Civil War Transcendence, part 418

I woke the next morning and didn’t move, but just looked at the vision of loveliness cuddled up next to me. A strain of long black hair lay across her cheek and obscured her face, so I gently reached up and pushed it off her cheek, trapping it behind her ear. With that accomplished, I had an unobstructed view of her beautiful face. For a few moments, I studied her features and tried to memorize every facet of her countenance.

After a while, she stirred and moved to where she could drape her arm across my chest. In a sleepy voice she said, “Are ya awake?’

I put my arms around her, pulled her closer to me and answered, “Yep.”

She raised her head and looked at me with one eye closed. Then she declared, “I’m starving. Ya want some breakfast?”

I laughed and replied, “Always.”

She yawned and said, “Well, I guess we better get up.”

We leisurely got dressed and went downstairs to the right parlor, which is where breakfast is usually served. I pulled the doors open and was astounded when a crowd of people began clapping. I turned to Daphne and she began to laugh.

Almost on cue, the whole herd of people said, “Congratulations!”

I gave Daphne a bewildered look and asked, “Did ya tell ‘em?”

Enjoying my comical expression, she teasingly said, “Of course not.”

I stammered, “Well, how did they know?”

She put her right index finger to her chin and looked at the ceiling as if contemplating a most important question and said, “I wonder?” Then, acting as if the answer popped in her head, she snapped her fingers, looked at me and laughingly said, “It must have been the boisterous exclamations that emanated from our room last night.”

Everyone had been watching and listening to us. When Daphne answered my question, the whole room began to laugh. I got a sheepish grin on my face, turned a bright scarlet, and after a moment, joined in the laughter.

Then everyone came forward to shake our hands. There were John Lee, Anna, Ezra and the ladies that waited on Mrs. Douglas, Willie and Daphne. Apparently the word had gone out late last night, or early this morning, because Jonah and Jeremy Sage and their father were in attendance. Even Major Mosby and Sergeant Kirkland had come to bestow congratulations. And last but not least, Al Madigan accompanied by Hattie Gray came forward to wish us well.

When everyone had congratulated us, Mrs. Douglas came to us. She hugged Daphne and tearfully said, “Y’all stay here as long as ya like. It’ll be wonderful to have the patter of little feet in this house again.”

Daphne produced her phantom hanky and began to cry. Then she said, “Ya been like a mama to me. I love ya so much.”

That really got to Mrs. Douglas and she began to cry also.

I just stood there, like a bump on a log, not knowing what to do.

Major Mosby came to my rescue and stated out loud, “It would be a sin to let all these vittles get too cold. How about someone asking the prayer and let’s eat?”

For the first time I looked at the dining room table, it was laden with a huge amount of eggs, bacon, biscuits, gravy, and ham steaks.

Daphne reached out and grabbed my hand. She motioned for me to continue the gesture. I did so and each person grasped the hand of the person next to them until we had a completed chain of fellowship.

Mrs. Douglas looked at Major Mosby and asked, “Sir, would you return thanks for us?”

He nodded and said, “I’d be glad to.”

We all bowed our heads and Mosby prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your gift of life and for the new life that we celebrate today.  Please bless this food so lovingly prepared and freely given.  Also please bless the families represented here and give them traveling mercies as they make their way back home. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen”

All of us repeated, “Amen.”

Then Willie Douglas added, “Bless the Lord and Holy Ghost and bless the one that eats the most. Amen”

This brought an abundance of laughter and a reprimand from Mrs. Douglas.

Then we lit into the vittles like a bunch of starving wolves.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 417

Taking my life in my hands, I admitted, “I went to Martinsburg to see about a place to house the spy we captured, and I ended up repulsing a Yankee patrol just north of here.”

Daphne’s eyes widened, and she seemed to have trouble comprehending what I had said. She stared at me for a moment, took a gulp and said, in a bewildered voice, “How did one lead to tha other?”

I offered, “Since it is a long story, and it is so late, why don’t we wait until tomorrow for me to explain?”

She gave me a knowing look and said, “And let ya come up with an outlandish story? Not on yar life, Jim Hager! Y’ar gonna come clean tonight!”

She grabbed me by the hand and hauled me into the left parlor. I thought that I would be given the Third Degree in private, but I wasn’t that lucky. Every person who had to endure her worry-wart ways over the last ten hours considered it their just compensation to have an explanation of what I had been up to; plus, if there was to be retribution carried out against me, they wanted to witness that, too.

Over the next hour, I was subjected to an interrogation that would have made Perry Mason proud. When she had extracted every detail of the day’s event, she looked at the collected audience and declared, “Do ya see what I have to contend with?”

