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Title: The Guns of Shiloh: A Story of the Great Western Campaign
Author: Altsheler, Joseph A. (Joseph Alexander)
Language: English
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THE GUNS OF SHILOH

A STORY OF THE GREAT WESTERN CAMPAIGN


By Joseph A. Altsheler



FOREWORD


“The Guns of Shiloh,” a complete story in itself, is the complement of
“The Guns of Bull Run.” In “The Guns of Bull Run” the Civil War and
its beginnings are seen through the eyes of Harry Kenton, who is on the
Southern side. In “The Guns of Shiloh” the mighty struggle takes its
color from the view of Dick Mason, who fights for the North and who is
with Grant in his first great campaign.



THE CIVIL WAR SERIES


 VOLUMES IN THE CIVIL WAR SERIES

  THE GUNS OF BULL RUN.
  THE GUNS OF SHILOH.
  THE SCOUTS OF STONEWALL.
  THE SWORD OF ANTIETAM.
  THE STAR OF GETTYSBURG.
  THE ROCK OF CHICKAMAUGA.
  THE SHADES OF THE WILDERNESS.
  THE TREE OF APPOMATTOX.


 PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS IN THE CIVIL WAR SERIES

  HARRY KENTON, A Lad Who Fights on the Southern Side.
  DICK MASON, Cousin of Harry Kenton, Who Fights on the Northern Side.
  COLONEL GEORGE KENTON, Father of Harry Kenton.
  MRS. MASON, Mother of Dick Mason.
  JULIANA, Mrs. Mason’s Devoted Colored Servant.
  COLONEL ARTHUR WINCHESTER, Dick Mason’s Regimental Commander.
  COLONEL LEONIDAS TALBOT, Commander of the Invincibles,
   a Southern Regiment.
  LIEUTENANT COLONEL HECTOR ST. HILAIRE, Second in Command of the
   Invincibles.
  ALAN HERTFORD, A Northern Cavalry Leader.
  PHILIP SHERBURNE, A Southern Cavalry Leader.
  WILLIAM J. SHEPARD, A Northern Spy.
  DANIEL WHITLEY, A Northern Sergeant and Veteran of the Plains.
  GEORGE WARNER, A Vermont Youth Who Loves Mathematics.
  FRANK PENNINGTON, A Nebraska Youth, Friend of Dick Mason.
  ARTHUR ST. CLAIR, A Native of Charleston, Friend of Harry Kenton.
  TOM LANGDON, Friend of Harry Kenton.
  GEORGE DALTON, Friend of Harry Kenton.
  BILL SKELLY, Mountaineer and Guerrilla.
  TOM SLADE, A Guerrilla Chief.
  SAM JARVIS, The Singing Mountaineer.
  IKE SIMMONS, Jarvis’ Nephew.
  AUNT “SUSE,” A Centenarian and Prophetess.
  BILL PETTY, A Mountaineer and Guide.
  JULIEN DE LANGEAIS, A Musician and Soldier from Louisiana.
  JOHN CARRINGTON, Famous Northern Artillery Officer.
  DR. RUSSELL, Principal of the Pendleton School.
  ARTHUR TRAVERS, A Lawyer.
  JAMES BERTRAND, A Messenger from the South.
  JOHN NEWCOMB, A Pennsylvania Colonel.
  JOHN MARKHAM, A Northern Officer.
  JOHN WATSON, A Northern Contractor.
  WILLIAM CURTIS, A Southern Merchant and Blockade Runner.
  MRS. CURTIS, Wife of William Curtis.
  HENRIETTA CARDEN, A Seamstress in Richmond.
  DICK JONES, A North Carolina Mountaineer.
  VICTOR WOODVILLE, A Young Mississippi Officer.
  JOHN WOODVILLE, Father of Victor Woodville.
  CHARLES WOODVILLE, Uncle of Victor Woodville.
  COLONEL BEDFORD, A Northern Officer.
  CHARLES GORDON, A Southern Staff Officer.
  JOHN LANHAM, An Editor.
  JUDGE KENDRICK, A Lawyer.
  MR. CULVER, A State Senator.
  MR. BRACKEN, A Tobacco Grower.
  ARTHUR WHITRIDGE, A State Senator.


 HISTORICAL CHARACTERS

  ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States.
  JEFFERSON DAVIS, President of the Southern Confederacy.
  JUDAH P. BENJAMIN, Member of the Confederate Cabinet.
  U. S. GRANT, Northern Commander.
  ROBERT E. LEE, Southern Commander.
  STONEWALL JACKSON, Southern General.
  PHILIP H. SHERIDAN, Northern General.
  GEORGE H. THOMAS, “The Rock of Chickamauga.”
   ALBERT SIDNEY JOHNSTON, Southern General.
  A. P. HILL, Southern General.
  W. S. HANCOCK, Northern General.
  GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, Northern General.
  AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE, Northern General.
  TURNER ASHBY, Southern Cavalry Leader.
  J. E. B. STUART, Southern Cavalry Leader.
  JOSEPH HOOKER, Northern General.
  RICHARD S. EWELL, Southern General.
  JUBAL EARLY, Southern General.
  WILLIAM S. ROSECRANS, Northern General.
  SIMON BOLIVAR BUCKNER, Southern General.
  LEONIDAS POLK, Southern General and Bishop.
  BRAXTON BRAGG, Southern General.
  NATHAN BEDFORD FORREST, Southern Cavalry Leader.
  JOHN MORGAN, Southern Cavalry Leader.
  GEORGE J. MEADE, Northern General.
  DON CARLOS BUELL, Northern General.
  W. T. SHERMAN, Northern General.
  JAMES LONGSTREET, Southern General.
  P. G. T. BEAUREGARD, Southern General.
  WILLIAM L. YANCEY, Alabama Orator.
  JAMES A. GARFIELD, Northern General, afterwards President of
   the United States.

  And many others


 IMPORTANT BATTLES DESCRIBED IN THE CIVIL WAR SERIES

  BULL RUN
  KERNSTOWN
  CROSS KEYS
  WINCHESTER
  PORT REPUBLIC
  THE SEVEN DAYS
  MILL SPRING
  FORT DONELSON
  SHILOH
  PERRYVILLE
  STONE RIVER
  THE SECOND MANASSAS
  ANTIETAM
  FREDERICKSBURG
  CHANCELLORSVILLE
  GETTYSBURG
  CHAMPION HILL
  VICKSBURG
  CHICKAMAUGA
  MISSIONARY RIDGE
  THE WILDERNESS
  SPOTTSYLVANIA
  COLD HARBOR
  FISHER’S HILL
  CEDAR CREEK
  APPOMATTOX



CONTENTS

    I.    IN FLIGHT

   II.    THE MOUNTAIN LIGHTS

  III.    THE TELEGRAPH STATION

   IV.    THE FIGHT IN THE PASS

    V.    THE SINGER OF THE HILLS

   VI.    MILL SPRING

  VII.    THE MESSENGER

 VIII.    A MEETING AT NIGHT

   IX.    TAKING A FORT

    X.    BEFORE DONELSON

   XI.    THE SOUTHERN ATTACK

  XII.    GRANT’S GREAT VICTORY

 XIII.    IN THE FOREST

  XIV.    THE DARK EVE OF SHILOH

   XV.    THE RED DAWN OF SHILOH

  XVI.    THE FIERCE FINISH OF SHILOH



THE GUNS OF SHILOH



CHAPTER I. IN FLIGHT


Dick Mason, caught in the press of a beaten army, fell back slowly with
his comrades toward a ford of Bull Run. The first great battle of the
Civil War had been fought and lost. Lost, after it had been won! Young
as he was Dick knew that fortune had been with the North until the very
closing hour. He did not yet know how it had been done. He did not know
how the Northern charges had broken in vain on the ranks of Stonewall
Jackson’s men. He did not know how the fresh Southern troops from the
Valley of Virginia had hurled themselves so fiercely on the Union flank.
But he did know that his army had been defeated and was retreating on
the capital.

Cannon still thundered to right and left, and now and then showers of
bursting shell sprayed over the heads of the tired and gloomy soldiers.
Dick, thoughtful and scholarly, was in the depths of a bitterness and
despair reached by few of those around him. The Union, the Republic, had
appealed to him as the most glorious of experiments. He could not bear
to see it broken up for any cause whatever. It had been founded with
too much blood and suffering and labor to be dissolved in a day on a
Virginia battlefield.

But the army that had almost grasped victory was retreating, and the
camp followers, the spectators who had come out to see an easy triumph,
and some of the raw recruits were running. A youth near Dick cried that
the rebels fifty thousand strong with a hundred guns were hot upon their
heels. A short, powerful man, with a voice like the roar of thunder,
bade him hush or he would feel a rifle barrel across his back. Dick
had noticed this man, a sergeant named Whitley, who had shown singular
courage and coolness throughout the battle, and he crowded closer to him
for companionship. The man observed the action and looked at him with
blue eyes that twinkled out of a face almost black with the sun.

“Don’t take it so hard, my boy,” he said. “This battle’s lost, but there
are others that won’t be. Most of the men were raw, but they did some
mighty good fightin’, while the regulars an’ the cavalry are coverin’
the retreat. Beauregard’s army is not goin’ to sweep us off the face of
the earth.”

His words brought cheer to Dick, but it lasted only a moment. He was to
see many dark days, but this perhaps was the darkest of his life. His
heart beat painfully and his face was a brown mask of mingled dust,
sweat, and burned gunpowder. The thunder of the Southern cannon behind
them filled him with humiliation. Every bone in him ached after such
fierce exertion, and his eyes were dim with the flare of cannon and
rifles and the rolling clouds of dust. He was scarcely conscious that
the thick and powerful sergeant had moved up by his side and had put a
helping hand under his arm.

“Here we are at the ford!” cried Whitley. “Into it, my lad! Ah, how good
the water feels!”

Dick, despite those warning guns behind him, would have remained a while
in Bull Run, luxuriating in the stream, but the crowd of his comrades
was pressing hard upon him, and he only had time to thrust his face into
the water and to pour it over his neck, arms, and shoulders. But he was
refreshed greatly. Some of the heat went out of his body, and his eyes
and head ached less.

The retreat continued across the rolling hills. Dick saw everywhere arms
and supplies thrown away by the fringe of a beaten army, the men in the
rear who saw and who spread the reports of panic and terror. But the
regiments were forming again into a cohesive force, and behind them
the regulars and cavalry in firm array still challenged pursuit. Heavy
firing was heard again under the horizon and word came that the Southern
cavalry had captured guns and wagons, but the main division maintained
its slow retreat toward Washington.

Now the cool shadows were coming. The sun, which had shown as red as
blood over the field that day, was sinking behind the hills. Its fiery
rays ceased to burn the faces of the men. A soft healing breeze stirred
the leaves and grass. The river of Bull Run and the field of Manassas
were gone from sight, and the echo of the last cannon shot died solemnly
on the Southern horizon. An hour later the brigade stopped in the wood,
and the exhausted men threw themselves upon the ground. They were so
tired that their bodies were in pain as if pricked with needles. The
chagrin and disgrace of defeat were forgotten for the time in the
overpowering desire for rest.

Dick had enlisted as a common soldier. There was no burden of
maintaining order upon him, and he threw himself upon the ground by the
side of his new friend, Sergeant Whitley. His breath came at first in
gasps, but presently he felt better and sat up.

It was now full night, thrice blessed to them all, with the heat and
dust gone and no enemy near. The young recruits had recovered their
courage. The terrible scenes of the battle were hid from their eyes, and
the cannon no longer menaced on the horizon. The sweet, soothing wind
blew gently over the hills among which they lay, and the leaves rustled
peacefully.

Fires were lighted, wagons with supplies arrived, and the men began
to cook food, while the surgeons moved here and there, binding up the
wounds of the hurt. The pleasant odors of coffee and frying meat arose.
Sergeant Whitley stood up and by the moonlight and the fires scanned the
country about them with discerning eye. Dick looked at him with renewed
interest. He was a man of middle years, but with all the strength and
elasticity of youth. Despite his thick coat of tan he was naturally
fair, and Dick noticed that his hands were the largest that he had ever
seen on any human being. They seemed to the boy to have in them the
power to strangle a bear. But the man was singularly mild and gentle in
his manner.

“We’re about half way to Washington, I judge,” he said, “an’ I expect a
lot of our camp followers and grass-green men are all the way there
by now, tellin’ Abe Lincoln an’ everybody else that a hundred thousand
rebels fell hard upon us on the plain of Manassas.”

He laughed deep down in his throat and Dick again drew courage and
cheerfulness from one who had such a great store of both.

“How did it happen? Our defeat, I mean,” asked Dick. “I thought almost
to the very last moment that we had the victory won.”

“Their reserves came an’ ours didn’t. But the boys did well. Lots worse
than this will happen to us, an’ we’ll live to overcome it. I’ve been
through a heap of hardships in my life, Dick, but I always remember that
somebody else has been through worse. Let’s go down the hill. The boys
have found a branch an’ are washin’ up.”

By “branch” he meant a brook, and Dick went with him gladly. They
found a fine, clear stream, several feet broad and a foot deep, flowing
swiftly between the slopes, and probably emptying miles further on into
Bull Run. Already it was lined by hundreds of soldiers, mostly boys,
who were bathing freely in its cool waters. Dick and the sergeant joined
them and with the sparkle of the current fresh life and vigor flowed
into their veins.

An officer took command, and when they had bathed their faces, necks,
and arms abundantly they were allowed to take off their shoes and socks
and put their bruised and aching feet in the stream.

“It seems to me, sergeant, that this is pretty near to Heaven,” said
Dick as he sat on the bank and let the water swish around his ankles.

“It’s mighty good. There’s no denyin’ it, but we’ll move still a step
nearer to Heaven, when we get our share of that beef an’ coffee, which
I now smell most appetizin’. Hard work gives a fellow a ragin’ appetite,
an’ I reckon fightin’ is the hardest of all work. When I was a lumberman
in Wisconsin I thought nothin’ could beat that, but I admit now that a
big battle is more exhaustin’.”

“You’ve worked in the timber then?”

“From the time I was twelve years old ‘til three or four years ago. If
I do say it myself, there wasn’t a man in all Wisconsin, or Michigan
either, who could swing an axe harder or longer than I could. I guess
you’ve noticed these hands of mine.”

He held them up, and they impressed Dick more than ever. They were great
masses of bone and muscle fit for a giant.

“Paws, the boys used to call ‘em,” resumed Whitley with a pleased laugh.
“I inherited big hands. Father had em an’ mother had ‘em, too. So mine
were wonders when I was a boy, an’ when you add to that years an’ years
with the axe, an’ with liftin’ an’ rollin’ big logs I’ve got what I
reckon is the strongest pair of hands in the United States. I can pull a
horseshoe apart any time. Mighty useful they are, too, as I’m likely to
show you often.”

The chance came very soon. A frightened horse, probably with the memory
of the battle still lodged somewhere in his animal brain, broke his
tether and came charging among the troops. Whitley made one leap, seized
him by the bit in his mighty grasp and hurled him back on his haunches,
where he held him until fear was gone from him.

“It was partly strength and partly sleight of hand, a trick that I
learned in the cavalry,” he said to Dick as they put on their shoes.
“I got tired of lumberin’ an’ I wandered out west, where I served three
years on horseback in the regular army, fightin’ the Indians. Good
fighters they are, too. Mighty hard to put your hand on ‘em. Now they’re
there an’ now they ain’t. Now you see ‘em before you, an’ then they’re
behind you aimin’ a tomahawk at your head. They taught us a big lot
that I guess we can use in this war. Come on, Dick, I guess them banquet
halls are spread, an’ I know we’re ready.”

Not much order was preserved in the beaten brigade, which had become
separated from the rest of the retreating army, but the spirits of all
were rising and that, so Sergeant Whitley told Dick, was better just now
than technical discipline. The Northern army had gone to Bull Run with
ample supplies, and now they lacked for nothing. They ate long and well,
and drank great quantities of coffee. Then they put out the fires and
resumed the march toward Washington.

They stopped again an hour or two after midnight and slept until
morning. Dick lay on the bare ground under the boughs of a great oak
tree. It was a quarter of an hour before sleep came, because his nervous
system had received a tremendous wrench that day. He closed his eyes
and the battle passed again before them. He remembered, too, a lightning
glimpse of a face, that of his cousin, Harry Kenton, seen but an instant
and then gone. He tried to decide whether it was fancy or reality, and,
while he was trying, he fell asleep and slept as one dead.

Dick was awakened early in the morning by Sergeant Whitley, who was now
watching over him like an elder brother. The sun already rode high and
there was a great stir and movement, as the brigade was forming for its
continued retreat on the capital. The boy’s body was at first stiff
and sore, but the elasticity of youth returned fast, and after a brief
breakfast he was fully restored.

Another hot day had dawned, but Dick reflected grimly that however hot
it might be it could not be as hot as the day before had been. Scouts in
the night had brought back reports that the Southern troops were on the
northern side of Bull Run, but not in great force, and a second battle
was no longer feared. The flight could be continued without interruption
over the hot Virginia fields.

Much of Dick’s depression returned as they advanced under the blazing
sun, but Whitley, who seemed insensible to either fatigue or gloom, soon
cheered him up again.

“They talk about the Southerners comin’ on an’ takin’ Washington,” he
said, “but don’t you believe it. They haven’t got the forces, an’ while
they won the victory I guess they’re about as tired as we are. Our boys
talk about a hundred thousand rebels jumpin’ on ‘em, an’ some felt as if
they was a million, but they weren’t any more than we was, maybe not
as many, an’ when they are all stove up themselves how can they attack
Washington in its fortifications! Don’t be so troubled, boy. The Union
ain’t smashed up yet. Just recollect whenever it’s dark that light’s
bound to come later on. What do you say to that, Long Legs?”

He spoke to a very tall and very thin youth who marched about a half
dozen feet away from them. The boy, who seemed to be about eighteen
years of age, turned to them a face which was pale despite the
Virginia sun. But it was the pallor of indoor life, not of fear, as the
countenance was good and strong, long, narrow, the chin pointed, the
nose large and bridged like that of an old Roman, the eyes full blue
and slightly nearsighted. But there was a faint twinkle in those same
nearsighted eyes as he replied in precise tones:

“According to all the experience of centuries and all the mathematical
formulae that can be deduced therefrom night is bound to be followed
by day. We have been whipped by the rebels, but it follows with
arithmetical certainty that if we keep on fighting long enough we will
whip them in time. Let x equal time and y equal opportunity. Then when
x and y come together we shall have x plus y which will equal success.
Does my logic seem cogent to you, Mr. Big Shoulders and Big Hands?”

Whitley stared at him in amazement and admiration.

“I haven’t heard so many big words in a long time,” he said, “an’ then,
too, you bring ‘em out so nice an’ smooth, marchin’ in place as regular
as a drilled troop.”

“I’ve been drilled too,” said the tall boy, smiling. “My name is George
Warner, and I come from Vermont. I began teaching a district school when
I was sixteen years old, and I would be teaching now, if it were not for
the war. My specialty is mathematics. X equals the war, y equals me and
x plus y equals me in the war.”

“Your name is Warner and you are from Vermont,” said Dick eagerly. “Why,
there was a Warner who struck hard for independence at Bennington in the
Revolution.”

“That’s my family,” replied the youth proudly. “Seth Warner delivered
a mighty blow that helped to form this Union, and although I don’t know
much except to teach school I’m going to put in a little one to help
save it. X equalled the occasion, y equalled my willingness to meet it,
and x plus y have brought me here.”

Dick told who he and Whitley were, and he felt at once that he and this
long and mathematical Vermont lad were going to be friends. Whitley also
continued to look upon Warner with much favor.

“I respect anybody who can talk in mathematics as you do,” he said. “Now
with me I never know what x equals an’ I never know what y equals, so
if I was to get x an’ y together they might land me about ten thousand
miles from where I wanted to be. But a fellow can bend too much over
books. That’s what’s the matter with them eyes of yours, which I notice
always have to take two looks where I take only one.”

“You are undoubtedly right,” replied Warner. “My relatives told me that
I needed some fresh air, and I am taking it, although the process is
attended with certain risks from bullets, swords, bayonets, cannon
balls, and shells. Still, I have made a very close mathematical
calculation. At home there is the chance of disease as well as here. At
home you may fall from a cliff, you may be drowned in a creek or river
while bathing, a tree may fall on you, a horse may throw you and break
your neck, or you may be caught in a winter storm and freeze to death.
But even if none of these things happens to you, you will die some day
anyhow. Now, my figures show me that the chance of death here in the war
is only twenty-five per cent greater than it was at home, but physical
activity and an open air continuously increase my life chances
thirty-five per cent. So, I make a net life gain of ten per cent.”

Whitley put his hand upon Warner’s shoulder.

“Boy,” he said, “you’re wonderful. I can cheer up the lads by talkin’
of the good things to come, but you can prove by arithmetic, algebra an’
every other kind of mathematics that they’re bound to come. You’re goin’
to be worth a lot wherever you are.”

“Thanks for your encomiums. In any event we are gaining valuable
experience. Back there on the field of Bull Run I was able to
demonstrate by my own hearing and imagination that a hundred thousand
rebels could fire a million bullets a minute; that every one of those
million bullets filled with a mortal spite against me was seeking my own
particular person.”

Whitley gazed at him again with admiration.

“You’ve certainly got a wonderful fine big bag of words,” he said, “an’
whenever you need any you just reach in an’ take out a few a foot long
or so. But I reckon a lot of others felt the way you did, though they
won’t admit it now. Look, we’re nearly to Washington now. See the dome
of the Capitol over the trees there, an’ I can catch glimpses of roofs
too.”

Dick and George also saw the capital, and cheered by the sight, they
marched at a swifter gait. Soon they turned into the main road, where
the bulk of the army had already passed and saw swarms of stragglers
ahead of them. Journalists and public men met them, and Dick now learned
how the truth about Bull Run had come to the capital. The news of defeat
had been the more bitter, because already they had been rejoicing there
over success. As late as five o’clock in the afternoon the telegraph had
informed Washington of victory. Then, after a long wait, had come the
bitter despatch telling of defeat, and flying fugitives arriving in the
night had exaggerated it tenfold.

The division to which Dick, Warner, and Whitley belonged marched over
the Long Bridge and camped near the capital where they would remain
until sent on further service. Dick now saw that the capital was in no
danger. Troops were pouring into it by every train from the north and
west. All they needed was leadership and discipline. Bull Run had stung,
but it did not daunt them and they asked to be led again against the
enemy. They heard that Lincoln had received the news of the defeat with
great calmness, and that he had spent most of a night in his office
listening to the personal narratives of public men who had gone forth to
see the battle, and who at its conclusion had left with great speed.

“Lots of people have laughed at Abe Lincoln an’ have called him only a
rail-splitter,” said Whitley, “but I heard him two or three times, when
he was campaignin’ in Illinois, an’ I tell you he’s a man.”

“He was born in my state,” said Dick, “and I mean to be proud of him.
He’ll have support, too. Look how the country is standing by him!”

More than once in the succeeding days Dick Mason’s heart thrilled at
the mighty response that came to the defeat of Bull Run. The stream of
recruits pouring into the capital never ceased. He now saw men, and many
boys, too, like himself, from every state north of the Ohio River
and from some south of it. Dan Whitley met old logging friends from
Wisconsin whom he had not seen in years, and George Warner saw two
pupils of his as old as himself.

Dick had inherited a sensitive temperament, one that responded quickly
and truthfully to the events occurring about him, and he foresaw the
beginning of a mighty struggle. Here in the capital, resolution was
hardening into a fight to the finish, and he knew from his relatives
when he left Kentucky that the South was equally determined. There was
an apparent pause in hostilities, but he felt that the two sections were
merely gathering their forces for a mightier conflict.

His comrades and he had little to do, and they had frequent leaves of
absence. On one of them they saw a man of imposing appearance pass down
Pennsylvania Avenue. He would have caught the attention of anybody,
owing to his great height and splendid head crowned with snow-white
hair. He was old, but he walked as if he were one who had achieved
greatly, and was conscious of it.

“It’s Old Fuss and Feathers his very self,” said Whitley.

“General Scott. It can be no other,” said Dick, who had divined at once
the man’s identity. His eyes followed the retreating figure with the
greatest interest. This was the young hero of the War of 1812 and the
great commander who had carried the brilliant campaign into the capital
of Mexico. He had been the first commander-in-chief of the Northern
army, and, foreseeing the great scale of the coming war, had prepared
a wide and cautious plan. But the public had sneered at him and had
demanded instant action, the defeat at Bull Run being the result.

Dick felt pity for the man who was forced to bear a blame not his own,
and who was too old for another chance. But he knew that the present
cloud would soon pass away, and that he would be remembered as the man
of Chippewa and Chapultepec.

“McClellan is already here to take his place,” said Whitley. “He’s
the young fellow who has been winning successes in the western part of
Virginia, an’ they say he has genius.”

Only a day or two later they saw McClellan walking down the same avenue
with the President. Dick had never beheld a more striking contrast. The
President was elderly, of great height, his head surmounted by a high
silk hat which made him look yet taller, while his face was long,
melancholy, and wrinkled deeply. His collar had wilted with the heat and
the tails of his long black coat flapped about his legs.

The general was clothed in a brilliant uniform. He was short and stocky
and his head scarcely passed the President’s shoulder. He was redolent
of youth and self confidence. It showed in his quick, eager gestures and
his emphatic manner. He attracted the two boys, but the sergeant shook
his head somewhat solemnly.

“They say Scott was too old,” he said, “and now they’ve gone to the
other end of it. McClellan’s too young to handle the great armies that
are going into the field. I’m afraid he won’t be a match for them old
veterans like Johnston and Lee.”

“Napoleon became famous all over the world when he was only twenty-six,”
 said Warner.

“That’s so,” retorted Whitley, “but I never heard of any other Napoleon.
The breed began and quit with him.”

But the soldiers crowding the capital had full confidence in “Little
Mac,” as they had already begun to call him. Those off duty followed and
cheered him and the President, until they entered the White House and
disappeared within its doors. Dick and his friends were in the crowd
that followed, although they did not join in the cheers, not because
they lacked faith, but because all three were thoughtful. Dick had
soon discovered that Whitley, despite his lack of education, was an
exceedingly observant man, with a clear and reasoning mind.

“It was a pair worth seeing,” said the sergeant, as they turned away,
“but I looked a lot more at Old Abe than I did at ‘Little Mac.’ Did you
ever think, boys, what it is to have a big war on your hands, with all
sorts of men tellin’ you all sorts of things an’ tryin’ to pull you in
all sorts of directions?”

“I had not thought of it before, but I will think of it now,” said
Warner. “In any event, we are quite sure that the President has a great
task before him. We hear that the South will soon have a quarter of a
million troops in the field. Her position on the defensive is perhaps
worth as many more men to her. Hence let x equal her troops, let y equal
her defensive, and we have x plus y, which is equal to half a million
men, the number we must have before we can meet the South on equal
terms.”

“An’ to conquer her completely we’ll need nigh on to a million.” said
the sergeant.

Shrewd and penetrating as was Sergeant Whitley he did not dream that
before the giant struggle was over the South would have tripled her
defensive quarter of a million and the North would almost have tripled
her invading million.

A few days later their regiment marched out of the capital and joined
the forces on the hills around Arlington, where they lay for many days,
impatient but inactive. There was much movement in the west, and they
heard of small battles in which victory and defeat were about equal.
The boys had shown so much zeal and ability in learning soldierly duties
that they were made orderlies by their colonel, John Newcomb, a taciturn
Pennsylvanian, a rich miner who had raised a regiment partly at his
own expense, and who showed a great zeal for the Union. He, too, was
learning how to be a soldier and he was not above asking advice now and
then of a certain Sergeant Whitley who had the judgment to give it in
the manner befitting one of his lowly rank.

The summer days passed slowly on. The heat was intense. The Virginia
hills and plains fairly shimmered under the burning rays of the sun. But
still they delayed. Congress had shown the greatest courage, meeting on
the very day that the news of Bull Run had come, and resolving to
fight the war to a successful end, no matter what happened. But while
McClellan was drilling and preparing, the public again began to call for
action. “On to Richmond!” was the cry, but despite it the army did not
yet move.

European newspapers came in, and almost without exception they sneered
at the Northern troops, and predicted the early dissolution of the
Union. Monarchy and privileged classes everywhere rejoiced at the
disaster threatening the great republic, and now that it was safe to do
so, did not hesitate to show their delight. Sensitive and proud of his
country, Dick was cut to the quick, but Warner was more phlegmatic.

“Let ‘em bark,” he said. “They bark because they dislike us, and they
dislike us because they fear us. We threatened Privilege when our
Revolution succeeded and the Republic was established. The fact of our
existence was the threat and the threat has increased with our years
and growth. Europe is for the South, but the reason for it is one of the
simplest problems in mathematics. Ten per cent of it is admiration
for the Southern victory at Bull Run, and ninety per cent of it is
hatred--at least by their ruling classes--of republican institutions,
and a wish to see them fall here.”

“I suspect you’re right,” said Dick, “and we’ll have to try all the
harder to keep them from being a failure. Look, there goes our balloon!”

Every day, usually late in the afternoon, a captive balloon rose from
the Northern camp, and officers with powerful glasses inspected the
Southern position, watching for an advance or a new movement of any
kind.

“I’m going up in it some day,” said Dick, confidently. “Colonel Newcomb
has promised me that he will take me with him when his turn for the
ascension comes.”

The chance was a week in coming, a tremendously long time it seemed
to Dick, but it came at last. He climbed into the basket with Colonel
Newcomb, two generals, and the aeronauts and sat very quiet in a corner.
He felt an extraordinary thrill when the ropes were allowed to slide and
the balloon was slowly going almost straight upward. The sensation was
somewhat similar to that which shook him when he went into battle at
Bull Run, but pride came to his rescue and he soon forgot the physical
tremor to watch the world that now rolled beneath them, a world that
they seemed to have left, although the ropes always held.

Dick’s gaze instinctively turned southward, where he knew the
Confederate army lay. A vast and beautiful panorama spread in a
semi-circle before him. The green of summer, the green that had been
stained so fearfully at Bull Run, was gone. The grass was now brown from
the great heats and the promise of autumn soon to come, but--from the
height at least--it was a soft and mellow brown, and the dust was gone.

The hills rolled far away southward, and under the horizon’s rim. Narrow
ribbons of silver here and there were the numerous brooks and creeks
that cut the country. Groves, still heavy and dark with foliage, hung
on the hills, or filled some valley, like green in a bowl. Now and then,
among clumps of trees, colonial houses with their pillared porticoes
appeared.

It was a rare and beautiful scene, appealing with great force to Dick.
There was nothing to tell of war save the Northern forces just beneath
them, and he would not look down. But he did look back, and saw the
broad band of the Potomac, and beyond it the white dome of the Capitol
and the roof of Washington. But his gaze turned again to the South,
where his absorbing interest lay, and once more he viewed the quiet
country, rolling away until it touched the horizon rim. The afternoon
was growing late, and great terraces of red and gold were heaping above
one another in the sky until they reached the zenith.

“Try the glasses for a moment, Dick,” said Colonel Newcomb, as he passed
them to the boy.

Dick swept them across the South in a great semi-circle, and now new
objects rose upon the surface of the earth. He saw distinctly the
long chain of the Blue Ridge rising on the west, then blurring in the
distance into a solid black rampart. In the south he saw a long curving
line of rising blue plumes. It did not need Colonel Newcomb to tell him
that these were the campfires of the army that they had met on the
field of Bull Run, and that the Southern troops were now cooking their
suppers.

No doubt his cousin Harry was there and perhaps others whom he knew.
The fires seemed to Dick a defiance to the Union. Well, in view of their
victory, the defiance was justified, and those fires might come nearer
yet. Dick, catching the tone of older men who shared his views, had not
believed at first that the rebellion would last long, but his opinion
was changing fast, and the talk of wise Sergeant Whitley was helping
much in that change.

While he yet looked through the glasses he saw a plume of white smoke
coming swiftly towards the Southern fires. Then he remembered the two
lines of railroad that met on the battlefield, giving it its other
name, Manassas Junction, and he knew that the smoke came from an engine
pulling cars loaded with supplies for their foes.

He whispered of the train as he handed the glasses back to Colonel
Newcomb, and then the colonel and the generals alike made a long
examination.

“Beauregard will certainly have an abundance of supplies,” said one of
the generals. “I hear that arms and provisions are coming by every train
from the South, and meanwhile we are making no advance.”

“We can’t advance yet,” said the other general emphatically. “McClellan
is right in making elaborate preparations and long drills before moving
upon the enemy. It was inexperience, and not want of courage, that beat
us at Bull Run.”

“The Southerners had the same inexperience.”

“But they had the defensive. I hear that Tom Jackson saved them, and
that they have given him the name Stonewall, because he stood so firm.
I was at West Point with him. An odd, awkward fellow, but one of the
hardest students I have ever known. The boys laughed at him when he
first came, but they soon stopped. He had a funny way of studying,
standing up with his book on a shelf, instead of sitting down at a desk.
Said his brain moved better that way. I’ve heard that he walked part of
the way from Virginia to reach West Point. I hear now, too, that he is
very religious, and always intends to pray before going into battle.”

“That’s a bad sign--for us,” said the other general. “It’s easy enough
to sneer at praying men, but just you remember Cromwell. I’m a little
shaky on my history, but I’ve an impression that when Cromwell, the
Ironsides, old Praise-God-Barebones, and the rest knelt, said a few
words to their God, sang a little and advanced with their pikes, they
went wherever they intended to go and that Prince Rupert and all the
Cavaliers could not stop them.”

“It is so,” said the other gravely. “A man who believes thoroughly in
his God, who is not afraid to die, who, in fact, rather favors dying on
the field, is an awful foe to meet in battle.”

“We may have some of the same on our side,” said Colonel Newcomb. “We
have at least a great Puritan population from which to draw.”

One of the generals gave the signal and the balloon was slowly pulled
down. Dick, grateful for his experience, thanked Colonel Newcomb and
rejoined his comrades.



CHAPTER II. THE MOUNTAIN LIGHTS


When Dick left the balloon it was nearly night. Hundreds of campfires
lighted up the hills about him, but beyond their circle the darkness
enclosed everything. He still felt the sensations of one who had been at
a great height and who had seen afar. That rim of Southern campfires was
yet in his mind, and he wondered why the Northern commander allowed
them to remain week after week so near the capital. He was fully aware,
because it was common talk, that the army of the Union had now reached
great numbers, with a magnificent equipment, and, with four to one,
should be able to drive the Southern force away. Yet McClellan delayed.

Dick obtained a short leave of absence, and walked to a campfire, where
he knew he would find his friend, George Warner. Sergeant Whitley was
there, too, showing some young recruits how to cook without waste, and
the two gave the boy a welcome that was both inquisitive and hearty.

“You’ve been up in the balloon,” said Warner. “It was a rare chance.”

“Yes,” replied Dick with a laugh, “I left the world, and it is the only
way in which I wish to leave it for the next sixty or seventy years. It
was a wonderful sight, George, and not the least wonderful thing in it
was the campfires of the Southern army, burning down there towards Bull
Run.”

“Burnin’ where they ought not to be,” said Whitley--no gulf was yet
established between commissioned and non-commissioned officers in either
army. “Little Mac may be a great organizer, as they say, but you can
keep on organizin’ an’ organizin’, until it’s too late to do what you
want to do.”

“It’s a sound principle that you lay down, Mr. Whitley,” said Warner
in his precise tones. “In fact, it may be reduced to a mathematical
formula. Delay is always a minus quantity which may be represented by
y. Achievement is represented by x, and, consequently, when you have
achievement hampered by delay you have x minus y, which is an extremely
doubtful quantity, often amounting to failure.”

“I travel another road in my reckonin’s,” said Whitley, “I don’t know
anything about x and y, but I guess you an’ me, George, come to the same
place. It’s been a full six weeks since Bull Run, an’ we haven’t done a
thing.”

Whitley, despite their difference in rank, could not yet keep from
addressing the boys by their first names. But they took it as a matter
of course, in view of the fact that he was so much older than they and
vastly their superior in military knowledge.

“Dick,” continued the sergeant, “what was it you was sayin’ about a
cousin of yours from the same town in Kentucky bein’ out there in the
Southern army?”

“He’s certainly there,” replied Dick, “if he wasn’t killed in the
battle, which I feel couldn’t have happened to a fellow like Harry.
We’re from the same little town in Kentucky, Pendleton. He’s descended
straight from one of the greatest Indian fighters, borderers and heroes
the country down there ever knew, Henry Ware, who afterwards became one
of the early governors of the State. And I’m descended from Henry Ware’s
famous friend, Paul Cotter, who, in his time, was the greatest scholar
in all the West. Henry Ware and Paul Cotter were like the old Greek
friends, Damon and Pythias. Harry and I are proud to have their blood in
our veins. Besides being cousins, there are other things to make Harry
and me think a lot of each other. Oh, he’s a grand fellow, even if he is
on the wrong side!”

Dick’s eyes sparkled with enthusiasm as he spoke of the cousin and
comrade of his childhood.

“The chances of war bring about strange situations, or at least I have
heard so,” said Warner. “Now, Dick, if you were to meet your cousin face
to face on the battlefield with a loaded gun in your hand what would you
do?”

“I’d raise that gun, take deliberate aim at a square foot of air about
thirty feet over his head and pull the trigger.”

“But your duty to your country tells you to do otherwise. Before you is
a foe trying to destroy the Union. You have come out armed to save that
Union, consequently you must fire straight at him and not at the air, in
order to reduce the number of our enemies.”

“One enemy where there are so many would not count for anything in the
total. Your arithmetic will show you that Harry’s percentage in the
Southern army is so small that it reaches the vanishing point. If I can
borrow from you, George, x equals Harry’s percentage, which is nothing,
y equals the value of my hypothetical opportunity, which is nothing,
then x plus y equals nothing, which represents the whole affair, which
is nothing, that is, worth nothing to the Union. Hence I have no more
obligation to shoot Harry if I meet him than he has to shoot me.”

“Well spoken, Dick,” said Sergeant Whitley. “Some people, I reckon,
can take duty too hard. If you have one duty an’ another an’ bigger one
comes along right to the same place you ought to ‘tend to the bigger
one. I’d never shoot anybody that was a heap to me just because he was
one of three or four hundred thousand who was on the other side. I’ve
never thought much of that old Roman father--I forget his name--who had
his son executed just because he wasn’t doin’ exactly right. There
was never a rule that oughtn’t to have exceptions under extraordinary
circumstances.”

“If you can establish the principle of exceptions,” replied the young
Vermonter very gravely, “I will allow Dick to shoot in the air when he
meets his cousin in the height of battle, but it is a difficult task to
establish it, and if it fails Dick, according to all rules of logic and
duty, must shoot straight at his cousin’s heart.”

The other two looked at Warner and saw his left eyelid droop slightly. A
faint twinkle appeared in either eye and then they laughed.

“I reckon that Dick shoots high in the air,” said the sergeant.

Dick, after a pleasant hour with his friends, went back to Colonel
Newcomb’s quarters, where he spent the entire evening writing despatches
at dictation. He was hopeful that all this writing portended something,
but more days passed, and despite the impatience of both army and
public, there was no movement. Stories of confused and uncertain
fighting still came out of the west, but between Washington and Bull Run
there was perfect peace.

The summer passed. Autumn came and deepened. The air was crisp and
sparkling. The leaves, turned into glowing reds and yellows and browns,
began to fall from the trees. The advancing autumn contained the promise
of winter soon to come. The leaves fell faster and sharp winds blew,
bringing with them chill rains. Little Mac, or the Young Napoleon, as
many of his friends loved to call him, continued his preparations, and
despite all the urgings of President and Congress, would not move. His
fatal defect now showed in all its destructiveness. To him the enemy
always appeared threefold his natural size.

Reliable scouts brought back the news that the Southern troops at
Manassas, a full two months after their victory there, numbered only
forty thousand. The Northern commander issued statements that the enemy
was before him with one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers. He demanded
that his own forces should be raised to nearly a quarter of a million
men and nearly five hundred cannon before he could move.

The veteran, Scott, full of triumphs and honors, but feeling himself out
of place in his old age, went into retirement. McClellan, now in sole
command, still lingered and delayed, while the South, making good use of
precious months, gathered all her forces to meet him or whomsoever came
against her.

Youth chafed most against the long waiting. It seemed to Dick and his
mathematical Vermont friend that time was fairly wasting away under
their feet, and the wise sergeant agreed with them.

The weather had grown so cold now that they built fires for warmth as
well as cooking, and the two youths sat with Sergeant Whitley one cold
evening in late October before a big blaze. Both were tanned deeply by
wind, sun and rain, and they had grown uncommonly hardy, but the wind
that night came out of the northwest, and it had such a sharp edge to
it that they were glad to draw their blankets over their backs and
shoulders.

Dick was re-reading a letter from his mother, a widow who lived on the
outskirts of Pendleton. It had come that morning, and it was the only
one that had reached him since his departure from Kentucky. But she had
received another that he had written to her directly after the Battle of
Bull Run.

She wrote of her gratitude because Providence had watched over him in
that dreadful conflict, all the more dreadful because it was friend
against friend, brother against brother. The state, she said, was all in
confusion. Everybody suspected everybody else. The Southerners were full
of victory, the Northerners were hopeful of victory yet to come. Colonel
Kenton was with the Southern force under General Buckner, gathered at
Bowling Green in that state, but his son, her nephew Harry, was still in
the east with Beauregard. She had heard that the troops of the west and
northwest were coming down the Ohio and Mississippi in great numbers,
and people expected hard fighting to occur very soon in western and
southern Kentucky. It was all very dreadful, and a madness seemed to
have come over the land, but she hoped that Providence would continue to
watch over her dear son.

Warner and the sergeant knew that the letter was from Dick’s mother,
but they had too much delicacy to ask him questions. The boy folded the
sheets carefully and returned them to their place in the inside pocket
of his coat. Then he looked for a while thoughtfully into the blaze and
the great bed of coals that had formed beneath. As far as one could see
to right and left like fires burned, but the night remained dark with
promise of rain, and the chill wind out of the northwest increased in
vigor. The words just read for the fifth time had sunk deep in his mind,
and he was feeling the call of the west.

“My mother writes,” he said to his comrades, “that the Confederate
general, Buckner, whom I know, is gathering a large force around Bowling
Green in the southern part of our state, and that fighting is sure to
occur soon between that town and the Mississippi. An officer named Grant
has come down from Illinois, and he is said to be pushing the Union
troops forward with a lot of vigor. Sergeant, you are up on army
affairs. Do you know this man Grant?”

Sergeant Whitley shook his head.

“Never heard of him,” he replied. “Like as not he’s one of the officers
who resigned from the army after the Mexican War. There was so little to
do then, and so little chance of promotion, that a lot of them quit to
go into business. I suppose they’ll all be coming back now.”

“I want to go out there,” said Dick. “It’s my country, and the
westerners at least are acting. But look at our army here! Bull Run was
fought the middle of summer. Now it’s nearly winter, and nothing has
been done. We don’t get out of sight of Washington. If I can get myself
sent west I’m going.”

“And I’m going with you,” said Warner.

“Me, too,” said the sergeant.

“I know that Colonel Newcomb’s eyes are turning in that direction,”
 continued Dick. “He’s a war-horse, he is, and he’d like to get into the
thick of it.”

“You’re his favorite aide,” said the calculating young Vermonter. “Can’t
you sow those western seeds in his mind and keep on sowing them? The
fact that you are from this western battle ground will give more weight
to what you say. You do this, and I’ll wager that within a week the
Colonel will induce the President to send the whole regiment to the
Mississippi.”

“Can you reduce your prediction to a mathematical certainty?” asked
Dick, a twinkle appearing in his eye.

“No, I can’t do that,” replied Warner, with an answering twinkle,
“but you’re the very fellow to influence Colonel Newcomb’s mind. I’m
a mathematician and I work with facts, but you have the glowing
imagination that conduces to the creation of facts.”

“Big words! Grand words!” said the sergeant.

“Never let Colonel Newcomb forget the west,” continued Warner, not
noticing the interruption. “Keep it before him all the time. Hint
that there can be no success along the Mississippi without him and his
regiment.”

“I’ll do what I can,” promised Dick faithfully, and he did much. Colonel
Newcomb had already formed a strong attachment for this zealous and
valuable young aide, and he did not forget the words that Dick said on
every convenient occasion about the west. He made urgent representations
that he and his regiment be sent to the relief of the struggling
Northern forces there, and he contrived also that these petitions should
reach the President. One day the order came to go, but not to St. Louis,
where Halleck, now in command, was. Instead they were to enter the
mountains of West Virginia and Kentucky, and help the mountaineers who
were loyal to the Union. If they accomplished that task with success,
they were to proceed to the greater theatre in Western Kentucky and
Tennessee. It was not all they wished, but they thought it far better
than remaining at Washington, where it seemed that the army would remain
indefinitely.

Colonel Newcomb, who was sitting in his tent bending over maps with his
staff, summoned Dick.

“You are a Kentuckian, my lad,” he said, “and I thought you might know
something about this region into which we are going.”

“Not much, sir,” replied Dick. “My home is much further west in a
country very different both in its own character and that of its people.
But I have been in the mountains two or three times, and I may be of
some help as a guide.”

“I am sure you will do your best,” said Colonel Newcomb. “By the way,
that young Vermont friend of yours, Warner, is to be on my staff also,
and it is very likely that you and he will go on many errands together.”

“Can’t we take Sergeant Whitley with us sometimes?” asked Dick boldly.

“So you can,” replied the colonel, laughing a little. “I’ve noticed that
man, and I’ve a faint suspicion that he knows more about war than any of
us civilian officers.”

“It’s our task to learn as much as we can from these old regulars,”
 said a Major Hertford, a man of much intelligence and good humor, who,
previous to the war, had been a lawyer in a small town. Alan Hertford
was about twenty-five and of fine manner and appearance.

“Well spoken, Major Hertford,” said the thoughtful miner, Colonel
Newcomb. “Now, Dick, you can go, and remember that we are to start for
Washington early in the morning and take a train there for the north. It
will be the duty of Lieutenant Warner and yourself, as well as others,
to see that our men are ready to the last shoe for the journey.”

Dick and Warner were so much elated that they worked all that night,
and they did not hesitate to go to Sergeant Whitley for advice or
instruction. At the first spear of dawn the regiment marched away in
splendid order from Arlington to Washington, where the train that was to
bear them to new fields and unknown fortunes was ready.

It was a long train of many coaches, as the regiment numbered seven
hundred men, and it also carried with it four guns, mounted on trucks.
The coaches were all of primitive pattern. The soldiers were to sleep on
the seats, and their arms and supplies were heaped in the aisles. It was
a cold, drizzling day of closing autumn, and the capital looked sodden
and gloomy. Cameron, the Secretary of War, came to see them off and
to make the customary prediction concerning their valor and victory to
come. But he was a cold man, and he was repellent to Dick, used to more
warmth of temperament.

Then, with a ringing of bells, a heave of the engine, a great puffing of
smoke, and a mighty rattling of wheels, the train drew out of Washington
and made its noisy way toward Baltimore. Dick and Warner were on the
same seat. It was only forty miles to Baltimore, but their slow train
would be perhaps three hours in arriving. So they had ample opportunity
to see the country, which they examined with the curious eyes of youth.
But there was little to see. The last leaves were falling from the trees
under the early winter rain. Bare boughs and brown grass went past their
windows and the fields were deserted. The landscape looked chill and
sullen.

Warner was less depressed than Dick. He had an even temperament based
solidly upon mathematical calculations. He knew that while it might
be raining today, the chances were several to one against its raining
tomorrow.

“I’ve good cause to remember Baltimore,” he said. “I was with the New
England troops when they had the fight there on the way down to the
capital. Although we hold it, it’s really a Southern city, Dick. Most
all the border cities are Southern in sympathy, and they’re swarming
with people who will send to the Southern leaders news of every movement
we make. I state, and moreover I assert it in the face of all the
world, that the knowledge of our departure from Washington is already
in Southern hands. By close mathematical calculation the chances are at
least ninety-five per cent in favor of my statement.”

“Very likely,” said Dick, “and we’ll have that sort of thing to face all
the time when we invade the South. We’ve got to win this war, George,
by hard fighting, and then more hard fighting, and then more and more of
the same.”

“Guess you’re right. Arithmetic shows at least one hundred per cent of
probability in favor of your suggestion.”

Dick looked up and down the long coach packed with young troops. Besides
the commissioned officers and the sergeants, there was not one in the
coach who was twenty-five. Most of them were nineteen or twenty, and
it was the same in the other coaches. After the first depression their
spirits rose. The temper of youth showed strongly. They were eager to
see Baltimore, but the train stopped there only a few minutes, and they
were not allowed to leave the coaches.

Then the train turned towards the west. The drizzle of rain had now
become a pour, and it drove so heavily that they could see but little
outside. Food was served at noon and afterward many slept in the cramped
seats. Dick, despite his stiff position, fell asleep too. By the middle
of the afternoon everybody in their coach was slumbering soundly except
Sergeant Whitley, who sat by the door leading to the next car.

All that afternoon and into the night the train rattled and moved into
the west. The beautiful rolling country was left behind, and they were
now among the mountains, whirling around precipices so sharply that
often the sleeping boys were thrown from the seats of the coaches. But
they were growing used to hardships. They merely climbed back again upon
the seats, and were asleep once more in half a minute.

The rain still fell and the wind blew fiercely among the somber
mountains. A second engine had been added to the train, and the speed
of the train was slackened. The engineer in front stared at the slippery
rails, but he could see only a few yards. The pitchy darkness closed in
ahead, hiding everything, even the peaks and ridges. The heart of
that engineer, and he was a brave man, as brave as any soldier on the
battlefield, had sunk very low. Railroads were little past their infancy
then and this was the first to cross the mountains. He was by no means
certain of his track, and, moreover, the rocks and forest might shelter
an ambush.

The Alleghanies and their outlying ridges and spurs are not lofty
mountains, but to this day they are wild and almost inaccessible in
many places. Nature has made them a formidable barrier, and in the
great Civil War those who trod there had to look with all their eyes and
listen with all their ears. The engineer was not alone in his anxiety
this night. Colonel Newcomb rose from an uneasy doze and he went with
Major Hertford into the engineer’s cab. They were now going at the rate
of not more than five or six miles an hour, the long train winding like
a snake around the edges of precipices and feeling its way gingerly over
the trestles that spanned the deep valleys. All trains made a great roar
and rattle then, and the long ravines gave it back in a rumbling and
menacing echo. Gusts of rain were swept now and then into the faces of
the engineer, the firemen and the officers.

“Do you see anything ahead, Canby?” said Colonel Newcomb to the
engineer.

“Nothing. That’s the trouble, sir. If it were a clear night I shouldn’t
be worried. Then we wouldn’t be likely to steam into danger with our
eyes shut. This is a wild country. The mountaineers in the main are for
us, but we are not far north of the Southern line, and if they know we
are crossing they may undertake to raid in here.”

