Civil War Transcendence, part 350

 

The Colonel’s gaze rested on me after his perusal of my attire. “You aren’t in military uniform Lieutenant,” he asserted.

“That’s correct Colonel Daniels. Major Mosby wanted me to act as a scout and a behind tha lines spy. So he told me and my associates to wear civilian clothes,” I explained.

The Colonel took a moment to let the information sink in.  Then he said, “Let’s take a walk.”

I thought this was very unnerving. It was totally different from the meeting I was expecting.

We walked about 50 yards toward the bluff overlooking the Shenandoah River. When out of ear shot of the soldiers, the Colonel turned and spoke in a low voice, “Colonel Mosby told me to trust ya explicitly and he cautioned me to be very discreet when talking with ya. Do ya know what happened to tha Major?”

“I only know that someone tried to assassinate him and that he survived. Is he alright?” I asked.

“Tha Major is recovering nicely and should be back in his billet in a week. He was shot in tha left arm from ambush while he was riding on a patrol up tha river road,” the Colonel explained.  He continued, “There were 10 men on tha patrol, but he was tha only one shot at.”

“Our old friend from Shepherdstown,” I mused.

“What do ya mean, Lieutenant?” he asked.

I related the assassination of Marshal Wells and the basic investigation I had made as to the identity of the assassin.

“You believe tha killer of tha marshal and tha shooter of Major Mosby is one and tha same?’ queried the Colonel.

“Yes sir, I do. Plus, they tried to kill me, my financee and two servants last night on the road to Halltown,” I explained.

The Colonel gasped at my information. I gave him a quick summation of what had happened, “A few weeks ago, someone murdered tha telegraph operator at Shepherdstown and wrecked tha telegraph equipment to prevent word of tha Yankee assault of Ferry Hill being sent to y’all here in Harpers Ferry. We ultimately had to send a courtier to get tha message to ya.”

“There is an extensive spy ring in this area,” I added. “We even had a captain that was a spy and in command of one of tha companies hat participated in tha trap we set for tha Yankee force coming out of Boonsboro. I could give you some other examples of my reasoning, but Sir, please believe me, we have to find tha ring leader to crush this ring.”

The Colonel crossed his arms and lowered his chin to his chest. I thought he had gone to sleep because he stayed in this position for a long time. Then he raised his head and asked, “Do ya have a plan to catch this leader?”

“I have been thinking of a way to lure him into a trap. I do believe he is located in Shepherdstown. All tha problems with Union forces have occurred there, except for tha wounding of Major Mosby,” I stated.

“What are yar immediate plans?” he requested.

“Well, Sir, I would return to Shepherdstown and my job as school teacher. I would reestablish tha telegraph office and raise a local militia force as protection for tha town. During tha time we were instigating these plans, I would send one of my scouts to Sharpsburg, Boonsboro and maybe even Hagerstown to find out who tha assassin is. I have a rough description of him, but we need to find him to get to tha leader,” I explained.

The Colonel returned to his head down thinking mode, and then looking up, declared, “These are strange times that require strange tactics. I want ya to implement yar plan, but ya must do it within tha next two weeks. I know that is not giving ya much time, but Harpers Ferry will probably be hit from two directions in tha next three weeks. We believe there will be a force come across tha Potomac at Shepherdstown and attack from tha north while another force will come through Pleasant Valley from Boonsboro and hit us from tha East. If you can muster a force to stop tha Yanks at Shepherdstown, it would help us protect this part of Virginia.”

I was shocked that the Yanks had recovered so quickly to be able to hit us again in such a short time, especially after the thumping we gave them in Pleasant Valley and near Fredrick, Maryland.  The surprise must have shown on my face because the Colonel nodded in grim affirmation.  “Yes, they’re back with a vengeance,” he affirmed.

GEN Turner Ashby, CSA

“Can we get any help from General Jackson or General Johnston?” I probed.

“We understand that General Turner Ashby will be sending two companies of cavalry and General Jackson will be sending a regiment of Virginia infantry along with one battery of artillery to us presently,” the Colonel admitted.

I nodded, and taking my military life in my hands, asked, “Will Maryland Heights and Loudoun Heights be occupied?”

The Colonel looked at me in surprise and inquired, “Why do ya ask?”

“Colonel,” I began in a pleading tone, “I know that a lowly Lieutenant isn’t supposed to make any comments to a high officer like yarself, but I believe if we can stop tha Yanks from getting tha high ground to look down on Harpers Ferry, we can beat ‘em back and keep the Shenandoah Valley from being entered by tha Yanks.”