Many muttered affirmative sounds came from what, for all practical purposes, was a jury impaneled to render a verdict of guilty that my actions had caused her excessive worry.

Finally, I had enough and abruptly stood up. All members of the ad hoc jury cringed when they saw my facial expression. I said in a very clear and distinct voice through gritted teeth, “I’m going to bed.”

Then I stormed out of the room.

As I climbed the stairs to our temporary bedroom, I heard Daphne enter the hallway and head up the stairs as fast as her 19th century accoutrements would allow, calling, “Wait on me Jim. Wait on me.”

I disregarded her voice and, once I had gotten to the second floor, went immediately to our room and shut the door.

She burst into the room a moment later and cried, “I was scared to death. I thought ya might have been killed. I’m sorry, but ya have been shot, hacked with a saber, and lord knows what else, while we were courting and since we been married. I’ve had to nurse ya back to health both times and it tears me up to see ya near death’s door. I died a little each time that ya have been hurt. Now we got a baby on the way, and I wonder if she will ever get to see her papa.”

You could have hit me with a sledgehammer and I don’t think I would have been anymore stunned. My jaw dropped open, and I gaped at her like a goofy goat.

She put her face in her hands and started crying into the phantom handkerchief which had suddenly appeared in her hands.

I stumbled toward her and took her in my arms.

She grasped me desperately and sobbed into my chest while I stroked her back and said, “There, there, liebschen. I’m not gonna get killed.”

Slowly I took her by the shoulders and moved her back so I held her at arms’ length, I asked with a big grin on my face, “We’re gonna have a baby?”

She smiled through the tears and said, “Uh Huh.”

I looked at the ceiling and shouted, “I’m gonna be a father.”

Daphne laughed despite herself and said, “Yeah, ya are.”

I pulled Daphne to me, picked her up and danced around the room with her in my grasp, yelling, “Wahoo! Wahoo!”

Daphne began to laugh, and we finally fell onto the bed.

I looked down at her and said, “I am so sorry that I have been so unthinking about what ya have had to deal with, in regards to my having been the subject of so much violence. I promise that I’ll do everything I can to stay out of harm’s way.”

She pulled me down to her and kissed me so passionately that I thought I was going to pass out from the loss of oxygen.

When we broke from the kiss, I suddenly asked, “How long have ya known?

She laughed and said, “Today was the first time that I was really sure.”

Then I got a puzzled look on my face and asked, “Ya said SHE while ago. How did ya know it’s gonna be a girl?”

Daphne took my face in her hands and said, “A mother just knows those things, ya big lug.”

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 416

 

After a few minutes of blissful silence, I stirred and asked, “Major, may I have a few sheets of paper, a pen and some Ink? I need to write my report and have a copy sent to Major Murphy. I promised him I would send him a copy of my report by courier.”

Mosby looked at me for a long time, and breaking into a grin, said, “Y’all sound like ya want to get yar stories straight before they go to tha high brass.”

I grinned and replied, “Something like that.”

Mosby chucked and yelled, “Corporal, take Captain Hager to tha headquarters tent and provide him with writing material. Also, as soon as he is finished, bring his report to me for consideration.”

The Corporal immediately pulled a flap back on the tent and said, “Captain, if you will follow me, I will take ya to tha headquarters tent.”

I dutifully stood, saluted Major Mosby, who returned my salute, and followed the Corporal.

About an hour and a half later, the report was written, accepted by Mosby and sent by courier to Major Murphy at the Martinsburg garrison.

It was late at night before I mounted Stonewall and said, “Ferry Hill, old pal.”

He snorted, and we plodded our way to the Maryland Mansion and my beautiful bride.

I don’t know what time we reached Ferry Hill, because it was too dark to see the face of my pocket watch.  However, I was amazed that almost every light in the mansion was lit. I suddenly got a sinking feeling that I was in for one of Daphne’s famous tongue lashings.

As we neared the front of the manor house, I saw a figure sitting on the front porch steps smoking a pipe. He stood up when we came into view. I recognized John Lee and saw that he had a shotgun in his possession.

As we stopped in front of the estate, John Lee only shook his head and said, “I’m so glad that I’m not in yar shoes.”

I replied, “I’m afraid of what is waiting for me inside, but in my defense we did repulse a Yankee Patrol and killed, wounded or captured all of ‘em.”

John Lee just shook his head again and stated, “I da not think yar story will hold water with Ms. Daphne. She’s been worried sick ‘bout ya.”

I nodded and said, “I’m sorry ya had to wait up for me and Stonewall, but I really appreciate it.”

