After dispensing the information about the spy ring to John Lee, I headed for the mansion’s back door which housed the kitchen area. Upon entering, I was met with a swarm of activity. I could see that Anna was in command and had her brood performing various tasks, from cooking to polishing silver to washing dishes.
She caught my eye and nodded. I took off my hat, gave her a small bow, which produced a smile, and quickly vacated the kitchen area for the hallway. I began to wonder what had transpired to engender such herculean efforts by the Ferry Hill staff. Familiar laughter emerged from the left parlor and my question was answered immediately. Tom Newcomer, Daphne’s older brother, had come visiting. I was hoping Jonah Newcomer, her younger brother, had accompanied him.
Hurrying down the hall, I entered the parlor to find Daphne, Mrs. Douglas, Willie Douglas, Tom Newcomer and Jonah Newcomer seated in an improvised circle of chairs, love-seats and a small sofa.
Tom and Jonah stood when I came into the room. We all shook hands and hugged each other like long lost brothers. When the greetings were done, we all sat down again and I had a chance to analyze my two brothers-in-law.
What a difference a few months can make. The last time that I saw Tom was at the wedding. He was my best man and had worn a private’s uniform with the familiar yellow piping of the cavalry. Now, he donned a First Sergeant’s uniform and possessed the mature bearing of a veteran soldier. Physically he had developed broader shoulders and a slimmer waist. No doubt he was considered a very handsome man by the gentle sex.
I stole a quick glance at Daphne and could see she was proud of her brother and the fine young man he had become.
Jonah had also undergone some serious change. He no longer was the tall awkward boy I had remembered. He must have grown another two inches, and his body had transitioned from a boy to a man. His shoulders weren’t as broad as his older brother, but he had the build of a young man of sinew strength. He happened to be wearing the uniform of a cavalry private.
Daphne brought me up to date by saying, “Tom and Jonah are with General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry division located in north Georgia. They’ve been on some daring missions and have been sharing some of their experiences. They’re home on leave and wanted to come by to see us before they went to Halltown.”
I nodded and said to the two men, “It is really great to see y’all again. Please continue telling us about what has occurred in yar part of the world.”
Tom said, “Well, we’ve been assigned to the 6th Virginia Cavalry and have been playing cat and mouse with tha Union cavalry for tha last two months. Jonah joined about a month ago and I was able to get him assigned to tha Sixth.”
Turning to Jonah, I reluctantly said, “I don’t want to be a nosy in-law, but I have to ask how ya got permission to join up from yar mother.”
Jonah smiled and said, “I use a bit of subterfuge.”
I gave him a questioning look.
He chuckled and revealed, “I stole away from tha house during the night, saddled my horse and rode through Harpers Ferry to tha bridge over the Potomac. I then traveled along the Potomac on the Maryland side of the river until I got to Point of Rocks ford. I crossed tha Potomac there and made my way south to Leesburg. I wasn’t known there and believed I could join up without any questions asked.”
I asked, “How did tha subterfuge come into play?”
He smiled and continued, “I had two pieces of paper that I had written tha number sixteen on. I put one in each of my shoes and, when I was asked by tha recruiter if I was over sixteen, I answered truthfully that I was definitely over sixteen.”
We all got a kick out of the explanation of his recruitment and laughed heartily.
Daphne turned a serious face to Jonah and asked, “What did mama say?”
“Well,” Jonah answered, “there wasn’t much she could do. I was accepted into tha cavalry and that was a done deal. I don’t believe that mama or father knew of my intent to join until I was gone. Father sent Ahab to track me down. It took him a few weeks to find me. I saw Ahab outside our picket line one day looking at me. However, I was already in uniform, and Tom had gotten me assigned to our captain as a courier. So there wasn’t anything he could do. Ahab disappeared and I haven’t heard from anyone back home since I left.”
The family situation brought a sobering effect to the once joyful reunion.