I rode back to Hattie’s place and was grateful that Poppa and the brothers were not there. I asked her to gather some food in a poke sack for me and, if anybody (and that meant kith or kin) asked where I was, to tell them I had lit out for Harpers Ferry. She nodded in agreement and filled a poke with essential food stuffs.
She looked me straight in the face and asked, “You got enough firearms and enough bullets?” I nodded in the affirmative.
She then offered, “Well, ya got enough food for three days, iff’en you ration it right. You take care of yourself, Jim.”
I nodded, and then took her hands in mine and said, “Thanks for all you have done for me, Hattie.” Tears came to her eyes, and she lowered her head to avoid my gaze. I kissed her on the cheek and exited the cabin.
It was nigh on to dark as I urged Stonewall into the Potomac at Boteler’s Ford. The river wasn’t high and we were across in no time. Once on the Maryland shore, I pointed him southward to skirt Sharpsburg, and then headed toward the Sage family farm.
It took me about four hours to arrive at the Sage farm without anybody catching sight of me. As I came up the Sage’s lane, their dogs began to bark and Mr. Sage came out on the porch with a rifle in his hand. I hollered at him that it was me and for him not to shoot. He told me to come on in and, as I neared the house, Jonah came from the right side of the house and Jeremy from the left side, with pistols in their hands.
I dismounted and said, “Y’all sure are jumpy tonight.”
Mr. Sage explained, “Yankee cavalry has been patrolling the area round and about Sharpsburg. They have been stopping at various farms and asking who were the Southern sympathizers in the area. Everyone has been tight lipped so far, but there are a few Unionist families further to the east that will no doubt give them the names they want. I figured that we should be ready in case they felt like they needed to visit us.”
I responded, “I doubt you could do anything but get yourself killed. You know they will come in force?”
Mr. Sage nodded, but defiantly exclaimed, “I ain’t gonna be forced into going to one of their camps and telling who my Southern friends are.”
“I understand, but there is a better way to aid our cause,” I stated. “Can we go inside? I have a plan.”