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REMINISCENCES OF

Captain West was a loyal staff officer; no one was ever more so. He desired to do his full duty and stand by his chief; but there are limits to human endurance. He essayed to furnish the usual tokens of corroboration; but he was over taxed, his nerve was flanked and, after an ineffectual effort to bow and smile, he dropped from his chair in a limp and fainting condition.

Some time before General Williams had concluded his speech, Breckinridge entered the house and heard the greater part of the criticism bestowed upon himself. Even had he not been inclined to answer it, his friends would have insisted that he should do so; and he needed little urging. As soon, therefore, as Williams sat down, Breckinridge began to speak.

He had little difficulty in convincing the audience that he was guiltless of the most serious charge the general had preferred, that of having used his editorial position to aid his own canvass and injure that of an opponent, but, smarting under Williams's caustic censure, he unfortunately, although quite naturally, retorted in kind, and with a severity that in his cooler moments he regretted. He not only successfully defended his own military record but attacked that of General Williams, and thus the Confederates witnessed, to their scandal and sorrow, two of their favourite representatives assailing each other, and doing more serious detriment to the Confederate prestige than many score of civilian politicians could have accomplished.

The most lamentable, not to say ludicrous, feature of the matter, was that neither was sincere in his attack upon the other, for each was on record     and honestly so     as having testified to the other's merit as a soldier. But here were two comrades, who had "fought, bled," and nearly "died together," denouncing each other like scullions in the effort to obtain an office that neither would have sought had he known in advance that such altercation would have resulted.

Breckinridge, excited by frequent interruption, finally became so warm in rejoinder that a personal encounter between the two was barely averted. The discussion was brought to a sudden termination by a declaration from Williams that he thought the time for words had passed and that for action had arrived, and, as Breckinridge manifestly entertained the same opinion, a clash seemed inevitable.   Their partisans, having become thoroughly