FIRST REGIMENT VIRGINIA INFANTRY.
THE Shenandoah Valley, pictured in song and story, viewed by the practical men of the command, accustomed to working the rough, hilly lands of the western portion of the State, was a contrast the striking features of which constantly called forth their admiration, bearing on its surface the outcropping limestone ledge of its foundation, revealing even to the uninitiated the strength of soil, proved by the growing wheat in the fields and the size and quality of the timber of the wooded portions. The good, substantial residences of the proprietors, with the necessary outbuildings, including the "quarter," or slaves' cabins, and in some instances the porter's lodge at the entrance to the grounds, betrayed at once the opulence of the proprietors and the aping of the customs of feudal times. With all, as was not uncommon in the South, there was not wanting evidence of the relations of Abraham and Hagar being repeated, without the connivance or consent of the respective Sarais; but, probably, owing to the change of time, of scenes, and of blood, there has not arisen an Ishmael, so far as has been revealed, or if so, Isaac has come into the rich inheritance. Truly it is a goodly heritage, and fair to look upon, - the granary of the Army of Northern Virginia, capable of meeting heavy drafts for subsistence and freely honoring them until General Sheridan, with fire and sword, in 1864, at once destroyed its capacity to feed and the power of its would-be defenders to restore, - this being one of General Grant's terrible blows at the vitality of the Confederacy. However, this is anticipating events.
The next day the brigade was drawn up in line; there having been some depredations of the men reported to the commander, an inspection of haversacks was ordered and the possessors of the plunder found, which, it is pleasing to record, were not in the ranks of the First, though at the same time truth compels the confession that there were men of the regiment who would have been pleased to share in it. After this the order was to "'bout face," and the command, to the surprise of all, returned down the valley towards Winchester, at a pace that savored strongly of a retreat. It may be readily conjectured that neither the officers I or the companies nor men could account for this haste, as nothing had occurred that came under their observation to cause any extraordinary alarm to be felt or haste to get out of this neighborhood. The supposition was, however, that the commander knew what he was doing, and that it was probable Jackson was coming with a large force to find out, as the men suggested, who's been here since he's been gone. Passing again through Middletown and Newtown, arrived at Winchester very weary and hungry, but no rest was permitted; pushing on through the town after the twenty-three miles' tramp, the column was again assailed by the derisive shouts of the people, "Jackson is coming! He'll run you out of the valley! See the Yankees skedaddle!" etc. The men took all this in very good part, as nothing harder was thrown at them. The quartermaster with wise forethought had met the regiment with hard bread in wagons six or eight miles beyond the town. After the distribution of the bread the wagons were used to haul the foot-sore of the command, of which there was quite a number. After passing through the town the regimental band struck up a lively air, the men responded by a cheer and a quicker step, and in excellent condition, no little indebted to the music for it, arrived at the former camp (Shields) about nine P.M. A hard march, but the men stood it admirably; a good night's rest in their tents restored them. Thus terminated the first advance of the regiment up the valley, - a road that was to be traversed many times during the term of service of the men, at times with full ranks and in good spirits when the prospect was promising, at others with thinned ranks and hopes shaken, influenced by the surroundings, the loss of comrades, and the gloom hanging over the Northern States on account of the fearful sacrifices the people were called upon to make for the little advantage gained. Hope and despondency alternated as advance and retreat followed on one another. The majority of the men, however, had a well-anchored belief that the result would be the triumph of the government and the downfall of the rebellion, hence never lost hope under the most depressing conditions. While encamped here it soon became evident that something important was about transpiring, orderlies were constantly on the go. Headquarters appeared to be the centre of attraction, and much business required attention. The arms were inspected, extra heavy picket detailed, etc., with various rumors in the camp, having little or no foundation. On the 22d the pickets near Winchester were driven in, followed by sharp artillery firing. The Third Brigade was marched to the town to be held in reserve, and bivouacked on the outskirts, the men sleeping on their arms.