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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Civil War Transcendence, part 379

 

Daphne finished her crying and silently started to finish packing. She included the hotel pillows that the ladies were going to use for the replicas of themselves they would create later in the day.

A gloomy mood was prevalent in the room. Daphne believed I was a dead man walking. Mrs. Douglas was exhausted due to all the excitement over the last three days. Hattie was fearful that I might be killed. She had saved my life once before, and she didn’t want her efforts to go for naught.

John Lee and I were antsy. We just wanted to get the show on the road.

When the ladies declared they were finished packing, John Lee and I went to the livery via the back door of the hotel and harnessed the team of four horses for the carriage. I saddled Stonewall, who also seemed eager to be on the trail again.

We brought the carriage and Stonewall to the front of the hotel.

Gingerly, John Lee, the desk clerk (who was thrilled we were leaving) and I transferred the ladies parcels, boxes, accessories and clothing from the third and second floors to the front porch of the hotel. I might add that the whole process was strictly managed by our three supervisors.

It took John Lee and me about an hour to pack, strap and tie down the abundant load that was to be transported to Shepherdstown.  During the time we labored under frequent orders from our monitors, who solemnly sat on the hotel porch in rocking chairs. During the complicated process, I happened to look across the road to the trees that lined the Potomac. Stonewall had lapsed into one of his meditative states and exemplified the epitome of rest and relaxation.

It got to me, so I yelled, “Stonewall, wake up.”

My faithful steed, who knew when I was messing with him, just snored and continued to enjoy his state of bliss.

Once the carriage was ready to go, I asked the ladies, “Please take your seats.”

Reluctantly, they abdicated their thrones of authority and, with our help, climbed into the carriage.  When they were seated, John Lee and I quickly entered the hotel lobby.

We retrieved our 19th century version of Kevlar vests from behind the registration desk. They had been surreptitiously delivered by a cavalry unit the night before. The bullet-proof devices were actually iron plates about twenty-four inches long by eighteen inches wide by one inch thick.  A hole had been bored on each side of our plates at the top through which a long leather strap had been looped and whose ends were knotted on the outside of the plate. It allowed John Lee and me to drape the straps over our necks and let the plate hang down over our chests. This, supposedly, would protect us from a sniper’s shot to the body. With the plates in place, we buttoned our coats and went out to the carriage.

John Lee mounted the carriage and occupied the driver’s seat while I wedged into the carriage next to Daphne. The interior and exterior of our 19th century version of a SUV was packed to the gills. In fact, our four-horse team had a bit of a strain to break the inertia to get us moving.

We had proceeded down the street a few hundred feet when John Lee turned and asked, “Where to?”

“Halltown Road by way of Bolivar Heights,” I replied.

Modern view of Harpers Ferry from Bolivar Heights

John Lee nodded his affirmation at my pick of routes to follow. At the end of the street, John Lee turned the horses to climb the hill toward Bolivar Heights. At that point, I turned around to see if Stonewall was following, and sure enough, he was to the right of the carriage and just behind me.

The seating arrangement was dictated by me before we left the hotel. Hattie and Mrs. Douglas were seated with their backs to John Lee, facing Daphne and me. I was seated on the right side of the carriage and facing forward, while Daphne was to my left and facing forward. Letting me sit on the right side allowed me to have my right hand free to draw my Colt at a moment’s notice.  Also, it allowed me to bring Stonewall alongside the moving vehicle and jump into his saddle, if need be.

During the trek up the steep incline, John Lee had to stop and let the horses rest twice. It was my job at these times to get the back wheels chocked so the carriage would be stationary and not pull backwards against the horses.

When we finally made it to the top of the heights, John Lee turned the carriage toward the Confederate outpost. Our horses were plum tuckered out and needed some time to regain their horse power after their climbing effort.

When John Lee halted the carriage in front of the outpost, the ladies were ushered into the outpost by the duty sergeant, seated and given cool water to drink.  John Lee and I unencumbered ourselves of the iron plates and laid them on the porch of the outpost. Almost immediately, I was enlisted by John Lee to help get the team unharnessed and watered. When the job was completed, the team was taken behind the outpost and put in the shade of the barn, I left John Lee to wipe down and curry comb the horses.

