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Title: The Rock of Chickamauga: A Story of the Western Crisis
Author: Altsheler, Joseph A. (Joseph Alexander)
Language: English
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THE ROCK OF CHICKAMAUGA

A STORY OF THE WESTERN CRISIS


By Joseph A. Altsheler



FOREWORD


“The Rock of Chickamauga,” presenting a critical phase of the great
struggle in the west, is the sixth volume in the series, dealing with
the Civil War, of which its predecessors have been “The Guns of Bull
Run,” “The Guns of Shiloh,” “The Scouts of Stonewall,” “The Sword of
Antietam” and “The Star of Gettysburg.” Dick Mason who fights on the
Northern side, is the hero of this romance, and his friends reappear
also.


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.  AT BELLEVUE

   II.  FORREST

  III.  GRANT MOVES

   IV.  DICK’S MISSION

    V.  HUNTED

   VI.  A BOLD ATTACK

  VII.  THE LITTLE CAPITAL

 VIII.  CHAMPION HILL

   IX.  THE OPEN DOOR

    X.  THE GREAT ASSAULT

   XI.  THE TAKING OF VICKSBURG

  XII.  AN AFFAIR OF THE MOUNTAINS

 XIII.  THE RIVER OF DEATH

  XIV.  THE ROCK OF CHICKAMAUGA

   XV.  BESIDE THE BROOK



THE ROCK OF CHICKAMAUGA



CHAPTER I. AT BELLEVUE


“You have the keenest eyes in the troop. Can you see anything ahead?”
 asked Colonel Winchester.

“Nothing living, sir,” replied Dick Mason, as he swept his powerful
glasses in a half-curve. “There are hills on the right and in the
center, covered with thick, green forest, and on the left, where the
land lies low, the forest is thick and green too, although I think I
catch a flash of water in it.”

“That should be the little river of which our map tells. And you,
Warner, what do your eyes tell you?”

“The same tale they tell to Dick, sir. It looks to me like a
wilderness.”

“And so it is. It’s a low-lying region of vast forests and thickets,
of slow deep rivers and creeks, and of lagoons and bayous. If Northern
troops want to be ambushed they couldn’t come to a finer place for it.
Forrest and five thousand of his wild riders might hide within rifle
shot of us in this endless mass of vegetation. And so, my lads, it
behooves us to be cautious with a very great caution. You will recall
how we got cut up by Forrest in the Shiloh time.”

“I do, sir,” said Dick and he shuddered as he recalled those terrible
moments. “This is Mississippi, isn’t it?”

Colonel Winchester took a small map from his pocket, and, unfolding it,
examined it with minute care.

“If this is right, and I’m sure it is,” he replied, “we’re far down in
Mississippi in the sunken regions that border the sluggish tributaries
of the Father of Waters. The vegetation is magnificent, but for a home
give me higher ground, Dick.”

“Me too, sir,” said Warner. “The finest state in this Union is Vermont.
I like to live on firm soil, even if it isn’t so fertile, and I like to
see the clear, pure water running everywhere, brooks and rivers.”

“I’ll admit that Vermont is a good state for two months in the year,”
 said Dick.

“Why not the other ten?”

“Because then it’s frozen up, solid and hard, so I’ve heard.”

The other boys laughed and kept up their chaff, but Colonel Winchester
rode soberly ahead. Behind him trailed the Winchester regiment, now
reorganized and mounted. Fresh troops had come from Kentucky, and
fragments of old regiments practically destroyed at Perryville and Stone
River had been joined to it.

It was a splendid body of men, but of those who had gone to Shiloh only
about two hundred remained. The great conflicts of the West, and the
minor battles had accounted for the others. But it was perhaps one of
the reliefs of the Civil War that it gave the lads who fought it little
time to think of those who fell. Four years crowded with battles, great
and small, sieges and marches absorbed their whole attention.

Now two men, the dreaded Forrest and fierce little Joe Wheeler, occupied
the minds of Winchester and his officers. It was impossible to keep
track of these wild horsemen here in their own section. They had a habit
of appearing two or three hundred miles from the place at which they
were expected.

But the young lieutenants while they watched too for their redoubtable
foes had an eye also for the country. It was a new kind of region for
all of them. The feet of their horses sank deep in the soft black soil,
and there was often a sound of many splashings as the regiment rode
across a wide, muddy brook.

Dick noted with interest the magnolias and the live oaks, and the great
stalks of the sunflower. Here in this Southern state, which bathed
its feet in the warm waters of the Gulf, spring was already far along,
although snows still lingered in the North.

The vegetation was extravagant in its luxuriance and splendor. The
enormous forest was broken by openings like prairies, and in every one
of them the grass grew thick and tall, interspersed with sunflowers and
blossoming wild plants. Through the woods ran vast networks of vines,
and birds of brilliant plumage chattered in the trees. Twice, deer
sprang up before them and raced away in the forest. It was the
wilderness almost as De Soto had traversed it nearly four centuries
before, and it had a majesty which in its wildness was not without its
sinister note.

They approached a creek, deeper and wider than usual, flowing in slow,
yellow coils, and, as they descended into the marsh that enclosed its
waters, there was a sharp crackling sound, followed quickly by another
and then by many others. The reports did not cease, and, although
blood was shed freely, no man fell from his horse, nor was any wounded
mortally. But the assault was vicious and it was pushed home with the
utmost courage and tenacity, although many of the assailants fell never
to rise again. Cries of pain and anger, and imprecations arose from the
stricken regiment.

“Slap! Slap!”

“Bang! Bang!”

“Ouch! He’s got his bayonet in my cheek!”

“Heavens, that struck me like a minie ball! And it came, whistling and
shrieking, too, just like one!”

“Phew, how they sting! and my neck is bleeding in three places!”

“By thunder, Bill, I hit that fellow, fair and square! He’ll never
trouble an honest Yankee soldier again!”

