The Corporal delivered the Major’s message that I needed to send to the Regional Confederate Headquarters in Richmond. He also brought me a freshly saddled horse.
The horse certainly wasn’t the same quality of Stonewall, but I must say, it was bigger. In fact, it was almost a draft animal. I had to really bring my left knee way up toward my stomach to get my foot in the stirrup. Then I had to reach way up to grasp the front part of the saddle and sort of jump upwards with my right leg to allow my left leg to get enough of an angle to power my body up and fully mount this monstrosity.
The Corporal watched this with much amusement. Once I was situated in the saddle, I asked, “Corporal, what is this wonder of Mother Nature called?”
“We don’t rightly know what his name was before he come to us, but we all calls him Goliath,” he added with a chuckle.
“A very fitting name,” I intoned.
I kicked Goliath, and he bolted forward at a fast trot. I waved at the Corporal and he waved back. I didn’t know what gaits this horse had, but his trot was even more backbreaking than Beauregard’s, the horse I had rented from the Shepherdstown livery stable what seemed like a lifetime ago.
I finally couldn’t take Goliath’s trot anymore, so I kicked him again and he went from first gear to second and began a loping gait that I was able to endure as long as I raise up from the saddle with my legs when his legs hit the ground.
I swear the earth trembled when his full weight hit the ground. He seemed like a very hardy animal and we ate up the miles along the C&O Canal pathway.
I had decided to go all the way to the covered bridge across from Shepherdstown and traverse the Potomac rather than trying to ford the river at Boteler Ford. I would be closer to the telegraph office and thus would save some time.
I was nearing exhaustion when the outline of the bridge appeared ahead of me in the moonlight. I started yelling at the top of my voice as I came to the Maryland side of the bridge, “Important Message, Important Message from Major Mosby.”
I aroused a whole bevy of soldiers that must have been camping out near the Canal lock men’s houses. Because I heard, “Halt, Halt,” from about three different directions.
I pulled back on Goliath’s reins, but he didn’t want to stop loping. I exerted more pressure by standing up in the stirrups and pulling back with all my might. Finally, he slowed a bit, went into his backbreaking trot, decelerated further into a walk and then suddenly stopped, which pitched me forward over his neck.
Armed soldiers were gathered around me, but keeping their distance from the behemoth I was riding, and yelling for me to get down off the horse. Abruptly, a soldier pushed his way to the front of the crowd and yelled, “Is that you, Mr. Hager?”
I bent down to get a better look at his face and declared, “Yes it’s me. I have an important message from Major Mosby for Confederate Headquarters that I need to get to the telegraph office in Shepherdstown. Can you get me over the bridge so I can send it?”
“Sir, the telegraph lines have been out since this morning. We believe the Yanks cut the lines somewhere south of here,” he responded.