the pages of this memoir have been read, and laid aside, and then
in the course of time have been all but quite forgotten, there
shall yet linger a memory that will
stir when chance brings some passing mention of his name,
or maybe at mere reference to the Secret Service. A confused
memory perhaps, a memory of countless desperate chances, of
services that weigh heavy in the balance scale of Victory; remembrance
of his youth and courage,
and, at the last, an ever-questioning memory, vague
as in the telling, of that final unrecorded battle; but
outlasting all other recollections of the man there shall be this
one concrete impression-admiration.
can quite forget such tributes as were paid him by
his generals?—Sheridan's "I want him!" and
the reply of General Edwards, "I would rather you would take
my right arm than to have you take him from me." Best of
all, the splendid profanity of one among his soldiers—a
tribute rugged and imperishable as rough-hewn granite, "We think
God A'mighty of him."
is like a picture—that first story that begins before he
was a soldier: the dusty chaise in which there stands the boy Young—he
was scarcely more than a boy even when
he was commissioned lieutenant-colonel four years
later—and at his side the solemn-eyed little girl of
ten, breathlessly watching brother Henry as he talks, watching
him to the forgetting of the horse she holds, and the
place her finger marks for him in the book of Military
Tactics, forgetful of the very crowd that hems them in and
that stands with upturned, troubled faces. For background
to the picture the street of a New England village —elms,
and white houses, flecks of sunlight on the dusty road, and the
unclouded May sky; but none of these must be seen very plainly,
for they do not count in the picture.
nation is at war and must have men—must have men.
And the crowd presses closer about the chaise and restlessly
listens, until its occupants drive away without
looking back, for the boy is already deep in Tactics and
the little girl is driving.
through the Blackstone Valley; in every village the boy calls a crowd
about him, and at the end of one day's haranguing sixty-three men
have volunteered to enlist with him.
Rhode Island's quota had been already filled when he
took the list to Colonel Slocum; and so he went back to his work
in Providence, with God knows what of disappointment, and
settled down again at the high stool and
the ledgers in Lippitt & Martin's. But already he had
left behind him that unforgetable impression-admiration.
Colonel Slocum sent for him, and on June 6,
1861, he was mustered in with the regiment as Company B's
second lieutenant—so pale, so office-stamped, such a slender
little lieutenant, that Wright, his robust captain, growled: "He
will be flat on his back after the first march! What does that
young man expect to do in the army ?" Yet it was the second
lieutenant that very night who silenced the angry, mutinous men
in the bare, empty barracks of the Dexter Grounds. He might have
the comfortable quarters of his brother officers, but instead,
grasping the situation at a glance, he shouted, "It's about time to
turn in, boys," and he spread a blanket, wrapped himself in
his coat, and lay down on the hard floor among them. "Lie
right down," he called, cheerfully; and the men, abashed,
yet pleased and touched withal, lay down good-humoredly about him.
That was the beginning, and it was like that till the very end—always,
where he led, men followed with implicit confidence.
weeks later, at Bull Run, they-the men of Company B-followed
like veterans where he led them—he, the second lieutenant,
who was to have been flat on his back; it was Captain Wright, the
prophet, who occupied the cot bed in the hospital, ill; the first
lieutenant was absent. The acting captain of Company B did not
escape notice that July Sunday. One eye-witness says, "I can
remember how small he looked, his sword trailing on the ground, his
slight figure so full of fire and energy." And it is said
that fighting soldiers of other regiments paused and turned to
look again at "such a boy in command of a company." Had
he been a great, strapping fellow, the fewness of his years might
have passed unnoticed, but he was not five feet five in height,
and very slender; it seemed that a child had come out to lead them.
That he led them well is shown by a first lieutenant's commission,
dated July 22d.
a letter to his mother a short time after this he wrote
say you should think it [the suffering] would discourage any
going to the war. The fact is, no one knows what fighting is
till they have seen it; and they that have, after it is over
and they think about
it, would like to see it over again. There is an excitement
there is a longing for it again that no one knows who has not
of his character will be understood that could never be understood
without those pregnant sentences. Read them again, for they contain
that sentiment which was to be the lodestar, the north toward which
the needle of his life was to point unswervingly till the end-the
love of fighting and of danger.
Oliver Edwards—and no one knew Young better—has written:
was very rare to find a man who found in the most deadly peril his
greatest pleasure, and who sought out danger, not only in the line of
duty, but because he reveled in it. Colonel Henry H. Young and General
Phil Kearny possessed this trait
of character. . . .
his crossing of the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg had something
to do with his first staff appointment-Fredericksburg, where
Captain Young led Company B (since November 13, '61, his own company)
over the pontoon bridge in the face of the fire of the sharpshooters.
And with this appointment, which detached him from his regiment,
there ended his relations with the men of his old company. What
the men thought of him one of them had told unwittingly to the
mother of his captain. It was in the hospital at Portsmouth Grove,
where Mrs. Young and her little daughter—the little girl
who drove that day in the Blackstone Valley-had gone to carry comforts
to the men of the Second Rhode Island. She had had shown to her
the cot where lay a man of Company B—his company.
To the man, who had never before seen her, the question, "Do
you like your
captain ?" must have seemed an idle one, but it roused him
as could no other.
ma'am?" he cried, vehemently. "We think
God A'mighty of him! There never was any one like him; the men
would lay down their lives for him any day." It was admiration—idolatry—like
that that he had left behind him.
may be that in the staff appointment he foresaw the opportunity to
commence the work that Sheridan has called "invaluable";
or perhaps, once on the staff, he merely drifted into it; but however
it was, he began then his self-taught, self-sought apprenticeship
to the Secret Service. Camp life grew irksome, and he went out between
the lines to quicken it.
he saved a supply train from certain capture by raiders whose plans
he had discovered. Discovered how? —at what personal hazard?
