Centre Democrat. (Bellefonte, Pa.) 1848-1989, May 01, 1884, Image 7

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    Thrilling Romance of War.
CharUttoti, H. C„ Cmirkr.
4 It was written by the light of burning
home* an<l while tho iiir resounded
with the deafening curses of a frenzied
mob of soldiery ami the night wind
whistled around thestuoking ruins of a
desolated city I Nearly twenty years
have passed since the terrible atrocities
a of thst awful night and the great red
waves of the war settled down into a
perfect calm. The swords have been
beaten into ploughshares and thespears
into pruning hooks and the memories of
fratricidal strife are dying away in the
distance like the discordant notes of
inharmonious music. A bit of the
driftwood of Revolution, it had floated
down the quiet current of peaceful
times and there it lay on the rector's
table, a little stained and discolored by
age, a simple sheet of paper of the kind
used jn the late Confederate States
about the close of the war, and yet it
contained within itscreased folds a story
of invincible courage, heroic fortitude,
and Christian charity for which the
world is all the better.
''This letter,'' said the Her. A.
a Toomer l'orter, I). I)., to representative
of the Sewt and Courier, "was written by
Lieut. John A. McQueen, of the
Fifteenth Illinois cavalry, one of the
finest men I have ever known, a brave
•oldier, a chivalrous enemy, a devoted
friend, and a most devout and honest
t'hristian gentleman. If you will sit
down here I will tell you something
about the man and about the wonder
ful history of that letter that was writ
ten by me many years ago." And this
is about the way the story ran :
by Sherman' army took place on Febru
ary 17, 1865. It was during the night of
thst fearful conflagration that I>r. Por
ter then a chaplain in the Confederate
army, with his wife and ch ldren were
i-übjec'ed to nil the pwrds which beset
the doomed city. They were staying at
ihe house of Ir. Reynold , but in order
. that they might be - ifer, accompanied
by Ir. R-yiiobls's party they sought
shelter in u-tother house nearer to the
w head quarter* of (ien. Sherman. Alter
the la Les and children had la-en stowed
•way in *. h-ir new quarters I>r. Reynolds
declared that he would go hack *r.d ee
his house burned down, and a* he ti l
I f>r. Porter came out on the javi-tnent
they were accosted by iwo Federal
officers, one of them a young man of
favorable appearance who said, "I ad
vise you not to go on the streets." Br.
Reynolds declined to take his advice,
►aying that he would go, and started off
attended by the young officer, who said 1
thst if he would go he should not go |
without an escort. In about three
hours and a half the anxious watchers'
were relieved by the return of the officer,
Vwho introduced himse.f * Lieut. John |
A. McQueen, of the 15th Illinois cavalry,
modestly saying, "we have saved the
PI house, and if you will tske the ladies
back it will help us very much in pre
serving the property." When Pr.
Reynold* and his gallant e*cort reached
his house they found it filled with
soldiers who had broken open all the
trunks and closets and covered the floor
with rosin preparatory to the applica
tion of the torch. With pistol in hand
McQueen drove the m-n out and station
ed a strong gusrd around the premise
and on the roof of the house, and
A CHAIN or Si EURO cos
with buckets as a fire brigade between
the well and the house. And there the
gallsnt Illinois cavalier remained from
Friday night until Monday afternoon.
<>n Monday, after .Sherman/ ariuy hid
all gone, I>r. Porter went to Lieut. Mc-
Queen and told him that if h did not
follow his army he would capture him,
aa it would be un-sfe for him to fall into
ww the hand* of the Southern soldiers after
the burning of the city. McQueen
T replied that his only reason for remain
ing was his fears lent his friend should Le
annoyed by hummers; but finally lo
wa* prevailed upon to leave. "When he
got on his horse," said Ir. Porter, "I
don't know what put it into my head,
but 1 a-ked Mr*. Porter if die did not
hare some little piece of jewelry that I
might give it to our faithful protector
as a token of our gratitude to him. My
wife only bad a gold pencil, which -In
glsdly offered to part with, but Lieut.
