Westwood, Hanover County, January 20,1862.—I pass over the sad leave-taking of our kind friends in Clarke and Winchester. It was very sad, because we knew not when and under what circumstances we might meet again. We left Winchester, in the stage, for Strasburg at ten o’clock at night, on the 24th of December. The weather was bitter cold, and we congratulated ourselves that the stage was not crowded. Mr. _____ and the girls were on the back seat, a Methodist clergyman, a soldier, and myself on the middle, and two soldiers and our maid Betsey on the front seat. We went off by starlight, with every prospect of a pleasant drive of eighteen miles. As we were leaving the suburbs of the town, the driver drew up before a small house, from which issued two women with a baby, two baskets, several bundles, and a box. The passengers began to shout out, “Go on, driver; what do you mean? there’s no room for another; go on.” The driver made no answer, but the women came to the stage-door, and began to put in their bundles; the gentlemen protested that they could not get in—there was no room. The woman with the baby said she would get in; she was “agwine to Strasburg to spend Christmas with her relations, whar she was born and raised, and whar she had not been for ten year, and nobody had a better right to the stage than she had, and she was agwine, and Kitty Grim was agwine too—she’s my sister-law; and so is baby, ’cause baby never did see her relations in Strasburg in her life. So, Uncle Ben!” she exclaimed to the driver, “take my bag, basket, and box by you, and me and Kitty and baby, and the bundles and the little basket, will go inside.” All this was said amidst violent protestations from the men within: “You can’t get in; driver, go on.” But suiting the action to the word, she opened the door, calling, “Come, Kitty,” got on the step, and thrust her head in, saying: “If these gentlemen is gentlemen, and has got any politeness, they will git out and set with Uncle Ben, and let ladies come inside.” A pause ensued. At last a subdued tone from the soldier on the middle seat was heard to say: “Madam, if you will get off the step, I will get out.” “Very well, sir; and why didn’t you do that at first? And now,” said she, looking at a man on the front seat, “there’s another seat by Uncle Ben; sposen you git out and let Kitty Grim have your seat; she’s bound to go.” The poor man quietly got out, without saying a word, but the very expression of his back, as he got out of the stage, was subdued. “Now, Kitty, git in, and bring the little basket and them two bundles; they won’t pester the lady much.” The door was closed, and then, the scene being over, the passengers shouted with laughter.
Our heroine remained perfectly passive until we got to the picket-post, a mile from town. The driver stopped; a soldier came up for passports. She was thunder-struck. “Passes! Passes for white folks! I never heard of such a thing. I ain’t got no pass; nuther is Kitty Grim.” I suggested to her to keep quiet, as the best policy. Just at that time a Tennessee soldier had to confess that he had forgotten to get a passport. “You can’t go on,” said the official; and the soldier got out. Presently the woman’s turn came. “Madam, your passport, if you please.” “I ain’t got none; nuther is Kitty Grim (that’s my sister-in-law); we ain’t agwine to git out nuther, ’cause we’s gwine to Strasburg to spend Christmas with my relations, and I ain’t been thar for ten year, and I never heard of white folks having passes.” “But, madam,” began the official ——— “You needn’t to ‘but, madam,’ me, ’cause I ain’t agwine to git out, and I’d like to see the man what would put me out. This is a free country, and I’se agwine to Strasburg this night; so you might as well take your lantern out of my face.” “But, madam, my orders,” began the picket. “Don’t tell me nothing ’bout orders; I don’t care nothing ’bout orders; and you needn’t think, ’cause the Tennessee man got out, that I’se agwine to git out—’cause I ain’t. Ain’t I got three sons in the army, great sight bigger than you is? and they fit at Manassas, and they ain’t no cowards, nuther is their mother; and I ain’t agwine to git out of this stage this night, but I’m gwine to Strasburg, whar I was born and raised.”