“And they may know it,” said the colonel. “Washington is full of
Southern sympathizers. Stop the train, Canby, when we come to the first
open and level space, and we’ll do some scouting ahead.”

The engineer felt great relief. He was devoutly glad that the colonel
was going to take such a precaution. At that moment he, more than
Colonel Newcomb, was responsible for the lives of the seven hundred
human beings aboard the train, and his patriotism and sense of
responsibility were both strong.

The train, with much jolting and clanging, stopped fifteen minutes
later. Both Dick and Warner, awakened by the shock, sat up and rubbed
their eyes. Then they left the train at once to join Colonel Newcomb,
who might want them immediately. Wary Sergeant Whitley followed them in
silence.

The boys found Colonel Newcomb and the remaining members of his staff
standing near, and seeking anxiously to discover the nature of the
country about them. The colonel nodded when they arrived, and gave them
an approving glance. The two stood by, awaiting the colonel’s orders,
but they did not neglect to use their eyes.

Dick saw by the engineer’s lantern that they were in a valley, and he
learned from his words that this valley was about three miles long with
a width of perhaps half a mile. A little mountain river rushed down its
center, and the train would cross the stream about a mile further on.
It was still raining and the cold wind whistled down from the mountains.
Dick could see the somber ridges showing dimly through the loom of
darkness and rain. He was instantly aware, too, of a tense and uneasy
feeling among the officers. All of them carried glasses, but in the
darkness they could not use them. Lights began to appear in the train
and many heads were thrust out at the windows.

“Go through the coaches, Mr. Mason and Mr. Warner,” said Colonel
Newcomb, “and have every light put out immediately. Tell them, too, that
my orders are for absolute silence.”

Dick and the Vermonter did their work rapidly, receiving many curious
inquiries, as they went from coach to coach, all of which they were
honestly unable to answer. They knew no more than the other boys about
the situation. But when they left the last coach and returned to the
officers near the engine, the train was in total darkness, and no sound
came from it. Colonel Newcomb again gave them an approving nod. Dick
noticed that the fires in the engine were now well covered, and that no
sparks came from the smoke-stack. Standing by it he could see the long
shape of the train running back in the darkness, but it would have been
invisible to any one a hundred yards away.

“You think we’re thoroughly hidden now, Canby?” said the colonel.

“Yes, sir. Unless they’ve located us precisely on advance information.
I don’t see how they could find us among the mountains in all this
darkness and rain.”

“But they’ve had the advance information! Look there!” exclaimed Major
Hertford, pointing toward the high ridge that lay on their right.

A beam of light had appeared on the loftiest spur, standing out at first
like a red star in the darkness, then growing intensely brighter, and
burning with a steady, vivid light. The effect was weird and powerful.
The mountain beneath it was invisible, and it seemed to burn there like
a real eye, wrathful and menacing. The older men, as well as the boys,
were held as if by a spell. It was something monstrous and eastern, like
the appearance of a genie out of the Arabian Nights.

The light, after remaining fixed for at least a minute, began to move
slowly from side to side and then faster.

“A signal!” exclaimed Colonel Newcomb. “Beyond a doubt it is the
Southerners. Whatever they’re saying they’re saying it to somebody. Look
toward the south!”

“Ah, there they are answering!” exclaimed Major Hertford.

All had wheeled simultaneously, and on another high spur a mile to the
south a second red light as vivid and intense as the first was flashing
back and forth. It, too, the mountain below invisible, seemed to swing
in the heavens. Dick, standing there in the darkness and rain, and
knowing that imminent and mortal danger was on either side, felt a
frightful chill creeping slowly down his spine. It is a terrible
thing to feel through some superior sense that an invisible foe is
approaching, and not be able to know by any kind of striving whence he
came.

The lights flashed alternately, and presently both dropped from the sky,
seeming to Dick to leave blacker spots on the darkness in their place.
Then only the heavy night and the rain encompassed them.

“What do you think it is?” asked Colonel Newcomb of Major Hertford.

“Southern troops beyond a doubt. It is equally certain that they were
warned in some manner from Washington of our departure.”

“I think so, too. It is probable that they saw the light and have been
signalling their knowledge to each other. It seems likely to me that
they will wait at the far end of the valley to cut us off. What force do
you think it is?”

“Perhaps a cavalry detachment that has ridden hurriedly to intercept us.
I would say at a guess that it is Turner Ashby and his men. A skillful
and dangerous foe, as you know.”

Already the fame of this daring Confederate horseman was spreading over
Virginia and Maryland.

“If we are right in our guess,” said Major Hertford, “they will
dismount, lead their horses along the mountain side, and shut down the
trap upon us. Doubtless they are in superior force, and know the country
much better than we do. If they get ahead of us and have a little time
to do it in they will certainly tear up the tracks.”

“I think you are right in all respects,” said Colonel Newcomb. “But it
is obvious that we must not give them time to destroy the road ahead of
us. As for the rest, I wonder.”

He pulled uneasily at his short beard, and then he caught sight of
Sergeant Whitley standing silently, arms folded, by the side of the
engine. Newcomb, the miner colonel, was a man of big and open mind.
A successful business man, he had the qualities which made him a good
general by the time the war was in its third year. He knew Whitley and
he knew, too, that he was an old army regular, bristling with experience
and shrewdness.

“Sergeant Whitley,” he said, “in this emergency what would you do, if
you were in my place?”

The sergeant saluted respectfully.

“If I were in your place, sir, which I never will be,” he replied,
“I would have all the troops leave the train. Then I would have the
engineers take the train forward slowly, while the troops marched on
either side of it, but at a sufficient distance to be hidden in the
darkness. Then, sir, our men could not be caught in a wreck, but with
their feet on solid earth they would be ready, if need be, for a fight,
which is our business.”

“Well spoken, Sergeant Whitley,” said Colonel Newcomb, while the other
officers also nodded approval. “Your plan is excellent and we will adopt
it. Get the troops out of the train quickly but in silence and do you,
Canby, be ready with the engine.”

Dick and Warner with the older officers turned to the task. The young
soldiers were out of the train in two minutes and were forming in lines
on either side, arms ready. There were many whisperings among these
boys, but none loud enough to be heard twenty yards away. All felt
intense relief when they left the train and stood upon the solid, though
decidedly damp earth.

But the cold rain sweeping upon their faces was a tonic, both mental and
physical, after the close heat of the train. They did not know why they
had disembarked, but they surmised with good reason that an attack was
threatened and they were eager to meet it.

Dick and Warner were near the head of the line on the right of the
tracks, and Sergeant Whitley was with them. The train began to puff
heavily, and in spite of every precaution some sparks flew from the
smoke-stack. Dick knew that it was bound to rumble and rattle when it
started, but he was surprised at the enormous amount of noise it made,
when the wheels really began to turn. It seemed to him that in the
silence of the night it could be heard three or four miles. Then he
realized that it was merely his own excitement and extreme tension of
both mind and body. Canby was taking the train forward so gently that
its sounds were drowned two hundred yards away in the swirl of wind and
rain.

The men marched, each line keeping abreast of the train, but fifty yards
or more to one side. The young troops were forbidden to speak and their
footsteps made no noise in the wet grass and low bushes. Dick and Warner
kept their eyes on the mountains, turning them alternately from north to
south. Nothing appeared on either ridge, and no sound came to tell of an
enemy near.

Dick began to believe that they would pass through the valley and out of
the trap without a combat. But while a train may go two or three miles
in a few minutes it takes troops marching in the darkness over uncertain
ground a long time to cover the same distance. They marched a full half
hour and then Dick suppressed a cry. The light, burning as intensely
red as before, appeared again on the mountain to the right, but further
toward the west, seeming to have moved parallel to the Northern troops.
As Dick looked it began to flash swiftly from side to side and that
chill and weird feeling again ran down his spine. He looked toward the
south and there was the second signal, red and intense, replying to the
first.

Dick heard a deep “Ah!” run along the line of young troops, and he knew
now that they understood as much as he or any of the officers did. He
now knew, too, that they would not pass out of the valley without a
combat. The Southern forces, beyond a doubt, would try to shut them in
at the western mouth of the valley, and a battle in the night and rain
was sure to follow.

The train continued to move slowly forward. Had Colonel Newcomb dared
he would have ordered Canby to increase his speed in order that he might
reach the western mouth of the valley before the Southern force had a
chance to tear up the rails, but there was no use for the train without
the troops and they were already marching as fast as they could.

The gorge was now not more than a quarter of a mile away. Dick was able
to discern it, because the darkness there was not quite so dark as that
which lay against the mountains on either side. He was hopeful that they
might yet reach it before the Southern force could close down upon them,
but before they went many yards further he heard the beat of horses’
feet both to right and left and knew that the enemy was at hand.

“Take the train on through the pass, Canby!” shouted Colonel Newcomb.
“We’ll cover its retreat, and join you later--if we can.”

The train began to rattle and roar, and its speed increased. Showers
of sparks shot from the funnels of the two engines, and gleamed for
an instant in the darkness. The beat of horses’ feet grew to thunder.
Colonel Newcomb with great presence of mind drew the two parallel lines
of his men close together, and ordered them to lie down on either side
of the railroad track and face outward with cocked rifles. Dick, the
Vermonter, and Sergeant Whitley lay close together, and the three faced
the north.

“See the torches!” said Whitley.

Dick saw eight or ten torches wavering and flickering at a height of
seven or eight feet above the ground, and he knew that they were carried
by horsemen, but he could not see either men or horses beneath. Then the
rapid beat of hoofs ceased abruptly at a distance that Dick thought must
be about two hundred yards.

“Lie flat!” cried Whitley. “They’re about to fire!”



CHAPTER III. THE TELEGRAPH STATION


The darkness to the north was suddenly split apart by a solid sheet of
flame. Dick by the light saw many men on horseback and others on foot,
bridle rein over arm. It was well for the seven hundred boys that they
had pressed themselves against the solid earth. A sheet of bullets swept
toward them. Most passed over their heads, but many struck upon bones
and flesh, and cries of pain rose from the lines of men lying along the
railroad track.

The seven hundred pulled trigger and fired at the flash. They fired
so well that Dick could hear Southern horses neighing with pain, and
struggling in the darkness. He felt sure that many men, too, had been
hit. At least no charge came. The seven hundred shouted with exultation
and, leaping to their feet, prepared to fire a second volley. But the
swift command of their officers quickly put them down again.

“Don’t forget the other Confederate column to the south of us,”
 whispered Whitley. “They did not fire at first for fear their bullets
would pass over our heads and strike their own comrades. For the same
reason they must have dropped back a little in order to avoid the fire
of their friends. Their volley will come from an angle about midway
between our left and rear.”

Just as he spoke the last words the rifles flashed at the surmised angle
and again the bullets beat among the young troops or swept over their
heads. A soldier was killed only a few feet from Dick. The boy picked up
his rifle and ammunition and began to fire whenever he saw the flash of
an opposing weapon. But the fire of both Confederate columns ceased in
a minute or two, and not a shot nor the sound of a single order came out
of the darkness. But Dick with his ear to the soft earth, could hear the
crush of hoofs in the mud, and with a peculiar ability to discern whence
sound came he knew that the force on the left and rear was crossing
the railroad track in order to join their comrades on the north. He
whispered his knowledge to Whitley, who whispered back:

“It’s the natural thing for them to do. They could not afford to fight
on in the darkness with two separate forces. The two columns would soon
be firing into each other.”

Colonel Newcomb now gave an order for the men to rise and follow the
railroad track, but also to fire at the flash of the rifles whenever
a volley was poured upon them. He must not only beat off the Southern
attack, but also continue the journey to those points in the west where
they were needed so sorely. Some of his men had been killed, and he
was compelled to leave their bodies where they had fallen. Others were
wounded, but without exception they were helped along by their comrades.

Warner also had secured a rifle, with which he fired occasionally, but
he and Dick, despite the darkness, kept near to Colonel Newcomb in
order that they might deliver any orders that he should choose to give.
Sergeant Whitley was close to them. Dick presently heard the rush of
water.

“What is that?” he exclaimed.

“It’s the little river that runs down the valley,” replied Warner.
“There’s a slope here and it comes like a torrent. A bridge or rather
trestle is only a little further, and we’ve got to walk the ties, if we
reach the other side. They’ll make their heaviest rush there, I suppose,
as beyond a doubt they are thoroughly acquainted with the ground.”

The Northern troops left the track which here ran along an embankment
several feet high, and took shelter on its southern side. They now had
an advantage for a while, as they fired from a breastwork upon their
foes, who were in the open. But the darkness, lit only by the flashes of
the rifles, kept the fire of both sides from being very destructive, the
bullets being sent mainly at random.

Dick dimly saw the trestle work ahead of them, and the roaring of the
little river increased. He did not know how deep the water was, but he
was sure that it could not be above his waist as it was a small stream.
An idea occurred to him and he promptly communicated it to Colonel
Newcomb.

“Suppose, sir,” he said, “that we ford the river just below the trestle.
It will deceive them and we’ll be half way across before they suspect
the change.”

“A good plan, Mr. Mason,” said Colonel Newcomb. “We’ll try it.”

Word was quickly passed along the line that they should turn to the left
as they approached the trestle, march swiftly down the slope, and dash
into the stream. As fast as they reached the other side of the ford the
men should form upon the bank there, and with their rifles cover the
passage of their comrades.

The skeleton work of the trestle now rose more clearly into view. The
rain had almost ceased and faint rays of moonlight showed through the
rifts where the clouds had broken apart. The boys distinctly heard the
gurgling rush of waters, and they also saw the clear, bluish surface of
the mountain stream. The same quickening of light disclosed the Southern
force on their right flank and rear, only four or five hundred yards
away. Dick’s hasty glance backward lingered for a moment on a powerful
man on a white horse just in advance of the Southern column. He saw
this man raise his hand and then command the men to fire. He and twenty
others under the impulse of excitement shouted to the regiment to drop
down, and the Northern lads did so.

Most of the volley passed over their heads. Rising they sent back a
return discharge, and then the head of the columns rushed into the
stream. Dick felt swift water whirling about him and tugging at his
body, but it rose no higher than his waist, although foam and spray
were dashed into his face. He heard all around him the splashing of his
comrades, and their murmurs of satisfaction. They realized now that they
were not only able to retreat before a much superior force, but this
same stream, when crossed, would form a barrier behind which they could
fight two to one.

The Confederate leader, whoever he might be, and Dick had no doubt that
he was the redoubtable Turner Ashby, also appreciated the full facts and
he drove his whole force straight at the regiment. It was well for
the young troops that part of them were already across, and, under the
skillful leadership of Colonel Newcomb, Major Hertford, and three or
four old, regular army sergeants, of whom the best was Whitley, were
already forming in line of battle.

“Kneel,” shouted the colonel, “and fire over the heads of your comrades
at the enemy!”

The light was still growing brighter. The rain came only in slight
flurries. The clouds were trooping off toward the northeast, and the
moon was out. Dick clearly saw the black mass of the Southern horsemen
wheeling down upon them. At least three hundred of the regiment were now
upon the bank, and, with fairly steady aim, they poured a heavy volley
into the massed ranks of their foe. Dick saw horses fall while others
dashed away riderless. But the Southern line wavered only for a moment
and then came on again with many shouts. There were also dismounted
men on either flank who knelt and maintained a heavy fire upon the
defenders.

The lads in blue were suffering many wounds, but a line of trees
and underbrush on the western shore helped them. Lying there partly
protected they loaded and pulled trigger as fast as they could, while
the rest of their comrades emerged dripping from the stream to join
them. The Confederates, brave as they were, had no choice but to give
ground against such strong defense, and the miner colonel, despite his
reserve and his middle years, gave vent to his exultation.

“We can hold this line forever!” he exclaimed to his aides. “It’s one
thing to charge us in the open, but it’s quite another to get at us
across a deep and rushing stream. Major Hertford, take part of the men
to the other side of the railroad track and drive back any attempt at a
crossing there. Lieutenant Mason, you and Lieutenant Warner go ahead and
see what has become of the train. You can get back here in plenty time
for more fighting.”

Dick and Warner hurried forward, following the line of the railroad.
Their blood was up and they did not like to leave the defense of the
river, but orders must be obeyed. As they ran down the railroad track a
man came forward swinging a lantern, and they saw the tall gaunt figure
of Canby, the chief engineer. Behind him the train stretched away in the
darkness.

“I guess that our men have forded the river and are holding the bank,”
 said Canby. “Do they need the train crew back there to help?”

He spoke with husky eagerness. Dick knew that he was longing to be in
the middle of the fight, but that his duty kept him with the train.

“No,” he replied. “The river bank, and the road along its shore give us
a great position for defense, and I know we can hold it. Colonel Newcomb
did not say so, but perhaps you’d better bring the train back nearer us.
It’s not our object to stay in this valley and fight, but to go into the
west. Is all clear ahead?”

“No enemy is there. Some of the brakemen have gone on a mile or two and
they say the track hasn’t been touched. You tell Colonel Newcomb that
I’m bringing the train right down to the battle line.”

Dick and Warner returned quickly to Colonel Newcomb, who appreciated
Canby’s courage and presence of mind. As the train approached the four
cannon were unloaded from the trucks, and swept the further shore with
shell and shrapnel. After a scattered fire the Southern force withdrew
some distance, where it halted, apparently undecided. The clouds rolled
up again, the feeble moon disappeared, and the river sank into the dark.

“May I make a suggestion, Colonel Newcomb?” said Major Hertford.

“Certainly.”

“The enemy will probably seek an undefended ford much higher up, cross
under cover of the new darkness and attack us in heavy force on the
flank. Suppose we get aboard the train at once, cannon and all, and
leave them far behind.”

“Excellent. If the darkness covers their movements it also covers ours.
Load the train as fast as possible and see that no wounded are left
behind.”

He gave rapid orders to all his officers and aides, and in fifteen
minutes the troops were aboard the train again, the cannon were lifted
upon the trucks, Canby and his assistants had all steam up, and the
train with its usual rattle and roar resumed its flight into the west.

Dick and Warner were in the first coach near Colonel Newcomb, ready for
any commands that he might give. Both had come through the defense of
the ford without injury, although a bullet had gone through Dick’s coat
without touching the skin. Sergeant Whitley, too, was unharmed, but the
regiment had suffered. More than twenty dead were left in the valley for
the enemy to bury.

Despite all the commands and efforts of the officers there was much
excited talk in the train. Boys were binding up wounds of other boys and
were condoling with them. But on the whole they were exultant. Youth
did not realize the loss of those who had been with them so little.
Scattered exclamations came to Dick:

“We beat ‘em off that time, an’ we can do it again.”

“Lucky though we had that little river before us. Guess they’d have rode
us right down with their horses if it hadn’t been for the stream an’ its
banks.”

“Ouch, don’t draw that bandage so tight on my arm. It ain’t nothin’ but
a flesh wound.”

“I hate a battle in the dark. Give me the good sunshine, where you can
see what’s goin’ on. My God, that you Bill! I’m tremendous glad to see
you! I thought you was lyin’ still, back there in the grass!”

Dick said nothing. He was in a seat next to the window, and his face was
pressed against the rain-marked pane. The rifle that he had picked up
and used so well was still clutched, grimed with smoke, in his hands.
The train had not yet got up speed. He caught glimpses of the river
behind which they had fought, and which had served them so well as a
barrier. In fact, he knew that it had saved them. But they had beaten
off the enemy! The pulses in his temples still throbbed from exertion
and excitement, but his heart beat exultantly. The bitterness of Bull
Run was deep and it had lasted long, but here they were the victors.

The speed of the train increased and Dick knew that they were safe from
further attack. They were still running among mountains, clad heavily
in forest, but a meeting with a second Southern force was beyond
probability. The first had made a quick raid on information supplied by
spies in Washington, but it had failed and the way was now clear.

Ample food was served somewhat late to the whole regiment, the last
wounds were bound up, and Dick, having put aside the rifle, fell asleep
at last. His head lay against the window and he slept heavily all
through the night. Warner in the next seat slept in the same way. But
the wise old sergeant just across the aisle remained awake much longer.
He was summing up and he concluded that the seven hundred lads had done
well. They were raw, but they were being whipped into shape.

He smiled a little grimly as the unspoken words, “whipped into shape,”
 rose to his lips. The veteran of many an Indian battle foresaw something
vastly greater than anything that had occurred on the plains. “Whipped
into shape!” Why, in the mighty war that was gathering along a front of
two thousand miles no soldier could escape being whipped into shape, or
being whipped out of it.

But the sergeant’s own eyes closed after a while, and he, too, slept the
sleep of utter mental and physical exhaustion. The train rumbled on, the
faithful Canby in the first engine aware of his great responsibility and
equal to it. Not a wink of sleep for him that night. The darkness had
lightened somewhat more. The black of the skies had turned to a dusky
blue, and the bolder stars were out. He could always see the shining
rails three or four hundred yards ahead, and he sent his train steadily
forward at full speed, winding among the gorges and rattling over the
trestles. The silent mountains gave back every sound in dying echoes,
but Canby paid no heed to them. His eyes were always on the track ahead,
and he, too, was exultant. He had brought the regiment through, and
while it was on the train his responsibility was not inferior to that of
Colonel Newcomb.

When Dick awoke, bright light was pouring in at the car windows, but the
car was cold and his body was stiff and sore. His military overcoat had
been thrown over him in the night and Warner had been covered in
the same way. They did not know that Sergeant Whitley had done that
thoughtful act.

Dick stretched himself and drew deep breaths. Warm youth soon sent the
blood flowing in a full tide through his veins, and the stiffness
and soreness departed. He saw through the window that they were still
running among the mountains, but they did not seem to be so high here
as they were at the river by which they had fought in the night. He knew
from his geography and his calculation of time that they must be far
into that part of Virginia which is now West Virginia.

There was no rain now, at least where the train was running, but the
sun had risen on a cold world. Far up on the higher peaks he saw a fine
white mist which he believed to be falling snow. Obviously it was winter
here and putting on the big military coat he drew it tightly about him.
Others in the coach were waking up and some of them, grown feverish
with their wounds, were moving restlessly on their seats, where they lay
protected by the blankets of their fellows.

Dick now and then saw a cabin nestling in the lee of a hill, with the
blue smoke rising from its chimney into the clear, wintry air, and
small and poor as they were they gave him a singular sense of peace and
comfort. His mind felt for a few moments a strong reaction from war and
its terrors, but the impulse and the strong purpose that bore him on
soon came back.

The train rushed through a pass and entered a sheltered valley a mile or
two wide and eight or ten miles long. A large creek ran through it, and
the train stopped at a village on its banks. The whole population of the
village and all the farmers of the valley were there to meet them. It
was a Union valley and by some system of mountain telegraphy, although
there were no telegraph wires, news of the battle at the ford had
preceded the train.

“Come, lads,” said Colonel Newcomb to his staff. “Out with you! We’re
among friends here!”

Dick and Warner were glad enough to leave the train. The air, cold as it
was, was like the breath of heaven on their faces, and the cheers of
the people were like the trump of fame in their ears. Pretty girls with
their faces in red hoods or red comforters were there with food and
smoking coffee. Medicines for the wounded, as much as the village could
supply, had been brought to the train, and places were already made for
those hurt too badly to go on with the expedition.

The whole cheerful scene, with its life and movement, the sight of new
faces and the sound of many voices, had a wonderful effect upon young
Dick Mason. He had a marvellously sensitive temperament, a direct
inheritance from his famous border ancestor, Paul Cotter. Things were
always vivid to him. Either they glowed with color, or they were hueless
and dead. This morning the long strain of the night and its battle was
relaxed completely. The grass in the valley was brown with frost, and
the trees were shorn of their leaves by the winter winds, but to Dick
it was the finest village that he had ever seen, and these were the
friendliest people in the world.

He drank a cup of hot coffee handed to him by the stalwart wife of a
farmer, and then, when she insisted, drank another.

“You’re young to be fightin’,” she said sympathetically.

“We all are,” said Dick with a glance at the regiment, “but however
we may fight you’ll never find anybody attacking a breakfast with more
valor and spirit than we do.”

She looked at the long line of lads, drinking coffee and eating ham,
bacon, eggs, and hot biscuits, and smiled.

“I reckon you tell the truth, young feller,” she said, “but it’s good to
see ‘em go at it.”

She passed on to help others, and Dick, summoned by Colonel Newcomb,
went into a little railroad and telegraph station. The telegraph wires
had been cut behind them, but ten miles across the mountains the spur of
another railroad touched a valley. The second railroad looped toward
the north, and it was absolutely sure that it was beyond the reach
of Southern raiders. Colonel Newcomb wished to send a message to the
Secretary of War and the President, telling of the night’s events and
his triumphant passage through the ordeal. These circumstances might
make them wish to change his orders, and at any rate the commander of
the regiment wished to be sure of what he was doing.

“You’re a Kentuckian and a good horseman,” said Colonel Newcomb to Dick.
“The villagers have sent me a trusty man, one Bill Petty, as a guide.
Take Sergeant Whitley and you three go to the station. I’ve already
written my dispatches, and I put them in your care. Have them sent at
once, and if necessary wait four hours for an answer. If it comes, ride
back as fast as you can. The horses are ready and I rely upon you.”

“Thank you, sir, I’ll do my best,” said Dick, who deeply appreciated the
colonel’s confidence. He wasted no time in words, but went at once to
Sergeant Whitley, who was ready in five minutes. Warner, who heard of
the mission, was disappointed because he was not going too. But he was
philosophical.

“I’ve made a close calculation,” he said, “and I have demonstrated to
my own satisfaction that our opportunities are sixty per cent energy and
ability, twenty per cent manners, and twenty per cent chance. In this
case chance, which made the Colonel better acquainted with you than
with me, was in your favor. We won’t discuss the other eighty per cent,
because this twenty is enough. Besides it looks pretty cold on the
mountains, and its fine here in the village. But luck with you, Dick.”

He gave his comrade’s hand a strong grasp and walked away toward the
little square of the village, where the troops were encamped for the
present. Dick sprang upon a horse which Bill Petty was holding for him.
Whitley was already up, and the three rode swiftly toward a blue line
which marked a cleft between two ridges. Dick first observed their
guide. Bill Petty was a short but very stout man, clad in a suit of
home-made blue jeans, the trousers of which were thrust into high
boots with red tops. A heavy shawl of dark red was wrapped around his
shoulders, and beneath his broad-brimmed hat a red woolen comforter
covered his ears, cheeks, and chin. His thick hair and a thick beard
clothing his entire face were a flaming red. The whole effect of the man
was somewhat startling, but when he saw Dick looking at him in curiosity
his mouth opened wide in a grin of extreme good nature.

“I guess you think I’m right red,” he said. “Well, I am, an’ as you see
I always dress to suit my complexion. Guess I’ll warm up the road some
on a winter day like this.”

“Would you mind my callin’ you Red Blaze?” asked Sergeant Whitley
gravely.

“Not-a-tall! Not-a-tall! I’d like it. I guess it’s sorter pictorial an’
‘maginative like them knights of old who had fancy names ‘cordin’ to
their qualities. People ‘round here are pretty plain, an’ they’ve never
called me nothin’ but Bill. Red Blaze she is.”

“An’ Blaze for short. Well, then, Blaze, what kind of a road is that
we’re goin’ to ride on?”

“Depends on the kind of weather in which you ask the question. As it’s
the fust edge of winter here in the mountains, though it ain’t quite
come in the lowlands, an’ as it’s rained a lot in the last week, I
reckon you’ll find it bad. Mebbe our hosses will go down in the road
to thar knees, but I guess they won’t sink up to thar bodies. They may
stumble an’ throw us, but as we’ll hit in soft mud it ain’t likely to
hurt us. It may rain hard, ‘cause I see clouds heapin’ up thar in the
west. An’ if it rains the cold may then freeze a skim of ice over the
road, on which we could slip an’ break our necks, hosses an’ all. Then
thar are some cliffs close to the road. If we was to slip on that thar
skim of ice which we’ve reckoned might come, then mebbe we’d go over one
of them cliffs and drop down a hundred feet or so right swift. If it was
soft mud down below we might not get hurt mortal. But it ain’t soft
mud. We’d hit right in the middle of sharp, hard rocks. An’ if a gang
of rebel sharpshooters has wandered up here they may see us an’ chase us
‘way off into the mountains, where we’d break our necks fallin’ off the
ridges or freeze to death or starve to death.”

Whitley stared at him.

“Blaze,” he exclaimed, “what kind of a man are you anyway?”

“Me? I’m the happiest man in the valley. When people are low down they
come an’ talk to me to get cheered up. I always lay the worst before you
first an’ then shove it out of the way. None of them things that I was
conjurin’ up is goin’ to happen. I was just tellin’ you of the things
you was goin’ to escape, and now you’ll feel good, knowin’ what dangers
you have passed before they happened.”

Dick laughed. He liked this intensely red man with his round face and
twinkling eyes. He saw, too, that the mountaineer was a fine horseman,
and as he carried a long slender-barreled rifle over his shoulder, while
a double-barreled pistol was thrust in his belt, it was likely that he
would prove a formidable enemy to any who sought to stop him.

“Perhaps your way is wise,” said the boy. “You begin with the bad
and end with the good. What is the name of this place to which we are
going?”

“Hubbard. There was a pioneer who fit the Injuns in here in early
times. I never heard that he got much, ‘cept a town named after him. But
Hubbard is a right peart little place, with a bank, two stores, three
churches, an’ nigh on to two hundred people. Are you wrapped up well,
Mr. Mason, ‘cause it’s goin’ to be cold on the mountains?”

Dick wore heavy boots, and a long, heavy military coat which fell below
his knees and which also had a high collar protecting his ears. He
was provided also with heavy buckskin gloves. The sergeant was clad
similarly.

“I think I’m clothed against any amount of cold,” he replied.

“Well, you need to be,” said Petty, “‘cause the pass through which we’re
goin’ is at least fifteen hundred feet above Townsville--that’s our
village--an’ I reckon it’s just ‘bout as high over Hubbard. Them fifteen
hundred feet make a pow’ful difference in climate, as you’ll soon find
out. It’s not only colder thar, but the winds are always blowin’ hard
through the pass. Jest look back at Townsville. Ain’t she fine an’ neat
down thar in the valley, beside that clear creek which higher up in the
mountains is full of the juiciest an’ sweetest trout that man ever stuck
a tooth into.”

Dick saw that Petty was talkative, but he did not mind. In fact, both
he and Whitley liked the man’s joyous and unbroken run of chatter. He
turned in his saddle and looked back, following the stout man’s pointing
finger. Townsville, though but a little mountain town built mainly of
logs, was indeed a jewel, softened and with a silver sheen thrown over
it by the mountain air which was misty that morning. He dimly saw the
long black line of the train standing on the track, and here and there
warm rings of smoke rose from the chimneys and floated up into the
heavens, where they were lost.

He thought he could detect little figures moving beside the train and
he knew that they must be those of his comrades. He felt for a moment
a sense of loneliness. He had not known these lads long, but the battle
had bound them firmly together. They had been comrades in danger and
that made them comrades as long as they lived.

“Greatest town in the world,” said Petty, waving toward it a huge hand,
encased in a thick yarn glove. “I’ve traveled from it as much as fifty
miles in every direction, north, south, east, an’ west, an’ I ain’t
never seed its match. I reckon I’m somethin’ of a traveler, but every
time I come back to Townsville, I think all the more of it, seein’ how
much better it is than anything else.”

Dick glanced at the mountaineer, and saw that there could be no doubt of
his sincerity.

“You’re a lucky man, Mr. Petty,” he said, “to live in the finest place
in the world.”

“Yes, if I don’t get drug off to the war. I’m not hankerin’ for fightin’
an’ I don’t know much what the war’s about though I’m for the Union,
fust to last, an’ that’s the way most of the people ‘bout here feel.
Turn your heads ag’in, friends, an’ take another look at Townsville.”

Dick and Whitley glanced back and saw only the blank gray wall of the
mountain. Petty laughed. He was the finest laugher that Dick had ever
heard. The laugh did not merely come from the mouth, it was also exuded,
pouring out through every pore. It was rolling, unctuous, and so strong
that Petty not only shook with it, but his horse seemed to shake also.
It was mellow, too, with an organ note that comes of a mighty lung and
throat, and of pure air breathed all the year around.

“Thought I’d git the joke on you,” he said, when he stopped laughing.
“The road’s been slantin’ into the mountains, without you knowin’ it,
and Townsville is cut off by the cliffs. You’ll find it gettin’ wilder
now ‘till we start down the slope on the other side. Lucky our hosses
are strong, ‘cause the mud is deeper than I thought it would be.”

It was not really a road that they were following, merely a path, and
the going was painful. Under Petty’s instructions they stopped their
mounts now and then for a rest, and a mile further on they began to feel
a rising wind.

“It’s the wind that I told you of,” said Petty. “It’s sucked through six
or seven miles of pass, an’ it will blow straight in our faces all the
way. As we’ll be goin’ up for a long distance you’ll find it growin’
colder, too. But you’ve got to remember that after you pass them cold
winds an’ go down the slope you’ll strike another warm little valley,
the one in which Hubbard is layin’ so neat an’ so snug.”

Dick had already noticed the increasing coldness and so had the
sergeant. Whitley, from his long experience on the plains, had the
keenest kind of an eye for climatic changes. He noticed with some
apprehension that the higher peaks were clothed in thick, cold fog, but
he said nothing to the brave boy whom he had grown to love like a son.
But both he and Dick drew their heavy coats closer and were thankful for
the buckskin gloves, without which their hands would have stiffened on
the reins.

Now they rode in silence with their heads bent well forward, because
the wind was becoming fiercer and fiercer. Over the peaks the fogs were
growing thicker and darker and after a while the sharp edge of the wind
was wet with rain. It stung their faces, and they drew their hat brims
lower and their coat collars higher to protect themselves from such a
cutting blast.

“Told you we might have trouble,” called Petty, cheerfully, “but if
you ride right on through trouble you’ll leave trouble behind. Nor this
ain’t nothin’ either to what we kin expect before we git to the top of
the pass. Cur’us what a pow’ful lot human bein’s kin stand when they
make up their minds to it.”

“Are the horses well shod?” asked Whitley.

“Best shod in the world, ‘cause I done it myself. That’s my trade,
blacksmith, an’ I’m a good one if I do say it. I heard before we started
that you had been a soldier in the west. I s’pose that you had to look
mighty close to your hosses then. A man couldn’t afford to be ridin’
a hoss made lame by bad shoein’ when ten thousand yellin’ Sioux or
Blackfeet was after him.”

“No, you couldn’t,” replied the sergeant. “Out there you had to watch
every detail. That’s one of the things that fightin’ Indians taught.
You had to be watchin’ all the time an’ I reckon the trainin’ will be
of value in this war. Are we mighty near to the top of the pass, Mr.
Petty?”

“Got two or three miles yet. The slope is steeper on the other side. We
rise a lot more before we hit the top.”

The wind grew stronger with every rod they ascended, and the horses
began to pant with their severe exertions. At Petty’s suggestion the
three riders dismounted and walked for a while, leading their horses.
The rain turned to a fine hail and stung their faces. Had it not
been for his two good comrades Dick would have found his situation
inexpressibly lonely and dreary. The heavy fog now enveloped all the
peaks and ridges and filled every valley and chasm. He could see only
fifteen or twenty yards ahead along the muddy path, and the fine hail
which gave every promise of becoming a storm of sleet stung continually.
The wind confined in the narrow gorge also uttered a hideous shrieking
and moaning.

“Tests your nerve!” shouted Petty to Dick. “There are hard things
besides battles to stand, an’ this is goin’ to be one of the hard ones,
but if you go through it all right you kin go through any number of the
same kind all right, too. Likely the sleet will be so thick that it will
make a sheet of slippery ice for us comin’ back. Now, hosses that ain’t
got calks on thar shoes are pretty shore to slip an’ fall, breakin’ a
leg or two, an’ mebbe breakin’ the necks of thar riders.”

Dick looked at him with some amazement. Despite his announcement of dire
disaster the man’s eyes twinkled merrily and the round, red outline of
his bushy head in the scarlet comforter made a cheerful blaze.

“It’s jest as I told you,” said Petty, meeting the boy’s look. “Without
calks on thar shoes our hosses are pretty shore to slip on the ice
and break theirselves up, or fall down a cliff an’ break themselves up
more.”

“Then why in thunder, Blaze,” exclaimed Whitley, “did we start without
calks on the shoes of our horses?”

Red Blaze broke into a deep mellow laugh, starting from the bottom of
his diaphragm, swelling as it passed through his chest, swelling again
as it passed through throat and mouth, and bursting upon the open air in
a mighty diapason that rose cheerfully above the shrieking and moaning
of the wind.

“We didn’t start without em,” he replied. “The twelve feet of these
three hosses have on ‘em the finest calked shoes in all these mountains.
I put ‘em on myself, beginnin’ the job this mornin’ before you was
awake, your colonel, on the advice of the people of Townsville who know
me as one of its leadin’ an’ trusted citizens, havin’ selected me as the
guide of this trip. I was jest tellin’ you what would happen to you if I
didn’t justify the confidence of the people of Townsville.”

“I allow, Red Blaze,” said the sergeant with confidence, “that you ain’t
no fool, an’ that you’re lookin’ out for our best interests. Lead on.”

Red Blaze’s mellow and pleased laugh rose once more above the whistling
of the wind.

“You kin ride ag’in now, boys,” he said. “The hosses are pretty well
rested.”

They resumed the saddle gladly and now mounted toward the crest of the
pass. The sleet turned to snow, which was a relief to their faces,
and Dick, with the constant beating of wind and snow, began to feel
a certain physical exhilaration. He realized the truth of Red Blaze’s
assertion that if you stiffen your back and push your way through
troubles you leave troubles behind.

They rode now in silence for quite a while, and then Red Blaze suddenly
announced:

“We’re at the top, boys.”



CHAPTER IV. THE FIGHT IN THE PASS


The three halted their horses and stood for a minute or two on the very
crest of the pass. The fierce wind out of the northwest blew directly in
their faces and both riders and horses alike were covered with snow. But
Dick felt a wonderful thrill as he gazed upon the vast white wilderness.
East and west, north and south he saw the driving snow and the lofty
peaks and ridges showing through it, white themselves. The towns below
and the cabins that snuggled in the coves were completely hidden. They
could see no sign of human life on slope or in valley.

“Looks as wild as the Rockies,” said the sergeant tersely.

“But you won’t find any Injuns here to ambush you,” said Red Blaze,
“though I don’t make any guarantee against bushwhackers and guerillas,
who’ll change sides as often as two or three times a day, if it will
suit their convenience. They could hide in the woods along the road an’
pick us off as easy as I’d shoot a squirrel out of a tree. They’d like
to have our arms an’ our big coats. I tell you what, friends, a mighty
civil war like ours gives a tremenjeous opportunity to bad men.
They’re all comin’ to the top. Every rascal in the mountains an’ in the
lowlands, too, I guess, is out lookin’ for plunder an’ wuss.”

“You’re right, Red Blaze,” said the sergeant with emphasis, “an’ it
won’t be stopped until the generals on both sides begin to hang an’
shoot the plunderers an’ murderers.”

“But they can’t ketch ‘em all,” said Red Blaze. “A Yankee general with
a hundred thousand men will be out lookin’ for what? Not for a gang
of robbers, not by a jugful. He’ll be lookin’ for a rebel general with
another hundred thousand men, an’ the rebel general with a hundred
thousand men will be lookin’ for that Yankee general with his hundred
thousand. So there you are, an’ while they’re lookin’ for each other an’
then fightin’ each other to a standstill, the robbers will be plunderin’
an’ murderin’. But don’t you worry about bein’ ambushed. I was jest
tellin’ you what might happen, but wouldn’t happen. We kin go down hill
fast now, and we’ll soon be in Hubbard, which is the other side of all
that fallin’ snow.”

The road down the mountain was also better than the one by which they
had ascended, and as the horses with their calked shoes were swift of
foot they made rapid progress. As they descended, the wind lowered fast
and there was much less snow. Red Blaze said it was probably not snowing
in the valley at all.

“See that shinin’ in the sun,” he said. “That’s the tin coverin’ on the
steeple of the new church in Hubbard. The sun strikes squar’ly on it,
an’ now I know I’m right ‘bout it not snowin’ down thar. Wait ‘til we
turn ‘roun’ this big rock. Yes, thar’s Hubbard, layin’ out in the valley
without a drop of snow on her. It looks good, don’t it, friends, with
the smoke comin’ out of the chimneys. That little red house over thar is
the railroad an’ telegraph station, an’ we’ll go straight for it, ‘cause
we ain’t got no time to waste.”

They emerged into the valley and rode rapidly for the station. Farmers
on the outskirts and villagers looked wonderingly at them, but they did
not pause to answer questions. They galloped their tired mounts straight
for the little red building, which was the station. Dick sprang first
from his horse, and leaving it to stand at the door, ran inside. A
telegraph instrument was clicking mournfully in the corner. A hot stove
was in another corner, and sitting near it was a lad of about Dick’s
age, clad in mountain jeans, and lounging in an old cane-bottomed chair.
But Dick’s quick glance saw that the boy was bright of face and keen of
eye. He promptly drew out his papers and said:

“I’m an aide from the Northern regiment of Colonel Newcomb at
Townsville. Here are duplicate dispatches, one set for the President of
the United States and the other for the Secretary of War. They tell of a
successful fight that we had last night with Southern troops, presumably
the cavalrymen of Turner Ashby. I wish you to send them at once.”

“He’s speakin’ the exact truth, Jim,” said Red Blaze, who had come
in behind Dick, “an’ I’ve brought him an’ the sergeant here over the
mountains to tell about it.”

The boy sprang to his instrument. But he stopped a moment to ask one
question.

“Did you really beat ‘em off?” he asked as he looked up with shining
eye.

“We certainly did,” replied Dick.

“I’ll send it faster than I ever sent anything before,” said the boy.
“To think of me, Jim Johnson, sending a dispatch to Abraham Lincoln,
telling of a victory!”

“I reckon you’re right, Jim, it’s your chance,” said Red Blaze.

Jim bent over the instrument which now began to click steadily and fast.

“You’re to wait for answers,” said Dick.

The boy nodded, but his shining eyes remained bent over the instrument.
Dick went to the door, brushed off the snow, came back and sat down by
the stove. Sergeant Whitley, who had tied the horses to hitching posts,
came in, pulled up an empty box and sat down by him. Red Blaze slipped
away unnoticed. But he came back very soon, and men and women came with
him, bringing food and smoking coffee. There was enough for twenty.

Red Blaze had spread among the villagers, every one of whom he knew, the
news that the Union arms had won a victory. Nor had it suffered anything
in the telling. Colonel Newcomb’s regiment, by the most desperate feats
of gallantry, had beaten off at least ten thousand Southerners, and the
boy and the man in uniform, who were resting by the fire in the station,
had been the greatest two heroes of a battle waged for a whole night.

Curious eyes gazed at Dick and the sergeant as they sat there by the
stove. Dick himself, warm, relaxed, and the needs of his body satisfied,
felt like going to sleep. But he watched the boy operator, who presently
finished his two dispatches and then lifted his head for the first time.

“They’ve gone straight into Washington,” he said. “We ought to get an
answer soon.”

“We’ll wait here for it,” said Dick.

The three messengers were now thoroughly warmed at the stove, they
had eaten heartily of the best the village could furnish, and a great
feeling of comfort pervaded them. While they were waiting for the reply
that they hoped would come from Washington, Dick Mason and Sergeant
Whitley went outside. No snow was falling in the valley, but off on the
mountain crest they still saw the white veil, blown by the wind.

Red Blaze joined them and was everywhere their guide and herald. He
ascribed to them such deeds of skill and valor that they were compelled
to call him the best romancer they had met in a long time.

“I suppose that if Mr. Warner were here,” said the sergeant, “he would
reduce these statements to mathematics, ten per cent fact an’ ninety per
cent fancy.”

“Just about that,” said Dick.

Red Blaze came to them presently, bristling with news.

“A farmer from a hollow further to the west,” he said, “has just come
in, an’ he says that a band of guerillas is ridin’ through the hills.
‘Bout twenty of them, he said, led by a big dark fellow, his face
covered with black beard. They’ve been liftin’ hosses an’ takin’ other
things, but they’re strangers in these parts. Tom Sykes, who was held up
by them an’ robbed of his hoss, says that the rest of ‘em called their
leader Skelly. Tom seemed to think that mebbe they came from somewhere
in the Kentucky mountains. They called themselves a scoutin’ party of
the Southern army.”

Dick started violently.

“Why, I know this man Skelly,” he said. “He lives in the mountains
to the eastward of my home in Kentucky. He organized a band at the
beginning of the war, but over there he said he was fightin’ for the
North.”

“He’ll be fightin’ for his own hand,” said the sergeant sternly. “But he
can’t play double all the time. That sort of thing will bring a man to
the end of a rope, with clear air under his feet.”

“I’m glad you’ve told me this,” said Red Blaze. “Skelly might have come
ridin’ in here, claimin’ that he an’ his men was Northern troops, an’
then when we wasn’t suspectin’ might have held up the whole town. I’ll
warn ‘em. Thar ain’t a house here that hasn’t got two or three rifles
an’ shotguns in it, an’ with the farmers from the valley joinin’ in
Hubbard could wipe out the whole gang.”

“Tell them to be on guard all the time, Red Blaze,” said Whitley with
strong emphasis. “In war you’ve got to watch, watch, watch. Always know
what the other fellow is doin’, if you can.”

“Let’s go back to the station,” said Dick. “Maybe we’ll have an answer
soon.”

They found the young operator hanging over his instrument, his eyes
still shining. He had been in that position ever since they left him,
and Dick knew that his eagerness to get an answer from Washington kept
him there, mind and body waiting for the tick of the key.

Dick, the sergeant, and Red Blaze sat down by the stove again, and
rested there quietly for a quarter of an hour. Red Blaze was thinking
that it would be another cold ride back over the pass. The sergeant,
although he was not sleepy, closed his eyes and saw again the vast
rolling plains, the herds of buffalo spreading to the horizon, and the
bands of Sioux and Cheyennes galloping down, their great war bonnets
making splashes of color against the thin blue sky. Dick was thinking of
Pendleton, the peaceful little town in Kentucky that was his home, and
of his cousin, Harry Kenton. He did not know now where Harry was, and he
did not even know whether he was dead or alive.

Dick sighed a little, and just at that moment the telegraph key began to
click.

“The answer is coming!” exclaimed the young operator excitedly and then
he bent closer over the key to take it. The three chairs straightened
up, and they, too, bent toward the key. The boy wrote rapidly, but the
clicking did not go on long. When it ceased he straightened up with his
finished message in his hand. His face was flushed and his eyes still
shining. He folded the paper and handed it to Dick.

“It’s for you, Mr. Mason,” he said.

Dick unfolded it and read aloud:


“Colonel John D. Newcomb:

“Congratulations on your success and fine management of your troops.
Victory worth much to us. Read dispatch to regiment and continue
westward to original destination.

                                        A. LINCOLN.”


Dick’s face glowed, and the sergeant’s teeth came together with a little
click of satisfaction.

“When I saw that it was to be read to the regiment I thought it no harm
to read it to the rest of you,” said Dick, as he refolded the precious
dispatch and put it in his safest pocket. “Now, sergeant, I think we
ought to be off at full speed.”

“Not a minute to waste,” said Sergeant Whitley.

Their horses had been fed and were rested well. The three bade farewell
to the young operator, then to almost all of Hubbard and proceeded in
a trot for the pass. They did not speak until they were on the first
slope, and then the sergeant, looking up at the heights, asked:

“Shall we have snow again on our return, Red Blaze? I hope not. It’s
important for us to get back to Townsville without any waste of time.”

“I hate to bring bad news,” replied Red Blaze, “but we’ll shore have
more snow. See them clouds, sailin’ up an’ always sailin’ up from the
southwest, an’ see that white mist ‘roun’ the highest peaks. That’s
snow, an’ it’ll hit the pass just as it did when we was comin’ over. But
we’ve got this in favor of ourselves an’ our hosses now: The wind is on
our backs.”

They rode hard now. Dick had received the precious message from the
President, and it would be a proud moment for him when he put it in the
hands of the colonel. He did not wish that moment to be delayed. Several
times he patted the pocket in which the paper lay.

As they ascended, the wind increased in strength, but being on their
backs now it seemed to help them along. They were soon high up on the
slopes and then they naturally turned for a parting look at Hubbard in
its valley, a twin to that of Townsville. It looked from afar neat and
given up to peace, but Dick knew that it had been stirred deeply by the
visit of his comrades and himself.

“It seems,” he said, “that the war would pass by these little mountain
nests.”

“But it don’t,” said Red Blaze. “War, I guess, is like a mad an’ kickin’
mule, hoofs lashin’ out everywhar, an’ you can’t tell what they’re goin’
to hit. Boys, we’re makin’ good time. That wind on our backs fairly
lifts us up the mountain side.”

Petty had all the easy familiarity of the backwoods. He treated the boy
and man who rode with him as comrades of at least a year’s standing, and
they felt in return that he was one of them, a man to be trusted. They
retained all the buoyancy which the receipt of the dispatch had given
them, and Dick, his heart beating high, scarcely felt the wind and cold.

“In another quarter of an hour we’ll be at the top,” said Petty. Then he
added after a moment’s pause: “If I’m not mistook, we’ll have company.
See that path, leadin’ out of the west, an’ runnin’ along the slope. It
comes into the main road, two or three hundred yards further on, an’ I
think I can see the top of a horseman’s head ridin’ in it. What do you
say, sergeant?”

“I say that you are right, Red Blaze. I plainly see the head of a big
man, wearing a fur cap, an’ there are others behind him, ridin’ in
single file. What’s your opinion, Mr. Mason?”

“The same as yours and Red Blaze’s. I, too, can see the big man with the
fur cap on his head and at least a dozen following behind. Do you think
it likely, Red Blaze, that they’ll reach the main road before we pass
the mouth of the path?”

A sudden thought had leaped up in Dick’s mind and it set his pulses to
beating hard. He remembered some earlier words of Red Blaze’s.

“We’ll go by before they reach the main road,” replied Red Blaze,
“unless they make their hosses travel a lot faster than they’re
travelin’ now.”

“Then suppose we whip up a little,” said Dick.

Both Red Blaze and the sergeant gave him searching glances.

“Do you mean--” began Whitley.

“Yes, I mean it. I know it. The man in front wearing the fur cap is Bill
Skelly. He and his men made an attack upon the home of my uncle, Colonel
Kenton, who is a Southern leader in Kentucky. He and his band were
Northerners there, but they will be Southerners here, if it suits their
purpose.”

“An’ it will shorely suit their purpose to be Southerners now,” said Red
Blaze. “We three are ridin’ mighty good hoss flesh. Me an’ the sergeant
have good rifles an’ pistols, you have good pistols, an’ we all have
good, big overcoats. This is a lonely mountain side with war flyin’ all
about us. Easy’s the place an’ easy’s the deed. That is if we’d let ‘em,
which we ain’t goin’ to do.”