John Lee said, “Better give Stonewall to me, and I’ll takes care of ‘im. He looks like ya done worked ‘im to death.”

“We’ve traveled a long way and had many adventures today. That’s for certain,” I returned.

I dismounted and gave Stonewall’s reins to John Lee. Stonewall was too tire to even snort.

Then I muttered to myself, “Into tha valley of death rode tha six hundred.”

I mounted the porch steps and opened the front door of the mansion. As soon as I entered the house, Anna, who happened to be crossing the hallway from the left parlor to the right parlor, yelled, “He’s back.”

I stopped as both parlors emptied their occupants to view the prodigal son.

Daphne broke through the people in front of the left parlor and rushed toward me. She flew into my arms and gave me one of her crushing hugs.

Resting her head on my chest she said, “I was so scared that you had been waylaid. I’ve been out of my mind with worry.”

She let go of me, which allowed me to catch my breath, and backed up so she could look at me.

Then she asked in a perplexed voice, “Where have ya been?”

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 415

It took us an hour to get the prisoners disarmed and their names copied plus interrogated.  We gleaned a lot of good information from the questioning.

Once this process was completed, the prisoners were utilized to dig graves for the Yanks and Rebs. We held a combined Union and Confederate service for the departed, culminating in the singing of ‘Rock of Ages’ by everyone present.

Sergeant Kirkland, being the best organizational whiz I had ever encountered, had all our horses ready for travel back to the Confederate camp near Shepherdstown. He also had borrowed some wagons from the local residents for transportation of our seriously wounded.

We bid farewell to Major Murphy and his men about dark and began our trek back to Shepherdstown.  It didn’t take us too long before we were back at the Confederate camp.

I was surprised to find Major Mosby when we arrived. He immediately ushered me and Sergeant Kirkland into his temporary headquarters tent for debriefing. I related the day’s operation and Sergeant added the portions that dealt with his actions.

As usual, Major Mosby didn’t interrupt our reports until we had conveyed all that we could remember about our mission.

When we were finished, the Major looked at the floor of the tent for a few moments and then, looking up at Kirkland and me, stated, “That was some good soldiering by both of you and Major Murphy. Y’all acted immediately to the Yankee threat, and not only shattered their mission, ya killed, wounded or captured their entire contingent. I’m gonna recommend both of ya for commendations to Colonel Daniels.”

I looked shocked at the Major’s declaration and turned to look at Kirkland. He was grinning from ear to ear.

I had to smile at his enthusiasm. I reasoned that this was his first engagement and he was proud of his success in ‘Seeing the Elephant’.

The Major stood and we followed suite. He extended his hand to Kirkland and said, “I will forward the necessary papers to Headquarters in Richmond to have you transferred to our regiment.” They shook hands and Mosby added, “If you will allow Captain Hager and me to have a brief conversation, you are dismissed.”

Then he bellowed, “Corporal, have a tent erected for Sergeant Kirkland.”

The Corporal yelled back, “At once, Major,” and scampered off to the quartermaster.

Sergeant Kirkland saluted and was beaming with a young man’s pride of having passed his first test of manhood.

Major Mosby returned the salute, and Kirkland vacated the tent.

Mosby sat down, waited a few moments for Kirkland to get out of earshot and asked, “How on the spur of the moment did ya happen to choose Kirkland to add to our flock?”

I chuckled and answered, “Let’s just say that I had an inclination that he was a soldier that we could count on.”

Mosby narrowed his gaze at me and stated, “Well, ya have good judgment of talent and character. I’m thinking of seeing if I can get Kirkland promoted to Lieutenant and made my second in command. I need a good organizer and fighter.”

I smiled and said, “Well, ya better keep him busy, because he was chomping at the bit to get into some fighting and away from the desk job he was assigned to. He is a natural born leader, and I think he already is viewed by the men with awe.”

“How so?” queried Mosby.

I related the incident of Kirkland’s taming of his horse, Rowdy.

This peaked Mosby’s interest and he said, “I would have enjoyed witnessing that feat. Thanks for adding that bit of information.”

We sat in awkward silence for a moment and then Mosby said, “Oh yes, I had a new telegraph machine delivered to me, and I had it connected to the lines at the old telegraph office in town. We found a trooper that had telegraph experience, and we are now in communication with Martinsburg, Harpers Ferry and Richmond. As a precaution, I have an armed guard stationed at the telegraph office at all times.”

I uttered with great exuberance, “Awesome!”

Mosby looked at me in surprise.

