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The Eutaw Flag by Robert Wilson

In the early spring of the year 1780 two ladies attired in morning négligé were sitting together in the parlor of a fine old country mansion in lower South Carolina. The remains of two or three huge hickory logs were smouldering on the capacious hearth, for the cool air of the early morning made fires still comfortable, though as the day wore on and the southern sun gathered power the small-paned windows which opened on the lawn had been raised to admit the soft breeze, which already whispered of opening flowers and breathed the sweet fragrance of the jessamine and magnolia. These same embers would have furnished heat enough in a house of modern construction to have made the room intolerable, but as they reposed upon their bed of ashes in the depths of the wide-mouthed chimney-place, lazily sending up their little curls of smoke, they served only to create a draught-power which cooled the apartment by the free circulation of the flower-scented air. The wide lawn was green with the fresh spring grass, amid which a lively company of field-larks were busily searching for grasshoppers and grubs, their gay yellow breasts and jetty breastpins glancing in the sunlight as they raised their heads from time to time to utter their soft whistling notes. The blackbirds puffed their feathers and sounded their singular call from the branches of the old pecan tree, and the flashing of the oriole enlivened the sombre foliage of the enormous live-oaks in the avenue. Three or four deer-hounds were stretched about under the broad benches of the piazza or snapped at the flies under the shade of the rose-bushes, already heavy with bloom, paying no attention to the tame doe which jingled her little bell over their very heads as she stretched up to browse the young shoots of "rose-candy" above them. Two mocking-birds, one perched on the chimney-stack of the house, and the other on a straggling spray of the wild-orange hedge, vied with each other in imitating the medley of bird-language which made the air vocal on every side, pouring a rich flood of melody through the open windows and into the appreciative ears of the ladies who sat within.

"What a lovely day!" exclaimed the elder of the two as she dropped her piece of embroidery and rose to look out upon the scene.

"Oh, how I wish we could take a long ride! Here have I been staying at Oaklands three whole weeks, and I have not been in the saddle once! I declare, Jane, this horrid war will never be over;" and Rebecca Stead drew a long sigh and leaned her pretty head thoughtfully against the sash.

"Well, suppose we ride over to The Willows?" answered Jane Elliott with a ringing laugh. "If you'll take the old broken-winded mare, I'll take one of the plough-mules, and Billy can go with us on the other. Wouldn't it be fun?"

In response to the bell, Billy soon made his appearance—an elderly negro of most respectable appearance, dressed in a blue cloth coat with large brass buttons, a red plush waistcoat with flaps nearly reaching his knees, and a pair of yellow breeches with plated knee-buckles and coarse blue worsted stockings. A single glance at his face and bearing was enough to show his sense of importance and his keen appreciation of the responsibility of his position. He listened with a look of utter amazement to the orders of his young mistress, and then replied in a tone of stern authority, such as none but an old family negro servant could assume: "Miss Jane, dat mule nebber had no saddle 'pon he back sence he been born."

"Well, Billy, it's high time he should know how it feels."

"He wi' kick you' brains out 'fore you git on um, an' broke you' neck 'fore you kin git from here to de gate."

"Oh nonsense, Billy! Have the saddle put on him at once, and get the old mare for Miss Rebecca."

"Miss 'Becca can't ride de ole mare tid-day, 'cause she 'way down in de pasture, an' anybody can't ketch um in tree hour time; an' you can't ride de mule, Miss Jane, 'cause you ma done tell me I must tek good care o' you an' de house w'ile she gone, an' I ain't gwine let you broke you' neck or you' arm—not tid-day." And Billy quietly walked out and closed the door, leaving the young ladies half vexed and half amused at his summary disposal of their scheme.

"After Tarleton's troop and that horrid Tory Ball took my saddle-pony out of the pasture," said Miss Elliott, "mamma sent all the blooded horses to General Lincoln, and we hear that they were turned over to the Virginia Light Horse."

"Yes," replied Miss Stead with a mischievous smile, "and I hear that Colonel Washington has taken the beautiful bay mare for his own mount, and named her 'Jane.'"

"That's a piece of his Virginia impudence," rejoined Miss Elliott. "I have met him only once, at General Izard's, and I think he has taken a great liberty with my name. They say he behaved splendidly at Trenton and Princeton."

"Oh, I wish he would call while I am here," said her companion. "They say he is an elegant rider. I wonder if he looks like the general? I don't believe any Virginian can ride better than our young men. I wonder if he can take up a handful of sand at a gallop, like cousin John Izard?"

