I saluted Captain Edwards, and he returned my salute. We both turned to see Captain Owens’ men dismount and quietly begin to loosen the cinch straps on their saddles.
I turned back to Captain Edwards and in a low voice instructed, “If ya will bring your men around Captain Owens’ troop, I will take you to where ya need to deploy.”
He nodded and went back to his contingent. Miraculously, Major Mosby appeared by my side. I actually jumped when I turned and saw him.
He whispered, “Once ya have Captain Edwards’ men deployed, come back herah to me.”
I nodded and saluted. Mosby ambled off toward Captain Greenley’s troop, which had moved further east toward South Mountain to dismount.
I approached Stonewall and saw he was showing signs of exhaustion. His head was bent low toward the ground and his right hind leg was cocked up next to his left hind leg. It was a restful pose and I hated to disturb him. He must have gotten wind of me because he brought his head up when I was within 5 feet of him. I gently took his head in my hands. He moved until his head was touching my chest. Then I began to massage his jaws. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh. I smiled that I could relax this gallant animal so thoroughly.
I murmured, “Sorry old fellow, but we ain’t through for tha night.” He opened his eyed and I swear had a hang dog look of resignation. I took his reins and mounted. He came totally awake, and I could feel strength permeate his body.
Captain Edwards had circumvented the troops in front of his company and approached me. When he was next to me, I turned the company southward for a while to get to open country. Once we were free of the other troops, I directed the troop to turn east toward South Mountain at a walk.
When we had gotten right up next to the mountain, I turned us south and we skirted the mountain’s tree line, keeping as quiet as possible. The ground was soft and our horses’ hooves didn’t make the usual clippity clop sound when on the hard pan of a road.
The night air was cool. Occasionally, an owl hooted nearby followed by and answering hoot in the distance. We passed a small cemetery and then we saw smoke rising to our west. I leaned close to Captain Edwards and hissed, “Gapland.” He nodded and we continued south at a walk.
We came to the southernmost road that proceeded off Pleasant Valley Road and headed up South Mountain to Crampton’s Gap. Off to our left and right up next to the Mountain was a lane that branched off the Gap road and continued south. I directed our unit onto this lane, which ascended ever so slightly. The lane provided great cover in that there were trees to our west that masked our movement from the Valley Road and the town of Gapland. South Mountain loomed above us to our left.
Suddenly, the lane broke into a small clearing with three cabins. Dogs began barking so I immediately stopped the troop. I needed to get us out of here quickly. I decided to go through the trees to our right toward the Valley Road when a voice from out of the darkness demanded, “Who err ya and whatcha want?”