I quickly amended, “I mean, that’s wonderful”

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 414

Being very hard pressed and outnumbered, my men were starting to fall back from our battle line when I heard a new sound. It was the thunder of horse hooves. It caught everyone’s attention. All fighting stopped as all eyes turned toward the new resonance.

Suddenly a whole line of Confederate cavalry broke from the woods to our rear and began to warble the Rebel Yell. The result of their appearance created a mixed bag of reactions. Some Yanks ran back across the road to the woods from which they had launched their attack. Others dropped their weapons and raised their hands in surrender. A few took potshots at our line of reinforcements and were soon either killed or wounded.

I saw Major Murphy as he rode by us and led his men into the trees after the retreating enemy. I heard some more firing and then silence ensued.

A few minutes passed before a gaggle of Yanks were herded from the woods into the dirt road that once was the no-man’s land between our opposing forces.

Sergeant Kirkland had almost immediately organized our men into parties that were disarming the surrendered Yanks, tending to the wounded, and gathering scattered weaponry.

When Major Murphy came across the road, I yelled at him and he directed his horse in my direction.  As he rode toward me, I saluted and declared, “Major, yar a sight for sore eyes.”

He returned my salute and stated, “I’m sorry, Captain, that it took so long to get here. We got on a wrong road for a while, but we picked up a guide, who directed us here. Ya’ve had a hard fight on yar hands this day.”

I smiled and replied, “But we got tha job done.”

He grinned and added, “That we did, Captain. That we did.”

In a curious vein I asked, “How many troopers did ya bring?”

“’bout forty,” he responded.

Pointing to the Yank’s woods, I inquired, “Did ya get all the Yanks that retreated in thar?”

“Yep, we did. There were a few that didn’t wanna give up, but they are now mortified souls and gone to meet their maker,” he told me.

“Then we’ve make a clean sweep of the whole Yank patrol,” I mused.

“I ‘pect we did,” he added thoughtfully.

“Whacha gonna do with the prisoners?” I asked.

“I’ll take ‘em and imprison them at our garrison until they can be exchanged,” he informed me.

I nodded and said, “I’m gonna transport my wounded and dead back to Shepherdstown. I’ll make my report to Major Mosby. Who is your immediate superior that ya’ll be reporting to?”

“Colonel Daniels at Harpers Ferry,” he stated.

I grinned and said, “I know tha Colonel very well. Why don’t cha let me write my report to Major Mosby and share it with ya? That way we can get the story of our mission straight before we submit them to our commanders.”

The Major smiled and said, “That sounds like a very good idea, Captain.”

I smiled and added, “I’ll write my report tonight and get it to ya tomorrow.”

The Major nodded and reached his hand down toward me. I immediately shook his hand. He added, “Captain, I asked for some action and you were Johnnie on the Spot with it. I ‘spect I’ll keep in touch with ya, ‘cause it seems fighting just follows ya around.”

I chuckled and said, “I’ve been told that on numerous occasions by my wife.”

The Major laughed and gave me a salute, which I returned. Then he rode off to tend to his men.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 413

The din from the fight Sergeant Kirkland’s men were putting up had grown to a crescendo and tapered off. Either our men had stopped the Yank’s flanking move, or they had been overrun. If it was the former, then we could probably be safe for a while. If it was the latter, we would be hit in our flank momentarily.

I ordered our men to reload their pistols, if they had any extra loaded cylinders, and to have their carbines loaded and within arm’s reach as a backup.  I gave them a few minutes and then crab-walked down the line to check each trooper’s weaponry. They had all complied and were ready for any more Yank advances.

There was a lull that hung over the skirmish lines for about thirty minutes.

Abruptly I heard a low voice from our rear say, “Capt’n don’t shoot. It’s me.”

I jerked around to see Sergeant Kirkland and four of his men crouching behind some trees to our rear. I motioned for them to come forward.

Once they joined our battle line, I said to Kirkland, “Report.”

He related, “Well, tha Yanks tried to outflank us and weren’t ‘specting us to have men to meet ‘em. We didn’t lose any men, and we took down two Yanks. They scurried back to a tree line east of here. Then they got word to bring about eight of their men to join back up with the main force facing you here. I thought we ought to get back here to reinforce ya, ‘cause I believe they’s gonna try to overrun us again. I left four men to protect our left flank, if’n they try another flank attack.”

As usual, I was in awe of Kirkland’s descriptions.

Finally, I asked, “How do ya know the Yanks were told to pull men out and send ‘em back to their main force?”

He gave me a baffled look and uttered, “I heard a messenger give tha sergeant in charge of tha flanking force orders to send some of his men back to tha Yanks confronting y’all. I also heard Yanks leaving their position.”