If ever he told, it was in some such unsatisfying manner as the story
of fighting his way out of a guerrilla ambush is told in a letter
to his mother:
out the other day on a little expedition over the mountains —three
of us, all mounted on mules. We went some six miles outside of
our picket-lines, and got in among the guerrillas after we
had crossed what
is called Carter's Run. We were fired on, but made out to get away.
One of the boys lost his mule and equipments. The mule balked
when they commenced firing, and would not stir a step, and they
pressed the man so hard he had to take to the woods afoot. I
think that I shall explore that section again at an early date.
in another letter :
scout's life is a dangerous one to a certain extent, but I don't
know, after all, that it is more so than a great many other positions.
indeed might he say that !-he of whom his brigade commander
you wished an order carried to any part of the field he [Young]
did not look about for the safest route but took the most direct
one, no matter how the bullets whistled. He was always ready to
dash through the hottest place, to cheer on a wavering regiment or
to rally a disorganized one. While the battle [Marye's Heights] was
at its height he discovered a wounded soldier of the Second
Rhode Island in
such a position that he was exposed to the fire of both sides. Leaping
from his horse, amid a shower of bullets, he was himself wounded
in the arm, but dragged the poor fellow to the shelter of a tree;
it was but the work of a moment, yet amid the noise and confusion
of battle seemed wonderfully cool and deliberate.
all this time the duties of a staff officer continued, varied only
by free-lance scoutings to gratify the longing for excitement; the
other life was beyond him still, but he was reaching out to grasp
it. Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Rappahannock Station, Mine
Run, Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor-he was of the brigade
headquarters staff at all of them.
then the Shenandoah, the valley in which the name of
Major Harry Young was to be known and dreaded and
respected in every household throughout its length and breadth:
the place and the man were together; the time was almost upon them.
After the battle of the Opequon—September 19, 1864-Col. Oliver
Edwards was left in command of Winchester, and Young was his Inspector-General.
It was part of_ his staff duty to familiarize himself with all
the roads round about Winchester, and he was almost daily in Confederate
uniform scouting through the Valley; he was now on that intangible
border line which separates the army scouts from men of the Secret
this time there was in the Valley a body of scouts from General
Crook's command—a hundred men on detached service commanded
by one Captain Blazer‑who
were engaged in a war to the death with the partisan
battalions of Gilmor, McNeil, and Mosby. Captain Young at every
opportunity rode out at the side of Captain Blazer, and from
him learned much of the methods of such irregular warfare, much
that must afterward have proved of incalculable value when he was
head of Sheridan's Secret Service. Later on, Mosby's Captain "Dolly" Richards
all but wiped out Blazer's little command in a savage hand-to-hand
battle, in which Captain Blazer's career was closed by his capture.
After that Captain Young adopted
different methods. At one time he induced three of Colonel
Edwards's men to apparently desert from the Union army and
enlist with Mosby, to whom one of them got so close as to be even
orderly at the partisan leader's headquarters; but they must have
been the wrong men for their opportunity, for nothing seems to
have come of it, and Young restlessly turned to other schemes.
A well-planned trap was inadvertently sprung by a detachment
of Federal cavalry not in Young's secret. Soon after this, Sheridan
lifted Young up to so broad a field of endeavor that such work shrank
to secondary importance. But that was not until he had outfaced
Death in two desperate personal encounters. Once was on the Front
Royal road in the late afternoon of a summer day—one of those
hot, dusty, breathless days when the great pallid cumulus clouds
heap up, mountain upon mountain, then flush, then dull and darken
into presagers of the coming storm. Young, alone, miles outside
the Federal outposts, was galloping back to Winchester from another
of his lonely, restless scoutings—he seems always to have
preferred to be alone ; other scouts went out in pairs, he seemed
fascinated by the desolation
of unshared dangers. In the thick hush before the breaking of the
storm, he should have heard—but perhaps the muttering thunder
drowned the drum of the approaching hoofbeats; they turned in from
a cross-road close behind him—a party of Confederate cavalry.
In an instant the pursuit began. He tried to outdistance them,
but the little gray—so often mentioned in his letters
home—was tired, and Young knew it; he suddenly stopped, turned
at right angles, and put him at the wall; with a supreme effort
the gray cleared the ditch, cleared the wall, and began the struggle
up the long slope to the dense woodland that crowned it. Two only,
on the fleetest mounts, took the wall, and followed; the rest refused
it, and after a moment's confusion raced down the road to head
him off should he come back to the road where it turned along the
second side of the forest. The two, shouting, were overtaking him;
he turned on them and charged furiously down upon them, shooting
as he rode; they fled, yelling for their comrades. Then he rode
into the shelter of the wood, and, but a few rods from its edge,
he hid the trembling gray, and flung himself face down, burrowing
into the leaf mold.
storm broke; day was stripped of an hour by the darkness; the trees
grew loud in the rush of the wind, and the earth trembled with the
unusually violent thunder. The Confederates came back; he could hear
them above the lash of the rain—calling to each other and crashing
about in the thickets. He had stopped so near the point where he
had entered the wood that they did not search there; but they passed
perilously close, and once he was sure they would find him. They
gave it up at last and went away; he learned afterward from a prisoner
that the leader, blinded by the lightning's glare, had been dashed
against a low bough and seriously injured.
a while he led his horse out from the dripping trees, and rode unmolested
back to the army.
