I was now with a group of three. We ran into a fascist foot patrol but got away successfully into the brush. Deciding now that it was unsafe to move by daylight, we hid and went to sleep, and moved only under cover of the dark. That night we reached the river near the town of Mora del Ebro. We could find no boats, no materials with which to build a raft. Coming upon a small house, we decided to go in. I was leading the way, grenade in hand, when from inside came a call: "Who's there?" My impulse was to throw the grenade and run, but I was suddenly struck by the realization that the words had been spoken in English and the voice sounded like George Watt, who had been in the rear of our column the previous night. I answered "It's me." Sure enough out came George and several other of our men. They had bedded down for the night-very foolishly, I thought, in view of how close they had come to being killed by their own men. Watt told me later that his group had come just as close to opening fire on us. It made a good story to tell afterwards, and a never-settled debate on which of us had been more unwise.
The river was very wide at this point and the current swift. Some of the men were not sure they could make it, so fatigued were we all, but we decided to join forces and swim across at dawn. We stripped naked, threw away all our belongings, and made for the opposite bank. Three of us got across safely just as the day was beginning to break. The bodies of two other men were washed up on the shore several days later. Besides myself, those who made it were Watt and Joseph Hecht, who was later killed in World War II. In the excitement I had kept my hat on.
Between the river and the road stretched a field of cockleburrs which we now crossed on our bare, bruised feet. This was the last straw: naked (except for my hat), hungry and exhausted, I felt I could not take another step. I had sworn never to surrender to the fascists but I told Watt that if they came along just then, I would give up (actually, we would not have had much choice, having no arms).
We lay down on the side of the road, with no idea of who might come along, too beat to care much. Suddenly a car drove up, stopped and out stepped two men. Nobody ever looked better to me in all my life-they were Ernest Hemingway and New York Times correspondent Herbert Matthews. We hugged one another, and shook hands. They told us everything they knew - Hemingway, tall and husky, speaking in explosions; Matthews, just as tall but thin, and talking in his reserved way. The main body of the Loyalist army, it seems, had crossed the Ebro, and was now regrouping to make a stand on this side of the river. The writers gave us the good news of the many friends who were safe, and we told them the bad news of some who were not. Facing the other side of the river, Hemingway shook his burly fist. "You fascist bastards haven't won yet," he shouted. "We'll show you!"
We rejoined the 15th Brigade, or rather the pitiful remnants of it. Many were definitely known to be dead, others missing. Men kept trickling across the Ebro, straggling in for weeks afterwards, but scores had been captured by the fascists. During the first few days, I took charge of what was left of the Lincoln Battalion; we were dazed and still tense from our experience. Meanwhile, the enemy conducted air raids daily against our new positions, but we were well scattered and the raids caused more fear than damage.