The fierce buzzing increased all around them and Colonel Winchester
shouted to his trumpeter:

“Blow the charge at once!”

The man, full willing, put the trumpet to his lips and blew loud and
long. The whole regiment went across the creek at a gallop--the water
flying in yellow showers--and did not stop until, emerging from the
marsh, they reached the crest of a low hill a mile beyond. Here, stung,
bleeding and completely defeated by the enemy they stopped for repairs.
An occasional angry buzz showed that they were not yet safe from the
skirmishers, but their attack seemed a light matter after the full
assault of the determined foe.

“I suppose we’re all wounded,” said Dick as he wiped a bleeding cheek.
“At least as far as I can see they’re hurt. The last fellow who got his
bayonet in my face turned his weapon around and around and sang merrily
at every revolution.”

“We were afraid of being ambushed by Forrest,” said Warner, speaking
from a swollen countenance. “Instead we struck something worse; we rode
straight into an ambush of ten billion high-powered mosquitoes, every
one tipped with fire. Have we got enemies like these to fight all the
way down here?”

“They sting the rebels, too,” said Pennington.

“Yes, but they like newcomers best, the unacclimated. When we rode down
into that swamp I could hear them shouting, to one another: ‘That fat
fellow is mine, I saw him first! I’ve marked the rosy-cheeked boy for
mine. Keep away the rest of you fellows!’ I feel as if I’d been through
a battle. No more marshes for me.”

Some of the provident produced bottles of oil of pennyroyal. Sergeant
Daniel Whitley, who rode a giant bay horse, was one of the most
foreseeing in this respect, and, after the boys had used his soothing
liniment freely, the fiery torment left by the mosquito’s sting passed
away.

The sergeant seemed to have grown bigger and broader than ever. His
shoulders were about to swell through his faded blue coat, and the hand
resting easily on the rein had the grip and power of a bear’s paw. His
rugged face had been tanned by the sun of the far south to the color of
an Indian’s. He was formidable to a foe, and yet no gentler heart beat
than that under his old blue uniform. Secretly he regarded the young
lieutenants, his superiors in military rank and education, as brave
children, and often he cared for them where his knowledge and skill were
greater than theirs or even than that of colonels and generals.

“God bless you, Sergeant,” said Dick, “you don’t look like an angel, but
you are one--that is, of the double-fisted, fighting type.”

The sergeant merely smiled and replaced the bottle carefully in his
pocket, knowing that they would have good use for it again.

The regiment after salving its wounds resumed its watchful march.

“Do you know where we’re going?” Pennington asked Dick.

“I think we’re likely if we live long enough to land in the end before
Vicksburg, the great Southern fortress, but as I gather it we mean
to curve and curl and twist about a lot before then. Grant, they say,
intends to close in on Vicksburg, while Rosecrans farther north is
watching Bragg at Chattanooga. We’re a flying column, gathering up
information, and ready for anything.”

“It’s funny,” said Warner thoughtfully, “that we’ve already got so far
south in the western field. We can’t be more than two or three hundred
miles from the Gulf. Besides, we’ve already taken New Orleans, the
biggest city of the South, and our fleet is coming up the river to meet
us. Yet in the East we don’t seem to make any progress at all. We lose
great battles there and Fredericksburg they say was just a slaughter of
our men. How do you make it out, Dick?”

“I’ve thought of several reasons for it. Our generals in the West are
better than our generals in the East, or their generals in the East are
better than their generals in the West. And then there are the rivers.
In the East they mostly run eastward between the two armies, and they
are no help to us, but a hindrance rather. Here in the West the rivers,
and they are many and great, mostly run southward, the way we want to
go, and they bring our gunboats on their bosoms. Excuse my poetry, but
it’s what I mean.”

“You must be right. I think that all the reasons you give apply
together. But our command of the water has surely been a tremendous
help. And then we’ve got to remember, Dick, that there was never a navy
like ours. It goes everywhere and it does everything. Why, if Admiral
Farragut should tell one of those gunboats to steam across the
Mississippi bottoms it would turn its saucy nose, steer right out of
the water into the mud, and blow up with all hands aboard before it quit
trying.”

“You two fellows talk too much,” said Pennington. “You won’t let
President Lincoln and Grant and Halleck manage the war, but you want to
run it yourselves.”

“I don’t want to run anything just now, Frank,” rejoined Dick. “What I’m
thinking about most is rest and something to eat. I’d like to get rid,
too, of about ten pounds of Mississippi mud that I’m carrying.”

“Well, I can catch a glint of white pillars through those trees.
It means the ‘big house’ of a plantation, and you’ll probably find
somewhere back of it the long rows of cabins, inhabited by the dark
people, whom we’ve come to raise to the level of their masters, if not
above them. I can see right now the joyous welcome we’ll receive from
the owners of the big house. They’ll be standing on the great piazza,
waving Union flags and shouting to us that they have ready cooling
drinks and luxurious food for us all.”

“It’s hardly a joke to me. Whatever the cause of the war, it’s the
bitterness of death for these people to be overrun. Besides, I remember
the words of that old fellow in the blacksmith shop before we fought
the battle of Stone River. He said that even if they were beaten they’d
still be there holding the land and running things.”

“That’s true,” said Warner. “I’ve been wondering how this war would end,
and now I’m wondering what will happen after it does end. But here we
are at the gate. What big grounds! These great planters certainly had
space!”

“And what silence!” said Dick. “It’s uncanny, George. A place like this
must have had a thousand slaves, and I don’t see any of them rushing
forward to welcome their liberators.”

“Probably contraband, gone long ago to Ben Butler at New Orleans. I
don’t believe there’s a soul here.”

“Remember that lone house in Tennessee where a slip of a girl brought
Forrest down on us and had us cut pretty nearly to pieces.”

“I couldn’t forget it.”