"Or jump his horse on the table," suggested Miss Elliott with a roguish glance, "as I've heard that Mr. Izard did one day after a club-dinner."

Miss Stead colored slightly as she said that the gentlemen all complained of the strength of the last box of claret received from Charleston before the club was broken up.

"I hear that Colonel Washington is a fine swordsman," said Miss Elliott, "and that his troop are all bold riders. They have fought Tarleton's Legion once or twice in skirmishes, and they say the red-coats are rather shy of them."

Just at this point the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Billy, bearing a peace-offering in the shape of a huge waiter of luncheon. Billy was butler and major-domo to the establishment, and the young ladies could not restrain their mirth at the profusion and variety with which the faithful fellow was evidently trying to make amends for the disappointment which his high sense of duty had compelled him to inflict upon them. Had there been a dozen instead of two, there would have been ample provision for their wants upon the broad silver salver. Cakes and jellies, preserves and sandwiches, tarts and ruddy apples, a decanter of sherry and a stand of liqueurs, left barely room enough for the dainty little plates and glasses, while Billy's special apology appeared in the form of two steaming little tumblers of rum-punch, the characteristic beverage of the day. All severity of tone and manner had disappeared, and there was something almost chivalric in the deferential smile and rude grace with which the old fellow handed his waiter to the ladies and assured them of the harmless mildness of the punch. Depositing his burden upon a little stand within easy reach of the sofa, Billy turned to leave, but paused as his eye wandered down the opening vista of the avenue, and after gazing for a moment in silence he suddenly exclaimed, "Dere's two sojer gemplemans comin' t'rough de big gate."

In an instant both the young ladies were on their feet and at the window, for such an announcement was cause enough for excitement in that time of war, when the "sojer gemplemans" might prove to be either friends or foes. Charleston had already narrowly escaped capture during the previous summer by General Prevost, who, although compelled to retire on Savannah, had worsted Lincoln's militia army, destroying about one-fourth of the little force. In October had occurred the disastrous, attack upon Savannah, in which the gallant Pulaski lost his life, and Jasper, the hero of Fort Sullivan, received his death-wound. Sumter, the "Game-Cock" of Carolina, had retired from the State with his handful of followers badly demoralized; Marion, the "Swamp-Fox," was concealed with his little band among the cypress-bays and canebrakes of the Pedee; and a tone of gloom and despondency prevailed among the people. In the neighborhood of Charleston all was uncertainty. The plantation residences were occupied chiefly by ladies, the gentlemen being generally with the army. Tarleton's Legion had become widely known and feared on account of the dashing forays which that famous command was constantly making under the lead of its brave and impetuous chief. No wonder, then, that the hearts of the two young ladies at Oaklands beat quick with anxiety as they strained their gaze down the avenue, uncertain whether they should see the hated scarlet uniforms of the British troopers or the welcome blue of the Continental cavalry.

But the "big gate" to which Billy had alluded was a full quarter of a mile distant, and although the first glance satisfied the excited watchers that their visitors were friends, little more could be certain until they should approach more nearly. Patience, however, was hardly to be expected under the circumstances, and its place was effectually supplied by a little red morocco-covered spy-glass which Miss Elliott took from the table. Scarcely was it brought to bear upon the approaching horsemen when she laid it down as suddenly as she had seized it, the rich color mantling to her forehead.

"Why, Jane," said her friend, "am I not to have a look at the strangers? Oh, I declare—yes, I do believe I know that horse. It must be—"

"It is Colonel Washington and some other officer whom I do not know," said Miss Elliott, who had regained her self-possession completely. "You have your wish, Rebecca."

The two visitors cantered rapidly up the broad avenue, and found Billy waiting to receive them. One was a tall, soldierly-looking man of about twenty-eight, his fine face bronzed by exposure, and his easy seat in the saddle betokening one who had been a horseman from his youth. He wore the blue coat with yellow facings and the buckskin breeches of the Continental cavalry, his red sash bound over a broad sword-belt which supported a strong sabre, while the handsome and well-muscled bay mare which he rode carried a leather portmanteau in addition to the heavy bearskin holster. His large cavalry-boots were well bespattered, and his whole bearing was that of an officer on duty, rather than of a gallant bent on visiting lady fair. His companion was a mere youth, seemingly not over seventeen, well mounted also, and dressed in the simple uniform of an orderly, but evidently the friend and social equal of his superior officer. The young man sat his horse with the ease and grace of one born to the saddle, and his fiery chestnut seemed to know and understand his rider thoroughly. Like the other, he was provided with holsters and portmanteau, a heavy blue cavalry cloak being strapped over the unstuffed saddle-tree. Entering the drawing-room, Colonel Washington presented his companion to Miss Elliott as "Mr. Peyton of Virginia," and both gentlemen were in turn presented to Miss Stead, who received their courtly bows with one of those graceful, sweeping courtesies which may be ranked among the lost arts of a past generation. Billy had followed the guests to the parlor-door, where he stood as if waiting orders.

