Civil War Transcendence, part 276

 

I wasn’t ready for her appearance and it shocked me. I jerked back on Stonewall’s reins, which I know he didn’t appreciate one bit. (No pun intended) My faithful steed stopped in his tracks and whinnied his disdain for my barbaric tactics.  I didn’t have time to say I’m sorry.

She moved so quickly that one second, she was ten yards from me and the next, she was standing to the right side of me with her hands on my brogans and looking up at me with her mesmerizing gaze.

276 elven queen

“Why have you persisted in putting yourself in danger? You had many chances to extricate yourself from this senseless conflict.”

I was stung by her question and statement. My anger surged to the forefront. I bent over until my face was about two inches above her lovely forehead and hissed through gritted teeth, “Your so-called civilization put me here against my will. I made do with what I knew beforehand, and I evolved with the situations that were presented. Don’t give me any self-righteous alien clap-trap!”

My vehemence surprised her. She actually took a step backwards and looked at me with a hurt expression.  I straightened in my saddle. Stonewall turned and looked at San Cirr Ray and whinnied as if to add, “See what you made him do to me?”

My color was still up, as we say in the South, so I added in a quiet but firm voice, “Now, I would appreciate it if you would get out of here, keep out of the coming battle, and let nature take its course.”

She let her hands drop to her side with a sense of hopelessness and looked dejectedly at the ground. Her hood had fallen to her shoulders, when she moved close to me, revealing her beautiful elven features. I have to admit that at one time I was drawn to her splendor.  But, no more.  For the first time in many months, I was angry with my predicament. I was being used as a pawn in the aliens’ game. I didn’t know their rules or their goals and, since this female had been assigned to my dilemma, I had been treated as her private boy toy.

I was fed up. I just wanted her and her whole species to leave me alone.

Nudging Stonewall with my knees, I looked straight ahead and rode toward South Mountain with a determination that, if I lived through this campaign, I would make the aliens pay for Shanghai-ing me.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 275

 

Finally, I was able to stutter in a loud voice, “Do ya mean, if’n you go down, I’ll be in command?”

Mosby whispered, “Hush Lieutenant. Yes, that is exactly what I mean.”

As I shook my head from side to side, I looked him in the eye and hissed, “Tha Captains won’t follow me. I’m a Lieutenant.”

Mosby grinned and muttered, “Jim, ya been in more gunfights, wounded in more shootouts and participated in more cavalry charges than all these so-called Captains put together.  Once tha fighting starts, I betcha tha lot of ‘em goes to pieces. They’re gonna follow tha first man that shows he knows what he’s doin’. It ain’t a-gonna matter if he’s a General or a private.”

“Then why are you lettin’ ‘em command your companies?” I retorted.

“Cause they gotta learn some time,” he rejoined.

I looked at him for a long moment and then said, “Then don’t let yah’self go and git killed.”

He just grinned from ear to ear.  Then he pointed toward the western face of South Mountain and intoned, “I’m a-gonna put Greenley’s and Owens’ companies in tha trees at the base of the mountain. They’ll have a long ride to attack the Yank’s flank, but I ‘spect if’n we don’t put ‘em therah, the Yank cavalry flanking guard might discover ‘em. Heck, they probably will anyway, but hopefully it’ll give our other companies the element of surprise.”

I looked from the mountain back at Mosby and muttered, “You don’t think this is gonna work, do ya?”

Mosby turned and looked at me and said, “This is tha best plan for inflicting casualties on tha Yanks and getting over tha mountain to meet up with General Ashby. I like tha initial plan. I just wish we had more cover here. And since I’m wishing for the moon, I wish that Gapland was located about 10 miles away from here. That town’s gonna be tha thorn in our side.”

We stood around in silence for a few more moments. Then Mosby said, “Better go and get ready. As soon as ya get back, I’m a-gonna send you to get tha two companies up and dispersed in tha trees.”

I saluted and left without waiting for his return salute.  I felt nauseous. As soon as I got back to Stonewall’s lair, I grabbed my canteen and took a big swig of water to settle my stomach.  My fearful manner must have created reverberations in the atmosphere because Stonewall came out of his reverie, turned his head and fixed his gaze on me.

