Coming Soon

Coming Soon: Book 2 of the Assassins of History Series

Creators of Chaos

I slowly faded into consciousness, hearing someone moaning loudly.  It took a minute to realize that I was the one who was moaning.

I could hardly take a deep breath without the right side of my rib cage aching. It was akin to the pain of pleurisy, except it was more excruciating, if that were possible.

Gingerly, feeling the source of the ache in my chest with a right hand that felt like it weighed a ton, I noticed that some type of tape was securely wrapped around my torso.

Gradually, my eyes focused on the immediate surroundings. A dim light illuminated what seemed to be a room that suggested a hospital environment.  It wasn’t so much the appearance of the room, but the sterile medical facilities’ smell that formed the basis of this deduction.

I was lying on a flat platform about three feet high that resembled a funeral pyre. Looking down at my left arm, I realized my forearm was pierced with three needles that were distributing liquids intravenously from a machine located next to my place of repose.

As an afterthought it seemed faintly amusing that the liquids were colored red, white and blue.

Blinking profusely for more short-sighted vision, I viewed a phenomenon. My right forearm had a two inch vertical incision that was healing without any scar tissue before my very eyes. I recoiled at this medical miracle, which elicited pain from my chest cavity. However, this time the pain was quickly replaced with a sense of elation, and I embraced what must have been a drug induced stupor.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 398

Since we were already downstairs, I asked Mrs. Douglas, “Ma’am, is any breakfast food still available?”

She and Daphne gave me exasperated looks and then continued dabbing their eyes with her phantom handkerchiefs while they watched the brothers disappear from view.

Anna turned to me and whispered, “Thar’s food in the dining room still on tha table.”

I smiled and patted her on the back as I hastened to see what was left after the brothers had attacked the victuals.

Entering the dining room, the air was still alive with the aroma of freshly cooked bacon. I also observed two sunny-side eggs and four biscuits available. Quickly taking a seat at the head of the table, I began to combine all the remnants of the once morning feast onto the egg platter. At that moment, Anna appeared with a pot of coffee, filled one of the cups from an unused place setting to my left, and left the pot on a heating pad.

I smiled and said, “Anna, yar a life saver.”

She smiled broadly and said, “I’ll see if’n there’s some left-over bacon in tha kitchen,” and left the room.

I stood-up and, using a boarding-house reach, extracted the molasses jar and butter crock from the center of the table. Then I began the ancient southern process of whipping together two huge tablespoons of molasses with three huge tablespoons of butter until a light creamy concoction resulted.

Cutting two biscuits in half, I slathered the sugar laden creation on the biscuit halves. Picking up one of the dissected biscuits, I took a bite of what I consider the ambrosia of the Gods and savored the sweet taste as I slowly chewed the disintegrating essence to extinction.

Just after I had gobbled down the biscuits and was enjoying a sugar high, Daphne and Mrs. Douglas entered the room, still in conversation about how wonderful Tom and Jonah looked in their uniforms.  Each lady then performed a magic act by making their handkerchiefs disappear. It was phenomenal. One second the 19th century answers to Kleenex were in plain sight, and the next, they were gone. I actually did a doubletake when the mystical event occurred.

However, it wasn’t important enough for me to stop eating. I continued to gorge on the leftover eggs.

I stood up briefly when the ladies sat down at the table, still deep in conversation as to how proud they were of Daphne’s brothers. As if in a daze, they filled cups with coffee from the coffee pot that Anna had left and continued their fashionista description of every minute detail of the brothers’ uniforms.

They didn’t even acknowledge Anna when she brought me the leftover bacon from the kitchen. After a few brief minutes, I was sated with a wonderful breakfast and ready to meet the new day.

I stood and excused myself, which didn’t even register on the ladies’ conscious minds, and went upstairs where I performed my morning cleanup, which included shaving without one mishap.

Once dressed, I proceeded downstairs and found the ladies still in conversation.

I said good-bye to the ladies, who just waved and continued their friendly banter.

Exiting the mansion via the backdoor, I went to the stables and, upon entering, heard Stonewall began whinnying from his stall, which had been moved to the middle of the stables to give him more warmth.  I unfastened the top part of the door to his stall, and he immediately stuck his head through the opening. I went through the usual practice of massage that he had come to expect, and when that was completed, I got him saddled. All the while I was relating all that had occurred since we had last seen each other. He snorted at the appropriate times to indicate he understood.

