The mountain had been stripped of its large trees over the years due to harvesting of wood for building and for coaling (making of charcoal). There were still coaling roads in this area of the mountain that Hawks had mentioned just before we left his opulent abode. The mountain was enjoying secondary growth of trees, which provided us just enough cover that we wouldn’t be seen on this side of the mountain during our observations today.
Al led the way upward in a zigzag fashion, which didn’t tire out the horses too much. However, we had to skirt around many thickets of brambles to keep from cutting up the horse’s flanks. Finally we reached the coaling road and proceeded north on it until we found a place that was completely hidden from the valley traffic. We dismounted and tied up the horses. Then we went back down the road and took up a vantage point that provided a very good view of the landscape below for a mile in each direction, plus we were almost directly across from Crampton’s Gap.
Once we got settled, Tom asked, “Why’dja ask Hawks bout coaling roads?” Al chimed in also, “Yeah, how’dja know ‘bout thar being one of those kinda of roads up herah?”
“Oh, I saw how barren the mountainside looked when I went to the outhouse this morning and just figured it out,” I replied.
Both studied me with dubious looks, but I just smiled and began to study the landscape with Tom’s spyglass.
There were a few parameters we needed to address, plus we had been given a great gift of time. I had been figuring that we would have had to overtake and hit the Yanks in the rear, because they would be almost to the Potomac before we could make contact. But since they won’t be leaving until day after tomorrow, we can actually hit them before they get very far down the valley. Also, tactically we needed to find a place to hide our cavalry contingent and our artillery to give us the greatest element of surprise.
In an hour, I had formulated a plan of how it possibly could be done. It was bold with many problematic details, but it was the best I could do in the timeframe. I folded up the spyglass with a brisk finality and stood up.
“Let’s go,” I huffed.
Al and Tom regarded me as if I had lost my mind.