Valley was scourged with a plague of bushwhackers —robbers
and murderers who had deserted from regular commands of both armies
and had turned war to their own advantage. There were verbal orders
from General Sheridan to hang
all those that were proved bushwhackers, and Young compiled
a " blacklist " of all such in the vicinity of Winchester-their
names and haunts and habits. On days when no other duties were pressing
he would go out with one or two men and hunt down some of
the blacklisted. The record of one such day's hunting is still
remembered-as much, perhaps, for the personality of the hunted as
for the unusual courage of the hunter. It was known of the hunted
that he had been a member of a Virginia cavalry regiment, had had
a sixty-day furlough in order to procure a body-servant, but
that he had been absent from his command for more than nine months
and was a deserter and a bushwhacker—a murderer of prisoners;
indeed, by his own boasts, known as the "Prisoner-Killer";
yet he could count on a score of houses in the Valley for help and
shelter, for he was a tall, handsome fellow, cool and audacious.
Captain Young in some way found
out that day's hiding-place of the "Killer," and,
hurrying to headquarters, he asked of Colonel Edwards a detail of
two men; with his men he galloped away up the Valley. The "Killer" in
some way escaped, barely escaped, and they followed, rapidly overtaking
him. The "Killer" fired once, and a horse went down in
a wild tangle of flying hoofs; the other riders leaped clear of their
fallen comrade with never a look behind them. A bend in the road,
and then out upon a mile-long straightaway; Young and the "Killer" fire
almost together; the second soldier pitches backward, and the "Killer's" horse
goes down in a heap in a ditch at the roadside; the "Killer" is
down, then up again, and in a second is into the thicket. . . . When
consciousness came to the wounded soldier he found himself alone;
the faint sounds from the distant thicket told of a terrible struggle,
and he stared stupidly at the point nearest the fallen horse of the “Killer."
a long time, when there had been a protracted silence, the bushes
parted, and there came forth the "Killer," white-faced
and bruised and bound, with Captain Young, carrying two heavy
revolvers, grimly urging him forward. Neither had been able to use
his weapons, but they had fought it out there in the underbrush,
and by some marvel of fighting the fierce little New-Englander had
conquered a man over six feet tall, and heavy in proportion.
Somehow he got his prisoner and his two wounded men back to
headquarters, and there the trial of the "Killer" was a
short one; perhaps it had been better for him had he been killed
there in the bushes! There were papers found on him that proved him
beyond doubt to be the murderer of prisoners. Colonel Edwards sternly
told him that he might live just so long as it took to dig his grave,
and asked him if he did not want to see a chaplain.
do not want to see a chaplain," he answered, with as little
concern as though the matter in no way affected him. "Every
man has to die once, and it makes but little difference to me when
my time comes." He was so
wonderfully cool and brave about it that Young impetuously
interceded for his life, as did the other staff officers. And just
here the story told by General Oliver Edwards—for it is General
Edwards who tells the story—comes to an abrupt end, to leave
one with an ever-haunting question that is to be never answered.
now the years of preparation were at an end, and
the long, gradual up-grade lay behind him; in front rose a mountain
of labor—a mountain perpendicular with hardship and danger;
its peak a pinnacle, to which he climbed and carved his name there.
Northern Presidential election of 1864 was watched eagerly.
The success or defeat of the Democratic party with its platform "The
war is a failure" meant life or death to the Confederacy,
and they did more than watch the election. Kenly's Maryland brigade,
with Sheridan's army, had been permitted to vote in the field;
to Colonel Mosby was given the order to capture the ballot-boxes
and prevent the vote, en
route to Martinsburg,
from ever reaching Baltimore. The two companies of cavalry serving
as escort were fiercely attacked by Mosby when but two miles
out of Winchester and driven back; it required an entire
regiment to carry the commissioners and the ballot safely through
to the railroad.
the same time a citizen rode into Winchester and excitedly told Colonel
Edwards that Breckinridge was advancing on the town with an army,
and already was within twenty miles. Edwards forwarded the report
to Sheridan, and then sent out scouts and prepared for battle. Sheridan
in reply sent the message:
am aware of the movement but do not know what it means. My scouts
fail to bring me reliable information. If the enemy attacks Winchester,
fight him if you feel strong enough; if not, start your trains for
Harper's Ferry, put your back on your trains, and fight for
out if possible what the movement means; the whole secret-service
fund is at your disposal for this purpose.
Edwards answered that he did not believe Winchester to be the objective
point, but if it were that he was ready. Then he waited. When his
scouts came back with no definite information of the enemy's movements,
it was then that Captain Young begged Colonel Edwards for permission
to try to obtain this vital information, and Edwards reluctantly
let him go. He asked only for three picked men and four Confederate
cavalry uniforms-no horses, even, for he said that he preferred
to mount himself and his men after leaving Winchester. Captain
Young proposed to attempt one of the most desperate of all military
necessities—to join the enemy's marching column and ride
with them until he had gained the information. To pass pickets
and enter an enemy's encampment is, so it is said, easy; to join
a column on a march-and such a march !—has been found well-nigh
impossible. Jack Sterry had tried it at the second Manassas, and
Jack Sterry had been hanged for it. Henry Harrison Young tried
the impossible and succeeded. How he did it would be told
here, should be told here, with every detail of every danger met
and overcome, for no achievement of the Secret Service is
more worthy of record—only that the story is not known. He
was one who reported results, not details, and if he ever related
the hidden history of that journey it has died with them to whom
he told it. But this is what he did—it shall be written simply,
that every word may be remembered by all who love to honor
American heroes; For
two hours he rode with Lomax's cavalry or marched with the infantry
of Breckinridge. Forty-five miles they rode—he and his three
men, riding down three sets of horses, which they seized for reliefs
as they needed them.
it was all done in the short space of six hours, and when he dismounted
at Edwards's headquarters he bore full information of the plans of
the enemy. There had been ample time to have frustrated these plans,
but that Breckinridge's return was so threatened that even then he
was in hurried retreat with an abandoned purpose. Winchester had
been but a feint; Hancock, Maryland-there to destroy the vote or
to break up the election-had been the real objective.