I didn’t have time to interrogate Kirkland further in regard to his keen sense of hearing. He had been right the last two times he had given me information, so I just nodded my head and said, “Tell yar troopers to use their pistols first when tha Yanks charge and then use their carbines.”

He nodded and scurried down the line to his four men to tell them which weapons to initially use in the upcoming attack.

Crouching close to the ground, I moved down our line and told the men to not return fire when the Yanks volley, but to shoot only when they come out of the tree line and head across the road.  Then I returned to my position to the far left of our line.

We didn’t have long to wait.

I heard someone utter, “Psst.”

I turned to look down our line of troops and saw Kirkland, who had stationed himself about midway of the line, pointing toward the tree line across the road. I immediately cocked the hammers on my pistols. The trooper next to me looked in my direction and followed suit.

Starting from my position in a chain reaction, troopers began cocking the hammers on their Colts.

The Yanks began by laying down a field of fire from the tree line across the road.

However, they made two mistakes. First, they used their carbines, which were one shot weapons. It took them a few seconds to reload. Second, we were ready for their initial volley by either hiding behind trees or sprawling on the ground.

The Yank attacking force surged across the road hoping to follow up on their volley fire. I straightened up to a kneeling position from having laid flat on the ground and began to fire one Colt at a time at the Yank line of battle. Everyone down the line began firing, also.

The Yanks weren’t ready for our sustained fire and began to take casualties. I saw five of their number go down, which staggered them. They halted for just a second and began to move forward again. Two more went down and then their line began to retreat.

However, the Yanks that had been their base of fire reinforced them and they surged forward again.

I ran out of bullets and didn’t have time to reload. A Yank suddenly appeared in front of me and swung the stock of his carbine in an arc to hit me in the face with a butt-stroke.

At the last second I took a step 90 degrees to my right. The Yank was right-handed and my movement took me to his left and out of range of his swing. Almost simultaneously, I brought the Colt in my right hand up and down on his head. There was a loud smack and the Yank fell face down on the ground. He was out like a light.

I turned to see what had befallen the rest of my men. A few were in hand to hand combat. Others were still firing at a gaggle of Yanks, who had stopped in the road.

Needless to say, we were in dire straits.

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 412

 

Riding and fighting had resulted in our battle line formation going to heck in a handbasket.

I yelled at the top of my voice, “Follow me,” and headed for a road due north and east of the pond. Coming to a small tree line on the other side of the road, I ordered, “Dismount. Secure your mounts, draw carbines and form battle line.”

The men dismounted, but didn’t draw carbines nor secure their mounts. So I had added a little oomph to my orders by yelling, “Tha next man that doesn’t obey orders is going to be court-martialed! Now listen to me!”

That got their attention, and they quickly tied their mounts to trees away from the prying eyes of the Yankees, drew their carbines and formed battle line in the small tree line.

I responded, “That’s more like it.”

I swiftly counted off the number of our troopers. There were twenty of us, counting me and Sergeant Kirkland. Our force and the Yanks were about even in numbers.

I looked for Sergeant Kirkland and saw him lined up about the middle of our battle line. I nudged the trooper next to me and said, “Pass it down tha line for Sergeant Kirkland to report to me.”

Dutifully, the trooper passed on the message and abruptly Kirkland dropped to a knee beside me. I had been kneeling and trying to see where the Yanks were located, but to no avail.

Turning to Kirkland, I said, “We need to keep tha Yanks engaged until Major Murphy arrives, but I don’t know where tha Yanks are.”

Kirkland responded, “Oh, they’re over in tha tree line. One bunch of them has set up a base of fire and another is moving to flank us on our left.”

I looked at Kirkland as if I had seen a ghost.

He grinned and said, “Captain, if’n ya will hold this position, I’ll take eight men and stop thar flanking force.”

It was all I could do in my shocked state to nod my head in abeyance.

Kirkland turned to the men and said in a low voice, “The next eight men in line follow me. The rest of you men join up with the Captain.”

Kirkland moved off toward our east and his designated eight men followed.

The rest of the men moved to where I was kneeling.  I motioned for them to look at me and said, “Tha Yanks are moving toward us. We must hold this position at all costs. We don’t want to let tha Yanks get our horses, plus we want to protect Sergeant Kirkland’s flank.”

Just about that time bullets began to fly from the woods south of the road and hit around us. The trooper next to me yelled and fell dead at my feet. Rage filled my heart to see one of my men killed by these invaders.

I yelled, “Open fire,” and began to shoot my pistol at the smoke created by the Yank volley.  I quickly emptied my pistol and reached for my second Colt.

At that time a Yank force began to cross the road toward our position.

