Stonewall snorted at my last statement and turned to look back at me, as if asking, “What now?”
I quickly said, “We need to go to the Martinsburg garrison.”
Stonewall nodded his head up and down. Then he trotted north out of town on the road that ran in front of the outpost.
I had to look at him in bewilderment and ask myself, “How’d he know to go north?”
Finally, I just quit speculating, sat back in the saddle, and let Stonewall dictate the route.
About thirty minutes later, the outline of the garrison appeared in the distance. As we approached the encampment, I could see a cluster of buildings, tents and a corral of horses. The entire layout of the camp was open. It must have covered about four acres. There were no walls, but guards appeared to be on patrol in many areas.
I picked out the biggest building and said to Stonewall, “Go straight ahead to the building in front of you.” Believe it or not, he headed us to the aforementioned structure.
Of course, there was the ever-present guard station between us and what I hoped was the garrison’s telegraph office.
Right on cue, the guard stopped his marching, faced me, came to Port Arms and ordered, “Halt! Who goes there?”
Stonewall stopped without me telling him to, and I answered, “Lieutenant Hager to see the Garrison Commander.”
The guard immediately yelled out, “Sergeant of the guard. Post one.”
In a nearby tent, I heard rustling, as if someone was getting out of a cot and getting dressed. Momentarily a sergeant emerged from the tent fully dressed and walked toward us.
Since I wasn’t in uniform, he didn’t salute when he came to where Stonewall and I were located. The Sergeant looked us up and down. Then he asked the guard, “Why did ya call me?”
The guard inclined his head toward me and responded, “Lieutenant Hager wants to see Major Murphy.”
The sergeant jerked his head toward me and gave me a withering glare. Whereupon he sarcastically asked, “Why aren’t ya in uniform, Lieutenant?”
I smiled, dismounted Stonewall, walked to where I was about a foot in front of the sergeant, and looking him straight in the eye, said in a calm voice, “That’s none of yar business, Sergeant. Now do I get to see tha Garrison Commander or do I tell Major Mosby that ya have interrupted my mission, which he has specifically ordered me to conclude on his behalf?”
Bullies are so predictable. The sergeant was completely taken back by my blunt and forceful elocution. He backed up and turned red in the face.
I kept looking at him without blinking, just daring him to give me anymore grief. I had, just about, had enough from the Martinsburg garrison personnel.
The sergeant turned to the guard, who was trying not to smile, and said, “Take this person to headquarters to see if he is who he says he is.”
Then he turned and went back into his tent.
The guard grinned at me, saluted, and pointing at the largest building in the encampment, said, “Lieutenant Hager, Major Murphy’s office is in that building.”
I returned his salute, mounted Stonewall, and rode to the indicated structure.
Once in front of the building, I dismounted and let Stonewall go. He immediately went to the nearest patch of green grass and began to grab a bite to eat. I entered the building and was stopped by another sergeant, who said, “What cha want?”
“If it isn’t too much trouble, I would like to speak with Major Murphy?” I said in a slow deep Southern accent.
I happened to have let my coat come unbuttoned, and when the sergeant saw the two Colts in my belt, he gaped at me with fear and trepidation.
I looked down to where his gaze was fixed on my pistols, and for some reason had the impulse to say, “My name is Lieutenant Hager of the Confederate Secret Service and I need to see Major Murphy on a matter of national security.”
The sergeant gulped, stood, saluted and promised, “I’ll get him immediately, sah.”
Then he briskly walked to the end of the hall, and after knocking on the door, entered the lair of the head honcho of Martinsburg Garrison.
I had to duck my head and put my hand over my face to keep from laughing out loud. For once in my life, bureaucracy had been thwarted and made a fool of at the same time.