It didn’t take long. I saw two riders come galloping down the street brandishing shotguns. I immediately hit the floor as sprays of buckshot busted out the front window and permeated the façade and door of the telegraph office.
Once I knew the would-be assassins had emptied their weapons, I jumped up, opened the ventilated office door and ran outside. I was just in time to hear the screams of the town folk and see the riders disappearing in the distance.
I suddenly hear hoof beats and turned to see Stonewall gallup up and stop abruptly beside me. I shoved my Colts in my belt, grabbed the saddle pommel and said, “Let’s go.”
That’s all it took. Stonewall didn’t do one of his famous lunges, but began a slow steady gallop allowing me to hang on to the saddle’s pommel and execute a Pony Express mount. It was the first time we tried this, and I let out a “wahoo” when I landed in the saddle, which was matched by Stonewall’s whinny. Stonewall didn’t tarry, but launched into what I call his passing gear. In other words, once I was safety aboard, he took off like he had been shot out of a cannon.
I don’t believe that the ride-by shootists believed we would react to their attempted murder as quickly as we did, because we gained on them rapidly. They had ridden from the north part of town to deliver their bombardment and now headed south toward the River Road, probably to cross the Potomac at Boteler’s Ford. They had slowed down, but once they heard Stonewall’s hoof beats, they turned, saw us and spurred their horses to a gallop.
I put Stonewall’s reins in my mouth, pulled out both of my Colts, and since we had already vacated the town, I began to shoot, first one pistol and then the other, at the would-be killers.
They tried to return my fire, but it was hard for them to ride down the semi-winding road and shoot backwards at the same time. Finally, they gave up and just concentrated on riding as fast as they could.
Once they had descended to where the River Road ran along the Potomac, they turned north and made for Boteler’s Ford, which was the wrong thing to do because they went right past Hattie’s place. Guess who happened to be visiting Hattie?
Al Madigan must have heard my shooting, because he had climbed up on the River Road and was ensconced behind a tree with a Sharps Carbine. He saw the riders first, and when he saw me in pursuit, he waited until the riders were abeam his position. Then he leveled his weapon and blew one of the would-be killers out of his saddle.
The other rider ducked to avoid being shot and directed his horse off the road and down to the river. This was not a good move. The river bank was steep and pock-marked. The assassin’s horse didn’t make it to the river before it fell and rolled over its rider.
I brought Stonewall to a halt at the place the assassin had traipsed off the road and dismounted. Al came up to me at a dead run. I extended my hand and said, “I’ve never been more thankful to see ya as I am right now. Thanks for taking out that killer.”
Al grinned and retorted, “Glad to help ya out, Jim. By tha way, we better see to tha man on tha river bank.”
I nodded and we both approached the face-down prone figure with weapons at the ready. The rider’s horse had gingerly gotten to its feet while favoring its right fore leg.
The man didn’t move as we reached his position. Al turned him over. His open eyes stared at a sky that he would never see again.
“Well, ‘spect that takes care of these two,” Al commended. “By tha way, why was ya shooting at ‘em?”
“I was in tha telegraph office, and as they rode by, they tried to shoot me with shotguns,” I answered.
Al’s eyes widened and he said, “My lord. Ya must be hurting tha Yank spies really bad. That’s the second time they’ve tried to kill ya in broad daylight.”
I just nodded and said, “I ‘spect so. I know one thing.”
Al asked, “What?”
“I can’t risk bringing Daphne into Shepherdstown with all tha shooting that’s been going on. She’s gonna have to stay at Ferry Hill,” I explained.