Nor could Colonel Winchester. The house, large and low, stood in grounds
covering an area of several acres, enclosed by a paling fence, now
sagging in many places. Great stone posts stood on either side of the
gateway, but the gate was opened, and it, too, sagged.

The grounds had evidently been magnificent, both with flowers and forest
trees. Already many of the flowers were blooming in great luxuriance and
brilliancy, but the walks and borders were untrimmed. The house was of
wood, painted white with green shutters, and as they drew nearer they
appreciated its great size, although it was only two stories in height.
A hundred persons could have slept there, and twice as many could have
found shade in the wide piazzas which stretched the full length of the
four sides.

But all the doors and shutters were closed and no smoke rose from any
chimney. They caught a glimpse of the cabins for the slaves, on lower
ground some distance behind the great house. The whole regiment reined
up as they approached the carriage entrance, and, although they were
eight hundred strong, there was plenty of room without putting a single
hoof upon a flower.

It was a great place. That leaped to the eye, but it was not marked upon
Colonel Winchester’s map, nor had he heard of it.

“It’s a grand house,” he said to his aides, “and it’s a pity that it
should go to ruin after the slaves are freed, as they certainly will
be.”

“But it was built upon slave labor,” said Warner.

“So it was, and so were many of the most famous buildings in the world.
But here, I’m not going to get into an argument about such questions
with young men under my command. Besides, I’m fighting to destroy
slavery, not to study its history. Sergeant Whitley, you’re an
experienced trailer: do you see any signs that troops have passed here?”

“None at all, sir. Down near the gate where the drive is out of repair
I noticed wheel tracks, but they were several days old. The freshest of
them were light, as if made by buggies. I judge, sir, that it was the
family, the last to leave.”

“And the wagons containing their valuables had gone on ahead?”

“It would seem so, sir.”

Colonel Winchester sighed.

“An invader is always feared and hated,” he said.

“But we do come as enemies,” said Dick, “and this feeling toward us
can’t be helped.”

“That’s true. No matter what we do we’ll never make any friends here in
one of the Gulf states, the very core of Southern feeling. Dick, take
a squad of men and enter the house. Pennington, you and Warner go with
him.”

Dick sprang down instantly, chose Sergeant Whitley first and with the
others entered the great portico. The front door was locked but it
was easy enough to force it with a gun butt, and they went in, but
not before Dick had noticed over the door in large letters the name,
“Bellevue.” So this was Bellevue, one of the great cotton plantations of
Mississippi. He now vaguely remembered that he had once heard his uncle,
Colonel Kenton, speak of having stopped a week here. But he could not
recall the name of the owner. Strong for the Union as he was Dick was
glad that the family had gone before the Northern cavalry came.

The house was on a splendid scale inside also, but all the rugs and
curtains were gone. As they entered the great parlor Dick saw a large
piece of paper, and he flushed as he read written upon it in tall
letters:

          TO THE YANKEE RAIDERS:
     YOU NEED NOT LOOK FOR THE SILVER.
      IT HAS BEEN TAKEN TO VICKSBURG.


“Look at that!” he said indignantly to Warner. “See how they taunt us!”

But Warner laughed.

“Maybe some of our men at New Orleans have laid us open to such a stab,”
 he said. Then he added whimsically:

“We’ll go to Vicksburg with Grant, Dick, and get that silver yet.”

“The writing’s fresh,” said Sergeant Whitley, who also looked at the
notification. “The paper hasn’t begun to twist and curl yet. It’s not
been posted up there many hours.”

Colonel Winchester entered at that moment and the notice was handed to
him. He, too, flushed a little when he read it, but the next instant he
laughed. Dick then called his attention to the apparent fact that it had
been put there recently.

“May I speak a word, Colonel,” said Warner, who had been thinking so
hard that there was a line the full length of his forehead.

“Yes, George, a dozen if you like. Go ahead. What is it?”

“The sergeant, who has had much experience as a trailer, told us that
the tracks made by the buggy wheels were several days old. The slaves
probably had been sent southward before that time. Now some one who
saw our advance has come back, and, whoever it was, he was thoroughly
familiar with the house. He couldn’t have been a servant. Servants
don’t leave taunts of that kind. It must have been somebody who felt our
coming deeply, and if it had been an elderly man he would have waited
for action, he wouldn’t have used saucy words. So, sir, I think it must
have been a boy. Just like Pennington there, for instance.”

“Good, George, go on with your reasonings.”

“As surely, sir, as z plus y equals the total of the two, the one who
put up the placard was a son of the owner. He alone would feel deeply
enough to take so great a risk. The conditions absolutely demand that
the owner has such a son and that he has done it.”

“Very good, George. I think you’re right, and this youth in giving way
to a natural burst of anger, although he did not mean to do so, has
posted up for us a warning. A lad of his spirit would go in search
of Forrest, and we cannot forget our experience with that general in
Tennessee. Now, boys, we’ll make ready for the night, which is not far
away.”

The house was built for a Southern climate, although Dick had learned
that it could be cold enough in Central Mississippi in midwinter. But
it was spring now and they opened all the doors and windows, letting the
pleasant air rush through the musty house.

“It may rain,” said Colonel Winchester, “and the officers will sleep
inside. The men will spread their blankets on the piazzas, and the
horses will be tethered in the grounds. I hate to see the flowers and
grass trodden down, but nature will restore them.”

Some of the soldiers gathered wood from heaps nearby and fires were
kindled in the kitchen, and also on the hearths in the slave quarters.
Colonel Winchester had been truly called the father of his regiment.
He was invariably particular about its health and comfort, and, as he
always led it in person in battle, there was no finer body of men in the
Union service.

Now he meant for his men to have coffee, and warm food after this long
and trying ride and soon savory odors arose, although the cooking was
not begun until after dark, lest the smoke carry a signal to a lurking
enemy. The cavalrymen cut the thick grass which grew everywhere, and fed
it to their horses, eight hundred massive jaws munching in content. The
beasts stirred but little after their long ride and now and then one
uttered a satisfied groan.