“Not by a long shot,” said Sergeant Whitley, resting his rifle across
the pommel of his saddle. “They’ve got to follow straight behind. The
ground is too rough for them to ride around an’ flank us.”

Dick said nothing, but his gauntleted hand moved down to the butt of one
of his pistols. His heart throbbed, but he preserved the appearance of
coolness. He was fast becoming inured to danger. Owing to the slope
they could not increase the speed of their horses greatly, but they were
beyond the mouth of the path before they were seen by Skelly and his
band. Then the big mountaineer uttered a great shout and began to wave
his hand at them.

“The road curves here a little among the rocks,” said the sergeant, who
unconsciously took command. “Suppose we stop, sheltered by the curve,
and ask them what they want.”

“The very thing to do,” said Dick.

“Sass ‘em, sergeant! Sass ‘em!” said Red Blaze.

They drew their horses back partially in the shadow of the rocky curve,
but the sergeant was a little further forward than the others. Dick saw
Skelly and a score of men emerge into the road and come rapidly toward
them. They were a wild-looking crew, mounted on tough mountain ponies,
all of them carrying loot, and all armed heavily.

The sergeant threw up his rifle, and with a steady hand aimed straight
at Skelly’s heart.

“Halt!” he cried sharply, “and tell me who you are!”

The whole crew seemed to reel back except Skelly, who, though stopping
his horse, remained in the center of the road.

“What do you mean?” he cried. “We’re peaceful travelers. What business
is it of yours who we are?”

“Judgin’ by your looks you’re not peaceful travelers at all. Besides
these ain’t peaceful times an’ we take the right to demand who you are.
If you come on another foot, I shoot.”

The sergeant’s tones were sharp with resolve.

“Your name!” he continued.

“Ramsdell, David Ramsdell,” replied the leader of the band.

“That’s a lie,” said Sergeant Whitley. “Your name is Bill Skelly, an’
you’re a mountaineer from Eastern Kentucky, claimin’ to belong first to
one side and then to the other as suits you.”

“Who says so?” exclaimed Skelly defiantly.

The sergeant beckoned Dick, who rode forward a little.

“I do,” said the boy in a loud, clear voice. “My name is Dick Mason,
and I live at Pendleton in Kentucky. I saw you more than once before the
war, and I know that you tried to burn down the house of Colonel Kenton
there, and kill him and his friends. I’m on the other side, but I’m not
for such things as that.”

Skelly distinctly saw Dick sitting on his horse in the pass, and he knew
him well. Rage tore at his heart. Although on “the other side” this boy,
too, was a lowlander and in a way a member of that vile Kenton brood. He
hated him, too, because he belonged to those who had more of prosperity
and education than himself. But Skelly was a man of resource and not a
coward.

“You’re right,” he cried, “I’m Bill Skelly, an’ we want your horses an’
arms. We need ‘em in our business. Now, just hop down an’ deliver. We’re
twenty to three.”

“You come forward at your own risk!” cried the sergeant, and Skelly,
despite the numbers at his back, wavered. He saw that the man who held
the rifle aimed at his heart had nerves of steel, and he did not dare
advance knowing that he would be shot at once from the saddle. A victory
won by Skelly’s men with Skelly dead was no victory at all to Skelly.

The guerilla reined back his horse, and his men retreated with him. But
the three knew well that it was no withdrawal. The mountaineers rode
among some scrub that grew between the road and the cliff; and Whitley
exclaimed to his two comrades:

“Come boys, we must ride for it! It’s our business to get back with the
dispatches to Colonel Newcomb as soon as possible, an’ not let ourselves
be delayed by this gang.”

“That is certainly true,” said Dick. “Lead on, Mr. Petty, and we’ll
cross the mountain as fast as we can.”

Red Blaze started at once in a gallop, and Dick and the sergeant
followed swiftly after. But Sergeant Whitley held his cocked rifle in
hand and he cast many backward glances. A great shout came from Skelly
and his band when they saw the three take to flight, and the sergeant’s
face grew grimmer as the sound reached his ears.

“Keep right in the middle of the road, boys,” he said. “We can’t afford
to have our horses slip. I’ll hang back just a little and send in a
bullet if they come too near. This rifle of mine carries pretty far,
farther, I expect, than any of theirs.”

“I’m somethin’ on the shoot myself,” said Red Blaze. “I love peace, but
it hurts my feelin’s if anybody shoots at me. Them fellers are likely
to do it, an’ me havin’ a rifle in my hands I won’t be able to stop the
temptation to fire back.”

As he spoke the raiders fired. There was a crackling of rifles, little
curls of blue smoke rose in the pass, and bullets struck on the frozen
earth, while two made the snow fly from bushes by the side of the road.
The sergeant raised his own rifle, longer of barrel than the average
army weapon, and pulled the trigger. He had aimed at Skelly, but the
leader swerved, and a man behind him rolled off his horse. The others,
although slowing their speed a little, in order to be out of the range
of that deadly rifle, continued to come.

The pursuit at first seemed futile to Dick, because they would soon
descend into Townsville’s valley, and the raiders could not follow them
into the midst of an entire regiment. But presently he saw their plan.
The pass now widened out with a few hundred yards of level space on
either side of the road thickly covered with forest. The branches of the
trees were bare, but the undergrowth was so dense that horsemen could be
hidden in it. Bands of the raiders darted into the woods both to right
and left, and he knew that advancing on a straight line one or the
other of the parties expected to catch the fugitives who must follow the
curves of the road.

The advantage of the pursuit was soon shown as a shot from the right
whistled by them. Red Blaze, quick as lightning, fired at the flash of
the rifle.

“I don’t know whether I hit him or not,” he said, judicially, “but the
chances are pow’ful good that I did. Still it looks as if they meant to
hang on an’ likely we kin soon expect shots from the other side, too.
Then if they know the country as well as they ‘pear to do they’ll have
us clamped in a vise.”

As he spoke his eyes twinkled cheerfully out of his flaming countenance.

“You certainly seem to take it easy,” said Dick.

“I take it easy, ‘cause the jaws of that vise ain’t goin’ to clamp down.
Bein’ somewhat interested in a run for your life you haven’t noticed how
dark it’s gettin’ up here on the heights an’ how hard it’s snowin’. It’s
comin’ down a lot thicker than it was when we crossed the first time.”

It was true. Dick noticed now that the snow was pouring down, and that
all the peaks and ridges were lost in the white whirlwind.

“I told you that I had been a traveler,” said Red Blaze. “I’ve been as
far as fifty miles from Townsville, and I know all the country in every
direction, twenty miles from it, inch by inch. Inside five minutes the
snowstorm will be on us full blast, an’ we won’t be able to see more’n
twenty yards away. An’ that crowd that’s follerin’ won’t be able to see
either. An’ me knowin’ the ground inch by inch I’ll take you straight
back to your regiment while they’ll get lost in the storm.”

There was room now in the road for the three to ride abreast, and they
kept close together. They heard once a shout behind them and saw the
flash of a firearm in the white hurricane, but no bullet struck them,
and they kept steadily on their course, Red Blaze directing with the
sure instinct that comes of long use and habit.

Heavier and heavier grew the snow. There was but little wind now, and it
came straight down. It seemed to Dick that the whole earth was
blotted out by the white fall. He and the sergeant resigned themselves
completely to the guidance of Red Blaze, who never veered an inch from
the right path.

“If I didn’t know the way my hoss would,” he said. “I’d just give him
his head an’ he’d take us straight to his warm stable in Townsville, an’
the two bundles of oats that I mean to give him. I reckon it was pretty
smart of me, wasn’t it, to order a snowstorm an’ have it come just when
it was needed.”

Again the cheerful eyes twinkled in the flaming face.

“You’re certainly a winner,” said Dick, “and you win for us all.”

The snow was now so deep in the pass that they could not proceed at
great speed, but they did the best they could, and, as Red Blaze said,
their best, although it might be somewhat slow, was certainly better
than that of Skelly and his men. Dick believed in fact that the raiders
had been compelled to abandon the pursuit.

When they reached a lower level, where the snow was far less dense, they
stopped and listened. The sergeant’s ears had been trained to uncommon
keenness by his life on the plains, and he could hear nothing but the
sigh of the falling snow. Nor could Petty, who had fine ears himself.

They descended still further, and made another stop. It was snowing here
also, but it was merely an ordinary fall, and they could get a long view
back up the pass. They saw nothing there but earth and trees covered
with snow. Looking in the other direction they saw the sunshine gleaming
for a moment on a roof in Townsville.

“We’re all safe now,” said Red Blaze, “an’ we’ll be with the soldiers in
another half hour. But just you two remember that mebbe the next time I
couldn’t call up a snowstorm to cover us an’ save our lives.”

“Once is enough,” said Dick, “and, Mr. Petty, Sergeant Whitley and I
want to thank you.”

Mittened hands met buckskinned ones in the strong grasp of friendship,
and now, as they rode on, the whole village emerged into sight. There
was the long train standing on the track, the smoke rising in spires
from the neat houses, and then the figures of human beings.

The fall of snow was light in the valley and as soon as they reached
the levels the three proceeded at a gallop. Dick saw Colonel Newcomb
standing by the train, and springing from his horse he handed him the
dispatch. The colonel opened it, and as he read Dick saw the glow appear
upon his face.

“Fire up!” he said to Canby, the engineer, who stood near. “We start at
once!”

The troops who were ready and waiting were hurried into the coaches, and
the engine whistled for departure.



CHAPTER V. THE SINGER OF THE HILLS


As the engine whistled for the last time Dick sprang upon a car-step,
one hand holding to the rail while with the other he returned the
powerful grip of Red Blaze, who with his own unconfined hand grasped the
bridles of the three horses, which had served them so well. Petty had
received a reward thrust upon him by Colonel Newcomb, but Dick knew
that the mountaineer’s chief recompense was the success achieved in the
perilous task chosen for him.

“Good-bye, Mr. Mason,” said Red Blaze, “I’m proud to have knowed you an’
the sergeant, an’ to have been your comrade in a work for the Union.”

“Without you we should have failed.”

“It jest happened that I knowed the way. It seems to me that there’s
a heap, a tremenjeous heap, in knowin’ the way. It gives you an awful
advantage. Now you an’ your regiment are goin’ down thar in them
Kentucky mountains. They’re mighty wild, winter’s here an’ the marchin’
will be about as bad as it could be. Them’s mostly Pennsylvania men with
you, an’ they don’t know a thing ‘bout that thar region. Like as not
you’ll be walkin’ right straight into an ambush, an’ that’ll be the end
of you an’ them Pennsylvanians.”

“You’re a cheerful prophet, Red Blaze.”

“I meant if you didn’t take care of yourselves an’ keep a good lookout,
which I know, of course, that you’re goin’ to do. I was jest statin’
the other side of the proposition, tellin’ what would happen to keerless
people, but Colonel Newcomb an’ Major Hertford ain’t keerless people.
Good-bye, Mr. Mason. Mebbe I’ll see you ag’in before this war is over.”

“Good-bye, Red Blaze. I truly hope so.”

The train was moving now and with a last powerful grasp of a friendly
hand Dick went into the coach. It was the first in the train. Colonel
Newcomb and Major Hertford sat near the head of it, and Warner was just
sitting down not far behind them. Dick took the other half of the seat
with the young Vermonter, who said, speaking in a whimsical tone:

“You fill me with envy, Dick. Why wasn’t it my luck to go with you,
Sergeant Whitley, and the man they call Red Blaze on that errand and
help bring back with you the message of President Lincoln? But I heard
what our red friend said to you at the car-step. There’s a powerful lot
in knowing the way, knowing where you’re going, and what’s along every
inch of the road. My arithmetic tells me that it is often fifty per cent
of marching and fighting.”

“I think you are right,” said Dick.

A little later he was sound asleep in his seat, and at the command of
Colonel Newcomb he was not disturbed. His had been a task, taxing to the
utmost both body and mind, and, despite his youth and strength, it would
take nature some time to replace what had been worn away.

He slept on while the boys in the train talked and laughed. Stern
discipline was not yet enforced in either army, nor did Colonel Newcomb
consider it necessary here. These lads, so lately from the schools
and farms, had won a victory and they had received the thanks of the
President. They had a right to talk about it among themselves and a
little vocal enthusiasm now might build up courage and spirit for a
greater crisis later.

The colonel, moreover, gave glances of approval and sympathy to his
gallant young aide, who in the seat next to the window with his head
against the wall slept so soundly. All the afternoon Dick slept on, his
breathing regular and steady. The train rattled and rumbled through the
high mountains, and on the upper levels the snow was falling fast.

Darkness came, and supper was served to the troops, but at the colonel’s
command Dick was not awakened. Nature had not yet finished her task of
repairing. There was worn tissue still to be replaced, and the nerves
had not yet recovered their full steadiness.

So Dick slept on, while the night deepened and the snow continued to
drive against the window panes. Nor did he awake until morning, when the
train stopped at a tiny station in the hills. There was no snow here,
but the sun, just rising, threw no heat, and icicles were hanging from
every cliff. Dispatches were waiting for Colonel Newcomb, and after
breakfast he announced to his staff:

“I have orders from Washington to divide my regiment. The Southern
forces are operating at three points in Kentucky. They are gathering at
Columbus on the Mississippi, at Bowling Green in the south, and here
in the mountains there is a strong division under an officer named
Zollicoffer. Scattered forces of our men, the principal one led by a
Virginian named Thomas, are endeavoring to deal with Zollicoffer. The
Secretary of War regrets the division of the regiment, but he thinks it
necessary, as all our detached forces must be strengthened. I go on with
the main body of the regiment to join Grant, near the mouth of the Ohio.
You, Major Hertford, will take three companies and march south in search
of Thomas, but be careful that you are not snapped up by the rebels on
the way. And if you can get volunteers and join Thomas with your force
increased threefold, so much the better.”

“I shall try my best, sir,” said Major Hertford, “and thank you for this
honor.”

Dick and Warner stood by without a word, but Dick cast an appealing look
at Colonel Newcomb.

“Yes, I know,” said the Colonel, who caught the glance. “This is your
state, and you wish to go with Major Hertford. You are to do so. So is
your friend, Lieutenant Warner, and, Major Hertford, I also lend to you
Sergeant Whitley, who is a man of much experience and who has already
proved himself to be of great value.”

The three saluted and were grateful. They longed for action, which they
believed would come more quickly with Major Hertford’s column. A little
later, when military form permitted it, the two boys thanked Colonel
Newcomb in words.

“Maybe you won’t thank me a few days from now,” said the colonel a
little grimly, “but I am hopeful that our plans here in Eastern Kentucky
will prove successful, and that before long you will be able to join the
great forces in the western part of the state. You are both good boys
and now, good-bye.”

The preparations for the mountain column, as Dick and Warner soon called
it, had been completed. They were on foot, but they were well armed,
well clothed, and they had supplies loaded in several wagons, purchased
hastily in the village. A dozen of the strong mountaineers volunteered
to be drivers and guides, and the major was glad to have them. Later,
several horses were secured for the officers, but, meanwhile, the train
was ready to depart.

Colonel Newcomb waved them farewell, the faithful and valiant Canby
opened the throttle, and the train steamed away. The men in the little
column, although eager for their new task, watched its departure with a
certain sadness at parting with their comrades. The train became smaller
and smaller, then it was only a spiral of smoke, and that, too, soon
died on the clear western horizon.

“And now to find Thomas!” said Major Hertford, who retained Dick and
Warner on his staff, practically its only members, in fact. “It looks
odd to hunt through the mountains for a general and his army, but we’ve
got it to do, and we’ll do it.”

The horses for the officers were obtained at the suggestion of Sergeant
Whitley, and the little column turned southward through the wintry
forest. Dick and Warner were riding strong mountain ponies, but at
times, and in order to show that they considered themselves no better
than the others, they dismounted and walked over the frozen ground.
The greatest tasks were with the wagons containing the ammunition and
supplies. The mountain roads were little more than trails, sometimes
half blocked with ice or snow and then again deep in mud. The winter
was severe. Storms of rain, hail, sleet and snow poured upon them, but,
fortunately, they were marching through continuous forests, and the
skilled mountaineers, under any circumstances, knew how to build fires,
by the side of which they could dry themselves, and sleep warmly at
night.

They also heard much gossip as they advanced to meet General Thomas,
who had been sent from Louisville to command the Northern troops in the
Kentucky mountains. Thomas was a Virginian, a member of the old regular
army, a valiant, able, and cautious man, who chose to abide by the
Union. Many other Virginians, some destined to be as famous as he, and
a few more so, wondered why he had not gone with his seceding state, and
criticised him much, but Thomas, chary of speech, hung to his belief,
and proved it by action.

Dick learned, too, that the Southern force operating against Thomas,
while actively led by Zollicoffer, was under the nominal command of
one of his own Kentucky Crittendens. Here he saw again how terribly
his beloved state was divided, like other border states. General
Crittenden’s father was a member of the Federal Congress at Washington,
and one of his brothers was a general also, but on the other side. But
he was to see such cases over and over again, and he was to see them to
a still greater and a wholesale degree, when the First Maryland regiment
of the North and the First Maryland regiment of the South, recruited
from the same district, should meet face to face upon the terrible field
of Antietam.

But Antietam was far in the future, and Dick’s mind turned from the
cases of brother against brother to the problems of the icy wilderness
through which they were moving, in a more or less uncertain manner.
Sometimes they were sent on false trails, but their loyal mountaineers
brought them back again. They also found volunteers, and Major
Hertford’s little force swelled from three hundred to six hundred. In
the main, the mountaineers were sympathetic, partly through devotion
to the Union, and partly through jealousy of the more prosperous
lowlanders.

One day Major Hertford sent Dick, Warner, and Sergeant Whitley, ahead
to scout. He had recognized the ability of the two lads, and also their
great friendship for Sergeant Whitley. It seemed fitting to him that
the three should be nearly always together, and he watched them with
confidence, as they rode ahead on the icy mountain trail and then
disappeared from sight.

Dick and his friends had learned, at mountain cabins which they had
passed, that the country opened out further on into a fine little
valley, and when they reached the crest of a hill somewhat higher than
the others, they verified the truth of the statement. Before them lay
the coziest nook they had yet seen in the mountains, and in the center
of it rose a warm curl of smoke from the chimney of a house, much
superior to that of the average mountaineer. The meadows and corn lands
on either side of a noble creek were enclosed in good fences. Everything
was trim and neat.

The three rode down the slope toward the house, but halfway to the
bottom they reined in their ponies and listened. Some one was singing.
On the thin wintry air a deep mellow voice rose and they distinctly
heard the words:

  Soft o’er the fountain, ling’ring falls the southern moon,
  Far o’er the mountain breaks the day too soon.
  In thy dark eyes’ splendor, where the warm light loves to dwell,
  Weary looks yet tender, speak their fond farewell.
  ‘Nita, Juanita!  Ask thy soul if we should part,
  ‘Nita, Juanita!  Lean thou on my heart.

It was a wonderful voice that they heard, deep, full, and mellow, all
the more wonderful because they heard it there in those lone mountains.
The ridges took up the echo, and gave it back in tones softened but
exquisitely haunting.

The three paused and looked at one another. They could not see the
singer. He was hidden from them by the dips and swells of the valley,
but they felt that here was no common man. No common mind, or at least
no common heart, could infuse such feeling into music. As they listened
the remainder of the pathetic old air rose and swelled through the
ridges:

  When in thy dreaming, moons like these shall shine again,
  And daylight beaming prove thy dreams are vain,
  Wilt thou not, relenting, for thy absent lover sigh?
  In thy heart consenting to a prayer gone by!
  ‘Nita, Juanita!  Let me linger by thy side!
  ‘Nita, Juanita!  Be thou my own fair bride.

“I’m curious to see that singer,” said Warner. “I heard grand opera once
in Boston, just before I started to the war, but I never heard anything
that sounds finer than this. Maybe time and place help to the extent of
fifty per cent, but, at any rate, the effect is just the same.”

“Come on,” said Dick, “and we’ll soon find our singer, whoever he is.”

The three rode at a rapid pace until they reached the valley. There
they drew rein, as they saw near them a tall man, apparently about
forty years of age, mending a fence, helped by a boy of heavy build and
powerful arms. The man glanced up, saw the blue uniforms worn by the
three horsemen, and went peacefully on with his fence-mending. He also
continued to sing, throwing his soul into the song, and both work and
song proceeded as if no one was near.

He lifted the rails into place with mighty arms, but never ceased to
sing. The boy who helped him seemed almost his equal in strength, but he
neither sang nor spoke. Yet he smiled most of the time, showing rows of
exceedingly strong, white teeth.

“They seem to me to be of rather superior type,” said Dick. “Maybe we
can get useful information from them.”

“I judge that the singer will talk about almost everything except what
we want to know,” said the shrewd and experienced sergeant, “but we can
certainly do no harm by speaking to him. Of course they have seen us. No
doubt they saw us before we saw them.”

The three rode forward, saluted politely and the fence-menders,
stopping their work, saluted in the same polite fashion. Then they stood
expectant.

“We belong to a detachment which is marching southward to join the Union
army under General Thomas,” said Dick. “Perhaps you could tell us the
best road.”

“I might an’ ag’in I mightn’t, stranger. If you don’t talk much you
never have much to take back. If I knew where that army is it would
be easy for me to tell you, but if I didn’t know I couldn’t. Now, the
question is, do I know or don’t I know? Do you think you can decide it
for me stranger?”

It was impossible for Dick or the sergeant to take offense. The man’s
gaze was perfectly frank and open and his eyes twinkled as he spoke.
The boy with him smiled widely, showing both rows of his powerful white
teeth.

“We can’t decide it until we know you better,” said Dick in a light
tone.

“I’m willin’ to tell you who I am. My name is Sam Jarvis, an’ this
lunkhead here is my nephew, Ike Simmons, the son of my sister, who keeps
my house. Now I want to tell you, young stranger, that since this war
began and the Yankees and the Johnnies have taken a notion to shoot up
one another, people who would never have thought of doin’ it before,
have come wanderin’ into these mountains. But you can get a hint about
‘em sometimes. Young man, do you want me to tell you your name?”

“Tell me my name!” responded Dick in astonishment. “Of course you can’t
do it! You never saw or heard of me before.”

“Mebbe no,” replied Jarvis, with calm confidence, “but all the same
your name is Dick Mason, and you come from a town in Kentucky called
Pendleton. You’ve been serving with the Yanks in the East, an’ you’ve a
cousin, named Harry Kenton, who’s been servin’ there also, but with the
Johnnies. Now, am I a good guesser or am I just a plum’ ignorant fool?”

Dick stared at him in deepening amazement.

“You do more than guess,” he replied. “You know. Everything that you
said is true.”

“Tell me this,” said Jarvis. “Was that cousin of yours, Harry Kenton,
killed in the big battle at Bull Run? I’ve been tremenjeously anxious
about him ever since I heard of that terrible fight.”

“He was not. I have not seen him since, but I have definite news now
that he passed safely through the battle.”

Sam Jarvis and his nephew Ike breathed deep sighs of relief.

“I’m mighty glad to hear it,” said Jarvis, “I shorely liked that boy,
Harry, an’ I think I’ll like you about as well. It don’t matter to me
that you’re on different sides, bein’ as I ain’t on any side at all
myself, nor is this lunkhead, Ike, my nephew.”

“How on earth did you know me?”

“‘Light, an’ come into the house an’ I’ll tell you. You an’ your
pardners look cold an’ hungry. There ain’t danger of anybody taking your
hosses, ‘cause you can hitch ‘em right at the front door. Besides, I’ve
got an old grandmother in the house, who’d like mighty well to see you,
Mr. Mason.”

Dick concluded that it was useless to ask any more questions just yet,
and he, Warner and the sergeant, dismounting and leading their horses,
walked toward the house with Jarvis and Ike. Jarvis, who seemed
singularly cheerful, lifted up his voice and sang:

  Thou wilt come no more, gentle Annie,
  Like a flower, thy spirit did depart,
  Thou art gone, alas! like the many
  That have bloomed in the summer of my heart.
  Shall we never more behold thee?
  Never hear thy winning voice again?
  When the spring time comes, gentle Annie?
  When the wild flowers are scattered o’er the plain?

It seemed to Dick that the man sang spontaneously, and the deep, mellow
voice always came back in faint and dying echoes that moved him in
a singular manner. All at once the war with its passions and carnage
floated away. Here was a little valley fenced in from the battle-world
in which he had been living. He breathed deeply and as the eyes of
Jarvis caught his a sympathetic glance passed between them.

“Yes,” said Jarvis, as if he understood completely, “the war goes around
us. There is nothing to fight about here. But come into the house.
This is my sister, the mother of that lunkhead, Ike, and here is my
grandmother.”

He paused before the bent figure of an old, old woman, sitting in a
rocking chair beside the chimney, beside which a fire glowed and blazed.
Her chin rested on one hand, and she was staring into the coals.

“Grandmother,” said Jarvis very gently, “the great-grandson of the
great Henry Ware that you used to know was here last spring, and now the
great-grandson of his friend, Paul Cotter, has come, too.”

The withered form straightened and she stood up. Fire came into the old,
old eyes that regarded Dick so intently.

“Aye,” she said, “you speak the truth, grandson. It is Paul Cotter’s own
face. A gentle man he was, but brave, and the greatest scholar. I should
have known that when Henry Ware’s great-grandson came Paul Cotter’s,
too, would come soon. I am proud for this house to have sheltered you
both.”

She put both her hands on his shoulders, and stood up very straight,
her face close to his. She was a tall woman, above the average height of
man, and her eyes were on a level with Dick’s.

“It is true,” she said, “it is he over again. The eyes are his, and the
mouth and the nose are the same. This house is yours while you choose
to remain, and my grandchildren and my great-grandson will do for you
whatever you wish.”

Dick noticed that her grammar and intonation were perfect. Many of the
Virginians and Marylanders who emigrated to Kentucky in that far-off
border time were people of cultivation and refinement.

After these words of welcome she turned from him, sat down in her chair
and gazed steadily into the coals. Everything about her seemed to float
away. Doubtless her thoughts ran on those dim early days, when the
Indians lurked in the canebrake and only the great borderers stood
between the settlers and sure death.

Dick began to gather from the old woman’s words a dim idea of what had
occurred. Harry Kenton must have passed there, and as they went into
the next room where food and coffee were placed before them, Jarvis
explained.

“Your cousin, Harry Kenton, came through here last spring on his way to
Virginia,” he said. “He came with me an’ this lunkhead, Ike, all the
way from Frankfort and mostly up the Kentucky River. Grandmother was
dreaming and she took him at first for Henry Ware, his very self. She
saluted him and called him the great governor. It was a wonderful thing
to see, and it made me feel just a little bit creepy for a second or
two. Mebbe you an’ your cousin, Harry Kenton, are Henry Ware an’ Paul
Cotter, their very selves come back to earth. It looks curious that both
of you should wander to this little place hid deep in the mountains. But
it’s happened all the same. I s’pose you’ve just been moved ‘round that
way by the Supreme Power that’s bigger than all of us, an’ that shifts
us about to suit plans made long ago. But how I’m runnin’ on! Fall to,
friends--I can’t call you strangers, an’ eat an’ drink. The winter
air on the mountains is powerful nippin’ an’ your blood needs warmin’
often.”

The boys and the sergeant obeyed him literally and with energy. Jarvis
sat by approvingly, taking an occasional bite or drink with them.
Meanwhile they gathered valuable information from him. A Northern
commander named Garfield had defeated the Southern forces under Humphrey
Marshall in a smart little battle at a place called Middle Creek. Dick
knew this Humphrey Marshall well. He lived at Louisville and was a great
friend of his uncle, Colonel Kenton. He had been a brilliant and daring
cavalry officer in the Mexican War, doing great deeds at Buena
Vista, but now he was elderly and so enormously stout that he lacked
efficiency.

Jarvis added that after their defeat at Middle Creek the Southerners had
gathered their forces on or near the Cumberland River about Mill Spring
and that they had ten thousand men. Thomas with a strong Northern force,
coming all the way from the central part of the state, was already deep
in the mountains, preparing to meet him.

“Remember,” said Jarvis, “that I ain’t takin’ no sides in this war
myself. If people come along an’ ask me to tell what I know I tell it to
‘em, be they Yank or Reb. Now, I wish good luck to you, Mr. Mason, an’ I
wish the same to your cousin, Mr. Kenton.”

Dick, Warner and the sergeant finished the refreshments and rose for
the return journey. They thanked Jarvis, and when they saw that he would
take no pay, they did not insist, knowing that it would offend him.
Dick said good-bye to the ancient woman and once again she rose, put her
hands on his shoulders and looked into his eyes.

“Paul Cotter was a good man,” she said, “and you who have his blood in
your veins are good, too. I can see it in something that lies back in
your eyes.”

She said not another word, but sat down in the chair and stared once
more into the coals, dreaming of the far day when the great borderers
saved her and others like her from the savages, and thinking little of
the mighty war that raged at the base of her hills.

The boys and the sergeant rode fast on the return trail. They knew that
Major Hertford would push forward at all speed to join Thomas, whom they
could now locate without much difficulty. Jarvis and Ike had resumed
their fence-mending, but when the trees hid the valley from them a
mighty, rolling song came to the ears of Dick, Warner and the sergeant:

  They bore him away when the day had fled,
  And the storm was rolling high,
  And they laid him down in his lonely bed
  By the light of an angry sky.
  The lightning flashed, and the wild sea lashed
  The shore with its foaming wave,
  And the thunder passed on the rushing blast
  As it howled o’er the rover’s grave.

“That man’s no fool,” said Dick.

“No, he ain’t,” said the sergeant, with decision, “nor is that nephew
Ike of his that he calls a lunkhead. Did you notice, Mr. Mason, that the
boy never spoke a word while we was there? Them that don’t say anything
never have anything to take back.”

They rode hard now, and soon reached Major Hertford with their news. On
the third day thereafter they entered a strong Union camp, commanded
by a man named Garfield, the young officer who had won the victory at
Middle Creek.



CHAPTER VI. MILL SPRING


Garfield’s camp was on a little group of hills in a very strong
position, and his men, flushed with victory, were eager for another
encounter with the enemy. They had plenty of good tents to fend them
from the winter weather which had often been bitter. Throughout the camp
burned large fires for which they had an almost unbroken wilderness to
furnish fuel. The whole aspect of the place was pleasing to the men who
had marched far and hard.

Major Hertford and his aides, Richard Mason and George Warner,
were received in Colonel Garfield’s tent. A slim young man, writing
dispatches at a rude little pine table, rose to receive them. He did not
seem to Dick to be more than thirty, and he had the thin, scholarly face
of a student. His manner was attractive, he shook hands warmly with all
three of them and said:

“Reinforcements are most welcome indeed. My own work here seems to be
largely done, but you will reach General Thomas in another day, and he
needs you. Take my chair, Major Hertford. To you two lads I can offer
only stumps.”

The tent had been pitched over a spot where three stumps had been
smoothed off carefully until they made acceptable seats. One end of
the tent was entirely open, facing a glowing fire of oak logs. Dick and
Warner sat down on the stumps and spread out their hands to the blaze.
Beyond the flames they saw the wintry forest and mountains, seemingly as
wild as they were when the first white man came.

The usual coffee and food were brought, and while they ate and drank
Major Hertford answered the numerous and pertinent questions of Colonel
Garfield. He listened attentively to the account of the fight in the
mountains, and to all the news that they could tell him of Washington.

“We have been cut off in these mountains,” he said. “I know very little
of what is going on, but what you say only confirms my own opinion. The
war is rapidly spreading over a much greater area, and I believe that
its scope will far exceed any of our earlier calculations.”

A grave and rather sad expression occupied for a moment the mobile face.
He interested Dick greatly. He seemed to him scholar and thinker as well
as soldier. He and Warner long afterward attended the inauguration of
this man as President of the United States.

After a brief rest, and good wishes from Garfield, Major Hertford and
his command soon reached the main camp under Thomas. Here they were
received by a man very different in appearance and manner from Garfield.

General George H. Thomas, who was to receive the famous title, “The Rock
of Chickamauga,” was then in middle years. Heavily built and bearded, he
was chary of words. He merely nodded approval when Major Hertford told
of their march.

“I will assign your troops to a brigade,” he said, “and I don’t think
you’ll have long to wait. We’re expecting a battle in a few days with
Crittenden and Zollicoffer.”

“Not much to say,” remarked Dick to Warner, as they went away.

“That’s true,” said Warner, thoughtfully, “but didn’t you get an
impression of strength from his very silence? I should say that in his
make-up he is five per cent talk, twenty-five per cent patience and
seventy per cent action; total, one hundred per cent.”

The region in which they lay was west of the higher mountains, which
they had now crossed, but it was very rough and hilly. Not far from them
was a little town called Somerset, which Dick had visited once, and near
by, too, was the deep and swift Cumberland River, with much floating ice
at its edges. When the two lads lay by a campfire that night Sergeant
Whitley came to them with the news of the situation, which he had picked
up in his usual deft and quiet way.

“The Southern army is on the banks of the Cumberland,” he said. “It
has not been able to get its provisions by land through Cumberland Gap.
Instead they have been brought by boats on the river. As I hear it,
Crittenden and Zollicoffer are afraid that our general will advance to
the river an’ cut off these supplies. So they mean to attack us as soon
as they can. If I may venture to say so, Mr. Mason, I’d advise that you
and Lieutenant Warner get as good a rest as you can, and as soon as you
can.”

They ate a hearty supper and being told by Major Hertford that they
would not be wanted until the next day, they rolled themselves in heavy
blankets, and, pointing their feet toward a good fire, slept on the
ground. The night was very cold, because it was now the middle of
January, but the blankets and fire kept them warm.

Dick did not fall to sleep for some time, because he knew that he was
going into battle again in a few days. He was on the soil of his native
state now. He had already seen many Kentuckians in the army of Thomas
and he knew that they would be numerous, too, in that of Crittenden
and Zollicoffer. To some extent it would be a battle of brother against
brother. He was glad that Harry Kenton was in the east. He did not wish
in the height of battle to see his own cousin again on the opposite
side.

But when he did fall asleep his slumber was sound and restful, and he
was ready and eager the next morning, when the sergeant, Warner, and he
were detached for duty in a scouting party.

“The general has asked that you be sent owing to your experience in the
mountains,” said Major Hertford, “and I have agreed gladly. I hope that
you’re as glad as I am.”

“We are, sir,” said the two boys together. The sergeant stood quietly by
and smiled.

The detachment numbered a hundred men, all young, strong, and well
mounted. They were commanded by a young captain, John Markham, in whom
Dick recognized a distant relative. In those days nearly all Kentuckians
were more or less akin. The kinship was sufficient for Markham to keep
the two boys on either side of him with Sergeant Whitley just behind.
Markham lived in Frankfort and he had marched with Thomas from the
cantonments at Lebanon to their present camp.

“John,” said Dick, addressing him familiarly and in right of kinship,
“you’ve been for months in our own county. You’ve surely heard something
from Pendleton?”

He could not disguise the anxiety in his voice, and the young captain
regarded him with sympathy.

“I had news from there about a month ago, Dick,” he replied. “Your
mother was well then, as I have no doubt she is now. The place was not
troubled by guerillas who are hanging on the fringe of the armies here
in Eastern, or in Southern and Western Kentucky. The war for the present
at least has passed around Pendleton. Colonel Kenton was at Bowling
Green with Albert Sidney Johnston, and his son, Harry, your cousin, is
still in the East.”

It was a rapid and condensed statement, but it was very satisfying to
Dick who now rode on for a long time in silence. The road was as bad as
a road could be. Snow and ice were mixed with the deep mud which pulled
hard at the hoofs of their horses. The country was rough, sterile, and
inhabited but thinly. They rode many miles without meeting a single
human being. About the third hour they saw a man and a boy on a hillside
several hundred yards away, but when Captain Markham and a chosen few
galloped towards them they disappeared so deftly among the woods that
not a trace of them could be found.

“People in this region are certainly bashful,” said Captain Markham with
a vexed laugh. “We meant them no harm, but they wouldn’t stay to see
us.”

“But they don’t know that,” said Dick with the familiarity of kinship,
even though distant. “I fancy that the people hereabouts wish both
Northerners and Southerners would go away.”

Two miles further on they came to a large, double cabin standing back
a little distance from the road. Smoke was rising from the chimney, and
Captain Markham felt sure that they could obtain information from its
inmates. Dick, at his direction, beat on the door with the butt of a
small riding whip. There was no response. He beat again rapidly and
heavily, and no answer coming he pushed in the door.

A fire was burning on the hearth, but the house was abandoned. Nor had
the owners been gone long. Besides the fire to prove it, clothing
was hanging on hooks in the wall, and there was food in the cupboard.
Captain Markham sighed.

“Again they’re afraid of us,” he said. “I’ve no doubt the signal has
been passed ahead of us, and that we’ll not get within speaking distance
of a single native. Curious, too, because this region in the main is for
the North.”

“Perhaps somebody has been robbing and plundering in our name,” said
Dick. “Skelly and his raiders have been through these parts.”

“That’s so,” said Markham, thoughtfully. “I’m afraid those guerillas who
claim to be our allies are going to do us a great deal of harm. Well,
we’ll turn back into the road, if you can call this stream of icy mud a
road, and go on.”

Another mile and they caught the gleam of water among the wintry boughs.
Dick knew that it was the Cumberland which was now a Southern artery,
bringing stores and arms for the army of Crittenden and Zollicoffer.
Even here, hundreds of miles from its mouth, it was a stream of great
depth, easily navigable, and far down its current they saw faintly the
smoke of two steamers.

“They bear supplies for the Southern army,” said Captain Markham. “We
can cut off the passage of boats on this river and for that reason, so
General Thomas concludes, the Southern army is going to attack us. What
do you think of his reasoning, sergeant?”

“Beggin’ your pardon, sir, for passin’ an opinion upon my general,”
 replied Sergeant Whitley, “but I think his reasons are good. Here it is
the dead of winter, with more mud in the roads than I ever saw before
anywhere, but there’s bound to be a battle right away. Men will fight,
sir, to keep from losin’ their grub.”

A man rode forward from the ranks, saluted and asked leave to speak.
He was a native of the next county and knew that region well. Two miles
east of them and running parallel with the road over which they had come
was another and much wider road, the one that they called the big road.

“Which means, I suppose, that it contains more mud than this one,” said
Captain Markham.

“True, sir,” replied the man, “but if the rebel army is advancing it is
likely to be on that road.”

“That is certainly sound logic. At least we’ll go there and see. Can you
lead us through these woods to it?”

“I can take you straight across,” replied the man whose name was
Carpenter. “But on the way we’ll have to ford a creek which is likely to
be pretty deep at this time of the year.”

“Show the way,” said Captain Markham briskly.

They plunged into the deep woods, and Carpenter guided them well. The
creek, of which he had told, was running bankful of icy water, but their
horses swam it and they kept straight ahead until Carpenter, who was a
little in advance, held up a warning hand.

Captain Markham ordered his whole troop to stop and keep as quiet as
possible. Then he, Dick, Warner, Sergeant Whitley and Carpenter rode
slowly forward. Before they had gone many yards Dick heard the heavy
clank of metal, the cracking of whips, the swearing of men, and the
sound of horses’ feet splashing in the mud. He knew by the amount and
variety of the noises that a great force was passing.

They advanced a little further and reined into a clump of bushes which
despite their lack of leaves were dense enough to shelter them from
observation. As the bushes grew on a hillock they had a downward and
good look into the road, which was fairly packed with men in the gray of
the Confederate army, some on horseback, but mostly afoot, their cannon,
ammunition and supply wagons sinking almost to the hub in the mud. As
far as Dick could see the gray columns extended.

“There must be six or seven thousand men here,” he said to Captain
Markham.

“Undoubtedly,” replied Markham, “this is the main Confederate army
advancing to attack ours, but the badness of the roads operates against
the offense. We shall reach General Thomas with the word that they are
coming long before they are there.”

They watched the marching army for a half hour longer in order to be
sure of everything, and then turning they rode as fast as they could
toward Thomas, elated at their success. They swam the creek again, but
at another point. Carpenter told them that the Southern army would cross
it on a bridge, and Markham lamented that he could not turn and destroy
this bridge, but such an attempt would have been folly.

They finally turned into the main road along which the Southern army was
coming, although they were now miles ahead of it, and, covered from head
to foot with the red mud of the hills, they urged on their worn horses
toward the camp of Thomas.

“I haven’t had much experience in fighting, but I should imagine that
complete preparation had a great deal to do with success,” said Captain
Markham.

“I’d put it at sixty per cent,” said Warner.

“I should say,” added Dick, “that the road makes at least eighty per
cent of our difficulty in getting back to Thomas.”

In fact, the road was so bad that they were compelled after a while to
ride into the woods and let their ponies rest. Here they were fired upon
by Confederate skirmishers from a hill two or three hundred yards away.
Their numbers were small, however, and Captain Markham’s force charging
them drove them off without loss.

Then they resumed their weary journey, but the rest had not fully
restored the horses and they were compelled at times to walk by the side
of the road, leading their mounts. Sergeant Whitley, with his age and
experience, was most useful now in restraining the impatient young
men. Although of but humble rank he kept them from exhausting either
themselves or their horses.

“It will be long after dark before we can reach camp,” said Captain
Markham, sighing deeply. “Confound such roads. Why not call them
morasses and have done with it!”

“No, we can’t make it much before midnight,” said Dick, “but, after all,
that will be early enough. If I judge him right, even midnight won’t
catch General Thomas asleep.”

“You’ve judged him right,” said Markham. “I’ve been with ‘Pap’ Thomas
some time--we call him ‘Pap’ because he takes such good care of us--and
I think he is going to be one of the biggest generals in this war.
Always silent, and sometimes slow about making up his mind he strikes
like a sledge-hammer when he does strike.”

“He’ll certainly have the opportunity to give blow for blow,” said Dick,
as he remembered that marching army behind them. “How far do you think
it is yet to the general’s camp?”

“Not more than a half dozen miles, but it will be dark in a few minutes,
and at the rate we’re going it will take us two full hours more to get
there.”

The wintry days were short and the sun slid down the gray, cold sky,
leaving forest and hills in darkness. But the little band toiled
patiently on, while the night deepened and darkened, and a chill wind
whistled down from the ridges. The officers were silent now, but they
looked eagerly for the first glimpse of the campfires of Thomas. At
last they saw the little pink dots in the darkness, and then they pushed
forward with new zeal, urging their weary horses into a run.

When Captain Markham, Dick and Warner galloped into camp, ahead of
the others, a thickset strong figure walked forward to meet them. They
leaped from their horses and saluted.

“Well?” said General Thomas.

“The enemy is advancing upon us in full force, sir,” replied Captain
Markham.

“You scouted thoroughly?”

“We saw their whole army upon the road.”

“When do you think they could reach us?”

“About dawn, sir.”

“Very good. We shall be ready. You and your men have done well. Now,
find food and rest. You will be awakened in time for the battle.”

Dick walked away with his friends. Troopers took their horses and
cared for them. The boy glanced back at the thickset, powerful figure,
standing by one of the fires and looking gravely into the coals. More
than ever the man with the strong, patient look inspired confidence
in him. He was sure now that they would win on the morrow. Markham and
Warner felt the same confidence.

“There’s a lot in having a good general,” said Warner, who had also
glanced back at the strong figure. “Do you remember, Dick, what it was
that Napoleon said about generals?”

“A general is everything, an army nothing or something like that.”

“Yes, that was it. Of course, he didn’t mean it just exactly as he said
it. A general can’t be one hundred per cent and an army none. It was a
figure of speech so to say, but I imagine that a general is about forty
per cent. If we had had such leadership at Bull Run we’d have won.”

Dick and Warner, worn out by their long ride, soon slept but there was
movement all around them during the late hours of the night. Thomas
with his cautious, measuring mind was rectifying his lines in the wintry
darkness. He occupied a crossing of the roads, and he posted a strong
battery of artillery to cover the Southern approach. Around him were men
from Kentucky, the mountains of Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Minnesota.
The Minnesota troops were sun-tanned men who had come more than a
thousand miles from an Indian-infested border to defend the Union.

All through the night Thomas worked. He directed men with spades to
throw up more intrenchments. He saw that the guns of the battery were
placed exactly right. He ordered that food should be ready for all very
early in the morning, and then, when nothing more remained to be done,
save to wait for the decree of battle, he sat before his tent wrapped
in a heavy military overcoat, silent and watchful. Scouts had brought in
additional news that the Southern army was still marching steadily along
the muddy roads, and that Captain Markham’s calculation of its arrival
about dawn would undoubtedly prove correct.

Dick awoke while it was yet dark, and throwing off the heavy blankets
stood up.

Although the dawn had not come, the night was now fairly light and Dick
could see a long distance over the camp which stretched to left and
right along a great front. Near him was the battery with most of the men
sleeping beside their guns, and not far away was the tent. Although he
could not see the general, he knew instinctively that he was not asleep.

It was cold and singularly still, considering the presence of so many
thousands of men. He did not hear the sound of human voices and there
was no stamp of horses’ feet. They, too, were weary and resting.
Then Dick was conscious of a tall, thin figure beside him. Warner had
awakened, too.

“Dick,” he said, “it can’t be more than an hour till dawn.”

“Just about that I should say.”

“And the scene, that is as far as we can see it, is most peaceful.”

Dick made no answer, but stood a long time listening. Then he said:

“My ears are pretty good, George, and sound will carry very far in this
silence just before the dawn. I thought I heard a faint sound like the
clank of a cannon.”

“I think I hear it, too,” said Warner, “and here is the dawn closer at
hand than we thought. Look at those cold rays over there, behind that
hill in the east. They are the vanguard of the sun.”

“So they are. And this is the vanguard of the Southern army!”

He spoke the last words quickly and with excitement.

In front of them down the road they heard the crackle of a dozen rifle
shots. The Southern advance undoubtedly had come into contact with
the Union sentinels and skirmishers. After the first shots there was a
moment’s breathless silence, and then came a scattered and rapid fire,
as if at least a hundred rifles were at work.

Dick’s pulse began to beat hard, and he strained his eyes through the
darkness, but he could not yet see the enemy. He saw instead little jets
of fire like red dots appearing on the horizon, and then the sound of
the rifles came again. Warner was with him and both stood by the side of
Major Hertford, ready to receive and deliver his orders. Dick now heard
besides the firing in front the confused murmur and moving of the Union
army.

Few of these troops had been in battle before--the same could be said
of the soldiers on the other side--and this attack in the half-light
troubled them. They wished to see the men who were going to shoot at
them, in order that they might have a fair target in return. Fighting in
the night was scarcely fair. One never knew what to do. But Thomas, the
future “Rock of Chickamauga,” was already showing himself a tower of
strength. He reassured his nervous troops, he borrowed Dick and Warner
and sent them along the line with messages from himself that they had
nothing to do but stand firm and the victory was theirs.

Meanwhile the line of red dots in front was lengthening. It stretched
farther to left and right than Dick could see, and was rapidly coming
nearer. Already the sentinels and skirmishers were waging a sharp
conflict, and the shouts of the combatants increased in volume. Then the
cold sun swung clear of the earth, and its wintry beams lighted up both
forest and open. The whole Southern army appeared, advancing in masses,
and Dick, who was now with Major Hertford again, saw the pale rays
falling on rifles and bayonets, and the faces of his own countrymen as
they marched upon the Union camp.

“There’s danger for our army! Lots of it!” said Warner, as he watched
the steady advance of the Southern brigades.

Dick remembered Bull Run, but his thoughts ran back to the iron general
who commanded now.

“Thomas will save us,” he said.

The skirmishers on both sides were driven in. Their scattered fire
ceased, but a moment later the whole front of the Southern army burst
into flame. It seemed to Dick that one vast sheet of light like a sword
blade suddenly shot forward, and then a storm of lead, bearing many
messengers of death, beat upon the Northern army, shattering its front
lines and carrying confusion among its young troops. But the officers
and a few old regulars like Sergeant Whitley steadied them and they
returned the fire.

Major Hertford, Dick and Warner were all on foot, and their own little
band, already tried in battle, yielded not an inch. They formed a core
of resistance around which others rallied and Thomas himself was passing
along the line, giving heart to the lads fresh from the farms.

But the Southern army fired again, and shouting the long fierce rebel
yell, charged with all its strength. Dick saw before him a vast cloud
of smoke, through which fire flashed and bullets whistled. He heard men
around him uttering short cries of pain, and he saw others fall, mostly
sinking forward on their faces. But those who stood, held fast and
loaded and fired until the barrels of their rifles burned to the touch.

Dick felt many tremors at first, but soon the passion of battle seized
him. He carried no rifle, but holding his officer’s small sword in his
hand he ran up and down the line crying to the men to stand firm, that
they would surely beat back the enemy. That film of fire and smoke was
yet before his eyes, but he saw through it the faces of his countrymen
still coming on. He heard to his right the thudding of the great guns
that Thomas had planted on a low hill, but the rifle fire was like the
beat of hail, a crackling and hissing that never ceased.

The farm lads, their rifles loaded afresh, fired anew at the enemy,
almost in their faces, and the Southern line here reeled back against so
firm and deadly a front.

But an alarming report ran down the line that their left was driven
back, and it was true. The valiant Zollicoffer leading his brigade in
person, had rushed upon this portion of the Northern army which was
standing upon another low hill and struck it with great violence. It was
wavering and would give way soon. But Thomas, showing the singular calm
that always marked him in battle, noticed the weak spot. The general was
then near Major Hertford. He quickly wrote a dispatch and beckoned to
Dick:

“Here,” he said, “jump on the horse that the sergeant is holding for me,
and bring up our reserve, the brigade under General Carter. They are to
meet the attack there on the hill, where our troops are wavering!”

Dick, aflame with excitement, leaped into the saddle, and while the roar
of battle was still in his ears reached the brigade of Carter, already
marching toward the thick of the conflict. One entire regiment, composed
wholly of Kentuckians, was detached to help the Indiana troops who were
being driven fiercely by Zollicoffer.

Dick rode at the head of the Kentuckians, but a bullet struck his horse
in the chest. The boy felt the animal shiver beneath him, and he leaped
clear just in time, the horse falling heavily and lying quite still. But
Dick alighted on his feet, and still brandishing his sword, and shouting
at the top of his voice, ran on.

In an instant they reached the Indiana troops, who turned with them, and
the combined forces hurled themselves upon the enemy. The Southerners,
refusing to yield the ground they had gained, received them, and there
began a confused and terrible combat, shoulder to shoulder and hand to
hand. Elsewhere the battle continued, but here it raged the fiercest.
Both commanders knew that they were to win or lose upon this hill,
and they poured in fresh troops who swelled the area of conflict and
deepened its intensity.

