Civil War Transcendence, part 389

 

Daphne rushed into my arms, and we held each other for a long time. As usual, I had to disentangle myself from my beloved to be able to breathe properly, because she nearly crushes my ribs when we hug.

However, during the time we were clinging to each other, I experienced the most rapturous feelings of love and belonging. Here I was, with the most beautiful wife in the world, in our first home and starting our life together. It was pure ecstasy.

Once I got my breath back, we walked hand in hand through the cottage. It was a four room structure. The front door opened into a living room with a cozy fireplace on the right side of the room along an outside wall. A door on the left side of the living room led to a bedroom where the crib was located. The back of the living room expanded into a small dining room that had a door way to the left that led to a very small kitchen. A door off the kitchen opened to the very small backyard with a path to the outhouse. The total square footage was about 500.  The rooms were painted white except for the bedroom, which was painted a robin’s egg blue like the front door.

We both reveled in the fact that this was to be our home, and in our eyes it was the equivalent of the Taj Mahal.  After looking the place over, Daphne immediately began surveying the house for what furniture was needed and where it would go. I just enjoyed watching her excitement in her analytical furniture considerations.

I finally had to say, “Darling, I believe I need ya to get back to Ferry Hill.  I’m gonna walk to tha school house and see how it has weathered since we quit having classes.”

She let out a sigh and admitted, “I guess yar right. Besides, Cousin Mary will want to help me gather the correct furniture for our home.”

I must have had a shocked expression on my face because Daphne came to me and said, “What’s wrong?”

I responded, “That’s the first time that I knew what Mrs. Douglas’ first name was.”

“Oh! Well, now ya know,” Daphne exclaimed.

I took her by the hand and we sashayed out the door to the carriage that John Lee had parked and so patiently waited, which allowed us to enjoy the cottage.

John Lee grinned and for the first time allowed himself to really be affable, when he observed, “Ya know, y’all look like a couple of chillren that just had their first dance together.”

We both laughed heartily and I said, “John Lee, ya hit tha nail on tha head.”

I continued, “Please take Daphne back to Ferry Hill. I’m gonna check out tha school house, and I’ll walk back when I’m through.”

He nodded and turned his back to allow Daphne and me to kiss. I helped Daphne in the carriage and said, “See ya later, Liebchen.”

She grinned from ear to ear and returned, “See that ya do.”

John Lee flicked the team’s reins and off they went.

I turned and walked the two blocks to my old schoolhouse. The door was unlocked, and I entered the abode where I had spent some of the most rewarding days of my life. I had helped young people to develop mentally, and hopefully, physically and spiritually as well. It seemed that many a day had passed since the Yanks attacked us at Ferry Hill and turned my life with Daphne upside-down. In fact the whole region had been affected.

Letting out a sigh, I pulled out the chair from my desk and saw that it was as dusty, as were all the rest of the insides of the structure. I made a note to bring a bucket, rags, broom and paper, plus pens and ink. I might need some wood also, because I would need a fire during my work.

I walked to the door and turning around longingly, taking a good look at the schoolroom.

Exiting the door, I gently pulled it shut and walked toward the back of the building to see if there was any debris that needed to be cleared. As I neared the back of the structure, I heard a voice say, “He’s back from Harpers Ferry with a brand new wife, Daphne Newcomer no less, and they’re both staying with tha Widow Douglas at Ferry Hill.”

“Should we attack ‘em there?” uttered a second voice.

“No. Those servants would fight us to tha death if’n we tried. Let me think on it. I’ll come up with a plan and let ya know,” said the first voice.

“Alright. See ya later,” said the second voice.

I could hear the two men go their separate ways. Sneaking around to the back of the building, I couldn’t see one of the men because he had already made his way to the front of the schoolhouse and turned so he was hidden by the building. However, I could make out the other man as he walked away from me, across a small lot, toward German Street.

I smiled because he looked awfully familiar.

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 388

As soon as we left the house, Daphne grabbed my arm and demanded, “Where’d ya get all that money?”

I gave her a very shocked expression and remarked, “I bet that is the first time in history that a wife was dismayed at the amount of money her husband possessed.”

She hit my arm and said, “Don’t be such a smarty. Now where did ya get those bills?”

I gave her a serious look and admitted, “I don’t really know, but I think it was slipped into my pocket by Mosby.”

She looked at me with a questioning look.