Edwards himself took the report to General Sheridan.
is true, every word of it, I believe," Sheridan cried, vehemently. "Now,
where did you get it ?"
told him how his own professional scouts had
failed in the same degree as had his, and that his inspector-general,
Young, had volunteered and had succeeded.
greatly excited: "I have been looking for that man for
two years, and I want him."
Edwards spoke slowly: "I would rather you would take my right
arm than to take him from me."
answer was quick, impetuous, eager: "I will make him a major
and a personal aide-de-camp on my staff; I will let him pick a
hundred men and arm them and command them as he likes, and report
only to me. I will not take an officer of your staff from you without
your consent, but—I want him!"
a time there was silence, Edwards weighing the offer, Sheridan waiting.
will urge him to accept the offer," Colonel Edwards answered.
He had to urge him. For, though he loved the life held out to him,
Captain Young refused decidedly to leave Edwards, until convinced
that it was indeed a duty to accept a position offering greater opportunities
for more valuable work for the Union.
war was within five months of the end; but into that time there was
crowded more work by the Secret Service than had been done in all
the years that preceded. They say of him that Major Young never rested;
to have done what he has done confirms it. It was as though there
had been drawn a sword, keen, high-tempered, brilliant, that for
the first time left its scabbard and for the first time discovered
Young at once commenced the organization of his new command; the
men he carefully selected from those he knew best in Colonel Edwards's
brigade; also, he retained the seven who had served as scouts for
Sheridan. The corps never numbered the even hundred; the roll-book,
which was kept by and is still in the possession of Sergeant
McCabe, shows but fifty-eight names all told. There were few enough
to answer "present" when the five months were ended. That
there were any at all is the wonder after service such as this, which
must have been for the trying-out of their courage; after such a
test there could never again be doubt of it!
expedition was made within a few days after the men had been selected,
dressed in the gray uniform, and armed with two revolvers each—carried
in the tops of the high boots—and the short, terrible Spencer
had fallen when they left the camp, and for a long time the men
rode without knowing where they were going or the work that lay
before them; then Young halted and carefully instructed them and
told them his purpose. Sixty men were to attack an entire brigade
of Confederate cavalry! They rode on again in the darkness—perhaps
blacker now to each man as he considered the desperate chances.
After a time they halted and drew off into the edge of a forest
bordering a road on which Major Young had learned the Confederate
column would travel; there followed a wait that must have seemed
endless—the dreaded inaction just before battle. The
well-trained horses stood with drooping heads, like statues ; the
raw November night-wind chilled as though a corpse had suddenly
risen and breathed upon them; and still the Confederates did not
come; the strain must have been horrible. Then above the dry-bone
knock and creak of the bare branches of the forest behind them
there came a new sound—the sound of a distant cavalry column,
trotting; the low rumble and jar of thousands of hoof-falls; the
tiny jangles and tinklings of countless metal accoutrements. The
advance passed in a shadowy flitting; the tired men riding in silence—only
the noise of the now-galloping horses.
gave a signal, and the men stole out from among the
trees, leading the horses; at the roadside they mounted, and
waited. The head of the column approached, and they fell in with
it and jogged along, slouching in the saddles as did the worn,
sleepy Confederates, to whom they seemed but a returned scouting
party, dully noted, instantly forgotten.
Young gave a shrill signal, whirled his horse about,
and fired his carbine in the faces of the Confederate troopers.
His men followed him; the carbines roared like artillery; bullets
raked the column, down whose bloody lanes the Yankees rode at the
charge, firing their revolvers on either side without mercy. The
attack coming out of their midst was a blinding shock to the Confederates;
to them it was mutiny, treason, murder. The rest
is all told in one word—pandemonium. And all but one Union
soldier came through that charge down the entire length of the
that night terror came to the Confederates in the
Valley—not to the army, but to the army's soldiers : pickets
rode to their stations, and were not there when heir comrades rode
to relieve them; guards fired at shadows; men about outlying camp-fires
huddled together closer than the cold could have driven them; from
nerve-racked vedettes would come a "Halt-who-comesthere
!"-and then an instant volley; Confederate patrols and scouting
parties rode back to their own lines with more trepidation than
up to the lines of the enemy. Yankees in gray were known to be
hovering about the army always-were known to be in the lines, within
the encampments; some were captured; there were always others who
took their places. Most secret plans were found sooner or later
to have a hole in them.
at Sheridan's headquarters there was one man doing it all. It can
never be told, for it was never known -the details of organizing
the Secret Service of Sheridan's army of the Shenandoah, for it
was all done in the head of that one man, who was ever tirelessly
planning, quietly directing, inspiring. Of the work of the Service
for the first two months, General Sheridan wrote in his Memoirs:
now realized more than I had done hitherto how efficient my scouts
had become since under the control of Colonel Young, for not
only did they bring me almost every day intelligence from within
Early's lines, but they also operated efficiently against the
guerrillas infesting West Virginia.
might have sat in a tent and from there merely directed—that
in itself would have been work enough for any man; but instead, with
every opportunity he was out with some party; fighting was his "leave
of absence," his recreation. But there were other ways in which
he was to the enemy more deadly. Woodbury (historian) says of him, "In
the peculiar service in which he was engaged during the last
year of the war he had no superior in the Northern armies." Most
of all, that sentence meant the obtaining of information. At one
time he lived for two weeks within the Confederate lines, boarding
at a house near Winchester-as an invalid ! Through acquaintances
made there he obtained the information he was seeking, and one day
rode quietly away with it.
cool, patient, shrewd, with a quiet, easy way about him, yet frank
and ingenuous—it seemed that there was nothing he could not
accomplish. It must be, too, that he had a mighty sense of humor;
witness the fate of the Confederate recruiting-office. He came upon
it quite by accident, at a little hamlet, while on one of his restless,
lonely scoutings. It was in full blast—doing a good business.