Entering the outpost from the rear of the outpost, I saw that the ladies had restructured their seating arrangement. They had moved their chairs very close together and were having an animated conversation.

I caught a few phrases that aroused my attention, such as, “…was it a ghost…I like tha name…how many do ya want.” The “Gang of Three” hadn’t heard me enter, but their happy babble, which was a far cry from their previous doom and gloom moods, was a delight to behold.

They must have sensed my presence as I stood transfixed at the entrance to the room, because they suddenly went silent and turned to look at me.  All three turned five shades of red and, gyrating back to face each other, began to giggle.

I gave a chuckle at the ancient female practice of covert planning that inundated all aspects of daily life and pulled out my pocket watch to view the time. It was 12:30 pm.  Walking toward the front door of the outpost, I stated, “I’m gonna take a quick ride while tha horses are resting.”

The ladies could have cared less. They immediately began a whispered conversation that entailed something about which only heaven knows.

I looked for Stonewall and saw him resting at the side of the outpost that was still in the shade. I whistled and he trotted to the front steps of the outpost.

Climbing into his saddle, I muttered, “Where can we get a good view of the area?”

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 378

Daphne took a step backward, put one hand on her heart and the other over her mouth, and cried, “What?!”

Her face had turned an ashen gray and she had trouble breathing. The other ladies had emitted equally shocked exclamations.

I looked at John Lee, and he had a scrutinizing look on his face and a raised eyebrow that indicated he knew I was trying to put one over on the ladies.

After a few seconds, I looked at the ladies and asked, “Do y’all know how to dress up dummies to look like people?”

It took a few moments for the question to sink in. Then they began to get the picture of what I had in mind.

Daphne was the first one to come out of her catatonic state. She doubled up her fist, stepped toward me and hit me in my left arm as hard as she could. Then she commanded, “Don’t cha ever do that again. Ya hear?”

I bellowed, “Liebchen, that hurt!”

“I meant for it to hurt! Don’t ever do that again, and I mean it,” she said in a low, callous voice.  “Now ya better apologize to my cousin and Hattie.”

I immediately turned to Mrs. Douglas and Hattie and said, “I’m sorry for the way I acted, and I apologize for tha stupid way I presented tha plan to ya.”

Daphne, who had put her hands on her hips when delivering her ultimatum, relaxed and in a normal voice asked, “What exactly are we to do?”

I motioned for the ladies to please sit on the bed. They obligingly trooped to the sturdy sleeping apparatus and sat down simultaneously, which made the rope slats groan like the bellow of a bull moose. John Lee moved until he was standing at the foot of the bed.

When my captive audience was comfy and attentive, I began, “I’m betting that the sniper is in town somewhere to see which way we leave town. I believe that he probably has an ambush site picked out on all three roads we might travel heading back to Shepherdstown. The only thing he needs to know is which road.”

I got some affirmative nods of the heads, including John Lee, so I continued, “I want y’all to dress in some brightly colored clothes, which can be taken off quickly and put on dummies. What I proposed to do is for us to get in tha carriage that we were going to take to Shepherdstown and at a place away from town, we will stop, and y’all will get out and exchange clothes with dummies. This will give tha appearance that yar still in tha carriage. Then tha carriage will drive on. Y’all will be picked up and brought back to tha hotel.”

The ladies looked at each other and passed vital information in their silent coded glances, which I have mentioned in the past is known only to the female gender. Finally, Daphne, who had been elected by acclamation as the spokesperson during the silent conversation, asked, “What about you and John Lee?”

“Well, we will have to stay with the carriage to alleviate any disbelief by the sniper that he’s being led into a trap,” I answered.

“Oh, no, no, no! I’m not losing ya after one week of marriage,” she declared loudly.

I had to shush her to keep her voice down. She toned down her voice, but repeated, “Ya ain’t getting away from our marriage that easy, Jim Hager.”

“I don’t believe being shot is an easy way to get out of marriage, Liebchen,” I declared. She bridled at my retort.

Then I added, “John Lee and I are gonna be wearing iron breastplates under our clothes.”