The poor man looked non-plussed, but yet another effort; he began, “My dear madam.” “I ain’t none of your dear madam; I’se just a free white woman, and so is Kitty Grim, and we ain’t no niggers to git passes, and I’se gwine ‘long this pike to Strasburg. Now I’se done talking.” With this she settled herself on the seat, and leant back with a most determined air; and the discomfited man shut the door amid peals of laughter from within and from without. In a few minutes we were quiet again, and all began to settle themselves for sleep, when the silence was broken by our heroine: “Kitty, is you sick?” “No,” said Kitty. “Well, it is a wonder. Gentlemen, can’t one of you take Kitty’s seat, and give her yourn? she gits monstrous sick when she is ariding with her back to the horses.” There was a deathlike silence, and my curiosity was aroused to know how she would manage that point. After a few moments she began again. “Kitty, is you sick?” “No,” says Kitty, “not yit.” “Well, I do wish one of you gentlemen would give Kitty his seat.” Still no reply. All was becoming quiet again, when she raised her voice: “Kitty Grim, is you sick?” “Yes,” said Kitty, “just a little.” “I knowed it; I knowed she was sick; and when Kitty Grim gits sick, she most in gineral flings up!” The effect was electric. “My dear madam,” exclaimed both gentlemen at once, “take my seat; by all means take my seat.” The Methodist clergyman being nearest, gave up his seat and took hers. The change was soon effected amidst the most uproarious laughter, all feeling that they were fairly outgeneraled the third time. From that time until we reached Strasburg, at two o’clock, she kept up a stream of talk, addressed to the baby, never interrupted except once, when the quiet-looking soldier on the front seat ventured to say, “Madam, do you never sleep?” “Never when I’m a-travelling,” was the curt reply; and she talked on to the baby: “Look at all them mules—what a sight of fodder they must eat! The Yankees come down to fight us, ’cause we’se got niggers and they ain’t got none. I wish there warn’t no niggers. I hate Yankees, and I hate niggers too,” etc., until we got to Strasburg. She then called out to “Uncle Ben” not to carry her to the depot—she was “agwine to her uncle’s.” “Whar’s that?” cried Uncle Ben. “I don’t know, but monstrous nigh a tailor’s.” One of the passengers suggested that we might be left by the cars, and had better go on to the depot. But she objected, and we had become a singularly non-resisting company, and allowed her to take—what we knew she would have—her own way.
In the mean time the cars arrived, crowded with soldiers. It was very dark and cold; the confusion and noise were excessive—shouting, hallooing, hurrahing. We passed through the dense crowd, and into the cars, with some difficulty. Mr. _____ returned to look for the baggage. At last all seemed ready, and off we went; but what was our horror to find that Mr. _____ was not in the cars! All the stories that we had ever heard of persons being thrown from the train as they attempted to get on, arose to our imagination. The darkness and crowd were great. Might he not have been thrown from the platform? We became more and more uneasy. The conductor came by; I questioned him, thinking he might be in another car. He replied, “No, madam, there is no such gentleman on the train.” At this moment the Methodist minister, who had been in the stage, introduced himself as the Rev. Mr. Jones; he knew Mr. _____; he offered me his purse and his protection. I can never forget his kindness. He thought Mr. _____ had not attempted to get on the train; there was so much baggage from the stage that there was some difficulty in arranging it; he would telegraph from Manassas when we stopped to change cars, and the answer would meet us at Culpeper Court-House. All this was a great relief to us. At Manassas he attended to our baggage; one piece was wanting—a box, which Mr. J. had seen in Mr. _____’s hands, just before the train set off; he seemed convinced that Mr. _____ was detained by an ineffectual effort to get that box on the car. At Culpeper Court-House we found J. waiting for us at the depot. Our kind and Rev. friend did not give up his supervision of us until he saw us under J’s care. We immediately applied at the office for our expected telegram; but it was not there. As it was Christmas-day, the office was closed at a very early hour, which seemed to me a strange arrangement, considering the state of the country. J. felt no uneasiness about his father, but was greatly disappointed, as he had expected to pass that day with him. I had heard in Winchester that my nephew, W. B. Phelps, had been wounded in the unfortunate fight at Dranesville, and felt great uneasiness about him; but J. had seen persons directly from Centreville, who reported him slightly wounded. This relieved my mind, but it was most unfortunate; for, had I known the truth, I should have gone on the return train to Manassas, and thence to Centreville, for the purpose of nursing him. We spent Christmas-day at the hotel, and dined with a number of soldiers. In the afternoon we were very much gratified to meet with the family of our neighbour, Captain J. The Captain is stationed here, and the ladies have made themselves very comfortable. We took tea with them, and talked over our mutual troubles: our lost homes—our scattered families and friends.