I nodded at him and just said, “Yes, it’s that bad.”

He snored as I picked up his saddle and began the cinching process. Once completed, I said, “Come on,” and began walking back to the Major. Stonewall fell in behind me as we moseyed toward what I perceived as a great reckoning with the “powers that be.”

275 foggy mtn

I looked up and saw fog starting to form on the mountain. I could feel it’s fingers of frosty air as it floated down the mountain. I grinned and thought, “Well, this ethereal curtain will protect us from discovery for a while.” In appreciation I doffed my hat toward the mountain.

Suddenly, she appeared out of the gloom. I recognized that greenish blue tint immediately.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 274

 

274 moon

I returned to consciousness by someone roughly shaking me. I opened my eyes but couldn’t focus on the face of my assailant. It was still dark.  I heard a voice whisper, “Lieutenant, Major Mosby wants ya.”

I gathered my strength and unwrapped from the blanket in which I had mummified myself.

I looked at Stonewall. He just stared at me with that “better you than me” look. Then he closed his eyes and went back to his deep meditation.

I got up and followed the cavalryman to where Mosby was standing. His arms were crossed over his torso and he was staring at the moon, which had risen high in the cloudless sky.  I expected him to begin baying any moment. The thought amused me, and I couldn’t stop a quick chuckle under my breath.  This brought a quick gaze from the cavalryman. I kept walking and didn’t elaborate.

When we got to Mosby, the cavalryman saluted and left. Mosby returned his salute, turned toward me and murmured, “I been thinkin’ ‘bout what would happen if tha Yanks don’t buy tha surgeon’s story.  The only thing I can see to do is to hit ‘em at their front. And then, take Captain Owens’ and Captain Greenley’s companies and hit ‘em in their left flank at the place where their artillery is located. Whatcha think?”

I looked at the ground, mulled it over for a moment, looked up at him and responded, “As long as we did it fast, we might have a chance of taking their artillery.”

Mosby looked up at Crampton’s Gap and admitted, “Yeah, that’s tha key. Well, let’s hope tha surgeon can sell ‘em a bill of goods. I’m gonna have Owens and Greenley ready, just in case we have to fight different from what we’ve planned.”

Suddenly he looked me straight in the eye and said in a low guttural voice, “I want cha with me at all times during this fight. If I go down, I’m trusting ya to take over and get tha job done. I’ve already told my couriers to take orders from you if anything happens to me.”

I looked at Mosby as if he had grown another two heads. I had been enjoying having a no stress mission for a change, but Mosby’s words hit me right in the chest. It was hard for me to breathe, and I immediately got a splitting headache.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 273

I don’t know how Stonewall and I became connected, but some way in this universe we are locked in some kind of close rapport.  I know that in my Universe, animals and humans have gotten in close relationships, but I don’t think it is anything like what I am experiencing with Stonewall.

Needless to say he can almost understand what I am saying to him, but the real kicker is he can decipher what I want him to do.  I don’t mean the latter statement as a pun. You will know what I mean when I describe what happened next.

When Stonewall turned to see Hawks, his head turned to the left and all his weight shifted to his left side.  I was walking on Stonewall’s right side, when we were accosted, and when I slapped his right hindquarters, his right rear leg shot out like a 105 howitzer shell.

273 - hoof

Hawks made the mistake of approaching too close behind us, because Stonewall’s projectile caught Hawks square in the chest.  I heard a crack, then Hawks was launched backwards about seven feet to land on his back with his arms and legs splayed like a dead cockroach.

I approached him and looked down at the surprised expression on his face and his eyes, which were permanently fixed on the heavenly firmament.  When I reached down to get his pistol, I saw that his chest had a large indentation. The crack I hear must have been when his sternum caved in and pierced his heart.

I turned to look at Stonewall.  He still had his head turned to the left and was viewing my investigation of the body. Other than bringing his right hind leg back to where the right hind hoof was jauntily put next to the left hind hoof, he hadn’t moved.  He seemed to have a noncommittal expression on his face, as if this was an everyday event.

I said, “Thanks Pard.”

He just snored.

We quietly walked back to the main camp just in time to see Mosby again in a tight circle with the Battalion Surgeon and our “sacrificial lamb”…I mean, the surgeon’s assistant.  Low intense voices were discussing some important factor of the upcoming ambush. As I joined the roundtable discussion, Mosby turned to me.