I stood up next to the tree I had been kneeling behind and fired my Colt as fast as I could at the advancing horde. My men were also peppering the Yanks with fire from their carbines.

Four Yanks went down, and the rest of their number retreated into the trees from whence they came. Two of the Yanks weren’t moving, but two were dragging bloody legs as they crawled back to their line.

I looked down my line of troops and counted the number still standing. Another of my men was lying on the ground, but was being attended by his fellow troopers.  I moved in a crouch along our line and reiterated to each trooper, “If’n they charge again, use yar pistol first until it’s empty. Then use yar carbine.”

They all nodded they understood. When I got to the downed trooper, I stopped and viewed his wound. He had been shot in the fleshy part of his shoulder. It had bled a lot but the bullet hadn’t hit an artery. By the time I had gotten to him, his fellow troopers had staunched the bleeding and had the wound bandaged.

I asked the wounded man, “How ya doing?”

“Tolerable well, Capt’n,” he answered. Then pointing toward the road with his good arm, he boasted, “One of them Yanks out thar in tha road is my doing.”

I smiled and said, “Good job.”

He grinned back.

Suddenly there was a clash of arms to our east. Kirkland and his men had made contact with the Yank flanking force.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 411

 

Sergeant Kirkland pulled one of his Colts with his right hand and looked back at the troop. The troopers all followed suit. As they use to say in the Old West, I “filled my hand” with one of my Colts, too.

Stonewall sensed that I had armed myself. I don’t know if he sensed the added adrenalin that now raced through my body, or if he smelled the gunpowder aroma emanating from my Colt. However, he jerked his head up straight and began to prance toward. I had to put my left hand on his neck and whisper, “Easy.”

This calmed him down, but not a whole lot. I had to add in a low voice, “Quiet.”

Thank Heavens, he didn’t give me one of his famous snorts, and finally, he did slow down.

I turned to see that Sergeant Kirkland had been watching this interaction between us, and he grinned at me. I smiled as we rode on toward the road on which we were going to turn and, hopefully, prevent the Yanks from completing their mission.

Kirkland looked back at the troops and pumped his arm up and down as he nudged Rowdy. His horse tried to bolt forward, but Kirkland anticipated the move and held the stallion to a trot.  We all matched the Sergeant’s gait.

We moved up the road, and in the distance, I could see a road branching off to the right. I looked at Kirkland, who was looking at the road ahead. He must have sensed my gaze, because he immediately looked at me.

Inclining my head at the road in the distance, I gave him a questioning look.

He shook his head that this wasn’t the road on which we would turn.

I nodded, and we proceeded at a canter.

It seemed as if it was taking forever to get to the thoroughfare that we were destined to travel. However, another crossing suddenly appeared in the distance. Kirkland turned to look at me and inclined his head at this new road.

I nodded back that I understood. In just a matter of minutes we reached what appeared to be a path leading to the east and the Potomac River. When we reached the lane I turned to the troops, pointed to the right and entered the narrow road.

The troopers kept their two abreast formation and followed me. I was at the head of the troop on the left, with Kirkland to my right. We moved along at a brisk pace until I saw a small pond off to our left. As we rode pass the pond, I could see a parallel road to our left on the other side of the pond. Yanks were dismounted and letting their horses drink from the pond.

I quickly ordered, “By tha left flank, march.”

My troopers faced left while moving, and we transformed into a battle line.

Next, I yelled, “Charge.”

I let out a whoop and began to fire at the Yank contingent clustered around the pond. My men commenced to do the same.

We caught the Yanks flatfooted. They had no pickets posted, and some of their men were lying under shade trees about twenty-five yards from the pond. Their horses were spooked by our outcries and the noise of our pistols, plus the whizzing of bullets near their heads. Yankee horse handlers were trying to pull their pistols from the holsters, hold on to their rearing and whinnying horses, and duck our bullets.

The Yanks lying under the trees got up and used the trees as cover to return fire. I saw one of our men drop from the saddle. However, three Yank horse handlers at the pond went down. Their horses were released and immediately stampeded to the north, compelling the remaining horses to pull more vigorously to gain their freedom.

We rode straight for the pond and the Yank horses. I wanted to either, capture their means of transportation, or disband it to the point of uselessness.

The remaining horse handlers, realizing that retreat was the better part of valor, finally dropped their horses’ reins and bolted toward the trees and their fellow troopers.

I was on the far right and started yelling, “Stampede the horses. Stampede the horses.”

The men got the idea, and we rode around the edge of the pond, yelling the Rebel Yell to the top of our lungs. This commotion sent the Yankee horse herd running pell mell toward the north.  However, another of my men was shot and fell from his saddle.