The Colonel looked at me for a long time and then said, “Lieutenant, I will consider it. Now let’s return to camp.”

We walked back to the Colonel’s tent in silence. I was wondering if I had overstepped the bounds of military etiquette by my request. When we arrived at the Colonel’s office and abode, I asked, “May I have the scout that Major Mosby assigned to me during tha last campaign? His name is Sergeant Alfred Madigan.”

The Colonel nodded in agreement and asked, “Where do ya want him to meet ya?”

“At tha Shenandoah Hotel,” I answered.

The Colonel then asked, “What do ya have planned for tonite?”

I smiled and said, “I’m getting married.”

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 349

 

The time went quickly as we drove the few miles to Harpers Ferry. Daphne was cradled next to me with my left arm around her and her head buried into my chest. She couldn’t see my face so she didn’t see that I was distracted.

I was thinking about the mole that tried to kill Major Mosby and us, what we could do to keep the Yanks on the defensive, and the wonderful young women I was about to marry.

Daphne was going on and on about where we would live, how she would furnish the house, and how many children we would have.  This later musing got my attention.  I ventured, “How many did ya say?”

“Why, Jim Hager, ya haven’t been listening to a thing I’ve said,” she accused.

“I’m sorry Darling. I was trying to figure out who was tha person behind tha assassination attempt on tha road last night,” I confessed.

“You called me Darling,” she said in a wistful tone.

“Yes, I did,” I avowed.

“It’s tha first time ya ever called me yar darling,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“I apologize that I haven’t said it sooner, but I promise I will say it every single day we are together,” I assured her.

Like a magician she produced her enchanted handkerchief and dabbed at her eyes. She smiled brightly at me and revealed, “You don’t know how much that means to me.”

I smiled back at her beautiful countenance and made the mistake of looking into those big brown eyes. I was captivated. I don’t know how she does it, but the cascading black tresses, the beautiful shape of her perfect face and those eyes never cease to mesmerize my soul.  I know I looked like a hypnotized idiot, but I couldn’t help it.

Distantly I heard, “Jim, are ya alright?”

It snapped my being back to the present.  I smiled and quickly returned, “Yes, I’m absolutely fine. I don’t think ya know tha effect ya have on me when I look deeply into yar eyes. You capture my soul.”

She looked at me for a long moment and then admitted, “I don’t know about ya, but I felt it from tha first time I saw ya, when ya rescued me from tha Yankees. I covered it pretty well, but ya had my heart from that moment.”

We both smiled, and the bond between us strengthened even more.

We came out of our trances and looked at the landscape. We were entering Harpers Ferry. I asked John Lee, “John, do ya know wherah tha cavalry camp is located?”

“Yes, Jim. I’m headed that away now,” he informed me.

“Thanks John,” I uttered.

In no time we traversed School House Ridge and descended a small decline. Coming down the hill, I could see the cavalry camp sprawled out to our right in a plain overlooking the Shenandoah River. John Lee drove up to the guard post and let me out. I turned back to Daphne, and taking her hands in mine, said, “I’ll meet you at the hotel as soon as I can.”

She said, “I can’t wait.”

I smiled and motioned to Stonewall. He walked over to me and I climbed in the saddle without any pain. Then, turning toward the guards at the guard posts, we moved to the inevitable bureaucratic claptrap entailed in just getting entrance to a military camp.

Due to my civilian attire, the guard looked at me warily. He brought his musket to Port Arms and said, “What do ya want?”

I retorted with authority, “Lieutenant Hager, reporting to Colonel Daniels as ordered.”

This got his attention rather swiftly.  He immediately became deferential and said, “Yes sir. We’ve been told to be on tha lookout for ya and to bring ya to tha Colonel as soon as ya arrive. If ya will follow me, sir, I will take ya to the Colonel’s office.”

We followed the guard, who happened to be a corporal, through the camp to a large tent with a lean-to type fly in front. Orderlies and officers were milling around, while a white-haired man with three stars on his collar was talking to a captain. It wasn’t a friendly conversation, and I thought that the captain was getting a dressing-down.

I dismounted and waited until the Colonel was through with the captain, who walked away dejectedly. I turned to Stonewall and said, “Stay here. I’ll be right back.”

