A Post-Gettysburg Memory 

Confederate Soldiers (Library of Congress)
Confederate Soldiers
(Library of Congress)

The Gettysburg Campaign ended on July 14, 1863 when General Lee and his army slipped across the Potomac.  They had been stranded on the banks for days, waiting for the swollen waters of the river to ebb after torrential rains.

A veteran from the 4th Texas regiment remembered the occasion:

Just as the gray dawn was breaking through the mist on July 14, 1863, the head of my regiment reached the bridge.  I noticed a group of horsemen to the left of the road, and a little in front of them sat General Lee.  He had always appeared to me before that morning as a model of neatness, but on that gloomy occasion he looked pale, haggard, and old, spattered with mud from the spurs of his boots to the crown of his last hat; but he sat there on “old Traveller”, as knightly as Chevalier Bayard. 

There was a look of anxiety on his noble countenance which he could not conceal as he spoke in low, hurried words to the men as they passed, telling them to “close up and keep on the middle of the bridge.” 

There was not a finer silver cornet band in the Confederate army than the one attached to the Fourth Texas Regiment, and when the head of the column reached the Virginia side of the river, Old Collins, the leader, ordered his men to play “Dixie”.   

I have heard that grand old Southern melody applauded in camp, on the battlefield, on the streets of the city and in theaters, but I have never heard it greeted with anything to equal the cheer that went up on that misty, dreary morning that the Army of Northern Virginia recrossed the Potomac at Falling Waters. 

The chorus of "Dixie" and the cheers of Longstreet’s weary corps had hardly died away on the bosom of that old historic river before the roar of cannon and the rattle of musketry came rolling up from the Maryland side, resounding over the hills and valleys of two great states. 

-- from Sergeant Val C. Giles, 4th Texas Infantry, The Galveston Daily News, May 16, 1897

(Editor’s Note:  Chevalier de Bayard was a knight who served Francois I, King of France, in the early 16th century.  He was known for his integrity and bravery, and died in battle, fearless to the end.)

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