McQueen refused to receive it. saying ;
"Mr. Porter, I'm very much obliged,
but I csn't take that peneil; I couldn't
persuade any one that I h id not stolen
it." Ah, he ws* a splendid fellow ! I th• it
Man into tbn houo and wrote this
a ' tetter:
A Hisroaic i arras,
f'ot t SAIA, B.C.,February I*, 1866.
LIRITGR*. WAIH IT AM no* -/><•/
litnernlt—.Should Lieut. McQueen, 15;h
Illinois cavalry, one ol General
Howard's escort, U. 8. I , ever fall
Jp into voir hands or any of your com-
W juand. 1-t me entreat you to show him
kindness in your power. In the
night of the I7'h, I testify that
* ut for htm. my fatuity and Ir. Ret.
M'd ' -,t ' f,*e<* *etf. rel indeed II"
stuck to us all the night nn I all the dsv.
He wus gr -nt p rt of ill > night on tin
shed nnd labored with all hi* niigh' to
Mive l>r. PMi-hl's house,which by tin*
good Providence of God, by his aid was
saved. I hog you, by all the kind re
inembrances of the pnst. for inv sake,
us well a* for hini who ha* n the midst
of the horrors of that night proved
himself a man and a Christian, return to
him in his extremity all the kindness
ho showed to u* in ours. I am General,
yours faithfully,
"On Ihe second psgo of the letter, a*
you will see here, I wrote a* follows .-
"To any C. 8. soldier into whose
hands this may fall from 'he Rev. A.
Toomer Porter, rector of the church of
the Holy Communion, <.lolunibiu, So.
"Then after folding the letter I wrote
upon the back of it this superscription :
'To Lieut Gen. Wade Hampton, <'. S.
Army, or to any one into whose hands
I.t. J. McQueen may fall.'
"I took this letter out to our friend
and said : 'Now, McQueen, put this in
your breast-pocket, and if the einer
geney arises, use it. I am pretty well
known in the Southern army, and if
you should fall into the hands of our
troops, it may be of some service to you.'
Well, McQueen left us, followed by 'ur
blessings. It was about a month be -re
we could get out of Cob-• We had
receiver! no word from any of our friends,
and did not know where they were or
hJW they had fared. Finally I secured
| a carriage and conveyed my family to
Newberry where we took the cars.
When 1 got to llodget dejsot I met one
of the Aikens, who told me that hit
brother Hugh had l#een killed in a
skirmish ten days after the burning of
(Jolumcia, and that in thesaineskirmi-b,
a young man named McQueen bad
been wounded, and that his life hsd
l-een spared by our troop* when be was
captured on account of the letter 1 hail
written, which hedrew outof his |>ockct
and showed to them. I went on to
Anderson with mv family, and the next
morning returned to Newberry. From
that place I walked to ('oluTid-i>. and
there I got an old mule and aw goo,
and with tire other person* went to
Camden, win-re I had In iril tln-re were
a number of soldiers in the hospital. A*
soon a- I ri- - led Camden 1 went direct
ly to the hospital, and after going
through several wards, opened a door
and started into another apartim-nt of
the building. A* I opened the door, I
- iw a soldier ■ lad in blue rise Up from
hi* pallet in thecornerof the room, and
a* be rose threw up his ban-Is and ex
claimed : 'Thank Gok ! Home! Spring
iiig over the bed* of several of the
wounded Confederate soldiers I caught
the jrnor follow in my arms, and with
our head* upon each other's necks
from very excess of emotion we wept.
It was a curious pcctac'e for the men in
the ho*pital to see a Confederate chaj
lain aod a Yankee lieutenant in each
other's arms.
r.niMO THant'r.n Tit* l.tsß*.