I approached the Colonel. He focused on me when I was about three feet in front of him. I stopped abruptly, saluted and uttered, “Lieutenant Hager reporting as per the Colonel’s orders.”

The Colonel was briefly taken aback. He looked me up and down and haltingly returned my salute.

 

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Coming Soon: Assassins of History Book One

Assassins of History by Vernon Dutton

Coming Soon in Paperback and Kindle, Assassins of History: Transference

A mysterious time machine takes Sheldon Owen Woods on a sinister ride from the 21st Century back to the Civil War, where something is enormously wrong.

Everything is out of kilter. People who are supposed to be dead are alive.  Armies that are supposed to be fighting don’t exist. Relatives who shouldn’t be in this part of the country are living here.

Sheldon adopts the alias of Jim Hager, until he can figure out how to get home without creating a time travel paradox.

Swept up in the historic events of the American Civil War in Western Maryland, Jim Hager combines his modern martial arts training with 19th century marksmanship to stay alive.

On top of the battlefield dangers, the menacing power that sent him on this unexplainable journey is stalking him…and now wants him dead.


Faithful readers of this blog will see similarities in parts of the storyline, but the book has several new characters and plot twists that will keep you in suspense.  The manuscript is done on the first book in the Assassins of History series, and it will be available on Amazon.com in a matter of days.

Assassins of History by Vernon Dutton

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 348

 

Daphne nestled closer to me as we made our way out of Halltown.

Turning to look at her with a serious expression, I broached the subject that had been on my mind, “Daphne, I don’t have anything to offer, but myself and my love for ya. Will ya marry me?”

She beamed from ear to ear, and hugging me tightly, squealed, “Yes, yes! Oh, yes!”

Her cries of joy made John Lee turn around and look at us. He laughed when he saw the joy that Daphne’s face displayed and turned back to keep his horses moving and following the road.

Stonewall even let out another of his famous whinnies. I guess he understood that our family had grown with the addition of another member.

I didn’t have a ring to give her, but I did have a watch that I had bought when I first entered Shepherdstown. I pulled the watch from my pocket and handing it to her vowed, “I give this as token of my love for ya, and I vow to love ya for as long as I live. I will redeem this token from ya and replace it with a ring as soon as I can.”

She smiled and said, “Ya don’t have to do that.”

“I know, but I want ya to have something from me that signifies a demonstration of my love,” I explained.

She quit smiling and solemnly took the watch and intoned, “I accept this watch as a token of yar love and also as a demonstration of my love for ya.”

I actually had tears in my eyes after our devout pledges of love and devotion.

I was able to blink back the tears, but Daphne dabbed at her eyes with her ever-present handkerchief.

Then I took another calculated risk by stating, “I guess tha next order of business is to find a preacher today and get married.”

She jerked her head toward me, and sitting up straight, exclaimed, “Oh, Jim! Can we? Please don’t tease me. Can we?”

I let loose a deep resounding laugh and promised, “I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it.”

“Well, when and where and at what time?” she urged as we bounced along the pike road.

I chuckled and stated, “I have to check into with Colonel Daniels, but after that we will find a preacher. In fact, why don’t ya check us into tha hotel on Shenandoah and find a preacher? We can get married after I come back from my meeting and have a honeymoon tonight.”

She literally clapped her hands and said, “I will have everything ready when ya get back.”

I grinned and said, “Okay, why don’t ya let me off at tha cavalry camp and I’ll join ya later at tha hotel?”

She laughed out loud again and said with a sultry tone, “I will be waiting for ya. Don’t be late.”

I smiled, and giving her a knowing grin, promised, “Don’t worry. I’ll be there with bells on.”

She laughed wholeheartedly in reply.

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 347

 

The Newcomer household must have been apprised of the required departure of the dynasty’s daughter, because Mrs. Newcomer was caterwauling to beat sixty.

Her entreaties were falling on the deaf ears of Mr. Newcomer, who was still smarting from the disobedience of his command by Daphne backed up by a weapon.

I dare say that she has a habit of displaying some of the most vicious tendencies, while being one of the most loving human beings that I have ever had the privilege of knowing and loving. The hard thing to interpret is what will get her so worked up that she is ready to defend her notion with aggression.  I guess I will learn the hard way, because she will be coming with me, and we will be married just as soon as we get to a place that we can find a preacher.  I smiled at this aspiration and hoped Daphne would be in agreement.