So I added, “I had just come back from being shot at Ferry Hill and went to the Confederate cavalry to meet with Mosby. When I rode back to Hattie’s Place, she needed my rent money, and when I checked my pockets, the $100 bills were in my front pocket. We figured that Major Mosby had put them there.”

Daphne didn’t look dubious anymore and knew that I had told the truth. Whether that was what happened or not, I don’t know, but I was going to ask Mosby about it the next time I saw him.

Daphne and I had stopped on the porch of Ferry Hill to have our discussion. Just as I had finished my tale, John Lee brought the carriage around the front of the mansion.

Daphne and I were surprised because we thought we would have to go to the stables and get horses to ride for our journey into town.

I called to John Lee, “Is the carriage for us?”

“Shore ‘nuff. Missrez Douglas said to hitch up the carriage for y’all to go into town,” he apprised us.

“Thank ya, John Lee, for takin out time to do this for us,” I acknowledged.

“Twern’t me. Twas Missrez Douglas,” he replied with a big smile.

Daphne and I both laughed with delight. Then we got in the carriage, snuggled down into the comfortable seats and put a blanket over our legs.

John Lee clicked at the team of horses, flicked the reins and we were off to Shepherdstown.

We made it down the hill, past the Confederate guards on the bridge, and into town. Once we had arrived on German Street, we turned right at the bank and then left again on Old Queen Alley. John Lee must have known where we were going because he brought the carriage team to a halt in front of the nicest looking cottage on the street. It was just as Mrs. Douglas had described it: white lap siding, small front porch, baby blue front door.

John Lee turned and stated with a big smile on his face, “Here y’all are.”

I nodded at him as I helped Daphne down from the carriage.

Daphne was so happy that I thought she was going to dance through the short front yard to the door. She left me cooling my heels as she hurried down the front path to the porch. I meandered behind her.

Daphne tried the front door knob and it opened. She rushed inside just I stepped on the front porch.

I heard her gush, “Oh my goodness. Isn’t that beautiful!”

I entered the front door into a small room that acted as a living room. Continuing to down a short hall toward the back, I came to a little bedroom that was empty except for one small piece of furniture. In the middle of the room was a baby crib with an elaborate white fabric canopy, which sat on rockers for swaying a baby to sleep.

Daphne looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I love ya Jim Hager.”

I took a big gulp and returned, “I love ya too, Daphne.”

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 387

Daphne and I began to take our breakfast table seats, which had been slyly assigned by Mrs. Douglas in an effort to keep us from shunning the 19th century etiquette of husband and wife not showing affection in public.

Once we were seated, Mrs. Douglas turned to Daphne and queried, “Well what are y’all’s plans for tha future?”

Daphne was stumped by the question. Her eyes glazed over, because she hadn’t made any plans. Our lives had been so hurly burly for the last month that we hadn’t had a chance to make any plans. We had been reactive to the events that Life had thrown our way, instead of being proactive to what we wanted to accomplish.

To get Daphne off the hot seat, I stated, “Well, I have to propose a plan for an operation, and I need to start it right away.”

Mrs. Douglas looked at me, raised her eyebrows and said, “Really? And where will ya be going to work on that proposal?”

“I was going to use tha school house in Shepherdstown,” I answered.

“Well, do ya have any future plans other than those?” she probed.

“Yes, ma’am. We’re gonna look in Shepherdstown for a house to rent and get outta yar hair as soon as we can.”

Daphne looked around Mrs. Douglas and smiled at me.  I smiled back, and we both sort of looked at each other like two love-sick teenagers.

Mrs. Douglas leaned forward to obstruct our view, and once she has our attention, said, “The reason that I asked wasn’t to get rid of y’all. I didn’t know what y’all had in mind for tha future. Since y’all are staying in tha vicinity, I have a small cottage in Shepherdstown on Old Queen Alley that would fit y’all to a tee.”

Daphne emitted a joyous laugh and hugging Mrs. Douglas, declared, “Oh Cousin, that would be just heavenly!”

Mrs. Douglas turned a bright red in embarrassment, which I didn’t know she was capable of, and hugged Daphne back.

I made a little noise to get the ladies’ attention, and when they looked at me, I stated, “Mrs. Douglas we appreciate your help from tha bottom of our hearts, but we’ll have to pay ya a monthly rent for tha use of yar cottage.”

Mrs. Douglas turned to look at me and immediately understood by my serious expression that my pride required me to pay for our abode.

She nodded her head and stated, “Alright, how about eight dollars a month? I believe that’s tha going rate in Shepherdstown for a cottage.”

