Staying in the dense cover of the trees, I maneuvered down to the Potomac to see what mischief the Yanks were up to. Sure enough, they were definitely up to no good. They had arrived at the covered bridge and dismounted. I counted about 12 of them, and they had a pack animal with them that was carrying two small kegs.
The ruckus the Yanks had created on their approach had awakened the people who operated the lock on the C&O Canal. There were about six men that came out of the three small houses on the bank next to the lock. In the gathering dawn I could make out that they were carrying shotguns. One of the locksmen yelled out, “What in blue blazes are ya doin?”
His question was answered by one of the Yanks that it was none of his business and they should get back in their homes.
“Shut up,” ordered one of the cavalrymen and went for a pistol in his holster.
The locksmen, who apparently were not cowed by a two-to-one disadvantage, were quick in their response. It seemed as if all six of them fired at once. Two troopers went down and it was a scene of chaos. Cavalry horses began to rearing and breaking loose from the troopers tending them.
I immediately pulled my pistols and began shooting, first one and then the other, adding to the fracas. I saw another cavalryman go down, which created a clear path to the kegs of gunpowder on the back of the pack animal. I laid my pistol in the “v” created by a small branch on the side of the tree I was using as a shield and aimed at the one of the kegs of gunpowder.
The pack animal was bucking and jumping around, trying to get free from the trooper that had hold of his reins. I couldn’t keep either of the kegs in my sights. Finally, the pack animal pulled his reins free of his handler’s hands and began to race back up the hill. Apparently, all the animal’s gyrations had loosened the ropes that held one of the gunpowder kegs, which fell on the road about 50 yards from the bridge as the animal hightailed it up the hill and headed home.
I took careful aim at this stationary target and shot the keg. There was a tremendous explosion.