Apparently, Daphne had been packing some clothing essentials when she was accosted by her mother, asking what she was doing. From there, the avalanche of family contention erupted.

I decided to get up and get dressed, but looking around, I found that my clothes were missing. I didn’t dare call for Daphne’s assistance because she was in the midst of trying to amass her possessions, placate her mother, and avoid her farther.  I wanted to get up and get out of this house, but walking around in my drawers to accomplish this feat didn’t seem the right thing to do.

Finally, Daphne entered the parlor with an arm load of my clothes and my Colts, whose disappearances had made me rather anxious, especially with the triumvir of Mr. Newcomer, Ahab Duggan and Bessie running around loose.

She deposited them on my make-shift bed and warned, “We better get out of here while tha getting is good.”

It didn’t take any more urging to get me moving. I dressed quickly and had my Colts securely belted next to my sides in a matter of minutes. I had completely forgotten the 19th century code of correct social etiquette and was brought back to the present century when I looked up to see Daphne smiling slyly at my faux pas.  I turned every shade of red that is conceivable. I started to utter my apology, but she raised her hands with palms toward me and said, “Don’t worry about it. I think tha situation dictated yar haste, but I did enjoy tha presentation.”

I turned even redder if that is possible and began, “Daphne, I’m sorry. I…ah..ah.”

She walked up to me and put her finger to my lips, effectively quieting my apology. Then I was rewarded with a laugh and a loving hug.  She released me and said, “We better leave.”

I nodded in the affirmative and we walked to the front door. On either side of the door were Newcomer boys. They glared at me with the vehemence of a demon, but I just met their gaze as we exited the house and went out on the porch. I almost choked at the sight in front of me.  There was a carriage packed to the gills, a second wagon full of furniture, and two horses packed with boxes and a small trunk. Stonewall was even saddled and tied to the back of the carriage. He let out a long whinny when we came down the stairs to the mansion.

I was about to say something, but Daphne grabbed my arm and directed me to the carriage. I looked up to see who was driving and was surprised to see John Lee. He smiled at my bewilderment as I got in the coach. John Lee summarily flicked the horses’ reins and our caravan set off toward Harpers Ferry.

I was absolutely flabbergasted at all the loot that Daphne had purloined from the Newcomer residence.

As we proceeded down the entrance way to the estate, we were treated to the muffled bawling of Mrs. Newcomer and the commands to hush up from Mr. Newcomer.

It was all I could do to keep from laughing. I looked at Daphne. She was looking straight ahead with a profound expression of determination. I didn’t know all the details of the goings on in the Newcomer family, but I recognized discontent when I saw it.

Flaunting all 19th century social etiquette of being with a non-chaperoned female, I took Daphne’s hand in mine. Then I looked into her eyes and stated, “I love ya.”

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 346

 

I suddenly felt weak in the knees, as we say in Arkansas when feeling exhausted. I apologized, “I’m sorry, but I must sit down,” and I plopped down rather hard on the chaise lounge.

Daphne immediately put her hand on my shoulder and in a frightened voice asked, “Jim, are ya alright?”

I just nodded my head in affirmation and began to lie back on my comfortable bed for the night. When my head hit the two pillows arranged to position my skull in the best possible posture, I passed out.

Later I learned from Daphne that Mr. Newcomer was at a loss for words on my sudden loss of consciousness. He just looked at me and then glanced at Daphne.

She said she was assessing whether to call a doctor for me and had a very concerned expression on her face, when her father said in a low callous voice, “I can see that you are infatuated with this man.”

Daphne recounted that she jerked her head to look at him.

Then he continued, “He must seem like a gallant Knights Errant, but he is not who or what you think he is. He will never be the type of person that will be a good husband. Trouble follows him like a dark cloud. I have seen his kind. He will break your heart. I forbid you to see him after he leaves tomorrow.”

She related that she was so shocked by his patriarchal arrogance and patronization that she just stared at him in wide-eyed wonder for a moment.  Then she confessed she did the worst thing to a man, who thought his word was law that she could ever do. She began to laugh.

She reported that he was so taken aback that he looked at her as if he had been slapped in the face. However, he quickly recovered, stood up straight and his face took on a demonic countenance. Advancing on Daphne, he drew back his hand as if to slap her. Needless to say her laughter abruptly stopped.  She later iterated that she was in fear for her life or she wouldn’t have reacted the way she did.