I knew we had to get out of this fray and gain some cover of our own. We were outnumbered, but the Yanks would soon be out of ammo because they only had the ammo that they carried on their persons.

We rode past the pond and headed to the north, following the Yank horses.

I felt a bullet hit the pommel of my saddle and another dig into the saddle just behind me.

Stonewall flinched.

I was certain he was wounded.

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 410

 

Once mounted, Kirkland turned to me and said, “I guess I gotta new horse.”

I grinned at him and said, “No doubt, and ya definitely earned it.”

I thought for a moment and asked him, “Whatcha gonna call ‘im?”

He looked at me for a moment, as if he were lost in thought, and said, “I guess I’ll call ‘im, Rowdy ‘cause he’s so cantankerous.”

I chuckled and returned, “Sounds like a good name for ‘im.”

The Confederate guards were still cheering Sergeant Kirkland. I guessed that they would be embellishing Kirkland’s handling of Rowdy around the campfire tonight.

I raised my hand to bring their praise to a halt. They began to quiet down just as we heard a sound like thunder from the C&O Canal path. Momentarily, twenty troopers came riding into view with the sergeant, who had promised to gather a cavalry unit, in the lead.

The sergeant brought his contingent to a halt in front of me and saluted. I returned his salute.

He declared, “Sah, Sergeant Williams reporting with twenty troopers.”

I smiled and said, “Good job sergeant. Ya will be in command of tha troop. I will be tha overall commander and (inclining my head toward Kirkland) Sergeant Kirkland will be tha second in command.”

I continued, “Sergeant Williams, are ya familiar with tha area north of Shepherdstown?”

Before he could answer Sergeant Kirkland piped up, “I am, sah. I know tha area from here to Williamsport like tha back of my hand.”

I turned to Kirkland and said, “Major Murphy and I believe a Yank patrol is scouting north of Shepherdstown to find a way to attack tha town.”

“Do ya know where tha Yanks are now?” Kirkland asked.

“No, but I bet they’re close to tha northern part of tha town by now,” I replied.

“Well, they must’ve come down on Scrabble Road, which will feed into Shepherd Grade Road, north of town,” he speculated.

I thought for a moment and declared, “Then we’ll have to hold them up long enough for Major Murphy to hit ‘em in tha rear. Sergeant Kirkland, lead us to tha road that tha Yanks would probably take, if’n they was to proceed into Shepherdstown.”

“Yes, sah,” Kirkland returned and then shouted, “Follow me.”

Kirkland nudged his new cayuse, and the animal took off like a whirlwind. Not to be out done, Stonewall did the same. It was all I could do to stay in the saddle.  As Sergeant Kirkland directed his cayuse through the less traveled back streets of Shepherdstown, Rowdy and Stonewall competed for the lead of the pack. I had never seen Stonewall act the way he did. It seemed as if the two stallions were vying for the privilege of being the Alpha of the horses.

We left the twenty troopers in our dust as our chargers raced north toward the outskirts of town.

Once we began to see just a few scattered homes and a lot of fields, Sergeant Kirkland brought Rowdy to a lope, then a trot, and finally, a walk. Stonewall matched Rowdy’s gait step for step.

We proceeded at this pace for a few minutes. Kirkland kept looking over his shoulder for the rest of our party to catch up.  After a few minutes the twenty troopers came into view and quickly joined up with us.

When the troopers were again aligned in a column of twos, Kirkland looked back at the pack and put his forefinger to his lips. The silent order was handed down the line for everyone to be quiet.

We proceeded in this discreet manner for about one hundred yards. This allowed the horses to get their breath back plus Kirkland seemed to be constantly turning his head from side to side, as if he was trying to hear a specific sound.

We continued for about another 150 yards when, suddenly, Kirkland stopped and turned to me. He gave me a ‘come hither’ movement of his hand. So, I maneuvered Stonewall close to him and leaned so we could whisper to each other.

“The Yanks are up ahead. They’ve probably split up and are traveling parallel roads that head toward tha Potomac River. Although both roads dead-end before they reach tha river, I believe they’re trying to find a suitable place to land troops from troop barges coming down tha Potomac River,” whispered Kirkland.

I looked at him for a long moment and returned in a low voice, “How’d ya come to that conclusion?

He shrugged and whispered, “It’d be what I’d do, if’n I wanted to attack Shepherdstown from tha north.”

I gazed at him for another long moment and then asked, “How do ya know they’re up ahead?”

He looked at me with a frown and replied, “I can hear ‘em. Can’t ya?”