He rode up and, dismounting, looked on in bucolic placidity.
here!" called the sergeant. "You're a likely lookin'
young feller-how about enlistin' ?" Young listened to
the sergeant's pleadings—" didn't know but what he would
some day-well, mebbe he would then." More argument: suddenly
the sergeant had him—enlisted. He swore to show up at the
appointed day, and there was great applause—for the sergeant.
Did he disappoint the sergeant? Never! Brought him more recruits—Young's
own men—who "enlisted" the sergeant and all the
sergeant's soldiers and all the assembled, hard-earned recruits,
and the entire contents of the office.
often was he outside the lines that his disguises had to be changed
and varied constantly; now it was one role now another—private
soldier, deserter, countryman, peddler, Confederate officer. Once,
to test a disguise—that of a Confederate colonel—just
before starting on a particularly dangerous mission, he allowed himself
to be captured by men of his own old brigade, who marched their great
prize back to camp in triumph. He demanded an interview at headquarters,
and they took him there; the rebel colonel never again was seen.
For a long time it was a matter of much talk and speculation as to
why the escape of so important a capture should go so unregarded
by the General.
was another side to him besides the fun-loving; a seldom-seen, terrible
side of cold wrath and pitiless judgment.
prisoner had been taken by Young and his men on one of the countless
night incursions into the enemy's country; on the ride back the identity
of the man was discovered by some of the men guarding him, and the
whisper ran through the troop and grew into a deep, savage mutter
as story after story of his cruelties and cowardice was repeated.
One of the men spurred ahead to Major Young's side.
you know who your prisoner is, Major?"
the answer Young reined in his horse sharply. "What's that! That
soldier repeated the name—the name of the leader of
the most infamous guerrilla band in all that valley; a man whose
name brought to mind the memory of crimes unmentionable for their
Young rode back through his ranks. . . . No execution, ponderous,
formal, lawful, could have been more solemn, more awe-compelling,
than that swift blotting out, there in the night in the silence
of the lonely country.
it only chance that, a short time later, Young was given the opportunity
to snatch back from certain death =reckoned scores of Union soldiers,
condemned that hour to lay down their lives for their flag? There
would be given the name of the skirmish (which in any other war would
be dignified by the name of battle), but the name is lost in the
crowded memories of the few who knew the story. But perhaps there
will be of those who wore the blue one who will read this story to
whom there will come back the memory of a morning with the regiments
that lay on their faces at the wood's edge, galled and torn by the
shells constantly bursting among them, while they awaited, restive,
the order for the charge across the open and the attempt to scale
the hillside from whose all but impregnable crest the battery thundered.
Others there are, of the South, who will recall with heartburnings
the loss of an all but won engagement. Here, perhaps for the first
time, they will learn the reason. Some may now recollect having seen
in the driving smoke a boyish, gray-clad officer who, in the name
of their commanding general, ordered the battery to take immediate
position on the left flank—there to be utterly useless. Perhaps
they recall the way he sat his horse, there amid the flying Federal
bullets, until he saw the carrying out of his order; then that they
had seen him gallop away—forever, leaving them, the dupes,
to face their angered general.
had carried to the Federal regiment the order to
take the battery—the key position of the engagement; he had
seen the terrible slaughter which must be the price of success,
and he had not given the order. Instead he had formed a plan and
told it, then swiftly donning his gray uniform, and making a detour,
had entered the Con- federate lines—at no one knows what
hazard—and had come up behind the battery, to whose captain
he had given a false order. The astonished Federal soldiers rushed
the abandoned hill crest before the Confederates could replace
their guns; but as for Major Young, an unexpected shift in
the position of the army compelled him to remain within the Confederate
lines for hours in imminent danger of detection and capture—and
and Death (they should be written as one word for
the case of Harry Young) never had far to come, for he
was always at least half-way to meet them. Once he
reached too far and fell in their path, and it seemed that at
last they had him; it was only the gallantry of his men which
that day saved him—nothing that he himself did for himself,
except that he had won the devotion of the men who saved him.
was on one of those nights in January when the army was
in quarters but he was
not. There was a Confederate picket reserve at the Edinburg
bridge, another at Columbia Furnace—isolated detachments
far in advance of their army. It is no story to tell of their capture;
there was a dash out of the night, a few scattering shots, and
they had surrendered—sixty-five men in all, and many horses.
There were nearly as many prisoners as captors; for of the Federals
there were but a score of the Secret Service men, some in Confederate
gray, some in their blue uniforms, and a troop of fifty cavalry—on
their first detached service and very nervous about it. The crest
of Massanutten Mountain was black and sharp against the brightening
sky before they turned for the long ride back to the Union lines
near Kernstown. At a little village they stopped for breakfast;
Young was jubilant over the capture—it had been so easy;
he was merry at the breakfast, and joked with the men about him.
Rowand, one of the scouts, finished his meal and restlessly wandered
out to the street; a butcher named Kuhn passed close to Rowand
and whispered, "Three hundred
on the 'Back Road,' coming!" The scout hurried in with
the tidings, but Major Harry Young that day
was foolhardy. "I'll not budge till I finish my breakfast," he
said, laughing. Campbell, one of Sheridan's
oldest scouts, added his unavailing protests; Young ate on placidly.