I nodded my agreement, and pulling the small wad of U.S. dollars from my pocket, I gave her a one hundred dollar bill.

She looked down with mouth agape at the large amount of money. Then she looked at Daphne. Then they both turned to look at me with the same stunned expression.

I smiled at them both and stated to Mrs. Douglas, “I believe that’ll cover our rent for tha next year.”

Mrs. Douglas nodded and stuttered, “Ah, I ah, I ah believe it does.”

Daphne looked at me with a “where did ya get all that money?” look.

I thought I would tease her for awhile so I just shrugged.

As usual, she narrowed her eyes at me, but before she could begin her interrogation I suggested, “Let’s eat. I’m starved.”

I got away without having to give a long explanation, due to the immediate urgency of having breakfast. It was delicious even though it was cold. I especially enjoyed the honey and butter that I slathered on two cathead biscuits. The eggs might have been cold, but they had been prepared exquisitely, and combined with the crispy bacon, were on par with Hattie’s breakfasts.

Once we had eaten our fill, I proposed, “I guess Daphne and I need to go to Shepherdstown and see what all we need to do so we can move into tha cottage.”

Mrs. Douglas said, “I ‘spect so. Like I said, tha cottage is on Old Queen Alley, which is just a block north of German Street. It’s a whitewashed board building with a small porch and a front door that is painted blue. So why don’t ya two scoot and go see it?”

We both laughed at her suggestion and got up from the table.

Daphne went to her cousin, hugged her again and whispered, “Thank ya so much.”

Mrs. Douglas smiled broadly, nodded toward me and instructed, “Take good care of her.”

I smiled back and returned, “Always.”

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 386

 

Daphne and I were sequestered in an upstairs bedroom. In fact, it was the one in which I had recovered so miraculously after the Yanks attacked us here at Ferry Hill.

After all our possessions were stacked in a neat pile next to the room’s armoire, our door was closed. We were alone at last. Daphne rushed into my arms, and we held each other for a very long time. I started gently turning her from side to side, as if rocking a baby. Before long she went to sleep in my arms.

Picking her up, I carried to our bed and laid her down. She hardly stirred when I took off her outer layer of clothing, including her corset, and put her under the covers in her undergarments. By the time I had undressed and got in the bed, she was snoring softly. I entered the Land of Nod as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Bright sunshine and twittering birds greeted us as we both stirred and opened our eyes to a new day. I stretched and yawned. Turning to look at my darling wife, I beheld a body almost completely covered in bed blankets and sheets positioned on her side facing me with only a nose and chin visible.

I leaned toward her and kissed her nose, which brought a giggle from the mysterious bundle lying beside me.

Daphne pulled the covers from her head, and peaking at me with one eye open and the other closed, said, “Thanks for undressing me last night. I was so exhausted I must have passed out.”

“My pleasure,” I replied, which brought another giggle from the raven-haired beauty.

She yawned, stretched and remarked, “Well, I guess we should make an appearance to our hostess.”

I replied, “Not quite yet,” and inched closer to this desirable Aphrodite.

She giggled and said, “Well, alright. I guess we can be a little late.”

Needless to say we didn’t make it downstairs until sometime later.

When we finally walked into the dining room, Mrs. Douglas chided, “Well, it’s about time ya sleepyheads came down to breakfast. I’m afraid it’s cold, but we can heat it up if’n ya want.”

Daphne and I grinned from ear to ear. Then Daphne said, “Sorry we’re late coming down. We had some important things to talk over.”

I was about to laugh, when Daphne pinched me rather hard to keep me quiet.

Daphne continued, “Don’t make a fuss over us. We can eat what’s already cooked, whether cold or hot.”

Mrs. Douglas looked at the covered dishes on the table and informed us, “Well, we got cold eggs, cold biscuits, cold bacon and hot coffee. Which do ya want?”

“I’ll take all three,” I decreed.

This brought a laugh from Mrs. Douglas, who yelled, “Katie, bring a pot of coffee for the Hagers.”

Immediately, we heard from the kitchen, “Yes ‘am.”

Mrs. Douglas’ words, “the Hagers”, seemed to jolt me for a moment. I turned to Daphne, and she turned to stare at me. We both were moved by the fact that we were now, the Hagers. She smiled broadly and I grinned from ear to ear. It was all I could do to keep from sweeping her off her feet and kissing her incessantly.