With that last bit of information, John Lee sort of let out a breath that he had been unconsciously holding. He gave me a nod of affirmation.

Daphne wasn’t to be cajoled into accepting my plan until all possible aspects were discussed. I was hoping that she would acquiesce without the one weak point in my plan being examined.

“What if he shoots ya in the head?” she blurted.

“I don’t have a way to prevent that,” I agreed.

Daphne immediately put her head in her hands and started crying.

I went to her immediately and, taking her by the shoulders, pulled her up and into my arms. I didn’t say a word. I just held her while she sobbed her heart out.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 377

 

After talking with Major Mosby, I rode leisurely back to the Harpers Ferry livery stable.  Entering the stable, I heard Stonewall give me a long trumpeted whinny of a welcome. I dismounted John Lee’s horse and gave him a pat on the neck for his help. I shrugged off John Lee’s coat and hat, and grabbing an empty pail, I went to the pump outside the livery and pumped up some water for John Lee’s horse and Stonewall.

Returning to the stable I let John Lee’s horse drink some, but not too much, of the spring water and gave the rest to Stonewall, who seemed to enjoy the elixir.

I had a meditation session with Stonewall in which I told him our plan and that he would be very important in the implementation of it.

Grabbing John Lee’s coat and hat, I wormed my way back to the rear door of the hotel and, upon entering, saw John Lee standing guard in the lobby with an eye on the stairs leading up to the guest rooms.

He nodded when I came from the hotel back door into the lobby. I handed him his clothes and took back my coat and hat, which he had been wearing. After we had exchanged coats and hats to the befuddlement of the desk clerk, I said, “Let’s go see tha ladies.”

John Lee nodded, and we hit the stairs to the third floor.  Once we were in front of Mrs. Douglas and Hattie’s room, I gently knocked on the door and said in a low voice, “Daphne, it’s me and John Lee.”

I heard a “praise tha Lord” from the inside of the room, and when the door opened, a raven haired bundle of energy rushed into my arms.

Daphne buried her face into my chest and said in a muffled voice, “I am so glad yore here.”

“Me too,” I returned.

Looking over Daphne’s head at Mrs. Douglas and Hattie, I revealed, “We have a plan that is being implemented as we speak.”

Daphne jerked backwards to look at me and released the chest crushing hug she had instituted on my body. For such a small girl, she is one strong hugger.

“What plan?” she demanded.

“Well, we have outriders from the cavalry camp dressed as local men on horseback distributing themselves along the Halltown Road and the River Road, plus the Sharpsburg Road across the Potomac from Sandy Hook northward for about two miles,” I explained. I further informed them, “They’re riding out separately and then getting behind cover so they can view tha roads for any snipers. That way, they can confront any suspicious person they encounter, plus be ready to close in on a sniper that takes a potshot at us.”

“That’s crazy, Jim. Yore just asking to be shot at,” Daphne declared, which got a lot of affirmative nods from the other ladies.

“Yep, I sure am. In fact tha men are not to keep tha sniper from firing on us, but to try and capture him after he has taken his shot,” I clarified.

I stopped iterating my plan to view the reactions to its revelation so far. The ladies were regarding me as some brainless idiot that had one too many smacks to the head, and John Lee had a concerned look on his face. Once I had witnessed their reactions, I started to grin, which then led to laughter.

“Daphne cocked her eye at me and demanded, “Okay, what’s so funny?”

“I just thought yar responses were humorous,” I answered.

“Jim, I don’t want to be used as bait with the possibility of being shot,” she declared, which brought a series of amen’s from the ladies and a nodded confirmation from John Lee.

“Well, Daphne, not only are ya possibility gonna get shot at. Yore gonna get killed,” I added with finality.

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 376

“Well, at least we know he’s out there. Apparently, the ones against us have graduated from face-to-face confrontations to shooting from ambush,” I uttered in a low voice to John Lee. Looking up at him, I said, “I’m so sorry to get ya into all this.”

He looked at me for a long time and then said, “I’s wich ya. I been wich ya since tha night at Ferry Hill when ya kilt those Yankees what was beating me and gave me that Colt pistol.”