I often wondered if he really knew what I was saying. The Aliens had indicated he and I had a special rapport, so maybe he did.

Anyway, we rode out of the stable, took the shortcut off the back portion of the Ferry Hill property, merged with the road down to the covered bridge across the Potomac, and after being passed by the Confederate guards, continued into Shepherdstown.

It was a good thing that we did because, once we were on German Street, we heard distant gun fire.

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 397

Our amiable conversation topics for the next hour included the War, our wedding, the family situations in Halltown and the Shepherdstown area, plus what each of us would be doing in the future.

Daphne’s brothers would be leaving early in the morning to visit Mr. and Mrs. Newcomer in Halltown, so they excused themselves about 9:00 pm and retired to their different bedrooms.

After they had left, I remarked to Mrs. Douglas and Daphne, “What a difference a few weeks make.”

They both nodded their agreement.

We picked up the rest of the china and crystal and took it to the kitchen, so the servants could finish up the cleaning.

Biding Mrs. Douglas a good night, Daphne and I went upstairs to our bedroom.  We were on opposite sides of the room and dressing for bed when Daphne asked me, “Jim, do ya want children?”

It was one of those questions that, back in Arkansas, we say “comes at you out of left field.”  I was flabbergasted.  I looked at her with a stupid slack-jawed expression on my face.

Recovering quickly and looking at her with an adoring smile, I said in typical 19th century male chauvinist style, “Daphne, “I want ya to be tha mother of my children.”

And then I added in 21st century jargon, “Ya are my wife, my lover and my best friend. I want to spend every possible waking moment in yar presence. So in answer to yar question, I definitely want children.”

Tearfully she said, “Jim, I love you so much, and I want to have yar children.”

Abruptly like some agile sprite, she flew across the room and into my arms. We kissed fervently as I picked her up and carried her to the bed.

The next morning, we heard a gentle knock on the bedroom door, and then Anna said, “Miss Daphne, yar brothers are ready to leave and wanna say good-bye to ya.”

I answered in a drowsy voice, “Thanks Anna. We’ll be right down.”

We both hurriedly dressed and hot-footed it down the stairs to find Tom, Jonah, Mrs. Douglas, Willie, Anna and the rest of the staff standing in the hallway waiting on us. The brothers were decked out in their cavalry uniforms and looked so outstanding that they could have been utilized as poster boys for recruiting. Too bad they didn’t have the availability of mass produced ‘larger than life’ posters in the 19th century.

We apologized for our appearances, because we knew we looked a fright with pillow tousled hair and fragmentary apparel, but the brothers didn’t seem to mind, even though Mrs. Douglas gave us a distressed expression.

Daphne hugged her brothers in turn and whispered a private message for each. Tom laughed when he heard his special communication, while Jonah flushed beet red after hearing his.

I shook hands with each of the young men and wished them luck and Godspeed.

Mrs. Douglas hugged the brothers with tears rolling down her cheeks and vowed to pray for them every day.

Willie shook his cousins’ hands and said he wish he could go with them.

Anna gave each of the brothers a small cloth sack of what smelled like muffins, hugged them and told them to watch out for those durn Yankees.

We followed the brothers out of the house onto the front porch and watched them mount their cayuses. Giving our gaggle a crisp salute, they turned and rode off toward Shepherdstown.

Mrs. Douglas, Daphne and Anna were dabbing their eyes with their phantom handkerchiefs as the brothers rode away.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 396

Needless to say, all our glasses were being held ready to take a sip of wine, but nobody had imbibed. All eyes were on Mrs. Douglas.

Daphne sputtered the question that was foremost in our minds, “Is this apparition to be trusted?”

Mrs. Douglas gave a chuckle and replied, “Oh yes. Remember that I told ya he started appearing in my dreams just before Jim arrived and each occurrence that he described about ya two has come true.”

I finally put my glass of wine back on the table, which was quickly mimicked by everyone but the servants, who unashamedly looked at me and smiled from ear to ear. I guess my psychic stature was raised another notch in their eyes. Ever since I had been the recipient of a miraculous cure from injury, I believe they thought of me as anointed of God. I tried to avoid all conversation in reference to my healing. It was embarrassing enough to catch them looking at me in adoration let alone hearing someone discussing how I was akin to Lazarus.