Dick saw Warner by his side, but he did not know how he had come there,
and just beyond him the thick and powerful figure of Sergeant Whitley
showed through the hot haze of smoke. The back of Warner’s hand had been
grazed by a bullet. He had not noticed it himself, but the slow
drip, drip of the blood held Dick for a moment with a sort of hideous
fascination. Then he broke his gaze violently away and turned it upon
the enemy, who were pouring upon them in all their massed strength.

Thomas had sent the Kentuckians to the aid of the Indiana men just in
time. The hill was a vast bank of smoke and fire, filled with whistling
bullets and shouts of men fighting face to face. Some one reeled and
fell against Dick, and for a moment, he was in horror lest it should be
Warner, but a glance showed him that it was a stranger. Then he rushed
on again, filled with a mad excitement, waving his small sword, and
shouting to the men to charge.

From right to left the roar of battle came to his ears, but on the hill
where he stood the struggle was at its height. The lines of Federals and
Confederates, face to face at first, now became mixed, but neither side
gained. In the fiery struggle a Union officer, Fry, saw Zollicoffer
only a few feet away. Snatching out his pistol he shot him dead. The
Southerners seeing the fall of the general who was so popular among them
hesitated and then gave back. Thomas, watching everything with keen
and steady gaze, hurled an Ohio regiment from the right flank upon the
Southern center, causing it to give way yet further under the shock.

“We win! We win!” shouted Dick in his ardor, as he saw the Southern
line yielding. But the victory was not yet achieved. Crittenden, who was
really Zollicoffer’s superior in the command, displayed the most heroic
courage throughout the battle. He brought up fresh troops to help his
weakened center. He reformed his lines and was about to restore the
battle, but Thomas, silent and ever watchful, now rushed in a brigade
of Tennessee mountaineers, and as they struck with all their weight, the
new line of the South was compelled to give way. Success seen and felt
filled the veins of the soldiers with fresh fire. Dick and the men about
him saw the whole Southern line crumble up before them. The triumphant
Union army rushed forward shouting, and the Confederates were forced to
give way at all points.

Dick and Warner, with the watchful sergeant near, were in the very front
of the advance. The two young aides carried away by success and the
fire of battle, waved their swords continually and rushed at the enemy’s
lines.

Dick’s face was covered with smoke, his lips were burnt, and his throat
was raw from so much shouting. But he was conscious only of great
elation. “This is not another Bull Run!” he cried to Warner, and Warner
cried back: “Not by a long shot!”

Thomas, still cool, watchful, and able to judge of results amid all the
thunder and confusion of battle, hurried every man into the attack.
He was showing upon this, his first independent field, all the great
qualities he was destined later to manifest so brilliantly in some of
the greatest battles of modern times.

The Southern lines were smashed completely by those heavy and continuous
blows. Driven hard on every side they now retreated rapidly, and their
triumphant enemies seized prisoners and cannon.

The whole Confederate army continued its swift retreat until it reached
its intrenchments, where the officers rallied the men and turned to face
their enemy. But the cautious Thomas stopped. He had no intention of
losing his victory by an attack upon an intrenched foe, and drew off for
the present. His army encamped out of range and began to attend to the
wounded and bury the dead.

Dick, feeling the reaction after so much exertion and excitement, sat
down on a fallen tree trunk and drew long, panting breaths. He saw
Warner near and remembered the blood that had been dripping from his
hand.

“Do you know that you are wounded, George?” he said. “Look at the back
of your hand.”

Warner glanced at it and noticed the red stripe. It had ceased to bleed.

“Now, that’s curious,” he said. “I never felt it. My blood and brain
were both so hot that the flick of a bullet created no sensation. I have
figured it out, Dick, and I have concluded that seventy per cent of our
bravery in battle is excitement, leaving twenty per cent to will and ten
per cent to chance.”

“I suppose your calculation is close enough.”

“It’s not close merely. It’s exact.”

Both sprang to their feet and saluted as Major Hertford approached. He
had escaped without harm and he saw with pleasure that the lads were
alive and well, except for Warner’s slight wound.

“You can rest now, boys,” he said, “I won’t need you for some time. But
I can tell you that I don’t think General Thomas means to quit. He will
follow up his victory.”

But Dick and Warner had been sure of that already. The army, flushed
with triumph, was eager to be led on, even to make a night attack on the
intrenchments of the enemy, but Thomas held them, knowing that another
brigade of Northern troops was marching to his aid. The brigade came,
but it was now dark and he would not risk a night attack. But some of
the guns were brought up and they sent a dozen heavy cannon shot into
the intrenchments of the enemy. There was no reply and neither of the
boys, although they strained ears, could hear anything in the defeated
camp.

“I shouldn’t be surprised if we found them gone in the morning,” said
Major Hertford to Dick. “But I think our general is right in not making
any attack upon their works. What do you say to that, Sergeant Whitley?
You’ve had a lot of experience.”

Sergeant Whitley was standing beside them, also trying to pierce the
darkness with trained eyes, although he could not see the Confederate
intrenchments.

“If a sergeant may offer an opinion I agree with you fully, sir,” he
said. “A night attack is always risky, an’ most of all, sir, when troops
are new like ours, although they’re as brave as anybody. More’n likely
if we was to rush on ‘em our troops would be shootin’ into one another
in the darkness.”

“Good logic,” said Major Hertford, “and as it is quite certain that they
are not in any condition to come out and attack us we’ll stand by and
wait till morning. So the general orders.”

They walked back toward the place where the victorious troops were
lighting the fires, out of the range of the cannon in the Confederate
intrenchments. They were exultant, but they were not boasting unduly.
Night, cold and dark, had shut down upon them and was taking the heat
out of their blood. Hundreds of men were at work building fires, and
Dick and Warner, with the permission of Major Hertford, joined them.

Both boys felt that the work would be a relief. Wood was to be had in
abundance. The forest stretched on all sides of them in almost unbroken
miles, and the earth was littered with dead wood fallen a year or years
before. They merely kept away from the side on which the Confederate
intrenchments lay, and brought in the wood in great quantities. A row
of lights a half mile long sprang up, giving forth heat and warmth.
Then arose the cheerful sound of tin and iron dishes and cups rattling
against one another. A quarter of an hour later they were eating a
victorious supper, and a little later most of them slept.

But in the night the Confederate troops abandoned their camp, leaving in
it ten cannon and fifteen hundred wagons and crossed the river in boats,
which they destroyed when they reached the other side. Then, their
defeat being so severe, and they but volunteers, they scattered in the
mountains to seek food and shelter for the remainder of the winter.

This army of the South ceased to exist.



CHAPTER VII. THE MESSENGER


Victory, overwhelming and complete, had been won, but General Thomas
could not follow into the deep mountains where his army might be cut
off. So he remained where he was for a little while and on the second
day he sent for Dick.

The general was seated alone in a tent, an open end of which faced a
fire, as it was now extremely cold. General Thomas had shown no undue
elation over his victory. He was as silent as ever, and now, as always,
he made upon Dick the impression of strength and indomitable courage.

“Sit down,” he said, waving his hand toward a camp stool.

Dick, after saluting, sat down in silence.

“I hear,” said the general, “that you behaved very well in the battle,
and that you are a lad of courage and intelligence. Courage is common,
intelligence, real intelligence, is rare. You were at Bull Run also, so
I hear.”

“I was, and the army fought well there too, but late in the day it was
seized with a sudden panic.”

“Something that may happen at any time to raw troops. But we’ll pass to
the question in hand. The campaign here in the mountains is ended for
this winter, but great matters are afoot further west. A courier arrived
last night stating that General Grant and Commodore Foote were preparing
to advance by water from Cairo, Illinois, and attempt the reduction of
the Confederate forts on the Cumberland and Tennessee. General Buell,
one of your own Kentuckians, is advancing southward with a strong Union
force, and in a few days his outposts will be on Green River. It will
be of great advantage to Buell to know that the Confederate army in the
eastern part of the state is destroyed. He can advance with freedom and,
on the other hand, the Southern leader, Albert Sidney Johnston, will be
compelled to throw a portion of his force to the eastward to protect
his flank which has been uncovered by our victory at Mill Spring. Do you
understand?”

“I do, sir.”

“Then you are to carry dispatches of the utmost importance from me to
General Buell. After you reach his camp--if you reach it--you will,
of course, be subject to his orders. I have learned that you know the
country well between here and Green River. Because of that, and because
of your intelligence, real intelligence, I mean, you are chosen for this
task. You are to change to citizen’s clothes at once, and a horse of
great power and endurance has been selected for you. But you must use
all your faculties all the time. I warn you that the journey is full of
danger.”

“I can carry it out,” replied Dick with quiet confidence, “and I thank
you for choosing me.”

“I believe you will succeed,” said the general, who liked his tone.
“Return here in an hour with all your preparations made, and I will give
you the dispatches.”

Warner was filled with envy that his comrade was to go on a secret
mission of great importance, but he generously wished him a full measure
of success.

“Remember,” he said, “that on an errand like yours, presence of mind
counts for at least fifty per cent. Have a quick tongue. Always be ready
with a tale that looks true.”

“An’ remember, too,” said Sergeant Whitley, “that however tight a place
you get into you can get into one tighter. Think of that and it will
encourage you to pull right out of the hole.”

The two wrung his hand and Major Hertford also gave him his warmest
wishes. The horse chosen for him was a bay of tremendous power, and Dick
knew that he would serve him well. He carried double blankets strapped
to the saddle, pistols in holsters with another in his belt, an
abundance of ammunition, and food for several days in his saddle bags.
Then he returned to General Thomas, who handed him a thin strip of
tissue paper.

“It is written in indelible ink,” he said, “and it contains a statement
of our forces and their positions here in the eastern part of the state.
It also tells General Buell what reinforcements he can expect. If you
are in imminent danger of capture destroy the paper, but to provide for
such a chance, in case you escape afterward, I will read the dispatches
to you.”

He read them over several times and then questioned Dick. But the boy’s
memory was good. In fact, every word of the dispatches was burnt into
his brain, and nothing could make him forget them.

“And now, my lad,” said General Thomas, giving him his hand, “you may
help us greatly. I would not send a boy upon such an errand, but the
demands of war are terrible and must be obeyed.”

The strong grasp of the general’s hand imparted fresh enthusiasm to
Dick, and for the present he did not have the slightest doubt that
he would get safely through. He wore a strong suit of home-made brown
jeans, a black felt cap with ear-flaps, and high boots. The dispatch was
pinned into a small inside pocket of his vest.

He rode quickly out of camp, giving the sentinels the pass word, and the
head of the horse was pointed west slightly by north. The ground was now
frozen and he did not have the mud to hold him back.

The horse evidently had been longing for action. Such thews and
sinews as his needed exercise. He stretched out his long neck, neighed
joyously, and broke of his own accord into an easy canter. It was a
lonely road, and Dick was glad that it was so. The fewer people he met
the better it was in every way for him.

He shared the vigor and spirit of his horse. His breath turned to
smoke, but the cold whipped his blood into a quicker torrent. He hummed
snatches of the songs that he had heard Samuel Jarvis sing, and went on
mile after mile through the high hills toward the low hills of Kentucky.

Dick did not pass many people. The ancient name of his state--the Dark
and Bloody Ground--came back to him. He knew that war in one of its
worst forms existed in this wild sweep of hills. Here the guerillas
rode, choosing their sides as suited them best, and robbing as paid them
most. Nor did these rough men hesitate at murder. So he rode most of the
time with his hand on the butt of the pistol at his belt, and whenever
he went through woods, which was most of the time, he kept a wary watch
to right and to left.

The first person whom he passed was a boy riding on a sack of grain to
mill. Dick greeted him cheerfully and the boy with the fearlessness of
youth replied in the same manner.

“Any news your way?” asked Dick.

“Nothin’ at all,” replied the boy, his eyes enlarging with excitement,
“but from the way you are comin’ we heard tell there was a great battle,
hundreds of thousands of men on each side an’ that the Yankees won. Is
it so, Mister?”

“It is true,” replied Dick. “A dozen people have told me of it, but the
armies were not quite so large as you heard. It is true also that the
Yankees won.”

“I’ll tell that at the mill. It will be big news to them. An’ which way
be you goin’, Mister?” said the boy with all the frankness of the hills.

“I’m on my way to the middle part of the state. I’ve been looking after
some land that my people own in the mountains. Looks like a lonesome
road, this. Will I reach any house soon?”

“Thar’s Ben Trimble’s three miles further on, but take my advice an’
don’t stop thar. Ben says he ain’t goin’ to be troubled in these war
times by visitors, an’ he’s likely to meet you at the door with his
double-barreled shotgun.”

“I won’t knock on Ben’s door, so he needn’t take down his
double-barreled shotgun. What’s next beyond Ben’s house?”

“A half mile further on you come to Hungry Creek. It ain’t much in the
middle of summer, but right now it’s full of cold water, ‘nough of it to
come right up to your hoss’s body. You go through it keerful.”

“Thank you for your good advice,” said Dick. “I’ll follow it, too.
Good-bye.”

He waved his gauntleted hand and rode on. A hundred yards further and
he glanced back. The boy had stopped on the crest of a hill, and was
looking at him. But Dick knew that it was only the natural curiosity of
the hills and he renewed his journey without apprehension.

At the appointed time he saw the stout log cabin of Ben Trimble by the
roadside with the warm smoke rising from the chimney, but true to his
word he gave Ben and his shotgun no trouble, and continued straight
ahead over the frozen road until he came to the banks of Hungry Creek.
Here, too, the words of the boy came true. The water was both deep and
cold, and Dick looked at it doubtfully.

He urged his great horse into the stream at last, and it appeared that
the creek had risen somewhat since the boy had last seen it. In the
middle the horse was compelled to swim, but it was no task for such a
powerful animal, and Dick, holding his feet high, came dry to the shore
that he sought.

The road led on through high hills, covered with oak and beech and cedar
and pine, all the deciduous trees bare of leaves, their boughs rustling
dryly whenever the wind blew. He saw the smoke of three cabins nestling
in snug coves, but it was a full three hours before he met anybody else
in the road. Then he saw two men riding toward him, but he could not
tell much about them as they were wrapped in heavy gray shawls, and wore
broad brimmed felt hats, pulled well down over their foreheads.

Dick knew that he could not exercise too much caution in this debatable
land, and his right hand dropped cautiously to the butt of his pistol in
such a manner that it was concealed by his heavy overcoat. His left hand
rested lightly on the reins as he rode forward at an even pace. But he
did not fail to take careful note of the two men who were now examining
him in a manner that he did not like.

Dick saw that the strangers openly carried pistols in their belts, which
was not of overwhelming significance in such times in such a region, but
they did not have the look of mountaineers riding on peaceful business,
and he reined his horse to the very edge of the road that he might pass
them.

He noted with rising apprehension that they checked the pace of their
horses as they approached, and that they reined to either side of the
road to compel him to go between them. But he pulled his own horse out
still further, and as they could not pass on both sides of him without
an overt act of hostility they drew together again in the middle of the
road.

“Mornin’ stranger,” they said together, when they were a few yards away.

“Good morning,” said Dick, riding straight on, without checking his
speed. But one of the men drew his horse across the road and said:

“What’s your hurry? It ain’t friendly to ride by without passin’ the
time o’ day.”

Now at close range, Dick liked their looks less than ever. They might
be members of that very band of Skelly’s which had already made so much
trouble for both sides, and he summoned all his faculties in order to
meet them at any game that they might try to play.

“I’ve been on land business in the mountains,” he said, “and I’m anxious
to get back to my home. Besides the day is very cold, and the two facts
deprive me of the pleasure of a long conversation with you, gentlemen.
Good-day.”

“Wait just a little,” said the spokesman, who still kept his horse
reined across the road. “These be war times an’ it’s important to know
what a fellow is. Be you for the Union or are you with the Secesh?”

Dick was quite sure that whatever he answered they would immediately
claim to be on the opposite side. Then would follow robbery and perhaps
murder.

“Which is your side?” he asked.

“But we put the question first,” the fellow replied.

Dick no longer had any doubts. The second man was drawing his horse up
by the side of him, as if to seize him, while the first continued to bar
the way. He was alarmed, deeply alarmed, but he lost neither his courage
nor his presence of mind. Luckily he had already summoned every faculty
for instant action, and now he acted. He uttered a sudden shout, and
raked the side of his horse with both spurs.

His horse was not only large and powerful but of a most high spirit.
When he heard that shout and felt the burning slash of the spurs he
made a blind but mighty leap forward. The horse of the first stranger,
smitten by so great a weight, fell in the road and his rider went down
with him. The enraged horse then leaped clear of both and darted forward
at headlong speed.

As his horse sprang Dick threw himself flat upon his neck, and the
bullet that the second man fired whistled over his head. By impulse he
drew his own pistol and fired back. He saw the man’s pistol arm fall as
if broken, and he heard a loud cry. That was a lucky shot indeed, and
rising a little in his saddle he shouted again and again to the great
horse that served him so well.

The gallant animal responded in full. He stretched out his long neck and
the road flew fast behind him. Sparks flashed from the stones where
the shod hoofs struck, and Dick exulting felt the cold air rush past.
Another shot was fired at long range, but the bullet did not strike
anywhere near.

Dick took only a single backward glance. He saw the two men on their
horses, but drooping as if weak from hurts, and he knew that for the
present at least he was safe from any hurt from them. But he allowed his
horse his head for a long time, and then he gradually slowed him
down. No human being was in sight now and he spoke to the noble animal
soothingly.

“Good old boy,” he said; “the strongest, the swiftest, the bravest, and
the truest. I was sorry to make those red stripes on your sides, but it
had to be done. Only quickness saved us.”

The horse neighed. He was still quivering from excitement and
exertion. So was Dick for that matter. The men might have been robbers
merely--they were at least that bad--but they might have deprived him
also of his precious dispatch. He was proud of the confidence put in
him by General Thomas, and he meant to deserve it. It was this sense
of responsibility and pride that had attuned his faculties to so high a
pitch and that had made his action so swift, sudden and decisive.

But he steadied himself presently. The victory, for victory it certainly
was, increased his strength and confidence. He stopped soon at a
brook--they seemed to occur every mile--and bathed with cold water the
red streaks his spurs had made on either side of his horse. Again he
spoke soothing words and regretted the necessity that had caused him to
make such wounds, slight though they were.

He also bathed his own face and hands and, as it was now about noon,
ate of the cold ham and bread that he carried in his knapsack, meanwhile
keeping constant watch on the road over which he had come. But he did
not believe that the men would pursue, and he saw no sign of them.
Mounting again he rode forward.

The remainder of the afternoon went by without interruption. He passed
three or four people, but they were obviously natives of that region,
and they asked him only innocent questions. The wintry day was short,
and the twilight was soon at hand. He was riding over one of the bare
ridges, when first he noticed how late the day had grown. All the sky
was gray and chill and the cold sun was setting behind the western
mountains. A breeze sprang up, rustling among the leafless branches, and
Dick shivered in the saddle. A new necessity was pressed suddenly upon
him. He must find shelter for the night. Even with his warm double
blankets he could not sleep in the forest on such a night. Besides the
horse would need food.

He rode on briskly for a full hour, anxiously watching both sides of
the road for a cabin or cabin smoke. By that time night had come fully,
though fortunately it was clear but very cold. He saw then on the right
a faint coil of smoke rising against the dusky sky and he rode straight
for it.

The smoke came from a strong double cabin, standing about four hundred
yards from the road, and the sight of the heavy log walls made Dick all
the more anxious to get inside them. The cold had grown bitter and even
his horse shivered.

As he approached two yellow curs rushed forth and began to bark
furiously, snapping at the horse’s heels, the usual mountain welcome.
But when a kick from the horse grazed the ear of one of them they kept
at a respectful distance.

“Hello! Hello!” called Dick loudly.

This also was the usual mountain notification that a guest had come,
and the heavy board door of the house opened inward. A man, elderly,
but dark and strong, with the high cheek bones of an Indian stood in the
door, the light of a fire blazing in the fireplace on the opposite side
of the wall throwing him in relief. His hair was coal black, long and
coarse, increasing his resemblance to an Indian.

Dick rode close to the door, and, without hesitation, asked for a
night’s shelter and food. This was his inalienable right in the hills or
mountains of his state, and he would be a strange man indeed who would
refuse it.

The man sharply bade the dogs be silent and they retreated behind the
house, their tails drooping. Then he said to Dick in a tone that was not
without hospitality:

“‘Light, stranger, an’ we’ll put up your horse. Mandy will have supper
ready by the time we finish the job.”

Dick sprang down gladly, but staggered a little at first from the
stiffness of his legs.

“You’ve rid far, stranger,” said the man, who Dick knew at once had a
keen eye and a keen brain, “an’ you’re young, too.”

“But not younger than many who have gone to the war,” replied Dick. “In
fact, you see many who are not older than fifteen or sixteen.”

He had spoken hastily and incautiously and he realized it at once. The
man’s keen gaze was turned upon him again.

“You’ve seen the armies, then?” he said. “Mebbe you’re a sojer
yourself?”

“I’ve been in the mountains, looking after some land that belongs to my
family,” said Dick. “My name is Mason, Richard Mason, and I live near
Pendleton, which is something like a hundred miles from here.”

He deemed it best to give his right name, as it would have no
significance there.

“You must have seen armies,” persisted the man, “or you wouldn’t hev
knowed ‘bout so many boys of fifteen or sixteen bein’ in them.”

“I saw both the Federal and Confederate armies in Eastern Kentucky. My
business took me near them, but I was always glad to get away from them,
too.”

“I heard tell today that there was a big battle.”

“You heard right. It was fought near a little place called Mill Spring,
and resulted in a complete victory for the Northern forces under General
Thomas.”

“That was what I heard. It will be good news to some, an’ bad news to
others. ‘Pears to me, Mr. Mason, that you can’t fight a battle that will
suit everybody.”

“I never heard of one that did.”

“An’ never will, I reckon. Mighty good hoss that you’re ridin’. I never
seed one with better shoulders. My name’s Leffingwell, Seth Leffingwell,
an’ I live here alone, ‘ceptin’ my old woman, Mandy. All we ask of
people is to let us be. Lots of us in the mountain feel that way. Let
them lowlanders shoot one another up ez long ez they please, but up here
there ain’t no slaves, an’ there ain’t nothin’ else to fight about.”

The stable was a good one, better than usual in that country. Dick saw
stalls for four horses, but no horses. They put his own horse in one
of the stalls, and gave him corn and hay. Then they walked back to the
house, and entered a large room, where a stalwart woman of middle age
had just finished cooking supper.

“Whew, but the night’s goin’ to be cold,” said Leffingwell, as he shut
the door behind them, and cut off an icy blast. “It’ll make the fire
an’ supper all the better. We’re just plain mountain people, but you’re
welcome to the best we have. Ma, this is Mr. Mason, who has been on
lan’ business in the mountains, an’ is back on his way to his home at
Pendleton.”

Leffingwell’s wife, a powerful woman, as large as her husband, and with
a pleasant face, gave Dick a large hand and a friendly grasp.

“It’s a good night to be indoors,” she said. “Supper’s ready, Seth. Will
you an’ the stranger set?”

She had placed the pine table in the middle of the room, and Dick
noticed that it was large enough for five or six persons. He put his
saddle bags and blankets in a corner and he and the man drew up chairs.

He had seldom beheld a more cheerful scene. In a great fireplace ten
feet wide big logs roared and crackled. Corn cakes, vegetables, and
two kinds of meat were cooking over the coals and a great pot of coffee
boiled and bubbled. No candles had been lighted, but they were not
needed. The flames gave sufficient illumination.

“Set, young man,” said Leffingwell heartily, “an’ see who’s teeth are
sharper, yourn or mine.”

Dick sat down gladly, and they fell to. The woman alternately waited on
them and ate with them. For a time the two masculine human beings
ate and drank with so much vigor that there was no time for talk.
Leffingwell was the first to break silence.

“I kin see you growin’,” he said.

“Growing?”

“Yes, growin’, you’re eatin’ so much, you’re enjoyin’ it so much, an’
you’re digestin’ it so fast. You are already taller than you was when
you set, an’ you’re broader ‘cross the chest. No, ‘tain’t wuth while to
‘pologize. You’ve got a right to be hungry, an’ you mustn’t forget Ma’s
cookin’ either. She’s never had her beat in all these mountains.”

“Shut up, Seth,” said Mrs. Leffingwell, genially, “you’ll make the young
stranger think you’re plum’ foolish, which won’t be wide of the mark
either.”

“I’m grateful,” said Dick falling into the spirit of it, “but what pains
me, Mrs. Leffingwell, is the fact that Mr. Leffingwell will only nibble
at your food. I don’t understand it, as he looks like a healthy man.”

“‘Twouldn’t do for me to be too hearty,” said Leffingwell, “or I’d keep
Mandy here cookin’ all the time.”

They seemed pleasant people to Dick, good, honest mountain types, and he
was glad that he had found their house. The room in which they sat
was large, apparently used for all purposes, kitchen, dining-room,
sitting-room, and bedroom. An old-fashioned squirrel rifle lay on hooks
projecting from the wall, but there was no other sign of a weapon. There
was a bed at one end of the room and another at the other, which could
be hidden by a rough woolen curtain running on a cord. Dick surmised
that this bed would be assigned to him.

Their appetites grew lax and finally ceased. Then Leffingwell yawned and
stretched his arms.

“Stranger,” he said, “we rise early an’ go to bed early in these parts.
Thar ain’t nothin’ to keep us up in the evenin’s, an’ as you’ve had a
hard, long ride I guess you’re just achin’ fur sleep.”

Dick, although he had been unwilling to say so, was in fact very sleepy.
The heavy supper and the heat of the room pulled so hard on his eyelids
that he could scarcely keep them up. He murmured his excuses and said he
believed he would like to retire.

“Don’t you be bashful about sayin’ so,” exclaimed Leffingwell heartily,
“‘cause I don’t think I could keep up more’n a half hour longer.”

Mrs. Leffingwell drew the curtain shutting off one bed and a small space
around it. Dick, used to primitive customs, said good-night and retired
within his alcove, taking his saddle bags. There was a small window near
the foot of the room, and when he noticed it he resolved to let in a
little air later on. The mountaineers liked hot rooms all the time, but
he did not. This window contained no glass, but was closed with a broad
shutter.

The boy undressed and got into bed, placing his saddle bags on the foot
of it, and the pistol that he carried in his belt under his head. He
fell asleep almost immediately and had he been asked beforehand he would
have said that nothing could awake him before morning. Nevertheless he
awoke before midnight, and it was a very slight thing that caused him
to come out of sleep. Despite the languor produced by food and heat a
certain nervous apprehension had been at work in the boy’s mind, and it
followed him into the unknown regions of sleep. His body was dead for
a time and his mind too, but this nervous power worked on, almost
independently of him. It had noted the sound of voices nearby, and
awakened him, as if he had been shaken by a rough hand.

He sat up in his bed and became conscious of a hot and aching head. Then
he remembered the window, and softly drawing two pegs that fastened it
in order that he might not awaken his good hosts, he opened it inward a
few inches.

The cold air poured in at the crevice and felt like heaven on his face.
His temples quit throbbing and his head ceased to ache. He had not
noticed at first the cause that really awakened him, but as he settled
back into bed, grateful for the fresh air, the same mysterious power
gave him a second warning signal.

He heard the hum of voices and sat up again. It was merely the
Leffingwells in the bed at the far end of the room, talking! Perhaps
he had not been asleep more than an hour, and it was natural that
they should lie awake a while, talking about the coming of this young
stranger or any other event of the day that interested them. Then he
caught a tone or an inflection that he did not remember to have been
used by either of the Leffingwells. A third signal of alarm was promptly
registered on his brain.

He leaned from the bed and pulling aside the curtain a half an inch
or so, looked into the room. The fire had died down except a few coals
which cast but a faint light. Yet it was sufficient to show Dick that
the two Leffingwells had not gone to bed. They were sitting fully
clothed before the fireplace, and three other persons were with them.

As Dick stared his eyes grew more used to the half dusk and he saw
clearly. The three strangers were young men, all armed heavily, and the
resemblance of two of them to the Leffingwells was so striking that he
had no doubt they were their sons. Now he understood about those empty
stalls. The third man, who had been sitting with his shoulder toward
Dick, turned his face presently, and the boy with difficulty repressed
an exclamation. It was the one who had reined his horse across the road
to stop him. A fourth and conclusive signal of alarm was registered upon
his brain.

He began to dress rapidly and without noise. Meanwhile he listened
intently and could hear the words they spoke. The woman was pleading
with them to let him go. He was only a harmless lad, and while these
were dark days, a crime committed now might yet be punished.

“A harmless boy,” said the strange man. “He’s quick, an’ strong enough,
I tell you. You should have seen how he rode me down, and then shot
Garmon in the arm.”

“I’d like to have that hoss of his,” said the elder Leffingwell. “He’s
the finest brute I ever laid eyes on. Sech power an’ sech action. I
noticed him at once, when Mason come ridin’ up. S’pose we jest take the
hoss and send the boy on.”

“A hoss like that would be knowed,” protested the woman. “What if sojers
come lookin’ fur him!”

“We could run him off in the hills an’ keep him there a while,” said
Leffingwell. “I know places where sojers wouldn’t find that hoss in a
thousand years. What do you say to that, Kerins?”

“Good as fur as it goes,” replied Kerins, “but it don’t go fur enough
by a long shot. The Yanks whipped the Johnnies in a big battle at Mill
Spring. Me an’ my pardners have been hangin’ ‘roun’ in the woods, seein’
what would happen. Now, we know that this boy rode straight from the
tent of General Thomas hisself. He’s a Union sojer, an’ young as he is,
he’s an officer. He wouldn’t be sent out by General Thomas hisself ‘less
it was on big business. He’s got messages, dispatches of some kind that
are worth a heap to somebody. With all the armies gatherin’ in the south
an’ west of the state it stands to reason that them dispatches mean a
lot. Now, we’ve got to get ‘em an’ get the full worth of ‘em from them
to whom they’re worth the most.”

“He’s got a pistol,” said the elder Leffingwell, “I seed it in his belt.
If he wakes before we grab him he’ll shoot.”

The man Kerins laughed.

“He’ll never get a chance to shoot,” he said. “Why, after all he went
through today, he’ll sleep like a log till mornin’.”

“That’s so,” said one of the young Leffingwells, “an’ Kerins is right.
We ought to grab them dispatches. Likely in one way or another we kin
git a heap fur ‘em.”

“Shut up, Jim, you fool,” said his mother sharply. “Do you want murder
on your hands? Stealin’ hosses is bad enough, but if that boy has got
the big dispatches you say he has, an’ he’s missin’, don’t you think
that sojers will come after him? An’ they’ll trace him to this house,
an’ I tell you that in war trials don’t last long. Besides, he’s a nice
boy an’ he spoke nice all the time to pap an’ me.”

But her words did not seem to make any impression upon the others,
except her husband, who protested again that it would be enough to take
the horse. As for the dispatches it wasn’t wise for them to fool with
such things. But Kerins insisted on going the whole route and the young
Leffingwells were with him.

Meanwhile Dick had dressed with more rapidity than ever before in his
life, fully alive to the great dangers that threatened. But his fear was
greatest lest he might lose the precious dispatches that he bore. For
a few moments he did not know what to do. He might take his pistols and
fight, but he could not fight them all with success. Then that pleasant
flood of cold air gave him the key.

While they were still talking he put his saddle bags over his arm,
opened the shutter its full width, and dropped quietly to the ground
outside, remembering to take the precaution of closing the shutter
behind him, lest the sudden inrush of cold startle the Leffingwells and
their friends.

It was an icy night, but Dick did not stop to notice it. He ran to the
stable, saddled and bridled his horse in two minutes, and in another
minute was flying westward over the flinty road, careless whether or not
they heard the beat of his horse’s hoofs.



CHAPTER VIII. A MEETING AT NIGHT


Dick heard above the thundering hoofbeats only a single shout, and then,
as he glanced backward, the house was lost in the moonlight. When he
secured his own horse he had noticed that all the empty stalls were now
filled, no doubt by the horses of the young Leffingwells and Kerins,
but he was secure in his confidence that none could overtake the one he
rode.

He felt of that inside pocket of his vest. The precious dispatch was
there, tightly pinned into its hidden refuge, and as for himself,
refreshed, warm, and strong after food, rest, and sleep, he felt equal
to any emergency. He had everything with him. The stout saddle bags were
lying across the saddle. He had thrust the holster of pistols into them,
but he took it out now, and hung it in its own place, also across the
saddle.

Although he was quite sure there would be no pursuit--the elder
Leffingwells would certainly keep their sons from joining it--he sent
his great horse straight ahead at a good pace for a long time, the
road being fairly good. His excitement and rapid motion kept him from
noticing at first the great bitterness of the cold.

When he had gone five or six miles he drew his horse down to a walk.
Then, feeling the intensity of the cold as the mercury was far below
zero, he dismounted, looped the reins over his arms, and walked a while.
For further precaution he took his blanket-roll and wrapped the two
blankets about his body, especially protecting his neck and ears.

He found that the walking, besides keeping him warmer, took all the
stiffness out of his muscles, and he continued on foot several miles. He
passed two brooks and a creek, all frozen over so solidly that the horse
passed on them without breaking the ice. It was an extremely difficult
task to make the animal try the ice, but after much delicate coaxing and
urging he always succeeded.

He saw two more cabins at the roadside, but he did not think of asking
hospitality at either. The night was now far advanced and he wished
to put many more miles between him and the Leffingwell home before he
sought rest again.

He mounted his horse once more, and increased his speed. Now the
reaction came after so much exertion and excitement. He began to feel
depressed. He was very young and he had no comrade. The loneliness of
the winter night in a country full of dangers was appalling. It seemed
to him, as his heart sank, that all things had conspired against him.
But the moment of despair was brief. He summoned his courage anew and
rode on bravely, although the sense of loneliness in its full power
remained.

The moonlight was quite bright. The sky was a deep silky blue, in which
myriads of cold stars shone and danced. By and by he skirted for a while
the banks of a small river, which he knew flowed southward into
the Cumberland, and which would not cross his path. The rays of the
moonlight on its frozen surface looked like darts of cold steel.

He left the river presently and the road bent a little toward the north.
Then the skies darkened somewhat but lightened again as the dawn began
to come. The red but cold edge of the sun appeared above the mountains
that he had left behind, and then the morning came, pale and cold.

Dick stopped at a little brook, broke the ice and drank, letting his
horse drink after him. Then he ate heartily of the cold bread and meat
in his knapsack. Pitying his horse he searched until he found a little
grass not yet killed by winter in the lee of the hill, and waited until
he cropped it all.

He mounted and resumed his journey through a country in which the
hills were steadily becoming lower, with larger stretches of level land
appearing between them. By night he should be beyond the last low swell
of the mountains and into the hill region proper. As he calculated
distances his heart gave a great thump. He was to locate Buell some
distance north of Green River, and his journey would take him close to
Pendleton.

The boy was torn by great and conflicting emotions. He would carry
out with his life the task that Thomas had assigned to him, and yet he
wished to stop near Pendleton, if only for an hour.

Yes an hour would do! And it could not interfere with his duty! But
Pendleton was a Southern stronghold. Everybody there knew him, and they
all knew, too, that he was in the service of the North. How could he
pass by without being seen and what might happen then? The terrible
conflict went on in his mind, and it was stilled only when he decided to
leave it to time and chance.

He rode that day almost without interruption, securing an ample dinner,
where no one chose to ask questions, accepting him at his own statement
of himself and probably believing it. He heard that a small Southern
force was to the southward, probably marching toward Bowling Green,
where a great Confederate army under Albert Sidney Johnston was said to
be concentrated. But the news gave him no alarm. His own road was still
leading west slightly by north.

When night came he was in the pleasant and fertile hill country, dotted
with double brick houses, and others of wood, all with wide porticos,
supported by white pillars. It looked smiling and prosperous even in
winter. The war had done no ravages here, and he saw men at work about
the great barns.

He slept in the house of a big farmer, who liked the frank voice and
eyes of the lad, and who cared nothing for any errand upon which he
might be riding. He slept, too, without dreams, and without awakening
until the morning, when he shared a solid breakfast with the family.

Dick obtained at the farmhouse a fresh supply of cold food for his
saddle bags, to be held against an emergency, although it was likely now
that he could obtain all he needed at houses as he passed. Receiving the
good wishes of his hosts he rode on through the hills. The intense
cold which kept troops from marching much really served him, as the
detachments about the little towns stayed in their camps.

The day was quite clear, with the mercury still well below zero, but his
heavy clothing kept him warm and comfortable. His great horse showed no
signs of weariness. Apparently his sinews were made of steel.

Noon came, but Dick did not seek any farmhouse for what was called
dinner in that region. Instead he ate from his saddle bags as he rode
on. He did not wish to waste time, and, moreover, he had taken his
resolution. He would go near Pendleton. It was on his most direct route,
but he would pass in the night.

As the cold twilight descended he came into familiar regions. Like all
other young Kentuckians he was a great horseman, and with Harry Kenton
and other lads of his age he had ridden nearly everywhere in a circuit
of thirty miles around Pendleton.

It was with many a throb of the heart that he now recognized familiar
scenes. He knew the fields, the forests and the houses. But he was glad
that the night had come. Others would know him, and he did not wish to
be seen when he rode on such an errand. He had been saving his horse in
the afternoon, but now he pushed him forward at a much faster gait. The
great horse responded willingly and Dick felt the powerful body working
beneath him, smooth and tireless like a perfect machine.

He passed nobody on the road. People hugged their fires on such a cold
night, and he rode hour after hour without interruption. It was nearly
midnight when he stopped on a high hill, free of forest, and looked down
upon Pendleton. The wonderful clearness of the winter night helped him.
All the stars known to man were out, and helped to illuminate the world
with a clear but cold radiance.

Although a long distance away Dick could see Pendleton clearly. There
was no foliage on the trees now, and nearly every house was visible.
The great pulse in his throat throbbed hard as he looked. He saw the
steeples of the churches, the white pillars of the court house, and off
to one side the academy in which he and Harry Kenton had gone to school
together. He saw further away Colonel Kenton’s own house on another
hill. It, too, had porticos, supported by white pillars which gleamed in
the moonlight.

Then his eyes traveled again around the half circle before him. The
place for which he was looking could not be seen. But he knew that it
would be so. It was a low house, and the evergreens about it, the pines
and cedars would hide it at any time. But he knew the exact spot, and he
wanted his eyes to linger there a little before he rode straight for it.

Now the great pulse in his throat leaped, and something like a sob came
from him. But it was not a sob of unhappiness. He clucked to his horse
and turned from the main road into a narrower one that led by the low
house among the evergreens. Yet he was a boy of powerful will, and
despite his eagerness, he restrained his horse and advanced very slowly.
Sometimes he turned the animal upon the dead turf by the side of the
road in order that his footsteps might make no sound.

He drew slowly nearer, and when he saw the roof and eaves of the low
house among the evergreens the great pulse in his throat leaped so hard
that it was almost unbearable. He reached the edge of the lawn that
came down to the road, and hidden by the clipped cone of a pine he saw a
faint light shining.

He dismounted, opened the gate softly, and led his horse upon the lawn,
hitching him between two pines that grew close together, concealing him
perfectly.

“Be quiet, old fellow,” he whispered, stroking the great intelligent
head. “Nobody will find you here and I’ll come back for you.”

The horse rubbed his nose against his arm but made no other movement.
Then Dick walked softly toward the house, pulses beating hard and paused
just at the edge of a portico, where he stood in the shadow of a pillar.
He saw the light clearly now. It shone from a window of the low second
story. It came from her window and her room. Doubtless she was thinking
at that very moment of him. His throat ached and tears came into his
eyes. The light, clear and red, shone steadily from the window and made
a band across the lawn.

He picked a handful of sand from the walk that led to the front door
and threw it against the window. He knew that she was brave and would
respond, but waiting only a moment or two he threw a second handful
fully and fairly against the glass.

The lower half of the window was thrown open and a head appeared, where
the moonlight fell clearly upon it. It was the head of a beautiful
woman, framed in thick, silken yellow hair, the eyes deep blue, and the
skin of the wonderful fairness so often found in that state. The face
was that of a woman about thirty-seven or eight years of age, and
without a wrinkle or flaw.

“Mother!” called Dick in a low voice as he stepped from the shadow of
the pillar.

There was a cry and the face disappeared like a flash from the window.
But he had only a few moments to wait. Her swift feet brought her from
the room, down the stairway, and along the hall to the door, which she
threw open. The next instant Mrs. Mason had her son in her arms.

“Oh, Dick, Dicky, boy, how did you come!” she exclaimed. “You were here
under my window, and I did not even know that you were alive!”

Her tears of joy fell upon his face and he was moved profoundly. Dick
loved his beautiful young mother devoutly, and her widowhood had bound
them all the more closely together.

“I’ve come a long distance, and I’ve come in many ways, mother,” he
replied, “by train, by horseback, and I have even walked.”

“You have come here on foot?”

“No, mother. I rode directly over your own smooth lawn on one of the
biggest horses you ever saw, and he’s tied now between two of the pine
trees. Come, we must go in the house. It’s too cold for you out here. Do
you know that the mercury is about ten degrees below zero.”

“What a man you have grown! Why, you must be two inches taller than you
were, when you went away, and how sunburned and weather-beaten you are,
too! Oh, Dicky, this terrible, terrible war! Not a word from you in
months has got through to me!”

“Nor a word from you to me, mother, but I have not suffered so much so
far. I was at Bull Run, where we lost, and I was at Mill Spring, where
we won, but I was unhurt.”

“Perhaps you have come back to stay,” she said hopefully.

“No, mother, not to stay. I took a chance in coming by here to see you,
but I couldn’t go on without a few minutes. Inside now, mother, your
hands are growing cold.”

They went in at the door, and closed it behind them. But there was
another faithful soul on guard that night. In the dusky hail loomed a
gigantic black figure in a blue checked dress, blue turban on head.

“Marse Dick?” she said.

“Juliana!” he exclaimed. “How did you know that I was here?”

“Ain’t I done heard Miss Em’ly cry out, me always sleepin’ so light, an’
I hears her run down the hail. An’ then I dresses an’ comes an’ sees you
two through the crack o’ the do’, an’ then I waits till you come in.”

Dick gave her a most affectionate greeting, knowing that she was as true
as steel. She rejoiced in her flowery name, as many other colored women
rejoiced in theirs, but her heart inhabited exactly the right spot in
her huge anatomy. She drew mother and son into the sitting-room, where
low coals still burned on the hearth. Then she went up to Mrs. Mason’s
bedroom and put out the light, after which she came back to the
sitting-room, and, standing by a window in silence, watched over the two
over whom she had watched so long.

“Why is it that you can stay such a little while?” asked Mrs. Mason.

“Mother,” replied Dick in a low tone, “General Thomas, who won the
battle at Mill Spring, has trusted me. I bear a dispatch of great
importance. It is to go to General Buell, and it has to do with the
gathering of the Union troops in the western and southern parts of our
state, and in Tennessee. I must get through with it, and in war, mother,
time counts almost as much as battles. I can stop only a few minutes
even for you.”

“I suppose it is so. But oh, Dicky, won’t this terrible war be over
soon?”

“I don’t think so, mother. It’s scarcely begun yet.”

Mrs. Mason said nothing, but stared into the coals. The great negress,
Juliana, standing at the window, did not move.

“I suppose you are right, Dick,” she said at last with a sigh, “but it
is awful that our people should be arrayed so against one another. There
is your cousin, Harry Kenton, a good boy, too, on the other side.”

“Yes, mother, I caught a glimpse of him at Bull Run. We came almost face
to face in the smoke. But it was only for an instant. Then the smoke
rushed in between. I don’t think anything serious has happened to him.”

Mrs. Mason shuddered.

“I should mourn him next to you,” she said, “and my brother-in-law,
Colonel Kenton, has been very good. He left orders with his people to
watch over us here. Pendleton is strongly Southern as you know, but
nobody would do us any harm, unless it was the rough people from the
hills.”

Colonel Kenton’s wife had been Mrs. Mason’s elder sister, and Dick, as
he also sat staring into the coals, wondered why people who were united
so closely should yet be divided so much.

“Mother,” he said, “when I came through the mountains with my friends we
stopped at a house in which lived an old, old woman. She must have
been nearly a hundred. She knew your ancestor and mine, the famous and
learned Paul Cotter, from whom you and I are descended, and she also
knew his friend and comrade, the mighty scout and hunter, Henry Ware,
who became the great governor of Kentucky.”

“How strange!”

“But the strangest is yet to be told. Harry Kenton, when he went east to
join Beauregard before Bull Run, stopped at the same house, and when
she first saw him she only looked into the far past. She thought it was
Henry Ware himself, and she saluted him as the governor. What do you
think of that, mother?”

“It’s a startling coincidence.”

“But may it not be an omen? I’m not superstitious, mother, but when
things come together in such a queer fashion it’s bound to make you
think. When Harry’s paths and mine cross in such a manner maybe it means
that we shall all come together again, and be united as we were.”

“Maybe.”

“At any rate,” said Dick with a little laugh, “we’ll hope that it does.”

While the boy was not noticing his mother had made a sign to Juliana,
who had crept out of the room. Now she returned, bearing food upon a
tray, and Dick, although he was not hungry, ate to please his mother.

“You will stay until morning?” she said.

“No, mother. I can’t afford to be seen here. I must leave in the dark.”

“Then until it is nearly morning.”

“Nor that either, mother. My time is about up already. I could never
betray the trust that General Thomas has put in me. My dispatches
not only tell of the gathering of our own troops, but they contain
invaluable information concerning the Confederate concentration which
General Thomas learned from his scouts and spies. Mother, I think a
great battle is coming here in the west.”

She shuddered, but she did not seek again to delay him in his duty.

“I am proud,” she said, “that you have won the confidence of your
general, and that you ride upon such an important errand. I should have
been glad if you had stayed at home, Dick, but since you have chosen to
be a soldier, I am rejoiced that you have risen in the esteem of your
officers. Write to me as often as you can. Maybe none of your letters
will reach me, but at least start them. I shall start mine, too.”

“Of course, mother,” said Dick, “and now it’s time for me to ride hard.”

“Why, you have been here only a half hour!”

“Nearer an hour, mother, and on this journey of mine time means a lot. I
must say good-bye now to you and Juliana.”

The two women followed him down the lawn to the point where his horse
was hitched between the two big pines. Mrs. Mason patted the horse’s
great head and murmured to him to carry her son well.

“Did you ever see a finer horse, mother?” said Dick proudly. “He’s the
very pick of the army.”

He threw his arms around her neck, kissed her more than once, sprang
into the saddle and rode away in the darkness.

The two women, the black and the white, sisters in grief, and yet happy
that he had come, went slowly back into the house to wait, while the
boy, a man’s soul in him, strode on to war.

Dick was far from Pendleton when the dawn broke, and now he had full
need of caution. His horse was bearing him fast into debatable ground,
where every man suspected his neighbor, and it remained for force alone
to tell to which side the region belonged. But the extreme delicacy of
the tension came to Dick’s aid. People hesitated to ask questions, lest
questions equally difficult be asked of them in return. It was a great
time to mind one’s own business.

He rode on, fortune with him for the present, and his course was still
west slightly by north. He slept under roofs, and he learned that in
the country into which he had now come the Union sympathizers were more
numerous than the Confederate. The majority of the Kentuckians, whatever
their personal feelings, were not willing to shatter the republic.

He heard definitely that here in the west the North was gathering armies
greater than any that he had supposed. Besides the troops from the three
states just across the Ohio River the hardy lumbermen and pioneers
were pouring down from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Hunters
in deerskin suits and buffalo moccasins had already come from the far
Nebraska Territory.

The power of the west and the northwest was converging upon his state,
which gave eighty thousand of its men to the Northern cause, while half
as many more went away to the Southern armies, particularly to the one
under the brilliant and daring Albert Sidney Johnston, which hung
a sinister menace before the Northern front. One hundred and twenty
thousand troops sent to the two armies by a state that contained but
little more than a million people! It was said at the time that as
Kentucky went, so would go the fortunes of the Union and in the end it
was so.

But these facts and reckonings were not much in Dick’s mind just then.
He was thinking of Buell’s camp and of the message that he bore. Again
and again he felt of that little inside pocket of his vest to see that
it was there, although he knew that by no chance could he have lost it.

When he was within fifteen miles of Buell’s camp a heavy snow began to
fall. But he did not mind it. The powerful horse that had borne him so
well carried him safely on to his destination, and before the sundown
of that day the young messenger was standing before General Don Carlos
Buell, one of the most puzzling characters whom he was to meet in the
whole course of the war. He had found Thomas a silent man, but he found
Buell even more so. He received Dick in an ordinary tent, thanked him
as he saluted and handed him the dispatch, and then read General Thomas’
message.

Dick saw before him a shortish, thickset man, grim of feature, who did
not ask him a word until he had finished the dispatch.

“You know what this contains?” he said, when he came to the end.

“Yes, General Thomas made me memorize it, that I might destroy it if I
were too hard pressed.”

“He tells us that Johnston is preparing for some great blow and he
gives the numbers and present location of the hostile forces. Valuable
information for us, if it is used. You have done well, Mr. Mason. To
what force were you attached?”

“A small division of Pennsylvania troops under Major Hertford. They were
to be sent by General Thomas to General Grant at Cairo, Illinois.”

“And you would like to join them.”

“If you please, sir.”

“In view of your services your wish is granted. It is likely that
General Grant will need all the men whom he can get. A detachment leaves
here early in the morning for Elizabethtown, where it takes the train
for Louisville, proceeding thence by water to Cairo. You shall go with
these men. They are commanded by Colonel Winchester. You may go now, Mr.
Mason.”

He turned back to his papers and Dick, thinking his manner somewhat
curt, left his tent. But he was pleased to hear that the detail
was commanded by Colonel Winchester. Arthur Winchester was a man of
forty-one or two who lived about thirty miles north of Pendleton. He was
a great landowner, of high character and pleasant manners. Dick had met
him frequently in his childhood, and the Colonel received him with much
warmth.

“I’m glad to know, Dick,” he said familiarly, “that you’re going with
us. I’m fond of Pendleton, and I like to have one of the Pendleton boys
in my command. If all that we hear of this man Grant is true, we’ll see
action, action hot and continuous.”

They rode to Elizabethtown, where Dick was compelled to leave his great
horse for Buell’s men, and went by train to Louisville, going thence
by steamer down the Ohio River to Cairo, at its junction with the
Mississippi, where they stood at last in the presence of that general
whose name was beginning to be known in the west.



CHAPTER IX. TAKING A FORT


Dick was with Colonel Winchester when he was admitted to the presence of
the general who had already done much to strengthen the Union cause
in the west, and he found him the plainest and simplest of men, under
forty, short in stature, and careless in attire. He thanked Colonel
Winchester for the reinforcement that he had brought him, and then
turned with some curiosity to Dick.

“So you were at the battle of Mill Spring,” he said. “It was hot, was it
not?”

“Hot enough for me,” replied Dick frankly.

Grant laughed.

“They caught a Tartar in George Thomas,” he said, “and I fancy that
others who try to catch him will be glad enough to let him go.”