We looked at each other for a long time, and there seemed to pass an understanding between us that we would always have each other’s back.

Finally, I just nodded and he nodded back. Then I said, “How in tarnation are we gonna get these ladies back to Shepherdstown without get ‘em killed?”

“It’s gotta be at nite,” John Lee concluded.

“I know,” I agreed. “But this killer is a really good shot. If’n we don’t get ‘im now, he’ll kill us any time he wants. He can shoot from afar with a great deal of accuracy,” I added.  After a minute I continued, “We got to get him out in tha open. We got to trick ‘im to make a move here, where we have some back up,” I insisted.

“How we gwanna do that?” John Lee said.

“I’m sorta getting an idea as to how to do it, but first I need to talk with Major Mosby,” I stated. “Could we exchange hats and coats and could ya let me ride yar horse to tha cavalry camp?” I gushed.

“Yeah,” he answered with a quizzical expression on his face.

“And if’n ya could hang around downstairs and not let anyone with a silver heart on his hat band go up tha stairs to tha third floor, I would appreciate it,” I requested.

“I will,” he vowed.

“Great,” I responded and began to take off my hat and coat.

John Lee followed suit, and after he dismounted and we exchanged wardrobes, I mounted his horse much to the chagrin of Stonewall, who whinnied loudly his disapproval.

I looked at him and vowed, “This is only for this one ride, I promise.”

This brought a disgusted snort from my animal spirit guide, but I could see he acquiesced for this one venture.

I rode John Lee’s mount out of the stable at a leisurely trot, and once I had reached the edge of town, I kicked the cayuse into high gear. John Lee’s mount wasn’t as easy to ride as Stonewall, but he could really stretch out when galloping.

We made it to the cavalry camp in no time, but the guard didn’t recognize me, due to my different clothing and hat. I was stopped and made to wait before Major Mosby personally came to the guard post and ordered the guards to allow me to enter the camp.

Once we were out of earshot of the guard post, I gave him the complete information about the sniper and that he had been sighted today.

He listened with interest and then asked, “What cha have in mind?”

After I laid out my plan, he took a few minutes to consider my strategy.

Then he said, “It might work. How many do ya need?”

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 375

 

John Lee and I retired to the back of the hotel, while the ladies climbed the stairs to Mrs. Douglas and Hattie’s room.

Once at the back door, I said, “We need to get out of here without being seen by this killer. He probably knows both of us by sight, so let’s split up and go to tha livery stable separately to get our horses. Since we may be getting there at different times, why don’t ya go to tha top of Bolivar Heights and look for tha best vantage points for a sniper to cover tha road to Halltown or tha River Road? I’ll go across to tha Maryland side and check out the road from Sandy Hook north to Sharpsburg.”

John Lee nodded, and we exited the back of the hotel to an alleyway behind the buildings fronting on Shenandoah Street. John Lee went left, which was south, and I went right, which was north.

I stayed in the alley and proceeded to where it ended north of the hotel and emptied into a street angling back to the west.  Although it was out of the way, I turned and followed this new street. Keeping close to any buildings and under any porches they provided, I quickly walked about two blocks before I turned and headed south toward the livery stable.

I frequently looking over my shoulder for anyone paying close attention to me, but no one seemed to pay me any mind.  I saw John Lee leave the livery as I approached. He waved, and I waved back as he headed out for Bolivar Heights.

Stonewall must have been expecting me. His head was sticking out the top part of his stall door, and he let loose with one of his famous whinnies when I entered the livery. He could sense my mood of urgency and possible danger, for he was quivering all over while I saddled him.

The alien said he was my animal spirit guide. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I know our relationship was unique. I also know that I consider him a friend.

Once I brought him out of the stall, I swung up into his saddle. I had to rein him in because he wanted to burst out of the building like a rocket.  Keeping a firm grip on the reins, I stroked his neck and said, “Gently, my friend. We don’t want people to take any notice of us. We are just gonna meander around and go for a ride to see if we can either sight tha sniper, who wants to kill us, or find tha shooting positions he could use.”

I swear Stonewall quit his high-spirited antics and became as docile as an old mule.

