The night was very bad — thunder and lightning, torrents of rain — the road knee-deep in mud and water, and often blocked up with waggons “come to grief.” I pitied the wretched plight of the unfortunate soldiers who were to follow us. Our progress was naturally very slow indeed, and we took eight hours to go as many miles.
At 8 A.M. we halted a little beyond the village of Fairfield, near the entrance to a mountain-pass. No sooner had we done so and lit a fire, than an alarm was spread that Yankee cavalry were upon us. Several shots flew over our heads, but we never could discover from whence they came. News also arrived of the capture of the whole of Ewell's beautiful wagons.* These reports created a regular stampede amongst the waggoners, and Longstreet's drivers started off as fast as they could go. Our medical trio, however, firmly declined to budge, and came to this wise conclusion partly urged by the pangs of hunger, and partly from the consideration that, if the Yankee cavalry did come, the crowded state of the road in our rear would prevent our escape. Soon afterwards, some Confederate cavalry were pushed to the front, who cleared the pass after a slight skirmish.
At noon, Generals Lee and Longstreet arrived, and halted close to us. Soon afterwards Ewell came up. This is the first time I ever saw him. He is rather a remarkable-looking old soldier, with a bald head, a prominent nose, and rather a haggard, sickly face: having so lately lost his leg above the knee, he is still a complete cripple, and falls off his horse occasionally. Directly he dismounts he has to be put on crutches. He was Stonewall Jackson's coadjutor during the celebrated valley campaigns, and he used to be a great swearer — in fact, he is said to have been the only person who was unable to restrain that propensity before Jackson; but since his late (rather romantic) marriage, he has (to use the American expression) “joined the Church.” When I saw him he was in a great state of disgust in consequence of the supposed loss of his waggons, and refused to be comforted by General Lee.
I joined Longstreet again, and, mounted on Lawley's venerable horse, started at 3 P.M. to ride through the pass. At 4 P.M. we stopped at a place where the roads fork, one leading to Emmetsburg, and the other to Hagerstown. Major Moses and I entered a farmhouse, in which we found several women, two wounded Yankees, and one dead one, the result of this morning's skirmish. One of the sufferers was frightfully wounded in the head; the other was hit in the knee: the latter told me he was an Irishman, and had served in the Bengal Europeans during the Indian Mutiny. He now belonged to a Michigan cavalry regiment, and had already imbibed American ideas of Ireland's wrongs, and all that sort of trash. He told me that his officers were very bad, and that the idea in the army was that M'Clellan had assumed the chief command.
The women in this house were great Abolitionists. When Major Fairfax rode up, he inquired of one of them whether the corpse was that of a Confederate or Yankee (the body was in the verandah, covered with a white sheet). The woman made a gesture with her foot, and replied,”If it was a rebel, do you think it would be here long?” Fairfax then said, “Is it a woman who speaks in such a manner of a dead body which can do no one any harm?” She thereupon coloured up, and said she wasn't in earnest.
At 6 o'clock we rode on again (by the Hagerstown road) and came up with General Longstreet at 7.30. The road was full of soldiers marching in a particularly lively manner — the wet and mud seemed to have produced no effect whatever on their spirits, which were as boisterous as ever. They had got hold of coloured prints of Mr Lincoln, which they were passing about from company to company with many remarks upon the personal beauty of Uncle Abe. The same old chaff was going on of “Come out of that hat — I know you're in it — I sees your legs a-dangling down,” &c. When we halted for the night, skirmishing was going on in front and rear — Stuart in front and Ewell in rear. Our bivouac being near a large tavern, General Longstreet had ordered some supper there for himself and his Staff; but when we went to devour it, we discovered General M'Laws and his officers rapidly finishing it. We, however, soon got more, the Pennsylvanian proprietors being particularly anxious to propitiate the General, in hopes that he would spare their live stock, which had been condemned to death by the ruthless Moses.
During supper women came rushing in at intervals, saying —“Oh, good heavens, now they're killing our fat hogs. Which is the General? which is the Great Officer? Our milch cows are now going.” To all which expressions Longstreet replied, shaking his head in a melancholy manner — “Yes, madam, it's very sad — very sad; and this sort of thing has been going on in Virginia more than two years — very sad.”
We all slept in the open, and the heavy rain produced no effect upon our slumbers.
I understand it is impossible to cross the lines by flag of truce. I therefore find myself in a dilemma about the expiration of my leave.
* It afterwards turned out that all escaped but thirty-eight.
SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 283-7