“He is a great man, sir,” said Dick with conviction.

Then Grant asked him more questions about the troops and the situation
in Eastern Kentucky, and Dick noticed that all were sharp and
penetrating.

“Your former immediate commander, Major Hertford, and some of his men
are due here today,” said Grant. “General Thomas, knowing that his own
campaign was over, sent them north to Cincinnati and they have come down
the river to Cairo. When they reach here they will be attached to the
regiment of Colonel Winchester.”

Dick was overjoyed. He had formed a strong liking for Major Hertford and
he was quite sure that Warner and Sergeant Whitley would be with him.
Once more they would be reunited, reunited for battle. He could not
doubt that they would go to speedy action as the little town at the
junction of the mighty rivers resounded with preparation.

When Colonel Winchester and the boy had saluted and retired from General
Grant’s tent they saw the smoke pouring from the funnels of numerous
steamers in the Mississippi, and they saw thousands of troops encamped
in tents along the shores of both the Ohio and Mississippi. Heavy cannon
were drawn up on the wharves, and ammunition and supplies were being
transferred from hundreds of wagons to the steamers. It was evident to
any one that this expedition, whatever it might be, was to proceed by
water. It was a land of mighty rivers, close together, and a steamer
might go anywhere.

As Dick and Colonel Winchester, on whose staff he would now be, were
watching this active scene, a small steamer, coming down the Ohio, drew
in to a wharf, and a number of soldiers in faded blue disembarked. The
boy uttered a shout of joy.

“What is it, Dick?” asked Colonel Winchester.

“Why, sir, there’s my former commander, Colonel Newcomb, and just behind
him is my comrade, Lieutenant George Warner of Vermont, and not far away
is Sergeant Whitley, late of the regular army, one of the best soldiers
in the world. Can I greet them, colonel?”

“Of course.”

Dick rushed forward and saluted Colonel Newcomb, who grasped him warmly
by the hand.

“So you got safely through, my lad,” he said. “Major Hertford, who came
down the Kentucky with his detachment and joined us at Carrollton at the
mouth of that river, told us of your mission. The major is bringing up
the rear of our column, but here are other friends of yours.”

Dick the next moment was wringing the hand of the Vermont boy and was
receiving an equally powerful grip in return.

“I believed that we would meet you here,” said Warner, “I calculated
that with your courage, skill and knowledge of the country the chances
were at least eighty per cent in favor of your getting through to Buell.
And if you did get through to Buell I knew that at least ninety per
cent of the circumstances would represent your desire and effort to come
here. That was a net percentage of seventy-two in favor of meeting you
here in Cairo, and the seventy-two per cent has prevailed, as it usually
does.”

“Nothing is so bad that it can’t be worse,” said Sergeant Whitley, as
he too gave Dick’s hand an iron grasp, “and I knew that when we lost you
we’d be pretty glad to see you again. Here you are safe an’ sound, an’
here we are safe an’ sound, a most satisfactory condition in war.”

“But not likely to remain so long, judging from what we see here,” said
Warner. “We hear that this man Grant is a restless sort of a person who
thinks that the way to beat the enemy is just to go in and beat him.”

Major Hertford came up at that moment, and he, too, gave Dick a welcome
that warmed his heart. But the boy did not get to remain long with his
old comrades. The Pennsylvania regiment had been much cut down through
the necessity of leaving detachments as guards at various places along
the river, but it was yet enough to make a skeleton and its entity was
preserved, forming a little eastern band among so many westerners.

Dick, at General Grant’s order, was transferred permanently to the staff
of Colonel Winchester, and he and the other officers slept that night
in a small building in the outskirts of Cairo. He knew that a great
movement was at hand, but he was becoming so thoroughly inured to danger
and hardship that he slept soundly all through the night.

They heard early the next morning the sound of many trumpets and Colonel
Winchester’s regiment formed for embarkation. All the puffing steamers
were now in the Ohio, and Dick saw with them many other vessels which
were not used for carrying soldiers. He saw broad, low boats, with
flat bottoms, their sides sheathed in iron plates. They were floating
batteries moved by powerful engines beneath. Then there were eight huge
mortars, a foot across the muzzle, every one mounted separately upon a
strong barge and towed. Some of the steamers were sheathed in iron also.

Dick’s heart throbbed hard when he saw the great equipment. The fighting
ships were under the command of Commodore Foote, an able man, but
General Grant and his lieutenants, General McClernand and General Smith,
commanded the army aboard the transports. On the transport next to them
Dick saw the Pennsylvanians and he waved his hand to his friends who
stood on the deck. They waved back, and Dick felt powerfully the sense
of comradeship. It warmed his heart for them all to be together again,
and it was a source of strength, too.

The steamer that bore his regiment was named the River Queen, and many
of her cabins had been torn away to make more room for the troops who
would sleep in rows on her decks, as thick as buffaloes in a herd. The
soldiers, like all the others whom he saw, were mostly boys. The average
could not be over twenty, and some were not over sixteen. But they had
the adaptability of youth. They had scattered themselves about in easy
positions. One was playing an accordion, and another a fiddle. The
officers did not interrupt them.

As Dick looked over the side at the yellow torrent some one said beside
him:

“This is a whopping big river. You don’t see them as deep as this where
I come from.”

Dick glanced at the speaker, and saw a lad of about his own age, of
medium height, but powerfully built, with shoulders uncommonly thick.
His face was tanned brown, but his eyes were blue and his natural
complexion was fair. He was clad completely in deerskin, mocassins
on his feet and a raccoon skin cap on his head. Dick had noticed the
Nebraska hunters in such garb, but he was surprised to see this boy
dressed in similar fashion among the Kentuckians.

The youth smiled when he saw Dick’s glance of surprise.

“I know I look odd among you,” he said, “and you take me for one of the
Nebraska hunters. So I am, but I’m a Kentuckian, too, and I’ve a right
to a place with you fellows. My name is Frank Pennington. I was born
about forty miles north of Pendleton, but when I was six months old my
parents went out on the plains, where I’ve hunted buffalo, and where
I’ve fought Indians, too. But I’m a Kentuckian by right of birth just as
you are, and I asked to be assigned to the regiment raised in the region
from which we came.”

“And mighty welcome you are, too,” said Dick, offering his hand. “You
belong with us, and we’ll stick together on this campaign.”

The two youths, one officer and one private, became fast friends in
a moment. Events move swiftly in war. Both now felt the great engines
throbbing faster beneath them, and the flotilla, well into the mouth of
the Ohio, was leaving the Mississippi behind them. But the Ohio here
for a distance is apparently the mightier stream, and they gazed with
interest and a certain awe at the vast yellow sheet enclosed by shores,
somber in the gray garb of winter. It was the beginning of February, and
cold winds swept down from the Illinois prairies. Cairo had been left
behind and there was no sign of human habitation. Some wild fowl,
careless of winter, flew over the stream, dipped toward the water, and
then flew away again.

As far as the eye was concerned the wilderness circled about them and
enclosed them. The air was cold and flakes of snow dropped upon the
decks and the river, but were gone in an instant. The skies were an
unbroken sheet of gray. The scene so lonely and desolate contained a
majesty that impressed them all, heightened for these youths by the
knowledge that many of them were going on a campaign from which they
would never return.

“Looks as wild as the great plains on which I’ve hunted with my father,”
 said Pennington.

“But we hunt bigger game than buffalo,” said Dick.

“Game that is likely to turn and hunt us.”

“Yes.”

“Do you know where we’re going?”

“Not exactly, but I can make a good guess. I know that we’ve taken on
Tennessee River pilots, and I’m sure that we’ll turn into the mouth of
that river at Paducah. I infer that we’re to attack Fort Henry, which
the Confederates have erected some distance up the Tennessee to guard
that river.”

“Looks likely. Do you know much about the fort?”

“I’ve heard of it only since I came to Cairo. I know that it stands on
low, marshy ground facing the Tennessee, and that it contains seventeen
big guns. I haven’t heard anything about the size of its garrison.”

“But we’ll have a fight, that’s sure,” said young Pennington. “I’ve
been in battle only once--at Columbus--but the Johnny Rebs don’t give up
forts in a hurry.”

“There’s another fort, a much bigger one, named Donelson, on the
Cumberland,” said Dick. “Both the forts are in Tennessee, but as the two
rivers run parallel here in the western parts of the two states, Fort
Donelson and Fort Henry are not far apart. I risk a guess that we attack
both.”

“You don’t risk much. I tell you, Dick, that man Grant is a holy terror.
He isn’t much to look at, but he’s a marcher and a fighter. We fellows
in the ranks soon learn what kind of a man is over us. I suppose
it’s like the horse feeling through the bit the temper of his rider.
President Lincoln has stationed General Halleck at St. Louis with
general command here in the West. General Halleck thinks that General
Grant is a meek subordinate without ambition, and will always be sending
back to him for instructions, which is just what General Halleck likes,
but we in the ranks have learned to know our Grant better.”

Dick’s eyes glistened.

“So you think, then,” he said, “that General Grant will push this
campaign home, and that he’ll soon be where he can’t get instructions
from General Halleck?”

“Looks that way to a man up a tree,” said Pennington slowly, and
solemnly winking his left eye.

They were officer and private, but they were only lads together, and
they talked freely with each other. Dick, after a while, returned to his
commanding officer, Colonel Winchester, but there was little to do, and
he sat on the deck with him, looking out over the fleet, the transports,
the floating batteries, the mortar boats, and the iron-clads. He saw
that the North, besides being vastly superior in numbers and resources,
was the supreme master on the water through her equipment and the
mechanical skill of her people. The South had no advantage save the
defensive, and the mighty generals of genius who appeared chiefly on her
Virginia line.

Dick had inherited a thoughtful temperament from his famous ancestor,
Paul Cotter, whose learning had appeared almost superhuman to the people
of his time, and he was extremely sensitive to impressions. His mind
would register them with instant truth. As he looked now upon this
floating army he felt that the Union cause must win. On land the
Confederates might be invincible or almost so, but the waters of the
rivers and the sea upheld the Union cause.

The fleet steamed on at an even pace. Foote, the commodore who
had daringly reconnoitered Fort Henry from a single gunboat in the
Tennessee, managed everything with alertness and skill. The transports
were in the center of the stream. The armed and armored vessels kept on
the flanks.

The river, a vast yellow sheet, sometimes turning gray under the gray,
wintry skies, seemed alone save for themselves. Not a single canoe or
skiff disturbed its surface. Toward evening the flakes of snow came
again, and the bitter wind blew once more from the Illinois prairies.
All the troops who were not under shelter were wrapped in blankets
or overcoats. Dick and the colonel, with the heavy coats over their
uniforms, did not suffer. Instead, they enjoyed the cold, crisp air,
which filled their lungs and seemed to increase their power.

“When shall we reach the Tennessee?” asked Dick.

“You will probably wake up in the morning to find yourself some distance
up that stream.”

“I’ve never seen the Tennessee.”

“Though not the equal of the Ohio, it would be called a giant river in
many countries. The whole fleet, if it wanted to do it, could go up
it hundreds of miles. Why, Dick, these boats can go clear down into
Alabama, into the very heart of the Confederacy, into the very state at
the capital of which Jefferson Davis was inaugurated President of the
seceding states.”

“I was thinking of that some time ago,” said Dick. “The water is with
us.”

“Yes, the water is with us, and will stay with us.”

They were silent a little while longer and watched the coming of the
early winter twilight over the waters and the lonely land. The sky was
so heavy with clouds that the gray seemed to melt into the brown. The
low banks slipped back into the dark. They saw only the near surface
of the river, the dark hulls of the fleet, occasional showers of sparks
from smoke stacks, and an immense black cloud made by the smoke of the
fleet, trailing behind them far down the river.

“Dick,” said Colonel Winchester suddenly, “as you came across Kentucky
from Mill Spring, and passed so near Pendleton it must have been a great
temptation to you to stop and see your mother.”

“It was. It was so great that I yielded to it. I was at our home about
midnight for nearly an hour. I hope I did nothing wrong, colonel.”

“No, Dick, my boy. Some martinets might find fault with you, but I
should blame you had you not stopped for those few moments. A noble
woman, your mother, Dick. I hope that she is watched over well.”

Dick glanced at the colonel, but he could not see his face in the
deepening twilight.

“My uncle, Colonel Kenton, has directed his people to give her help in
case of need,” he replied, “but that means physical help against raiders
and guerillas. Otherwise she has sufficient for her support.”

“That is well. War is terrible on women. And now, Dick, my lad, we’ll
get our supper. This nipping air makes me hungry, and the Northern
troops do not suffer for lack of food.”

The officers ate in one of the cabins, and when the supper was finished
deep night had come over the river, but Dick, standing on the deck,
heard the heavy throb of many engines, and he knew that a great army
was still around him, driven on by the will of one man, deep into the
country of the foe.

The decks, every foot of plank it seemed, were already covered with
the sleeping boys, wrapped in their blankets and overcoats. He saw his
friend, the young hunter from Nebraska, lying with his head on his arm,
sound asleep, a smile on his face.

Dick watched until the first darkness thinned somewhat, and the stars
came out. Then he retired to one of the cabins, which he shared with
three or four others, and slept soundly until he was aroused for
breakfast. He had not undressed, and, bathing his face, he went out at
once on the deck. Many of the soldiers were up, there was a hum of talk,
and all were looking curiously at the river up which they were steaming.

They were in the Tennessee, having passed in the night the little town
of Paducah--now an important city--at its mouth. It was not so broad as
the Ohio, but it was broad, nevertheless, and it had the aspect of great
depth. But here, as on the Ohio, they seemed to be steaming through the
wilderness. The banks were densely wooded, and the few houses that may
have been near were hidden by the trees. No human beings appeared upon
the banks.

Dick knew why the men did not come forth to see the ships. The
southwestern part of the state, the old Jackson’s Purchase, and the
region immediately adjacent, was almost solidly for the South. They
would not find here that division of sentiment, with the majority
inclined to the North, that prevailed in the higher regions of Kentucky.
The country itself was different. It was low and the waters that came
into the Tennessee flowed more sluggishly.

But Dick was sure that keen eyes were watching the fleet from the
undergrowth, and he had no doubt that every vessel had long since been
counted and that every detail of the fleet had been carried to the
Southern garrisons in the fort.

The cold was as sharp as on the day before, and Dick, like the others,
rejoiced in the hot and abundant breakfast. The boats, an hour or two
later, stopped at a little landing, and many of the lads would gladly
have gone ashore for a few moments, risking possible sharpshooters in
the woods, but not one was allowed to leave the vessels. But Dick’s
steamer lay so close to the one carrying the Pennsylvanians that he
could talk across the few intervening feet of water with Warner and
Whitley. He also took the opportunity to introduce his new friend
Pennington, of Nebraska.

“Are you the son of John Pennington, who lived for a little while at
Fort Omaha?” asked the sergeant.

“Right you are,” replied the young hunter, “I’m his third son.”

“Then you’re the third son of a brave man. I was in the regular army and
often we helped the pioneers against the Indians. I remember being
in one fight with him against the Sioux on the Platte, and in another
against the Northern Cheyennes in the Jumping Sand Hills.”

“Hurrah!” cried Pennington. “I’m sorry I can’t jump over a section of
the Tennessee River and shake hands with you.”

“We’ll have our chance later,” said the sergeant. At that moment the
fleet started again, and the boats swung apart. Through Dick’s earnest
solicitation young Pennington was taken out of the ranks and attached
to the staff of Colonel Winchester as an orderly. He was well educated,
already a fine campaigner, and beyond a doubt he would prove extremely
useful.

They steamed the entire day without interruption. Now and then the river
narrowed and they ran between high banks. The scenery became romantic
and beautiful, but always wild. The river, deep at any time, was now
swollen fifteen feet more by floods on its upper courses, and the water
always lapped at the base of the forest.

Dick and Pennington, standing side by side, saw the second sun set over
their voyage, and it was as wild and lonely as the first. There was a
yellow river again, and hills covered with a bare forest. Heavy gray
clouds trooped across the sky, and the sun was lost among them before it
sank behind the hills in the west.

Dick and Pennington, wrapped in their blankets and overcoats, slept upon
the deck that night, with scores of others strewed about them. They were
awakened after eleven o’clock by a sputter of rifle shots. Dick sat up
in a daze and heard a bullet hum by his ear. Then he heard a powerful
voice shouting: “Down! Down, all of you! It’s only some skirmishers in
the woods!” Then a cannon on one of the armor clads thundered, and
a shell ripped its way through the underbrush on the west bank. Many
exclamations were uttered by the half-awakened lads.

“What is it? Has an army attacked us?”

“Are we before the fort and under fire?”

“Take your foot off me, you big buffalo!”

It was Colonel Winchester who had commanded them to keep down, but Dick,
a staff officer, knew that it did not apply to him. Instead he sprang
erect and assisted the senior officers in compelling the others to lie
flat upon the decks. He saw several flashes of fire in the undergrowth,
but he had logic enough to know that it could only be a small Southern
band. Three or four more shells raked the woods, and then there was no
reply.

The boats steamed steadily on. Only one or two of the young soldiers
had been hurt and they but lightly. All rolled themselves again in their
blankets and coats and went back to sleep.

The second awakening was about half way between midnight and dawn.
Something cold was continually dropping on Dick’s face and he awoke to
find hundreds of sheeted and silent white forms lying motionless upon
the deck. Snow was falling swiftly out of a dark sky, and the fleet
was moving slowly. In the darkness and stillness the engines throbbed
powerfully, and the night was lighted fitfully by the showers of sparks
that gushed now and then from the smoke stacks.

Dick thought of rising and brushing the snow from his blankets, but he
was so warm inside them that he yawned once or twice and went to sleep
again. When he awoke it was morning again, the snow had ceased and the
men were brushing it from themselves and the decks.

The young soldiers, as they ate breakfast, spoke of the rifle shots that
had been fired at them the night before and, since little damage had
been done, they appreciated the small spice of danger. The wildness
and mystery of their situation appealed to them, too. They were like
explorers, penetrating new regions.

“To most of us it’s something like the great plains,” said Pennington
to Dick. “There you seldom know what you’re coming to; maybe a blizzard,
maybe a buffalo herd, and maybe a band of Indians, and you take a
pleasure in the uncertainty. But I suppose it’s not the same to you,
this being your state.”

“I don’t know much about Western Kentucky,” said Dick, “my part lies to
the center and east, but anyway, our work is to be done in Tennessee.
Those two forts, which I’m sure we’re after, lie in that state.”

“And when do you think we’ll reach ‘em?”

“Tomorrow, I suppose.”

The day passed without any interruption to the advance of the fleet,
although there was occasional firing, but not of a serious nature. Now
and then small bands of Confederate skirmishers sent rifle shots from
high points along the bank toward the fleet, but they did no damage and
the ships steamed steadily on.

The third night out came, and again the young soldiers slept soundly,
but the next morning, soon after breakfast, the whole fleet stopped in
the middle of the river. A thrill of excitement ran through the
army when the news filtered from ship to ship that they were now in
Tennessee, and that Fort Henry, which they were to attack, was just
ahead.

Nevertheless, they seemed to be yet in the wilderness. The Tennessee, in
flood, spread its yellow waters through forest and undergrowth, and the
chill gray sky still gave a uniform somber, gray tint to everything.
Bugles blew in the boats, and every soldier began to put himself and
his weapons in order. The command to make a landing had been given, and
Commodore Foote was feeling about for a place.

Dick now realized the enormous advantage of supremacy upon the water.
Had the Confederates possessed armored ships to meet them, the landing
of a great army under fire would be impossible, but now they chose their
own time and went about it unvexed.

A place was found at last, a rude wharf was constructed hastily, and the
fleet disgorged the army, boat by boat. Vast quantities of stores and
heavy cannon were also brought ashore. Despite the cold, Dick and his
comrades perspired all the morning over their labors and were covered
with mud when the camp was finally constructed at some distance back of
the Tennessee, on the high ground beyond the overflow. The transports
remained at anchor, but the fighting boats were to drop down the stream
and attack the fort at noon the next day from the front, while the army
assailed it at the same time from the rear.

The detachment of Pennsylvanians was by the side of Colonel Winchester’s
Kentucky regiment, and Colonel Newcomb and his staff messed with Colonel
Winchester and his officers. There was water everywhere, and before they
ate they washed the mud off themselves as best they could.

“I suppose,” said Warner, “that seventy per cent of our work henceforth
will be marching through the mud, and thirty per cent of it will be
fighting the rebels in Fort Henry. I hear that we’re not to attack until
tomorrow, so I mean to sleep on top of a cannon tonight, lest I sink out
of sight in the mud while I’m asleep.”

“There’s some pleasure,” said Pennington, “in knowing that we won’t die
of thirst. You could hardly call this a parched and burning desert.”

But as they worked all the remainder of the day on the construction of
the camp, they did not care where they slept. When their work was
over they simply dropped where they stood and slumbered soundly until
morning.

The day opened with a mixture of rain, snow, and fiercely cold winds.
Grant’s army moved out of its camp to make the attack, but it was
hampered by the terrible weather and the vast swamp through which its
course must lead. Colonel Winchester, who knew the country better
than any other high officer, was sent ahead on horseback with a small
detachment to examine the way. He naturally took Dick and Pennington,
who were on his staff, and by request, Colonel Newcomb, Major Hertford,
Warner and Sergeant Whitley went also. The whole party numbered about a
hundred men.

Dick and the other lads rejoiced over their mission. It was better to
ride ahead than to remain with an army that was pulling itself along
slowly through the mud. The fort itself was only about three miles away,
and as it stood upon low, marshy ground, the backwater from the flooded
Tennessee had almost surrounded it.

Despite their horses, Winchester’s men found their own advance slow.
They had to make many a twist and turn to avoid marshes and deep water
before they came within the sight of the fort, and then Dick’s watch
told him that it was nearly noon, the time for the concerted attacks of
army and fleet. But it was certain now that the army could not get up
until several hours later, and he wondered what would happen.

They saw the fort very clearly from their position on a low hill,
and they saw that the main Confederate force was gathered on a height
outside, connected with the fort, and as well as he could judge, the
mass seemed to number three or four thousand men.

“What does that mean?” he asked Colonel Winchester.

“I surmise,” replied the colonel, “that Tilghman, the Confederate
commander, is afraid his men may be caught in a trap. We know his troops
are merely raw militia, and he has put them where they can retreat in
case of defeat. He, himself, with his trained cannoneers, is inside the
fort.”

“There can be no attack until tomorrow,” said Colonel Newcomb. “It will
be impossible for General Grant’s army to get here in time.”

“You are certainly right about the army, but I’m not so sure that you’re
right about the attack. Look what’s coming up the river.”

“The fleet!” exclaimed Newcomb in excitement. “As sure as I’m here it’s
the fleet, advancing to make the attack alone. Foote is a daring and
energetic man, and the failure of the army to co-operate will not keep
him back.”

“Daring and energy, seventy per cent, at least,” Dick heard Warner
murmur, but he paid no more attention to his comrades because all his
interest was absorbed in the thrilling spectacle that was about to be
unfolded before them.

The fleet, the armor clads, the floating batteries, and the mortar
boats, were coming straight toward the fort. Colonel Winchester lent
Dick his glasses for a moment, and the boy plainly saw the great,
yawning mouths of the mortars. Then he passed the glasses back to the
colonel, but he was able to see well what followed with the naked eye.
The fleet came on, steady, but yet silent.

There was a sudden roar, a flash of fire and a shell was discharged from
one of the seventeen great guns in the fort. But it passed over the
boat at which it was aimed, and a fountain of water spurted up where it
struck. The other guns replied rapidly, and the fleet, with a terrific
roar, replied. It seemed to Dick that the whole earth shook with the
confusion. Through the smoke and flame he saw the water gushing up in
fountains, and he also saw earth and masonry flying from the fort.

“It’s a fine fight,” said Colonel Winchester, suppressed excitement
showing in his tone. “By George, the fleet is coming closer. Not a boat
has been sunk! What a tremendous roar those mortars make. Look! One of
their shells has burst directly on the fort!”

The fleet, single handed, was certainly making a determined and powerful
attack upon the fort, which standing upon low, marshy ground, was not
much above the level of the boats, and offered a fair target to their
great guns. Both fort and fleet were now enveloped in a great cloud of
smoke, but it was repeatedly rent asunder by the flashing of the great
guns, and, rapt by the spectacle from which he could not take his eyes,
Dick saw that all the vessels of the fleet were still afloat and were
crowding closer and closer.

The artillery kept up a steady crash now, punctuated by the hollow
boom of the great mortars, which threw huge, curving shells. The smoke
floated far up and down the river, and the Southern troops on the height
adjoining the fort moved back and forth uneasily, uncertain what to do.
Finally they broke and retreated into the forest.

But General Tilghman, the Confederate commander, and the heroic gunners
inside the fort, only sixty in number, made the most heroic resistance.
The armor clad boats were only six hundred yards away now, and were
pouring upon them a perfect storm of fire.

Their intrenchments, placed too low, gave them no advantage over the
vessels. Shells and solid shot rained upon them. Some of the guns were
exploded and others dismounted by this terrible shower, but they did not
yet give up. As fast as they could load and fire the little band sent
back their own fire at the black hulks that showed through the smoke.

“The fleet will win,” Dick heard Colonel Winchester murmur. “Look how
magnificently it is handled, and it converges closer and closer. A
fortification located as this one is cannot stand forever a fire like
that.”

But the fleet was not escaping unharmed. A shell burst the boiler of the
Essex, killing and wounding twenty-nine men. Nevertheless, the fire of
the boats increased rather than diminished, and Dick saw that Colonel
Winchester’s words were bound to come true.

Inside the fort there was only depression. It had been raked through
by shells and solid shot. Most of the devoted band were wounded and
scarcely a gun could be worked. Tilghman, standing amid his dead and
wounded, saw that hope was no longer left, and gave the signal.

Dick and his comrades uttered a great shout as they saw the white flag
go up over Fort Henry, and then the cannonade ceased, like a mighty
crash of thunder that had rolled suddenly across the sky.



CHAPTER X. BEFORE DONELSON


Dick was the first in Colonel Winchester’s troop to see the white flag
floating over Fort Henry and he uttered a shout of joy.

“Look! look!” he cried, “the fleet has taken the fort!”

“So it has,” said Colonel Winchester, “and the army is not here. Now I
wonder what General Grant will say when he learns that Foote has done
the work before he could come.”

But Dick believed that General Grant would find no fault, that he would
approve instead. The feeling was already spreading among the soldiers
that this man, whose name was recently so new among them, cared only
for results. He was not one to fight over precedence and to feel petty
jealousies.

The smoke of battle was beginning to clear away. Officers were landing
from the boats to receive the surrender of the fort, and Colonel
Winchester and his troops galloped rapidly back toward the army, which
they soon met, toiling through swamps and even through shallow overflow
toward the Tennessee. The men had been hearing for more than an hour the
steady booming of the cannon, and every face was eager.

Colonel Winchester rode straight toward a short, thickset figure on a
stout bay horse near the head of one of the columns. This man, like all
the others, was plastered with mud, but Colonel Winchester gave him a
salute of deep respect.

“What does the cessation of firing mean, Colonel?” asked General Grant.

“It means that Fort Henry has surrendered to the fleet. The Southern
force, which was drawn up outside, retreated southward, but the fort,
its guns and immediate defenders, are ours.”

Dick saw the faintest smile of satisfaction pass over the face of the
General, who said:

“Commodore Foote has done well. Ride back and tell him that the army is
coming up as fast as the nature of the ground will allow.”

In a short time the army was in the fort which had been taken so
gallantly by the navy, and Grant, his generals, and Commodore Foote,
were in anxious consultation. Most of the troops were soon camped on
the height, where the Southern force had stood, and there was great
exultation, but Dick, who had now seen so much, knew that the high
officers considered this only a beginning.

Across the narrow stretch of land on the parallel river, the Cumberland,
stood the great fort of Donelson. Henry was a small affair compared with
it. It was likely that men who had been stationed at Henry had retreated
there, and other formidable forces were marching to the same place. The
Confederate commander, Johnston, after the destruction of his
eastern wing at Mill Spring by Thomas, was drawing in his forces and
concentrating. The news of the loss of Fort Henry would cause him to
hasten his operations. He was rapidly falling back from his position
at Bowling Green in Kentucky. Buckner, with his division, was about to
march from that place to join the garrison in Donelson, and Floyd, with
another division, would soon be on the way to the same point. Floyd had
been the United States Secretary of War before secession, and the Union
men hated him. It was said that the great partisan leader, Forrest, with
his cavalry, was also at the fort.

Much of this news was brought in by farmers, Union sympathizers, and
Dick and his comrades, as they sat before the fires at the close of
the short winter day, understood the situation almost as well as the
generals.

“Donelson is ninety per cent and Henry only ten per cent,” said Warner.
“So long as the Johnnies hold Donelson on the Cumberland, they can build
another fort anywhere they please along the Tennessee, and stop our
fleet. This general of ours has a good notion of the value of time and
a swift blow, and, although I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a
prophet, I predict that he will attack Donelson at once by both land and
water.”

“How can he attack it by water?” asked Pennington. “The distance between
them is not great, but our ships can’t steam overland from the Tennessee
to the Cumberland.”

“No, but they can steam back up the Tennessee into the Ohio, thence to
the mouth of the Cumberland, and down the Cumberland to Donelson. It
would require only four or five days, and it will take that long for the
army to invade from the land side.”

Dick had his doubts about the ability of the army and the fleet to
co-operate. Accustomed to the energy of the Southern commanders in the
east he did not believe that Grant would be allowed to arrange things
as he chose. But several days passed and they heard nothing from the
Confederates, although Donelson was only about twenty miles away.
Johnston himself, brilliant and sagacious, was not there, nor was his
lieutenant, Beauregard, who had won such a great reputation by his
victory at the first Bull Run.

Dick was just beginning to suspect a truth that later on was to be
confirmed fully in his mind. Fortune had placed the great generals of
the Confederacy, with the exception of Albert Sidney Johnston, in the
east, but it had been the good luck of the North to open in the west
with its best men.

Now he saw the energy of Grant, the short man of rather insignificant
appearance. Boats were sent down the Tennessee to meet any
reinforcements that might be coming, take them back to the Ohio, and
thence into the Cumberland. Fresh supplies of ammunition and food were
brought up, and it became obvious to Dick that the daring commander
meant to attack Donelson, even should its garrison outnumber his own
besieging force.

Along a long line from Western Tennessee to Eastern Kentucky there was
a mighty stir. Johnston had perceived the energy and courage of his
opponent. He had shared the deep disappointment of all the Southern
leaders when Kentucky failed to secede, but instead furnished so many
thousands of fine troops to the Union army.

Johnston, too, had noticed with alarm the tremendous outpouring of
rugged men from the states beyond the Ohio and from the far northwest.
The lumbermen who came down in scores of thousands from Michigan,
Wisconsin and Minnesota, were a stalwart crowd. War, save for the
bullets and shell, offered to them no hardships to which they were not
used. They had often worked for days at a time up to their waists in icy
water. They had endured thirty degrees below zero without a murmur, they
had breasted blizzard and cyclone, they could live on anything, and they
could sleep either in forest or on prairie, under the open sky.

It was such men as these, including men of his own state, and men of the
Tennessee mountains, whom Johnston, who had all the qualities of a great
commander, had to face. The forces against him were greatly superior
in number. The eastern end of his line had been crushed already at
Mill Spring, the extreme western end had suffered a severe blow at
Fort Henry, but Jefferson Davis and the Government at Richmond expected
everything of him. And he manfully strove to do everything.

There was a mighty marching of men, some news of which came through to
Dick and his comrades with Grant. Johnston with his main army, the very
flower of the western South, fell back from Bowling Green, in Kentucky,
toward Nashville, the capital of Tennessee. But Buckner, with his
division, was sent from Bowling Green to help defend Donelson against
the threatened attack by Grant, and he arrived there six days after the
fall of Henry. On the way were the troops of Floyd, defeated in West
Virginia, but afterwards sent westward. Floyd was at the head of them.
Forrest, the great cavalry leader, was also there with his horsemen. The
fort was crowded with defenders, but the slack Pillow did not yet send
forward anybody to see what Grant was doing, although he was only twenty
miles away.

All eyes were now turned upon the west. The center of action had
suddenly shifted from Kentucky to Tennessee. The telegraph was young
yet, but it was busy. It carried many varying reports to the cities
North and South. The name of this new man, Grant, spelled trouble.
People were beginning to talk much about him, and already some suspected
that there was more in the back of his head than in those of far better
known and far more pretentious northern generals in the east. None at
least could dispute the fact that he was now the one whom everybody was
watching.

But the Southern people, few of whom knew the disparity of numbers,
had the fullest confidence in the brilliant Johnston. He was more than
twenty years older than his antagonist, but his years had brought only
experience and many triumphs, not weakness of either mind or body. At
his right hand was the swarthy and confident Beauregard, great with
the prestige of Bull Run, and Hardee, Bragg, Breckinridge and Polk. And
there were many brilliant colonels, too, foremost among whom was George
Kenton.

A tremor passed through the North when it was learned that Grant
intended to plunge into the winter forest, cross the Cumberland, and
lay siege to Donelson. He was going beyond the plans of his superior,
Halleck, at St. Louis. He was too daring, he would lose his army, away
down there in the Confederacy. But others remembered his successes,
particularly at Belmont and Fort Henry. They said that nothing could be
won in war without risk, and they spoke of his daring and decision. They
recalled, too, that he was master upon the waters, that there was no
Southern fleet to face his, as it sailed up the Southern rivers. The
telegraph was already announcing that the gunboats, which had been
handled with such skill and courage, would be in the Cumberland ready to
co-operate with Grant when he should move on Donelson.

Buell was moving also to form another link in the steel chain that was
intended to bind the Confederacy in the west. Here again the mastery of
the rivers was of supreme value to the North. Buell embarked his army on
boats on Green River in the very heart of Kentucky, descended that river
to the Ohio, passing down the latter to Smithland, where the Cumberland,
coming up from the south, entered it, and met another convoy destined
for the huge invasion.

But the first convoy had come, also by boat, from another direction,
and from points far distant. There were fresh regiments of farmers and
pioneers from Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota. They were all eager, full
of enthusiasm, anxious to be led against the enemy, and confident of
triumph.

Grant and his army, meanwhile, lying in the bleak forest beside the
Tennessee, knew little of what was being said of them in the great world
without. All their thoughts were of Donelson, across there on the other
river, and the men asked to be led against it. Inured to the hardships
of border life, there was little sickness among them, despite the winter
and the overflow of the flooded streams. They gathered the dead wood
that littered the forest, built numerous fires, and waited as patiently
as they could for the word to march.

The Pennsylvanians were still camped with the Kentucky regiment to which
Dick now belonged, and the fifth evening after the capture of Henry he
and his friends sat by one of the big fires.

“We’ll advance either tomorrow or the next day,” said Warner. “The
chances are at least ninety per cent in favor of my statement. What do
you say, sergeant?”

“I’d raise the ninety per cent to one hundred,” replied Whitley. “We are
all ready an’ as you’ve observed, gentlemen, General Grant is a man who
acts.”

“The Johnnies evidently expect us,” said Pennington. “Our scouts have
seen their cavalry in the woods watching us, but only in the last day or
two. It’s strange that they didn’t begin it earlier.”

“They say that General Pillow, who commands them, isn’t of much force,”
 said Dick.

“Well, it looks like it,” said Warner, “but from what we hear he’ll have
quite an army at Donelson. General Grant will have his work cut out for
him. The Johnnies, besides having their fort, can go into battle with
just about as many men as we have, unless he waits for reinforcements,
which I am quite certain he isn’t going to do.”

That evening several bags of mail were brought to the camp on a small
steamer, which had come on three rivers, the Green, the Ohio, and the
Tennessee, and Dick, to his great surprise and delight, received a
letter from his mother. He had written several letters himself, but he
had no way of knowing until now that any of them had reached her. Only
one had succeeded in getting through, and that had been written from
Cairo.

“My dearest son,” she wrote, “I am full of joy to know that you
have reached Cairo in safety and in health, though I dread the great
expedition upon which you say you are going. I hear in Pendleton many
reports about General Grant. They say that he does not spare his men.
The Southern sympathizers here say that he is pitiless and cares not how
many thousands of his own soldiers he may sacrifice, if he only gains
his aim. But of that I know not. I know it is a characteristic of our
poor human nature to absolve one’s own side and to accuse those on the
other side.

“I was in Pendleton this morning, and the reports are thick; thick from
both Northerners and Southerners, that the armies are moving forward
to a great battle. They have all marched south of us, and I do not know
either whether these reports are true or false, though I fear that they
are true. Your uncle, Colonel Kenton, is with General Johnston, and I
hear is one of his most trusted officers. Colonel Kenton is a good man,
and it would be one of the terrible tragedies of war if you and he were
to meet on the field in this great battle, which so many hear is coming.

“I am very glad that you are now in the regiment of Colonel Winchester,
and that you are an aide on his staff. It is best to be with one’s own
people. I have known Colonel Winchester a long time, and he has all the
qualities that make a man, brave and gentle. I hope that you and he will
become the best of friends.”

There was much more in the letter, but it was only the little details
that concern mother and son. Dick was sitting by the fire when he read
it. Then he read it a second time and a third time, folded it very
carefully and put it in the pocket in which he had carried the dispatch
from General Thomas.

Colonel Winchester was sitting near him, and Dick noticed again what
a fine, trim man he was. Although a little over forty, his figure was
still slender, and he had an abundant head of thick, vital hair. His
whole effect was that of youth. His glance met Dick’s and he smiled.

“A letter from home?” he said.

“Yes, sir, from mother. She writes to me that she is glad I am in your
command. She speaks very highly of you, sir, and my mother is a woman of
uncommon penetration.”

A faint red tinted the tanned cheeks of the colonel. Dick thought it was
merely the reflection of the fire.

“Would you care for me to read what she says about you?” asked Dick.

“If you don’t mind.”

Dick drew out the letter again and read the paragraph.

“Your mother is a very fine woman,” said Colonel Winchester.

“You’re right, sir,” said Dick with enthusiasm.

Colonel Winchester said no more, but rose presently and went to the tent
of General Grant, where a conference of officers was to be held. Dick
remained by the fire, where Warner and Pennington soon joined him.

“Our scouts have exchanged some shots with the enemy,” said Pennington,
“and they have taken one or two prisoners, bold fellows who say they’re
going to lick the spots off us. They say they have a big army at
Donelson, and they’re afraid of nothing except that Grant won’t come on.
Between ourselves, the Johnny Rebs are getting ready for us.”

It was Dick’s opinion, too, that the Southern troops were making great
preparations to meet them, but, like the others, he was feeling
the strong hand on the reins. He did not notice here the doubt and
uncertainty that had reigned at Washington before the advance on
Bull Run; in Grant’s army were order and precision, and with perfect
confidence in his commander he rolled himself in his blankets that night
and went to sleep.

The order to advance did not come the next morning, and Dick, for a few
moments, thought it might not come at all. The reports from Donelson
were of a formidable nature, and Grant’s own army was not provided for a
winter campaign. It had few wagons for food and ammunition, and some of
the regiments from the northwest, cherishing the delusion that winter
in Tennessee was not cold, were not provided with warm clothing and
sufficient blankets.

But Warner abated his confidence not one jot.

“The chance of our moving against Donelson is one hundred per cent,” he
said. “I passed the General today and his lips were shut tight together,
which means a resolve to do at all costs what one has intended to do. I
still admit that the prophets and the sons of prophets live no more, but
I predict with absolute certainty that we will move in the morning.”

The Vermonter’s faith was justified. The army, being put in thorough
trim, started at dawn upon its momentous march. Wintry fogs were rising
from the great river and the submerged lowlands, and the air was full of
raw, penetrating chill. An abundant breakfast was served to everybody,
and then with warmth and courage the lads of the west and northwest
marched forward with eagerness to an undertaking which they knew would
be far greater than the capture of Fort Henry.

Dick and Pennington, as staff officers, were mounted, although the
horses that had been furnished to them were not much more than ponies.
Warner rode with Colonel Newcomb and Major Hertford, who led the slender
Pennsylvania detachment beside the Kentucky regiment. Thus the army
emerged from its camp and began the march toward the Cumberland. It was
now about fifteen thousand strong, but it expected reinforcements, and
its fleet held the command of the rivers.

As they entered the leafless forest Dick saw ahead of them, perhaps
a quarter of a mile away, a numerous band of horsemen wearing faded
Confederate gray. They were the cavalry of Forrest, but they were too
few to stay the Union advances. There was a scattered firing of rifles,
but the heavy brigades of Grant moved steadily on, and pushed them out
of the way. Forrest could do no more than gallop back to the fort with
his men and report that the enemy was coming at last.

“Those fellows ride well,” said Pennington, as the last of Forrest’s
cavalrymen passed out of sight, “and if we were not in such strong force
I fancy they would sting us pretty hard.”

“We’ll see more of ‘em,” said Dick. “This is the enemy’s country, and we
needn’t think that we’re going to march as easy as you please from one
victory to another.”

“Maybe not,” said Pennington, “but I’ll be glad when we get Donelson.
I’ve been hearing so much about that place that I’m growing real
curious.”

Their march across the woods suffered no further interruption. Sometimes
they saw Confederate cavalrymen at a distance in front, but they did not
try to impede Grant’s advance. When the sun was well down in the west,
the vanguard of the army came within sight of the fortress that stood
by the Cumberland. At that very moment the troops under Floyd, just
arrived, were crossing the river to join the garrison in the fortress.

Dick looked upon extensive fortifications, a large fort, a redoubt upon
slightly higher ground, other batteries at the water’s edge, powerful
batteries upon a semi-circular hill which could command the river for a
long distance, and around all of these extensive works, several miles
in length, including a deep creek on the north. Inside the works was the
little town of Dover, and they were defended by fifteen thousand men, as
many as Grant had without.

When Dick beheld this formidable position bristling with cannon, rifles
and bayonets, his heart sank within him. How could one army defeat
another, as numerous as itself, inside powerful intrenchments, and in
its own country? Nor could they prevent Southern reinforcements from
reaching the other side of the river and crossing to the fort under the
shelter of its numerous great guns. He was yet to learn the truth, or
at least the partial truth, of Napoleon’s famous saying, that in war an
army is nothing, a man is everything. The army to which he belonged
was led by a man of clear vision and undaunted resolution. The chief
commander inside the fort had neither, and his men were shaken already
by the news of Fort Henry, exaggerated in the telling.

But after the first sinking of the heart Dick felt an extraordinary
thrill. Sensitive and imaginative, he was conscious even at the moment
that he looked in the face of mighty events. The things of the minute
did not always appeal to him with the greatest force. He had, instead,
the foreseeing mind, and the meaning of that vast panorama of fortress,
hills, river and forest did not escape him.

“Well, Dick, what do you think of it?” asked Pennington.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us, and if I didn’t know General Grant
I’d say that we’re engaged in a mighty rash undertaking.”

“Just what I’d say, also. And we need that fleet bad, too, Dick. I’d
like to see the smoke of its funnels as the boats come steaming up the
Cumberland.”

Dick knew that the fleet was needed, not alone for encouragement and
fighting help, but to supply an even greater want. Grant’s army was
short of both food and ammunition. The afternoon had turned warm, and
many of the northwestern lads, still clinging to their illusions about
the climate of the lower Mississippi Valley, had dropped their blankets.
Now, with the setting sun, the raw, penetrating chill was coming back,
and they shivered in every bone.

But the Union army, in spite of everything, gradually spread out and
enfolded the whole fortress, save on the northern side where Hickman
Creek flowed, deep and impassable. The general’s own headquarters were
due west of Fort Donelson, and Colonel Winchester’s Kentucky regiment
was stationed close by.

Low campfires burned along the long line of the Northern army, and Dick
and others who sat beside him saw many lights inside the great enclosure
held by the South. An occasional report was heard, but it was only
the pickets exchanging shots at long range and without hurt. Dick and
Pennington wrapped their blankets about them and sat with their backs
against a log, ready for any command from Colonel Winchester. Now and
then they were sent with orders, because there was much moving to and
fro, the placing of men in position and the bringing up of cannon.

Thus the night moved slowly on, raw, cold and dark. Mists and fogs rose
from the Cumberland as they had risen from the Tennessee. This, too, was
a great river. Dick was glad when the last of his errands was done, and
he could come back to the fire, and rest his back once more against
the log. The fire was only a bed of coals now, but they gave out much
grateful heat.

Dick could see General Grant’s tent from where he sat. Officers of high
rank were still entering it or leaving it, and he was quite sure that
they were planning an attack on the morrow.

But the idea of an assault did not greatly move him now. He was too
tired and sleepy to have more than a vague impression of anything. He
saw the coals glowing before him, and then he did not see them. He had
gone sound asleep in an instant.

The next morning was gray and troubled, with heavy clouds, rolling
across the sky. The rising sun was blurred by them, and as the men ate
their breakfasts some of the great guns from the fort began to fire at
the presumptuous besieger. The heavy reports rolled sullenly over
the desolate forests, but the Northern cannon did not yet reply. The
Southern fire was doing no damage. It was merely a threat, a menace to
those who should dare the assault.

Colonel Winchester signalled to Dick and Pennington, and mounting their
horses they rode with him to the crest of the highest adjacent hill.
Presently General Grant came and with him were the generals, McClernand
and Smith. Colonel Newcomb also arrived, attended by Warner. The high
officers examined the fort a long time through their glasses, but Dick
noticed that at times they watched the river. He knew they were looking
there for the black plumes of smoke which should mark the coming of the
steamers out of the Ohio.

But nothing showed on the surface of the Cumberland. The river, dark
gray under lowering clouds, flowed placidly on, washing the base of Fort
Donelson. At intervals of a minute or two there was a flash of fire
from the fort, and the menacing boom of the cannon rolled through the
desolate forest. Now and then, a gun from one of the Northern batteries
replied. But it was as yet a desultory battle, with much noise and
little danger, merely a threat of what was to come.

After a while Colonel Winchester wrote something on a slip of paper:

“Take this to our lieutenant-colonel,” he said. “It is an order for the
regiment to hold itself in complete readiness, although no action may
come for some time. Then return here at once.”

Dick rode back swiftly, but on his way he suddenly bent over his saddle
bow. A shell from the fort screamed over his head in such a menacing
fashion that it seemed to be only a few inches from him. But it passed
on, leaving him unharmed, and burst three hundred yards away.

Dick instantly straightened up in the saddle, looked around, breathed a
sigh of relief when he saw that no one had noticed his sudden bow, and
galloped on with the order. The lieutenant-colonel read it and nodded.
Then Dick rode back to the hill where the generals were yet watching in
vain for those black plumes of smoke on the Cumberland.

They left the hill at last and the generals went to their brigades.
General Grant was smoking a cigar and his face was impassive.

“We’re to open soon with the artillery,” said Colonel Winchester to
Dick. “General Grant means to push things.”

The desultory firing, those warning guns, ceased entirely, and for a
while both armies stood in almost complete silence. Then a Northern
battery on the right opened with a tremendous crash and the battle for
Donelson had begun. A Southern battery replied at once and the firing
spread along the whole vast curve. Shells and solid shot whistled
through the air, but the troops back of the guns crouched in hasty
entrenchments, and waited.

The great artillery combat went on for some time. To many of the lads
on either side it seemed for hours. Then the guns on the Northern side
ceased suddenly, bugles sounded, and the regiments, drawn up in line,
rushed at the outer fortifications.

Colonel Winchester and his staff had dismounted, but Dick and
Pennington, keeping by the colonel’s side, drew their swords and rushed
on shouting. The Southerners inside the fort fired their cannon as fast
as they could now, and at closer range opened with the rifles. Dick
heard once again that terrible shrieking of metal so close to his ears,
and then he heard, too, cries of pain. Many of the young soldiers behind
him were falling.

The fire now grew so hot and deadly that the Union regiments were forced
to give ground. It was evident that they could not carry the formidable
earthworks, but on the right, where Dick’s regiment charged, and just
above the little town of Dover, they pressed in far enough to secure
some hills that protected them from the fire of the enemy, and from
which Southern cannon and rifles could not drive them. Then, at the
order of Grant, his troops withdrew elsewhere and the battle of the
day ceased. But on the low hills above Dover, which they had taken, the
Union regiments held their ground, and from their position the Northern
cannon could threaten the interior of the Southern lines.

Dick’s regiment stood here, and beside them were the few companies
of Pennsylvanians so far from their native state. Neither Dick nor
Pennington was wounded. Warner had a bandaged arm, but the wound was so
slight that it would not incapacitate him. The officers were unhurt.

“They’ve driven our army back,” said Pennington, “and it was not so hard
for them to do it either. How can we ever defeat an army as large as our
own inside powerful works?”

But Dick was learning fast and he had a keen eye.

“We have not failed utterly,” he said. “Don’t you see that we have here
a projection into the enemy’s lines, and if those reinforcements come it
will be thrust further and further? I tell you that general of ours is a
bull dog. He will never let go.”

Yet there was little but gloom in the Union camp. The short winter day,
somber and heavy with clouds, was drawing to a close. The field upon
which the assault had taken place was within the sweep of the Southern
guns. Some of the Northern wounded had crawled away or had been carried
to their own camp, but others and the numerous dead still lay upon the
ground.

The cold increased. The Southern winter is subject to violent changes.
The clouds which had floated up without ceasing were massing heavily.
Now the young troops regretted bitterly the blankets that they had
dropped on the way or left at Fort Henry. Detachments were sent back to
regain as many as possible, but long before they could return a sharp
wind with an edge of ice sprang up, the clouds opened and great flakes
poured down, driven into the eyes of the soldiers by the wind.

The situation was enough to cause the stoutest heart to weaken, but the
unflinching Grant held on. The Confederate army within the works was
sheltered at least in part, but his own, outside, and with the desolate
forest rimming it around, lay exposed fully to the storm. Dick, at
intervals, saw the short, thickset figure of the commander passing among
the men, and giving them orders or encouragement. Once he saw his
face clearly. The lips were pressed tightly together, and the whole
countenance expressed the grimmest determination. Dick was confirmed
anew in his belief that the chief would never turn back.

The spectacle, nevertheless, was appalling. The snow drove harder and
harder. It was not merely a passing shower of flakes. It was a storm.
The snow soon lay upon the ground an inch deep, then three inches,
then four and still it gained. Through the darkness and the storm the
Southern cannon crashed at intervals, sending shells at random into
the Union camp or over it. There was full need then for the indomitable
spirit of Grant and those around him to encourage anew the thousands of
boys who had so lately left the farms or the lumber yards.

Dick and his comrades, careless of the risk, searched over the
battlefield for the wounded who were yet there. They carried lanterns,
but the darkness was so great and the snow drove so hard and lay so deep
that they knew many would never be found.

Back beyond the range of the fort’s cannon men were building fires with
what wood they could secure from the forest. All the tents they had were
set up, and the men tried to cook food and make coffee, in order that
some degree of warmth and cheer might be provided for the army beset so
sorely.