The officers drank their coffee and ate their food on the eastern
piazza, which overlooked a sharp dip toward a creek three or four
hundred yards away. The night had rushed down suddenly after the fashion
of the far South, and from the creek they heard faintly the hoarse frogs
calling. Beyond the grounds a close ring of sentinels watched, because
Colonel Winchester had no mind to be surprised again by Forrest or by
Fighting Joe Wheeler or anybody else.

The night was thick and dark and moist with clouds. Dick, despite the
peace that seemed to hang over everything, was oppressed. The desolate
house, even more than the sight of the field after the battle was over,
brought home to him the meaning of war. It was not alone the death
of men but the uprooting of a country for their children and their
children’s children as well. Then his mind traveled back to his uncle,
Colonel Kenton, and suddenly he smote his knee.

“What is it, Dick,” asked Colonel Winchester, who sat only two or three
yards away.

“Now I remember, sir. When I was only seven or eight years old I heard
my uncle tell of stopping, as I told you, at a great plantation in
Mississippi called Bellevue, but I couldn’t recall the name of its
owner. I know him now.”

“What is the name, Dick?”

“Woodville, John Woodville. He was a member of the Mississippi Senate,
and he was probably the richest man in the State.”

“I think I have heard the name. He is a Confederate colonel now, with
Pemberton’s army. No doubt we’ll have to fight him later on.”

“Meanwhile, we’re using his house.”

“Fortune of war. But all war is in a sense unfair, because it’s usually
a question of the greater force. At any rate, Dick, we won’t harm
Colonel Woodville’s home.”

“Yet in the end, sir, a lot of these great old country places will go,
and what will take their place? You and I, coming from a border state,
know that the colored race is not made up of Uncle Toms.”

“Well, Dick, we haven’t won yet, and until we do we won’t bother
ourselves about the aftermath of war. I’m glad we found so large a place
as this. At the last moment I sent part of the men to the cabins, but
at least three or four hundred must lie here on the piazzas. And most of
them are already asleep. It’s lucky they have roofs. Look how the clouds
are gathering!”

As much more room had been made upon the piazzas by the assignment of
men to the cabins, Colonel Winchester and some of his officers also
rested there. Dick, lying between the two blankets which he always
carried in a roll tied to his saddle, was very comfortable now, with his
head on his knapsack. The night had turned cooler, and, save when faint
and far lightning quivered, it was heavy and dark with clouds. But the
young lieutenants, hardened by two years of war and life in the open,
felt snug and cosy on the broad, sheltered piazza. It was not often they
found such good quarters, and Dick, like Colonel Winchester, was truly
thankful that they had reached Bellevue before the coming storm.

It was evident now that the night was going to be wild. The lightning
grew brighter and came nearer, cutting fiercely across the southern sky.
The ominous rumble of thunder, which reminded Dick so much of the mutter
of distant battle, came from the horizon on which the lightning was
flashing.

Colonel Winchester, Pennington and Warner had gone to sleep, but Dick
was wakeful. He had again that feeling of pity for the people who had
been compelled to flee from such a house, and who might lose it forever.
It seemed to him that all the men, save himself and the sentinels, were
asleep, sleeping with the soundness and indifference to surroundings
shown by men who took their sleep when they could.

The horses stamped and moved uneasily beneath the threat of the
advancing storm, but the men slept heavily on.

Dick knew that the sentinels were awake and watchful. They had a
wholesome dread of Forrest and Wheeler, those wild riders of the South.
Some of them had been present at that terrible surprise in Tennessee,
and they were not likely to be careless when they were sure that Forrest
might be near, but he remained uneasy nevertheless, and, although he
closed his eyes and sought a soft place for his head on the saddle,
sleep did not come.

He was sure that his apprehension did not come from any fear of an
attack by Forrest or Wheeler. It was deeper-seated. The inherited sense
that belonged to his great grandfather, who had lived his life in the
wilderness, was warning him. It was not superstition. It seemed to Dick
merely the palpable result of an inheritance that had gone into the
blood. His famous great-grandfather, Paul Cotter, and his famous friend,
Henry Ware, had lived so much and so long among dangers that the very
air indicated to them when they were at hand.

Dick looked down the long piazza, so long that the men at either end of
it were hidden by darkness. The tall trees in the grounds were nodding
before the wind, and the lightning flashed incessantly in the southwest.
The thunder was not loud, but it kept up a continuous muttering and
rumbling. The rain was coming in fitful gusts, but he knew that it would
soon drive hard and for a long time.

Everybody within Dick’s area of vision was sound asleep, except himself.
Colonel Winchester lay with his head on his arm and his slumber was so
deep that he was like one dead. Warner had not stirred a particle in the
last half-hour. Dick was angry at himself because he could not sleep.
Let the storm burst! It might drive on the wide roof of the piazza
and the steady beating sound would make his sleep all the sounder and
sweeter. He recalled, as millions of American lads have done, the days
when he lay in his bed just under the roof and heard hail and sleet
drive against it, merely to make him feel all the snugger in the bed
with his covers drawn around him.

The fitful gusts of rain ceased, and then it came with a steady pour and
roar, driving directly down, thus leaving the men on the outer edges of
the piazzas untouched and dry. Still, Dick did not sleep, and at last
he arose and walked softly into the house. Here the sense of danger
grew stronger. He was reminded again of his early boyhood, when some one
blindfolded was told to find a given object, and the others called “hot”
 when he was near or “cold” when he was away. He was feeling hot now.
That inherited sense, the magnetic feeling out of the past, was warning
him.

Dick felt sure that some one not of their regiment was in the building.
He neither saw nor heard the least sign of a presence, but he was
absolutely certain that he was not alone within Bellevue. Since the
lightning had ceased it was pitchy dark inside. There was a wide hall
running through the building, with windows above the exits, but he saw
nothing through them save the driving rain and the dim outline of the
threshing trees.

