Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
An Incident of General Keifer’s War Record.
The following incident is told of General Keifer, the new Speaker of the National House of Representatives: Immediately succeeding the desperate conflict at Sailor’s Creek (General Keifer was the principal actor in the affair which nearly cost him his life), while assisting with the reformation of troops, information reache him that a body of the enemy was concealed in the woods on his right. He rode into the woods to reconoitre in person, where, after proceeding a short distance, to his surprise he came suddenly upon confederate troops lying on the ground, evidently ignorant of the surrender that had just taken place. The approaching night, together with the density of the woods and the smoke of the battle, saved him from instant identification. To attempt hastily to withdraw would have led to his recognition and probable death. The idea of surrender did not occur to him. He resorted to a ruse. Ina loud tone he gave the command, “Forward”, and waved his sword toward the recent scene of battle. This command was promptly obeyed. The faster he moved the faster the enemy followed, until all reached the edge of the woods, where the where the better light enabled them to see his uniform. Instantly a number of muskets were leveled at him, and but for the prompt command “Don’t fire,” from the confederate commander, who rished forward, striking up the guns, he must have fallen. General Keifer, amid the confusion, dashed away at a full run to his own command, and caused it to charge forward, and, leading the advance, he demanded and received the surrender of the whole body of men, who proved to be a marine brigade, little used to land service, commanded by Commodore J. R. Tucker, since chief admiral of the Peruvian navy. Captain John D. Semmes and about thirty-five other officers also capitulated. Tucker and Semmes each claimed to have saved his life. General Keifer afterward, as an act of gratitude, used his influence to obtain the parole of these officers, who, having deserted the United States navy, were not entitled under the orders to parole.1