The snow, after a while, slackening somewhat, was succeeded by cold much
greater than ever. The shivering men bent over the fires and lamented
anew the discarded blankets. Dick did not sleep an instant that terrible
night. He could not. He, Pennington, and Warner, relieved from staff
service, worked all through the cold and darkness, helping the wounded
and seeking wood for the fires. And with them always was the wise
Sergeant Whitley, to whom, although inferior in rank, they turned often
and willingly for guidance and advice.

“It’s an awful situation,” said Pennington; “I knew that war would
furnish horrors, but I didn’t expect anything like this.”

“But General Grant will never retreat,” said Dick. “I feel it in every
bone of me. I’ve seen his face tonight.”

“No, he won’t,” said the experienced sergeant, “because he’s making
every preparation to stay. An’ remember, Mr. Pennington, that while this
is pretty bad, worse can happen. Remember, too, that while we can stand
this, we can also stand whatever worse may come. It’s goin’ to be a
fight to a finish.”

Far in the night the occasional guns from the Southern fortress ceased.
The snow was falling no longer, but it lay very deep on the ground, and
the cold was at its height. Along a line of miles the fires burned and
the men crowded about them. But Dick, who had been working on the snowy
plain that was the battlefield, and who had heard many moans there, now
heard none. All who lay in that space were sleeping the common sleep of
death, their bodies frozen stiff and hard under the snow.

Dick, sitting by one of the fires, saw the cold dawn come, and in those
chill hours of nervous exhaustion he lost hope for a moment or two.
How could anybody, no matter how resolute, maintain a siege without
ammunition and without food. But he spoke cheerfully to Pennington and
Warner, who had slept a little and who were just awakening.

The pale and wintry sun showed the defiant Stars and Bars floating
over Donelson, and Dick from his hill could see men moving inside the
earthworks. Certainly the Southern flags had a right to wave defiance at
the besieging army, which was now slowly and painfully rising from the
snow, and lighting the fires anew.

“Well, what’s the program today, Dick?” asked Pennington.

“I don’t know, but it’s quite certain that we won’t attempt another
assault. It’s hopeless.”

“That’s true,” said Warner, who was standing by, “but we--hark, what was
that?”

The boom of a cannon echoed over the fort and forest, and then another
and another. To the northward they saw thin black spires of smoke under
the horizon.

“It’s the fleet! It’s the fleet!” cried Warner joyously, “coming up the
Cumberland to our help! Oh, you men of Donelson, we’re around you now,
and you’ll never shake us off!”

Again came the crash of great guns from the fleet, and the crash of the
Southern water batteries replying.



CHAPTER XI. THE SOUTHERN ATTACK


The excitement in the Union army was intense and joyous. The cheers
rolled like volleys among these farmer lads of the West. Dick, Warner
and Pennington stood up and shouted with the rest.

“I should judge that our chances of success have increased at least
fifty, yes sixty, per cent,” said Warner. “As we have remarked before,
this control of the water is a mighty thing. We fight the Johnnie Rebs
for the land, but we have the water already. Look at those gunboats,
will you? Aren’t they the sauciest little things you ever saw?”

Once more the navy was showing, as it has always shown throughout
its career, its daring and brilliant qualities. Foote, the commodore,
although he had had no time to repair his four small fighting boats
after the encounter with Fort Henry, steamed straight up the river
and engaged the concentric fire from the great guns of the Southern
batteries, which opened upon him with a tremendous crash. The boys
watched the duel with amazement. They did not believe that small vessels
could live under such fire, but live they did. Great columns of smoke
floated over them and hid them at times from the watchers, but when the
smoke lifted a little or was split apart by the shattering fire of the
guns the black hulls of the gunboats always reappeared, and now they
were not more than three or four hundred yards from Donelson.

“I take it that this is a coverin’ fire,” said Sergeant Whitley,
who stood by. “Four little vessels could not expect to reduce such a
powerful fortress as Donelson. It’s not Fort Henry that they’re fightin’
now.”

“The chances are at least ninety-five per cent in favor of your
supposition,” said Warner.

The sergeant’s theory, in fact, was absolutely correct. Further down
the river the transports were unloading regiment after regiment of
fresh troops, and vast supplies of ammunition and provisions. Soon five
thousand men were formed in line and marched to Grant’s relief, while
long lines of wagons brought up the stores so badly needed. Now the
stern and silent general was able to make the investment complete, but
the fiery little fleet did not cease to push the attack.

There was a time when it seemed that the gunboats would be able to pass
the fortress and rake it from a point up the river. Many of the guns in
the water batteries had been silenced, but the final achievement was too
great for so small a force. The rudder of one of Foote’s gunboats was
shot away, the wheel of another soon went the same way, and both drifted
helplessly down the stream. The other two then retreated, and the fire
of both fort and fleet ceased.

But there was joy in the Union camp. The soldiers had an abundance
of food now, and soon the long ring of fires showed that they were
preparing it. Their forces had been increased a third, and there was a
fresh outburst of courage and vigor. But Grant ordered no more attacks
at present. After the men had eaten and rested a little, picks and
spades were swung along a line miles in length. He was fortifying his
own position, and it was evident to his men that he meant to stay there
until he won or was destroyed.

Dick was conscious once more of a sanguine thrill. Like the others, he
felt the strong hand over him, and the certainty that they were led with
judgment and decision made him believe that all things were possible.
Yet the work of fortifying continued but a little while. The men were
exhausted by cold and fatigue, and were compelled to lay down their
tools. The fires were built anew, and they hovered about them for
shelter and rest.

The wan twilight showed the close of the wintry day, and with the
increasing chill a part of Dick’s sanguine feeling departed. The gallant
little fleet, although it had brought fresh men and supplies and had
protected their landing, had been driven back. The investment of the
fort was complete only on one side of the river, and steamers coming up
the Cumberland from Nashville might yet take off the garrison in safety.
Then the work of the silent general, all their hardship and fighting
would be at least in part a failure. The Vermont youth, who seemed to be
always of the same temper, neither very high nor very low, noticed his
change of expression.

“Don’t let your hopes decrease, Dick,” he said. “Remember that at least
twenty per cent of the decline is due to the darkness and inaction.
In the morning, when the light comes once more, and we’re up and doing
again, you’ll get back all the twenty per cent you’re losing now.”

“It’s not to be all inaction with you boys tonight, even,” said Colonel
Winchester, who overheard his closing words. “I want you three to go
with me on a tour of inspection or rather scouting duty. It may please
you to know that it is the special wish of General Grant. Aware that I
had some knowledge of the country, he has detailed me for the duty, and
I choose you as my assistants. I’m sure that the skill and danger such a
task requires will make you all the more eager for it.”

The three youths responded quickly and with zeal, and Sergeant Whitley,
when he was chosen, too, nodded in silent gratitude. The night was dark,
overcast with clouds, and in an hour Colonel Winchester with his four
departed upon his perilous mission. He was to secure information in
regard to the Southern army, and to do that they were to go very near
the Southern lines, if not actually inside them. Such an attempt would
be hazardous in the extreme in the face of a vigilant watch; but on the
other hand they would be aided by the fact that both North and South
were of like blood and language. Even more, many of those in the
opposing camps came from the same localities, and often were of kin.

Dick’s regiment had been stationed at the southern end of the line, near
the little town of Dover, but they now advanced northward and westward,
marching for a long time along their inner line. It was Colonel
Winchester’s intention to reach Hickman Creek, which formed their
northern barrier, creep in the fringe of bushes on its banks, and then
approach the fort.

When they reached the desired point the night was well advanced, and
yet dark with the somber clouds hanging over river and fort and field
of battle. The wind blew out of the northwest, sharp and intensely cold.
The snow crunched under their feet. But the four had wrapped themselves
in heavy overcoats, and they were so engrossed in their mission that
neither wind nor snow was anything to them.

They passed along the bank of the creek, keeping well within the shadow
of the bushes, leaving behind them the last outpost of the Union army,
and then slowly drew near to the fort. They saw before them many lights
burning in the darkness, and at last they discerned dim figures walking
back and forth. Dick knew that these were the Southern sentinels. The
four went a little nearer, and then crouched down in the snow among some
low bushes.

Now they saw the Southern sentinels more distinctly. Some, in fact, were
silhouetted sharply as they passed before the Southern fires. Northern
sharpshooters could have crept up and picked off many of them, as the
Southern sharpshooters in turn might have served many of the Northern
watchers, but in this mighty war there was little of such useless and
merciless enterprise. The men soon ceased to have personal animosity,
and, in the nights between the great battles, when the armies yet
lay face to face, the hostile pickets would often exchange gossip and
tobacco. Even in a conflict waged so long and with such desperation the
essential kindliness of human nature would assert itself.

The four, as they skirted the Southern line, noticed no signs of further
preparations by the Confederates. No men were throwing up earthworks or
digging trenches. As well as they could surmise, the garrison, like the
besieging army, was seeking shelter and rest, and from this fact the
keen mind of Colonel Arthur Winchester divined that the defense was
confused and headless.

Colonel Winchester knew most of the leaders within Donelson. He knew
that Pillow was not of a strong and decided nature. Nor was Floyd, who
would rank first, of great military capacity. Buckner had talent and he
had served gallantly in the Mexican War, but he could not prevail over
the others. The fame of Forrest, the Tennessee mountaineer, was already
spreading, but a cavalryman could do little for the defense of a fort
besieged by twenty thousand well equipped men, led by a general of
unexcelled resolution.

All that Colonel Winchester surmised was true. Inside the fort confusion
and doubt reigned. The fleeing garrison from Fort Henry had brought
exaggerated reports of Grant’s army. Very few of the thousands of young
troops had ever been in battle before. They, too, suffered though in
a less degree from cold and fatigue, but many were wounded. Pillow and
Floyd, who had just arrived with his troops, talked of one thing and
then another. Floyd, who might have sent word to his valiant and able
chief, Johnston, did not take the trouble or forgot to inform him of his
position. Buckner wanted to attack Grant the next morning with the full
Southern strength, and a comrade of his on old battlefields, Colonel
George Kenton, seconded him ably. The black-bearded Forrest strode back
and forth, striking the tops of his riding boots with a small riding
whip, and saying ungrammatically, but tersely and emphatically:

“We mustn’t stay here like hogs in a pen. We must git at ‘em with all
our men afore they can git at us.”

The illiterate mountaineer and stock driver had evolved exactly the same
principle of war that Napoleon used.

But Colonel Winchester and his comrades could only guess at what was
going on in Donelson, and a guess always remains to be proved. So they
must continue their perilous quest. Once they were hailed by a Southern
sentinel, but Colonel Winchester replied promptly that they belonged to
Buckner’s Kentuckians and had been sent out to examine the Union camp.
He passed it off with such boldness and decision that they were gone
before the picket had time to express a doubt.

But as they came toward the center of the line, and drew nearer to the
fort itself, they met another picket, who was either more watchful or
more acute. He hailed them at a range of forty or fifty yards, and when
Colonel Winchester made the same reply he ordered them to halt and give
the countersign. When no answer came he fired instantly at the tall
figure of Colonel Winchester and uttered a loud cry of, “Yankees!”

Luckily the dim light was tricky and his bullet merely clipped the
colonel’s hair. But there was nothing for the four to do now save to run
with all their undignified might for their own camp.

“Come on, lads!” shouted Colonel Winchester. “Our scouting is over for
the time!”

The region behind them contained patches of scrub oaks and bushes, and
with their aid and that of the darkness, it was not difficult to escape;
but Dick, while running just behind the others, stepped in a hole and
fell. The snow and the dead leaves hid the sound of his fall and
the others did not notice it. As he looked up he saw their dim forms
disappearing among the bushes. He rose to his own feet, but uttered
a little cry as a ligament in his ankle sent a warning throb of pain
through his body.

It was not a wrench, only a bruise, and as he stretched his ankle a few
times the soreness went away. But the last sound made by the retreating
footsteps of his comrades had died, and their place had been taken by
those of his pursuers, who were now drawing very near.

Dick had no intention of being captured, and, turning off at a right
angle, he dropped into a gully which he encountered among some bushes.
The gully was about four feet deep and half full of snow. Dick threw
himself full length on his side, and sank down in the snow until he was
nearly covered. There he lay panting hard for a few moments, but quite
sure that he was safe from discovery. Only a long and most minute
search would be likely to reveal the dark line in the snow beneath the
overhanging bushes.

Dick’s heart presently resumed its normal beat, and then he heard the
sound of voices and footsteps. Some one said:

“They went this way, sir, but they were running pretty fast.”

“They’d good cause to run,” said a brusque voice. “You’d a done it, too,
if you’d expected to have the bullets of a whole army barkin’ at your
heels.”

The footsteps came nearer, crunching on the snow, which lay deep there
among the bushes. They could not be more than a dozen feet away, but
Dick quivered only a little. Buried as he was and with the hanging
bushes over him he was still confident that no one could see him. He
raised himself the least bit, and looking through the boughs, saw a
tanned and dark face under the broad brim of a Confederate hat. Just
then some one said:

“We might have trailed ‘em, general, but the snow an’ the earth have
already been tramped all up by the army.”

“They’re not wuth huntin’ long anyway,” said the same brusque voice. “A
few Yankees prowlin’ about in the night can’t do us much harm. It’s hard
fightin’ that’ll settle our quarrel.”

General Forrest came a little closer and Dick, from his concealment
in the snow, surmising his identity, saw him clearly, although himself
unseen. He was fascinated by the stern, dark countenance. The face of
the unlettered mountaineer was cut sharp and clear, and he had the look
of one who knew and commanded. In war he was a natural leader of men,
and he had already assumed the position.

“Don’t you agree with me, colonel?” he said over his shoulder to some
one.

“I think you’re right as usual, General Forrest,” replied a voice with
a cultivated intonation, and Dick started violently in his bed of snow,
because he instantly recognized the voice as that of his uncle, Colonel
George Kenton, Harry’s father. A moment later Colonel Kenton himself
stood where the moonlight fell upon his face. Dick saw that he was worn
and thin, but his face had the strong and resolute look characteristic
of those descended from Henry Ware, the great borderer.

“You know, general, that I endorse all your views,” continued Colonel
Kenton. “We are unfortunate here in having a division of counsels, while
the Yankees have a single and strong head. We have underrated this man
Grant. Look how he surprised us and took Henry! Look how he hangs on
here! We’ve beaten him on land and we’ve driven back his fleet, but
he hangs on. To my mind he has no notion of retreating. He’ll keep on
pounding us as long as we are here.”

“That’s his way, an’ it ought to be the way of every general,” growled
Forrest. “You cut down a tree by keepin’ on cuttin’ out chips with an
axe, an’ you smash up an army by hittin’ an’ hittin’ an’ keepin’ on
hittin’. We ought to charge right out of our works an’ jump on the
Yankees with all our stren’th.”

The two walked on, followed by the soldiers who had come with them, and
Dick heard no more. But he was too cautious to stir for a long while.
He lay there until the cold began to make its way through his boots and
heavy overcoat. Then he rose carefully, brushed off the snow, and began
his retreat toward the Union lines. Four or five hundred yards further
on and he met Colonel Winchester and his own comrades come back to
search for him. They welcomed him joyfully.

“We did not miss you until we were nearly to our own pickets,” said the
colonel. “Then we concluded that you had fallen and had been taken
by the enemy, but we intended to see if we could find you. We’ve been
hovering about here for some time.”

Dick told what he had seen and heard, and the colonel considered it of
much importance.

“I judge from what you heard that they will attack us,” he said.
“Buckner and Forrest will be strongly for it, and they’re likely to have
their way. We must report at once to General Grant.”

The Southern attack had been planned for the next morning, but it did
not come then. Pillow, for reasons unknown, decided to delay another
day, and his fiery subordinates could do nothing but chafe and wait.
Dick spent most of the day carrying orders for his chief, and the
continuous action steadied his nerves.

As he passed from point to point he saw that the Union army itself
was far from ready. It was a difficult task to get twenty thousand
raw farmer youths in proper position. They moved about often without
cohesion and sometimes without understanding their orders. Great
gaps remained in the line, and a daring and skilful foe might cut the
besieging force asunder.

But Grant had put his heavy guns in place, and throughout the day he
maintained a slow but steady fire upon the fort. Great shells and solid
shot curved and fell upon Donelson. Grant did not know what damage they
were doing, but he shrewdly calculated that they would unsteady the
nerves of the raw troops within. These farmer boys, as they heard the
unceasing menace of the big guns, would double the numbers of their foe,
and attribute to him an unrelaxing energy.

Thus another gray day of winter wore away, and the two forces drew a
little nearer to each other. Far away the rival Presidents at Washington
and Richmond were wondering what was happening to their armies in the
dark wilderness of Western Tennessee.

The night was more quiet than the one that had just gone before. The
booming of the cannon as regular as the tolling of funeral bells had
ceased with the darkness, but in its place the fierce winter wind had
begun to blow again. Dick, relaxed and weary after his day’s work,
hovered over one of the fires and was grateful for the warmth. He
had trodden miles through slush and snow and frozen earth, and he was
plastered to the waist with frozen mud, which now began to soften and
fall off before the coals.

Warner, who had been on active duty, too, also sank to rest with a sigh
of relief.

“It’s battle tomorrow, Dick,” he said, “and I don’t care. As it didn’t
come off today the chances are at least eighty per cent that it will
happen the next day. You say that when you were lying in the snow last
night, Dick, you saw your uncle and that he’s a colonel in the rebel
army. It’s queer.”

“You’re wrong, George, it isn’t queer. We’re on opposite sides, serving
at the same place, and it’s natural that we should meet some time or
other. Oh, I tell you, you fellows from the New England and the other
Northern States don’t appreciate the sacrifices that we of the border
states make for the Union. Up there you are safe from invasion. Your
houses are not on the battlefields. You are all on one side. You don’t
have to fight against your own kind, the people you hold most dear.
And when the war is over, whether we win or lose, you’ll go back to
unravaged regions.”

“You wrong me there, Dick. I have thought of it. It’s the people of the
border, whether North or South, who pay the biggest price. We risk our
lives, but you risk your lives also, and everything else, too.”

Dick wrapped himself in a heavy blanket, pillowed his head on a log
before one of the fires and dozed a while. His nerves had been tried too
hard to permit of easy sleep. He awoke now and then and over a wide area
saw the sinking fires and the moving forms of men. He felt that a
sense of uneasiness pervaded the officers. He knew that many of them
considered their forces inadequate for the siege of a fortress defended
by a large army, but he felt with the sincerity of conviction also, that
Grant would never withdraw.

He heard from Colonel Winchester about midnight in one of his wakeful
intervals that General Grant was going down the river to see Commodore
Foote. The brave leader of the fleet had been wounded severely in the
last fight with the fort, and the general wished to confer with him
about the plan of operations. But Dick heard only vaguely. The statement
made no impression upon him at that time. Yet he was conscious that
the feeling of uneasiness still pervaded the officers. He noticed it
in Colonel Winchester’s tone, and he noticed it, too, in the voices of
Colonel Newcomb and Major Hertford, who came presently to confer with
Winchester.

But the boy fell into his doze again, while they were talking. Warner
and Pennington, who had done less arduous duties, were sound asleep near
him, the low flames now and then throwing a red light on their tanned
faces. It seemed to him that it was about half way between midnight and
morning, and the hum and murmur had sunk to a mere minor note. But his
sleepy eyes still saw the dim forms of men passing about, and then he
fell into his uneasy doze again.

When he awoke once more it was misty and dark, but he felt that the dawn
was near. In the east a faint tint of silver showed through the clouds
and vapors. Heavy banks of fog were rising from the Cumberland and the
flooded marshes. The earth began to soften as if unlocking from the hard
frost of the night.

Colonel Winchester stood near him and his position showed that he was
intensely awake. He was bent slightly forward, and every nerve and
muscle was strained as if he were eager to see and hear something which
he knew was there, but which he could not yet either see or hear.

Dick threw off his blanket and sprang to his feet. At the same moment
Colonel Winchester motioned him to awaken Warner and Pennington, which
he did at once in speed and silence. That tint of silver, the lining of
the fogs and vapors, shone more clearly through, and spread across the
East. Dick knew now that the dawn was at hand.

The loud but mellow notes of a trumpet came from a distant point toward
Donelson, and then others to right and left joined and sang the same
mellow song. But it lasted only for a minute. Then it was lost in the
rapid crackle of rifles, which spread like a running fire along a
front of miles. The sun in the east swung clear of the earth, its beams
shooting a way through fogs and vapors. The dawn had come and the attack
had come with it.

The Southerners, ready at last, were rushing from their fort and works,
and, with all the valor and fire that distinguished them upon countless
occasions, they were hurling themselves upon their enemy. The fortress
poured out regiment after regiment. Chafing so long upon the defense
Southern youth was now at its best. Attacking, not attacked, the farmer
lads felt the spirit of battle blaze high in their breasts. The long,
terrible rebel yell, destined to be heard upon so many a desperate
field, fierce upon its lower note, fierce upon its higher note, as
fierce as ever upon its dying note, and coming back in echoes still as
fierce, swelled over forest and fort, marsh and river.

The crackling fire of the pickets ceased. They had been driven back in a
few moments upon the army, but the whole regiment of Colonel Winchester
was now up, rifle in hand, and on either side of it, other regiments
steadied themselves also to receive the living torrent.

The little band of Pennsylvanians were on the left of the Kentuckians
and were practically a part of them. Colonel Newcomb and Major Hertford
stood amid their men, encouraging them to receive the shock. But Dick
had time for only a glance at these old comrades of his. The Southern
wave, crested with fire and steel, was rolling swiftly upon them, and as
the Southern troops rushed on they began to fire as fast as they could
pull the trigger, fire and pull again.

Bullets in sheets struck in the Union ranks. Hundreds of men went down.
Dick heard the thud of lead and steel on flesh, and the sudden cries of
those who were struck. It needs no small courage to hold fast against
more than ten thousand men rushing forward at full speed and bent upon
victory or death.

Dick felt all the pulses in his temples beating hard, and he had a
horrible impulse to break and run, but pride kept him firm. As an
officer, he had a small sword, and snatching it out he waved it, while
at the same time he shouted to the men to meet the charge.

The Union troops returned the fire. Thousands of bullets were sent
against the ranks of the rushing enemy. The gunners sprang to their guns
and the deep roar of the cannon rose above the crash of the small arms.
But the Southern troops, the rebel yell still rolling through the woods,
came on at full speed and struck the Union front.

It seemed to Dick that he was conscious of an actual physical shock.
Tanned faces and gleaming eyes were almost against his own. He looked
into the muzzles of rifles, and he saw the morning sun flashing along
the edges of bayonets. But the regiment, although torn by bullets, did
not give ground. The charge shivered against them, and the Southern
troops fell back. Yet it was only for a moment. They came again to be
driven back as before, and then once more they charged, while their
resolute foe swung forward to meet them rank to rank.

Dick was not conscious of much except that he shouted continuously to
the men to stand firm, and wondered now and then why he had not been
hit. The Union men and their enemy were reeling back and forth, neither
winning, neither losing, while the thunder of battle along a long and
curving front beat heavily on the drums of every ear. The smoke, low
down, was scattered by the cannon and rifles, but above it gathered in a
great cloud that seemed to be shot with fire.

The two colonels, Winchester and Newcomb, were able and valiant men.
Despite their swelling losses they always filled up the ranks and held
fast to the ground upon which they had stood when they were attacked.
But for the present they had no knowledge how the battle was going
elsewhere. The enemy just before them allowed no idle moments.

Yet Grant, as happened later on at Shiloh, was taken by surprise. When
the first roar of the battle broke with the dawn he was away conferring
with the wounded naval commander, Foote. His right, under McClernand,
had been caught napping, and eight thousand Southern troops striking it
with a tremendous impact just as the men snatched up their arms, drove
it back in heavy loss and confusion. Its disaster was increased when a
Southern general, Baldwin, led a strong column down a deep ravine near
the river and suddenly hurled it upon the wavering Union flank.

Whole regiments retreated now, and guns were lost. The Southern
officers, their faces glowing, shouted to each other that the battle
was won. And still the combat raged without the Union commander, Grant,
although he was coming now as fast as he could with the increasing roar
of conflict to draw him on. The battle was lost to the North. But
it might be won back again by a general who would not quit. Only the
bulldog in Grant, the tenacious death grip, could save him now.

Dick and his friends suddenly became conscious that both on their right
and left the thunder of battle was moving back upon the Union camp.
They realized now that they were only the segment of a circle extending
forward practically within the Union lines, and that the combat
was going against them. The word was given to retreat, lest they be
surrounded, and they fell back slowly disputing with desperation every
foot of ground that they gave up. Yet they left many fallen behind. A
fourth of the regiment had been killed or wounded already, and there
were tears in the eyes of Colonel Winchester as he looked over the torn
ranks of his gallant men.

Now the Southerners, meaning to drive victory home, were bringing up
their reserves and pouring fresh troops upon the shattered Union front.
They would have swept everything away, but in the nick of time a fresh
Union brigade arrived also, supported the yielding forces and threw
itself upon the enemy.

But Grant had not yet come. It seemed that in the beginning fortune
played against this man of destiny, throwing all her tricks in favor
of his opponents. The single time that he was away the attack bad been
made, and if he would win back a lost battle there was great need to
hurry.

The Southern troops, exultant and full of fire and spirit, continually
rolled back their adversaries. They wheeled more guns from the fort into
position and opened heavily on the yielding foe. If they were beaten
back at any time they always came on again, a restless wave, crested
with fire and steel.

Dick’s regiment continued to give ground slowly. It had no choice but to
do so or be destroyed. It seemed to him now that he beheld the wreck
of all things. Was this to be Bull Run over again? His throat and eyes
burned from the smoke and powder, and his face was black with grime.
His lips were like fire to the touch of each other. He staggered in the
smoke against some one and saw that it was Warner.

“Have we lost?” he cried. “Have we lost after doing so much?”

The lips of the Vermonter parted in a kind of savage grin.

“I won’t say we’ve lost,” he shouted in reply, “but I can’t see anything
we’ve won.”

Then he lost Warner in the smoke and the regiment retreated yet further.
It was impossible to preserve cohesion or keep a line formed. The
Southerners never ceased to press upon them with overwhelming weight.
Pillow, now decisive in action, continually accumulated new forces
upon the Northern right. Every position that McClernand had held at the
opening of the battle was now taken, and the Confederate general was
planning to surround and destroy the whole Union army. Already he
was sending messengers to the telegraph with news for Johnston of his
complete victory.

But the last straw had not yet been laid upon the camel’s back.
McClernand was beaten, but the hardy men of Kentucky, East Tennessee and
the northwest still offered desperate resistance. Conspicuous among the
defenders was the regiment of young pioneers from Nebraska, hunters,
Indian fighters, boys of twenty or less, who had suffered already every
form of hardship. They stood undaunted amid the showers of bullets and
shells and cried to the others to stand with them.

Yet the condition of the Union army steadily grew worse. Dick himself,
in all the smoke and shouting and confusion, could see it. The regiments
that formed the core of resistance were being pared down continually.
There was a steady dribble of fugitives to the rear, and those who
fought felt themselves going back always, like one who slips on ice.

The sun, far up the heavens, now poured down beams upon the vast cloud
of smoke and vapor in which the two armies fought. The few people left
in Dover, red hot for the South, cheered madly as they saw their enemy
driven further and further away.

Grant, the man of destiny, ill clad and insignificant in appearance, now
came upon the field and saw his beaten army. But the bulldog in him shut
down its teeth and resolved to replace defeat with victory. His greatest
qualities, strength and courage in the face of disaster, were now about
to shine forth. His countenance showed no alarm. He rode among the men
cheering them to renewed efforts. He strengthened the weak places in the
line that his keen eyes saw. He infused a new spirit into the army.
His own iron temper took possession of the troops, and that core of
resistance, desperate when he came, suddenly hardened and enlarged.

Dick felt the change. It was of the mind, but it was like a cool breath
upon the face. It was as if the winds had begun to blow courage. A great
shout rolled along the Northern line.

“Grant has come!” exclaimed Pennington, who was bleeding from a slight
wound in the shoulder, but who was unconscious of it. “And we’ve quit
retreating!”

The Nebraska youth had divined the truth. Just when a complete Southern
victory seemed to be certain the reversal of fortune came. The coolness,
the courage, and the comprehensive eye of Grant restored the battle
for the North. The Southern reserves had not charged with the fire and
spirit expected, and, met with a shattering fire by the Indiana troops,
they fell back. Grant saw the opportunity, and massing every available
regiment, he hurled it upon Pillow and the Southern center.

Dick felt the wild thrill of exultation as they went forward instead of
going back, as they had done for so many hours. Just in front of him was
Colonel Winchester, waving aloft a sword, the blade of which had been
broken in two by a bullet, and calling to his men to come on. Warner and
Pennington, grimed with smoke and mud and stained here and there with
blood, were near also, shouting wildly.

The smoke split asunder for a moment, and Dick saw the long line of
charging troops. It seemed to be a new army now, infused with fresh
spirit and courage, and every pulse in the boy’s body began to beat
heavily with the hope of victory. The smoke closed in again and then
came the shock.

Exhausted by their long efforts which had brought victory so near the
Southern troops gave way. Their whole center was driven in, and they
lost foot by foot the ground that they had gained with so much courage
and blood. Grant saw his success and he pressed more troops upon
his weakening enemy. The batteries were pushed forward and raked the
shattered Southern lines.

Pillow, who had led the attack instead of Floyd, seeing his fortunes
pass so suddenly from the zenith to the nadir, gathered his retreating
army upon a hill in front of their intrenchments, but he was not
permitted to rest there. A fresh Northern brigade, a reserve, had
just arrived upon the field. Joining it to the forces of Lew Wallace,
afterwards famous as a novelist, Grant hurled the entire division upon
Pillow’s weakened and discouraged army.

Winchester’s regiment joined in the attack. Dick felt himself swept
along as if by a torrent. His courage and the courage of those around
him was all the greater now, because hope, sanguine hope, had suddenly
shot up from the very depths of despair. Their ranks had been thinned
terribly, but they forgot it for the time and rushed upon their enemy.

The battle had rolled back and forth for hours. Noon had come and
passed. The troops of Pillow had been fighting without ceasing for
six hours, and they could not withstand the new attack made with such
tremendous spirit and energy. They fought with desperation, but they
were compelled at last to yield the field and retreat within their
works. Their right and left suffered the same fate. The whole
Confederate attack was repulsed. Bull Run was indeed reversed. There the
South snatched victory from defeat and here the North came back with a
like triumph.



CHAPTER XII. GRANT’S GREAT VICTORY


The night, early and wintry, put an end to the conflict, the fiercest
and greatest yet seen in the West. Thousands of dead and wounded lay
upon the field and the hearts of the Southern leaders were full of
bitterness. They had seen the victory, won by courage and daring, taken
from them at the very last moment. The farmer lads whom they led had
fought with splendid courage and tenacity. Defeat was no fault of
theirs. It belonged rather to the generals, among whom had been a want
of understanding and concert, fatal on the field of action. They saw,
too, that they had lost more than the battle. The Union army had not
only regained all its lost positions, but on the right it had carried
the Southern intrenchments, and from that point Grant’s great guns could
dominate Donelson. They foresaw with dismay the effect of these facts
upon their young troops.

When the night fell, and the battle ceased, save for the fitful boom of
cannon along the lines, Dick sank against an earthwork, exhausted. He
panted for breath and was without the power to move. He regarded vaguely
the moving lights that had begun to show in the darkness, and he heard
without comprehension the voices of men and the fitful fire of the
cannon.

“Steady, Dick! Steady!” said a cheerful voice. “Now is the time to
rejoice! We’ve won a victory, and nothing can break General Grant’s
death grip on Donelson!”

Colonel Winchester was speaking, and he put a firm and friendly hand
on the boy’s shoulder. Dick came back to life, and, looking into
his colonel’s face, he grinned. Colonel Winchester could have been
recognized only at close range. His face was black with burned
gunpowder. His colonel’s hat was gone and his brown hair flew in every
direction. He still clenched in his hand the hilt of his sword, of which
a broken blade not more than a foot long was left. His clothing had been
torn by at least a dozen bullets, and one had made a red streak across
the back of his left hand, from which the blood fell slowly, drop by
drop.

“You don’t mind my telling you, colonel, that you’re no beauty,” said
Dick, who felt a sort of hysterical wish to laugh. “You look as if the
whole Southern army had tried to shoot you up, but had merely clipped
you all around the borders.”

“Laugh if it does you good,” replied Colonel Winchester, a little
gravely, “but, young sir, you must give me the same privilege. This
battle, while it has not wounded you, has covered you with its grime.
Come, the fighting is over for this day at least, and the regiment is
going to take a rest--what there is left of it.”

He spoke the last words sadly. He knew the terrible cost at which they
had driven the Southern army back into the fort, and he feared that
the full price was yet far from being paid. But he preserved a cheerful
manner before the brave lads of his who had fought so well.

Dick found that Warner and Pennington both had wounds, although they
were too slight to incapacitate them. Sergeant Whitley, grave and
unhurt, rejoined them also.

The winter night and their heavy losses could not discourage the
Northern troops. They shared the courage and tenacity of their
commander. They began to believe now that Donelson, despite its strength
and its formidable garrison, would be taken. They built the fires high,
and ate heartily. They talked in sanguine tones of what they would do in
the morrow. Excited comment ran among them. They had passed from the pit
of despair in the morning to the apex of hope at night. Exhausted, all
save the pickets fell asleep after a while, dreaming of fresh triumphs
on the morrow.

Had Dick’s eyes been able to penetrate Donelson he would have beheld a
very different scene. Gloom, even more, despair, reigned there. Their
great effort had failed. Bravery had availed nothing. Their frightful
losses had been suffered in vain. The generals blamed one another. Floyd
favored the surrender of the army, but fancying that the Union troops
hated him with special vindictiveness, and that he would not be safe as
a prisoner, decided to escape.

Pillow declared that Grant could yet be beaten, but after a while
changed to the view of Floyd. They yet had two small steamers in the
Cumberland which could carry them up the river. They left the command
to Buckner, the third in rank, and told him he could make the surrender.
The black-bearded Forrest said grimly: “I ain’t goin’ to surrender my
cavalry, not to nobody,” and by devious paths he led them away through
the darkness and to liberty. Colonel George Kenton rode with him.

The rumor that a surrender was impending spread to the soldiers. Not yet
firm in the bonds of discipline confusion ensued, and the high officers
were too busy escaping by the river to restore it. All through the night
the two little steamers worked, but a vast majority of the troops were
left behind.

But Dick could know nothing of this at the time. He was sleeping too
heavily. He had merely taken a moment to snatch a bit of food, and then,
at the suggestion of his commanding officer, he had rolled himself in
his blankets. Sleep came instantly, and it was not interrupted until
Warner’s hand fell upon his shoulder at dawn, and Warner’s voice said in
his ear:

“Wake up, Dick, and look at the white flag fluttering over Donelson.”

Dick sprang to his feet, sleep gone in an instant, and gazed toward
Donelson. Warner had spoken the truth. White flags waved from the walls
and earthworks.

“So they’re going to surrender!” said Dick. “What a triumph!”

“They haven’t surrendered yet,” said Colonel Winchester, who stood near.
“Those white flags merely indicate a desire to talk it over with us, but
such a desire is nearly always a sure indication of yielding, and our
lads take it so. Hark to their cheering.”

The whole Union army was on its feet now, joyously welcoming the sight
of the white flags. They threw fresh fuel on their fires which blazed
along a circling rim of miles, and ate a breakfast sweetened with the
savor of triumph.

“Take this big tin cup of coffee, Dick,” said Warner. “It’ll warm you
through and through, and we’re entitled to a long, brown drink for our
victory. I say victory because the chances are ninety-nine per cent out
of a hundred that it is so. Let x equal our army, let y equal victory,
and consequently x plus y equals our position at the present time.”

“And I never thought that we could do it,” said young Pennington, who
sat with them. “I suppose it all comes of having a general who won’t
give up. I reckon the old saying is true, an’ that Hold Fast is the best
dog of them all.”

Now came a period of waiting. Colonel Winchester disappeared in the
direction of General Grant’s headquarters, but returned after a while
and called his favorite aide, young Richard Mason.

“Dick,” he said, “we have summoned the Southerners to surrender, and
I want you to go with me to a conference of their generals. You may be
needed to carry dispatches.”

Dick went gladly with the group of Union officers, who approached
Fort Donelson under the white flag, and who met a group of Confederate
officers under a like white flag. He noticed in the very center of the
Southern group the figure of General Buckner, a tall, well-built man
in his early prime, his face usually ruddy, now pale with fatigue and
anxiety. Dick, with his uncle, Colonel Kenton, and his young cousin,
Harry Kenton, had once dined at his house.

Nearly all the officers, Northern and Southern, knew one another well.
Many of them had been together at West Point. Colonel Winchester and
General Buckner were well acquainted and they saluted, each smiling a
little grimly.

“I bring General Grant’s demand for the surrender of Fort Donelson, and
all its garrison, arms, ammunition, and other supplies,” said Colonel
Winchester. “Can I see your chief, General Floyd?”

The lips of Buckner pressed close together in a smile touched with
irony.

“No, you cannot see General Floyd,” he said, “because he is now far up
the Cumberland.”

“Since he has abdicated the command I wish then to communicate with
General Pillow.”

“I regret that you cannot speak to him either. He is as far up the
Cumberland as General Floyd. Both departed in the night, and I am left
in command of the Southern army at Fort Donelson. You can state your
demands to me, Colonel Winchester.”

Dick saw that the brave Kentuckian was struggling to hide his chagrin,
and he had much sympathy for him. It was in truth a hard task that
Floyd and Pillow had left for Buckner. They had allowed themselves to
be trapped and they had thrown upon him the burden of surrendering. But
Buckner proceeded with the negotiations. Presently he noticed Dick.

“Good morning, Richard,” he said. “It seems that in this case, at least,
you have chosen the side of the victors.”

“Fortune has happened to be on our side, general,” said Dick
respectfully. “Could you tell me, sir, if my uncle, Colonel Kenton, is
unhurt?”

“He was, when he was last with us,” replied General Buckner, kindly.
“Colonel Kenton went out last night with Forrest’s cavalry. He will not
be a prisoner.”

“I am glad of that,” said the boy.

And he was truly glad. He knew that it would hurt Colonel Kenton’s pride
terribly to become a prisoner, and although they were now on opposite
sides, he loved and respected his uncle.

The negotiations were completed and before night the garrison of
Donelson, all except three thousand who had escaped in the night with
Floyd and Pillow and Forrest, laid down their arms. The answer to Bull
Run was complete. Fifteen thousand men, sixty-five cannon, and seventeen
thousand rifles and muskets were surrendered to General Grant. The
bulldog in the silent westerner had triumphed. With only a last chance
left to him he had turned defeat into complete victory, and had dealt a
stunning blow to the Southern Confederacy, which was never able like the
North to fill up its depleted ranks with fresh men.

Time alone could reveal to many the deadly nature of this blow, but
Dick, who had foresight and imagination, understood it now at least in
part. As he saw the hungry Southern boys sharing the food of their late
enemies his mind traveled over the long Southern line. Thomas had beaten
it in Eastern Kentucky, Grant had dealt it a far more crushing blow here
in Western Kentucky, but Albert Sidney Johnston, the most formidable
foe of all, yet remained in the center. He was a veteran general with
a great reputation. Nay, more, it was said by the officers who knew
him that he was a man of genius. Dick surmised that Johnston, after
the stunning blow of Donelson, would be compelled to fall back from
Tennessee, but he did not doubt that he would return again.

Dick soon saw that all his surmises were correct. The news of Donelson
produced for a little while a sort of paralysis at Richmond, and when it
reached Nashville, where the army of Johnston was gathering, it was at
first unbelievable. It produced so much excitement and confusion that
a small brigade sent to the relief of Donelson was not called back, and
marched blindly into the little town of Dover, where it found itself
surrounded by the whole triumphant Union army, and was compelled to
surrender without a fight.

Panic swept through Nashville. Everybody knew that Johnston would be
compelled to fall back from the Cumberland River, upon the banks of
which the capital of Tennessee stood. Foote and his gunboats would come
steaming up the stream into the very heart of the city. Rumor magnified
the number and size of his boats. Again the Southern leaders felt that
the rivers were always a hostile coil girdling them about, and lamented
their own lack of a naval arm.

Floyd had drawn off in the night from Donelson his own special command
of Virginians and when he arrived at Nashville with full news of the
defeat at the fortress, and the agreement to surrender, the panic
increased. Many had striven to believe that the reports were untrue, but
now there could be no doubt.

And the panic gained a second impetus when the generals set fire to
the suspension bridge over the river and the docks along its banks. The
inhabitants saw the signal of doom in the sheets of flame that rolled
up, and all those who had taken a leading part in the Southern cause
prepared in haste to leave with Johnston’s army. The roads were choked
with vehicles and fleeing people. The State Legislature, which was then
in session, departed bodily with all the records and archives.

But Dick, after the first hours of triumph, felt relaxed and depressed.
After all, the victory was over their own people, and five thousand of
the farmer lads, North and South, had been killed or wounded. But this
feeling did not last long, as on the very evening of victory he was
summoned to action. Action, with him, always made the blood leap and
hope rise. It was his own regimental chief, Arthur Winchester, who
called him, and who told him to make ready for an instant departure from
Donelson.

“You are to be a cavalryman for a while, Dick,” said Colonel Winchester.
“So much has happened recently that we scarcely know how we stand. Above
all, we do not know how the remaining Southern forces are disposed,
and I have been chosen to lead a troop toward Nashville and see. You,
Warner, Pennington, that very capable sergeant, Whitley, and others whom
you know are to go with me. My force will number about three hundred and
the horses are already waiting on the other side.”

They were carried over the river on one of the boats, and the little
company, mounting, prepared to ride into the dark woods. But before they
disappeared, Dick looked back and saw many lights gleaming in captured
Donelson. Once more the magnitude of Grant’s victory impressed him.
Certainly he had struck a paralyzing blow at the Southern army in the
west.

But the ride in the dark over a wild and thinly-settled country
soon occupied Dick’s whole attention. He was on one side of Colonel
Winchester and Warner was on the other. Then the others came four
abreast. At first there was some disposition to talk, but it was checked
sharply by the leader, and after a while the disposition itself was
lacking.

Colonel Winchester was a daring horseman, and Dick soon realized that
it would be no light task to follow where he led. Evidently he knew the
country, as he rode with certainty over the worst roads that Dick had
ever seen. They were deep in mud which froze at night, but not solidly
enough to keep the feet of the horses from crushing through, making a
crackle as they went down and a loud, sticky sigh as they came out. All
were spattered with mud, which froze upon them, but they were so much
inured to hardship now that they paid no attention to it.

But this rough riding soon showed so much effect upon the horses that
Colonel Winchester led aside into the woods and fields, keeping parallel
with the road. Now and then they stopped to pull down fences, but they
still made good speed. Twice they saw at some distance cabins with the
smoke yet rising from the chimneys, but the colonel did not stop to ask
any questions. Those he thought could be asked better further on.

Twice they crossed creeks. One the horses could wade, but the other was
so deep that they were compelled to swim. On the further bank of the
second they stopped a while to rest the horses and to count the men to
see that no straggler had dropped away in the darkness. Then they sprang
into the saddle again and rode on as before through a country that
seemed to be abandoned.

There was a certain thrill and exhilaration in their daring ride. The
smoke and odors of the battle about Donelson were blown away. The dead
and the wounded, the grewsome price even of victory, no longer lay
before their eyes, and the cold air rushing past freshened their blood
and gave it a new sparkle. Every one in the little column knew that
danger was plentiful about them, but there was pleasure in action in the
open.

Their general direction was Nashville, and now they came into a country,
richer, better cultivated, and peopled more thickly. Toward night they
saw on a gentle hill in a great lawn and surrounded by fine trees a
large red brick house, with green shutters and portico supported by
white pillars. Smoke rose from two chimneys. Colonel Winchester halted
his troop and examined the house from a distance for a little while.

“This is the home of wealthy people,” he said at last to Dick, “and we
may obtain some information here. At least we should try it.”

Dick had his doubts, but he said nothing.

“You, Mr. Pennington, Mr. Warner and Sergeant Whitley, dismount with
me,” continued the colonel, “and we’ll try the house.”

He bade his troop remain in the road under the command of the officer
next in rank, and he, with those whom he had chosen, opened the lawn
gate. A brick walk led to the portico and they strolled along it, their
spurs jingling. Although the smoke still rose from the chimneys no door
opened to them as they stepped into the portico. All the green shutters
were closed tightly.

“I think they saw us in the road,” said Dick, “and this is a house of
staunch Southern sympathizers. That is why they don’t open to us.”

“Beat on the door with the hilt of your sword, sergeant,” said the
colonel to Whitley. “They’re bound to answer in time.”

The sergeant beat steadily and insistently. Yet he was forced to
continue it five or six minutes before it was thrown open. Then a tall
old woman with a dignified, stern face and white hair, drawn back from
high brows, stood before them. But Dick’s quick eyes saw in the dusk of
the room behind her a girl of seventeen or eighteen.

“What do you want?” asked the woman in a tone of ice. “I see that you
are Yankee soldiers, and if you intend to rob the house there is no one
here to oppose you. Its sole occupants are myself, my granddaughter, and
two colored women, our servants. But I tell you, before you begin, that
all our silver has been shipped to Nashville.”

Colonel Winchester flushed a deep crimson, and bit his lips savagely.

“Madame,” he said, “we are not robbers and plunderers. These are regular
soldiers belonging to General Grant’s army.”

“Does it make any difference? Your armies come to ravage and destroy the
South.”

Colonel Winchester flushed again but, remembering his self-control, he
said politely:

“Madame, I hope that our actions will prove to you that we have been
maligned. We have not come here to rob you or disturb you in any manner.
We merely wished to inquire of you if you had seen any other Southern
armed forces in this vicinity.”

“And do you think, sir,” she replied in the same uncompromising tones,
“if I had seen them that I would tell you anything about it?”

“No, Madame,” replied the Colonel bowing, “whatever I may have thought
before I entered your portico I do not think so now.”

“Then it gives me pleasure to bid you good evening, sir,” she said, and
shut the door in his face.

Colonel Winchester laughed rather sorely.

“She had rather the better of me,” he said, “but we can’t make war on
women. Come on, lads, we’ll ride ahead, and camp under the trees. It’s
easy to obtain plenty of fuel for fires.”

“The darkness is coming fast,” said Dick, “and it is going to be very
cold, as usual.”

In a half hour the day was fully gone, and, as he had foretold, the
night was sharp with chill, setting every man to shivering. They turned
aside into an oak grove and pitched their camp. It was never hard to
obtain fuel, as the whole area of the great civil war was largely in
forest, and the soldiers dragged up fallen brushwood in abundance. Then
the fires sprang up and created a wide circle of light and cheerfulness.

Dick joined zealously in the task of finding firewood and his search
took him somewhat further than the others. He passed all the way through
the belt of forest, and noticed fields beyond. He was about to turn back
when he heard a faint, but regular sound. Experience told him that it
was the beat of a horse’s hoofs and he knew that some distance away a
road must lead between the fields.

He walked a hundred yards further, and climbing upon a fence waited.
From his perch he could see the road about two hundred yards beyond him,
and the hoof beats were rapidly growing louder. Some one was riding hard
and fast.

In a minute the horseman or rather horsewoman, came into view. There was
enough light for Dick to see the slender figure of a young girl mounted
on a great bay horse. She was wrapped in a heavy cloak, but her head was
bare, and her long dark hair streamed almost straight out behind her, so
great was the speed at which she rode.

She struck the horse occasionally with a small riding whip, but he was
already going like a racer. Dick remembered the slim figure of a girl,
and it occurred to him suddenly that this was she whom he had seen in
the dusk of the room behind her grandmother. He wondered why she was
riding so fast, alone and in the winter night, and then he admitted with
a thrill of admiration that he had never seen any one ride better. The
hoof beats rose, died away and then horse and girl were gone in the
darkness. Dick climbed down from the fence and shook himself. Was it
real or merely fancy, the product of a brain excited by so much siege
and battle?

He picked up a big dead bough in the wood, dragged it back to the camp
and threw it on one of the fires.

“What are you looking so grave about, Dick?” asked Warner.

“When I went across that stretch of woods I saw something that I didn’t
expect to see.”

“What was it?”

“A girl on a big horse. They came and they went so fast that I just got
a glimpse of them.”

“A girl alone, galloping on a horse on a wintry night like this through
a region infested by hostile armies! Why Dick, you’re seeing shadows!
Better sit down and have a cup of this good hot coffee.”

But Dick shook his head. He knew now that he had seen reality, and he
reported it to Colonel Winchester.

“Are you sure it was the girl you saw at the big house?” asked Colonel
Winchester. “It might have been some farmer’s wife galloping home from
an errand late in the evening.”

“It was the girl. I am sure of it,” said Dick confidently.

Just at that moment Sergeant Whitley came up and saluted.

“What is it, sergeant?” asked the Colonel.

“I have been up the road some distance, sir, and I came to another road
that crossed it. The second road has been cut by hoofs of eight or nine
hundred horses, and I am sure, sir, that the tracks are not a day old.”

Colonel Winchester looked grave. He knew that he was deep in the country
of the enemy and he began to put together what Dick had seen and what
the sergeant had seen. But the thought of withdrawing did not occur to
his brave soul. He had been sent on an errand by General Grant and he
meant to do it. But he changed his plans for the night. He had intended
to keep only one man in ten on watch. Instead, he kept half, and
Sergeant Whitley, veteran of Indian wars, murmured words of approval
under his breath.

Whitley and Pennington were in the early watch. Dick and Warner were to
come on later. The colonel spoke as if he would keep watch all night.
All the horses were tethered carefully inside the ring of pickets.

“It doesn’t need any mathematical calculation,” said Warner, “to tell
that the colonel expects trouble of some kind tonight. What its nature
is, I don’t know, but I mean to go to sleep, nevertheless. I have
already seen so much of hardship and war that the mere thought of danger
does not trouble me. I took a fort on the Tennessee, I took a much
larger one on the Cumberland, first defeating the enemy’s army in a big
battle, and now I am preparing to march on Nashville. Hence, I will not
have my slumbers disturbed by a mere belief that danger may come.”

“It’s a good resolution, George,” said Dick, “but unlike you, I am
subject to impulses, emotions, thrills and anxieties.”

“Better cure yourself,” said the Vermonter, as he rolled himself in the
blankets and put his head on his arm. In two minutes he was asleep, but
Dick, despite his weariness, had disturbed nerves which refused to
let him sleep for a long time. He closed his eyes repeatedly, and then
opened them again, merely to see the tethered horses, and beyond them
the circle of sentinels, a clear moonlight falling on their rifle
barrels. But it was very warm and cosy in the blankets, and he would
soon fall asleep again.