I interrupted any further conversation by informing everyone, “Mrs. Douglas has allowed us to rent a cottage in Shepherdstown, which we will be occupying in tha future.”

Tom and Jonah were no doubt looking for an excuse to partake of the delicious wine, so when I made my declaration, they jumped at the chance by raising their glasses and saying, “To Daphne and Jim.”

Everyone echoed them and took a sip of wine. Daphne beamed and I had to smile at the simple, but very gracious toast.

After the toast, the conversation lapsed back to Mrs. Douglas and her dear departed husband. I remembered that during the middle of the 19th century there was quite a Spiritualist furor that was afoot in the country.

I really didn’t want to get involved in any banter about the appearance of the apparition or what he communicated. However, Daphne trumped any further interference I might have been able to craft by stating, “Ya told me before that William had said we would name the little girl, Jamie Lee.”

“That’s right,” Mrs. Douglas said in a startled voice as she remembered the conversation.

Daphne questioned, “What was tha significance of tha name?”

Mrs. Douglas shrugged and admitted, “I don’t know.”

Daphne was frustrated by the answer and was frowning her dissatisfaction. I expected her to stomp her foot like a petulant child, but the mood passed and she relaxed. However, as an adjunct to her inquiry, she added, “Well, if I am going to have a baby, Jim and I will pick tha names we feel appropriate for our child.”

I was so proud of her declaration that I raised my glass to her. She did the same to me and we drank simultaneously. I was in complete agreement with her avowal and was proud of the stand she had espoused.

At that point the conversation finally shifted to another subject, the family.

Mrs. Douglas abruptly turned to look at Tom and Jonah and asked, “Are y’all gonna tell yar parents that ya stopped to see us before ya went home?”

Tom said, “I don’t see why not. They know I participated in Daphne and Jim’s wedding. Father didn’t say a word about it when I stayed with ‘em before I reported to my command, and he was amiable during my entire visit.”

Mrs. Douglas turned to look at Jonah and asked, “Have they seen ya since ya left and joined tha cavalry?”

Jonah turned a bright shade of red and answered, “No, they haven’t. I really don’t know what to expect when I get there.”

Daphne looked at her younger brothers and stated emphatically, “Don’t back down from what ya believe in, no matter what tha consequences!”

Tom returned, “I plan to.”

Jonah nodded in agreement.

I looked at the young men and saw how my lovely wife was beaming in response to their assertions. I wondered what Mr. Newcomer thought about his children. I don’t believe anything had turned out as he had planned.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 395

I looked at Daphne’s two brothers and confessed, “I was on tha Frederick City raid.”

They both looked at me expectantly, and I could see they wanted more information. So, I broke down and added, “We ended up having to put tha
quietus on some Yanks that had followed our units after tha raid, and I got whacked on tha head by a saber during tha ensuing fight. Yar sister took me to yar Uncle Jamison’s house in Martinsburg and nursed me back to health.”

Jonah was the first to ask, “What’s a quay-ay-tus?”

I turned a brighter shade of red, if that was possible, and explained, “It’s a term we use in my old neck of tha woods that means, we put a whipping on ‘em.”

Tom and Jonah nodded that they understood my explanation.

Tom gave me a raised eyebrow look, which meant he wanted more detail of what happened on the raid and the particulars of what happened to me.

I couldn’t think of anything else to say that was unclassified, which caused me to shrug and feign, “Well, that’s about all that happened.”

I glance at Daphne, who still had her fan covering her face from her nose to her chin, but whose eyes were looking at the ceiling with an exaggerated wide-eyed gaze that said, “Boy, that was a big fat lie.”

She sensed my scrutiny and, turning to me, gave me an innocent “What have I done wrong” look.

I gave her a narrow beady-eyed stare, which elicited batted eye-lashes and a bright Southern Belle smile in response.

She had me over a barrel and knew it.

I gave her a “please go along with me” look, which produced an “Okay, if I have to” petulant expression.

All our non-verbal communication took place in a matter of seconds, which Tom observed. However, being a faithful brother-in-law, he didn’t press me for more facts, but said, “Well, we’re certainly glad ya have recovered.”

