Zeke and I rode past the last of the five cavalry companies. They were lined up and ready to head out. I saw Captain Edwards at the head of this troop and pulled back gently on Stonewall’s reins, when we were abreast of the Captain and his First Sergeant. The captain smiled as I saluted.
He returned my salute and added, “I haven’t had a chance to thank ya, Lieutenant, for getting us out of that situation at Brownsville.”
I smiled and returned, “Just doing my job, Capt’n. Major Mosby would have had me skinned alive if’n I hadn’t. By the way do ya have a private we could commandeer for some scouting duty?”
He grinned and said, “Sure, we got a few we could lend ya. Do they gotta be whole or can they be wounded?”
“Don’t matter as long as they can ride like the wind, if need be,” I replied.
“Well, there’s a private that has a bandage on his head at tha end of tha column. He’s yar man. His name’s William Peters, but everyone calls him Skeeter. Tell him he has been assigned to ya for tha duration,” the captain decreed.
I saluted and said, “Thank ya, captain.”
He returned my salute and we rode off.
We got to the end of Captain Edwards’ company line, and sure enough, there was a trooper with a bandage on his head. Zeke and I rode up to him and brought our horses to a halt, forcing him to stop and question our abrupt maneuver to prevent his further movement. Initially, he looked at Zeke and me with a bewildered stare. However, I could tell that he quickly decided I was an officer, and his bafflement turned to one of in-depth examination of our persons. By the time he saluted, I felt like we had been classified, categorized and catalogued within fifteen seconds. I smiled and returned his salute.
I intoned, “Are you Private Peters, better known as Skeeter?”
Without a smile and totally serious, he answered, “Yes, sir.”
“I’m Lieutenant Hager and you have been assigned to me for scout duty. I see you got wounded. Are ya well enough to ride hard if need be?”
He nodded and acknowledged, “I’m fit for anything the Lieutenant requires.”
“Good,” I said and, turning to Zeke, added, “This here’s Zeke Milton. Ya can call me Jim.”
Skeeter raised his eyebrows at the familiarity, but affirmed my introductions by nodding to me and then to Zeke.
I turned to Zeke and asked, “Well, Zeke can we go north from here or do we need to go east to pick up a road going north?”
“We can go north from here on tha Burkittsville Road. It goes all tha way to Middletown. According to what that teamster said, tha Yanks coming from tha north will be coming through Turner’s Gap. They’ll probably go to Middletown after they clear the gap by way of tha National Pike. It’s tha best and widest road. We could run into ‘em anywhere between here and Middletown.”
“How far is it from here to Middletown?” I asked.
“About seven or eight miles.”
“How far from Turner’s Gap to Middletown?”
“About eight miles, but, getting down the east side of South Mountain, ain’t no easy chore. It’s steep as all get out and they’s gonna have to take pains with their cannon, if’n they’s got any,” he added.
“Oh, they’s got cannon alright,” I noted. “But, if’n we ran into ‘em between here and Middleton, can we cut across to the east and find Mosby?”
“We can leave the Burkittsville Road and go east until we hit the Middletown Road. It’ll take us south to Jefferson, but there’s one big creek and a bunch of little ones we’ll have to cross to get to the Middletown Road.”
“We’ll have to take the chance,” I said. “Well, Zeke, lead the way.”
Editor's Note: We wish you peace and joy this Christmas Day. Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate. Happy Holidays to all!