I gingerly pointed to the north and asked, “Do we have pickets north of tha pond up yondah?”

Mosby nodded in the affirmative, “Well, we just had a spy sneak past ‘em and accost Stonewall and me at tha pond.”

The three conversing members of the cabal suddenly jerked their heads to the north.

“It’s okay,” I added. “Stonewall took care of him. But cha bettah get someone to take care of tha body beforah long.”

Stonewall and I then turned and meandered back toward the tree where I originally dismounted. I could feel Mosby’s penetrating gaze on me all the way.

When we got back to the tree, I completely undid Stonewall’s saddle cinch and took off his saddle. I left his blanket on his back to protect him from the possible morning frost. I took the blanket roll off his saddle, laid down under the tree, wrapped myself in a tight cocoon and immediately fell into a coma.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 272

 

I had returned to where Stonewall was standing. He was really enjoying his meditation. I had to touch him to wake him up. He jumped with a start, but seeing me, he settled down. I told him, “I’m gonna go find us water. You stay here.”

He eyed me as if to say, “If you think I’m gonna move from this here place, you are crazy.”

I approached one of Major’s couriers and whispered, “Is therah any water to be had around herah?”

He turned, pointed north and murmured, “Therah’s a pond ‘bout a hunnerd yards that away.”

272 canteens

I nodded and walked back to Stonewall. This time he heard me coming and turned to look at me as I approached. I hadn’t tied him up, when I dismounted. So, he must have eaten some of the small clumps of grass that dotted the area because he didn’t appear to be grazing.

As I walked pass him toward the pond, I said in a low voice, “Let’s get some water.” He fell in behind me and followed me north. We came to the pond and he didn’t hesitate to meander down to the edge of the water and begin to drink. I took my canteen off his saddle and went down the bank from where he was steadily imbibing of Mother Nature’s nectar. I lowered my canteen into the water and just hoped that I would not get some of the wonderful bacteria that caused so much disease and death in my 19th Century Universe.

Once my canteen filled up, I took a long drink of the cool fluid before attaching it back on Stonewall’s saddle. The water tasted like it was laced with iron. It brought back memories of drinking well water back in rural Arkansas.  Stonewall didn’t seem to be gorging himself, so I didn’t worry about him drinking too much water.

He lifted his head when I stood up. We turned to go back to camp, when I heard a pistol being cocked and then, “Who’s that?”

“It’s me,” I said mockingly.

“Well, ya betta not move,” came the retort.

I stood still as I heard approaching footsteps. “Raise ya hands,” was the next command.

I slowly raised my hands. Stonewall had stopped with me. When he turned to look back at our assailant, he laid his ears back.  I didn’t know if this was one of our pickets so I followed his orders.

“Turn around,” the intruder directed.  I turned and as I recognized who was accosting us my mouth gaped open. It was Mr. Hawks.  I smiled, but he didn’t return my smile.

“Well, well, if’n it ain’t tha Reb spy,” he exclaimed. “Ya gonna bring a right fine reward from tha Yanks back in Boonsboro. Once’t you left my cabin, I found out that therah’s a thousand dollahs on your head.”

“Ya gave me a puny sum for what all I done for ya. Well, I’m a-gonna get my just reward now!” he gloated.

“Ya sure are,” I smirked as I brought my hand down hard on Stonewall’s right hindquarters.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 271

 

I intoned quietly, “What would ya say to tha Yanks to get them to detour their column to the east of Gapland?”

The Lieutenant looked at me and softly said, “First, I would have a person with a black flag stationed a good ways north of Gapland and also South of Gapland.”

“Second, I would personally ride up to the north end of town just as the Yank column came within view of the place we will be stationing our flag. I will declare that the city had been put in quarantine and ask to speak with the Yankee surgeon.”

“We will need to keep any town folks from coming north or going south from Gapland during this time period. I believe we can do this with a minimum amount of men for the time period we will need to divert the Yank column.”

271 cholera

“I have personally worked in a small Delaware town that had to be quarantined due to cholera when I was in medical practice in the southern Delaware area. I know it has been done before. I can talk the medical talk that will convince a surgeon of the need for them to avoid the town.”