I smiled broadly and let out a sigh of relief.

At that moment, Anna came to the door of the parlor and announced, “Dinner is served.”

The two Newcomer boys didn’t have to be told twice. They stood up immediately and waited for me to escort Daphne toward the dining room. It had been a long time since they had eaten at their Aunt Mary’s house, but apparently they remember it as being a real treat.

Our company waltzed into the dining room to the aromas that wafted from various covered bowls on a credenza and some open platters on the main table.

We were directed to our chairs by our hostess. I held Daphne’s chair for her to be seated, and Jonah did the same for his Aunt Mary. Once we were all seated, we joined hands, which included Anna and the servant ladies, and Tom gave the blessing. We all voiced, “Amen,” at the conclusion of the prayer and lit into the feast before us.

It was a very happy reunion of the family. I got to hear stories of Daphne when she was a little girl and her first dance, of Tom when he had his first fight with a town boy and got a black eye, and of Jonah’s first pony ride, which ended with a sore rump when he fell off. We all laughed heartily as each episode was replayed to everyone’s delight. In retrospect, I don’t believe I had ever enjoyed a more wonderful time.

When we had completed the meal, a very small glass was place in front of all the family members at the table and given to all the servants.  Anna did the honors of decanting wine in each person’s glass.  When all the glasses were filled, Mrs. Douglas raised her glass and toasted, “To Daphne and Jim and their new baby.”

She received a shocked look from all those present.

Mrs. Douglas took a small sip of wine and, smiling at our stunned expressions, announced, “I forgot to tell y’all, but I had a visitation from my long departed husband, William, last night and he said y’all will definitely have a baby born this year.”

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 394

Mrs. Douglas sought to recapture the merriment by asking, “Please stay for dinner. We have so much to catch up on.”

Jonah looked at Tom, who nodded his acceptance of the invitation.

Mrs. Douglas smiled and left the room to get the preparations started for dinner.

Tom looked lovingly at his sister and said, “Ya look all aglow. Married life must agree with ya.”

Daphne blushed and, looking at me, admitted, “Yes, it’s wonderful.”

I grinned from ear to ear and gave Daphne a look that bespoke my love and adoration for her.

Both Tom and Jonah chuckled at the reaction that Tom’s observance had caused.

Daphne and I joined in with laughter of our own.

I looked at Willie, who was situated in one of the parlor chairs. He was already asleep. The adult conversations must have lulled him to la-la-land.

Then Tom, in a serious vein, commented, “Jim, ya must have been in some crucial military operations to have been promoted to tha rank of Captain already.”

Jonah took up the probe by inquiring, “How did ya do it?”

Daphne started to answer, but I gave her a narrow-eyed squint, which stopped further information on any of my past military missions.

Tom caught the exchange between Daphne and me, and I could see that it had aroused his curiosity.

I turned to Jonah and said, “A lot of us in this part of Virginia were in on tha Frederick City raid. I have to admit it was a success, and we all reaped rewards.”

I hoped this would allay any further questions as to my military past, but I could see that Tom’s reaction to my explanation didn’t alleviate his curiosity as to my attaining the rank of captain so rapidly.

However, due to Southern gentlemanly manners, no in-depth interrogation ensued, but Tom was not satisfied with my answer and, no doubt, he would be trying to find out more information about me.

We relaxed into an awkward silence that was shattered when Willie, who had apparently woken up, heard Jonah’s question and my answer, piped up, “Cousin Jim, what about tha two raids ya helped put down and tha Yanks ya shot?”

I was flabbergasted and at a loss for words.  My face turned a bright red, and Daphne had to hide her face behind her fan to keep from laughing out loud.

After looking furtively at the room’s occupants, I gained a small semblance of speech control and sputtered feebly, “Ah, well, Willie, that’s a different story.”

I was now the center of attention.  Tom looked at me for further information. Jonah had a shocked look on his face in reaction to my supposed past escapades. Daphne was still trying not to laugh at my discomposure. Willie had crossed his arms and possessed the proud and pompous look of a juvenile, who thought he had answered an adult’s question, but had in reality opened a huge can of worms instead.

Tom was the first to break the ice by asking, “Jim, when did all this take place?”

I sighed and admitted, “Shortly after I came back from tha dinner I attended at yar family’s manor.”