Mrs. Douglas must have sensed the bond that had suddenly been further strengthened and the possible physical reactions that could ensue because she quickly stated, “Ah, Daphne, why don’t ya come sit next to me on my left, and Mr. Hager, why don’t ya sit on my right so we can discuss what y’all are gonna do in the near future?”

Mrs. Douglas’ suggestions were both prudent and wise, because our ardor was cooled as we took our seats in the dining room.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 385

It only took a few moments for me and the trooper, who acted as my substitute, to exchange clothes. I dismissed him with a hand shake and a “well done.” He saluted and left for the cavalry camp.

The ladies returned the purloined pillowcases to the hotel clerk.  They had been taken from their rooms for the purpose of being stuffed with clothes to look like female occupants in the carriage.

He accepted the articles with a stoic countenance, mixed with a look of pure distain, if that is even possible.

However, the ladies didn’t pay him any attention. They were happy and joyful in their own stead. Mrs. Douglas was pleased to get back home and out of harm’s way. Hattie was itching to get back to her family and relate her version of all that had happened. Undoubtedly, her brandishing of her part would gain her one-upmanship over her brothers.

Daphne was eager to be out of the local area and in a more hospitable environment. Also, she was looking forward to our life together. I was grateful that we all came out of the valley of death in one piece and was thankful of having Daphne for my wife.

The three ladies and I climbed into the carriage. John Lee flicked the reins of the carriage team, and we began the seventeen-mile trip to Shepherdstown, and beyond, to Ferry Hill. We didn’t have room in the carriage for Al, so he rode along behind us on his cayuse.

Stonewall drifted along with the carriage. Sometimes he loped ahead, and sometimes he fell behind. He was having fun just being free to move where and when he wanted to.

I fell into a deep sleep for part of the trip. Lifting the stress of impending death to my friends resulted in the dissipation of the adrenalin high that I had been living with for such a long time.

As we reached the area about two miles south of Shepherdstown, I woke up and yawned. Looking at the other occupants of the coach, they all seemed to be snoozing comfortably. Daphne’s head was resting on my left arm.  Her breathing was deep and steady.

I had another chance to look closely at her beautiful continence. I loved to look at how her raven black hair framed her gorgeous face. She could be categorized as one of those women who was, and would be, beautiful all her life. I know I am prejudiced, but in my estimation, she fit into the elite classification of womanhood such as Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, and Catherine the Great.

I let out a sigh of contentment, which unfortunately, aroused my beloved.

She blinked awake and, looking up at me with those big brown eyes, gave me a mischievous smile.

I whispered, “I love ya with all my heart.”

I didn’t mean for my declaration of affection to touch her the way it did, but she teared up and buried her head in my shoulder. Then she muttered in a muffled voice, “I love ya too Jim.”

I put my left arm around Daphne, and we held on to each other as if it was our last day together. I guess we both knew that our survival was not guaranteed and that each moment had to be enjoyed to the fullest. So we clung together with a raw lust for each other’s presence. The pure passion of the moment brought tears to my eyes and the longing for a full lifetime as husband and wife.

We both released the fierce holds we had on each other when we entered the southern outskirts of Shepherdstown. It was fully dark as I sat forward and began to focus on my surroundings. The town streets were deserted. Everyone was in the cradle of their families.

We made it through town and came to the covered bridge over the Potomac. I could see a detachment of Confederate cavalry up ahead as we came to the entrance to the bridge.  We stopped, and Al rode ahead to speak with the Sergeant of the Guard. He must have known all the correct passwords, because we were admitted to the bridge. The Sergeant of the Guard, along with his contingent of troopers, saluted as we passed. I returned the salute and sat back into my seat.

On the other side of the bridge, we were ushered through the opening without being required to stop. Either Al had some pretty powerful mojo, or he had fashioned a tale that impressed our boys in gray.

Once we made it to Ferry Hill, the house became alive with the hustle and bustle of activity.  We vacated the coach, and the first person to meet us was Ezra. He and I shook hands like two long lost friends. Then he took charge of the unpacking of the carriage, plus the distribution of all the contents to the appropriate mansion environs.

We were finally home. It might be a temporary home, but it was home for a while anyway.

We all staggered into the mansion.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 384

Arriving at the hotel, Al and I dismounted, took our cayuses to the area across from the hotel, in a shaded area near the river, and released them to graze. Then we went back to the hotel, mounted the front steps, and entered to await the arrival of our ladies and my substitute.