"You seem to have ridden far," said: the fair hostess when the ordinary salutations had passed. "Let me order your horses to the stable to be fed."

"I thank you very kindly, miss, but there will be scarcely time, for we are under marching orders, and must be in Charleston before sunset," replied the colonel with a bow; and there was something in his tone which faintly suggested a mental desire to see the said marching orders in Jericho.

Perhaps young Peyton detected this, for he said immediately, "I think we had best accept Miss Elliott's kindness, for we have a long ride before us, and we cannot tell what orders may be awaiting us at the end of it."

"I believe Peyton is right," said the colonel, "and if you will permit me I will ask him to give some directions to the servant."

Billy, however, had heard enough to give him his cue, and had disappeared, nor did the summons of the bell bring him back until full ten minutes had elapsed. When he did return it was to bring in two more tumblers of punch, but this time of "the regulation size" and strength, which were handed to the guests and disposed of with bow and sentiment; and then the young orderly went out with him to see the horses stripped and the holsters deposited on the piazza before the animals were led off to be fed.

"We shall have to defer accepting your invitation to attend the dress parade until your return to camp," said Miss Elliott.

"I regret to be obliged to say that the fortunes of war have deprived us for the present of that honor. My orders extend to the command, which broke camp this morning and is now on its march to Charleston."

"Oh, what are we to do? We felt so safe while they were near us."

The remark burst involuntarily from Miss Stead, who blushed and cast down her eyes as if conscious of having said too much for maidenly propriety, but the smile of acknowledgment on Colonel Washington's face gave way to a look of grave anxiety as he replied, "No lady of Carolina shall ever need a defender while a man of my command is left to draw a sword; but we have news of movements on the enemy's part which require our presence nearer to the city, and I have advised that all noncombatants who can possibly move into Charleston should do so at their earliest convenience. Perhaps we may meet there in a few days."

A momentary pallor had overspread Miss Elliott's face, but it was succeeded immediately by a proud flush as she said, "It is true, then, that General Clinton has left Savannah and is moving on Charleston?"

"Such is the report, and I fear we are badly prepared to meet him."

"We have a righteous cause, and God is on our side," replied the brave girl with flashing eyes. "Governor Rutledge has issued a call for all men not in service to take up arms, and the whole upper country will swarm down to meet these hireling British."

"So we all hope and expect; and if they are only in good time, there will be no fear of the result."

"Fear! Who fears these upstart baronets and their insolent soldiers? Oh, how I wish women could fight! If the men can't drive them back, let us take the field, and Clinton shall never set his foot in the streets of Charleston;" and the brave little beauty looked as if she meant every word she said.

"The men cannot fail to be heroes when the eyes of such women are upon them," exclaimed the gallant colonel, looking with amused admiration at the lovely face all aglow with patriotic excitement. "But you must let us do the fighting, Miss Elliott, while you cheer and support us with your smiles and your prayers.—Peyton, what do you think would be the result of a charge by a squadron of ladies upon Tarleton's Legion?"

"I can't answer for Tarleton," laughingly replied the orderly, who had just entered the room, "but I am afraid I should throw down my arms and desert in the face of the enemy."

"You are an ungallant fellow, Peyton, to hint even that the ladies could ever be your enemies."

"Oh, do look there!" cried Miss Stead with a silvery laugh, and pointing through the open window: "shall we take the issue of that struggle as an omen?"

The whole party rushed to the window and looked out on the lawn. A brilliant redbird, the proximity of whose nest perhaps had fired his timid heart with courage, had made a savage assault on a bluejay, the colors of whose feathers were strikingly suggestive of the Continental uniform. For a moment the two combatants fluttered in angry strife, and the result seemed doubtful, when a female mocking-bird flew from her nest in the shrubbery and drove them both ingloriously from the field.

"That settles the matter," exclaimed Colonel Washington, laughing gayly. "If Governor Rutledge calls out the ladies, I shall throw up my commission at once, and retire in good order to the security of private life."

"Perhaps then Lieutenant Peyton would succeed to the command?" rejoined Miss Elliott, glancing archly at the young orderly.