I gave him a perplexed expression and then shook my head that I couldn’t.

He nodded and whispered, “Believe me Captain. They’re up there.”

I looked at him for a long time. I took in every body, facial and eye nuisance that he emitted. Finally, I said, “How close are tha two roads to each other?”

“About one hundred yards, when they branch off the road we are on, but the distance between ‘em widens out tha closer they get to tha Potomac,” he whispered.

“Take us to the southernmost road that they are on,” I commanded.

Kirkland smiled at me, and turning back to the troops, motioned for them to follow him.

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 409

 

Stonewall must have a very strong heart because he kept up a steady pace of loping about two miles, and then walking about half a mile, all the way to Shepherdstown.

Sergeant Kirkland’s cayuse wasn’t used to this kind of pace and fell behind. I couldn’t wait on him. I had to get to Shepherdstown, round up as many cavalrymen as possible, and head north to hit the Yank reconnaissance unit.

We rode into town, and proceeding down German Street, I went straight to the guards who were on duty at the Potomac Bridge. Yelling like a banshee, I had every soldier scurrying toward me to see what in tarnation was going on.

Seeing a sergeant on duty that appeared to be the Sergeant of the Guard, I pointed at him and commanded, “Sergeant, I need a contingent of thirty men with two pistols and a carbine ready to ride north in fifteen minutes. There is a Yank Patrol that has crossed the Potomac near Williamsport, and they’re headed this way.”

Ruins of the bridge over the Potomac at Shepherdstown

The sergeant looked at me like I had lost my mind. Finally, I yelled at the top of my voice, “Move, or I’ll get someone that will follow orders to take yar place.”

That little soliloquy, which was paraphrased from an old movie, motivated the sergeant to get a move on. He yelled for the corporal of the guard to take over the bridge guard and ran for his horse. He literally jumped into his saddle, saluted me and yelled, “Sah, I’ll have ya as many men as I can gather from our camp in ten minutes.”

He headed his mount toward the guard camp and tore across the bridge toward the C&O canal path.

I grinned and turned just in time to see Sergeant Kirkland ride toward us. His horse was really huffing and puffing when he came to a halt in front of me. He saluted, and once I returned his salute, I asked, “How many pistols do ya have?”

“Just one, sah,” he replied.

I turned to two guards that were assigned to the bridge and motioned them over to me.

They saluted and I returned the salute. (I was really getting tired of all this military falderal.) Reaching my hand toward them, I said, “Give me yar pistols. My Sergeant is gonna need ‘em on this little foray we’re going on.”

Reluctantly they handed me their two pistols, which I took. Turning to Kirkland I handed him the pistols and said, “Ya’ll need these.”

He gathered them from me and was trying to decide where to put them when I opened my coat, and he saw three pistols stuck in my belt. He took the hint and, throwing military protocol to the winds, stuck the pistols in his belt. He looked up, and I gave him a big grin. He grinned back and we both chuckled.

Kirkland’s horse was still breathing pretty heavily. Apparently our little seventeen mile ride from Martinsburg had just about done in his cayuse.  I turned to one of the guards and said, “Give Sergeant Kirkland yar horse. He’s gonna be gallivanting all over the region, and I don’t think his mount is up to it.”

The guard pointed to a brown horse that was tied to a tree on the road into Shepherdstown and said, “He’s yars if’n ya kin make him mind.”

Kirkland dismounted and took his horse to the where the other horse was tied up. He tied his horse up and walked to where his supposed new mount was positioned. I looked closer at the brown horse and saw that it had white stockings on all four legs and was rather a beautiful animal. However, it laid its ears back when Kirkland got close to it. I was wondering if he noticed.

Abruptly the horse pulled its reins loose from the tree and lunged at Kirkland. I was amazed at how quickly the sergeant responded. He stepped to the side and slapped the attacking animal on the nose. It must have been very hard blow, because the horse squealed and danced around shaking its head.

However, Kirkland wasn’t through with his new mount. He ran at the horse, draped his right arm over the horse’s neck, and acting like a yoke, he pulled the horse’s head down. Then he grabbed the left ear of the horse with his left hand, and pulling it toward him, bit down on the horse’s ear.

My eyes nearly popped out of my head with this last maneuver.

The horse immediately stopped all his whinnying, jumping around and trying to rear up. Letting go with his teeth, Kirkland held on to the horse’s ear and said something to his new mount. Then he let go of the horse in stages to see if the cayuse was going to be tame.

The horse didn’t move so Kirkland mounted without any mishap.

Suddenly a cheer went up from the guards on the bridge. I even joined in. It was the greatest job of taming a horse I had ever seen.

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