He turned into one of the side rooms, and then he paused and pushed
himself against the wall. He was sure now that he heard a soft footstep.
The darkness was so intense that it could be felt like a mist. He waited
but he did not hear it again, and then he began to make his way around
the wall, stepping as lightly as he could.

He had gone through most of the rooms at their arrival and he still
retained a clear idea of the interior of the house. He knew that there
was another door on the far side of the chamber in which he stood, and
he meant to follow the wall until he reached it. Some one had been in
the room with him and Dick believed that he was leaving by the far door.

While he heard no further footsteps he felt a sudden light draught on
his face and he knew that the door had been opened and shut. He might
go to Colonel Winchester and tell him that a lurking spy or somebody
of that character was in the house, but what good would it do? A spy
at such a time and in such a place could not harm them, and the whole
regiment would be disturbed for nothing. He would follow the chase
alone.

He found the door and passed into the next room. Its windows opened upon
the southern piazza and two or three shutters were thrown back. A faint
light entered and Dick saw that no one was there but himself. He could
discern the dim figures of the soldiers sleeping on the piazza and
beyond a cluster of the small pines grown on lawns.

Dick felt that he had lost the trail for the time, but he did not intend
to give it up. Doubtless the intruder was some one who knew the house
and who was also aware of his presence inside. He also felt that he
would not be fired upon, because the stranger himself would not wish to
bring the soldiers down upon him. So, with a hand upon his pistol butt,
he opened the side door and followed once more into the darkness.

The ghostly chase went on for a full half-hour, Dick having nothing to
serve him save an occasional light footfall. There was one period of
more than half an hour when he lost the fugitive entirely. He wandered
up to the second floor and then back again. There, in a room that had
been the library, he caught a glimpse of the man. But the figure was so
shadowy that he could tell nothing about him.

“Halt!” cried Dick, snatching out his pistol. But when he leveled it
there was nothing to aim at. The figure had melted away, or rather it
had flitted through another door. Dick followed, chagrined. The stranger
seemed to be playing with him. Obviously, it was some one thoroughly
acquainted with the house, and that brought to Dick’s mind the thought
that he himself, instead of the other man, was the stranger there.

He came at last to a passage which led to the kitchen, a great room,
because many people were often guests at Bellevue, and here he stopped
short, while his heart suddenly beat hard. A distinct odor coming from
different points suddenly assailed his nostrils. He had smelled it too
often in the last two years to be mistaken. It was smoke, and Bellevue
had been set on fire in several places.

He inhaled it once or twice and then he saw again the shadowy figure
flitting down to the passage and to a small door that, unnoticed by the
soldiers, opened on the kitchen garden in the rear of the house.

Dick never acted more promptly. Instantly he fired his pistol into the
ceiling, the report roaring in the confined spaces of the house, and
then shouting with all his might: “Fire! Fire! Fire!” as he dashed down
the passage he ran through the little door, which the intruder had left
open, and pursued him in the darkness and rain into the garden. There
was a flash ahead of him and a bullet whistled past his ear, but he
merely increased his speed and raced in the direction of the flash. As
he ran he heard behind him a tremendous uproar, the voices and tread
of hundreds of soldiers, awakened suddenly, and he knew that they would
rush through Bellevue in search of the fires.

But it was Dick’s impulse to capture the daring intruder who would
destroy the house over their heads. Built of wood, it would burn so
fast, once the torches were set, that the rain would have little effect
upon the leaping flames, unless measures were taken at once, which he
knew that the regiment would do, under such a capable man as Colonel
Winchester. Meanwhile he was hot in pursuit.

The trail which was not that of footsteps, but of a shadowy figure, ran
between tall and close rows of grapevines so high on wooden framework
that they hid any one who passed. The suspicion that Dick had held at
first was confirmed. This was no stranger, no intruder. He knew every
inch of both house and grounds, and, after having set the house on fire,
he had selected the only line of retreat, but a safe one, through the
thick and lofty vegetation of the garden, which ran down to the edge
of the ravine in the rear, where he could slip quietly under the fence,
drop through the thick grass into the ravine unseen by the pickets, and
escape at his leisure in the darkness.

Dick was so sure of his theory that he strained every effort to overtake
the figure which was flitting before him like a ghost. In his eagerness
he had forgotten to shout any alarm about the pickets, but it would
have been of no avail, as most of them, under the impulse of alarm, had
rushed forward to help extinguish the fires.

He saw the fugitive reach the end of the garden, drop almost flat, and
then slip under a broken place in the palings. At an ordinary time
he would have stopped there, but all the instincts of the hunter were
aroused. It was still raining, and he was already soaked. Wet branches
and leaves struck him in the face as he passed, but his energy and
eagerness were undimmed.

He, too, dropped at the hole under the broken palings and slid forward
face foremost. The wet grass was as slippery as ice, and after he passed
through the hole Dick kept going. Moreover, his speed increased. He had
not realized that the garden went to the very edge of the ravine, and he
was shooting down a steep slope to the depth of thirty feet. He grasped
instinctively at weeds and grass as he made his downward plunge and
fetched up easily at the bottom.

He sprang to his feet and saw the shadowy fugitive running down the
ravine. In an instant he followed headlong, tripped once or twice on the
wet grass, but was up every time like lightning, and once more in swift
pursuit. The fugitive turned once, raised his pistol and pulled the
trigger again, evidently forgetful that it was empty. When the hammer
snapped on the trigger he uttered a low cry of anger and hurled the
useless weapon into the grass. Then he whirled around and faced Dick,
who was coming on, eager and panting.

Dick’s own pistol was empty and he did not carry his small sword. He
stopped abruptly when the other turned, and, in the dim light and rain,
he saw that his opponent was a young man or rather youth of about his
own size and age. When he saw the lad cast the pistol aside Dick, moved
by some chivalrous impulse, dropped his own in the grass.