As we entered the hotel, the clerk actually grimaced, which made me laugh.  We headed to the hotel café and took seats at a table near the window.

Both of us turned our attention toward the street scene and remained silent for a long time. I might have even dozed off for a few minutes, but I jerked awake when the carriage full of ladies and my substitute came to an abrupt halt in front of the hotel.

I heard high-heeled shoes running up the steps to the hotel lobby.  Taking in a deep breath, I stood and waited for the storm.

She rushed in looking wildly about, and once she fixated on me, ran to my open arms.  As usual, she hugged me so hard it was difficult to breathe.

I finally had to say in a semi-strangled voice, “Liebchen, yar squeezing me to death.”

When she released me from her stranglehold, I actually gasped for breath, and after a few seconds, recovered enough oxygen to be functional.

She leaned back and looked up at me with soulful eyes that conveyed fear for my safety and thankfulness that I was still alive.  Then her eyebrows were raised in a questioning expression that I took to mean, “Did you get him? Are we alright now?”

I just nodded and she grabbed me again in a fierce embrace.

Immediately, I uttered, “Not so hard, Liebchen.”

She let go of my torso and I know every rib and lung in my body was appreciative.

I happened to look at Al, who had also stood when Daphne entered the room.  His eyes were bulging out as he looked at the beautiful woman who had applied unchaperoned hugs to me.

It dawned on me that he probably had never seen Daphne before. So with a big smile on my face, I gently took Daphne by the shoulders and moved her to arms- length away from me. Turning her toward Al, I said, “I want ya to meet Al Madigan, a very good friend of mine.”

She focused her hawk-like gaze momentarily on Al, who was still bewildered by our outward display of affection. Apparently, Al passed her first impression’s test because she advanced on him, grabbed his hand, and shook it so hard that I believe it rattled his teeth.

“Any friend of Jim’s is a friend of mine,” she declared with a big smile on her face.

“Al Madigan, may I introduce my wife, Daphne Jane Newcomer-Hager,” I said with a laugh.

Al looked at me like a six-pound solid cannon shot had hit him square in the gizzard. Then he looked down at the diminutive beauty before him and stuttered, “Pl…plea…pleased to meet ya, ma’am.”

I laughed at his awkwardness in the very astonishing series of unanticipated events to which he had suddenly become privy.

Al took a deep gulp, looked at me, and as Daphne released his hand, said, “Ya been quite busy since I saw ya last.”

Both Daphne and I laughed at his witticism.

At that moment, we all heard a person clearing her throat from the front of the café and turned to see Mrs. Douglas with Hattie at her side.

“I take it that tha vandal that was our nemesis has been dispatched and is no longer a danger,” Mrs. Douglas stated.

“Quite so,” I rejoined.

“Then may we continue to Ferry Hill and more comfortable quarters?” she questioned.

“Yes,” I declared, and for the first time in weeks, I felt as if the Sword of Damocles had been lifted from above my head.

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 383

 

It really wasn’t a silver hat band with a silver star that was the give-away that this was our man. It was the rifle that was stuck in a carrying case that was positioned behind his saddle. You could just make out the viewing end of a telescopic sight.

I drew a Colt with my right hand, cocked it and hid it behind my right leg. Gently I nudged Stonewall with my knees and said, “Slowly.”

He took on his tired cayuse personification and we meandered toward the killer. I kept my wide-brimmed cavalry hat pulled down to hide my face as much as possible, but still allowing one eye to have a view of the street before me.

The assassin was about ten yards from me when he suddenly stopped and looked to his right. I glanced that way and saw three cavalry troopers fanned out in a semi-circle and headed toward him.

I clamped my knees into Stonewall’s side and said, “Let’s go.”

I leaned forward to keep from being thrown from the saddle as Stonewall exploded headlong toward the killer. I believe if Stonewall had been competing against a GTO in a drag race, he would have beat the muscle car.

The killer had already drawn his rifle and was beginning to sight it toward the three troopers when he heard, rather than saw, us galloping toward him.

I raised my Colt and fired. Then I continued to cock the hammer and pull the trigger as we closed the distance to the marauder. It seemed that, in slow motion, the gunman was jolted as if he had been slammed in the chest.

Three things followed in sequence. He dropped his rifle.  His horse reared, and he fell to the road.

I suddenly heard the crowded populace in the streets screaming and yelling, which was followed by a mass exodus from the area of the shooting.