When he finished he leisurely gave the order to mount, and then
saw that he was indeed too late —that he had overtarried;
the Confederate cavalry was sweeping into the upper end of the
mile-long village street. At almost the first fire the raw Federal
cavalrymen abandoned their prisoners, broke, and fled. The scouts
galloped after them more slowly, fighting coolly for the safety
of the whole party. Young was his old self again; the elation was
gone with his once-prisoners; he was fighting recklessly to redeem
himself for his blunder.
yelled, "for God's sake stop the cavalry and bring them back."
they would not stop; Rowand rode among them and fiercely tried to
turn them-he caught the sergeant's bridle rein, and drawing his pistol
swore to kill him if he did not help to turn them; the sergeant was
beyond further fear and paid no heed to him.
was a shout from his partner, Campbell: "Row-and, come back;
Young is down!" He looked and then spurred his horse to a run.
He saw Major Young beside his dead horse, on foot, fighting savagely;
he saw Campbell and "Sonny " Chrisman charging in
the very faces of the yelling Confederates; Campbell passed Young
and swung his horse across the road and stood there behind it firing
over its back with both revolvers; Chrisman, without dismounting,
caught Young up behind, turned, and rode bounding toward Rowand.
Campbell and Rowand held back the enemy until others of the scouts
were able to join them; step by step they retreated until Young and
Chrisman had a good start; after that it was just a race, and the
Federals won it ! Had Young in his gray uniform been captured there
would never have been a chance for him.
close a call might have shaken the nerve of some men, but if Young
thought of it again at all he was not much affected by it, for within
two weeks he was engaged on one of the most desperate of all his
missions—not the taking of Gilmor, but that which almost immediately
5th he and his scouts captured Maj. Harry Gilmor at Moorefield,
West Virginia. The story of that terrible ride of sixty miles in
the dead of winter, over the mountains
and down into the South Branch Valley, and of the surprise and
the capture of Gilmor, has been told in the story of "Rowand " ;
but it has not been told how Young saved his prisoner from the
vindictive mob at Harper's Ferry—how he held them off with
his revolver, and whispered to Gilmor, "In case of attack,
take one of my pistols and shoot right and left: they will have
to walk over my dead body to get you!" And further along on
their way to Boston and the prison of Fort Warren—when the
warning came that the people of Baltimore were prepared for Harry
Gilmor (he had at one time raided to within four miles of Baltimore)—Young
told him that he should have arms, and added laughingly, "I
should enjoy a skirmish amazingly; I think you and I could whip
a small crowd by ourselves."
were much alike, those two Harrys, and they seem to have developed
a great admiration for each other. Long after the war Gilmor wrote
of the man who not only captured him, but who took him to the very
doors of the prison that held him till the end of the Rebellion :
was a bold, fearless cavalry soldier, a man of remarkable talents
for the duty he was selected to perform, possessing the qualities
of quick discernment, good judgment, and great self-reliance,
rapid execution of plans, made to suit circumstances as they
presented themselves. Those are the essential qualities of
a good scout. We never knew when or where to look for him,
and yet we knew that he or some of his best men were constantly
inside our lines. I have known him to pass our pickets on an
old farm-horse with collar and hames and a sack of corn, as
if on his way to mill, fool our pickets, and go out again without
it is not alone to give one on the other side the chance to pay
tribute that Harry Gilmor has been mentioned; it was because
his capture indirectly brought about
the most audacious of all Major Young's adventures.
he stood in the sleet that February night, alone —sixty miles
from the Federal army—as sentry at the door of the headquarters
of General Jubal Early, commander of the Confederate army in
the Shenandoah, he was the master adventurer of the war.
retaliation for the capture of Gilmor, Jesse McNeill, at
the head of a band of sixty-five rangers, had captured Generals
Crook and Kelly from their beds in hotels in the
heart of the large town of Cumberland. That, like Gilmor's capture,
was done by an armed party of men—a performance all dash
and excitement, and with the penalty, if taken, of merely an enemy's
prison.. When Major Young set out alone for Staunton, a few days
later, to capture General Early from his headquarters in the midst
of his army, it was a deed that was akin to madness. By every rule
of war he was a spy, and nothing could have saved him. What a story
could be told by the man who faced death each moment of those six
days and nights! It could be told by that man and by him alone.
a story—of the difficulties met; the quick turns, both ways,
of chance; of the unforeseen and the unexpected that leaped
out and menaced him everywhere; of the moments of elation when
success seemed certain, and the lonely times when it was pit-blackness
to be so very much alone with the dangers! There is little enough
that he ever told. He could have taken Early; for two nights he
stood sentry at his very door while the faithless Confederate guard—with
whom he had changed places—went into the town sweethearting!
But with nearly sixty miles to travel in an enemy's country, winter-bound,
by a prisoner, he realized that some time in the ensuing pursuit
he must either free Early or kill him, and he would not wish to
do either—once he had him. Young afterward said to General
Edwards, "Had Early been guilty of murdering prisoners or
of sanctioning it, I could and would have taken his life, but I
did not consider it civilized warfare to kill him under the circumstances." Did
General Jubal Early ever learn who had guarded him as he slept
?—and ever after see in each sentry at his door a living
sword of Damocles?
swung from plan to plan, but at last gave back the Confederate musket,
and returned as quietly as he had come, empty-handed as to prisoners,
but with much very valuable information.
spring campaign began; the end of the war was almost at hand.
Sheridan and his ten thousand cavalry commenced the Second James
River Canal Raid. The war in the Shenandoah was ended. It was monotonous
work for the army—the wrecking of railroads and the ruining
of canals; the rain fell constantly, the roads were sloughs, the
fields bogs; but all knew now that the end was coming, and it gave
them heart to endure anything. Though there were no battles for the
army to fight, there was desperate work for the men of the Secret
Service. Not in many pages could the stories be told, but in two-score
words Sheridan has written an imperishable record:
Maj. H. H. Young, of my staff, chief of scouts, and the thirty or
forty men of his command who took their lives in their hands,
going wherever ordered, to obtain that great essential of success, information,
I tender my gratitude. Ten of these men were lost.
