We rode out of Rohersville Station at about 6:00PM, just as the sun was setting in the west. I didn’t want to gallop the horses because we would tire them out for the big ambush tomorrow. However, we needed to get to Crampton’s Gap and back before our boys moved out, so we loped our horses until we came to where our road merged into the Valley Road.
We stopped and looked up and down the Valley Road, but there wasn’t any traffic coming or going either way. Al and I nodded, turned south and began to walk the horses toward Townsend Lane, the first road up to Crampton’s Gap.
After about 15 minutes, we nudged our cayuses into a trot, and our exit from the Valley Road appeared to our left in no time. We turned onto the Gap access road and galloped through the lowlands until we encountered the steep grade leading up to the Gap. There were no switch-backs on the road to minimize the severity of the climb, so we dismounted and walked our mounts up the mountain. We quickly were out of breath and had to stop to recover sufficiently to continue.
I was apprehensive of what we would find once we ascended this regional vertebrae called South Mountain. Would there be a contingent of Yanks up there? Would there be any occupants living there? Would the road down the eastern side of the Gap be traversable by our cannon? These worrisome thoughts inundated my mind as we caught our breath.
I finally thought, “Shut up Monkey Mind. We will cope with whatever we find.” Suddenly, I felt relieved of any cares and begin climbing the mountain again. Al gamely followed, and after about 125 yards, we could see a break in the foliage at the western edge of the Gap.
We finally topped the mountain and looked at the small clearing that led through to the eastern side. In the faltering light we could see no structures of any kind, but there was a small campfire burning about midway of the clearing. I looked at Al and we simultaneously pulled pistols with our right hands, but dropped them down alongside our right legs to partially conceal them. With our horse’s reins in our left hands, we approached the campfire.
There weren’t any tents signifying a military campsite, but there were a few blanket rolls to the left of the fire. A small iron skillet with newly fried bacon had been pulled off the fire and put on the ground to the side. Its sizzling could still be heard. All of a sudden the wonderful aroma wafted my way and my stomach growled. I didn’t know I had been so hungry. A pot of boiling coffee was still on the fire. Al and I looked around, but in the gathering darkness, we couldn’t see anyone. Abruptly we heard muskets being cocked and a voice stated, “Stop right there and don’t move.”