Jonah then remarked, “So all tha rumors we heard about yar shootouts with tha Gills and with Marshal Gill and his deputies was really true.”

I nodded.

Tom continued, “When I got back to Harpers Ferry on my first leave and was able to participate in y’all’s wedding, I heard that Daphne had taken ya to Martinsburg to recuperate from some sort of wound. Was that wound incurred during tha Frederick City raid?”

I looked at Willie and said, “Young man ya may leave tha room and go find yar mother.”

Willie put on a pouting face and said, “Oh Cousin Jim, do I gotta?”

“Must I,” I corrected.

“Must I?” he repeated.

“Yes, now, move it,” I commanded.

Willie scurried off the sofa and trooped out the parlor door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 393

After dispensing the information about the spy ring to John Lee, I headed for the mansion’s back door which housed the kitchen area. Upon entering, I was met with a swarm of activity. I could see that Anna was in command and had her brood performing various tasks, from cooking to polishing silver to washing dishes.

She caught my eye and nodded. I took off my hat, gave her a small bow, which produced a smile, and quickly vacated the kitchen area for the hallway. I began to wonder what had transpired to engender such herculean efforts by the Ferry Hill staff. Familiar laughter emerged from the left parlor and my question was answered immediately. Tom Newcomer, Daphne’s older brother, had come visiting. I was hoping Jonah Newcomer, her younger brother, had accompanied him.

Hurrying down the hall, I entered the parlor to find Daphne, Mrs. Douglas, Willie Douglas, Tom Newcomer and Jonah Newcomer seated in an improvised circle of chairs, love-seats and a small sofa.

Tom and Jonah stood when I came into the room. We all shook hands and hugged each other like long lost brothers. When the greetings were done, we all sat down again and I had a chance to analyze my two brothers-in-law.

What a difference a few months can make. The last time that I saw Tom was at the wedding. He was my best man and had worn a private’s uniform with the familiar yellow piping of the cavalry. Now, he donned a First Sergeant’s uniform and possessed the mature bearing of a veteran soldier. Physically he had developed broader shoulders and a slimmer waist.  No doubt he was considered a very handsome man by the gentle sex.

I stole a quick glance at Daphne and could see she was proud of her brother and the fine young man he had become.

Jonah had also undergone some serious change. He no longer was the tall awkward boy I had remembered. He must have grown another two inches, and his body had transitioned from a boy to a man. His shoulders weren’t as broad as his older brother, but he had the build of a young man of sinew strength.  He happened to be wearing the uniform of a cavalry private.

Daphne brought me up to date by saying, “Tom and Jonah are with General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry division located in north Georgia. They’ve been on some daring missions and have been sharing some of their experiences. They’re home on leave and wanted to come by to see us before they went to Halltown.”

I nodded and said to the two men, “It is really great to see y’all again. Please continue telling us about what has occurred in yar part of the world.”

Tom said, “Well, we’ve been assigned to the 6th Virginia Cavalry and have been playing cat and mouse with tha Union cavalry for tha last two months. Jonah joined about a month ago and I was able to get him assigned to tha Sixth.”

Turning to Jonah, I reluctantly said, “I don’t want to be a nosy in-law, but I have to ask how ya got permission to join up from yar mother.”

Jonah smiled and said, “I use a bit of subterfuge.”

I gave him a questioning look.

He chuckled and revealed, “I stole away from tha house during the night, saddled my horse and rode through Harpers Ferry to tha bridge over the Potomac. I then traveled along the Potomac on the Maryland side of the river until I got to Point of Rocks ford. I crossed tha Potomac there and made my way south to Leesburg. I wasn’t known there and believed I could join up without any questions asked.”

I asked, “How did tha subterfuge come into play?”

He smiled and continued, “I had two pieces of paper that I had written tha number sixteen on. I put one in each of my shoes and, when I was asked by tha recruiter if I was over sixteen, I answered truthfully that I was definitely over sixteen.”

We all got a kick out of the explanation of his recruitment and laughed heartily.

Daphne turned a serious face to Jonah and asked, “What did mama say?”

