I reached the head of Mosby’s column and rode past it until I reached the back of Sergeant Billings’ reserve contingent. I stopped and followed them for a while. After a few minutes, I turned to Pvt. Milton and asked, “About how many side roads do you figure there are between here and Jefferson?”
Pvt. Milton turned to look down the road and didn’t answer for a few minutes. I liked that. He wasn’t trying to impress me with a quick response, but was actually counting the road crossings in his head.
Turning back to look at me, he said, ”I make it about three, possibly four crossroads. But there are two creeks to cross. The first one is Broad Run. It’ll be easy. But the second is Catoctin Creek. It depends on the amount of rain they’ve had over here whether it’ll be hard to cross.”
I returned, “Thanks for the information, Private.”
He nodded and saluted.
I said, “Don’t worry about saluting from now on unless we are in the company of your First Sergeant or other officers.”
He looked at me as if I had grown three heads. I just grinned back.
It didn’t take us long to come to the first crossroad. Al sent a trooper back to tell Sergeant Billings to hold up. I saw the messenger and signaled to the Sergeant that I would in turn send a messenger to Mosby. I turned to Pvt. Milton and directed, “Go to Major Mosby and tell him to halt the column until we send him the go ahead. Tell him that we will be stopping at least two or three more times, and that we also have two creeks to cross. Then come back to me.”
He nodded and rode off.
I nudged Stonewall, and we walked to the front of Sergeant Billings men and then went ahead to the advance scouts. Ten men were fanned out facing southwest just past a crossroads. I suspected that each branch of the side road had flankers reconnoitering for possible enemy elements.
Presently, one set of flankers rode back to Al and must have given him a clean report because he redeployed them on the right side of the road. A few minutes later the other flankers rode back to the main road, reported to Al and were redeployed to the left side of the road. Al turned to me and made a circle around above his head with his hand. I repeated the movement. Then he moved his men forward.
I turned Stonewall around and loped him back to Sergeant Billings. I told Sergeant Billings to advance. About that time, Pvt. Milton rode up. I gave him orders to ride back to Major Mosby and tell him to advance. He nodded and rode off.
I moved back in front of Billings’ troop and just behind Al’s command.
Suddenly, Stonewall let out a snore and whinnied. Al’s horse answered. Al looked back at me. I just shrugged.
Also immediately, Al’s men confronted two wagons on the road. They surrounded the wagons and Al went forward to see what was happening.
I rode forward and joined Al, but just listened.
The driver of the first wagon was a middle aged man. The driver of the second wagon was a younger man.
Al asked in a congenial voice, “What cha doing on this here road today?”
The first wagon driver replied, “We’ve got a load of supplies for the Union Cavalry.”
Al looked at me and I immediately rode forward. “Where is the cavalry located?” I asked.
“Burkittsville,” he replied.