Carlton McCarthy gives us a glimpse of the walk home !
About the time when men who have eaten a hearty breakfast become again hungry as
good fortune would have it happen the travelers reached a house pleasantly situated, and
a comfortable place withal. Approaching the house they were met by an exceedingly kind,
energetic, and hospitable woman. She promptly asked, “You are not deserters” “No” said the soldiers, “we have our paroles. We are from Richmond ; we are homeward bound, and called to ask if you could spare us a dinner” ?
“Spare you a dinner? certainly I can. My husband is a miller his mill is right across the road there, down the hill, and I have been cooking all day for the poor starving men. Take a seat on the porch there and I will get you something to eat” By the time the travelers were seated, this admirable woman was in the kitchen at work. The ”pat-a-pat, pat, pat, pat, pat-a-pat-a-pat” of the sifter, and the cracking
and “fizzing” of the fat bacon as it fried, saluted their hungry ears, and the delicious smell tickled their olfactory nerves most delightfully. Sitting thus, entertained by delightful sounds, breathing the fragrant air, and wrapped in meditation, or anticipation rather, the soldiers saw the dust rise in the air, and heard
the sound of an approaching party.
Several horsemen rode up to the road-gate, threw their bridles over the posts or tied to the overhanging boughs, and dismounted. They were evidently officers, well dressed, fine looking men, and about to enter the gate. Almost at once the men on the porch recognized General Lee and his son. An ambulance had arrived at the gate also. Without delay the party entered and approached the house, General Lee
preceding the others. Satisfied that it was the General s intention to enter the house, the two
“brave survivors “ instinctively and respect fully, venerating the approaching man, determined to give him and his companions the porch. As they were executing a rather rapid and undignified flank movement to gain the right and rear of the house, the voice of General Lee overhauled them, thus :
“Where are you men going” ? “ This lady has offered to give us a dinner, and we are waiting for it”
replied the soldiers. “ Well, you had better move on now this gentleman will have quite
a large party on him to-day” said the General.
The soldiers touched their caps, said “ Yes” and retired, somewhat hurt, to a strong
position on a hencoop in the rear of the house.
The party then settled on the porch. The General had, of course, no authority, and
the surrender of the porch was purely respectful. Knowing this the soldiers were at first
hurt, but a moment s reflection satisfied them that the General was right. He had suspicions
of plunder, and these were increased by the movement of the men to the rear as he approached. He misinterpreted their conduct.
The lady of the house (a reward for her name!) hearing the dialogue in the yard, pushed her head through the crack of the kitchen door, and, as she tossed a lump of dough from hand to hand and gazed eagerly out, addressed the soldiers “ Ain’t that old General Lee” ?
“Yes ; General Lee and his son and other officers come to dine with you”, they replied.
“Well he ain’ t no better than the men that fought for him, and I don t reckon he is as hungry ; so you just come in here. I am going to give you yours first, and then I 11 get something for him” !
What a meal it was ! Seated at the kitchen table, the large-hearted woman bustling about
and talking away, the ravenous tramps attacked a pile of old Virginia hoe-cake and corn-dodger,
a frying pan with an inch of gravy and slices of bacon, streak of lean and streak of fat, very numerous. To finish as much rich butter milk as the drinkers could contain.
With many heartfelt thanks the survivors bid farewell to this immortal woman, and leaving the General and his party in quiet possession of the front porch, pursued their way.