27th the cavalry joined Grant, and very soon there commenced a
whirlwind of fighting; not a day without
its battle, not an hour without a skirmish; night-time and dawn
and noonday, fighting, fighting. There was one chance for Lee and
the Army of Northern Virginia—one chance to prolong the life
of the Confederacy; to join Johnson in Carolina. And then
Sheridan's ten thousand troopers at Dinwiddie Court House
suddenly blocked the only way to the south; April 1st at Five Forks
they drove them back, turned them west, ruined them. Petersburg
fell on the 2d; the capital, Richmond, was next day evacuated;
the Confederacy was down; Lee's army futilely struggled westward—a
fugitive army. All the time there was fighting going on, every
move meant fighting, there was always fighting. It was no rout;
when the Confederates turned on their pursuers, and the forces
were at all equal, the Federals were nearly always driven back
until reinforcements —always the inevitable reinforcements—came
up; then the pursuit would begin again.
seemed to know exhaustion. One was nerved by desperation; the other,
exultant, buoyed up by triumph. Troops that had marched all day
marched again nearly all night, and fought at dawn; and there were
days of that. There were troops-night marching they were, too—rushing
to the support of a single corps that had been turned on and was
being crushed by Lee's army, who made the night aglare with their
of straw and pine knots and great fires by the roadside; and as
they marched they sang and cheered like mad, and the marching bands
crashed and blared to their singing. God! Was there ever such a
war with such an ending!
here, if never before, Young and his men served the army. There were
a dozen roads the Confederates might follow, a score of turns to
take that might lead to no one knew what objective; but fast as the
fugitives moved, there were on each road, at every turn, always the
gray-clad Federal scouts, hidden, watchful; they all but lived with
the Confederates; so close did they keep they might as well have
marched with them, slept with them; for they returned to their own
lines only to report newly discovered movements. They had ever been
brave, these scouts; now they seemed the personification of courage.
It was not because of any change in the Confederates—the
peril was as great or greater than ever: witness—on the very
morning of the surrender two of Young's men were condemned to be
hanged, and only the surrender saved them.
incidents there were, too—comedy cheek by jowl
with tragedy, because it was life, not a story. There was the capture
of Barringer—Brigadier-General Rufus Barringer of the North
Carolina Brigade—who was captured behind his own lines the
day after Five Forks. Dignified General Barringer!—who drew
himself up so haughtily and replied so coldly to Confederate-private
Young's cheery, "Good afternoon, General," with a, "You
have the advantage of me, sir."
right I have, General!" laughed the Major, as he drew his
revolver and demanded the astounded Confederate's surrender. The
whole Southern army was between Young and the Union lines, yet
he and his men led General Barringer and his staff to a Federal
prison, although it took from two o'clock in the afternoon
until dark to reach safety. And the very next day Major Young and
party—the major resplendent inthe
captured uniform of a Confederate colonel—met in the enemy's
lines a colonel from North Carolina and his orderly, and, as was
fitting for two officers of such high rank, he stopped to pass
the time of day with him. The colonel from North Carolina told
of General Barringer's capture by the Yankees--one of the staff
had escaped and spread the tidings. He, the colonel, did not exactly
bewail the fate of Barringer, "for," said he, "I
am to command; I take his place."
no!" said Harry Young. "You do not take his place;
you go to the place where he is!" And, sure enough,
he joined his general.
is the last night of the war, but no one knows it. The
countryside is full of aimlessly wandering soldiers, lost from
their regiments by the rapid manceuvers, lost from their very armies.
A small party of Federal officers struck the railroad—the
great foot-path for the strayed Confederates—and in the dusk
sat watching the passing groups of stragglers—weary, dejected,
men without arms for the most part, who had flocked together for
company; here and there were cavalrymen, armed and mounted, yet
they, too, rode as dejected and listless as any part of the procession.
The officers drew nearer; the cavalrymen eyed them with uneasiness,
and finally in the growing darkness one of them stole up to the
back a little—you might spoil it," he said. "We're
some of Major Young's men, and we're leadin' these
Johnnies down the road a piece to where the Major's got
a whole corral of 'em." The staff party, hugely amused,
circled into the woods and soon came upon Major Young and some
twenty of his men with cocked carbines—holding
passive and silent several hundred prisoners, to which the decoys
down that very railroad—at Appomattox Station—others
of Young's scouts had discovered the Confederates' four lost supply
trains. Men of the Secret Service found them—that is repeated,
because it is usual only to remember that Custer fought for the trains
and took them. Sergeant McCabe was in charge of the detachment
that found them; he sent Jim White to report the find, and White
has had the credit! Perhaps White saw the supply trains first, and
so claimed the honor of reporting them. But Sergeant McCabe was in
charge of the detachment, and this is written that he may read it,
and in it see an attempt to induce history to give him the place
that, forty-seven years, he has grieved for.
has been said that Lee surrendered because of the capture of those
supply trains—that their capture fixed the day of the surrender.
General Lee did not know of their capture until after he had written
and signed that last letter. To General Grant he then said:
have, indeed, nothing for my own men. . . . I telegraphed to
Lynchburg, directing several train-loads of rations to be sent
on by rail from there, and
when they arrive I should be glad to have the present wants
of my men supplied from them." At this remark all eyes
turned toward Sheridan, for he had captured these trains with
his cavalry the night before. .. ” .-GENERAL HORACE PORTER,
in Battles and Leaders.
at about four o'clock of that April Sunday, General Lee rode away
from the McLean House; rode back to his men after signing the letter
in which he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, from
signing away the existence of the Confederate States of America.
was the end of the Civil War; and as an end to Major Henry Harrison
Young's Civil War service there stands this record—no, not
as an end, but framing it, just as a simple frame of dull gold completes
and focuses a picture, so with these words of Sheridan's :
VIRGINIA, April 19, 1865. To HONORABLE E. M. STANTON,
of War, Washington, D. C.