I had been a fool to confront this killer in the middle of Harpers Ferry with a large crowd of town’s people in the vicinity.  I looked around for any citizen that might be collateral damage, but I had lucked out. No one seemed to be hurt.

The three troopers appeared immediately and began to direct the populace away from the sight of the shooting.  I had ridden past the sniper and now turned Stonewall back to the fallen enemy.

Dismounting Stonewall, I walked to the body. Stopping and looking down on the dead man, I saw where his left lung and part of his heart were located there was a large red spot that was growing. Also his right shoulder had a wound, which probably was why he dropped his rifle.

One of the troopers uttered, “Good shooting Captain.”

I just nodded and looked up to see Al Madigan grinning at me. I extended my hand to him and asked, “Where ya been?”

“Well, I was waiting for ya in Shepherdstown, but a courier give me word to come down here. I just arrived last night, and we set up a trap for this dry-gulcher. But as usual, ya shot him before we could get a bead on ‘im,” he noted.

Al told the two troopers under his command to carry the body to the local mortician and report back to the cavalry camp.

We both turned to walk away and Stonewall nudged Al with his nose.  Al turned and said, “Well, if’n it ain’t Stonewall. How ya doing ole pal?”

Stonewall whinnied one of his loud outbursts, which made Al laugh and pat my cayuse on his neck.

Al whistled and his horse came to him. I smiled at the same rapport he had with his horse.

We mounted and rode back toward the hotel our party had vacated just a few hours ago. I looked at him and said, “I made a big mistake shooting in all this crowd.”

“Yep, but ya hit what ya were aiming at, and no civilian was injured. Yar probably gonna  get a tongue lashing and a warning ‘bout it, but that’ll be about all,” he predicted.

I nodded and uttered a quick prayer that no one other than the killer had been shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 382

 

Daphne’s eyes bulged and her mouth gaped open. “Wha, what are ya doing?” she stammered.

“I’m sending y’all on yar way as bait, and I’m staying behind to help get rid of this killer,” I pronounced.

Her eyes widened as she tried to comprehend what I said.

I glanced at the other ladies. Mrs. Douglas had the same baffled look as Daphne. Hattie was staring at me with a fixed gaze. “What’s changed?” she asked.

“We got him in our sights,” I answered.  “Well, at least I got him in my sights,” I corrected. “We’re gonna get him when he tries to follow y’all, but it will be in Harpers Ferry and not out in the woods somewhere,” I stated.

Daphne probed, “Ya mean, ya’ve seen him?

“Yes. He’s up on Maryland Heights. Once y’all take off toward Halltown, he’s gonna follow, and once he’s across the Potomac Bridge, we’ll get him,” I vowed.

“Oh!” she said. Then in a sarcastic voice she asked, “What if he doesn’t fall for your trap and meets us on the road to Shepherdstown?”

“Yar not going to Shepherdstown. Yar only going out of sight of Maryland Heights and then yar coming back here,” I answered.

“Oh, ah, alright,” she mumbled.

I turned to the trooper who had donned my clothes and said, “Private Hays is gonna go with y’all dressed in my clothes and with his horse tied to the back of the carriage. That should make the killer think that I’m riding with ya,” I acknowledged.

Everyone except Hattie was still trying to get their mind around the new plan. She looked as if she understood what was going to happen.  I could tell that she wanted to ask a question, but didn’t want to frighten Daphne.

“So, let’s go,” I prompted.

Everyone got up, went out the door, and got in the carriage, except Daphne.  She came forward and hugged me ferociously. She was just too emotionally drained to cry and too tired to care anymore. I gently escorted her to the door and told the private to take her to the coach.

John Lee already had the horses harnessed and in front of the outpost. Once the private had placed Daphne in her seat facing the ladies, he tied his horse to the back of the carriage and got in next to Daphne.

John Lee flicked the team’s reins and they were off. He headed the horses down toward the Halltown Road. All of us privates standing on the outpost porch saluted and then entered the outpost front door.

I immediately went through the building and out the back door, where Stonewall was waiting. I knew he could sense my urgency because he began stomping the ground to beat the band.  I finally had to say, “Easy, easy, we can’t let on we have to get down to Harper Ferry quickly.”

He began to let out deep breaths, whinnied real loud one time and took on the look of a slow witted cayuse.  I laughed in amazement at his method of attaining a claim exterior.

I climbed up in the saddle and we walked around the building and entered the first street that flowed down to the main area of Harpers Ferry. Once we were hidden by the buildings from being viewed from Maryland Heights, I said, “You can do a little faster.”