He was awakened about an hour after midnight to take his turn at the
watch, and he noticed that Colonel Winchester was still standing beside
one of the fires, but looking very anxious. Dick felt himself on good
enough terms, despite his youth, to urge him to take rest.

“I should like to do so,” replied Colonel Winchester, “but Dick I tell
you, although you must keep it to yourself, that I think we are in some
danger. Your glimpse of the flying horsewoman, and the undoubted fact
that hundreds of horsemen have crossed the road ahead of us, have made
me put two and two together. Ah, what is it, sergeant?”

“I think I hear noises to the east of us, sir,” replied the veteran.

“What kind of noises, sergeant?”

“I should say, sir, that they’re made by the hoofs of horses. There, I
hear them again, sir. I’m quite sure of it, and they’re growing louder!”

“And so do I!” exclaimed Colonel Winchester, now all life and activity.
“The sounds are made by a large body of men advancing upon us! Seize
that bugle, Dick, and blow the alarm with all your might!”

Dick snatched up the bugle and blew upon it a long shrill blast that
pierced far into the forest. He blew and blew again, and every man in
the little force sprang to his feet in alarm. Nor were they a moment too
soon. From the woods to the east came the answering notes of a bugle and
then a great voice cried:

“Forward men an’ wipe ‘em off the face of the earth!”

It seemed to Dick that he had heard that voice before, but he had no
time to think about it, as the next instant came the rush of the wild
horsemen, a thousand strong, leaning low over their saddles, their
faces dark with the passion of anger and revenge, pistols, rifles, and
carbines flashing as they pulled the trigger, giving way when empty to
sabres, which gleamed in the moonlight as they were swung by powerful
hands.

Colonel Winchester’s whole force would have been ridden down in the
twinkling of an eye if it had not been for the minute’s warning. His
men, leaping to their feet, snatched up their own rifles and fired a
volley at short range. It did more execution among the horses than among
the horsemen, and the Southern rough riders were compelled to waver for
a moment. Many of their horses went down, others uttered the terrible
shrieking neigh of the wounded, and, despite the efforts of those who
rode them, strove to turn and flee from those flaming muzzles. It was
only a moment, but it gave the Union troop, save those who were already
slain, time to spring upon their horses and draw back, at the colonel’s
shouted command, to the cover of the wood. But they were driven hard.
The Confederate cavalry came on again, impetuous and fierce as ever, and
urged continually by the great partisan leader, Forrest, now in the very
dawn of his fame.

“It was no phantom you saw, that girl on the horse!” shouted Warner in
Dick’s ear, and Dick nodded in return. They had no time for other words,
as Forrest’s horsemen, far outnumbering them, now pressed them harder
than ever. A continuous fire came from their ranks and at close range
they rode in with the sabre.

Dick experienced the full terror and surprise of a night battle. The
opposing forces were so close together that it was often difficult
to tell friend from enemy. But Forrest’s men had every advantage of
surprise, superior numbers and perfect knowledge of the country. Dick
groaned aloud as he saw that the best they could do was to save as many
as possible. Why had he not taken a shot at the horse of that flying
girl?

“We must keep together, Dick!” shouted Warner. “Here are Pennington and
Sergeant Whitley, and there’s Colonel Winchester. I fancy that if we can
get off with a part of our men we’ll be doing well.”

Pennington’s horse, shot through the head, dropped like a stone to the
ground, but the deft youth, used to riding the wild mustangs of
the prairie, leaped clear, seized another which was galloping about
riderless, and at one bound sprang into the saddle.

“Good boy!” shouted Dick with admiration, but the next moment the
horsemen of Forrest were rushing upon them anew. More men were killed,
many were taken, and Colonel Winchester, seeing the futility of further
resistance, gathered together those who were left and took flight
through the forest.

Tears of mortification came to Dick’s eyes, but Sergeant Whitley, who
rode on his right hand, said:

“It’s the only thing to do. Remember that however bad your position may
be it can always be worse. It’s better for some of us to escape than for
all of us to be down or be taken.”

Dick knew that his logic was good, but the mortification nevertheless
remained a long time. There was some consolation, however, in the fact
that his own particular friends had neither fallen nor been taken.

They still heard the shouts of pursuing horsemen, and shots rattled
about them, but now the covering darkness was their friend. They drew
slowly away from all pursuit. The shouts and the sounds of trampling
hoofs died behind them, and after two hours of hard riding Colonel
Winchester drew rein and ordered a halt.

It was a disordered and downcast company of about fifty who were left. A
few of these were wounded, but not badly enough to be disabled. Colonel
Winchester’s own head had been grazed, but he had bound a handkerchief
about it, and sat very quiet in his saddle.

“My lads,” he said, and his tone was sharp with the note of defiance.
“We have been surprised by a force greatly superior to our own, and
scarcely a sixth of us are left. But it was my fault. I take the blame.
For the present, at least, we are safe from the enemy, and I intend to
continue with our errand. We were to scout the country all the way to
Nashville. It is also possible that we will meet the division of General
Buell advancing to that city. Now, lads, I hope that you all will be
willing to go on with me. Are you?”

“We are!” roared fifty together, and a smile passed over the wan face of
the colonel. But he said no more then. Instead he turned his head toward
the capital city of the state, and rode until dawn, his men following
close behind him. The boys were weary. In truth, all of them were, but
no one spoke of halting or complained in any manner.

At sunrise they stopped in dense forest at the banks of a creek, and
watered their horses. They cooked what food they had left, and after
eating rested for several hours on the ground, most of them going to
sleep, while a few men kept a vigilant watch.

When Dick awoke it was nearly noon, and he still felt sore from
his exertions. An hour later they all mounted and rode again toward
Nashville. Near night they boldly entered a small village and bought
food. The inhabitants were all strongly Southern, but villagers love to
talk, and they learned there in a manner admitting of no doubt, that
the Confederate army was retreating southward from the line of the
Cumberland, that the state capital had been abandoned, and that to the
eastward of them the Union army, under Buell, was advancing swiftly on
Nashville.

“At least we accomplished our mission,” said Colonel Winchester with
some return of cheerfulness. “We have discovered the retreat of General
Johnston’s whole army, and the abandonment of Nashville, invaluable
information to General Grant. But we’ll press on toward Nashville
nevertheless.”

They camped the next night in a forest and kept a most vigilant watch.
If those terrible raiders led by Forrest should strike them again they
could make but little defense.

They came the next morning upon a good road and followed it without
interruption until nearly noon, when they saw the glint of arms across a
wide field. Colonel Winchester drew his little troop back into the edge
of the woods, and put his field glasses to his eyes.

“There are many men, riding along a road parallel to ours,” he said.
“They look like an entire regiment, and by all that’s lucky, they’re in
the uniforms of our own troops. Yes, they’re our own men. There can be
no mistake. It is probably the advance guard of Buell’s army.”

They still had a trumpet, and at the colonel’s order it was blown long
and loud. An answering call came from the men on the parallel road, and
they halted. Then Colonel Winchester’s little troop galloped forward
and they were soon shaking hands with the men of a mounted regiment from
Ohio. They had been sent ahead by Buell to watch Johnston’s army, but
hearing of the abandonment of Nashville, they were now riding straight
for the city. Colonel Winchester and his troop joined them gladly and
the colonel rode by the side of the Ohio colonel, Mitchel.

Dick and his young comrades felt great relief. He realized the terrible
activity of Forrest, but that cavalry leader, even if he had not now
gone south, would hesitate about attacking the powerful regiment with
which Dick now rode. Warner and Pennington shared his feelings.

“The chances are ninety per cent in our favor,” said the Vermonter,
“that we’ll ride into Nashville without a fight. I’ve never been in
Tennessee before, and I’m a long way from home, but I’m curious to see
this city. I’d like to sleep in a house once more.”

They rode into Nashville the next morning amid frowning looks, but the
half deserted city offered no resistance.



CHAPTER XIII. IN THE FOREST


Dick spent a week or more in Nashville and he saw the arrival of one of
General Grant’s divisions on the fleet under Commodore Foote. Once more
he appreciated the immense value of the rivers and the fleet to the
North.

He and the two lads who were now knitted to him by sympathy, and
hardships and dangers shared, enjoyed their stay in Nashville. It was
pleasant to sleep once more in houses and to be sheltered from rain and
frost and snow. It was pleasant, too, for these youths, who were devoted
to the Union, to think that their armies had made such progress in the
west. The silent and inflexible Grant had struck the first great blow
for the North. The immense Confederate line in the west was driven
far southward, and the capital of one of the most vigorous of the
secessionist states was now held by the Union.

But a little later, news not so pleasant came to them. The energy
and success of Grant had aroused jealousy. Halleck, his superior, the
general of books and maps at St. Louis, said that he had transcended
the limits of his command. He was infringing upon territory of other
Northern generals. Halleck had not found him to be the yielding
subordinate who would win successes and let others have the credit.

Grant was practically relieved of his command, and when Dick heard it he
felt a throb of rage. Boy as he was, he knew that what had been won must
be held. Johnston had stopped at Murfreesborough, thirty or forty miles
away. His troops had recovered from their panic, caused by the fall of
Donelson. Fresh regiments and brigades were joining him. His army was
rising to forty thousand men, and officers like Colonel Winchester began
to feel apprehensive.

Now came a period of waiting. The Northern leaders, as happened so
often in this war, were uncertain of their authority, and were at
cross-purposes. They seldom had the power of initiative that was
permitted to the Southern generals, and of which they made such good
use. Dick saw that the impression made by Donelson was fading. The North
was reaping no harvest, and the South was lifting up its head again.

While he was in Nashville he received a letter from his mother in reply
to one of his that he had written to her just after Donelson. She was
very thankful that her son had gone safely through the battle, and since
he must fight in war, which was terrible in any aspect, she was glad
that he had borne himself bravely. She was glad that Colonel Kenton had
escaped capture. Her brother-in-law was always good to her and was
a good man. She had also received a letter from his son, her nephew,
written from Richmond, She loved Harry Kenton, too, and sympathized with
him, but she could not see how both sides could prevail.

Dick read the letter over and over again and there was a warm glow about
his heart. What a brave woman his mother was! She said nothing about his
coming back home, or leaving the war. He wrote a long reply, and he
told her only of the lighter and more cheerful events that they had
encountered. He described Warner, Pennington, and the sergeant, and said
that he had the best comrades in the world. He told, too, of his gallant
and high-minded commander, Colonel Arthur Winchester.

He was sure that the letter would reach her promptly, as it passed all
the way through territory now controlled by the North. The next day
after sending it he heard with joy that Grant was restored to his
command, and two days later Colonel Winchester and his men were ordered
to join him at Pittsburg Landing, on the Tennessee River. They heard
also that Buell, with his whole division, was soon to march to the same
place, and they saw in it an omen of speedy and concentrated action.

“I imagine,” said Warner, “that we’ll soon go down in Mississippi
hunting Johnston. We must outnumber the Johnny Rebs at least two to one.
I’m not a general, though any one can see that I ought to be, and if we
were to follow Johnston’s army and crush it the war would soon be ended
in the west.”

“You’ve got a mighty big ‘if’,” said Dick. “If we march into Mississippi
we get pretty far from our base. We’ll have to send a long distance
through hostile country for fresh supplies and fresh troops, while the
Southerners will be nearer to their own. Besides, it’s not so certain
that we can destroy Johnston when we find him.”

“Your talk sounds logical, and that being the case, I’ll leave our
future movements to General Grant. Anyway, it’s a good thing not to have
so much responsibility on your shoulders.”

They came in a few days to the great camp on the Tennessee. Spring
was now breaking through the crust of winter. Touches of green were
appearing on the forests and in the fields. Now and then the wonderful
pungent odor of the wilderness came to them and life seemed to have
taken on new zest. They were but boys in years, and the terrible scenes
of Donelson could not linger with them long.

They found Colonel Newcomb and the little detachment of Pennsylvanians
with Grant, and Colonel Winchester, resuming command of his regiment,
camped by their side, delighted to be with old friends again. Colonel
Winchester had lost a portion of his regiment, but there were excuses.
It had happened in a country well known to the enemy and but little
known to him, and he had been attacked in overwhelming force by
the rough-riding Forrest, who was long to be a terror to the Union
divisions. But he had achieved the task on which he had been sent, and
he was thanked by his commander.

Dick, as he went on many errands or walked about in the course of his
leisure hours with his friends, watched with interest the growth of a
great army. There were more men here upon the banks of the Tennessee
than he had seen at Bull Run. They were gathered full forty thousand
strong, and General Buell’s army also, he learned, had been put under
command of General Grant and was advancing from Nashville to join him.

Dick also observed with extreme interest the ground upon which they were
encamped and the country surrounding it. There was the deep Tennessee,
still swollen by spring rains, upon the left bank of which they lay,
with the stream protecting one flank. In the river were some of the
gunboats which had been of such value to Grant. All about them was
rough, hilly country, almost wholly covered with brushwood and tall
forest. There were three deep creeks, given significant names by the
pioneers. Lick Creek flowed to the south of them into the Tennessee,
and Owl Creek to the north sought the same destination. A third, Snake
Creek, was lined with deep and impassable swamps to its very junction
with the river.

Some roads of the usual frontier type ran through this region, and at a
point within the Northern lines stood a little primitive log church
that they called Shiloh. It was of the kind that the pioneers built
everywhere as they moved from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Shiloh
belonged to a little body of Methodists. Dick went into it more than
once. There was no pastor and no congregation now, but the little church
was not molested. He sat more than once on an uncompromising wooden
bench, and looked out through a window, from which the shutter was gone,
at the forest and the army.

Sitting here in this primitive house of worship, he would feel a certain
sadness. It seemed strange that a great army, whose purpose was to
destroy other armies, should be encamped around a building erected in
the cause of the Prince of Peace. The mighty and terrible nature of the
war was borne in upon him more fully than ever.

But optimism was supreme among the soldiers. They had achieved the great
victory of Donelson in the face of odds that had seemed impossible. They
could defeat all the Southern forces that lay between them and the Gulf.
The generals shared their confidence. They did not fortify their camp.
They had not come that far South to fight defensive battles. It was
their place to attack and that of the men in gray to defend. They had
advanced in triumph almost to the Mississippi line, and they would soon
be pursuing their disorganized foe into that Gulf State.

Several new generals came to serve under Grant. Among them was one named
Sherman, to whom Dick bore messages several times, and who impressed him
with his dry manner and curt remarks which were yet so full of sense.

It was Sherman’s division, in fact, that was encamped around the little
church, and Dick soon learned his opinions. He did not believe that they
would so easily conquer the South. He did not look for any triumphal
parade to the Gulf. In the beginning of the war he had brought great
enmity and criticism upon himself by saying that 200,000 men at least
would be needed at once to crush the Confederacy in the west alone. And
yet it was to take more than ten times that number four bitter years to
achieve the task in both west and east.

But optimism continued to reign in the Union army. Buell would arrive
soon with his division and then seventy thousand strong they would
resume their march southward, crushing everything. Meanwhile it was
pleasant while they waited. They had an abundance of food. They were
well sheltered from the rains. The cold days were passing, nature was
bursting into its spring bloom, and the crisp fresh winds that blew from
the west and south were full of life and strength. It was a joy merely
to breathe.

One rainy day the three boys, who had met by chance, went into
the little church for shelter from a sudden spring rain. From the
shutterless window Dick saw Sergeant Whitley scurrying in search of a
refuge, and they called to him. He came gladly and took a seat in one of
the rough wooden pews of the little church of Shiloh. The three boys had
the greatest respect for the character and judgment of the sergeant, and
Dick asked him when he thought the army would march.

“They don’t tell these things to sergeants,” said Whitley.

“But you see and you know a lot about war.”

“Well, you’ve noticed that the army ain’t gettin’ ready to march. When
General Buell gets here we’ll have nigh onto seventy thousand men, and
seventy thousand men can’t lift themselves up by their bootstraps an’
leave, all in a mornin’.”

“But we don’t have to hurry,” said Pennington. “There’s no Southern army
west of the Alleghanies that could stand before our seventy thousand men
for an hour.”

“General Buell ain’t here yet.”

“But he’s coming.”

“But he ain’t here yet,” persisted the sergeant, “an’ he can’t be here
for several days, ‘cause the roads are mighty deep in the spring mud.
Don’t say any man is here until he is here. An’ I tell you that General
Johnston, with whom we’ve got to deal, is a great man. I wasn’t with
him when he made that great march through the blizzards an’ across the
plains to Salt Lake City to make the Mormons behave, but I’ve served
with them that was. An’ I’ve never yet found one of them who didn’t say
General Johnston was a mighty big man. Soldiers know when the right kind
of a man is holdin’ the reins an’ drivin’ ‘em. Didn’t we all feel that
we was bein’ driv right when General Grant took hold?”

“We all felt it,” said the three in chorus.

“Of course you did,” said the sergeant, “an’ now I’ve got a kind of
uneasy feelin’ over General Johnston. Why don’t we hear somethin’ from
him? Why don’t we know what he’s doin’? We haven’t sent out any scoutin’
parties. On the plains, no matter how strong we was, we was always
on the lookout for hostile Indians, while here we know there is a big
Confederate army somewhere within fifty miles of us, but don’t take the
trouble to look it up.”

“That’s so,” said Warner. “Caution represents less than five per cent of
our effectiveness. But I suppose we can whip the Johnnies anyway.”

“Of course we can,” said Pennington, who was always of a most buoyant
temperament.

Sergeant Whitley went to the shutterless window, and looked out at the
forest and the long array of tents.

“The rain is about over,” he said. “It was just a passin’ shower. But
it looks as if it had already added a fresh shade of green to the leaves
and grass. Cur’us how quick a rain can do it in spring, when everything
is just waitin’ a chance to grow, and bust into bloom. I’ve rid on the
plains when everything was brown an’ looked dead. ‘Long come a big rain
an’ the next day everything was green as far as the eye could reach an’
you’d see little flowers bloomin’ down under the shelter of the grass.”

“I didn’t know you had a poetical streak in you, sergeant,” said Dick,
who marked his abrupt change from the discussion of the war to a far
different topic.

“I think some of it is in every man,” replied Sergeant Whitley gravely.
“I remember once that when we had finished a long chase after some
Northern Cheyennes through mighty rough and dry country we came to a
little valley, a kind of a pocket in the hills, fed by a fine creek,
runnin’ out of the mountains on one side, into the mountains on the
other. The pocket was mebbe two miles long an’ mebbe a mile across, an’
it was chock full of green trees an’ green grass, an’ wild flowers. We
enjoyed its comforts, but do you think that was all? Every man among us,
an’ there was at least a dozen who couldn’t read, admired its beauties,
an’ begun to talk softer an’ more gentle than they did when they was out
on the dry plains. An’ you feel them things more in war than you do at
any other time.”

“I suppose you do,” said Dick. “The spring is coming out now in Kentucky
where I live, and I’d like to see the new grass rippling before the
wind, and the young leaves on the trees rustling softly together.”

“Stop sentimentalizing,” said Warner. “If you don’t it won’t be a minute
before Pennington will begin to talk about his Nebraska plains, and how
he’d like to see the buffalo herds ten million strong, rocking the earth
as they go galloping by.”

Pennington smiled.

“I won’t see the buffalo herds,” he said, “but look at the wild fowl
going north.”

They left the window as the rain had ceased, and went outside. All this
region was still primitive and thinly settled, and now they saw flocks
of wild ducks and wild geese winging northward. The next day the heavens
themselves were darkened by an immense flight of wild pigeons. The
country cut up by so many rivers, creeks and brooks swarmed with wild
fowl, and more than once the soldiers roused up deer from the thickets.

The second day after the talk of the four in the little church Dick, who
was now regarded as a most efficient and trusty young staff officer, was
sent with a dispatch to General Buell requesting him to press forward
with as much speed as he could to the junction with General Grant.
Several other aides were sent by different routes, in order to make sure
that at least one would arrive, but Dick, through his former ride with
Colonel Winchester to Nashville, had the most knowledge of the country,
and hence was likely to reach Buell first.

As the boy rode from the camp and crossed the river into the forest he
looked back, and he could not fail to notice to what an extent it
was yet a citizen army, and not one of trained soldiers. The veteran
sergeant had already called his attention to what he deemed grave
omissions. In the three weeks that they had been lying there they had
thrown up no earthworks. Not a spade had touched the earth. Nor was
there any other defense of any kind. The high forest circled close about
them, dense now with foliage and underbrush, hiding even at a distance
of a few hundred yards anything that might lie within. The cavalry in
these three weeks had made one scouting expedition, but it was slight
and superficial, resulting in nothing. The generals of divisions posted
their own pickets separately, leaving numerous wide breaks in the line,
and the farmer lads, at the change of guard, invariably fired their
rifles in the air, to signify the joy of living, and because it was good
to hear the sound.

Now that he was riding away from them, these things impressed Dick more
than when he was among them. Sergeant Whitley’s warning and pessimistic
words came back to him with new force, but, as he rode into the depths
of the forest, he shook off all depression. Those words, “Seventy
thousand strong!” continually recurred to him. Yes, they would be
seventy thousand strong when Buell came up, and the boys were right.
Certainly there was no Confederate force in the west that could resist
seventy thousand troops, splendidly armed, flushed with victory and led
by a man like Grant.

Seventy thousand strong! Dick’s heart beat high at the unuttered words.
Why should Grant fortify? It was for the enemy, not for him, to do such
a thing. Nor was it possible that Johnston even behind defenses could
resist the impact of the seventy thousand who had been passing from one
victory to another, and who were now in the very heart of the enemy’s
country.

His heart continued to beat high and fast as he rode through the green
forest. Its strong, sweet odors gave a fillip to his blood, and he
pressed his horse to new speed. He rode without interruption night and
day, save a few hours now and then for sleep, and reached the army of
Buell which deep in mud was toiling slowly forward.

Buell was not as near to Shiloh as Dick had supposed, but his march had
suffered great hindrances. Halleck, in an office far away in St. Louis,
had undertaken to manage the campaign. His orders to Buell and his
command to Grant had been delayed. Buell, who had moved to the town of
Columbia, therefore had started late through no fault of his.

Duck River, which Buell was compelled to cross, was swollen like all the
other streams of the region, by the great rains and was forty feet
deep. The railway bridge across it had been wrecked by the retreating
Confederates and he was compelled to wait there two weeks until his
engineers could reconstruct it.

War plays singular chances. Halleck in St. Louis, secure in his plan of
campaign, had sent an order after Dick left Shiloh, for Buell to turn
to the north, leaving Grant to himself, and occupy a town that he named.
Through some chance the order never reached Buell. Had it done so the
whole course of American history might have been changed. Grant himself,
after the departure of the earlier messengers, changed his mind and
sent messengers to Nelson, who led Buell’s vanguard, telling him not to
hurry. This army was to come to Pittsburg Landing or Shiloh partly by
the Tennessee, and Grant stated that the vessels for him would not be
ready until some days later. It was the early stage of the war when
generals behaved with great independence, and Nelson, a rough, stubborn
man, after reading the order marched on faster than ever. It seemed
afterward that the very stars were for Grant, when one order was lost,
and another disobeyed.

But Dick was not to know of these things until later. He delivered in
person his dispatch to General Buell, who remembered him and gave him a
friendly nod, but who was as chary of speech as ever. He wrote a brief
reply to the dispatch and gave it sealed to Dick.

“The letter I hand you,” he said, “merely notifies General Grant that I
have received his orders and will hurry forward as much as possible.
If on your return journey you should deem yourself in danger of falling
into the hands of the enemy destroy it at once.”

Dick promised to do so, saluted, and retired. He spent only two hours
in General Buell’s camp, securing some fresh provisions to carry in his
saddle bags and allowing his horse a little rest. Then he mounted
and took as straight a course as he could for General Grant’s camp at
Pittsburg Landing.

The boy felt satisfied with himself. He had done his mission quickly and
exactly, and he would have a pleasant ride back. On his strong, swift
horse, and with a good knowledge of the road, he could go several times
faster than Buell’s army. He anticipated a pleasant ride. The forest
seemed to him to be fairly drenched in spring. Little birds flaming
in color darted among the boughs and others more modest in garb poured
forth a full volume of song. Dick, sensitive to sights and sounds,
hummed a tune himself. It was the thundering song of the sea that he had
heard Samuel Jarvis sing in the Kentucky Mountains:

    They bore him away when the day had fled,
    And the storm was rolling high,
    And they laid him down in his lonely bed
    By the light of an angry sky.
    The lightning flashed and the wild sea lashed
    The shore with its foaming wave,
    And the thunder passed on the rushing blast,
    As it howled o’er the rover’s grave.

He pressed on, hour after hour, through the deep woods, meeting no one,
but content. At noon his horse suddenly showed signs of great weariness,
and Dick, remembering how much he had ridden him over muddy roads, gave
him a long rest. Besides, there was no need to hurry. The Southern army
was at Corinth, in Mississippi, three or four days’ journey away, and
there had been no scouts or skirmishers in the woods between.

After a stop of an hour he remounted and rode on again, but the horse
was still feeling his great strain, and he did not push him beyond a
walk. He calculated that nevertheless he would reach headquarters not
long after nightfall, and he went along gaily, still singing to himself.
He crossed the river at a point above the army, where the Union troops
had made a ferry, and then turned toward the camp.

About sunset he reached a hill from which he could look over the
forest and see under the horizon faint lights that were made by Grant’s
campfires at Pittsburg Landing. It was a welcome sight. He would soon be
with his friends again, and he urged his horse forward a little faster.

“Halt!” cried a sharp voice from the thicket.

Dick faced about in amazement, and saw four horsemen in gray riding from
the bushes. The shock was as great as if he had been struck by a bullet,
but he leaned forward on his horse’s neck, kicked him violently with
his heels and shouted to him. The horse plunged forward at a gallop. The
boy, remembering General Buell’s instructions, slipped the letter from
his pocket, and in the shelter of the horse’s body dropped it to the
ground, where he knew it would be lost among the bushes and in the
twilight.

“Halt!” was repeated more loudly and sharply than ever. Then a bullet
whizzed by Dick’s ear, and a second pierced the heart of his good horse.
He tried to leap clear of the falling animal, and succeeded, but he fell
so hard among the bushes that he was stunned for a few moments. When he
revived and stood up he saw the four horsemen in gray looking curiously
at him.

“‘Twould have been cheaper for you to have stopped when we told you to
do it,” said one in a whimsical tone.

Dick noticed that the tone was not unkind--it was not the custom to
treat prisoners ill in this great war. He rubbed his left shoulder on
which he had fallen and which still pained him a little.

“I didn’t stop,” he said, “because I didn’t know that you would be able
to hit either me or my horse in the dusk.”

“I s’pose from your way of lookin’ at it you was right to take the
chance, but you’ve learned now that we Southern men are tol’able good
sharpshooters.”

“I knew it long ago, but what are you doing here, right in the jaws of
our army? They might close on you any minute with a snap. You ought to
be with your own army at Corinth.”

Dick noticed that the men looked at one another, and there was silence
for a moment or two.

“Young fellow,” resumed the spokesman, “you was comin’ from the
direction of Columbia, an’ your hoss, which I am sorry we had to kill,
looked as if he was cleaned tuckered out. I judge that you was bearin’ a
message from Buell’s army to Grant’s.”

“You mustn’t hold me responsible for your judgment, good or bad.”

“No, I reckon not, but say, young fellow, do you happen to have a chaw
of terbacker in your clothes?”

“If I had any I’d offer it to you, but I never chew.”

The man sighed.

“Well, mebbe it’s a bad habit,” he said, “but it’s powerful grippin’.
I’d give a heap for a good twist of old Kentucky. Now we’re goin’ to
search you an’ it ain’t wuth while to resist, ‘cause we’ve got you
where we want you, as the dog said to the ‘coon when he took him by the
throat. We’re lookin’ for letters an’ dispatches, ‘cause we’re shore you
come from Buell, but if we should run across any terbacker we’ll have to
he’p ourselves to it. We ain’t no robbers, ‘cause in times like these it
ain’t no robbery to take terbacker.”

Dick noticed that while they talked one of the men never ceased to cover
him with a rifle. They were good-humored and kindly, but he knew they
would not relax an inch from their duty.

“All right,” he said, “go ahead. I’ll give you a good legal title to
everything you may find.”

He knew that the letter was lying in the bushes within ten feet of them
and he had a strong temptation to look in that direction and see if it
were as securely hidden as he had thought, but he resisted the impulse.

Two of the men searched him rapidly and dexterously, and much to their
disappointment found no dispatch.

“You ain’t got any writin’ on you, that’s shore,” said the spokesman.
“I’d expected to find a paper, an’ I had a lingerin’ hope, too, that we
might find a little terbacker on you ‘spite of what you said.”

“You don’t think I’d lie about the tobacco, would you?”

“Sonny, it ain’t no lyin’ in a big war to say you ain’t got no
terbacker, when them that’s achin’ for it are standin’ by, ready to grab
it. If you had a big diamond hid about you, an’ a robber was to ask you
if you had it, you’d tell him no, of course.”

“I think,” said Dick, “that you must be from Kentucky. You’ve got our
accent.”

“I shorely am, an’ I’m a longer way from it than I like. I noticed from
the first that you talked like me, which is powerful flatterin’ to you.
Ain’t you one of my brethren that the evil witches have made take up
with the Yankees?”

“I’m from the same state,” replied Dick, who saw no reason to conceal
his identity. “My name is Richard Mason, and I’m an aide on the staff of
Colonel Arthur Winchester, who commands a Kentucky regiment in General
Grant’s army.”

“I’ve heard of Colonel Winchester. The same that got a part of his
regiment cut up so bad by Forrest.”

“Yes, we did get cut up. I was there,” confessed Dick a little
reluctantly.

“Don’t feel bad about it. It’s likely to happen to any of you when
Forrest is around. Now, since you’ve introduced yourself so nice I’ll
introduce myself. I’m Sergeant Robertson, in the Orphan Brigade. It’s a
Kentucky brigade, an’ it gets its nickname ‘cause it’s made up of boys
so young that they call me gran’pa, though I’m only forty-four. These
other three are Bridge, Perkins, and Connor, just plain privates.”

The three “just plain privates” grinned.

“What are you going to do with me?” asked Dick.

“We’re goin’ to give you a pleasant little ride. We killed your hoss,
for which I ‘pologize again, but I’ve got a good one of my own, and
you’ll jump up behind me.”

A sudden spatter of rifle fire came from the direction of the Northern
pickets.

“Them sentinels of yours have funny habits,” said Robertson grinning.
“Just bound to hear their guns go off. They’re changin’ the guard now.”

“How do you know that?” asked Dick.

“Oh, I know a heap. I’m a terrible wise man, but bein’ so wise I don’t
tell all I know or how I happen to know it. Hop up, sonny.”

“Don’t you think I’ll be a lot of trouble to you,” said Dick, “riding
behind you thirty or forty miles to your camp?”

The four men exchanged glances, and no one answered. The boy felt a
sudden chill, and his hair prickled at the roots. He did not know what
had caused it, but surely it was a sign of some danger.

The night deepened steadily as they were talking. The twilight had gone
long since. The last afterglow had faded. The darkness was heavy with
warmth. The thick foliage of spring rustled gently. Dick’s sensation
that something unusual was happening did not depart.

The four men, after looking at one another, looked fixedly at Dick.

“Sonny,” said Robertson, “you ain’t got no call to worry ‘bout our
troubles. As I said, this is a good, strong hoss of mine, an’ it will
carry us just as far as we go an’ no further.”

It was an enigmatical reply, and Dick saw that it was useless to ask
them questions. Robertson mounted, and Dick, without another word,
sprang up behind him. Two of the privates rode up close, one on either
side, and the other kept immediately behind. He happened to glance back
and he saw that the man held a drawn pistol on his thigh. He wondered at
such extreme precautions, and the ominous feeling increased.

“Now, lads,” said Robertson to his men, “don’t make no more noise than
you can help. There ain’t much chance that any Yankee scoutin’ party
will be out, but if there should be one we don’t want to run into it.
An’ as for you, Mr. Mason, you’re a nice boy. We all can see that, but
just as shore as you let go with a yell or anything like it at any time
or under any circumstances, you’ll be dead the next second.”

A sudden fierce note rang in his voice, and Dick, despite all his
courage, shuddered. He felt as if a nameless terror all at once
threatened not only him, but others. His lips and mouth were dry.

Robertson spoke softly to his horse, and then rode slowly forward
through the deep forest. The others rode with him, never breaking their
compact formation, and preserving the utmost silence. Dick did not ask
another question. Talk and fellowship were over. Everything before him
now was grim and menacing.

The dense woods and the darkness hid them so securely that they could
not have been seen twenty yards away, but the men rode on at a sure
pace, as if they knew the ground well. The silence was deep and intense,
save for the footsteps of the horses and now and then a night bird in
the tall trees calling.

Before they had gone far a man stepped from a thicket and held up a
rifle.

“Four men from the Orphan Brigade with a prisoner,” said Robertson.

“Advance with the prisoner,” said the picket, and the four men rode
forward. Dick saw to both left and right other pickets, all in the gray
uniform of the South, and his heart grew cold within him. The hair on
his head prickled again at its roots, and it was a dreadful sensation.
What did it mean? Why these Southern pickets within cannon shot of the
Northern lines?

The men rode slowly on. They were in the deep forest, but the young
prisoner began to see many things under the leafy canopy. On his right
the dim, shadowy forms of hundreds of men lay sleeping on the grass. On
his left was a massed battery of great guns, eight in number.

Further and further they went, and there were soldiers and cannon
everywhere, but not a fire. There was no bed of coals, not a single
torch gleamed anywhere. Not all the soldiers were sleeping, but those
who were awake never spoke. Silence and darkness brooded over a great
army in gray. It was as if they marched among forty thousand phantoms,
row on row.

The whole appalling truth burst in an instant upon the boy. The Southern
army, which they had supposed was at Corinth, lay in the deep woods
within cannon shot of its foe, and not a soul in all Grant’s thousands
knew of its presence there! And Buell was still far away! It seemed to
Dick that for a little space his heart stopped beating. He foresaw it
all, the terrible hammer-stroke at dawn, the rush of the fiery South
upon her unsuspecting foe, and the cutting down of brigades, before
sleep was gone from their eyes.

Not in vain had the South boasted that Johnston was a great general. He
had not been daunted by Donelson. While his foe rested on his victory
and took his ease, he was here with a new army, ready to strike the
unwary. Dick shivered suddenly, and, with a violent impulse, clutched
the waist of the man in front of him. It may have been some sort of
physical telepathy, but Robertson understood. He turned his head and
said in a whisper:

“You’re right. The whole Southern army is here in the woods, an’ we’d
rather lose a brigade tonight than let you escape.”

Dick felt a thrill of the most acute agony. If he could only escape!
There must be some way! If he could but find one! His single word would
save the lives of thousands and prevent irreparable defeat! Again he
clutched the waist of the man in front of him and again the man divined.

“It ain’t no use,” he said, although his tone was gentle, and in a way
sympathetic. “After all, it’s your own fault. You blundered right in our
way, an’ we had to take you for fear you’d see us, an’ give the alarm.
It was your unlucky chance. You’d give a million dollars if you had
it to slip out of our hands and tell Ulysses Grant that Albert Sidney
Johnston with his whole army is layin’ in the woods right alongside of
him, ready to jump on his back at dawn, an’ he not knowin’ it.”

“I would,” said Dick fervently.

“An’ so would I if I was in your place. Just think, Mr. Mason, that of
all the hundreds of thousands of men in the Northern armies, of all the
twenty or twenty-five million people on the Northern side, there’s just
one, that one a boy, and that boy you, who knows that Albert Sidney
Johnston is here.”

“Held fast as I am, I’m sorry now that I do know it.”

“I can’t say that I blame you. I said you’d give a million dollars to be
able to tell, but if you’re to measure such things with money it would
be worth a hundred million an’ more, yes, it would be cheap at three
or four hundred millions for the North to know it. But, after all, you
can’t measure such things with money. Maybe you think I talk a heap, but
I’m stirred some, too.”

They rode on a little farther over the hilly ground, covered with thick
forest or dense, tall scrub. But there were troops, troops, everywhere,
and now and then the batteries. They were mostly boys, like their
antagonists of the North, and the sleep of most of them was the sleep
of exhaustion, after a forced and rapid march over heavy ground from
Corinth. But Dick knew that they would be fresh in the morning when they
rose from the forest, and rushed upon their unwarned foe.



CHAPTER XIV. THE DARK EVE OF SHILOH


Dick noticed as they went further into the forest how complete was
the concealment of a great army, possible only in a country wooded so
heavily, and in the presence of a careless enemy. The center was like
the front of the Southern force. Not a fire burned, not a torch gleamed.
The horses were withdrawn so far that stamp or neigh could not be heard
by the Union pickets.

“We’ll stop here,” said Robertson at length. “As you’re a Kentuckian, I
thought it would be pleasanter for you to be handed over to Kentuckians.
The Orphan Brigade to which I belong is layin’ on the ground right in
front of us, an’ the first regiment is that of Colonel Kenton. I’ll hand
you over to him, an’--not ‘cause I’ve got anything ag’inst you--I’ll be
mighty glad to do it, too, ‘cause my back is already nigh breakin’ with
the responsibility.”

Dick started violently.

“What’s hit you?” asked Robertson.

“Oh, nothing. You see, I’m nervous.”

“You ain’t tellin’ the truth. But I don’t blame you an’ it don’t matter
anyway. Here we are. Jump down.”

Dick sprang to the ground, and the others followed. While they held
the reins they stood in a close circle about him. He had about as much
chance of escape as he had of flying.

Robertson walked forward, saluted some one who stood up in the dark, and
said a few words in a low tone.

“Bring him forward,” said a clear voice, which Dick recognized at once.

The little group of men opened out and Dick, stepping forth, met his
uncle face to face. It was now the time of Colonel George Kenton to
start violently.

“My God! You, Dick!” he exclaimed. “How did you come here?”

“I didn’t come,” replied the boy, who was now feeling more at ease. “I
was brought here by four scouts of yours, who I must say saw their duty
and did it.”

Colonel Kenton grasped his hand and shook it. He was very fond of this
young nephew of his. The mere fact that he was on the other side did not
alter his affection.

“Tell me about it, Dick,” he said. “And you, Sergeant Robertson, you and
your men are to be thanked for your vigilance and activity. You can go
off duty. You are entitled to your rest.”

As they withdrew the sergeant, who passed by Dick and who had not missed
a word of the conversation between him and his uncle, said to him:

“At least, young sir, I’ve returned you to your relatives, an’ you’re a
minor, as I can see.”

“It’s so,” said Dick as the sergeant passed on.

“They have not ill treated you?” said Colonel Kenton.

“No, they’ve been as kind as one enemy could be to another.”

“It is strange, most strange, that you and I should meet here at such a
time. Nay, Dick, I see in it the hand of Providence. You’re to be saved
from what will happen to your army tomorrow.”

“I’d rather not be saved in this manner.”

“I know it, but it is perhaps the only way. As sure as the stars are
in Heaven your army will be destroyed in the morning, an’ you’d be
destroyed with it. I’m fond of you, Dick, and so I’d rather you’d be in
our rear, a prisoner, while this is happening.”

“General Grant is a hard man to crush.”

“Dick! Dick, lad, you don’t know what you’re talking about! Look at the
thing as it stands! We know everything that you’re doing. Our spies
look into the very heart of your camp. You think that we are fifty miles
away, but a cannon shot from the center of our camp would reach the
center of yours. Why, while we are here, ready to spring, this Grant, of
whom you think so much, is on his way tonight to the little village of
Savannah to confer with Buell. In the dawn when we strike and roll his
brigades back he will not be here. And that’s your great general!”

Dick knew that his uncle was excited. But he had full cause to be.
There was everything in the situation to inflame an officer’s pride and
anticipation. It was not too dark for Dick to see a spark leap from his
eyes, and a sudden flush of red appear in either tanned cheek. But for
Dick the chill came again, and once more his hair prickled at the roots.
The ambush was even more complete than he had supposed, and General
Grant would not be there when it was sprung.

“Dick,” said Colonel Kenton, “I have talked to you as I would not have
talked to anyone else, but even so, I would not have talked to you as
I have, were not your escape an impossibility. You are unharmed, but to
leave this camp you would have to fly.”

“I admit it, sir.”

“Come with me. There are men higher in rank than I who would wish to see
a prisoner taken as you were.”

Dick followed him willingly and without a word. Aware that he was not in
the slightest physical danger he was full of curiosity concerning what
he was about to see. The words, “men higher in rank than I,” whipped his
blood.

Colonel Kenton led through the darkness to a deep and broad ravine, into
which they descended. The sides and bottom of this ravine were clothed
in bushes, and they grew thick on the edges above. It was much darker
here, but Dick presently caught ahead of him the flicker of the first
light that he had seen in the Southern army.

The boy’s heart began to beat fast and hard. All the omens foretold that
he was about to witness something that he could never by any possibility
forget. They came nearer to the flickering light, and he made out seated
figures around it. They were men wrapped in cavalry cloaks, because the
night air had now grown somewhat chill, and Dick knew instinctively
that these were the Southern generals preparing for the hammer-stroke at
dawn.

A sentinel, rifle in hand, met them. Colonel Kenton whispered with him
a moment, and he went to the group. He returned in a moment and
escorted Dick and his uncle forward. Colonel Kenton saluted and Dick
involuntarily did the same.

It was a small fire, casting only a faint and flickering light, but
Dick, his eyes now used to the dusk, saw well the faces of the generals.
He knew at once which was Johnston, the chief. He seemed older than the
rest, sixty at least, but his skin was clear and ruddy, and the firm
face and massive jaw showed thought and power. Yet the countenance
appeared gloomy, as if overcast with care. Perhaps it was another omen!

By the side of Johnston sat a small but muscular man, swarthy, and in
early middle years. His face and gestures when he talked showed clearly
that he was of Latin blood. It was Beauregard, the victor of Bull Run,
now second in command here, and he made a striking contrast to the stern
and motionless Kentuckian who sat beside him and who was his chief.
There was no uneasy play of Johnston’s hands, no shrugging of the
shoulders, no jerking of the head. He sat silent, his features a mask,
while he listened to his generals.

On the other side was Braxton Bragg, brother-in-law of Jefferson Davis,
who could never forget Bragg’s kinship, and the service that he had done
fifteen years before at Buena Vista, when he had broken with his guns
the last of Santa Anna’s squares, deciding the victory. By the side of
him was Hardee, the famous tactician, taught in the best schools of both
America and Europe. Then there was Polk, who, when a youth, had left the
army to enter the church and become a bishop, and who was now a soldier
again and a general. Next to the bishop-general sat the man who had been
Vice-President of the United States and who, if the Democracy had
held together would now have been in the chair of Lincoln, John C.
Breckinridge, called by his people the Magnificent, commonly accounted
the most splendid looking man in America.

“Bring the prisoner forward, Colonel Kenton,” said General Johnston, a
general upon whom the South, with justice, rested great hopes.

Dick stepped forward at once and he held himself firmly, as he felt the
eyes of the six generals bent upon him. He was conscious even at the
moment that chance had given him a great opportunity. He was there to
see, while the military genius of the South planned in the shadow of a
dark ravine a blow which the six intended to be crushing.

“Where was the prisoner taken?” said Johnston to Colonel Kenton.

“Sergeant Robertson and three other men of my command seized him as he
was about to enter the Northern lines. He was coming from the direction
of Buell, where it is likely that he had gone to take a dispatch.”

“Did you find any answer upon him.”

“My men searched him carefully, sir, but found nothing.”

“He is in the uniform of a staff officer. Have you found to what
regiment in the Union army he belongs?”

“He is on the staff of Colonel Arthur Winchester, who commands one of
the Kentucky regiments. I have also to tell you, sir, that his name is
Richard Mason, and that he is my nephew.”

“Ah,” said General Johnston, “it is one of the misfortunes of civil war
that so many of us fight against our own relatives. For those who live
in the border states yours is the common lot.”

But Dick was conscious that the six generals were gazing at him with
renewed interest.

“Your surmise about his having been to Buell is no doubt correct,” said
Beauregard quickly and nervously. “You left General Buell this morning,
did you not, Mr. Mason?”

Dick remained silent.

“It is also true that Buell’s army is worn down by his heavy march
over muddy roads,” continued Beauregard as if he had not noticed Dick’s
failure to reply.

Dick’s teeth were shut firmly, and he compressed his lips. He stood
rigidly erect, gazing now at the flickering flames of the little fire.

“I suggest that you try him on some other subject than Buell, General
Beauregard,” said the bishop-general, a faint twinkle appearing in his
eyes. Johnston sat silent, but his blue eyes missed nothing.

“It is true also, is it not,” continued Beauregard, “that General Grant
has gone or is going tonight to Savannah to meet General Buell, and
confer with him about a speedy advance upon our army at Corinth?”

Dick clenched his teeth harder than ever, and a spasm passed over his
face. He was conscious that six pairs of eyes, keen and intent, ready to
note the slightest change of countenance and to read a meaning into it,
were bent upon him. It was only by a supreme effort that he remained
master of himself, but after the single spasm his countenance remained
unmoved.

“You do not choose to answer,” said Bragg, always a stern and ruthless
man, “but we can drag what you know from you.”

“I am a prisoner of war,” replied Dick steadily. “I was taken in full
uniform. I am no spy, and you cannot ill treat me.”

“I do not mean that we would inflict any physical suffering upon you,”
 said Bragg. “The Confederacy does not, and will never resort to such
methods. But you are only a boy. We can question you here, until,
through very weakness of spirit, you will be glad to tell us all you
know about Buell’s or any other Northern force.”

“Try me, and see,” said Dick proudly.

The blue eye of the silent Johnston flickered for an instant.

“But it is true,” said Beauregard, resuming his role of cross-examiner,
“that your army, considering itself secure, has not fortified against
us? It has dug no trenches, built no earthworks, thrown up no abatis!”

The boy stood silent with folded arms, and Colonel George Kenton,
standing on one side, threw his nephew a glance of sympathy, tinged with
admiration.

“Still you do not answer,” continued Beauregard, and now a strong note
of irony appeared in his tone, “but perhaps it is just as well. You
do your duty to your own army, and we miss nothing. You cannot tell
us anything that we do not know already. Whatever you may know we know
more. We know tonight the condition of General Grant’s army better than
General Grant himself does. We know how General Buell and his army stand
better than General Buell himself does. We know the position of your
brigades and the missing links between them better than your own brigade
commanders do.”

The eyes of the Louisianian flashed, his swarthy face swelled and his
shoulders twitched. The French blood was strong within him. Just so
might some general of Napoleon, some general from the Midi, have shown
his emotion on the eve of battle, an emotion which did not detract from
courage and resolution. But the Puritan general, Johnston, raised a
deprecatory hand.

“It is enough, General Beauregard,” he said. “The young prisoner will
tell us nothing. That is evident. As he sees his duty he does it, and
I wish that our young men when they are taken may behave as well. Mr.
Mason, you are excused. You remain in the custody of your uncle, but I
warn you that there is none who will guard better against the remotest
possibility of your escape.”

It was involuntary, but Dick gave his deepest military salute, and said
in a tone of mingled admiration and respect:

“General Johnston, I thank you.”

The commander-in-chief of the Southern army bowed courteously in return,
and Dick, following his uncle, left the ravine.

The six generals returned to their council, and the boy who would not
answer was quickly forgotten. Long they debated the morrow. Several
have left accounts of what occurred. Johnston, although he had laid the
remarkable ambush, and was expecting victory, was grave, even gloomy.
But Beauregard, volatile and sanguine, rejoiced. For him the triumph was
won already. After their great achievement in placing their army, unseen
and unknown, within cannon shot of the Union force, failure was to him
impossible.

Breckinridge, like his chief, Johnston, was also grave and did not say
much. Hardee, as became one of his severe military training, discussed
the details, the placing of the brigades and the time of attack by each.
Polk, the bishop-general, and Bragg, also had their part.

As they talked in low tones they moved the men over their chessboard.
Now and then an aide was summoned, and soon departed swiftly and in
silence to move a battery or a regiment a little closer to the Union
lines, but always he carried the injunction that no noise be made. Not
a sound that could be heard three hundred yards away came from all that
great army, lying there in the deep woods and poised for its spring.

Meanwhile security reigned in the Union camp. The farm lads of the west
and northwest had talked much over their fires. They had eaten good
suppers, and by and by they fell asleep. But many of the officers still
sat by the coals and discussed the march against the Southern army at
Corinth, when the men of Buell should join those of Grant. The pickets,
although the gaps yet remained between those of the different brigades,
walked back and forth and wondered at the gloom and intensity of the
woods in front of them, but did not dream of that which lay in the heart
of the darkness.

The Southern generals in the ravine lingered yet a little longer. A
diagram had been drawn upon a piece of paper. It showed the position
of every Southern brigade, regiment, and battery, and of every Northern
division, too. It showed every curve of the Tennessee, the winding lines
of the three creeks, Owl, Lick, and Snake, and the hills and marshes.

The last detail of the plan was agreed upon finally, and they made it
very simple, lest their brigades and regiments should lose touch and
become confused in the great forest. They were to attack continually
by the right, press the Union army toward the right always, in order
to rush in and separate it from Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee,
and from the fleet and its stores. Then they meant to drive it into the
marshes enclosed by the river and Snake Creek and destroy it.

The six generals rose, leaving the little fire to sputter out. General
Johnston was very grave, and so were all the others as they started
toward their divisions, except Beauregard, who said in sanguine tones:

“Gentlemen, we shall sleep tomorrow night in the enemy’s camp.”

Word, in the mysterious ways of war, had slid through the camp that
the generals were in council, and many soldiers, driven by overwhelming
curiosity, had crept through the underbrush to watch the figures by the
fire in the ravine. They could not hear, they did not seek to hear, but
they were held by a sort of spell. When they saw them separate, every
one moving toward his own headquarters, they knew that there was
nothing to await now but the dawn, and they stole back toward their own
headquarters.

Dick had gone with Colonel Kenton to his own regiment, in the very heart
of the Orphan Brigade, and on his way his uncle said:

“Dick, you will sleep among my own lads, and I ask you for your own sake
to make no attempt to escape tonight. You would certainly be shot.”

“I recognize that fact, sir, and I shall await a better opportunity.”

“What to do with you in the morning I don’t know, but we shall probably
be able to take care of you. Meanwhile, Dick, go to sleep if you can.
See, our boys are spread here through the woods. If it were day you’d
probably find at least a dozen among them whom you know, and certainly a
hundred are of blood kin to you, more or less.”

Dick saw the dim forms stretched in hundreds on the ground, and,
thanking his uncle for his kindness, he stretched himself upon an
unoccupied bit of turf and closed his eyes. But it was impossible for
young Richard Mason to sleep. He felt again that terrible thrill
of agony, because he, alone, of all the score and more of Northern
millions, knew that the Southern trap was about to fall, and he could
not tell.