Then the two stared at each other. They were far beyond the line of the
pickets, and as they stood in the deep ravine there was no chance that
any one would either see or hear them. As Dick gazed intently, the face
and figure of his antagonist shaped themselves more distinctly in the
dim light. He beheld before him a tall youth, extremely well built, fair
of face, his brown hair slightly long. He wore rain-soaked civilian’s
garb.

He saw that the youth was panting like himself, but it was not wholly
the result of flight. His face expressed savage anger and indignation.

“You dirty Yankee!” he said.

Dick started. No one had ever before addressed him with such venom.

“If by Yankee you mean loyalty to the Union then I’m one,” he said, “and
I’m proud of it. What’s more I’m willing to tell who I am. My name is
Richard Mason. I’m from Kentucky, and I’m a lieutenant in the regiment
of Colonel Arthur Winchester, which occupies the building behind us.”

“From Kentucky and consorting with Yankees! A lot of you are doing it,
and you ought to be on our side! We hate you for it more than we do the
real Yankees!”

“It’s our right to choose, and we’ve chosen. And now, since you’re
talking so much about right and wrong, who may you be, Mr. Firebug?”

Even in the dark Dick saw his opponent’s face flush, and his eyes flash
with deadly hostility.

“My name is Victor Woodville,” he replied, “and my father is Colonel
John Woodville, C.S.A. He is the owner of the house in which your
infamous Yankee regiment is encamped.”

“And which you have tried to burn?”

“I’d rather see it burn than shelter Yankees. You’d burn it anyway later
on. Grant’s troops have already begun to use the torch.”

“At any rate you’ll go before our colonel. He’ll want to ask you a lot
of questions.”

“I’m not going before your colonel.”

“Oh, yes, you are.”

“Who’s going to take me?”

“I am.”

“Then come on and do it.”

Dick advanced warily. Both had regained their breath and strength now.
Dick with two years of active service in the army had the size and
muscles of a man. But so had his opponent. Each measured the other, and
they were formidable antagonists, well matched.

Dick had learned boxing at the Pendleton Academy, and, as he approached
slowly, looking straight into the eyes of his enemy, he suddenly shot
his right straight for Woodville’s chin. The Mississippian, as light on
his feet as a leopard, leaped away and countered with his left, a blow
so quick and hard that Dick, although he threw his head to one side,
caught a part of its force just above his ear. But, guarding himself, he
sprang back, while Woodville faced him, laughing lightly.

Dick shook his head a little and the singing departed. Just above his
ear he felt a great soreness, but he was cool now. Moreover, he was
losing his anger.

“First blow for you,” he said. “I see that you know how to use your
fists.”

“I hope to prove it.”

Woodville, stepping lightly on his toes and feinting with his left,
caught Dick on his cheek bone with his right. Then he sought to spring
away, but Dick, although staggered, swung heavily and struck Woodville
on the forehead. The Mississippian went down full length on the slippery
grass but jumped to his feet in an instant. Blood was flowing from his
forehead, whence it ran down his nose and fell to the earth, drop by
drop. Dick himself was bleeding from the cut on his cheek bone.

The two faced each other, cool, smiling, but resolute enemies.

“First knockdown for you,” said Woodville, “but I mean that the second
shall be mine.”

“Go in and try.”

But Woodville drew back a little, and as Dick followed, looking for an
opening he was caught again a heavy clip on the side of the head. He
saw stars and was not able to return the blow, but he sprang back and
protected himself once more with his full guard, while he regained his
balance and strength.

“Am I a firebug?” asked Woodville tauntingly.

Dick considered. This youth interested him. There was no denying that
Woodville had great cause for anger, when he found his father’s house
occupied by a regiment of the enemy. He considered it defilement. The
right or wrong of the war had nothing to do with it. It was to him a
matter of emotion.

“I’ll take back the epithet ‘firebug,’” he said, “but I must stick to my
purpose of carrying you to Colonel Winchester.”

“Always provided you can: Look out for yourself.”

The Mississippian, who was wonderfully agile, suddenly danced in--on his
toes it seemed to Dick--and landed savagely on his opponent’s left ear.
Then he was away so quickly and lightly that Dick’s return merely cut
the air.

The Kentuckian felt the blood dripping from another point. His ear,
moreover, was very sore and began to swell rapidly. One less enduring
would have given up, but he had a splendid frame, toughened by incessant
hardship. And, above all, enclosed within that frame was a lion heart.
He shook his head slightly, because a buzzing was going on there, but in
a moment or two it stopped.

“Are you satisfied?” asked young Woodville.

“You remember what Paul Jones said: ‘I’ve just begun to fight.’”

“Was it Paul Jones? Well, I suppose it was. Anyhow, if you feel that way
about it, so do I. Then come on again, Mr. Richard Mason.”

Dick’s blood was up. The half-minute or so of talk had enabled him to
regain his breath. Although he felt that incessant pain and swelling in
his left ear, his resolution to win was unshaken. Pride was now added to
his other motives.

He took a step forward, feinted, parried skillfully, and then stepped
back. Woodville, always agile as a panther, followed him and swung for
the chin, but Dick, swerving slightly to one side, landed with great
force on Woodville’s jaw. The young Mississippian fell, but, while Dick
stood looking at him, he sprang to his feet and faced his foe defiantly.
The blood was running down his cheek and dyeing the whole side of his
face. But Dick saw the spirit in his eye and knew that he was far from
conquered.

Woodville smiled and threw back his long hair from his face.

“A good one for you. You shook me up,” he admitted, “but I don’t see any
sign of your ability to carry me to that Yankee colonel, as you boasted
you would do.”

“But I’m going to do it.”

