We ate up the trail, and before long we came to where a creek crossed the road.
Zeke called to me, “We need to take it easy from here on in.”
We brought our horses to a walk. They were breathing hard and needed a rest.
Zeke came up beside me and I asked, “How much farther to Middletown?”
“’bout a mile,” he said.
“Change horses,” I ordered, while dismounting. When I mounted Stonewall, he whinnied and seemed to enjoy having me back in his saddle again. The scouts had already changed their mounts.
“We’re gonna continue up this road until we see some houses,” I advised. “Then I want to go around to tha west to see if tha Yanks have made into Middletown yet. We’re probably gonna run into Yank scouts. I don’t believe those men we had tha fight with were scouts. I think they were just on leave to visit family.”
“However, if they were scouts, so much the better for us ‘cause they won’t be a hindrance to us. We may have to turn tail and run for it at any moment. I ‘spect we should split up. If that happens, and each of us makes our way to join Mosby at Adamstown, Zeke, I want you to tell Skeeter how to get to Adamstown from here.”
Both men nodded their understanding.
As we walked our horses northeastward, Zeke tutored Skeeter on the best way to get to Adamstown.
When he had finished, I stopped moving forward and stated, “If’n we do have to run for it, let go of your reserve horses ‘cause they will just slow ya down.”
Again, both men nodded their agreement.
We moseyed forward until we saw our first cluster of houses ahead. Pointing our cayuses to the left, we departed the road and struck out across country for the main road west of Middletown.
We had to cross the continuation of the large creek that we had previously crossed about a mile back down the road. Hoping the waterway meandered to the west, I decided to follow the creek. It made some loops but continued in a northwesterly direction. When the creek approached the National Pike, which was the road that crossed South Mountain at Turners Gap and went through Middletown, I stopped our cavalcade and we found a stand of trees to hide in as we viewed the road from Turners Gap for Yanks.
Sure enough, there was a mess of ‘em on the road about a mile away. The lead elements had already made it through the Gap and were venturing southeast on the pike. I took just a moment to make a quick count of men, cannon and wagons. Then I said, “Let’s get.”
We turned around gingerly and proceeded southeast at a walk. We didn’t want to alert the lead elements of anyone trying to run away. We just wanted to be seen as local interested residents. The only problem with this was both my men wore Confederate shell jackets. Still, we didn’t hurry until we had put some distance and tree lines between us and the Yank column.
Then I said, “Let’s ride.”
We followed the big creek for a while and then crossed it at a ford we found. In just a few hundred yards we came to the Burkittsville Road. I called a halt, and we changed horses again. Then we went east until we found the Middletown Road, which Zeke said would take us to Jefferson. Turning south on this road, we rode steady, changing horses every mile. It had turned dark by the time we entered the northern outskirts of Jefferson, MD.
Our horses were plum tuckered out, not to mention us. We stopped at a house in the town and asked if we could water our horses. The owners were gracious enough to allow us water, plus they fed us a luscious dinner and provided grain for the horses. They were quite knowledgeable about Mosby’s column.
Apparently, the last vestiges of our men had passed through the town about 6:00 p.m. I check my watch, and it was 9:00 p.m. when we finished eating.
The family’s name was Anderson, and they presented no bias toward the Confederacy. In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, there were two daughters who joined us for the family meal. It was probably the first time that Zeke and Skeeter had a problem with multitasking. It was all they could do to eat and view these visions of loveliness at the same time.
At the end of the meal, we were offered the family’s barn for our slumbers, which we readily accepted. We and the horses were exhausted. I gave Stonewall a massage, which he had come to expect before we bedded down at night. Both scouts looked at me with questioning looks during my machinations with him. Once I lay down in the hay, I passed out.
Sometime in the early morning hours, Mr. Anderson entered the barn and whispered loudly, “Lieutenant Hager?”
I roused out of a deep sleep and answered, “Yes.”
“There’s Union cavalry that just passed through town, heading south,” he told me.