"I am almost sorry that your corps has not been organized, miss, for I might then consider myself gazetted for promotion, and claim my lieutenant's commission over your signature." The young man spoke in a tone of gay badinage, but a shade of annoyance came over his features as he added with a slight bow, "I am only plain 'Mr.' Peyton as yet."

"I beg pardon," said Miss Elliott, "but I thought 'lieutenant' was an ensign's proper title."

"If Peyton were the ensign of the troop, his office would be a sinecure," laughed the colonel, "seeing we have no standard for him to carry."

"You surely don't mean, colonel, that your gallant corps fights without colors?" said Miss Stead.

"Why, we cannot use those that we captured from the enemy, and I fear our lady friends will be unable to present us with a stand until the war is over and silk becomes more plentiful."

Miss Elliott's eyes flashed with a sudden impulse, and the color deepened on her cheek as she eagerly asked, "Would you carry so poor a little flag as a Carolina girl can present to you? Many a good knight has gone into battle with no richer standard than a lady's scarf."

"If Miss Elliott will honor my command by entrusting her kerchief to its keeping, I swear to fly it in the face of Tarleton's Legion and defend it to the last drop of my blood."

"Then let this be your flag," cried the noble girl with a burst of enthusiasm which echoed that which rung in Colonel Washington's tones. A large fauteuil, covered with heavy crimson silk embroidered with raised laurel-leaves, was standing near. Miss Elliott seized, as she spoke, the scissors from her work-basket, and in a moment had cut out the rectangular piece which covered the back and offered it to her distinguished guest. Washington bowed low with courtly grace and touched his lips to the fair hand which presented it, while young Peyton, carried away by the excitement of the moment, sprang to his feet with a cheer which started the wild birds from the shrubbery: "Colonel Washington, I claim the right, by Miss Elliott's commission, to carry that flag into action, and I swear that it shall never be stained with dishonor while Walter Peyton has a right hand to grasp its staff."

"Take it, my boy," said the colonel in a voice tremulous with emotion, "and guard it with your life. With God's help we will make that flag a terror to the enemies of our country.—Miss Elliott, accept a soldier's gratitude for your precious gift to-day. No prouder banner ever waved over battle-field or claimed the devotion of patriotic hearts. It shall be fringed and mounted this very night in Charleston, and I pledge my sacred honor that Washington's Light Horse shall prove worthy of their trust."

There was a pause in the conversation which was broken by young Peyton, who rattled on for some time with Miss Stead in that light vein which the most serious circumstances cannot long repress when youth and beauty meet. Colonel Washington spoke but little, and with an evident effort at gayety which ill agreed with the earnest, thoughtful look which settled on his features, while Miss Elliott could not conceal the embarrassment which her heightened color and downcast eyes betrayed as she toyed with her embroidery, avoiding the glances of deep and ardent yet restrained admiration with which her distinguished guest regarded her. The hour had arrived when the soldiers must resume their journey; and while Rebecca Stead stood watching from the piazza the final preparations which the young orderly was making for the march, Colonel Washington took the hand of his fair hostess and after a moment's hesitation bowed low and pressed it to his lips, but with somewhat more of warmth than was required by the stately courtesy of the day. Their eyes met for an instant, and then, without one word of spoken adieu, they parted. When Miss Stead turned to join her friend she found herself alone with old Billy, who was gazing after the fast-receding forms of the troopers. "Mass' Tahlton done ketch de debbil ef he meet dem Virginia man to-night," said the old fellow sententiously as he slowly retired into his pantry.

II.

On the 12th of May, 1780, General Lincoln, after sustaining a close siege of more than a month's duration, surrendered Charleston, with five thousand men and four hundred pieces of artillery, into the hands of Sir Henry Clinton. The dark cloud which had long been threatening Lower Carolina now settled like a pall over the whole State, and but for two causes the whole issue of the war might have been changed. One of these was the severity of Cornwallis, who succeeded Clinton in the command, and who by his unwise policy drove the despondent people to desperation: the other was the indomitable courage and self-devoted heroism of the women, which encouraged and strengthened the flagging patriotism of the men. The militia who had been captured with the city regarded themselves as absolved from a parole which did not protect them from enlistment in the ranks of the Crown, and the irregular bands of Marion, Pickens and Sumter received large accessions. Mill-saws were roughly forged into sabres and pewter table-ware melted and beaten into slugs for the shot-guns with which the men were armed. The British dared not forage except in force, the pickets were shot from ambushes, and their Tory allies hung whenever captured. In August the disastrous battle of Camden destroyed Gates's army, and the Congress sent Greene to supersede him. Making his head-quarters in North Carolina, this experienced commander divided his force and sent General Morgan, with about one thousand men, into South Carolina to harass Cornwallis in the rear. The latter at once sent Tarleton with eleven hundred troopers, among them his famous Legion, to cut off Morgan or drive him back upon Greene. In the latter part of December the Americans were in the region of the upper Broad River, in Spartanburg district, South Carolina, Morgan having but one hundred and thirty mounted men—they could hardly be called cavalry—among whom was Washington's troop.