Stonewall picked up speed, but the road we were traversing was so steep, he had to take it easy less he hurt his knee joints.  As the street flattened out, I nudge him with my knees and he took off like a cannon shot. As usual I held on for dear life.

We were lucky in that the street we were on was Washington Street, which was one of the main roads leading toward the Potomac Bridge, but it was a busy thoroughfare. Stonewall acted like a slithering eel. Dodging pedestrians, wagons, carriages and other horsemen, we made our way toward the lower town.

Washington Street divides into High Street and Clay Street with High Street dead-ending into Shenandoah Street just a few blocks from where the Winchester & Potomac Railroad Bridge and the pedestrian bridge empties into Potomac Street from the Maryland shore.

I was hoping against hope that the assassin had already left his roost and hadn’t seen our wild ride. I brought Stonewall to a halt with a gentle pull back on the reins and a low uttered, “Whoa.”  Stonewall transitioned from a gallop to a trot and finally to a stop in just a matter of yards facing the Potomac Bridge.

I looked around for Mosby’s men, but couldn’t identify any of them in my brief scan of the crowd.

I turned back to the bridge and a glint of the sun off metal caught my eye.  That’s went I saw him on a black stallion. The sun glinted again off what appeared to be the horseman’s hat band.

Hattie’s description suddenly jumped into my mind, “The winner of the shooting contest had a silver hat band.”

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 381

The position of the sniper changed my plan. If we could lure him across the Potomac Bridge, we could confront him now rather than wait for him to shoot us from ambush. I draped the binocular strap over the pommel (saddle horn of a cavalry saddle) and again went into my thinking mode of what action to implement.

Hopefully, the civilian-clad Confederates stationed on the Maryland side would provide a blocking force of sorts once the gunman crossed the bridge.

However, if Mosby’s civilian-clothed men on the Maryland side hadn’t discovered the sniper’s present position, and I believed they hadn’t, there was no way to inform them as to his location without alerting him. (What I wouldn’t give for a bunch of walkie talkies.)

On further consideration, I was betting the shooter is going to be able to vacate his Maryland nest without arousing any suspicion and cross the bridge with the intent of ambushing us after he sees whether we chose the River Road or the Halltown Road to follow.

At best, Mosby’s men on the Maryland side would probably react only when they heard gunfire and rode to the sound of the guns.

Thus, we have to let the assassin get far enough into Harpers Ferry before confronting him with Mosby’s camouflaged men in the town so he can’t get back across the Potomac Bridge because, I believe, if he ever did get back to the soil of Maryland, he would elude our men on the Maryland side and get away.

So the next question is:  Do the ladies need to stuff their clothes to portray their likenesses?

Not If the carriage left Bolivar Heights and jointed the Halltown Road. It would be hard for the killer to actually see the facial features of carriage passengers, since the carriage would be traveling away from the shooter. The ladies and John Lee could actually occupy the carriage, and we could have a contingent of cavalry waiting for them near Halltown to protect them on a return trip to Harpers Ferry.

I could change clothes with one of the cavalrymen at the Confederate outpost, and he could pose as me for our plan to work. That would allow me to go down the hill into Harpers Ferry posing as a lone trooper and participate in closing our trap for the sniper.

I decided to make the wardrobe switch because the gunman would probably leave his perch and cross the bridge once we left on the Halltown Road.  We would only have a brief window of opportunity to catch him in our trap.

I meandered back to the Confederate outpost using the back of the Bolivar Heights buildings as cover. I dismounted Stonewall at the back of the outpost and entered via the back door. Looking around at the Confederate troopers available, and there were three, I picked the one closest to my size and motioned for him to follow me.

We went out the back door and walked to the horse shed. I inspected the cayuses that were tied up and saddled for immediately disposition. Only one looked as if it could have passed for Stonewall.

I turned to the trooper, who had a quizzical look on his face and asked, “Whose horse is this?”

“Mine,” responded the trooper.

“Good,” I said.

“Do ya know who I am?” I queried.

“Yes sah. Yar Captain Hager,” he answered.

“Good. Well, trooper ya are going to be summarily promoted to Captain,” I said with a smile.

A few minutes later I walked into outpost via the back door and, seeing the ladies still immersed in their conflab, uttered, “Ladies, it’s time to go.”

Three sets of eyes suddenly looked frightened and then skeptical once they saw that a private with his hat pulled low to hide his face had given the order.