“Well,” Jonah answered, “there wasn’t much she could do. I was accepted into tha cavalry and that was a done deal. I don’t believe that mama or father knew of my intent to join until I was gone. Father sent Ahab to track me down. It took him a few weeks to find me. I saw Ahab outside our picket line one day looking at me. However, I was already in uniform, and Tom had gotten me assigned to our captain as a courier. So there wasn’t anything he could do. Ahab disappeared and I haven’t heard from anyone back home since I left.”

The family situation brought a sobering effect to the once joyful reunion.

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 392

I got to thinking that it would be dangerous if we moved to town. The local Union spy ring could try to have me killed, and Daphne might be injured as collateral damage. However, I couldn’t think of a way to delay moving to our rented cottage without telling her the reason. No doubt her treatment of Throckmorton would be different if I told her of his duplicity, and that would alert Throckmorton. So, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I got to thinking that I had to put some kind of kink in the Union spy ring that would provide great difficulties for them while enhancing our cause. The only way was to find out who the person that Throckmorton had met behind the old schoolhouse and get him arrested. Hopefully, that man was the go-between with all the local raiders and killers that the spy ring utilized for their terroristic activities. In addition, if that person was the liaison with the Union forces in western Maryland, his removal might really impede any Union activity on the near future.

I began to think of a way to flush out this nemesis. For some reason, I decided that Al would be the man to help in this project.

I arrived at the Potomac Bridge and provided the correct password to cross over to the Maryland Shore. Proceeding up the steep hill toward Ferry Hill, I stopped and looked a few hundred yards to the east and observed the Confederate battle line. The soldiers were changing the watch in the barricade that had been constructed on the main road to Sharpsburg. The main Confederate camp was located on the Maryland shoreline, just east of the C & O Canal path and near the Potomac Bridge. Soldiers waved at me as they began their trek to the main camp.

I doffed my hat and rode on to Ferry Hill. I continued through the main yard of the mansion and went to the stables. John Lee looked up from working on a harness and smiled.

In a leisurely manner, I dismounted, unstrapped Stonewall’s saddle and hefted it off his back. Once shed of this encumbrance, he automatically walked to his stall and began to drink water and crunch on some oats that John Lee had set out for him in the stall.

I placed Stonewall’s saddle on a saddle rack outside his stall and walked back to where John Lee was working and stated, “We got some more trouble headed our way.”

He jerked his head up from his labor and retorted, “How so?”

“There’s a spy ring in Shepherdstown that I happened to find out about by accident. They want to get rid of me, which isn’t anything new, but I don’t want Daphne to possibly be hurt as an innocent bystander,” I explained. “I’m gonna try to delay us moving into town until I can get a plan together to either get rid of the spy ring or hurt it so bad that they can’t function for a while.”

I turned and looked at the back of the mansion. No one seemed to be paying attention to us, so I moved to where I shielded John Lee from anyone in Ferry Hill that might be looking at us. Then in a low voice I said, “From now on when ya go into town, I want ya to be on tha lookout for anyone that always seems to be sitting or standing in tha same place and observing ya and tha town traffic.”

He nodded his head that he understood.

I continued, “Ferry Hill is situated too close to tha Confederate lines. If’n tha Yanks decide to hit us, they’re gonna use cannon, and Ferry Hill could be hit. Ya need to set up a way to get tha people off this hill and across tha bridge quickly. I ‘spect Ezra could help with any emergency plan ya come up with.”

Taking my two favorite Colts from my belt and two loaded cylinders from my vest, I handed them to him and promised, “I’m gonna get y’all more Colts and a few carbines. Have ya ever fired a carbine?”

He shook his head that he hadn’t.

“Well, as soon as Al gets back, I’ll get him to show ya how. Also, do ya think Anna and any of her brood could fire a pistol without hurting themselves?” I asked.

John Lee chuckled and said in a low voice, “Anna could, but I don’t believe any of her brood could.”

“Well, ya need to determine who ya want to be a part of yar defense force, and I’ll get Al to help ya with training ‘em. Some don’t need too much training, such as yarself and Ezra. However, I think knowing how to load and shoot a carbine would be a good thing to know,” I explained.

John Lee nodded his head in agreement and then inquired, “When do ya think all this fighting is gonna take place?”

I shrugged and stated, “Maybe in tha next three weeks.”

His eyes opened wide and he gave a gasp.