It was about nine o'clock on the night of the 16th of January, 1781, that the little army was encamped between the Pacolet and Broad rivers, near a piece of thin woodland known as Hannah's Cowpens. The weather was very cold, for the elevation of that part of the country produces a temperature equal in severity to that of a much higher latitude, but neither tents nor shanties protected the sleeping soldiers from the frosty air. Here and there a rough shelter of pine boughs heaped together to windward of the smouldering camp-fires told of a squad who had not been too weary to work for a little show of comfort; but in most cases the men were stretched out on the bare ground, their feet toward the embers and their arms wrapped up with them in their tattered blankets, which scarcely served to keep out the cold. The regular troops, who had seen some service, might have been easily distinguished from the less experienced militia by their superior sleeping arrangements. Two and sometimes three men would be found wrapped in one blanket, "spoon-fashion," with another blanket stretched above them on four stakes to serve as a tent-fly, and their fires were usually large and well covered with green branches to prevent their burning out too rapidly. One and all, however, slept as soundly as if reposing on beds of down, while the same quiet stars smiled on them and on the anxious wives and mothers who lay waking and praying in many a distant home. In and out among the weird and shifting shadows of the outer lines the dim figures of the sentinels stalked with their old "Queen Anne" muskets at the "right-shoulder shift," or tramped back and forth along their beats at the double quick to keep their blood in circulation. At a little distance from the infantry camp the horses of Washington's dragoons and M'Call's mounted Georgians were picketed in groups of ten, the saddles piled together, and a sentinel paced between every two groups, while the men were stretched around their fires, sleeping on their arms like the infantry, for it was known that Tarleton had crossed the Pacolet that day, and an attack was expected at any time. A party of officers were asleep near one of the fires, with nothing, however, to distinguish them from the men but the red or buff facings of their heavy cloaks. One of these lay with his face to the stars, sleeping as placidly as if his boyish form were safe beneath his mother's roof. One arm lay across his chest, clasping to his body the staff of a small cavalry flag, while the other stretched along his side, the hand resting unconsciously upon a holster-case of pistols. As the glare of the neighboring fire played over his features it was easy to recognize Walter Peyton, guarding faithfully, even in his sleep, the banner which Jane Elliott had cut from her mother's parlor fauteuil, and which had already become known to the enemy. A rough log cabin stood a little way from the bivouac, before which two sentinels in the uniform of the Continental regulars were pacing up and down. The gleam of the roaring lightwood fire flashed through the open seams between the logs, and heavy volumes of smoke rolled out of the clay chimney. Just in front of the huge fire-place stood the tall, burly figure of Morgan, and near him were grouped, in earnest consultation, the manly figure of William Washington, the brave and knightly John Eager Howard of Maryland, McDowell, Triplett, Cunningham and other officers of the field and staff. Determination not unmingled with gloom was visible upon the faces of all. Every arrangement had been made for the probable fight of the morrow, and the council was about to disperse, when the silence of the night was broken by the call of a distant sentinel, taken up and repeated along the line. Morgan instantly despatched an orderly, to the bivouac of the guard, and the party were soon cheered by the intelligence that a courier had just arrived who reported the near approach of Pickens with three hundred Carolina riflemen—a timely and valuable addition to the little force of patriots.

The first gray pencilings of dawn were scarcely visible when the slumbering camp was roused by the rolling notes of the reveille from the drum of little Solly Barrett, the drummer-boy of Howard's Maryland Regulars. Fully refreshed by a good night's rest, the men prepared and ate their breakfasts with but little delay, and by seven o'clock the entire force was in line of battle, awaiting the approach of the enemy.

