As I left the presence of the alien, I patted Stonewall on the neck and said, “I’m sorry I jerked on your reins old fellow. She took me by surprise.” He snorted back, which made me chuckle. “I promise to never do it again,” I added. He provided another snort. With my apologies completed and accepted we preceded to the cavalry camps.
Upon arrival at the make-shift camps of Captain Owens and Captain Greenley, I viewed that our one lone wagon was also there. I rode to the wagon’s location and dismounted. Abruptly a man in civilian clothes crawled from underneath the wagon and looked at me.
I asked, “Are you tha driver?”
He nodded in the affirmative. “What’s yar name?” I asked.
“Jake Summers,” he answered as he stood up.
“Well, Jake, I need you to get hitched up (pointing to Crampton’s Gap) and get tha wagon up thar and outta sight by daylight. You think ya can do that?”
He looked at the steep grade for a few moments and then said, “If’n ya was to give me two men to chock tha wheels for tha climb, I betcha I kin.”
I nodded and asked, “Ya got anybody in mind for the chockers?”
He grinned and said, “Yessir, I do.”
“Well, get ‘em and get going. I don’t wantcha in view when tha Yanks start their move this a-way.” I directed. Remembering a job that had to be taken care of, I probed, “Oh, yeah. By the way, ya got any shovels or spades?”
He nodded in the affirmative. “Well, give ‘em to me.”
He didn’t question the order, but walked to the end of the wagon and pulled out four spades. He gave them to me, grinned and scurried away to get his chockers.
Holding two spades with each hand, I moved through the camp, which possessed an eerie silence, except for an occasional snore. Stonewall walked along behind me periodically poking me with his nose. I guess he wanted to let me know he was covering my back.
I needed to find the Captains, but there wasn’t a command tent signifying the Captains’ headquarters. I finally saw a man, who apparently couldn’t sleep. He had gotten up and was smoking a pipe. As I neared his position, I saw the stripes of a First Sergeant on his sleeve. When a got to where he was puffing contentedly, I asked quietly, “Where’s Captain Owens and Captain Greenley?”
In between puffs he asked, “Who wants to know?”
I replied with a grin, “Lieutenant Hager.”
That brought a smile. Pointing a finger to a big oak a few yard away, he replied, “They’s overah thar beside that tree.”
I returned, “Thanks sarge.” He nodded and went on smoking his pipe.
Stonewall and I walked gingerly through a row of sleeping men to the two mummified prone figures. I set down the spades and shook both of the sleeping officers.
Both awoke with a start and squinted at me in the dark, trying to make out who had disturbed their slumbers.
I whispered, “Captains, Major Mosby ordered me ta get y’all up and guide ya to tha tree line at tha base of tha mountain, so’s tha Yanks can’t see ya before we attack ‘em.”
“Okay,” said one of the officers. The other one didn’t respond, but just unwrapped himself from his mummy’s shroud and got up.
“I brought two spades for each company so’s we can clean up the area of any horse droppings and other camp refuse before the Yank scouts get here,” I said as I handed them to the captains.
They took them reluctantly as I added, “We need to be out of here in forty-five minutes.”
This sort of shocked them. Immediately they hurried off to find their First Sergeants.
I turned and Stonewall came forward expecting a head and jaw massage, which I began to apply. He closed his eyes and went to that calm place where he always goes when I start to gently rub his head and jaws. Finally, I said, “If we pull this off, it will be a miracle.” Stonewall lazily opened his eyes, snorted and then closed them again.
A few minutes later I saw horsemen in single file cautiously picking their way through the sleeping horde. Mosby and his courtiers had arrived.