Reaching down for one of my Colts in my trouser belt, she withdrew it. Quickly stepping backward a few steps, she cocked the pistol. Next she pointed the famous firearm at her father and uttered the most infamous words a 19th century daughter could say to a father, “You don’t tell me what to do.”

Her actions were not what Mr. Newcomer expected. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared at her in slack-jawed unbelief.

Daphne saw Ahab move toward her and warned, “Ahab, if you move one step closer, I swear I will blow his head off.”

Darting a glance at the Black Gladiator, she saw his confused expression. She related that he didn’t know what to do. He had been her guardian for years, and now she was threatening the master who had given him the task of protecting her.  Ahab just kept looking back and forth between the Newcomers.

Finally, Mr. Newcomer declared in a huff, “So be it. Tomorrow, ya will leave with Mr. Hager and ya will not darken tha doors of this house again.”

Turning toward the hallway, he stomped toward the parlor door, while ordering Ahab and Bessie, “Y’all come with me.”

Bessie opened the parlor doors and the trio left the room without looking back.

Daphne later told me that she came back to the chaise lounge, sagged down next to me and began to cry.

I had not heard any of the exchanges that had taken place between father and daughter. However, later in the night I awoke to find her asleep in a chair oppose my temporary accommodations with a Colt in her hand.

I didn’t know what to think of her having a weapon, but soon I had succumbed to the enticing arms of Irene, the goddess of peace, and was back in her warm embrace.

The next morning, you might say that the mighty had fallen and the result was an avalanche of hate and discontent.

I awoke to the cacophony of wailing female voices and the gruff intonations of male commands.

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 345

 

The two Newcomer boys, Mrs. Newcomer, Daphne and a few of the house servants comprised the greeting committee. I noted that Mr. Newcomer, Ahab and Bessie weren’t members of the welcoming throng.

I shook hands when offered, gave an embarrassed smile and moved toward the main house as swiftly as respectability would allow.

Once inside, I proceeded to the servant’s eating area and sat down.  I was exhausted. Everyone said I needed to move to the main dining room, but I pleaded excessive tiredness and kept my seat. I hoped this would send everyone away and allow me to find a bed somewhere close, but no luck.

The participants moved the main dinner items to my locale and we had a picnic of sorts. There were only four chairs, and since I had procured one, Daphne, Mrs. Newcomer and Tom Newcomer procured the others.

I have to admit I was hungry, but it was a chore to eat and provide answers to the many questions asked of me.  Finally, I held up my hands and stated, “I am so very tired. Please, may I go back out to the barn and bed down for the night?”

I was met with all kinds of refusals. Abruptly, Daphne said, “Ya will sleep on tha chaise lounge in tha parlor. I doubt ya could make it upstairs to a bedroom.”

I smiled at her compassion and noted that Nurse Daphne was still alive and well at the Newcomer hacienda.

She helped me to my feet, and I shuffled to the parlor.  My legs gave way when I began to sit down on the chaise lounge, and I hit the low-cut sofa with a bang.

Daphne said, “We need to get ya under tha covers quickly.”

I nodded my agreement.

Daphne turned to the horde that had accompanied us to the make-shift bedroom and said, “Everybody out. I need to get Lt. Hager put to bed.”

I almost laughed out loud when I saw the reaction of Daphne’s order on Mrs. Newcomer’s face. She put one hand on her forehead, another on her heart and gasped, “Daphne!”

Daphne retorted, “Oh mama, don’t worry. It’s all very platonic plus I have to check Jim for any problems dealing with the saber wound on the back of his head.”

I believe the idea of having to stay and witness looking at my injury far outweighed the problem of proper restraint in Daphne’s helping me physically get ready for bed, because as I took off my coat, Mrs. Newcomer scooted out of the parlor like a scared haint.

At this point Mr. Newcomer, Ahab and Bessie made their appearance by entering my make-shift accommodation as everyone else was leaving.  Mr. Newcomer advanced on Daphne and me while Ahab closed the parlor doors and stood guard with Bessie by his side.  I began to stand up when the gang of three entered the room.

Mr. Newcomer saw the two Colts stuck in my belt as he approached. He said in very placating tone, “Please sit Mr. Hager. I just wanted to say how much we appreciate yar taking care of Daphne as well as Ahab and Bessie on tha road last night.”

I looked at him for a moment with an ashamed expression, and then looking at the floor, confessed, “I don’t believe they’d have been in any peril if they’d been with anyone but me. I apologize for the danger I put them in.”