“Third, when the head of the Yankee column gets parallel to the south part of town, they will see the other black flag station and won’t doubt the truth of the quarantine.”

The Lieutenant had some really good points that in the haste of our plan formation we hadn’t considered.

Mosby looked down at the ground for a long moment. Then looked up and candidly stated in a low voice, “I guess we really shoulda taken Gapland hostage, but it’s too late now to do that. Also, we’re gonna have a hard time keeping tha town bottled up from tha time tha Yank column approaches Gapland ‘til they get to tha south end of town. I’m a-hoping that th’ artillery are in tha middle of their column, which will put ‘em just in tha right position for us to cut their column in two and take their cannon. That way their column will just barely reach the south end of Gapland.”

“I guess we can put some men in hiding to tha north side of town to keep tha town folks from venturing north…and the same for the south end of town. I will get with Captain Greenley to provide those men.”

Mosby suddenly looked at the Lieutenant and asked, “By tha way, what are ya gonna tell them was tha source of tha cholera?”

The Lieutenant with an amused expression softly informed us, “I’m going to tell them a bunch of Confederate bushwhackers pitched manure down the wells to the west side of town probably about five days ago. The wells to the east side of town weren’t affected.  I’m also going to tell them that I just happened to be visiting a friend in Gapland when the first cholera victim became ill yesterday.”

“Ya think tha Yanks will go for it?” Mosby queried.

“I believe so Major,” was the Lieutenant’s hushed reply.

Mosby gently promised, “Okay, Lieutenant, I’ll getcha some men to use for our ruse.” He turned to one of his ever-present couriers and in a subdued voice ordered, “Go get Captain Greenley and have him report to me.”

The courier saluted and walked toward the camp of Greenley’s men.

Mosby walked off by himself. I didn’t follow. I knew he had a lot to think over.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 270

The Captain gently cleared his throat and softly began, “I’ll have a black flag, that I was able to construck outta a black shirt found inna house in Rohersville Station, which I will wave when tha Yankee Column approaches.”

I held up my hand after this brief soliloquy. He stopped and gave me a reproachable look.

I delicately asked, “Captain, where are you from?”

His countenance changed to one of uncertainty and he murmured, “Well, Richmond, ah course.”

I nodded in agreement and sighed, “Well, Captain, I’m afraid that you won’t do to talk with the Yanks. Your Tidewater accent will tip the Yanks that you are not from this area almost at once.”

He puffed up like a bullfrog and was ready to argue the affront I had made to his lineage, when I suddenly turned to Mosby and whispered, “Is there anyone in the surgical team that might have an accent that is neutral or even Northern in modulation?”

270 drawl

“Major!” the Captain said in a normal voice.

Mosby raised his hand and uttered in a whisper, “Shhhh, do ya wanna raise everybody in the area?”

This quieted the Captain’s retort and cowed him to be quiet.

Mosby looked at me for a long 30 seconds and said, “Why don’t you make the spiel to tha Yanks? Your accent’s sort-a neutral and it definitely ain’t a Virginny accent a-tall.”

I was taken aback by the suggestion and then remembered the Yankee Captain I had been having a run in over the last few months. I responded, “I can’t do it, Major. That Yankee Cavalry Captain knows me, and so do a lot of others in the blue uniform that I have accosted.”

Mosby nodded in agreement, and with an exasperated whisper asked, “Well, who else can do it?”

The Captain pointed at his assistant and stated, “He can. He took his trainin’ in Philadelphia and is from northeastern Maryland. He doesn’t sound too southern for yourah needs.”

We all turned to the young Lieutenant, and Mosby softly said, “Speak for us, son.”

The Lieutenant grinned, and in a low bass voice quizzed, “What do you want me to say?”

His voice was as a combination of Delaware brogue and Maryland drawl. It would be music to the Yankees’ ears. We all smiled from ear to ear and Mosby put his hand on the Lieutenant’s shoulder and declared gently, “You been elected for this very important duty. You gotta convince tha Yankees to bypass Gapland and take to tha area to tha east of tha town. Ya think ya kin do that Lieutenant?”

“Yes sir,” came the prompt reply along with a knowing grin, which was not what I had expected.