Tarleton, flushed with the assurance of easy victory, had made a forced march during the night, and his command was much jaded when at eight o'clock he came in sight of Morgan's outposts: notwithstanding this, however, he determined, as was fully expected by those who knew his disposition and mode of warfare, to attack the American lines forthwith. It must be left to the historian to tell how the battle raged with varying fortunes until Howard's gallant Marylanders taught the British regulars that the despised provincials had learned the trick of the bayonet, and decided the issue of the day. Up to this moment the cavalry, which had been posted in reserve behind a slight wooded eminence, had been chafing for a hand in the fray. As has been stated, these troops consisted of McCall's mounted militia and Washington's Light Dragoons. The latter were all well mounted and armed, for their frequent successes in skirmishes with the enemy's horse kept them well supplied. They were a crack corps, and well had they earned their reputation. Just as Howard's regulars turned savagely on their disorderly pursuers and put them to the rout, a squadron of British light horse made a dash at McCall, whose men were unused to the sabre, and had been demoralized by the first bayonet-charge of the enemy, which they had sustained on foot. Now was Washington's chance.

"Are you ready, men? Charge!" The words were scarcely off his lips ere the noble mare which he rode shot forward, touched by her rider's spur. With a wild yell, which drowned the regular cheer of the Englishmen, the men dashed after their brave and impetuous leader, who was ever the first to cross a sabre with the enemy. Rising in his stirrups as the gallant chestnut answered the spur, Walter Peyton looked backward at the men as he raised the light staff of his little banner and shook its folds to the breeze, and the next moment he was close by the side of his chief in the very thickest of the mêlée. For a moment all was dust and confusion, for Tarleton's veterans were not the men to break at the first onset, and they met the furious charge of the Virginians with a determination which promised a bloody and doubtful struggle. One stout fellow, mounted on a powerful horse, singled out the young ensign as his special quarry, not noticing, in his ardor to capture the daring little rebel flag, that the trooper who rode next to it was the gallant colonel himself. Reining back his horse almost upon its haunches, he had raised his sabre in the very act to strike when that of Washington came down with tremendous force, severing the upper muscles of his sword-arm, and at the same instant Peyton, for the first time observing his danger, dropped his rein and, grasping the flagstaff with both hands, swung it full in the face of his assailant. The man's horse shied violently as the folds of the little banner flapped across his eyes, and as his rider fell heavily from the saddle dashed at full speed through the British line. Already this had begun to waver, and in another moment the panicstricken troopers were flying in wild confusion toward their reserve. To rally a body of frightened cavalry is no easy matter under any circumstances, but when a determined pursuing force is pressing hotly on the rear it becomes a simple impossibility. The entire command gave way as the fugitives approached, and in a little while was in full retreat. Colonel Washington, as usual far in advance of his men, caught sight of the British commander, who, with two of his aides, was endeavoring to rally a favorite regiment, and without a thought of support pressed toward the group, accompanied only by Peyton with Jane Elliott's flag and a little bugler, a mere boy, who carried no sword, but who had drawn a pistol from his holster and kept close to the colors all through the day.

Tarleton was not deficient in personal courage, and turned to meet his old enemy in a hand-to-hand encounter. The officer nearest him struck at Washington as he passed, but missed his blow and received a bullet in his side from the young bugler's pistol.

"Carter," cried Tarleton to the other aide, who rode near him, "a captain's brevet if you take that woman's petticoat," pointing with his sword to the saucy little flag, the story of which had reached the British camps.

But it was no woman's hand which was there to defend it, and as the Englishman wheeled his horse for the attack Peyton's pistol flashed almost in his face, and he fell forward on his charger's neck, convulsively clasping it as the animal ran wildly forward unguided toward the American lines. Meanwhile, the two commanders had crossed swords, and as both were good fencers, a duel à l'outrance seemed imminent. But Tarleton had no time for chivalrous encounters. His opponent beat down his guard, and with a sudden thrust wounded the British colonel in the hand. The latter drew a pistol, and as he wheeled to follow his flying squadrons discharged it at his adversary, the ball taking effect near the knee. The battle was now really at an end, and the pursuit was abandoned at this point.

As Walter Peyton lay down beside his camp-fire that night it was with a body worn down by excitement and fatigue, but with a heart beating high with pride as he looked at the flag he had so gallantly defended, and remembered his colonel's words of commendation, which he more than hoped meant promotion to a captain's commission.

In the city of Charleston all was gloom and sorrow except in the little circle of society which boasted of its loyalty to the Crown. Scarcely a family but had some representative in the Continental ranks, and as all intelligence reached the city through British channels, the darkest side of every encounter between the armies was the first which the imprisoned patriots saw. The non-combatant members of all the planters' families had moved into the city before its capitulation, and while the ladies permitted the visits and acquaintance of the English officers, they never lost an opportunity to show them how hateful they esteemed the royal cause.

