Excerpt from "Reminiscenses of Finch Hollow"
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by Arthur E. Crocker
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At about eight o'clock that evening General Fitzhugh Lee rode in to Burks with most of his cavalry brigade. They made short work appropriating my camp outfit, and for days afterwards my 600 tin cups were rattling at the sides of Confederate cavalry saddles.
The camp and everything about it except the station house was set on fire and in the light of this fire General Lee and staff rode up. The lieutenant who had us in charge saluted and made a verbal report to the General. "Eight prisoners captured here." General Lee replied, "See that none of them escape, and if anyone of them try, shoot him down."
Within half an hour we were on the move and were kept marching all night, going through Vienna, Leesburg, and so through byways to the Aldee pike near Chantilly, having a sharp fight at Fairfax Courthouse, where the Confederates were repulsed. While this fight was in progress we were halted in the road. General J.E.B. Stuart rode up with his staff and dismounted near us. They proceeded at once to light fires and broil strips of salt fat pork over the embers, Stuart cooking his own meat the same as the least important private. General Stuart was a tall, distinguished-looking man and every action and every tone of his voice indicated that he was a polished gentleman.
We halted for perhaps half an hour at Chantilly next morning but were not served anything to eat. In fact we had nothing to eat until we reached Dover in the mountains northwest of Warrenton at eleven o'clock Wednesday night, having traveled about ninety miles without sleep or food. Food was served us at infrequent intervals till we reached Culpepper Court House where we had a good squre meal of partly decayed crackers. Here we were bundled into box cars and taken to Gordonsville. At Gordonsville we were taken into a dirty barracks for the night. No fire, no light, and nothing to eat. In this barracks I had my first close acquaintance with the Army Louse. The first one was followed at once by a whole brigade of them and I was not free of them for one instant until I threw away all my clothes at Alexandria the next spring.
The army louse is a ubiquitous animal found in all camps having insufficient bathing facilities. He is a little larger than a full-grown p;issmire, though more chubby and fatter. His color is dark gray and he is never quiet. In agility he equals the Irishman's flea. "When you put your finger on him he ain't there."
In those days it was currently reported and generally believed that the patriarchs of this tribe carred the abbreviation "B.C." indelibly imprinted on their backs. I had lain down on the ground to get a little sleep and in a few minutes felt something scapering up my leg. It was the army louse! He hurried along to my knee, bit a small chunk out of my knee-pan, but apparentlly he thought this too tough, so he retraced his steps and commenced chewing the calf of my leg. I disturbed him at this feast, when he turned his attention to a race up my back, followed by a legion of his fellows. An active skirmish for position semed to be on in the vicinity of my right shoulder blade.
Of course I got no sleep that night, but after a few weeks I got used to their antics and let them have all the fun with me they desired, for the reason that I could not help myself.
We finally landed in Richmond 200 strong, our party augmented to this number by detachments captured elsewhere.
We were thrown into Libby Prison, where we remained till the next March.
A description of our life there would fill a book, but I pass to a bright warm day in March, 1863, when we were paroled and told to get ready to move at once.
We were weak and emaciated from long confinement and want of nourishment, but this news cheered our hearts, and we filed out into the mud in Cary Street and marched with alacrity to the Petersburg depot, where we were loaded onto flat cars and shunted about the railroad yards till afternoon. After many delays and having our eyes and ears filled with cinders from the wood burning engine, we arrived at City Point at eleven P.M. and were checked off by lamp light on the wharf and went aboard the flag of truce boat New York. Here we were at once served white bread and a delicious cup (tin cup) of coffee with sugar and condensed milk.
At daylight next morning the New York, an old Hudson River passenger boat, pulled noiselessly out into the stream and moved down the James River with only a white flag at her masthead. The river was deserted. Not a vessel in sight till we beheld two of our picket gunboats at Newport News.
As we passed these, the white flag was taken down and Old Glory flung to the breeze.
Never before nor since have I participated in such enthusiastic cheering, nor experienced such a trust in the old flag as then. The red, white and blue waved proudly in the sunshine. We felt comforted, cheerful and safe. Patriotic songs were sung with spirit and feeling. Several paroled officers made patriotic speeches and we were all happy, and glad to be speeding to our loved ones and home.
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