"McQueen gave nie an account ofhis
movements s.nce we had sa d good by
in Columbia. While on ascoutiug psrty,
and forty mile* to the right of Kb r.
man's r-ght wing, McQueen and h
party bad a skirmish with some of But
ler's cavalry. In th; skirmish, wh ch
occurred in Irlington county, two
Confederate and two Federal soldier*
had been killed, and two soldier* had
been wounded on each side. McQueen
had b-en wounded au-1 brought to tl ••
hospital in t'atnden, and here I found
him overjoyed at the good Providence
thai had sent me to him. I went up to
Bishop Paris'* house anil told the story
of McQueen's service* while in Colum
bia, and that he was now in the hospital
in Camden. The good bishop was de
lighted to heni this. He, ma, hsd hi eri
the object of the wounded soldier's
kindly care When the Yankee tr.-ip
pawed through Camden, McQueen bad
placed a guard around the bishop's
In use, and be bad not lost even so much
us a chicken, and the ssme kindness
had la-en extended to the Reynoldses
and the PeSsussures. The good bishop
gsve McQueen his apostolic f-eneilietion
its I made ready to get hitn out of hi*
trouble. I went to the quartermaster
who gave me an old lame mule, Mr*.
Bc.Sauure lent me a buggy, and Mr,
W. C. Courtney gave inea suit of
citizen's clothes for my charge, and Mrs.
PeSuussure ntado up a lot of biscuits
and provision! to last u*ou our journey,
for I had determined to take McQueen
to the front where I might secure hi*
•afe passage across the lines. I put Mc
Queen in tho buggy, and walking along
|wide of him, 1 carried him to ''heater.
Here I met General A. It. Colquitt,
now Senator Colquitt, of Georgia, who
gave tae a safe pssspoit wit! McQueen.
All along our route from Camden to
- Chester and beyond I was afraid to let
it be known who McQueen was, so deep
ly in--en*i- I were tbe people at the out
rsges they hsd suffered, and so adopting
a liitle strategy, I made him ap|tear to
tie deaf and dumb whenever we stop
pod unlil I hsd told hi* story and tested
the t-mpcrof my audience When I
| found out that there was no danger,
McQueen suddenly reebven-1 hi* power
of speech and f-esotc ai vo'uble as any
nf us. When I gut among our noldcm I
did not ktioiv what they might do to
Till 11 gill KM Ml OF Till I. Mi
"After we left Chester wejourneycil on
to Suliabnrt, N. C and theie we found
something in the air, an indefinable
gomthning that we coul I neither feel
nor nee, hut something that seemed to
presage calamity. Here we had to atop.
There was no telegraph aud nil com in u
nirntion had been pretty we'd cut off
I was for pushing on to Richmond with
the intention of getting fJ. A. Trenholm,
tlien n member of the Confederate
Cabinet, to send McQueen through the
lines home. I turned off aud went
down to Sniithville where (Jen. Joseph
E. Johnston had established his head
quarters. There 1 met Ceil. Hardee,
who saw (Jen. Johnston for me. 1 was
told by him to take MoQueen to
Raleigh. Here we were taken care of
by the liev. Dr. Mason, snd the next
day 1 went to see Johuston, who told
that Hardee hod related the young
man's story to him and asked me where
he was. He sent one of bis officers and
gave McQueen n permit to go through
the lines.
"I dined with General Johnston that
day and while seated at the table in Ru
fus Tucker's house with Johnstone on
one side and Hardee on the other, a
telegram was handed to Johnston. We
had just finished our soup, I think.
Gen. Johnston read the dispatch and
; rising from the table left the room and
1 going out on the pi air t called Gen.
Harfee. In a few moments Hardee
1 called me out and said : 'Now, remem
1 her, you. Gen. Johnston and myself and
the telegraph operator are th<> only
persons who know the contents of this
telegram.' The telegram was from
President Havis from Salisbury, to this
Gen. J. E. Johnston : I havenotheard
from Gen. I.ee for three days, but from
the stray soldiers I gather that he has
met with a great disaster. Come to me.