The next morning the train came at the usual hour, bringing Mr. _____. Some difficulty in putting a small box of books on the car had caused a slight detention, and as he was almost in the act of stepping on board, the train moved off, and there he was, left in the dead of a winter’s night, without shelter, (for, strange to say, there is no stationhouse at Strasburg,) without light, and with no one to whom he could apply for assistance. He walked back to the village, and there, to use his own expression, he “verily thought he should have to spend the freezing night in the street.” At a number of houses he knocked loud and long, but not a door was opened to him. At last a young man in an office, after giving scrutinizing glances through the window, opened his door and gave him a chair by his fire, assigning as a reason for the difficulty in getting accommodations, that the number of disorderly soldiers passing through the village made it dangerous to open the houses during the night. At daybreak he got on a freight train, hoping to find at Manassas the means of getting to Culpeper Court-House that night. In this he was disappointed, and had a most unpleasant trip on the train, which did not reach Manassas until sunset. There he found no place to sleep, and nothing to eat, until a colonel, whose name he unfortunately has forgotten, invited him to his quarters in the country. He accepted the invitation most gladly, and as it was very dark, he took a servant as a guide, who proved to know no more about the way than he did; so that both blundered and stumbled along a muddy lane, over fences, through a corn-field, over the stalks and corn-beds, until, by what seemed a mere accident, they came upon the longed-for house and found rest for the night. Next morning we joined him on the train, delighted to see him safe and sound, feeling that “all’s well that ends well;” we proceeded pleasantly on our journey. J. accompanied us as far as Gordonsville, that he might have two hours with his father. That evening we reached this place after dark, and found a house full of friends and relatives—the house at S. H. also full—so that it was a real family gathering, as in days of yore; and to add to our pleasure, our dear W. B. N. was at home on furlough. Here we see nothing of war, except the uniform of the furloughed soldiers and the retrenchment in the style of living. Desserts and wine are abolished; all superfluities must go to the soldiers. In some respects we are beginning to feel the blockade; groceries are becoming scarce and high in price, but the ladies are becoming wonderfully ingenious—coffee is so judiciously blended with parched corn, wheat or rye, that you scarcely detect the adulteration. The dressy Southern girls are giving up their handsome bonnets, wrappings, and silk dresses; they are perfectly willing to give up what once they considered absolutely necessary to their wardrobes. They say they do not enjoy such things now; they are, however, bright and cheerful; they sing patriotic songs to their furloughed friends, and listen with undying interest to anecdotes of the battle-field, with tears for the fallen, sympathy for the wounded, and the most enthusiastic admiration for deeds of daring, or for the patient endurance of the soldier. It is delightful to see the unanimity of feeling, the oneness of heart, which pervades Virginia at this time; and we believe it is so throughout the South.
We were, however, soon saddened by a letter from Centreville, from a comrade of our dear Willie Phelps to my brother, saying that the wound was more severe than it was at first supposed. He immediately set out for Centreville, but none of us dreamed of real danger. The reports came from him less and less favourable; I wanted to go to him, but the letters were discouraging to me—” There was no room for me; ladies would be in the way in so small a hospital;” and some strange hallucination and blindness to danger led us to abandon the idea of going to him. We knew that he had lost his arm, but did not dream of danger to his life. His mother, at her home in Covington, Kentucky, saw his name among the wounded, and notwithstanding the cold and ice, set off alone—came through Pittsburg and to Baltimore without difficulty, thence to Washington; but there no passport could be obtained to come to Virginia. Her son was but twenty miles off, certainly wounded; she knew no more. She applied in person to the proper authorities: “Is your son in the rebel camp?” was asked. “Then no passport can be given you to visit him.” She remembered that General McClellan (who had been a friend in the old army of her son-in-law, General Mcintosh) was in the city. She drove to his house. Mrs. McClellan expressed great sympathy for her, and for “your son, the interesting young man I met with in Cincinnati,” but regretted that General McClellan was too ill to be spoken to on any subject; he was under the influence of anodynes, etc, etc. She then drove to the house of Mr. Chase, who had been for many years at the bar with her husband, and on most friendly terms. The servant replied pompously that Mr. Chase never saw company at that hour. She then sent for Miss C. The daughter very politely regretted that her father could not be seen until the next day at ten. She could do nothing but return to the hotel for another night of suspense. Next morning, in passing through the parlours, she encountered a lady from her own State, who greeted her pleasantly; she was preparing to entertain her friends—it was New Year’s day. “Won’t you be with us, Mrs. P.? You may meet some old friends.” An apology for declining the invitation was given, by a simple statement of her object in coming to Washington. “Where is your son?” “In the Southern army.” “Oh,” she exclaimed, “not in the rebel camp! Not a rebel!” and she curled her loyal lip in scorn. “Yes,” was the quiet reply, “he is what you call a rebel; but it is the honoured name which Washington bore;” and with a spirit not soothed by her countrywoman, she passed on to the street, got into a carriage, and proceeded to the house of Mr. Chase. It was ten o’clock—surely there could be no obstacle now. He soon entered—she introduced herself and her subject. Mr. C. was polite, but professed to be able to do nothing for her: “I am not the proper person to whom such an application should be made.” “I know that; but to whom shall I apply?” He said, “He did not know how to advise her; the case was a difficult one; your son is in the rebel camp; I think that you cannot get a passport.” She then, in a state of despair, exclaimed, “Oh, Mr. Chase, he is the son of your old acquaintance, Mr. _____!” He was at once touched. “Are you his widow?” “Yes.” “But how came your son to join the rebels?” “Because his father and myself were both Virginians; he was educated in Virginia, and his whole heart is in the Southern cause.” He immediately wrote a note to Mr. Seward, which he advised her to deliver in person ; it would probably produce the desired effect. To Mr. Seward’s she drove. The servant invited her in, but supposed that the Secretary could not attend to business, as it was New Year’s day. The note was sent up; an attache soon came down to say that the Secretary could not be seen, but that a passport would be given her, to go at least as far as Fortress Monroe—no passport could be given to go immediately to Centreville. She was thankful for this permission; but it seemed too hard that she should be obliged to go around hundreds of miles, when the object could be accomplished by going twenty.