The rain increased and washed the blood from both their faces. It was
dark within the ravine, but they had been face to face so long that they
could read the eyes of each other. Those of Woodville like those of Dick
ceased to express great anger. In the mind of each was growing a respect
for his antagonist. The will to conquer remained, but not the desire to
hate.

“If you’re going to do it, then why don’t you?” said Woodville.

Dick moved slowly forward, still watching the eyes of the Mississippian.
He believed now that Woodville, agile and alert though he might be, had
not fully recovered his strength. There was terrific steam in that last
punch and the head of the man who had received it might well be buzzing
yet.

Dick then moved in with confidence, but a lightning blow crashed through
his guard, caught him on the chin and sent him to earth. He rose,
though still half-stunned, and saw that the confident, taunting look had
returned to Woodville’s face. Fortunate now for Dick that the pure blood
of great woods rangers flowed in his veins, and that he had inherited
from them too an iron frame. His chin was cut and he had seen a thousand
stars. But his eyes cleared and steadily he faced his foe.

“Do I go with you to your colonel?” asked Woodville, ironically.

“You do,” replied Dick firmly.

He looked his enemy steadily in the eye again, and he felt a great sense
of triumph. After such severe punishment he was stronger than ever and
he knew it.

Therefore he must win. He struck heavily, straight for the angle of
Woodville’s chin. The Mississippian evaded the blow and flashed in with
his left. But Dick, who was learning to be very wary, dodged it and came
back so swiftly that Woodville was caught and beaten to his knees.

But the son of the house of Bellevue was still so agile that he was
able to recover his feet and spring away. Dick saw, however, that he was
panting heavily. The blow had taken a considerable part of his remaining
strength. He also saw that his antagonist was regarding him with a
curious eye.

“You fight well, Yank,” said Woodville, “although I ought not to call
you Yank, but rather a traitor, as you’re a Kentuckian. Still, I’ve
put my marks on you. You’re bleeding a lot and you’d be a sight if it
weren’t for this cleansing rain.”

“I’ve been putting the map of Kentucky on your own face. You don’t look
as much like Mississippi as you did. You’ll take notice too that you
didn’t burn the house. If you’ll glance up the side of this ravine
you’ll see just a little dying smoke. Eight hundred soldiers put it out
in short order.”

Woodville’s face flushed, and his eyes for the first time since the
beginning of the encounter shone with an angry gleam. But the wrathful
fire quickly died.

“On the whole, I’m not sorry,” he said. “It was an impulse that made me
do it. Our army will come and drive you away, and our house will be our
own again.”

“That’s putting it fairly. What’s the use of burning such a fine place
as Bellevue? Still, we want you. Our colonel has many questions to ask
you.”

“You can’t take me.”

Dick judged that the crucial moment had now come. Woodville was
breathing much more heavily than he was, and seemed to be near
exhaustion. Dick darted boldly in, received a swinging right and left on
either jaw that cut his cheeks and made the blood flow. But he sent his
right to Woodville’s chin and the young Mississippian without a sound
dropped to the ground, lying relaxed and flat upon his back, his white
face, streaked with red, upturned to the rain.

He was so still that Dick was seized with fear lest he had killed him.
He liked this boy who had fought him so well and, grasping him by both
shoulders, he shook him hard. But when he loosed him Woodville fell back
flat and inert.

Dick heard the waters of a brook trickling down the ravine, and,
snatching off his cap, he ran to it. He filled the cap and returned just
in time to see Woodville leap lightly to his feet and disappear with the
speed of a deer among the bushes.



CHAPTER II. FORREST


Dick dashed after the fugitive, but he had disappeared utterly, and the
dense bushes impeded the pursuer. He was hot and angry that he had been
deluded so cleverly, but then came the consolation that, after all, he
had won in the fistic encounter with an antagonist worthy of anybody.
And after this came a second thought that caused him to halt abruptly.

He and Woodville had fought it out fairly. Their fists had printed upon
the faces of each other the stamp of a mutual liking. Why should he
strive to take young Woodville before Colonel Winchester? Nothing was
to be gained by it, and, as the Mississippian was in civilian’s garb, he
might incur the punishment of a spy. He realized in a flash that, since
he had vindicated his own prowess, he was glad of Woodville’s escape.

He turned and walked thoughtfully back up the ravine. Very little noise
came from the house and the thin spires of smoke had disappeared. He
knew now that the fires had been put out with ease, thanks to his
quick warning. Before starting he had recovered both his own pistol and
Woodville’s, and he was particularly glad to find the latter because
it would be proof of his story, if proof were needed. The rain had not
ceased nor had the heavy darkness lifted, but the looming shadow of the
big house was sufficient guide. He found the place where he had slipped
down the bank and the torn bushes and grass showed that he had made a
fine trail. He pulled himself back up by the bushes and reentered the
garden, where he was halted at once by two watchful sentries.

“Lieutenant Richard Mason of Colonel Winchester’s staff,” he said,
“returning from the pursuit of a fugitive.”

The men knew him and they said promptly:

“Pass Lieutenant Mason.”

But despite the dark they stared at him very curiously, and when he
walked on toward the piazza one of them muttered to the other:

“I guess he must have overtook that fugitive he was chasin’.”

Dick walked up the steps upon the piazza, where some one had lighted a
small lamp, near which stood Colonel Winchester and his staff.

“Here’s Dick!” exclaimed Warner in a tone of great relief.

“And we thought we had lost him,” said Colonel Winchester, gladness
showing in his voice. Then he added: “My God, Dick, what have you been
doing to yourself?”

“Yes, what kind of a transformation is this?” added a major. “You’ve
certainly come back with a face very different from the one with which
you left us!”

Dick turned fiery red. He suddenly became conscious that he had a left
ear of enormous size, purple and swollen, that his left eye was closing
fast, that the blood was dripping from cuts on either cheek, that the
blood had flowed down the middle of his forehead and had formed a little
stalactite on the end of his nose, that his chin had been gashed in five
places by a strong fist, and that he had contributed his share to the
bloodshed of the war.