. . . I desire to make special mention of the valuable services
of Major H. H. Young, Second Rhode Island Infantry, chief of
my scouts during the cavalry expedition from Winchester, Virginia,
to the James River. His personal gallantry and numerous conflicts
with the enemy won the admiration of the whole command. In
the late campaign from Petersburg to Appomattox Court
House he kept me constantly informed of the movements
of the enemy and brought in prisoners, from brigadier-generals
down. The information obtained through him was invaluable.
I earnestly request that he be made a lieutenant-colonel by
brevet. . . .
H. SHERIDAN, Major-General,
remains to be told is all too brief. He did not go back to Providence
with the men of the Second Rhode Island; there came the chance to
prolong for a few months the life of adventure, and he hailed it
the end of the Civil War, the administration turned
its attention to the French in Mexico. The Liberals, defeated at
nearly every point, impoverished, split into factions, were in
a desperate plight; Maximilian and the Imperialists were everywhere
in the ascendant.
at the head of an army of observation was sent to Brownsville at
the mouth of the Rio Grande; and Colonel Young, taking four
of his most trusty men, went with him.
Brownsville, Sheridan met Caravajal, wily and subtle and old,
then leader of the Liberals; and to him he recommended Young "as
a confidential man, whom he could rely upon as a 'go-between' for
communicating with our people at Brownsville, and whom he could trust
to keep him informed of the affairs in his own country 'as well." Caravajal
saw Young, and, first assuring him that his plan had the concurrence
of General Sheridan, proposed a scheme which, God knows why, won
him; it was that Young should raise, equip, and command a band of
picked men to act as body-guard for Caravajal. Perhaps the plan awoke
in him the sleeping spirit of a soldier of fortune; perhaps it was
a nobler, more Quixotic desire to aid the struggling Mexican patriots.
But he took the seven thousand dollars furnished him and hurried
to New Orleans, where he quickly raised and equipped his company.
Sheridan, who for a fortnight had been in the interior of Texas,
came back to New Orleans. Of their interview Sheridan writes in
at once condemned the whole business, but . . . [he] was so
in the transaction, he said, that he could not withdraw without
dishonor, and with tears in his eyes he besought me to help
him. He told me he had entered upon the adventure in the firm
belief that I would countenance
it; that the men and their equipment were on his hands;
that he must make good his word at all hazards; and that while I
need not approve, yet I must go far enough to consent to the
departure of the men,
and to loan him the money necessary to provision his party
and hire a schooner to carry them to Brazos. It was hard, indeed,
to resistthe appeals of this man, who had served me so long
and so well; and the result
of his pleading was that I gave him permission to sail, and
also loaned him the sum asked for; but I have never ceased to
regret my consent, for misfortune fell upon the enterprise
Brownsville, over across the Gulf, Young and his men, about fifty
in number, were met by the first hot breath of disaster. Caravajal
had been deposed, and his successor, Canales, refused to accept their
services. After that all is confusion to the very end. Young was
without money to take his men back to New Orleans, without money
to buy even food for them. He and his men pushed on desperately to
reach the camp of General Escobedo, leader of another faction; they
kept on the American side of the Rio Grande, proposing to cross into
Mexico near Ringgold Barracks.
in advance there had been spread their story-who
they were and what they did there, and where and why they were
coming. They stood absolutely alone; the law of neutrality cut
them off from all succor from their countrymen as completely as
though they were outcasts; for the time they were men who had no
Mexican rancheros, ex-Confederates, mercenaries, bandits-all
swarmed down to the river to head off the desperate little band.
From the ensuing battle there came back—rumor, only rumor.
Whether they were at last attacked and turned on their pursuers,
whether in despair they tried to cross to cut their way through—it
is told one way, it is told the other.
little girl who drove that day in the Blackstone Valley has written
of the years that she and the mother waited for tidings. They had
seen the report first in a newspaper—had read it together;
neither would believe it, and for years each buoyed up the other.
a sad time indeed when his letters ceased coming, and when
all efforts to find him proved unavailing. . . . Although
I know that no tidings of him have cheered us in thirteen
years, still I cannot conscientiously
say that I believe him dead. I have no foundation on which
to build hope, indeed, unless it be the private conviction
of General Sheridan.
indeed, seems to have been as stubborn as they in his belief that
Young had in some way crossed the river. He had immediately contradicted
the first report that he had been killed: Young had been seen in
Monterey. To General Edwards he wrote, "I cannot bear to think
of him as dead, and yet hope to see him."
even after more than two years, in a letter to the mother, he said: "Still
. . . I am inclined to the belief that he is living. I merely state
that as my conviction." But as the years passed and brought
no definite tidings he gave up, and in his Memoirs, written
some twenty years later, he sets down the siftings of rumor:
were attacked . . . Being on American soil, Young forbade his men
to return the fire and bent all his efforts to getting them over
the river; but in this attempt they were broken up and became completely
demoralized. A number of the men were drowned while swimming the
river. Young himself was shot and killed, a few were captured,
and those who escaped—about twenty in all—finally joined
there are other versions equally positive as Sheridan's—only
different. And thus it must remain, perhaps till the end of
time—like an unfinished picture, abandoned, forgotten by the
artist. There is the hot, glaring sand, and the hot, empty sky; between,
the cruel and sparkling river; but of the figures that were to have
peopled the painting and given it life and told its story, there
is but a blur of meaningless paint and raw, uncovered canvas