Daphne got to her feet and uttered, “Who are ya to give us orders?”

I raised my hat up from my forehead with my right forefinger to let it perch on the back of my pate and said, “Me.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 380

 

I decided to ride behind the buildings on top of the ridge and directed Stonewall in that direction. We trotted at a brisk pace for about seventy-five yards when I said, “Whoa.”

Stonewall stopped on a dime.

Looking out at the vista to the west, I had a clear view of the road to Halltown. If I rode to the front of the buildings on the ridge, I could see the beginnings of the River Road to the northeast. To the east in the distance, I could make out the road at the base of Maryland Heights that led to Sharpsburg. I had purloined the outpost’s binoculars to be able to make a close inspection of all three roads that ultimately led to Shepherdstown.

One thing I believed was that the sniper had to be in a location where he could quickly get to his chosen ambush point on the road we chose to take. We hadn’t yet made a deciding move to the road we would be utilizing.

So, where was his vantage point at the present time?

The road that would cause him the most consternation had to be the road that ran in front of Maryland Heights. It was totally isolated on the other side of the Potomac River from the other two roads. That was why I had ridden to the bridge and looked up at Maryland Heights this morning. I was trying to bait the sniper into believing we would be traveling on that road.

It had taken us a long time to get to the top of Bolivar Heights. I was hoping that I had left enough confirmation in the sniper’s mind that we weren’t using the road across the Potomac, but would be using either the River Road or the road to Halltown instead. In fact, I was betting on it.

Major Mosby had stationed four sentinels in civilian dress on the road that ran in front of Maryland Heights at various locations from the base of the bridge on the Maryland side north toward Sharpsburg. He also had men positioned in civilian dress at various places in town close to the end of the bridge across the Potomac on the Virginia shore.

If I had played my cards right, the sniper was on the Maryland side of the river and waiting.

When we started up to Bolivar Heights, I was hoping it threw a monkey wrench in his plans.  Now he would have to cross back to Harpers Ferry and wait for us to take one of the roads on the Virginia side.

Of course, he could always wait and try his luck later, which was the smart thing to do. I was hoping his mission was to get rid of us before we made it to Shepherdstown.

I turned Stonewall toward a gap between two buildings, which created an alleyway, and used it to slyly slip toward the front of the buildings on Bolivar Heights. Staying back well enough to view the countryside to the north and east without being seen, I swept my binoculars over the landscape between the town and the Potomac Bridge, then the bridge and the beginning of the road on the Maryland side in what is called Sandy Hook, and lastly the road leading north from Sandy Hook until it ran out of sight.

I didn’t see anyone in Harpers Ferry or anybody moving on the roads that looked suspicious. Focusing on Maryland Heights, I surveyed the bluff from its base to its apex, but I didn’t see anyone that fit the description of our sniper.

I lowered my field glasses and, pulling my pocket watch, looked at the time. It was 1:00pm. I draped the binoculars by its strap over the portion of the saddle that acted as a saddle horn.  I closed my eyes to get in the mood for thinking through what had transpired in our plan.

One; to utilize baseball jargon, we had hopefully thrown the sniper a curve by feinting to cross the Potomac bridge at Harpers Ferry, but had instead gone to the top of Bolivar Heights. This normally would indicate we could take either the Halltown Road to the west or the River Road to the northeast.

If the sniper was on the Maryland side of the river, which is what I was betting on, he would have to cross back over the Potomac Bridge into Harpers Ferry to get to his ambush site on either the Halltown Road or the River Road.  Since there wasn’t another bridge that crossed the Potomac for fifteen miles, he would have to use the Harpers Ferry Bridge.

Two; the sniper must be very good at camouflage, because I couldn’t see hide nor hair of him with the binoculars. I was betting that he had our contingent in view at the Confederate outpost, but was smart enough to wait and see which of the two roads we decided to take before he crossed back over the Potomac.

I had just leaned forward to pat Stonewall on the neck when I saw a brief flash of light from a point on Maryland Heights. It was about a quarter of the way up the bluff and just off the beaten foot path that led to the crest. The flash had to be from sunlight reflecting off either binoculars or some sort of spyglasses.

Without taking my gaze off the point on Maryland Heights, I reached for the binoculars and fumbled them off the saddle horn. Bringing them up to my eyes I looked through the lens and after a few moments of intense scrutiny I saw a figure move in some underbrush. I couldn’t make out any distinct characteristics, but in jubilation I uttered, “Gotcha.”

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