Mr. Newcomer uttered, “What do ya mean?”

I looked up to see a bewildered look on his face.

“Well, sir. I believe we have a group of assassins in our midst that have wounded Major Mosby and tried to kill me along with Daphne, Ahab and Bessie tonight,” I asserted.

Mr. Newcomer had a quick intake of breath, but once he had gotten over his shock, asked, “Why?”

“I believe we have a bunch of Union spies operating in this area, and they have tried to take out certain of our cadre in the cavalry,” I explained.

Mr. Newcomer looked at me with a questioning look and asked, “They tried to take you out?”

“I’m sorry sir. That is an expression which means they tried to kill us,” I clarified.

At this juncture, I glanced at Daphne. My opinion of what had happened must have been an unwanted revelation, because one of her hands had drifted to her mouth while the other was clinched in a fist over her heart.

I looked back at Mr. Newcomer and declared, “Once I leave here tomorrow, neither Daphne nor any member of yar household needs to be in my general vicinity. Also, Ahab needs to guard Daphne at all times. Whoever is tha head of this spy ring must know of my affection for her and might try to kidnap her in order to force me to act in their behalf.”

Initially, Mr. Newcomer looked at me with a fearful expression in response to Daphne being kidnapped, but it changed to a hostile look at the mention of my regard for her.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 344

 

Stonewall didn’t like me very much when we tried to drape the highwayman’s body over his saddle. He tried to back up, but I said firmly, “Ya gotta take this body for us. We don’t have any room in the carriage. We need it to get Marshal Gill arrested.”

Everyone looked at me like I was crazy when I explained the situation to Stonewall. However, when he quit moving backwards and allowed Ahab and me to secure the body across his saddle with some old ropes we found under the driver’s seat, all three fellow travelers were shocked.

Ahab was truly frightened of Stonewall. Once the gruesome chore was completed, he immediately vacated the area around Stonewall and walked toward the coach with Bessie on his heels.

Daphne just shook her head, smiled and entwined her arm in mine as we walked toward our vehicle of transportation. We all took our previous positions and Ahab flicked the reins and we were off again down the pike.

A north wind picked up again, and we all bundled up in the blankets. After a few miles, we stopped and let the ladies retire to the woods to answer nature’s call. Then we were once more moving as quickly as possible toward our destination.

It seemed like a million years, but we finally reached Halltown. The small village was as quiet as a graveyard. In my universe’s vernacular, ‘the sidewalks had been rolled up at sunset’.  We moved through the town, and in a few miles, we pulled off the main pike to Harpers Ferry into the entrance of the Newcomer estate.

They weren’t expecting us, but with Ahab, Bessie and Daphne assaulting the household like three hurricanes, we soon had Daphne’s family and their servants helping with the baggage and trying to find out why we were back so soon from Martinsburg.  I stepped down from the carriage and walked to Stonewall. Stopping a young servant who was running to help us, I asked where the stable was. He pointed to a building that was about one hundred feet behind the main house. I thanked the servant, and taking Stonewall’s reins, I led my faithful cayuse to the stable.

Once in the stable, I found a lantern hanging from a pillar of one of the stalls. I lit it with one of my Lucifers.  Being able to see the interior of the stable, I pulled Stonewall into one of the stalls. Using a small hand scythe hanging from a hook on the stall wall, I cut the ropes that secured the deputy’s body and let his corpse fall to the ground.

I guided Stonewall to another stall well away from the make-shift morgue and unsaddled him. Once I draped his blanket and saddle over the side wall of the stall, I closed the door to his room for the night and began pilfering around the stable. It didn’t take too long to find where an abundance of hay and a sack of oats were located.

I transported a goodly amount of these foodstuffs to the trough in Stonewall’s stall. He whinnied his appreciation.

Next, I went looking for a bucket, which I found in another stall.

Lastly, I went outside to find a well.  I spied the 19th century water supply as soon as I walked out the back entrance to the stable. It didn’t take any time at all to fill the bucket with the elixir of life and deposit it in Stonewall’s stall for his edification.

With Stonewall crunching and slurping contentedly, I went back to the temporary morgue and covered the deputy’s body with straw.

I was exhausted from the trip and the encounter on the road as well as being in a weakened state from the saber wound. I was gonna bed down for the night in Stonewall’s stall because I didn’t know what kind of reception I would receive from the Newcomer family due to my last run-in with them.