She took the evening train to Baltimore, thence, next morning, to Fortress Monroe; she reached it in safety that evening. The boat was visited by a provost-marshal as soon as it touched the wharf, who, after examining passports, took hers, and some others, to General Wool. An answer from this high officer was long delayed, but at last it was brought. She could not land, but must return in the boat to Baltimore; it would leave for Baltimore next morning. She poured out her griefs to the officer, who, sympathizing with her story, said he would again apply to General Wool He soon returned to say that she might land, and her case would be examined into next morning. Next day she was requested to walk into General Wool’s office. He asked why she wanted to go to Virginia. The story was soon told. Then the stereotyped question: “Is your son in the rebel army?” with the usual answer. “Then,” he replied, “you cannot go.” Despair took possession of her soul. She forgot her own situation, and, with the eloquence of a mother, almost frantic with anxiety, she pleaded her cause. Even the obdurate heart of General Wool was moved. He asked her what she knew of the army at Washington, She replied, that she knew nothing; she had only seen the soldiers who passed her on the street. “What have you seen of our army here?” “Nothing, for I have been too unhappy to think of it, and only left my room when summoned by you.” “Then,” said he, “you may take the first boat to Norfolk.” The hour for the departure of the boat came, her trunk was duly searched, and she came off to the dearly-loved Confederacy. She reached Norfolk too late for the cars, and had to wait until next day. On reaching Richmond, she heard that her son had been brought to this place, and was doing well. The next evening she arrived here in a carriage, and was shocked and disappointed to find that she had been misinformed. Heavy tidings reached us that night: he was not improving, as we had hoped, but decidedly worse. At two o’clock in the morning I accompanied her to the depot, eight miles off, and we went on to Manassas; reached the junction after night, and were met by our brother and W. B. N. They knew that we would be in the cars, and came to meet us. As they approached us, I saw, by the dim light of the car lamp, that their countenances were sad. My heart sunk within me. What could it be? Why had they both left him? She had not seen them, and said to me, “Come, we must get an ambulance and go to Centreville to-night.” But in another moment the whole was told. Her child had died that morning, just ten hours before. Who can describe that night of horrors? We spent it in a small house near the depot. Friends and near kindred were full of sympathy, and the people in whose house we were, were kind and considerate. The captain of his company, a noble young friend from her own home, Covington, came to see her, and to condole with her; but her first-born was not—the darling of her heart had passed away! At daylight we were in the cars again, on our melancholy return. On the third day his dear remains were brought to us, and the mother saw her heroic son, in his plain soldier’s coffin, but beautiful in death, committed to God’s own earth, having fallen in a glorious cause, in the faith of the Gospel, and with a bright hope of a blessed immortality. The young Kentucky friend who accompanied his remains told her his last words, which were a wonderful consolation to her: “Tell my mother that I die in the faith of Christ; her early instructions have been greatly blessed to me; and my last word is, Mother.” This was said in extreme weakness. He soon slept, and never awoke in this world. One young soldier said to me that night, at Manassas: “He was one of the bravest men I ever saw, and met death like a soldier.” Another said: “He died like a Christian.” Scarcely had we buried him, when news was brought us that her younger, now her only son, was desperately ill on the steamer “Jamestown,” on James River—he belongs to our navy. She hurried to Richmond, and thence down the river to the steamer, but found him better. He was soon well enough to accompany her to this place. She had left her home suddenly, and must return to it; so, after a few days with her boy, who is now decidedly convalescent, she has left him in our care, and has set off on her weary way home. She will probably meet with no difficulties on her return, from officials, as she has passports through our lines; but she has a lonely, dreary way before her, and a sorrowful story for her young daughter at home. God be with her!