We had halted in the confines of a tree line just past a gap in the steep hills that Al had described earlier. We sat our horses and looked out over a small plain. The sun was setting to our backs and we could make out to our left, which was north, about 1 ½ miles away the hamlet of Mt. Brair, and straight ahead across the small plain the gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the last obstacle to Pleasant Valley.
I kept straining to look at Mt. Briar, but it was too far away. I couldn’t see how the town was laid out. Abruptly, I was gently nudged by Tom.
“Here, ya better use this,” he suggested.
I turned and he handed me a good size telescope. We grinned at each other.
“You are just full of surprises,” I quipped. Pulling the looking device to its full extent, I looked at Mt. Briar and saw there were about 12 houses that made up the hamlet, and all of them were in close proximity to the Trego and Lower Bridge Road Junction. I didn’t want to go through that hamlet if at all possible.
Next, I looked out over the small plain and the Blue Ridge gap just beyond. There was a small creek bed that went in almost a straight line from just a few yards to our south to the gap in the Blue Ridge. It could be followed at night to get us across the plain. I just wondered if the ground could support artillery or if our cannon would become bogged down. The answer was a critical question to be answered.
I turned to Tom and asked, “How many batteries of artillery does the Major have?”
“Only one and it don’t have but 5 cannon,” he replied.
“How big are the artillery pieces?” I probed.
“There are two rifled 6 pounders and three mountain howitzers.”
I thought for a moment and said, “Well, the 6 pounders are worth their weight in gold, but those howitzers ain’t worth a plug nickel in this raid.”
Al and Tom nodded in the affirmative.
The sun was going down fast now. So, I proposed, “Let’s cross over the creek and move further up the hill to our south. This will keep us from being seen from Mt. Briar. When it is dark, we’ll traverse the plain and see if the ground will support our guns.”
Just about that time we heard what sounded like a contingent of cavalry in the distance coming our way. I said, “Come on. Let’s get up this hill.”
I kicked Stonewall hard. He jumped the very small creek, and we took off up the steep hill to our south. We all made up the slope for about 30 yards and dismounted. We held our mount’s noses so they wouldn’t whinny. A Yankee patrol of about 10 cavalrymen rode through the position we had just vacated. They paid no attention to our hoof prints, but continued at a swift pace for Mt. Briar.
Once they were past, I tied Stonewall to a tree and used the borrowed telescope to view the enemy patrol.
“Low and Behold!” I exclaimed.
“What’s wrong?” asked Tom.
“The Captain leading that patrol is the blasted Yank that has caused me so much trouble,” I responded.