I would have been scared to death with this monumental mission. Our whole strategy depended on the Yankees not going through Gapland.  I didn’t know why the young Lieutenant was so all fired confident with this major task.

 

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Civil War Transcendence, part 269

 

269 confederates

I was summarily accosted by three troopers suddenly appearing out of nowhere.

One was in front of me. One was on left flank and the last one was on my right flank. They had their carbines pointed at me. Stonewall and I had abruptly come wide awake.

The trooper in front came right up to my right side and in a guarded tone said, “Who are you?”

“Lieutenant Hager,” I replied.

“Okay Lieutenant, you can pass,” he said in a low voice.

I mimicked him by leaning over and whispering, “Where is Major Mosby?”

He turned and pointed toward the northeast. Then he murmured, “About 200 yards.” He saluted and stepped out of the way. I returned his salute and nudged an alert Stonewall forward.

I fast walked Stonewall in the direction the trooper indicated. I passed numerous troopers lying down on blankets with the reins of their horses tied to their boots.  Some of the horses were eating what little grass there was in this area behind the hills masking us from the Valley Road off to our west. Other horses seemed to be asleep on their feet.

I determined that this was Captain Owen’s company, which would be the first company to hit the Yank column tomorrow.  I proceeded past this company and approached another gaggle of troopers, who I guessed were Captain Greenley’s men. These troopers were also bedded down on blankets with horses’ reins tied to their boots.

I slowed Stonewall to a halt and peered into the darkness to see if I could recognize Mosby. I detected a slight murmuring, and turning toward the sound, I could see three men about 50 yards hence standing off in the road.

I nudged Stonewall and aimed him toward the men.  As I approached they stopped their conversation and looked my way.  I stopped Stonewall about ten feet from them and dismounted.  Mosby came forward and I saluted. I reported in a subdued voice, “Sir, Captain Edwards’ men have been deployed.”

Major Mosby returned the salute and said, “Good. Tie up your horse and come join our cabal,” he muttered.

I pulled on Stonewall’s reins and directed him toward a clump of trees. I loosened his cinch and took his bridle off and attached it to his saddle. I then faced him and massaged his jaws and rubbed his neck. I whispered to him before he lapsed into his usual trance, “Don’t wander off.”  As I turned to leave, I swear I heard him snore.

The Major had two men as members of his “cabal.” I recognized one as Captain Reynolds, our surgeon. I didn’t know the other one, but he acted like an assistant to the Captain.  Mosby brought me into the group, which was huddled in a tight circle.  Mosby enlightened me as to what was transpiring.

“We been going over what the Captn’s gonna say to the Yanks tomorrow to get them to go to the east of the Valley Road so we can hit em in the flank. Mind if he gives his spiel to ya?  I wanna hear whatcha think?”

I nodded in the affirmative and turned to the Captain.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 268

 

Once we were out of ear shot and couldn’t be hear by the troopers or any night traffic on the Valley Road, I stopped and turned to Captain Edwards.  He seemed agitated and tired. The stress of having the dual mission of keeping the Valley Traffic from moving north and of hitting the Yank column head on was daunting.

In a low voice I said, “Don’t worry about the Valley Traffic. Tell any travelers coming up from the south that there is a quarantine of the Gapland area due to bad water that has produced Cholera. They’ll need to either go back south, then west, and then north up the Chestnut Road which is on the other side of the Blue Ridge Mountains to our west. Or, they should go south, then east to the other side of South Mountain, and then head north on the Mountain Church Road.   If they ask why Rebs are in Maryland and dictating a detour, tell them that both the Union and Confederate Governments were cooperating to remove this threat to the health of the whole western area. If after those explanations they give you any trouble, just put them under arrest and hold them until you hit the Yank Column.”

268 sign

“In regard to the Yank column, I don’t know how long the enemy column will be allowed to progress pass Gapland before the Major hits their flanks. The head of their column might move further south than your position here. So keep a sharp lookout, so if you need to move further south using these hills to mask your movement and thus be able to swing onto the Valley Road and hit them head on, feel free to do so.”

After my little speech, I believe the Captain looked a bit relieved. I hoped this gave him some additional ideas of what to expect and how to carry out his missions. I extended my hand and he shook it.