I grinned from ear to ear and said, “That’s it, boy. You got tha right mood.”

Stonewall snorted, and I nudged him to proceed. He began a slow walk out of the barn, and as we maneuvered toward the bridge across the Potomac, we appeared to be just your regular local citizen on his horse heading toward Maryland.

Continuing the laissez-faire attitude, I directed Stonewall to the entrance of the railroad and wagon bridge that crosses into Maryland. However, I stopped him short of the bridge entrance, took off my hat and wiped sweat off the inside of my hat band while looking up at Maryland Heights located on the other side of the Potomac. Continuing the visible recon, I scanned the precipice from its beginning, near the bank of the Potomac, north along the narrow road to Sharpsburg. I concluded that there were, at least, twenty five places that would accommodate a great vantage point for a sniper. However, I didn’t see anyone lurking on the face of the bluff.

Finally, I put on my hat, shook my head, turned Stonewall around, and headed back to the hotel. Taking Stonewall back to the livery stable, I unsaddled him and said, “I hope John Lee had more success than we did.”

He snorted his reply.

I waited for about 30 minutes and ran out of patience. I patted Stonewall on the neck and said, “I’ll be back to feed ya.”

Turning to the opening of the livery, I began walking to the entrance, when John Lee trotted into the building from the opening on the other end.

He trotted his cayuse up to me and said, “I catched a glimpse of a man sittin on a black horse at the nawth end of Bolivar Heights. He’s a-lookin’ down at Harpers Ferry, but he seemed as still as death. If his hawse hadn’t moved once or twice, I’d figured him for a statue.”

“Sounds like our man,” I concluded. “Did he see ya?” I queried.

John Lee thought for a moment and then said, “He didn’t act like he seen me, but he must have felt me looking at ‘im, ‘cause he gently nudged his horse and rode off toward tha River Road.

“I bet he saw me looking at Maryland Heights,” I determined.

 

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 374

I looked at Hattie, who had a grim expression on her face.

“Sound familiar?” I probed.

“Yeah,” she said.  As all the eyes at the table shifted to her, she added, “Must be tha rifleman what won tha shooting prize many years ago over in Maryland.”

“And probably tha sniper that killed Marshall Wells on German Street a few months ago,” I suggested.

“What does that mean?” Mrs. Douglas said in a breathless voice.

“It means that we could be shot from ambush anywhere on tha road and never know what hit us,” I explained.

Mrs. Douglas gasped. Daphne turned white. Hattie coldly nodded in agreement, while John Lee’s eyes glazed over. He seemed to be lost in thought.

“This nefarious stranger’s presence changes things,” I stated. Getting everyone’s attention, I continued, “We have to find a way to trick this assassin because I know that he will be waiting on us between Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown. His presence at our wedding reception indicates that he was checking out a few things.”

“What things?” Daphne asked.

“How many of us would be returning to Shepherdstown for one thing,” I discerned. “Also, how strong our family ties were, for another,” I added. “But the one thing he doesn’t know is by which road we will be traveling. He will have to be observing us when we leave this morning to get that information,” I insinuated.

“I understand what ya said except for family ties. What did ya mean by that?” Daphne inquired.

I turned to face her and answered, “Well, he found out there is some type of family division in tha Newcomer family. The full weight of the family power would not fall on anyone if you, Mrs. Douglas or I were killed.”

This seemed to shock Daphne. She looked stricken with worry and fear. Since she was sitting next to me, I took her hand in mine. She grabbed my hand in both of hers and gave me a terrified look.

I whispered, “Liebchen, don’t worry. I’ll get ‘im before he gets us.”

“But how?” she gasped.

Smiling brightly, I replied with more optimism than I really felt, “By thinking like he does and creating a plan to thwart any response on his part.”

This placated her somewhat. At least she got some color back into her features, and she didn’t look like she’d seen a ghost.

“I know one thing that I’m gonna do from now on,” I declared.

“What’s that?” Daphne queried.

“I’m gonna listen more intently to ya ladies when ya are having one of y’all’s discussions. It was just by chance that I picked up on yar very important information,” I vowed.

