The different cavalry companies were finding places to bed down for the night, and scroungers were foraging for food for themselves and hay for their horses.
The wagon that I had sent up through the Gap early in the morning had done double duty by traversing the Gap and then gathering some foodstuffs once the driver had traveled to Burkittsville.
The town was a bedlam of moving troopers, horses and towns people. I bet Burkittsville hadn’t had this much excitement in quite a while.
I couldn’t believe it, but some of the local residents were sharing their food with our men. I didn’t think that western Marylanders would be that hospitable, but they proved me wrong.
I finally found that Mosby had made his headquarters in the Disciples of Christ church on the main square. As I wearily dismounted Stonewall let out a huff of exhaustion, so I immediately unsaddled him and took his gear into the church. I left it to the side of the front door and looked to see if anyone was available to feed my cayuse.
There, I saw Mosby in a meeting with his company commanders.
Mosby motioned me over. I saluted and he returned my salute.
I uttered, “I have the figures of our casualties, wounded and active duty personnel.”
He nodded, and I gave him and the company commanders the statistics. Mosby nodded, and turning to the company commanders said, “No more tonight. Get your men and horses fed and bedded down. We will talk more in the morning.”
They all gratefully saluted and left as quickly as they could.
Mosby looked at Al and said, “You stay.”
Once the commanders had left, Mosby said, “Sgt. Madigan, I wanna thank ya for taking over today and getting Jameson’s company out of harm’s way. I know tha men hated to see their captain killed, but yar fast thinking kept tha company together and I really appreciate it.”
For the first time, I think I saw Al blush. He was at a loss for words and just nodded at the Major.
Mosby then declared, “I know ya would make a good company commander, but I need ya and Jim to continue to work directly under my command so I’m afraid I’m gonna put Jameson’s company in tha hands of a company sergeant.”
Al nodded his acknowledgement and I saw him actually stifle a smile. He was glad to get out of having to nursemaid a cavalry company.
Mosby abruptly turned to me and said, “How in heaven’s name did ya get Jameson’s and Edward’s companies up to tha Gap?”
I was caught off guard and stammered for an answer.
He finally said, “Just tell me what ya did.”
I went through the actions taken as best I could remember with Mosby eyes boring through me and his ears hanging on my every word.
It took almost twenty minutes to describe the whole story.
When I finished, Mosby just shook his head and said, “That is truly a tale for tha campfire. I want to thank ya Lieutenant for what ya did today. If’n ya hadn’t gotten those two companies up to tha Gap this afternoon, we would still be fighting off Yanks this very moment. We’ll talk more about this later. Y’all go and get some rest and food. But I want ya bedded down near this building just in case I need ya.”
We both saluted and left by the front door. Al looked at me and said, “Jim, that’s tha dangest thing I ever heard. Ya must have the Hand of God guiding ya.”
I smiled and said, “I don’t think so. I believe another hand had something to do with it.”
Al muttered, “Huh?”
I returned, “Never mind.”
Al looked warily at me and said, “There ya go again with that talk that don’t make no sense.”
I just said, “Ain’t it tha truth.”
We walked out into the early night. A chilling wind had come up that made me draw my coat closer to my body. I stopped to look up at a sky filled with a billion gleaming stars, each one vying to be the brightest. I left out a long breath. It was glorious to still be alive and to enjoy this beautiful Ear