I was just beginning to take off my coat when I heard a lot of jabbering from a multiple of voices approaching the stable.

From the stable entrance Daphne yelled, “Jim, Jim are ya in therah?”

“Yes ‘am,” I calmly answered.

“Whacha doing in therah? Come on up to the house,” she offered.

“I didn’t know if I would be welcome up there,” I declared.

“Oh pshaw. Don’t be silly. ‘Course yar welcome. They’ve prepared us a grand supper and everyone wants to hear about the raid… Ya just gotta come,” she pled.

“Alright I’ll come,” I promised.

I quickly petted Stonewall’s neck and whispered, “I have been summoned. See ya in tha morning.” He snorted and kept on munching on some oats.

I blew out the lantern and walked out the stable entrance to a gaggle of Newcomer family and servants. They all began clapping and thumping me on the back like I was some kind of long lost son.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 343

 

In the parlance of my 21st Century jargon, Stonewall had arrived.

The highwayman’s horse landed on its left side, throwing the rider out of his saddle. The desperado actually arced away from his cayuse for a while, until the stirrup holding his right leg snapped him back to Mother Earth in a whiplash. He landed with a crunch that must have broken multiple bones in his body. His mount slowly rose, and once it had regained its footing, began to trot off to the north, which was opposite to the way we were going. The rider, whose right leg remained trapped in the stirrup, was dragged along like a rag doll.

I turned to see Stonewall standing in the middle of the pike looking at the horse and rider receding in the moonlight. I walked up to him and began to examine him for any injuries.  He was still heaving from his exertion, but didn’t seem to be any the worst for wear, except for a small area of swelling on his chest where he had collided with the highwayman’s mount. Taking his head in my hands and pulling it down to my chest, I began massaging his jaws. He immediately went into what I like to call his meditative state.

After a few seconds with tears in my eyes, I murmured, “Well, old pal, ya saved my bacon again. I don’t know how I can ever repay ya. Daphne’s love and your friendship are tha most prized possessions I have. I love ya old friend.”

He nuzzled me and gave me one of his famous snorts.  I moved around to his side and hugged his neck.

By this time Ahab had disembarked from the carriage’s driver seat and was helping the ladies exit the carriage. I could see they were shaken but physically fine.

As I walked toward the carriage with Stonewall following, I approached the face-down lifeless body of the highwayman that had been trampled by our team and turned him over.  I couldn’t make out his features, but searching in my coat pocket for a small box of Lucifers (matches), I pulled one out and lit it with a thumbnail. In the initial light from the flare, I recognized Marshal Gill’s deputy from Harpers Ferry.

I made a vow that there was going to be recompense for what had occurred here and for the attempted assassination of Major Mosby. I now had evidence that could be the basis for a number of actions once we got to Harpers Ferry.

Looking at Ahab and the ladies, I asked, “Could y’all please come forward and help identify this killer?”

As the ladies moved reluctantly toward me with Ahab in tow, I changed out the spent Colt cylinders and replaced them with loaded ones. It didn’t take any time at all to complete the task, and once finished, I put the pistols back in my belt.

When the ladies and Ahab had gathered round the body, I lit another match near the dead man’s face and heard a gasp from Daphne followed by a grunt from Ahab. Bessie didn’t utter a sound.

I looked at the group and asked, “Do y’all recognize this man?”

Daphne nodded and said, “Its tha deputy marshal from Harpers Ferry.”

I looked at Ahab and he returned my stare. We glared at each other for a few seconds. Then he looked down at the body and acknowledged, “Yep, that’s him alright.”

Raising his gaze to me he declared, “Ya didn’t give ‘em much chance.

I returned to that quiet place that had surfaced since I had entered this universe. My eyes narrowed to slits and I retorted, “They didn’t deserve a chance for what they were gonna do to me, the ladies and you. They didn’t wear any masks, which meant they were gonna kill all of us because we could recognize ‘em.”

This took Ahab by surprise. He looked at me with his mouth agape for a brief few seconds, but soon receded back into his gruff mien. Daphne gasped and put her hands over her heart. Bessie’s head jerked to look at me with a concerned expression, but she didn’t make a sound.

I looked at Ahab and ordered, “Help me put this body over Stonewall’s saddle. We’ll need it for evidence.”

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Civil War Transcendence, part 342

 

Bessie looked away and brushed the tear from her cheek.

Daphne was still looking at me with a fond smile. I grinned back and asked, “Where are we?”

