I was totally shocked with the information the supply wagon driver provided. I looked at Al, and he seemed as surprised as I was.
I continued my interrogation with, “Do ya know when the Union cavalry was gonna be in Burkittsville?”
The wagon driver squinted at me and replied, “I don’t know if’n I should be giving y’all this information. What side are ya a part of?”
I replied, “I’m a Confederate.”
The driver returned, “Oh! Well, I done rented my wagons to transport goods for the Union. Are ya gonna take my wagons?”
“Nope,” I said. “But if’n ya would oblige us with some information and not tell anyone what ya told us, we would greatly appreciate it. And, we’ll never tell anyone what cha tell us.”
The driver heaved a sigh of relief and said, “I’m really of a like mind with the Confederacy, but the pay that the Union offered me was too good to turn down. Anyway, what cha want to know?”
“Well,” I said. “Do ya know when the Union cavalry is supposed to be in Burkittsville and from which direction they’s coming from to occupy the town?”
“They’s supposed to be in Burkittsville now. They’s coming from Pleasant Valley and from the north by way of Turners Gap,” he stated.
I nodded and then said, “I sure do appreciate the information. Don’t let us keep ya from yar delivery. Take care and beware there’s some very unprincipled people loose in the area, especially near Burkittsville.”
This really got the driver’s attention because he straightened up and looked startled. He gave half a salute and returned, “Thanks for the warning.” Then he snapped the reins of his team and snarled, “Giddyap.”
I watched him until he was out of sight, but all the time my mind was racing a hundred miles an hour.
I was snapped back to the present when Al said, “I done seen that look in yar eyes before. Ya been cyphering what the driver’s information might mean for us, right?”
I turned to him and said, “Right! I’m gonna go see Mosby. Keep the scouts moving. We need to be past Jefferson by early afternoon.”
Al nodded and turned back to his contingent.
I turned Stonewall back toward Mosby’s location and nudged him. He started forward and gently accelerated into a lope. I could tell the exertions of the last four days were beginning to tell on him. Pvt. Milton continued to follow me like a shadow without uttering one word.
We passed the two wagons and I waved at the driver. He waved back.
Once we reached Mosby, I brought Stonewall to a halt in front of him. I saluted and he returned my salute. I reiterated the driver’s information to Mosby, who listened without interruption. Then I added that I had given the driver safe passage through our lines. Mosby raised his eyebrows to this, but nodded his acceptance.
Then he asked, “What do ya make of tha new information?”
I answered, “I ‘spect we made it out of Burkittsville just in time. Quantrill stopped tha push from Pleasant Valley, but tha other Union contingent is up north of us and moving our way.”
“Yep,” replied Mosby. “We gotta know how big that contingent is. I gonna turn tha scouting contingent over to First Sergeant Billings. I want ya to pick two men and find out tha numbers of Union cavalry to our north and report back to me. I believe ya know where we’re headed.”
“Yes, sir,” I said and saluted. He just nodded back and move forward at the head of the main body of men.
I turned to Pvt. Milton and said, “What’s yar first name?”
“Zeke,” he stated.
“Well, Zeke, ya ready for a little scouting duty?” I asked.
He just grinned and nodded.