made us an army. The nation recovered from its disappointment, the sky brightened, the people began to send into the capital troops of a different sort, and the general we had put our faith in went to work making an army—the grand old Army of the Potomac. Now, my son, it was no small job to make an army, and when you have made it to so improve its drill and discipline that it will stand firm and fight well. It is just as necessary, my son, to harden the constitution of a new army as it is to so sharpen its digestion that it will relish the coarsest of fare. And you can do neither of these things in a day. You must also cultivate