I guess our subterfuge must have paid off because we ambled down the mountain on the trail and weren’t fired on. Al was in the lead. I was in the middle, and Tom brought up the rear.
We came to the flat terrain behind the houses. Al spoke just one word as we came within 30 yards of the houses, “Now!”
He kicked his mount and we followed suit. I leaned low over the saddle as Stonewall sprang forward and brought my Colt up in one swift move. We heard someone yell, “Git em boys.”
Shots rang out and I felt a bullet nick the back of my hat. We three must have been of one mind because we aimed at the houses and fired in an almost simultaneous volley. We veered left toward the main road and skirted away from houses. More shots rang out behind us and I heard Tom grunt.
As we left the gaggle of enemy behind us we heard yells, ”Men, get to the horses.” We had surprised these men, but we didn’t know what lay in wait up ahead.
We were at full gallop and headed south when I turned back and looked at Tom. He had dropped his Colt and was hunched over the saddle. He still had his horse at full gallop and was in control of his horse with the reins still in his left hand, but he was favoring the right side of his body. I pulled Stonewall back to where we were neck and neck with him and yelled, “How bad?”
I barely heard his reply of, “Don’t know.”
Al was about 30 yards ahead of us and pulling away when Tom uttered, “Go on. Ya gotta get thru.”
He suddenly pulled up his horse. I was so shocked at his maneuver that I kept going. I turned back and looked over my shoulder. I didn’t know what to do. Then I saw him with painful effort pull a Colt from his belt with his left hand, take the reins gingerly with his right, wheel his horse around and gallop back toward the houses. I choked back tears as all I could think was, “Oh, Tom. I don’t deserve that kind of bravery.”
Al had lengthened his lead and was ahead of me about 50 yards. I kicked Stonewall for more speed and it seemed that he found a higher pace and began to gain a little on Al. I saw Al put his horse’s reins in his mouth and draw another Colt from his armory. I did the same leaning low over the saddle.
All of a sudden to our rear we heard a shrill Rebel Yell and a few gun shots. Al turned around and saw me behind him, but without Tom. I saw a questioning look on his face and I just shook my head. Then I saw his eyes narrow and his face take on a look of a grim determination. He turned back to face the road ahead.