I added, “Good luck Captain. Better let your men get as much rest as possible. Just remember to not be afraid to act if things go wrong. You will know best the situation and what to do.”

He nodded and we walked back to the troop. I mounted Stonewall, saluted the Captain, who returned my salute, and rode back toward Major Mosby’s position.

I crossed the Valley Road to the eastern side of the road behind a line of hills and loped a very tired Stonewall north. We stopped at the southern road that branched off the Valley Road and proceeded up to Crampton’s Gap. I pulled out my pocket watch and read 12’o’clock midnight by the light of the moon. I couldn’t believe we had progressed from the camp along the Potomac River to finally disposition of all the troops in one day.

I nudged a groggy Stonewall until he was awake. Then we crossed the Gapland Road and walked toward Mosby’s temporary headquarters.

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Civil War Transcendence, part 267

 

267 crampton's gap

We all froze. I tentatively replied, “We got mixed up on tha road and were trying to get on tha Valley Road from Crampton’s Gap.”

The voice in the darkness laughed and said, “Ya ain’t come from Crampton’s Gap. Ya better start telling tha truth or else.”

I thought fast, ‘This guy must have come from Crampton’s Gap to know we weren’t from there. I’m gonna try something.’ “Alright,” I confessed, “we ain’t from Crampton’s Gap, but I was up therah and saw Captain Quantrill a few hours ago. We’re a part of Mosby’s men getting ready to hit tha Yanks tomorrow. I’m Lt. Hager.”

This brought a hiss from Captain Edwards.

I heard some low muttered conversation and then the voice out of the darkness stated, “Y’all don’t move. We gotcha covered with 50 rifles. I’m a-gonna light a lantern and see if y’all are telling the truth.”

Everyone sat perfectly still. A lucifer (match) was struck in the distance behind a tree and a figure lit a lantern candle with the portable fire. He advanced toward me and, once he came along beside me, he held the lantern up to my face.

I didn’t recognize him, but he said, “Well Lieutenant, ya seem to make a habit of lettin us get the drop on ya. I was up at the Gap when y’all came a-callin’ earlier this evening.”

I was glad it was too dark for the men in our troop to see my embarrassment. I must have flushed red from head to toe. I stammered, “Yeah, well, we got to get down south of Gapland and set up a blocking force for tomorrow.  We took this road by mistake.”

The man chuckled and directed, “Go to tha left of tha middle cabin and keep headed to tha west. You ain’t but about 150 yards from the Valley Road.”

I nodded and said, “Sorry bout tha mix up. We’ll see ya tomorrow.”

The man grinned in the lantern light. “Yep, God willin’ and the crick don’t rise. See ya Lieutenant.” He blew out the candle in the lantern and seemed to disappear into the darkness.

I turned to Captain Edwards and said, “Let’s go.”

I nudged Stonewall, and we aimed to the left of the middle cabin. Continuing for another 25 yards, we broke out of the trees that smothered any illumination during our brief ride on the farm lane. The Valley Road loomed ahead of us in the distance.

We rode about 70 more yard and turned south (to our left) onto the Pleasant Valley Road. I had the troop continue on the valley road for about 100 yards. I kept looking for a farm road that branched off to the west (our right). I vaguely remember from our prior reconnaissance that there was some good terrain for concealment in the area.  It really surprised me how quiet our troops were. All you could hear were the horse’s feet hitting the hard pan of the road and an occasional equestrian snort. The troopers must have been threatened with death if they were heard to speak or even sneeze.

We passed a set of abandoned shacks on our right, and just past them, the farm road was clearly visible in the moonlight. The company rode two abreast and I directed them to follow me as I filed into the lane. The thoroughfare was just wide enough for two horses abreast.  We traversed a sharp cut to the left that headed south between two hills. A small creek and pond sudden appeared to our right and hills were to our left that ran at least 125 yards alongside the Valley Road.

This was perfect concealment for Captain Edwards and his 100 troopers. The pond, acting as a watering source for the horses, was an added benefit. Once the full contingent had filed into the secretive nook, we dismounted. The men began to automatically form water brigades for their mounts.  I motioned to Captain Edwards and we walked away from the main body for a little powwow.

 

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