網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

leader, that the soldiers did not dream of fighting; the Georgian swordsmen took 700 prisoners and drove them away before them like sheep in the face of thousands of Federal infantry. As my boat was unarmed I pushed her off into the stream until the skirmish was over and the camp-visitors gone."

In the woods on the Virginian side of the river stands a pillared hall, known as “ Arlington Heights.” This was General Lee's residence before the war. I believe that he inherited mansion and property from his fatherin-law, Custis. The General had a large tract of land under cultivation, and kept a staff of 700 negroes. These men, though slaves under the old régime, were well treated, and will give “ de massa Lee” a good word now that they are freemen. An incident like this casts a gleam of light over the otherwise dark picture of slavery. There is now a freedman's farm upon a part of the Arlington Estate; in another corner of it there is a soldiers' cemetery ; its long lines of white headstones constituting one of the saddest memorials of the war.

I never heard the name of General Lee mentioned except in terms of great respect by both Northern and Southern men. A gentleman of South Carolina, who had fought under the General all through the war, spoke of him to me almost affectionately. Our “ commander said he “was very quiet and retiring, and yet was gifted with excellent judgment. Not one of his officers was jealous of him, and when he exposed himself to danger, as he often did on the battle-field, one and all would beseech him to go to the rear and let them do the fighting."

When the Confederate army of Virginia surrendered to Grant, the Northern General performed an act of great magnanimity. With a delicacy of feeling rarely to be found, he avoided appearing in person to receive the token of submission from his old fellow-officer, and thus spared his brave foeman the pain of such a scene.

Every ono has heard the story how General Jackson gained his title of Stonewall. On the field of Bull Run the Southern troops were wavering, when an officer came up from the General's post, and said, “There is Jackson standing like a stonewall.” From that hour it became a designatiori far more famous than that of official rank. His prowess and intrepidity were known on both sides of the line. When he swoop'd down on Harper's Ferry and captured the Federal garrison there, he was surprised to hear himself cheered by his foemen-prisoners ; so not knowing any other means of expressing his feeling, he ordered double rations to be served out to the cheerers. His death came upon the Confederacy as a great sorrow, and was mourned even as the fall of Hampden was by the Puritan soldiery. The old world has boasted much of its military commanders, and points to Gustavus of Sweden, to Havelock and Campbell in India, to Cromwell in England, and the rivals of Waterloo, as its names of fame; yet we hesitate not to add to the roll of honour the deeds of Lee and Grant, Jackson and Sherman, Sheridan, Stuart and Rosecrans. Like the captains in the ancient ship-race, they take the prize with equal prow.

MOUNT VERNON. The desire of the wanderer's heart is granted to-day. After roaming a continent the pilgrim has reached the shrine. It is sacred to Washington and to American liberty. Silent and deserted now is the home of him who while he lived was “ first in peace, first in war, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.” Mossy with age, and

untenanted save by myself and companions, is the little wooden pier upon which we land for Mount Vernon. Passing up through the thick woods you hear the piping of the mocking-bird, the plaint of the katy-did, and the softened scream of the tink-a-tauks. You almost expect to see a pair of luminous eyes, flanked by antlers, peering out from the thicket. But the expectation is vain. The deer have all been scared away from these woods by blazing camp-fires, or they have been shot to supply a soldier's larder.

On the slope of the hill we come upon Washington's grave, over which has been reared a simple porch or vestibule of brick. Through an open railing in front you look in upon the marble sarcophagus, on which is recorded the hero's name. The figure of an eagle with outstretched wings has been carved on the slab, but some Vandal has broken off one of the claws of the bird. Higher up stands the mansion, a frame-house of very plain and simple architecture, staccoed outside so as to imitate stone-work. The situation has been as carefully chosen as that of Abbotsford. Unlike the bleak hills which Sir Walter laboured to plant with trees, the district round here has timber enough and to spare. At Mount Vernon it will be part of the work of a life, not. to create but to diminish the growth of forest-trees. When in process of time the country becomes again settled, and the land more amenable to cultivation, you will have to look long for a bonnier home than this. Up some narrow steps we found our way into the great man's bedroom. There is a similarity between this chamber and that one at Stratford in which Shakespeare first saw the light. Both have the same desolate look, the same lack of furniture and adornment.

At the risk of being thought tedious by some readers I will mention a few relics which remain in this cabinetmansion of the nation, their presence serving to remind us of the once busy life at Mount Vernon. In the entrancehall hangs a trophy from the France of the Revolution, the key of the Bastile presented to Washington by La Fayette. The dining-room has a mournful look, and the feeling of gloom is deepened by the sight of memorials of its onetime occupants strewn about. There is a harpsichord brought in olden time from over the sea, as a wedding present from the General to his adopted daughter, Miss Custis. It is curious to decipher the names of its' makers Longman and Broderip, and to know that even then, musical instruments were elaborated in London, at 26, Cheapside, and 4, Haymarket, by artists as eminent in their day as Collard and Broadwood. I asked one of our company, a young American lady, to play upon the old keyboard some song of her country, but on her trying it, we found the strings to be broken, “its soul of music" was fled; it was as lifeless as the fabled harp in Tara's Halls. Turn aside for a moment and examine the marble mantel-piece. It was carved in Italy 80 or 90 years ago, and represents three scenes of ancient country-life on the Arno. The group of cattle in the centre might have been modelled after Rosa Bonheur; equally true to life are its companion scenes of “oxen ploughing," and a “ vintage-festival.” This work of art was a present from an attached personal friend to Washington. Pistol-holsters and fragments of camp-equipage remind us of campaigns and military achievements. From the old negro in attendance you may purchase photographs of mansion and tomb.

The gardens in rear of the house are sadly neglected now. The flower-beds were once defined by borders of box, now they are fortified by hedges or walls of it. From the white-haired negro-gardener I obtained some slips of geraniums to send to England. The Americans of our party seemed surprised that an Englishman should manifest any interest in the scene; the little act of taking the geranium-slips opened their hearts to me at once. One young fellow brought some walnuts which he had gathered from a tree near the tomb, for me to plant in “old England” he said, and a lady gave me some seeds of the wild cypress to train up my porch at home. Another informed me that her husband was a Yorkshireman; while a real Yankee youth, after telling me that his father hailed from the same county, concluded an enumeration of his parent's peculiarities by saying “He liked his roast beef.” Before the time came to leave, several of these new-found acquaintances had offered me the hospitality of their homes, if, as they said, “you should happen to come our way in

rambles.” The property of Mount Vernon was purchased for the nation by the ladies of America. Their agent Mr. Herbert has charge of it, and the premises are kept from going absolutely to decay with money from a small sustentation fund. The founder's family in former times possessed large tracts of land which stretched back to the Richmond road, and had a frontage of some miles to the river. Some large trees still mark the boundary between the woods of the Washington-estate and those of the adjoining proprietor. Washington himself cultivated portions of his estate, and employed 1000 negro-slaves. Colonel John Washington, a direct descendant, was killed while serving in the Confederate army; but other offshoot families still live in Eastern Virginia; so the family name will be perpetuated, and may be again honourably known in American history.

your

« 上一頁繼續 »