Civil War Transcendence, part 279


It was eerie.  It seemed as if we were commanding a Corps of the Dead.  Except for the movement of the horses and men, there was total silence.

Our troopers began to cinch their mounts’ saddles without a word. Squad by squad, they were given hand signals to lead their horses to the pond for water. Once back in camp, the horses were allowed to munch on the grass that dotted the landscape. No sounds escaped the human beings.

Once Captain Owens’ men had watered their horses and allowed their cayuses a few minutes of chewing the grass, the Sergeants and Corporals gave the round up hand signal. Troopers mounted their steeds and formed into their squads.

279 cavalry

Captain Owens turned to me and waved that his company was ready. I gave the signal to follow me, and we filed out in a column of two’s overland between two hills, up an incline and onto the Townsend Road, which was the northernmost road from the Pleasant Valley Pike up to Crampton’s Gap.  This road enters a wooded area that runs parallel to the base of South Mountain before it merges with the Gapland Road and ascends South Mountain.  As I looked back toward the camp, I could just make out some men tidying up the camp area.

I marched the company into the tree lined path for about fifty yards, which I felt hid them from the Valley Pike. Then waving my arm to the left, I executed a countermarch to the left, which means I turned one hundred eighty degrees and went back the way we had come.  The men picked up on my maneuver without any problem and followed my lead. Once the company had completed the countermarch, I halted and turned Stonewall back, facing the Valley Pike. The troop followed suit. Captain Owens’ company was now facing the Valley Pike and in place so they could charge out of the tree line in a battle line of two ranks.

I turned to Captain Owens, who was at the head of the company and to my left. I saluted. He returned the salute.

I leaned over and whispered, “You will need to dismount and have the men and horses rest until the Yanks show up. I don’t know when that will be. Major Mosby will direct you when to attack.”

The Captain nodded and I rode away.

I loped Stonewall down the Townsend Road and back to the camp area.  Once there, I headed south and quickly found where Captain Greenley’s Company was located.  As I approached his men, I could hear a murmur of voices.

I rode amongst the men and said in a strangled whisper, “Shut up and keep it quiet.”

One of the men said in a quiet, but firm voice, “Says who?”

I gingerly walked Stonewall toward the man.  When I had reached his position, he glared up at me defiantly.  I quickly pulled my colt and hit him over the head. He went down like a poled ox.

I turned to the other men and said in a stage whisper, “If anybody else mutters one word, he’ll get worse than this’un did.”

All of a sudden a First Sergeant appeared. I pointed at the unconscious trooper and whispered, “Put that man under arrest subject to court martial.”

The First Sergeant saluted, and understanding my order, didn’t utter a word.

All movement had stopped to witness the scenario.  As I looked up, all the troopers got busy getting their horses ready for departure.  It took longer, since they had a longer distance to travel to water their horses.  When the last of the troopers returned to camp, Captain Greenley, who undoubted had been informed of my encounter with one of his men, glared at me for a moment and then raised his hand that his company was ready.

I smiled and raise my hand to follow me. In a column of two’s I directed the company south to the Gapland Road, which was the southernmost road from the Valley Pike to the Crampton’s Gap.  I turned the company east on this road, which also enters a tree line, and after about 150 yards, merges with Townsend road to head straight up South Mountain to Crampton’s Gap. However, I didn’t have to do any counter marching of this company. Once we reached the merger of the two roads, I held up my hand and the company halted. I turned Stonewall to the left. However, these troopers apparently didn’t have a clue what was going on. They sat their horses facing toward me. I turned, looked at Captain Greenley and pointed toward the Valley Pike. He finally got the idea and turned to the left to also face the Pike. The rest of his depleted company followed suit.

Finally, they were in position. I saluted the Captain, but he didn’t return my salute. I leaned to my left toward him. He quickly reacted by reaching for his pistol.  His weapon was encumbered by the flap that fitted over his pistol. I was not so stymied. I had my pistol out with my right hand and pointing just under the Captain’s nose in a jiffy.

I whispered, “We don’t have time for personal grievances. I was going to tell ya to dismount yar men and rest yar horses. We will have to stay in this position until tha Yanks appear. Major Mosby will tell ya when to attack tha Yank artillery battery. Do ya have tha artillery men that are gonna be spiking tha guns and takin tha cannon to tha Gap?”

All the Captain could do was stare into the muzzle of my pistol. He finally gulped and nodded in the affirmative.

I smiled and whispered, “We’ll take up any grievances once this is over.”

The Captain just continued to look in the barrel of my Colt without uttering a word.

I put my Colt back in my belt and turned Stonewall to the right. After walking him just a few yards, I saw the end of Captain Owens’ Line. Just about this time Mosby and his courtiers came up the Townsend Road, and riding to the rear of Owens’ company, came to the merger of the two roads. Taking up a post at this point, Mosby had a commanding view of the Valley Pike in the distance and he could direct the two companies when and where to attack.

I saluted and he returned the salute.

He murmured in a quiet voice, “Might as well dismount and wait on the Yanks.”



About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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