Ahab answered immediately, “We’s at Kearneysville crossroads.”

“Where do we go from here?” I questioned.

“We’ll go ‘cross tha Kearneysville Pike and keep going straight for a while. Then we’ll follow switchbacks until we hit tha Shepherdstown Pike. That’ll take us into Halltown,” he informed me.

“’Bout how long ya think ‘til we hit Halltown?” I quizzed.

“Takes about three more hours ‘til we get to tha Shepherdstown Pike. Then it’ll be another three hours ‘til we get to Halltown,” he explained.

“I see,” I acknowledged.

At that, Ahab flicked the horses’ reins, and we continue heading in a southeasterly direction.

I looked behind me, and Stonewall was munching on some grass along the roadside. He must have felt me looking at him because he raised his head and snorted. I smiled and turned around.

For a carriage laden to the gills with baggage, we had progressed rather rapidly. Borrowing any unforeseen calamities, I figured we would get to Halltown at 9:00 p.m. I really didn’t want to travel rural roads at night, but this time it couldn’t be helped.

Three hours later, the sun had just set as we pulled onto the Shepherdstown Pike and headed south. I pulled my watch out, and in the twilight, I could barely make out the dials on my pocket watch, which displayed 5:45p.m.

Ahab kept resting the team whenever he could, but you could tell they were tiring. His entreaties to keep moving were getting more vociferous.

A west wind began to rustle the night air, which brought action from Bessie and Daphne. They extracted blankets from the top of the baggage stacked beside Bessie. Daphne got two blankets to cover us, while Bessie laid a blanket across Ahab’s wide shoulders. Then she got a blanket for herself. I looked back to see if I could see Stonewall, but it was too dark to see if he was there. However, I did hear a snort letting me know he was following. As an added precaution I pulled one of my Colts from my belt and laid it beside my right thigh.

Finally the moon came out, which allowed Ahab to clearly see the road and not have to totally trust the horses’ to follow the pike.

We had proceeded about thirty minutes from intersecting the pike when we suddenly stopped. I heard Ahab ask, “What do ya want?”

Due to the carriage configuration, we were behind Ahab and lower than his driver’s seat. We couldn’t see what was ahead of us, and anyone in front of the carriage couldn’t see us.

Somebody answered him, but I couldn’t hear what was said. I came out from under the blankets and whispered, “You ladies. Get down in the floor.”

They quickly took a prone position in bottom of the carriage. I pulled both Colts from my belt, and keeping a low profile, I stepped in the spaces between the ladies as I began to exit the carriage on the left side. I let myself down gently from the vehicle to keep it from swaying. Next, I bent low as I inched toward the front of the carriage.

I was just in time to hear a man say, “We’re looking for somebody. Maybe ya can help us find him.”

“Who?” Ahab responded.

“A Lieutenant Hager,” was the answer.

I continued forward until I was at the hind quarter of the last horse on the left nearest the carriage.  I took off my hat and rising just an inch at a time I finally was able to see two men on horseback in front of our team of horses.  They had pistols drawn and pointed at Ahab.

I think Ahab sensed my presence and he delayed his answer by mumbling in the most southern jargon, “Yowsir, he done died back in Martinsburg.”

The two men looked at each other, and I took the opportunity of cocking both Colts as I brought them up and fired them simultaneously.

Five things happened in sequence.

First, for some reason, our team of horses didn’t like the idea of being used as shields, plus being fired over in a gun fight. They bolted forward and rammed into the two highwaymen’s horses.

The second thing that occurred was, one of the men fell from his saddle into the road while his horse was forced to the left of the carriage and summarily rammed into a tree line bordering the pike.

The third thing that occurred was, Ahab exerted all his strength to get control of our team of horses. Through Herculean efforts, he got them stopped after they had traveled about twenty-five yards, but only after they had trampled the downed highwayman.

The fourth thing that happened was, the second highwaymen’s horse was forced to the right side of the carriage when our horses bolted. He fought to control his mount.

The fifth thing that happened was, I cocked my Colts and waited until the carriage had rumbled passed. Then I advanced toward the second highwayman alternatively firing my pistols. His horse began to buck, and he held on for dear life. I continued advancing and firing, but the rounds never found their mark, due to the panicked movement of the cayuse.

Suddenly, a shadowy shape came flying out of the darkness and rammed into the right side of the terrified animal. There was a loud crack, and both horse and rider were temporarily airborne.

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