It was nearly a month after the victory at the Cowpens that Miss Elliott was sitting with her mother one evening in the parlor of their city residence. Conspicuous among the furniture was a large and comfortable arm-chair upholstered in heavy crimson silk damask, but while everything else in the room was neat and even elegant, this chair appeared to be more fit for the lumber-closet, the entire square of silk having been cut from the back, leaving the underlining of coarse striped cotton exposed to view. The tones of the curfew or "first bell," which may still be heard nightly in the seagirt old city, had just died away when a loud rap came from the heavy brass knocker on the street-door, and in a few moments old Billy appeared to announce "Captain Fraser."

A look of slight annoyance passed over the face of the elder lady as she arranged the snowy ruffles of her cap, while the deepened color and sparkling eyes of the younger, with the almost imperceptible sarcasm of her smile, seemed to indicate mingled pleasure, defiance and contempt. The visitor who entered was resplendent in the gay scarlet and glittering lace of the British uniform, and his redundancy of ruffles, powder and sword-knot betokened the military exquisite, his bearing presenting a singular mixture of high breeding and haughty insolence. With his right hand laid upon the spot where his heart was supposed to be, while his left daintily supported the leathern scabbard of his sword, he bowed until the stiff little queue of his curled wig pointed straight at the heavy cornice. The ladies swept the floor with their graceful courtesies, that of the younger presenting the least touch of exaggeration as with folded arms and downcast eyes she sank backward before her guest. Another knock was heard, and when the names of three more of the garrison officers were announced, Miss Elliott whispered to Billy a hasty message to some of her fair friends in the neighborhood to come in and help her entertain them. These impromptu parties were quite common, and in a little while the room was sparkling with beauty, gallantry and wit. It may seem strange that the patriotic belles of the day, the fair Brewtons and Pinckneys and Rutledges, the Ravenels and Mazycks, should have cultivated such pleasant associations with the enemies of their country. But among the officers they had many old friends and acquaintances of ante-bellum days, and not a few marriages had established even closer ties. Thus, Lord Campbell, the last royal governor, was husband to Sarah Izard, the sister of General Ralph Izard, who was brother-in-law to our former acquaintance, Rebecca Stead; and even General Washington had invited Admiral Fairfax to dine, on the ground that a state of war did not preclude the exchange of social civilities between gentlemen who served under opposing flags.

Mrs. Elliott received the attentions of her daughter's visitors with dignified grace, but with a degree of reserve which it was impossible altogether to conceal, and to which the officers had become too much accustomed to feel any offence; while the younger ladies drove the keen darts of their sarcasm home to the feelings of their hostile guests, who were forced to submit to it or forego entirely the pleasures of female society.

"May I ask if Company K has been on duty at the picket-lines to-day?" asked Miss Elliott of Captain Fraser, who had just sauntered up to her chair.

"May I answer the question after the fashion of my ancestors," was the reply, "by asking why you should think so?"

"Only because you seem to be suffering from fatigue, which a long march might explain."

Fraser's company was notoriously a "fancy corps," whose severest duty was generally to furnish the guard at head-quarters and to go through a dress parade every evening at the Battery.

"Ah, no, but I have been on inspection duty, and it's a bore, I assure you."

"Inspecting the flower-gardens, I presume, to be sure that there are no rattlesnakes under the rose-bushes, or the milliner-shops, to see that no palmetto cockades are made. May I insist upon a seat for you? Not that chair," she added hastily and with heightened color as the captain was about to occupy the mutilated fauteuil: "excuse me, but that is a 'reserved seat.'"

"Ah, I see—beg pardon," said Fraser with a slight sneer, for the story of Washington's flag was generally known, and also Miss Elliott's aversion to the use of the chair by any British officer. "Somebody seems to have carried off the back of that one."

"When last heard from," said the beauty with curling lip, "it was at Colonel Tarleton's back."

"Tarleton should be court-martialed for that affair at Cowpens," said Fraser with some warmth, and forgetting the proffered seat he prepared to take his leave.

"Perhaps Captain Fraser would like to have had a hand in the 'affair' also," added Miss Elliott with a demure smile. This allusion to Tarleton's wound was too much for the gallant captain, and again elevating the point of his queue toward the ceiling, but this time without his hand to his heart, he left the room with a face somewhat redder than his uniform.

III.