I just nodded in affirmation of his shock.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 391

 

 Both of my friends gave a shocked look as my last utterance.  I grinned at their astonished expressions. Then something hit me out of the blue. How come they were so chummy? As far as I knew, they hadn’t known each other before.

So, I asked, “Did y’all know each other?”

The two conspirators looked at each other in surprise. Quickly, Hattie turned to look at me and revealed, “I ain’t never laid eyes on ‘im til he waltzed in here about an hour ago and asked if’n ya was here. When I told him no, ya wasn’t, he asked for a cup of coffee. We been collaborating ever since.”

Al turned to look at me and grinned from ear to ear. I was at a loss to explain their sudden rapport, because usually it took a while for Hattie to warm to anybody. I finally shrugged and said, “Well, anyway, I know who our spy is.”

With their attention brought back to my critical information, I continued, “I don’t trust anyone but you two, Daphne, Mrs. Douglas and John Lee in this area.”

At once another set of trustworthy personages came to mind, so I added, “And the Sages.”

Continuing, I directed, “Al, I want ya to saddle up, ride to Major Mosby’s camp in Harpers Ferry and tell him that tha spy is Elias Throckmorton.”

Hattie let out a gasp.  I disregarded her outburst and added, “Leave immediately and don’t stop for any reason.”

Turning to Hattie, I declared, “If anything happens to me or Al in tha next twenty-four hours, can ya contact Daphne and have her get with John Lee to deliver my message about Elias Throckmorton to Mosby?”

“Sure nuff,” she answered with grit.

I happened to glance at Al, who was observing Hattie. Al’s face revealed a certain emotion with which I was familiar. He was definitely smitten with Hattie Gray. I just smiled with this turn of events.

Al must have sensed my scrutinizing him because he looked at me, and seeing my knowing gaze, blushed from head to foot.

Hattie began to look back and forth between Al and me. Finally, she demanded, “What’s going on between ya two?”

“Nothing,” I lied. Then, getting a serious look on my face, I asked, “Can ya do what I asked?”

She puffed up and remarked, “Of course.”

I smiled and said, “I need to get back to Ferry Hill.”

Turning to Al, I directed, “When ya get back, come to Ferry Hill immediately. Don’t dally before ya check in with me.”

Al nodded and grinned. He understood that his wooing of Hattie would have to take place after my debriefing.  Turning to Hattie, Al gave her a look that caused her to blush and added, “I’ll see ya later.”

With that promise of further association, he left the cabin. I heard him mount up and ride away.

I looked at Hattie and declared, “He’s a good man.”

She blushed, slapped my arm and commanded, “Go on. Get outta here.”

I walked out of Hattie’s Place, mounted Stonewall and rode back into town.  When I arrived on German Street, I happened to see Mr. Throckmorton just about to enter the bank. I waved a greeting and he waved back. Instead of entering the bank, he came toward me with a big smile on his face and extended his hand in greeting. I bent down from the saddle and shook his hand.

“Congratulations Jim. I understand that you and Daphne Newcomer were married in Harpers Ferry,” he said.

“That’s right,” I responded. “It was a spur of the moment event.”

“That’s what I heard,” he rejoined.

“I appreciate yar giving Mrs. Douglas and Hattie Gray the use of yar carriage to get to tha wedding, plus getting tha word to Caleb, Joshua and Mrs. Throckmorton so they could attend,” I lauded.

He smiled and said, “It was tha least I could do for all tha help ya have given to Shepherdstown.

“I was wondering how ya found out about tha wedding so soon after Daphne and I decided to get married? It sure was short notice,” I inquired.

He thought for a moment and then said, “Oh yes! It was Mr. Black, who brought me tha information. I supposed it was from a telegram he’d received. I wasted no time in getting things started so everyone could get there for tha wedding,” he explained in a calm voice.

I said, “Well, we really appreciated yar kindness in augmenting the travel for Mrs. Douglas and Hattie Gray, plus getting word to the Throckmortons.”

He responded with his alligator smile. We doffed hats to each other and I rode toward the covered bridge.

On the way I thought, “Ya are one slippery character. Mr. Black is no longer alive to refute yar explanation. I’m gonna have to be on guard for another attempt on the life of my loved ones.”

I sighed and set my mind to thinking of defensive moves.

