Civil War Transcendence, part 409

 

Stonewall must have a very strong heart because he kept up a steady pace of loping about two miles, and then walking about half a mile, all the way to Shepherdstown.

Sergeant Kirkland’s cayuse wasn’t used to this kind of pace and fell behind. I couldn’t wait on him. I had to get to Shepherdstown, round up as many cavalrymen as possible, and head north to hit the Yank reconnaissance unit.

We rode into town, and proceeding down German Street, I went straight to the guards who were on duty at the Potomac Bridge. Yelling like a banshee, I had every soldier scurrying toward me to see what in tarnation was going on.

Seeing a sergeant on duty that appeared to be the Sergeant of the Guard, I pointed at him and commanded, “Sergeant, I need a contingent of thirty men with two pistols and a carbine ready to ride north in fifteen minutes. There is a Yank Patrol that has crossed the Potomac near Williamsport, and they’re headed this way.”

Ruins of the bridge over the Potomac at Shepherdstown

The sergeant looked at me like I had lost my mind. Finally, I yelled at the top of my voice, “Move, or I’ll get someone that will follow orders to take yar place.”

That little soliloquy, which was paraphrased from an old movie, motivated the sergeant to get a move on. He yelled for the corporal of the guard to take over the bridge guard and ran for his horse. He literally jumped into his saddle, saluted me and yelled, “Sah, I’ll have ya as many men as I can gather from our camp in ten minutes.”

He headed his mount toward the guard camp and tore across the bridge toward the C&O canal path.

I grinned and turned just in time to see Sergeant Kirkland ride toward us. His horse was really huffing and puffing when he came to a halt in front of me. He saluted, and once I returned his salute, I asked, “How many pistols do ya have?”

“Just one, sah,” he replied.

I turned to two guards that were assigned to the bridge and motioned them over to me.

They saluted and I returned the salute. (I was really getting tired of all this military falderal.) Reaching my hand toward them, I said, “Give me yar pistols. My Sergeant is gonna need ‘em on this little foray we’re going on.”

Reluctantly they handed me their two pistols, which I took. Turning to Kirkland I handed him the pistols and said, “Ya’ll need these.”

He gathered them from me and was trying to decide where to put them when I opened my coat, and he saw three pistols stuck in my belt. He took the hint and, throwing military protocol to the winds, stuck the pistols in his belt. He looked up, and I gave him a big grin. He grinned back and we both chuckled.

Kirkland’s horse was still breathing pretty heavily. Apparently our little seventeen mile ride from Martinsburg had just about done in his cayuse.  I turned to one of the guards and said, “Give Sergeant Kirkland yar horse. He’s gonna be gallivanting all over the region, and I don’t think his mount is up to it.”

The guard pointed to a brown horse that was tied to a tree on the road into Shepherdstown and said, “He’s yars if’n ya kin make him mind.”

Kirkland dismounted and took his horse to the where the other horse was tied up. He tied his horse up and walked to where his supposed new mount was positioned. I looked closer at the brown horse and saw that it had white stockings on all four legs and was rather a beautiful animal. However, it laid its ears back when Kirkland got close to it. I was wondering if he noticed.

Abruptly the horse pulled its reins loose from the tree and lunged at Kirkland. I was amazed at how quickly the sergeant responded. He stepped to the side and slapped the attacking animal on the nose. It must have been very hard blow, because the horse squealed and danced around shaking its head.

However, Kirkland wasn’t through with his new mount. He ran at the horse, draped his right arm over the horse’s neck, and acting like a yoke, he pulled the horse’s head down. Then he grabbed the left ear of the horse with his left hand, and pulling it toward him, bit down on the horse’s ear.

My eyes nearly popped out of my head with this last maneuver.

The horse immediately stopped all his whinnying, jumping around and trying to rear up. Letting go with his teeth, Kirkland held on to the horse’s ear and said something to his new mount. Then he let go of the horse in stages to see if the cayuse was going to be tame.

The horse didn’t move so Kirkland mounted without any mishap.

Suddenly a cheer went up from the guards on the bridge. I even joined in. It was the greatest job of taming a horse I had ever seen.

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About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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