This brought a lighter mood to the gathering. No one laughed, but the cloud of dread seemed to lift a bit.

Looking at John Lee, I stated, “I guess we better do some reconnoitering.”

He nodded his agreement.

Turning to the ladies, I suggested, “Why don’t ya ladies retire to Mrs. Douglas and Hattie’s room and wait on us?”

They all looked at each other with a glance that transmitted a barrage of information that our gender could never decode and reached a telekinetic agreement, which prompted Daphne to say, “Okay.”

My eyes bore into Daphne’s, which made her focus solely on me. Once I had her full attention, I asked, “Do ya still have yar pistol, and are ya prepared to use it?”

She gaped at me in surprise for a moment and then began to understand what I was doing. I was bestowing on her the responsibility of protecting the ladies until I returned, and she would need to be alert and ready to mete out a deadly defense if need be. Slowly, she dug deep to resurrect that iron will of hers, and as she did, she sat up straighter and composed herself.

When the transformation was complete, she declared grimly, “Yes, I’m ready.”

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 373

 

The next morning, I heard a rap on the door to our room. I came instantly awake, and pulling a Colt from under my pillow, ventured, “John Lee?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” was the answer from the other side of the door.

“I’ll meet ya down stairs in a few minutes,” I said.

I heard John Lee’s footsteps as he made his way toward the second floor landing.

Daphne stirred and wearily asked, “It isn’t time to get up, is it?”

“Yep, it is,” I returned.

“But we just got to sleep,” she whined.

“Yep, we did,” I laughed.

She giggled and said, “Okay. I’ll get up.”

We both vacated the bed and got dressed for our journey to Shepherdstown. Going across the hall, we gingerly stepped on the window glass strewn over the floor while we accumulated our clothes and possessions. Pulling the top sheet off the bed, we dumped the glass refuse on the floor and utilized the bed to pack Daphne’s bags and boxes. Once we finished, we transferred the baggage to the room we had confiscated for the night, locked the door and went down stairs to find John Lee.

When we entered the lobby, we were flabbergasted that Mrs. Douglas and Hattie were already awake and in the lobby waiting on us with John Lee. We greeted the assembly of fellow travelers and discovered our group was the only hotel guests ready to eat breakfast.  The desk clerk told us the dining room would be open momentarily, but we would have to endure no front glass windows to shield us from the elements.  We nodded our acceptance of the consequences from the rogue tornado and stood in silence until Daphne boldly asked Mrs. Douglas, “What name did William say would be the name of our baby?”

I was so surprised by Daphne’s question that I had no time to stifle Mrs. Douglas’ reply of, “Jamie Lee.”

Hattie, John Lee and I stood with our mouths open in astonishment, while Daphne grinned from ear to ear and nodded her approval.

I gave Daphne a “there ain’t no way” look, but she just raised her eyebrows and, much to my alarm, smiled inscrutably.

At just that moment, the cook came toward us and asked, “Y’all want tha helpers’ table in tha back as usual?”

I nodded that we did.  She turned and marched toward the small room. We followed and evaluated the main dining room as we moved to the back of the building. The dining room had been cleaned of all the glass and furniture debris. However, there weren’t as many tables as normal and the front windows were missing, which allowed wind to send dust to mingle with any food stuffs on the tables.  I was grateful that we would be ensconced in a windowless room for breakfast.  Food tastes much better without a layer of grit.

Breakfast proceeded without any mishap. John Lee and I ate in silence while we were privy to stories about the guests who attended the wedding and reception. It never ceases to amaze me the conclusions that women reach from the minute nuances of individual tones of voice, facial expressions and body language.  I was amused by the whole pantheon of human frailties, vanities and dispositions that were provided for our edification.

All the amusement ended when Daphne described a man who came through the reception line with features like an eagle, holding a brown hat with a silver heart on the hat band.

I suddenly demanded, “When did he come through tha line?”

Daphne was surprised with my adamant question. “He came through when ya went in tha dining room to talk with Tom. Ya were gone for just a moment,” she explained.

“Did ya see him again?” I snapped.

“Not that I remember,” she answered in a fearful voice. “What’s wrong?” she asked as all eyes at the table became fixed on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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