Never was he further from sleep. His nerves quivered with actual
physical pain. He opened his eyes again and saw the dim forms lying
in row on row as far in the forest as his eye could reach. Then he
listened. He might hear the rifle of some picket, more wary or more
enterprising than the others, sounding the alarm. But no such sound came
to his ears. It had turned warmer again, and he heard only the Southern
wind, heavy with the odors of grass and flower, sighing through the tall
forest.

An anger against his own surged up in his breast. Why wouldn’t they
look? How could they escape seeing? Was it possible for one great army
to remain unknown within cannon shot of another a whole night? It was
incredible, but he had seen it, and he knew it. Fierce and bitter words
rose to his lips, but he did not utter them.

Dick lay a long time, with his eyes open, and the night was passing as
peacefully as if there would be no red dawn. Occasionally he heard a
faint stir near him, as some restless soldier turned on his side in his
sleep, and now and then a muttered word from an officer who passed near
in the darkness.

Hours never passed more slowly. Colonel Kenton had gone back toward the
Northern lines, and the boy surmised that he would be one of the first
in the attack at dawn. He began to wonder if dawn would ever really
come. Stars and a fair moon were out, and as nearly as he could judge
from them it must be about three o’clock in the morning. Yet it seemed
to him that he had been lying there at least twelve hours.

He shut his eyes again, but sleep was as far from him as ever. After
another long and almost unendurable period he opened them once more, and
it seemed to him that there was a faint tint of gray in the east. He sat
up, and looking a long time, he was sure of it. The gray was deepening
and broadening, and at its center it showed a tint of silver. The dawn
was at hand, and every nerve in the boy’s body thrilled with excitement
and apprehension.

A murmur and a shuffling sound arose all around him. The sleepers were
awake, and they stood up, thousands of them. Cold food was given
to them, and they ate it hastily. But they fondled their rifles and
muskets, and turned their faces toward the point where the Northern army
lay, and from which no sound came.

Dick shivered all over. His head burned and his nerves throbbed. Too
late now! He had hoped all through the long night that something
would happen to carry a warning to that unsuspecting army. Nothing had
happened, and in five minutes the attack would begin.

He stood up at his full height and sought to pierce with his eyes the
foliage in front of him, but the massed ranks of the Southerners now
stood between, and the batteries were wheeling into line.

A great throb and murmur ran through the forest. Dick looked upon faces
brown with the sun, and eyes gleaming with the fierce passion of victory
and revenge. They were going to avenge Henry and Donelson and all the
long and mortifying retreat from Kentucky. Dick saw them straining and
looking eagerly at their officers for the word to advance.

As if by a concerted signal the long and mellow peal of many trumpets
came from the front, the officers uttered the shout to charge, the wild
and terrible rebel yell swelled from forty thousand throats, and the
Southern army rushed upon its foe.

The red dawn of Shiloh had come.



CHAPTER XV. THE RED DAWN OF SHILOH


Dick stood appalled when he heard that terrible shout in the dawn, and
the crash of cannon and rifles rolling down upon the Union lines. It was
already a shout of triumph and, as he gazed, he saw through the woods
the red line of flame, sweeping on without a halt.

The surprise had been complete. Hardee, leading the Southern advance,
struck Peabody’s Northern brigade and smashed it up instantly. The men
did not have time to seize their rifles. They had no chance to form
into ranks, and the officers themselves, as they shouted commands,
were struck down. Men killed or wounded were falling everywhere. Almost
before they had time to draw a free breath the remnants of the brigade
were driven upon those behind it.

Hardee also rushed upon Sherman, but there he found a foe of tough
mettle. The man who had foreseen the enormous extent of the war,
although taken by surprise, too, did not lose his courage or presence of
mind. His men had time to seize their arms, and he formed a hasty line
of battle. He also had the forethought to send word to the general in
his rear to close up the gap between him and the next general in the
line. Then he shifted one of his own brigades until there was a ravine
in front of it to protect his men, and he hurried a battery to his
flank.

Never was Napoleon’s maxim that men are nothing, a man is everything,
more justified, and never did the genius of Sherman shine more
brilliantly than on that morning. It was he, alone, cool of mind and
steady in the face of overwhelming peril, who first faced the Southern
rush. He inspired his troops with his own courage, and, though pale of
face, they bent forward to meet the red whirlwind that was rushing down
upon them.

Like a blaze running through dry grass the battle extended in almost an
instant along the whole front, and the deep woods were filled with the
roar of eighty thousand men in conflict. And Grant, as at Donelson, was
far away.

The thunder and blaze of the battle increased swiftly and to a frightful
extent. The Southern generals, eager, alert and full of success, pushed
in all their troops. The surprised Northern army was giving away at all
points, except where Sherman stood. Hardee, continuing his rush, broke
the Northern line asunder, and his brigades, wrapping themselves around
Sherman, strove to destroy him.

Although he saw his lines crumbling away before him, Sherman never
flinched. The ravine in front of him and rough ground on one side
defended him to a certain extent. The men fired their rifles as fast as
they could load and reload, and the cannon on their flanks never ceased
to pour shot and shell into the ranks of their opponents. The gunners
were shot down, but new ones rose at once in their place. The fiercest
conflict yet seen on American soil was raging here. North would not
yield, South ever rushed anew to the attack, and a vast cloud of mingled
flame and smoke enclosed them both.

Dick had stood as if petrified, staring at the billows of flame, while
the thunder of great armies in battle stunned his ears. He realized
suddenly that he was alone. Colonel Kenton had said the night before
that he did not know what to do with him, but that he would find a way
in the morning. But he had been forgotten, and he knew it was natural
that he should be. His fate was but a trifle in the mighty event that
was passing. There was no time for any one in the Southern army to
bother about him.

Then he understood too, that he was free. The whole Orphan Brigade
had passed on into the red heart of the battle, and had left him there
alone. Now his mind leaped out of its paralysis. All his senses became
alert. In that vast whirlwind of fire and smoke no one would notice that
a single youth was stealing through the forest in an effort to rejoin
his own people.

Action followed swift upon thought. He curved about in the woods and
then ran rapidly toward the point where the fire seemed thinnest. He did
not check his pace until he had gone at least a mile. Then he paused to
see if he could tell how the battle was going. Its roar seemed louder
than ever in his ears, and in front of him was a vast red line, which
extended an unseen distance through the forest. Now and then the wild
and thrilling rebel yell rose above the roar of cannon and the crash of
rifles.

Dick saw with a sinking of the heart--and yet he had known that it would
be so--that the red line of flame had moved deeper into the heart of the
Northern camp. It had passed the Northern outposts and, at many points,
it had swept over the Northern center. He feared that there was but a
huddled and confused mass beyond it.

He saw something lying at his feet. It was a Confederate military cloak
which some officer had cast off as he rushed to the charge. He picked it
up, threw it about his own shoulders, and then tossed away his cap. If
he fell in with Confederate troops they would not know him from one of
their own, and it was no time now to hold cross-examinations.

He took a wide curve, and, after another mile, came to a hillock, upon
which he stood a little while, panting. Again he was appalled at the
sight he beheld. Bull Run and Donelson were small beside this. Here
eighty thousand men were locked fast in furious conflict. Raw and
undisciplined many of these farmer lads of the west and south were, but
in battle they showed a courage and tenacity not surpassed by the best
trained troops that ever lived.

The floating smoke reached Dick where he stood and stung his eyes, and
a powerful odor of burned gunpowder assailed his nostrils. But
neither sight nor odors held him back. Instead, they drew him on with
overwhelming force. He must rejoin his own and do his best however
little it counted in the whole.

It was now well on into the morning of a brilliant and hot Sunday. He
did not know it, but the combat was raging fiercest then around the
little church, which should have been sacred. Drawing a deep breath
of an air which was shot with fire and smoke, and which was hot to
his lungs, Dick began to run again. Almost before he noticed it he was
running by the side of a Southern regiment which had been ordered to
veer about and attack some new point in the Northern line. Keeping his
presence of mind he shouted with them as they rushed on, and presently
dropped away from them in the smoke.

He was conscious now of a new danger. Twigs and bits of bark began to
rain down upon him, and he heard the unpleasant whistle of bullets over
his head. They were the bullets of his own people, seeking to repel the
Southern charge. A minute later a huge shell burst near him, covering
him with flying earth. At first he thought he had been hit by fragments
of the shell, but when he shook himself he found that he was all right.

He took yet a wider curve and before he was aware of the treacherous
ground plunged into a swamp bordering one of the creeks. He stood for
a few moments in mud and water to his waist, but he knew that he had
passed from the range of the Union fire. Twigs and bark no longer fell
around him and that most unpleasant whizz of bullets was gone.

He pulled himself out of the mire and ran along the edge of the creek
toward the roar of the battle. He knew now that he had passed around the
flank of the Southern army and could approach the flank of his own. He
ran fast, and then began to hear bullets again. But now they were coming
from the Southern army. He threw away the cloak and presently he emerged
into a mass of men, who, under the continual urging of their officers,
were making a desperate defense, firing, drawing back, reloading and
firing again. In front, the woods swarmed with the Southern troops who
drove incessantly upon them.

Dick snatched up a rifle--plenty were lying upon the ground, where the
owners had fallen with them--and fired into the attacking ranks. Then he
reloaded swiftly, and pressed on toward the Union center.

“What troops are these?” he asked of an officer who was knotting a
handkerchief about a bleeding wrist.

“From Illinois. Who are you?”

“I’m Lieutenant Richard Mason of Colonel Arthur Winchester’s Kentucky
regiment. I was taken prisoner by the enemy last night, but I escaped
this morning. Do you know where my regiment is?”

“Keep straight on, and you’ll strike it or what’s left of it, if
anything at all is left. It’s a black day.”

Dick scarcely caught his last words, as he dashed on through bullets,
shell and solid shot over slain men and horses, over dismantled guns
and gun carriages, and into the very heart of the flame and smoke.
The thunder of the battle was at its height now, because he was in
the center of it. The roar of the great guns was continuous, but the
unbroken crash of rifles by the scores of thousands was fiercer and more
deadly.

The officer had pointed toward the Kentucky regiment with his sword, and
following the line Dick ran directly into it. The very first face he saw
was that of Colonel Winchester.

“Dick, my lad,” shouted the Colonel, “where have you come from?”

“From the Southern army. I was taken prisoner last night almost within
sight of our own, but when they charged this morning they forgot me and
here I am.”

Colonel Winchester suddenly seized him by the shoulders and pushed
him down. The regiment was behind a small ridge which afforded some
protection, and all were lying down except the senior officers.

“Welcome, Dick, to our hot little camp! The chances are about a hundred
per cent out of a hundred per cent that this is the hottest place on the
earth today!”

The long, thin figure of Warner lay pressed against the ground. A
handkerchief, stained red, was bound about his head and his face was
pale, but indomitable courage gleamed from his eyes. Just beyond him was
Pennington, unhurt.

“Thank God you haven’t fallen, and that I’ve found you!” exclaimed Dick.

“I don’t know whether you’re so lucky after all,” said Warner. “The
Johnnies have been mowing us down. They dropped on us so suddenly this
morning that they must have been sleeping in the same bed with us last
night, and we didn’t know it. I hear that we’re routed nearly everywhere
except here and where Sherman stands. Look out! Here they come again!”

They saw tanned faces and fierce eyes through the smoke, and the bullets
swept down on them in showers. Lucky for them that the little ridge was
there, and that they had made up their minds to stand to the last. They
replied with their own deadly fire, yet many fell, despite the shelter,
and to both left and right the battle swelled afresh. Dick felt again
that rain of bark and twigs and leaves. Sometimes a tree, cut through
at its base by cannon balls, fell with a crash. Along the whole curving
line the Southern generals ever urged forward their valiant troops.

Now the courage and skill of Sherman shone supreme. Dick saw him often
striding up and down the lines, ordering and begging his men to stand
fast, although they were looking almost into the eyes of their enemies.

The conflict became hand to hand, and assailant and assailed reeled to
and fro. But Sherman would not give up. The fiercest attacks broke in
vain on his iron front. McClernand, with whom he had quarreled the day
before as to who should command the army while Grant was away, came up
with reinforcements, and seeing what the fearless and resolute general
had done, yielded him the place.

The last of the charges broke for the time upon Sherman, and his
exhausted regiment uttered a shout of triumph, but on both sides of
him the Southern troops drove their enemy back and yet further back.
Breckinridge, along Lick Creek, was pushing everything before him. The
bishop-general was doing well. Many of the Northern troops had not yet
recovered from their surprise. A general and three whole regiments,
struck on every side, were captured.

It seemed that nothing could deprive the Southern army of victory,
absolute and complete. General Johnston had marshalled his troops with
superb skill, and intending to reap the full advantage of the surprise,
he continually pushed them forward upon the shattered Northern lines.
He led in person and on horseback the attack upon the Federal center.
Around and behind him rode his staff, and the wild rebel yell swept
again through the forest, when the soldiers saw the stern and lofty
features of the chief whom they trusted, leading them on.

But fate in the very moment of triumph that seemed overwhelming and sure
was preparing a terrible blow for the South. A bullet struck Johnston in
the ankle. His boot filled with blood, and the wound continued to bleed
fast. But, despite the urging of his surgeon, who rode with him, he
refused to dismount and have the wound bound up. How could he dismount
at such a time, when the battle was at its height, and the Union army
was being driven into the creeks and swamps! He was wounded again by a
piece of shell, and he sank dying from his horse. His officers crowded
around him, seeking to hide their irreparable loss from the soldiers,
the most costly death, with the exception of Stonewall Jackson’s,
sustained by the Confederacy in the whole war.

But the troops, borne on by the impetus that success and the spirit of
Johnston had given them, drove harder than ever against the Northern
line. They crashed through it in many places, seizing prisoners and
cannon. Almost the whole Northern camp was now in their possession, and
many of the Southern lads, hungry from scanty rations, stopped to seize
the plenty that they found there, but enough persisted to give the
Northern army no rest, and press it back nearer and nearer to the
marshes.

The combat redoubled around Sherman. Johnston was gone, but his generals
still shared his resolution. They turned an immense fire upon the point
where stood Sherman and McClernand, now united by imminent peril. Their
ranks were searched by shot and shell, and the bullets whizzed among
them like a continuous swarm of hornets.

Dick was still unwounded, but so much smoke and vapor had drifted about
his face that he was compelled at times to rub his eyes that he might
see. He felt a certain dizziness, too, and he did not know whether the
incessant roaring in his ears came wholly from the cannon and rifle fire
or partly from the pounding of his blood.

“I feel that we are shaking,” he shouted in the ears of Warner, who lay
next to him. “I’m afraid we’re going to give ground.”

“I feel it, too,” Warner shouted back. “We’ve been here for hours, but
we’re shot to pieces. Half of our men must be killed or wounded, but how
old Sherman fights!”

The Southern leaders brought up fresh troops and hurled them upon
Sherman. Again the combat was hand to hand, and to the right and left
the supports of the indomitable Northern general were being cut away.
Those brigades who had proved their mettle at Donelson, and who had
long stood fast, were attacked so violently that they gave way, and the
victors hurled themselves upon Sherman’s flank.

Dick and his two young comrades perceived through the flame and smoke
the new attack. It seemed to Dick that they were being enclosed now
by the whole Southern army, and he felt a sense of suffocation. He was
dizzy from such a long and terrible strain and so much danger, and he
was not really more than half conscious. He was loading and firing his
rifle mechanically, but he always aimed at something in the red storm
before them, although he never knew whether he hit or missed, and was
glad of it.

The division of Sherman had been standing there seven hours, sustaining
with undaunted courage the resolute attacks of the Southern army, but
the sixth sense warning Dick that it had begun to shake at last was
true. The sun had now passed the zenith and was pouring intense and
fiery rays upon the field, sometimes piercing the clouds of smoke, and
revealing the faces of the men, black with sweat and burned gunpowder.

A cry arose for Grant. Why did not their chief show himself upon the
field! Was so great a battle to be fought with him away? And where was
Buell? He had a second great army. He was to join them that day. What
good would it be for him to come tomorrow? Many of them laughed in
bitter derision. And there was Lew Wallace, too! They had heard that he
was near the field with a strong division. Then why did he not come upon
it and face the enemy? Again they laughed that fierce and bitter laugh
deep down in their throats.

The attack upon Sherman never ceased for an instant. Now he was assailed
not only from the front, but from both flanks, and some even gaining the
rear struck blows upon his division there. One brigade upon his left was
compelled to give way, scattered, and lost its guns. The right wing was
also driven in, and the center yielded slowly, although retaining its
cohesion.

The three lads were on their feet now, and it seemed to them that
everything was lost. They could see the battle in front of them only,
but rumors came to them that the army was routed elsewhere. But neither
Sherman nor McClernand would yield, save for the slow retreat, yielding
ground foot by foot only. And there were many unknown heroes around
them. Sergeant Whitley blazed with courage and spirit.

“We could be worse off than we are!” he shouted to Dick. “General
Buell’s army may yet come!”

“Maybe we could be worse off than we are, but I don’t see how it’s
possible!” shouted Dick in return, a certain grim humor possessing him
for the moment.

“Look! What I said has come true already!” shouted the sergeant. “Here
is shelter that will help us to make a new stand!”

In their slow retreat they reached two low hills, between which a small
ravine ran. It was not a strong position, but Sherman used it to the
utmost. His men fired from the protecting crests of the hills, and he
filled the ravine with riflemen, who poured a deadly fire upon their
assailants.

Now Sherman ordered them to stand fast to the last man, because it was
by this road that the division of Lew Wallace must come, if it came at
all. But Southern brigades followed them and the battle raged anew, as
fierce and deadly as ever.

Although their army was routed at many points the Northern officers
showed indomitable courage. Driven back in the forest they always
strove to form the lines anew, and now their efforts began to show some
success. Their resistance on the right hardened, and on the left they
held fast to the last chain of hills that covered the wharves and their
stores at the river landing. As they took position here two gunboats in
the river began to send huge shells over their heads at the attacking
Southern columns, maintaining a rapid and heavy fire which shook
assailants and strengthened defenders. Again the water had come to the
help of the North, and at the most critical moment. The whole Northern
line was now showing a firmer front, and Grant, himself, was directing
the battle.

Fortune, which had played a game with Grant at Donelson, played a far
greater one with him on the far greater field of Shiloh. The red dawn of
Shiloh, when Johnston was sweeping his army before him, had found him at
Savannah far from the field of battle. The hardy and vigorous Nelson had
arrived there in the night with Buell’s vanguard, and Grant had ordered
it to march at speed the next day to join his own army. But he, himself,
did not reach the field of Shiloh until 10 o’clock, when the fiercest
battle yet known on the American continent had been raging for several
hours.

Grant and his staff, as they rode away from his headquarters, heard the
booming of cannon in the direction of Shiloh. Some of them thought it
was a mere skirmish, but it came continuously, like rolling thunder, and
their trained ears told them that it rose from a line miles in length.
One seeks to penetrate the mind of a commanding general at such a time,
and see what his feelings were. Again the battle had been joined, and
was at its height, and he away!

Those trained ears told him also that the rolling thunder of the cannon
was steadily moving toward them. It could mean only that the Northern
army had been driven from its camp and that the Southern army was
pushing its victory to the utmost. In those moments his agony must have
been intense. His great army not only attacked, but beaten, and he not
there! He and his staff urged their horses forward, seeking to gain from
them new ounces of speed, but the country was difficult. The hills were
rough and there were swamps and mire. And, as they listened, the roar
of battle steadily came nearer and nearer. There was no break in the
Northern retreat. The sweat, not of heat but of mental agony, stood upon
their faces. Grant was not the only one who suffered.

Now they met some of those stragglers who flee from every battlefield,
no matter what the nation. Their faces were white with fear and they
cried out that the Northern army was destroyed. Officers cursed them and
struck at them with the flats of their swords, but they dodged the blows
and escaped into the bushes. There was no time to pursue them. Grant and
his staff never ceased to ride toward the storm of battle which raged
far and wide around the little church of Shiloh.

The stream of fugitives increased, and now they saw swarms of men who
stood here and there, not running, but huddled and irresolute. Never
did Fortune, who brought this, her favorite, from the depths, bring him
again in her play so near to the verge of destruction. When he came upon
the field, the battle seemed wholly lost, and the whole world would have
cried that he was to blame.

But the bulldog in Grant was never of stauncher breed than on that
day. His face turned white, and he grew sick at the sight of the awful
slaughter. A bullet broke the small sword at his side, but he did not
flinch. Preserving the stern calm that always marked him on the field he
began to form his lines anew and strengthen the weaker points.

Yet the condition of his army would have appalled a weaker will. It had
been driven back three miles. His whole camp had been taken. His second
line also had been driven in. Many thousands of men had fallen and other
thousands had been taken. Thirty of his cannon were in the hands of the
enemy, and although noon had now come and gone there was no sound to
betoken the coming of the troops led by Wallace or Nelson. Well might
Grant’s own stout heart have shrunk appalled from the task before him.

Wallace was held back by confused orders, pardonable at such a time.
The eager Nelson was detained at Savannah by Buell, who thought that
the sounds of the engagement they heard in the Shiloh woods was a minor
affair, and who wanted Nelson to wait for boats to take him there.

It seemed sometimes to Dick long afterward, when the whole of the great
Shiloh battle became clear, that Fortune was merely playing a game of
chess, with the earth as a board, and the armies as pawns. Grant’s army
was ambushed with its general absent. The other armies which were almost
at hand were delayed for one reason or another. While as for the South,
the genius that had planned the attack and that had carried it forward
was quenched in death, when victory was at its height.

But for the present the lad had little time for such thoughts as these.
The success of Sherman in holding the new position infused new courage
into him and those around him. The men in gray, wearied with their
immense exertions, and having suffered frightful losses themselves,
abated somewhat the energy and fierceness of their attack.

The dissolved Northern regiments had time to reform. Grant seized a
new position along a line of hills, in front of which ran a deep ravine
filled with brushwood. He and his officers appreciated the advantage and
they massed the troops there as fast as they could.

Now Fortune, after having brought Grant to the verge of the pit, was
disposed to throw chances in his way. The hills and the ravine were
one. Another, and most important it was, was the presence of guns of
the heaviest calibre landed some days ago from the fleet, and left there
until their disposition could be determined. A quick-witted colonel,
Webster by name, gathered up all the gunners who had lost their own
guns and who had been driven back in the retreat, and manned this great
battery of siege guns, just as the Southern generals were preparing to
break down the last stand of the North.

Meanwhile, a terrible rumor had been spreading in the ranks of the
Southern troops. The word was passed from soldier to soldier that their
commander, Johnston, whom they had believed invincible, had been killed,
and they did not trust so much Beauregard, who was left in command,
nor those who helped. Their fiery spirit abated somewhat. There was no
decrease of courage, but continuous victory did not seem so easy now.

Confusion invaded the triumphant army also. Beauregard had divided the
leadership on the field among three of his lieutenants. Hardee now urged
on the center, Bragg commanded the right, and Polk, the bishop-general,
led the left. It was Bragg’s division that was about to charge the great
battery of siege guns that the alert Webster had manned so quickly. Five
minutes more and Webster would have been too late. Here again were the
fortunes of Grant brought to the very verge of the pit. The Northern
gunboats at the mouth of Lick Creek moved forward a little, and their
guns were ready to support the battery.

The Kentucky regiment was wedged in between the battery and a brigade,
and it was gasping for breath. Colonel Winchester, slightly wounded
in three places, commanded his men to lie down, and they gladly threw
themselves upon the earth.

There was a momentary lull in the battle. Wandering winds caught up the
banks of smoke and carried most of them away. Dick, as he rose a little,
saw the Southern troops massing in the forest for an attack upon their
new position. They seemed to be only a few yards away and he clearly
observed the officers walking along the front of the lines. It flashed
upon him that they must hold these hills or Grant’s army would perish.
Where was Buell? Why did he not come? If the Southerners destroyed one
Northern army today they would destroy another tomorrow! They would
break the two halves of the Union force in the west into pieces, first
one and then the other.

“What do you see, Dick?” asked Warner, who was lying almost flat upon
his face.

“The Confederate army is getting ready to wipe us off the face of the
earth! Up with your rifle, George! They’ll be upon us in two minutes!”

They heard a sudden shout behind them. It was a glad shout, and well it
might be. Nelson, held back by Buell’s orders, had listened long to
the booming of the cannon off in the direction of Shiloh. Nothing could
convince him that a great battle was not going on, and all through the
morning he chafed and raged. And as the sound of the cannon grew louder
he believed that Grant’s army was losing.

Nelson obtained Buell’s leave at last to march for Shiloh, but it was
a long road across hills and creeks and through swamps. The cannon sank
deep in the mire, and then the ardent Nelson left them behind. Now he
knew there was great need for haste. The flashing and thundering in
front of them showed to the youngest soldier in his command that a great
battle was in progress, and that it was going against the North. His
division at last reached Pittsburg Landing and was carried across the
river in the steamers. One brigade led by Ammen outstripped the rest,
and rushed in behind the great battery and to its support, just as the
Southern bugles once more sounded the charge.

Dick shouted with joy, too, when he saw the new troops. The next moment
the enemy was upon them, charging directly through a frightful discharge
from the great guns. The riddled regiments, which had fought so long,
gave way before the bayonets, but the fresh troops took their places and
poured a terrible fire into the assaulting columns. And the great guns
of the battery hurled a new storm of shell and solid shot. The ranks
of the Southern troops, worn by a full day of desperate fighting, were
broken. They had crossed the ravine into the very mouths of the Northern
guns, but now they were driven back into the ravine and across it.
Cannon and rifles rained missiles upon them there, and they withdrew
into the woods, while for the first time in all that long day a shout of
triumph rose from the Union lines.

Another lull came in the battle.

“What are they doing now, Dick?” asked the Vermonter.

“I can’t see very well, but they seem to be gathering in the forest for
a fresh attack. Do you know, George, that the sun is almost down?”

“It’s certainly time. It’s been at least a month since the Johnnies ran
out of the forest in the dawn, and jumped on us.”

It was true that the day was almost over, although but few had noticed
the fact. The east was already darkening, and a rosy glow from the west
fell across the torn forest. Here and there a dead tree, set on fire
by the shells, burned slowly, little flames creeping along trunk and
boughs.

Bragg was preparing to hurl his entire force upon Sherman and the
battery. At that moment Beauregard, now his chief, arrived. But a few
minutes of daylight were left and the swarthy Louisianian looked at the
great losses in his own ranks. He believed that the army of Buell was so
far away that it could not arrive that night and he withheld the charge.

The Southern army withdrew a little into the woods, the night rushed
down, and Shiloh’s terrible first day was over.



CHAPTER XVI. THE FIERCE FINISH OF SHILOH


Dick, who had been lying under cover just behind the crest of one of
the low ridges, suddenly heard the loud beating of his heart. He did not
know, for a moment or two, that the sound came so distinctly because the
mighty tumult which had been raging around him all day had ceased, as
if by a concerted signal. Those blinding flashes of flame no longer
came from the forest before him, the shot and shell quit their horrible
screaming, and the air was free from the unpleasant hiss of countless
bullets.

He stretched himself a little and stood up. The lads all around him
were standing up, and were beginning to talk to each other in the
high-pitched, shouting voices that they had been compelled to use all
day long, not yet realizing to the full that the tumult of the battle
had ceased. The boy felt stiff and sore in every bone and muscle, and,
although the cannon and rifles were silent, there was still a hollow
roaring in his ears. His eyes were yet dim from the smoke, and his head
felt heavy and dull. He gazed vacantly at the forest in front of him,
and wondered dimly why the Southern army was not still there, attacking,
as it had attacked for so many hours.

But the deep woods were silent and empty. Coils and streamers of smoke
floated about among the trees, and suddenly a gray squirrel hopped out
on a bough and began to chatter wildly. Dick, despite himself, laughed,
but the laugh was hysterical. He could appreciate the feelings of the
squirrel, which probably had been imprisoned in a hollow of the tree all
day long, listening to this tremendous battle, and squirrels were
not used to such battles. It was a trifle that made him laugh, but
everything was out of proportion now. Life did not go on in the usual
way at all. The ordinary occupations were gone, and people spent most of
their time trying to kill one another.

He rubbed his hands across his eyes and cleared them of the smoke. The
battle was certainly over for the day at least, and neither he nor
his comrades had sufficient vitality yet to think of the morrow. The
twilight was fast deepening into night. The last rosy glow of the sun
faded, and thick darkness enveloped the vast forest, in which twenty
thousand men had fallen, and in which most of them yet lay, the wounded
with the dead.

There was presently a deep boom from the river, and a shell fired by one
of the gunboats curved far over their heads and dropped into the forest,
where the Southern army was encamped. All through the night and at
short but regular intervals the gunboats maintained this warning fire,
heartening the Union soldiers, and telling them at every discharge that
however they might have to fight for the land, the water was always
theirs.

Dick saw Colonel Winchester going among his men, and pulling himself
together he saluted his chief.

“Any orders, sir?” he said.

“No, Dick, my boy, none for the present,” replied the colonel, a little
sadly. “Half of my poor regiment is killed or wounded, and the rest
are so exhausted that they are barely able to move. But they fought
magnificently, Dick! They had to, or be crushed! It is only here that
we have withstood the rush of the Southern army, and it is probable that
we, too, would have gone had not night come to our help.”

“Then we have been beaten?”

“Yes, Dick, we have been beaten, and beaten badly. It was the surprise
that did it. How on earth we could have let the Southern army creep upon
us and strike unaware I don’t understand. But Dick, my boy, there will
be another battle tomorrow, and it may tell a different tale. Some
prisoners whom we have taken say that Johnston has been killed, and
Beauregard is no such leader as he.”

“Will the army of General Buell reach us tonight?”

“Buell, himself, is here. He has been with Grant for some time, and all
his brigades are marching at the double quick. Lew Wallace arrived
less than half an hour ago with seven thousand men fresh and eager for
battle. Dick! Dick, my boy, we’ll have forty thousand new troops on the
field at the next dawn, and before God we’ll wipe out the disgrace of
today! Listen to the big guns from the boats as they speak at intervals!
Why, I can understand the very words they speak! They are saying to the
Southern army: ‘Look out! Look out! We’re coming in the morning, and
it’s we who’ll attack now!’”

Dick saw that Colonel Winchester himself was excited. The pupils of his
eyes were dilated, and a red spot glowed in either cheek. Like all the
other officers he was stung by the surprise and defeat, and he could
barely wait for the morning and revenge.

Colonel Winchester walked away to a council that had been called, and
Dick turned to Pennington and Warner, who were not hurt, save for slight
wounds. Warner had recovered his poise, and was soon as calm and dry as
ever.

“Dick,” he said, “we’re some distance from where we started this
morning. There’s nothing like being shoved along when you don’t want to
go. The next time they tell me there’s nothing in a thicket I expect to
search it and find a rebel army at least a hundred thousand strong right
in the middle of it.”

“How large do you suppose the Southern army was?” asked Pennington.

“I had a number of looks at it,” replied Warner, “and I should say from
the way it acted that it numbered at least three million men. I know
that at times not less than ten thousand were aiming their rifles at my
own poor and unworthy person. What a waste of energy for so many men to
shoot at me all at once. I wish the Johnnies would go away and let us
alone!”

The last words were high-pitched and excited. His habitual self-control
broke down for a moment, and the tremendous excitement and nervous
tension of the day found vent in his voice. But in a few seconds he
recovered himself and looked rather ashamed.

“Boys,” he said, “I apologize.”

“You needn’t,” said Pennington. “There have been times today when I felt
brave as a lion, and lots of other times I was scared most to death.
It would have helped me a lot then, if I could have opened my mouth and
yelled at the top of my voice.”

Sergeant Daniel Whitley was leaning against a stump, and while he was
calmly lighting a pipe he regarded the three boys with a benevolent
gaze.

“None of you need be ashamed of bein’ scared,” he said. “I’ve been in a
lot of fights myself, though all of them were mere skirmishes when put
alongside of this, an’ I’ve been scared a heap today. I’ve been scared
for myself, an’ I’ve been scared for the regiment, an’ I’ve been scared
for the whole army, an’ I’ve been scared on general principles, but here
we are, alive an’ kickin’, an’ we ought to feel powerful thankful for
that.”

“We are,” said Dick. Then he rubbed his head as if some sudden thought
had occurred to him.

“What is it, Dick?” asked Warner.

“I’ve realized all at once that I’m tremendously hungry. The
Confederates broke up our breakfast. We never had time to think of
dinner, and now its nothing to eat.”

“Me, too,” said Pennington. “If you were to hit me in the stomach I’d
give back a hollow sound like a drum. Why don’t somebody ring the supper
bell?”

But fires were soon lighted along their whole front, and provisions were
brought up from the rear and from the steamers. The soldiers, feeling
their strength returning, ate ravenously. They also talked much of
the battle. Many of them were yet under the influence of hysterical
excitement. They told extraordinary stories of the things they had seen
and done, and they believed all they told were true. They ate fiercely,
at first almost like wolves, but after a while they resolved into their
true state as amiable young human beings and were ashamed of themselves.

All the while Buell’s army of the Ohio was passing over the river and
joining Grant’s army of the Tennessee. Regiment after regiment and
brigade after brigade crossed. The guns that Nelson had been forced to
leave behind were also brought up and were taken over with the other
batteries. While the shattered remnants of the army of the Tennessee
were resting, the fresh army of the Ohio was marching by it in the late
hours of the night in order to face the Southern foe in the morning.

The Southern army itself lay deep in the woods from which it had driven
its enemy. Always the assailant through the day, its losses had been
immense. Many thousands had fallen, and no new troops were coming to
take their place. Continual reinforcements came to the North throughout
the night, not a soldier came to the South. Beauregard, at dawn, would
have to face twice his numbers, at least half of whom were fresh troops.

Another conference was held by the Southern generals in the forest,
but now the central figure, the great Johnston, was gone. The others,
however, summoned their courage anew, and passed the whole night
arranging their forces, cheering the men, and preparing for the morn.
Their scouts and skirmishers kept watch on the Northern camp, and the
Southerners believed that while they had whipped only one army the day
before, they could whip two on the morrow.

Dick and his friends meanwhile were lying on the earth, resting, but not
able to sleep. The nerves, drawn so tightly by the day’s work, were not
yet relaxed wholly. A deep apathy seized them all. Dick, from a high
point on which he lay, saw the dark surface of the Tennessee, and the
lights on the puffing steamers as they crossed, bearing the Army of the
Ohio. His mind did not work actively now, but he felt that they were
saved. The deep river, although it was on their flank, seemed to flow as
a barrier against the foe, and it was, in fact, a barrier more and more,
as without its command the second Union army could never have come to
the relief of the first.

Dick, after a while, saw Colonel Winchester, and other officers near
him. They were talking of their losses. They gave the names of many
generals and colonels who had been killed. Presently they moved away,
and he fell into an uneasy sleep, or rather doze, from which he was
awakened after a while by a heavy rumbling sound of a distant cannonade.

The boy sprang up, wondering why any one should wish to renew the battle
in the middle of the night, and then he saw that it was no battle. The
sound was thunder rolling heavily on the southern horizon, and the night
had become very dark. Vivid flashes of lightning cut the sky, and a
strong wind rushed among the trees. Heavy drops of water struck him in
the face and then the rain swept down.

Dick did not seek protection from the storm, nor did any of those near
him. The cool drops were grateful to their faces after the heat and
strife of the day. Their pulses became stronger, and the blood flowed
in a quickened torrent through their veins. They let it pour upon them,
merely seeking to keep their ammunition dry.

Ten thousand wounded were yet lying untouched in the forest, but the
rain was grateful to them, too. When they could they turned their
fevered faces up to it that it might beat upon them and bring grateful
coolness.

Deep in the night a council like that of the Southern generals was held
in the Northern camp, also. Grant, his face an expressionless mask,
presided, and said but little. Buell, Sherman, McClernand, Nelson,
Wallace and others, were there, and Buell and Sherman, like their chief,
spoke little. The three men upon whom most rested were very taciturn
that night, but it is likely that extraordinary thoughts were passing in
the minds of every one of the three.

Grant, after a day in which any one of a dozen chances would have
wrecked him, must have concluded that in very deed and truth he was the
favorite child of Fortune. When one is saved again and again from the
very verge he begins to believe that failure is impossible, and in that
very belief lies the greatest guard against failure.

It is said of Grant that in the night after his great defeat around the
church of Shiloh, he was still confident, that he told his generals
they would certainly win on the morrow, and he reminded them that if the
Union army had suffered terribly, the Southern army must have suffered
almost equally so, and would face them at dawn with numbers far less
than their own. He had not displayed the greatest skill, but he had
shown the greatest moral courage, and now on the night between battles
it was that quality that was needed most.

Dick, not having slept any the night before, and having passed through a
day of fierce battle, was overcome after midnight, and sank into a sleep
that was mere lethargy. He awoke once before dawn and remembered, but
vaguely, all that had happened. Yet he was conscious that there was much
movement in the forest. He heard the tread of many feet, the sound of
commands, the neigh of horses and the rumbling of cannon wheels. The
Army of the Ohio was passing to the exposed flank of the Army of the
Tennessee and at dawn it would all be in line. He also caught flitting
glimpses of the Tennessee, and of the steamers loaded with troops still
crossing, and he heard the boom of the heavy cannon on the gunboats
which still, at regular and short intervals, sent huge shells curving
into the forest toward the camp of the Southern army. He also saw near
him Warner and Pennington sound asleep on the ground, and then he sank
back into his own lethargic slumber.

He was awakened by the call of a trumpet, and, as he rose, he saw the
whole regiment or rather, what was left of it, rising with him. It
was not yet dawn, and a light rain was falling, but smoldering fires
disclosed the ground for some distance, and also the river on which the
gunboats and transports were now gathered in a fleet.

Colonel Winchester beckoned to him.

“All right this morning, Dick?” he said.

“Yes, sir; I’m ready for my duty.”

“And you, too, Warner and Pennington?”

“We are, sir,” they replied together.

“Then keep close beside me. I don’t know when I may want you for a
message. Daybreak will be here in a half hour. The entire Army of the
Ohio, led by General Buell in person will be in position then or very
shortly afterward, and a new, and, we hope, a very different battle will
begin.”

Food and coffee were served to the men, and while the rain was still
falling they formed in line and awaited the dawn. The desire to retrieve
their fortunes was as strong among the farmer lads as it was among the
officers who took care to spread among them the statement that Buell’s
army alone was as numerous as the Southern force, and probably more
numerous since their enemy must have sustained terrible losses. Thus
they stood patiently, while the rain thinned and the sun at last showed
a red edge through floating clouds.

They waited yet a little while longer, and then the boom of a heavy gun
in the forest told them that the enemy was advancing to begin the battle
afresh. Again it was the Southern army that attacked, although it was
no surprise now. Yet Beauregard and his generals were still sanguine
of completing the victory. Their scouts and skirmishers had failed to
discover that the entire army of Buell also was now in front of them.

Bragg was gathering his division on the left to hurl it like
a thunderbolt upon Grant’s shattered brigades. Hardee and the
bishop-general were in the center, and Breckinridge led the right. But
as they moved forward to attack the Union troops came out to meet them.
Nelson had occupied the high ground between Lick and Owl Creeks, and his
and the Southern troops met in a fierce clash shortly after dawn.

Beauregard, drawn by the firing at that point, and noticing the courage
and tenacity with which the Northern troops held their ground, sending
in volley after volley, divined at once that these were not the beaten
troops of the day before, but new men. This swarthy general, volatile
and dramatic, nevertheless had great penetration. He understood on the
instant a fact that his soldiers did not comprehend until later. He knew
that the whole army of Buell was now before him.

For the moment it was Beauregard and Buell who were the protagonists,
instead of Grant and Johnston as on the day before. The Southern leader
gathered all his forces and hurled them upon Nelson. Weary though the
Southern soldiers were, their attack was made with utmost fire and
vigor. A long and furious combat ensued. A Southern division under
Cheatham rushed to the help of their fellows. Buell’s forces were driven
in again and again, and only his heavy batteries enabled him to regain
his lost ground.

Buell led splendid troops that he had trained long and rigidly, and they
had not been in the conflict the day before. Fresh and with unbroken
ranks, not a man wounded or missing, they had entered the battle and
both Grant and Buell, as well as their division commanders, expected an
easy victory where the Army of the Ohio stood.

Buell, to his amazement, saw himself reduced to the defensive. He and
Grant had reckoned that the decimated brigades of the South could not
stand at all before him, but just as on the first day they came on with
the fierce rebel yell, hurling themselves upon superior numbers, taking
the cannon of their enemy, losing them, and retaking them and losing
them again, but never yielding.

The great conflict increased in violence. Buell, a man of iron courage,
saw that his soldiers must fight to the uttermost, not for victory only,
but even to ward off defeat. The dawn was now far advanced. The rain had
ceased, and the sun again shot down sheaves of fiery rays upon a vast
low cloud of fire and smoke in which thousands of men met in desperate
combat.

Nine o’clock came. It had been expected by Grant that Buell long before
that time would have swept everything before him. But for three hours
Buell had been fighting to keep himself from being swept away. The
Southern troops seemed animated by that extraordinary battle fever and
absolute contempt of death which distinguished them so often during this
war. Buell’s army was driven in on both flanks, and only the center
held fast. It began to seem possible that the South, despite her reduced
ranks might yet defeat both Northern armies. Another battery dashed up
to the relief of the men in blue. It was charged at once by the men in
gray so fiercely that the gunners were glad to escape with their
guns, and once more the wild rebel yell of triumph swelled through the
southern forest.

Dick, standing with his comrades on one of the ridges that they had
defended so well, listened to the roar of conflict on the wing, ever
increasing in volume, and watched the vast clouds of smoke gathering
over the forest. He could see from where he stood the flash of rifle
fire and the blaze of cannon, and both eye and ear told him that the
battle was not moving back upon the South.

“It seems that we do not make headway, sir,” he said to Colonel
Winchester, who also stood by him, looking and listening.

“Not that I can perceive,” replied the colonel, “and yet with the rush
of forty thousand fresh troops of ours upon the field I deemed victory
quick and easy. How the battle grows! How the South fights!”

Colonel Winchester walked away presently and joined Sherman, who was
eagerly watching the mighty conflict, into which he knew that his own
worn and shattered troops must sooner or later be drawn. He walked up
and down in front of his lines, saying little but seeing everything. His
tall form was seen by all his men. He, too, must have felt a singular
thrill at that moment. He must have known that his star was rising. He,
more than any other, with his valor, penetrating mind and decision
had saved the Northern army from complete destruction the first day at
Shiloh. He had not been able to avert defeat, but he had prevented utter
ruin. His division alone had held together in the face of the Southern
attack until night came.

Sherman must have recalled, too, how his statement that the North would
need 200,000 troops in the west alone had been sneered at, and he had
been called mad. But he neither boasted nor predicted, continuing to
watch intently the swelling battle.

“I had enough fighting yesterday to last me a hundred years,” said
Warner to Dick, “but it seems that I’m to have more today. If the
Johnnies had any regard for the rules of war they’d have retreated long
ago.”

“We’ll win yet,” said Dick hopefully, “but I don’t think we can achieve
any big victory. Look, there’s General Grant himself.”

Grant was passing along his whole line. While leaving the main battle
to Buell he retained general command and watched everything. He, too,
observed the failure of Buell’s army to drive the enemy before them,
and he must have felt a sinking of the heart, but he did not show it.
Instead he spoke only of victory, when he made any comment at all, and
sent the members of his staff to make new arrangements. He must bring
into action every gun and man he had or he would yet lose.

It was now 10 o’clock and the new battle had lasted with the utmost fury
and desperation for four hours. Dick, after General Grant rode on, felt
as if a sudden thrill had run through the whole army. He saw men rising
from the earth and tightening their belts. He saw gunners gathering
around their guns and making ready with the ammunition. He knew the
remains of Grant’s army were about to march upon the enemy, helping the
Army of the Ohio to achieve the task that had proved so great.

Sherman, McClernand and other generals now passed among their troops,
cheering them, telling them that the time had come to win back what they
had lost the day before, and that victory was sure. They called upon
them for another great effort, and a shout rolled along the line of
willing soldiers.

Sherman’s whole division now raised itself up and rushed at the enemy,
Dick and his comrades in the front of their own regiment. The whole
Northern line was now engaged. Grant, true to his resolution, had hurled
every man and every gun upon his foe.

The Southern generals felt the immense weight of the numbers that were
now driving down upon them. Their decimated ranks could not withstand
the charge of two armies. In the center where Buell’s men, having stood
fast from the first, were now advancing, they were compelled to give
way and lost several guns. On the wings the heavy Northern brigades were
advancing also, and the whole Southern line was pushed back. So much
inferior was the South in numbers that her enemy began to overlap her on
the flanks also.

A tremendous shout of exultation swept through the Northern ranks, as
they felt themselves advancing. The promises of their generals were
coming true, and there is nothing sweeter than victory after defeat.
Fortune, after frowning upon her so long, was now smiling upon the
North. The exultant cheer swept through the ranks again, and back came
the defiant rebel yell.

A young soldier often feels what is happening with as true instinct as a
general. Dick now knew that the North would recover the field, and that
the South, cut down fearfully, though having performed prodigies of
valor, must fight to save herself. He felt that the resistance in front
of them was no longer invincible. He saw in the flash of the firing that
the Southern ranks were thin, very thin, and he knew that there was no
break in their own advance.

Now the sanguine Northern generals planned the entire destruction of the
Southern army. There was only one road by which Beauregard could retreat
to Corinth. A whole Northern division rushed in to block the way.
Sherman, in his advance, came again to the ground around the little
Methodist chapel of Shiloh which he had defended so well the day before,
and crowded his whole force upon the Southern line at that point. Once
more the primitive church in the woods looked down upon one of the most
sanguinary conflicts of the whole war. If Sherman could break through
the Southern line here Beauregard’s whole army would be lost.

But the Southern soldiers were capable of another and a mighty effort.
Their generals saw the danger and acted with their usual promptness and
decision. They gathered together their shattered brigades and hurled
them like a thunderbolt upon the Union left and center. The shock was
terrific. Sherman, with all his staunchness and the valor of his men,
was compelled to give way. McClernand, too, reeled back, others were
driven in also. Whole brigades and regiments were cut to pieces or
thrown in confusion. The Southerners cut a wide gap in the Northern
army, through which they rushed in triumph, holding the Corinth road
against every attack and making their rear secure.

Sherman’s division, after its momentary repulse, gathered itself anew,
and, although knowing now that the Southern army could not be entrapped,
drove again with all its might upon the positions around the church.
They passed over the dead of the day before, and gathered increasing
vigor, as they saw that the enemy was slowly drawing back.

Grant reformed his line, which had been shattered by the last fiery and
successful attack of the South. Along the whole long line the trumpets
sang the charge, and brigades and batteries advanced.

But the end of Shiloh was at hand. Despite the prodigies of valor
performed by their men, the Southern generals saw that they could not
longer hold the field. The junction of Grant and Buell, after all,
had proved too much for them. The bugles sounded the retreat, and
reluctantly they gave up the ground which they had won with so much
courage and daring. They retreated rather as victors than defeated men,
presenting a bristling front to the enemy until their regiments were
lost in the forest, and beating off every attempt of skirmishers or
cavalry to molest them.

It was the middle of the afternoon when the last shot was fired, and the
Southern army at its leisure resumed its march toward Corinth, protected
on the flanks by its cavalry, and carrying with it the assurance that
although not victorious over two armies it had been victorious over one,
and had struck the most stunning blow yet known in American history.

When the last of the Southern regiments disappeared in the deep woods,
Dick and many of those around him sank exhausted upon the ground. Even
had they been ordered to follow they would have been incapable of it.
Complete nervous collapse followed such days and nights as those through
which they had passed.

Nor did Grant and Buell wish to pursue. Their armies had been too
terribly shaken to make another attack. Nearly fifteen thousand of
their men had fallen and the dead and wounded still lay scattered widely
through the woods. The South had lost almost as many. Nearly a third of
her army had been killed or wounded in the battle, and yet they retired
in good order, showing the desperate valor of these sons of hers.

The double army which had saved itself, but which had yet been unable to
destroy its enemy, slept that night in the recovered camp. The generals
discussed in subdued tones their narrow escape, and the soldiers, who
now understood very well what had happened, talked of it in the same
way.

“We knew that it was going to be a big war,” said Dick, “but it’s going
to be far bigger than we thought.”

“And we won’t make that easy parade down to the Gulf,” said Warner. “I’m
thinking that a lot of lions are in the path.”

“But we’ll win!” said Dick. “In the end we’ll surely win!”

Then after dreaming a little with his eyes open he fell asleep,
gathering new strength for mighty campaigns yet to come.



Appendix: Transcription notes:

This etext was transcribed from a volume of the 22nd printing


The following modifications were applied while transcribing the printed
book to e-text:

 chapter 2
  - Page 40, para 6, changed comma to period

 chapter 3
  - Page 59, para 3, fixed mis-printed quotation mark

 chapter 4
  - Page 73, para 6, fixed typo (“thy”)
  - Page 74, para 1, add missing end-quote

 chapter 5
  - Page 95, para 3, add missing end-quote
  - Page 102, para 5, add missing comma

 chapter 6
  - Page 118, para 3, fixed typo (“lenghening”)
  - Page 119, para 6, fixed typo (“untils”)
  - Page 120, para 3, fixed typo (“alrming”)

 chapter 7
  - Page 139, para 4, add missing begin-quote

 chapter 9
  - Page 184, para 2, add missing begin-quote

 chapter 10
  - Page 197, para 7, fixed typo (“Your’re”)

 chapter 15
  - Page 299, para 2, fixed typo (“genuis”)

 chapter 16
  - Page 331, para 2, fixed typo (changed “not” to “nor”)

 Limitations imposed by converting to plain ASCII:

  - Throughout the printed book, in any quasi-mathematical passages
    which use the variables “x” and “y”, those variable names are
    presented in italics.  Italics are not available in plain ASCII.


I did not modify:

 - The printed book sometimes uses the spelling “despatch”, other
   times “dispatch”.  Also, both “intrenchments” and “entrenchments”.

 - Chapter 12, page 245, “grewsome”

 - There are a number of instances where the use of the comma in the
   printed book seems to me inappropriate, mainly in terms of commas
   inserted where I would not insert them, and also sometimes commas
   lacking where I would provide them.  However, I have adhered to
   the punctuation as printed (except for obvious printing errors,
   which are noted above).

   For example:

     The hills rolled far away southward, and under the horizon’s rim.

     The three bade farewell to the young operator, then to almost all
     of Hubbard and proceeded in a trot for the pass.

     One day Major Hertford sent Dick, Warner, and Sergeant Whitley,
     ahead to scout.

     The two young aides carried away by success and the fire of
     battle, waved their swords continually and rushed at the
     enemy’s lines.

     Duck River, which Buell was compelled to cross, was swollen like
     all the other streams of the region, by the great rains and was
     forty feet deep.

 - The author sometimes uses a technique whereby a paragraph introducing
   a quotation ends with a colon, with the quotation following as the
   next paragraph.





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