Civil War Transcendence, part 174

Basement door in Harper's Ferry via diskychick on flickr

Basement door in Harper’s Ferry via diskychick on flickr

I turned and, using the torch, saw that the passageway was only about five feet high. It had posts on either side of the passageway about every five feet and beams that sat on the top of the posts acting as a truss to hold up the ceiling. The beams were about 12 inches in width and jutted down from the ceiling in the passageway. I had to bend down just to clear the ceiling, and every five feet I had to bend down even further to get under the beams. It was a back-breaking shuffle I implemented to get to the end of the passage.

Finally, I came to what appeared to be a wall. I pushed on the wall, and it was a door that was made to look like stone, but was made of thick wood. I extinguished the torch and opened the door. The entrance was on a small ledge about two feet wide that was dug out of the hillside. I looked down. The Potomac River was at the bottom of the steep 300-foot-high hill.  Looking to my left, I saw a few crude steps angling up the hill to the back of Ferry Hill Mansion. I hurriedly went up the steps and came to the back of the stables.

I could hear voices. I moved along the wall to the front of the stables. Peeking around the right front edge, I saw two Yankee cavalrymen holding John Lee while another was slapping him.  Their horses were tied to the stable gate.  I took a quick look around the yard and didn’t see any other Yanks. I was about 20 feet from the enclave.

A cold resolve came over me. They were hurting my friend. As before in my confrontations, I felt an anger that welled up in me with such magnitude that I could taste the burning bile in my throat.  So I cocked my pistol, brought it up at arm’s length, pointed it at the Yank hitting John Lee, and began walking rapidly toward the group. The abusive interrogator had his back to me and the Yanks holding John Lee were actually facing me. I was lucky because they didn’t expect anyone coming from the stables and the moon had set. In the dark I was able to get within eight feet of the interrogator before one of the Yanks holding John Lee stated, “What the hell?”

The interrogator turned to see the cause of his statement, and I shot him right in the chest.  He was thrown backward into the three men facing him. It staggered the Yanks, and they let loose of John Lee, who fell to the ground.  The Yanks were off balance and busy trying to unholster their pistols. I took careful aim and shot each in turn before they could arm themselves.

I disarmed them and stuck one of their pistols in my belt. I armed myself with the other. It felt good to have two pistols again.  John Lee had gotten to his feet, but was wobbly.

I asked, “Can you ride?”

He answered, “Yes.”

I then questioned, “Do you know a way off this hill down to the bridge without using the road in front of the house?”

“Yes, therah is a path in back of tha stables that heads down to the road. ‘Tis steep but passable.”

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About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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