There are defeats which are more glorious than victory, and one of these it was which, on the 8th of September, 1781, gave to Jane Elliott's flag the title which has come down with it to posterity. In the earlier days of its history the saucy little standard was known to the gallant men who followed it to action as "Tarleton's Terror," and sometimes it is even now spoken of as "the Cowpens Banner." But the name by which its brave custodians most love to call it is "the Eutaw Flag," It is hard to realize as one stands beside the lovely fountains which flow to-day as they did a hundred—or perhaps a thousand—years ago, that close by these placid waters was fought one of the most desperate and bloody struggles of a long and cruel war. The sunfish and bream floated with quivering fins or darted among the rippling shadows on that autumn morning as we see them doing now. The mocking-bird sang among the overhanging branches the same varied song which gladdens our ears, and the wild deer then, as now, lay peacefully in the shady coverts of the neighboring woods. Who knows what they may have thought when they heard their only enemy, man, ring out his bugle-call to slip the war-dogs on his fellows, or when the sharp crack of the rifle told them for the first time of safety to themselves and of death to their wonted destroyers?

Already had "Light-horse Harry" Lee struck the first blow victoriously in the capture of Coffin and the discomfiture of his force. Already for several hours the old black oaks had quivered beneath the thunder of artillery more fearfully destructive than that of Heaven itself as Williams hurled back from his field-battery the iron hail with which the enemy strove to overwhelm him. Already had Howard's gallant Marylanders, the heroes of the Cowpens, crossed bayonets with the veteran "Irish Buffs" and forced them in confusion from the field. Majoribanks, with his regulars, grenadiers and infantry, was strongly posted behind a copse too dense to be forced by cavalry, and yet to dislodge him was Colonel Washington's special duty. Pointing with his sword toward a narrow passage near the water, he dashed the spurs into the flanks of his gallant mare and called on his men to follow. There was a momentary pause, for the duty was of the most desperate character, but Captain Peyton snatched the little banner which he had carried so long from the hand of the sergeant who had succeeded to its charge, and raising it above his head spurred after his leader. As the silken folds fluttered out on the air a ringing cheer went up from the troop, and the whole line, wheeling into sections so as to pass through the narrow gap, dashed forward as one man. It was a daring attempt, and terribly did they pay for their audacity. A perfect storm of bullets greeted the brave Virginians, and nearly one-half of them went down, horse and man, beneath its fearful breath ere the other half were in the midst of the enemy's ranks. Those were days when a certain simplicity of character made the soldier believe that bayonets and sabres were terrible weapons and meant to do terrible work. No rewards were then offered for "a dead cavalryman" or for "a bloody bayonet." There were cloven skulls at Eutaw as at Crecy, and men were transfixed by each other's deadly bayonet-thrusts. As Washington, maddened by the loss of his brave troopers, swung his sharp blade like the flail of death, a shot from the musket of a tall grenadier pierced the lung of his noble bay, and as the falling steed rolled over on her gallant rider the man shortened his musket and buried the sharp steel in the colonel's body. A second thrust would have followed with deadly result had not the British major, Majoribanks, seized the arm of the soldier and demanded the surrender of his fallen and bleeding foe. The tide of battle had receded like some huge swell of ocean, and as the wounded hero struggled to his feet he found himself surrounded by enemies, to contend with whom would have been folly. Turning his feeble glance for a second toward the retreating remnant of his shattered command, he caught a glimpse through the smoke and dust of his little battle-flag fluttering in the distance, and fast receding toward the point whence Hampton's bugles were already sounding the rally. Neither William Washington nor his "Eutaw Flag" was ever again in battle for the country, for the captivity of the former terminated only with the war, and the latter fades from history from that date until, in 1827, Jane Washington, for seventeen years a widow, presented it as a precious inheritance to the gallant corps of Charleston citizen soldiery, who still guard its folds from dishonor, as they do the name of the knightly paladin which they bear. The wedding was celebrated soon after the establishment of peace. Major Majoribanks escaped the carnage of the day, but he lived not to deliver his distinguished prisoner at Charleston. Sickening on the retreat with the deadly malaria of the Carolina swamps, he died near Black Oak, and his mossy grave may be seen to-day by the roadside, marked by a simple stone and protected from desecration by a wooden paling. It stands near the gate of Woodboo plantation, which old Stephen Mazyck, the Huguenot, first settled, about twenty-five miles from Eutaw and forty-three from Charleston. On the banks of the Cooper, amid the lovely scenes of "Magnolia," Charleston's city of the dead, there stands a marble shaft enwreathed in the folds of the rattlesnake, the symbol of Revolutionary patriotism, and beneath it rests all that was mortal of William Washington and Jane Elliott his wife.