A TEI.COKAU RSNS Jt.tr tun*.
"The telegram was signed 'Jefferson
DAVIS.' Gen. Hardee then said 'John
il'in has gone on that train that you
hear now.' and 1 never saw John-ton
for thre years after that day. I then
said to Hardee; 'Well' if this is true it's
all over. Any man that is ki ld now
is murdered. We will retrent rapidly
and surrended at HilUboro,' for there
areonly 12,"00 muskets in this army.
This is in fact only a rooh, the debris of
all our armies. You htd letter leave.
A disbanding army is dangerous.' After
this interview with Gen. Hardee I went
back to Dr. Mason's and bade McQueen
good-by, never electing that 1 should
see or bear if him again.
' Rufus Tucker asked me to bring a
pair of mules and a servant with me
South for safekeeping, and I did so. !
came right hack oTer Sherman's track
and was nevsr molested for one minute.
I drove through io five days to Colum
b > and from there 1 went to Anderson.
The day after 1 got to Anderson the
mules of Tucker were stolen by a com
pany of raiders, who rods liitothatplsee.
I tried to save the mules, snd told the
raider* that the war was over, but they
would not believe it and so I lost my
• When 1 returne | io t'harh -ton in
June i found a letter awaiting my arri
val. from Lieut. M< Queen, and also one
from Gen. <), O. Howard, saving that
if he could be of any service I must call
on him. The first service thtt I got
from Gm. Howard wvs the ptrdon of
George A. Trenholm.
WHAT Kisttrr.n rso* Tiir, i.r.rTCR.
"Years passed on, and nothing served
to disturb the uneventful current of my
life until October, lKf>7, I received the
idea of establishing the great educa
tional institution ofwhich I am ths reo.
tor ths Holy Comunion Church Insti
lute which grew out of the calamities
of the war and is a record nfGod's won
derful providence.
"On one of my vUils to Washington I
met Gen. Sherman, who asked ma if
there was nothing that could be done
for me in return f<>r what I have done
for I.ieUt. McQueen. I replied that the
Government did not have money enough
to pay me for the risk of my life in
serving McQueen ; that I had done it as
an act of gratitude and that it was not
a thing that could he paid for !n dollars
and cents. When Charleston was given
up as a military |>ost, however,! visited
Washington. I went to see Gen. Sher
man and told him that ths time had
now corns when he could do something
—not f.r rne, hut for thw country. He
said that he knew all ths work that I
had been doing and that the Govern
inent ought to he thankful that it oouid
give me possession of the arsenal in
Charleston. Gen. Sherman earned
htna*elf among the Kepuhliesn members
of Congress. When the matter rains up
in the Senate Senator Edmund* asked
what Gen. Sherman said ? Senator Mutler
read whalMhsrinan hod avid. whcieupon
Edmund* declared that he had no oh
jOeiion and su the resolution was passed
granting lb* valuable property fored
urvtlionol purposes, ll will be seen fioni
what npptrently insignilitint ci renin,
stances the grandest result* follow.
"Lieut. l f - Queen ii'l myself have
corresponded with each other nil these
years. Whan Senator Hampton want
out to Illinois todeliver an address ho
fora tha Winnebago Agricultural
Society, in 1877, twi-lve yeurs alter the
destruction of Columbia, ha stopped in
the middle of hit specb to reditu some
of the episodes of the war, and men
tinned the alory of my letter to Mt Queen
When he had finished speaking a young
man stepped out of the crowd, and go
ing up to Senator Hampton said : 'I cm
Lieut, .lolin A. McQueen, and this i>
the letter (producing the letter that
you have in your liandj that saved my
life! The effect of this declaration of
the modest Illinois farmer can he im*
agined hotter than described. Senator
Hampton took the letter and read it
before the crowd of ten thousand jwo
pie, and it created a tremendous sensa
tion. lie wanted to keep the letter,
but Lieut. McQueen, of course would
not |rt with it for anything in the
"Last year 1 wa invited to go to
hieago, and while there I wnt over to
Klgin to visit McQueen. I went to his
house and spent the night with biro.