 

 

 

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 390

Once the conspirator was out of sight, I walked to the telegraph office. Peeking in the dingy front window, I observed that the office was still a wreck. It seemed like a million years ago that Lt. Pelham and I discovered Mr. Black’s body, the missing telegraph machine and the trashed office. After a few seconds of observation, I turned and walked toward the Potomac Bridge and Ferry Hill.

It took me a while to make the trek through the Confederate pickets to Ferry Hill, but once I got there, I went immediately to the stables. I felt bad because I realized this was the first time I had even thought about Stonewall since our return to Ferry Hill. As I entered the stables, I heard a very incessant whinnying from about midway of the stalls on the right side of the horse barn. I quickly walked to where the hullabaloo was occurring and opened the top part of the stall door.

Stonewall quit neighing and immediately stuck his head out of the opening and nudged me with his nose.

“I’m sorry old friend,” I apologized. “I won’t forget ya again.”

He really must have missed me because he didn’t even snort at my apology, but put his head against my chest, which was his way of requesting a meditative massage. I obliged by a gentle rubbing of his jaw, head and nose area for a long time to make up for my indigent treatment of my pal. He seemed to go deeper than usual into the mental fog of relaxation, if that is possible for an animal. Stonewall was, no doubt, the best horse that I had ever ridden. I didn’t consider him a typical equestrian animal. We had a sort of rapport that was hard to describe. I had never bonded with an animal before, so it was both an enlightening and an eerie experience.

Once I had provided Stonewall with his needed relaxation technique, I gently moved back into the hallway of the stables and looked around for my saddle. I spied it positioned over a saddle holder toward the back of the stable. I retrieved it, and as I came back to Stonewall’s stall, he droopily opened his eyes to see what I had brought. He snorted his distain, but didn’t hinder my saddling him up for a ride.

Without going to the house, I mounted and walked Stonewall to the back of the stable. John Lee was just coming around the edge of the barn and saw me. He smiled and walked toward us.

“Thanks for taking care of Stonewall,” I said.

He just nodded and asked, “Going for a ride?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “Have ya seen Al Madigan around here?”

“He told me to tell ya he’s gone down to town to check out tha area. He’s gonna go to Boteler Ford from tha Virginny side too,” he explained.

“Was he in his uniform?” I asked.

“Naw. He’s in plain clothes,” John Lee answered.

“How many pistols ya got now?” I questioned.

“I gots two and some loaded cylinders,” he answered.

“Well, keep ‘em handy. I ‘spect we’re in for some more trouble pretty soon.”

John Lee looked at me for a long minute and then asked, “What tis it ‘bout ya that always draws trouble?”

I grinned and quipped, “Just lucky I guess.”

He didn’t seem to think that was funny. So I just waived and rode off.  I took the back way down to where it merges with the road from Sharpsburg. I didn’t have any problems crossing the bridge, but when I got to the Shepherdstown side I asked the corporal in charge if he remembered Al and, if so, when did he go into town.  The corporal thought for a moment and then told me Al had gone into town about an hour ago. I thanked him and rode toward German Street.

I rode up German Street and then down Old Queen Alley looking for a glimpse of Al, but to no avail. Finally, I headed for Boteler Ford and Hattie’s Place. When we cleared the town I nudged Stonewall, and we loped the trail until we came to the Potomac River Road. Stonewall didn’t need to be told where to go, but headed straight for Hattie’s Place.

When we rode into the yard, I could see Al’s horse tied up to a fence next to the barn. I dismounted, and letting Stonewall go free, mounted the steps to the house. As soon as I was in the house, I heard a call from the dining room to come in. Entering the room, I was hit by all the wonderful smells that were coming from the pots that Hattie had cooking for supper. Hattie and Al were sitting at the dining table and looked like two thieves caught planning a robbery.

“Come in and sit down. Coffee’s on the hearth, if’n ya want some,” Hattie offered.

“Don’t mind if I do,” I responded. Once I found a tin cup and filled it with coffee, I joined them at the dining table.

“Well, what are ya two up to now?” I enquired. “Ya look like yar cooking up a plot to overturn tha government,” I added.

They both laughed nervously, but didn’t respond to my half-hearted accusation .

“Well, if’n y’all aren’t gonna come clean, I got a little piece of information that I need to share. I know who tha spy is in tha town that’s been causing all tha trouble,” I divulged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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