1 He introduced me to his four bright
1 and lively children, telling them that 1
was their grandfather, and naively *ug
gested thai I must he their grandfather,
I for that if it had not been for me they
wouid not have bad him for their father.
McQueen's wife is dead. He is bringing
up his children in the right way. He
is one of the finest men I have ever
known. He is a staunch I'reshyterian,
and in <>ne of his letters to me he said
that Congressman Aiken hail said the l
hef Aiken) was oppored to the lease of
the Arvnal tonic, because it would he
sectarian school, hut that when he
thought f the Presbyterian hoy in the
a r mof the K, i- opal in ni*t-r he hi -M -1,
• lod for u< h sectariani'iu and i-)n !
tli '. we ha 1 m ire of it.
• S -veral week ago I iec< iv< I the ii]
wing letter from m\ i' l% •> friend
eilclosillgthe.rimewh.it biter.e . pitle
wnich *s. wnto ii hy me in ' >lun.l >
s little more than n iietsen y.-\r- ago.
"Klgin. K< hnt irr 17. l-"t
let this dy pss without sending line
!to you. It is now .V .Op.m. At 7. p.
m. wiM he m the t'dir.a church, Uod
willing, attending a prater meeting.
How different the surroundin -s fr.-tn
eighteen years ago. What a changeful
life this . hat t'isnk * hid for y tet. and
thank Hod, that our S ivior is the >amo
w-sterdsy, to-day and forever ' ( Hebrews
I',. 8. | I n.r'mi that n >w historic letter.
If you think proper. ay to the boy*
'hat I la-g lhem to read the letter arid
to look I eyond the letter to that mighty
Savior, who is shle to keep us 'men of
like pa*ton* with oth*rsi in these heart
rending seenss, from the haired and
brutality ami passion so common in
times of wr. Please reraemlwr me
kindly to them all and also to the
teachers and directors of the institute.
I may never he able in vriit yu or
give you that financial a. I that I could
w sh, hut I can pray for vou and com
mit you to the < are of Him who owns
the cattl" upon a thousand h lls snd
Knows all your nee Is Will not limit
the time yon may keep the leper, and
I need not tell you how 1 value it.
Wiil trust you with it <ien. Hampton
wish'-d a ropy an I 1 sent one. hut do
not know if it reached him, My
children join m. in sending l<u eto Mrs.
P. and you. Prom your unworthy arm.
■fohn A. MCQ vi
Muring the recital of the stirring in
| clients contained in this narrative ol
'he war, Mr. Porter wss frequently in
temi| ted The dsy on which the
-tory was t Id was beautiful as a
tlream. Carriage after carriage loaded
with Northern visitors drove through
the splendid csmpns of the HdyCoro
mun'on church institute, whir numer
j ons pedestrians sauntere<i through the
grounds or | ause<l for s moment at the
wide open gate to cat'-li a glimpse of
•he great educational temple within
i which so much has Keen done for the
cans- of christian culture, A lad\.
| "
heavily veiled and dre*ed in deep
j black, came into the rector's study with
a small sum of money nratlv wrapped
ID white paper- it war the widow's mite !
a strong inan stood up in the doorway
to k that bis son night be taken into
| the school, aud bis soul looked out
through only one window, for one of hi*
eyes had been lost in buttle, this was a
cry for help. And so from day to day
the touching history of this institution
is written in human hearts' and the
work that it is doing is making its im
pression u|>on society and the world
Truth is stranger than fiction •
• ■
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Bellefonte. :
IIIII.IIOV n rjt.j