“If I didn’t know these were modern times,” said Warner, “I’d say that
he had just emerged from a sanguinary encounter bare-handed in the Roman
arena with a leopard.”

Dick glared at him.

“It was you who gave the alarm of fire, was it not?” asked Colonel
Winchester.

“Yes, sir. I saw the man who set the fires and I pursued him through the
garden and into the ravine that runs behind it.”

“Your appearance indicates that you overtook him.”

Dick flushed again.

“I did, sir,” he replied. “I know I’m no beauty at present, but neither
is he.”

“It looks as if it had been a matter of fists?”

“It was, sir. Both of us fired our pistols, but missed. Then we threw
our weapons to one side and clashed. It was a hard and long fight, sir.
He hit like a pile driver, and he was as active as a deer. But I was
lucky enough to knock him out at last.”

“Then why does your face look like a huge piece of pickled beef?” asked
the incorrigible Warner mischievously.

“You wait and I’ll make yours look the same!” retorted Dick.

“Shut up,” said Colonel Winchester. “If I catch you two fighting I may
have you both shot as an example.”

Dick and Warner grinned good-naturedly at each other. They knew that
Colonel Winchester did not dream of carrying out such a threat, and they
knew also that they had no intention of fighting.

“And after you knocked him out what happened?” asked the colonel.

Dick looked sheepish.

“He lay so still I was afraid he was dead,” he replied. “I ran down to
a brook, filled my cap with water, and returned with it in the hope
of reviving him. I got there just in time to see him vanishing in the
bushes. Pursuit was hopeless.”

“He was clever,” said the Colonel. “Have you any idea who he was?”

“He told me. He was Victor Woodville, the son of Colonel John Woodville,
C.S.A., the owner of this house.”

“Ah!” said Colonel Winchester, and then after a moment’s thought he
added: “It’s just as well he escaped. I should not have known what to do
with him. But we have you, Dick, to thank for giving the alarm. Now, go
inside and change to some dry clothes, if you have any in your baggage,
and if not dry yourself before a fire they’re going to build in the
kitchen.”

“Will you pardon me for speaking of something, sir?”

“Certainly. Go ahead.”

“I think the appearance of young Woodville here indicates the nearness
of Forrest or some other strong cavalry force.”

“You’re right, Dick, my officers and I are agreed upon it. I have
doubled the watch, but now get yourself to that fire and then to sleep.”

Dick obeyed gladly enough. The night had turned raw and chill, and the
cold water dripped from his clothes as he walked. But first he produced
Woodville’s pistol and handed it to Colonel Winchester.

“There’s my antagonist’s pistol, sir,” he said. “You’ll see his initials
on it.”

“Yes, here they are,” said Colonel Winchester: “‘V.W., C.S.A.’ It’s a
fine weapon, but it’s yours, Dick, as you captured it.”

Dick took it and went to the kitchen, where the big fire had just begun
to blaze. He was lucky enough to be the possessor of an extra uniform,
and before he changed into it--they slept with their clothes on--he
roasted himself before those glorious coals. Then, as he was putting on
the fresh uniform, Warner and Pennington appeared.

“What would you recommend as best for the patient, Doctor,” said Warner
gravely to Pennington.

“I think such a distinguished surgeon as you will agree with me that his
wounds should first be washed and bathed thoroughly in cold water.”

“And after that a plentiful application of soothing liniment.”

“Yes, Doctor. That is the best we can do with the simple medicines we
have, but it especially behooves us to reduce the size of that left ear,
or some of the boys will say that we have a case of elephantiasis on our
hands.”

“While you’re reducing the size of it you might also reduce the pain in
it,” said Dick.

“We will,” said Pennington; “we’ve got some fine horse liniment here.
I brought it all the way from Nebraska with me, and if it’s good for
horses it ought to be good for prize fighters, too. That was surely a
hefty chap who fought you. If you didn’t have his pistol as proof I’d
say that he gave you a durned good licking. Isn’t this a pretty cut down
the right cheek bone, George?”

“Undoubtedly, but nothing can take away the glory of that left ear.
Why, if Dick could only work his ears he could fan himself with it
beautifully. When I meet that Woodville boy I’m going to congratulate
him. He was certainly handy with his fists.”

“Go on, fellows,” said Dick, good-naturedly. “In a week I won’t have a
wound or a sign of a scar. Then I’ll remember what you’ve said to me and
I’ll lick you both, one after the other.”

“Patient is growing delirious, don’t you think so, Doctor?” said Warner
to Pennington.

“Beyond a doubt. Violent talk is always proof of it. Better put him to
bed. Spread his two blankets before the fire, and he can sleep there,
while every particle of cold and stiffness is being roasted out of him.”

“You boys are very good to me,” said Dick gratefully.

“It’s done merely in the hope that your gratitude will keep you from
giving us the licking you promised,” said Pennington.

Then they left him and Dick slept soundly until he was awakened the next
day by Warner. The fire was out, the rain had ceased long since and the
sun was shining brilliantly.

“Hop up, Dick,” said Warner briskly. “Breakfast’s ready. Owing to your
wound we let you sleep until the last moment. Come now, take the foaming
coffee and the luscious bacon, and we’ll be off, leaving Bellevue again
to its masters, if they will come and claim it.”

“Has anything happened in the night?”

“Nothing since you ran your face against a pile driver, but Sergeant
Daniel Whitley, who reads the signs of earth and air and wood and water,
thinks that something is going to happen.”

“Is it Forrest?”

“Don’t know, but it’s somebody or something. As soon as we can eat our
luxurious breakfasts we mean to mount and ride hard toward Grant. We’re
scouts, but according to Whitley the scouts are scouted, and this is a
bad country to be trapped in.”

Dick was so strong and his blood was so pure that he felt his wounds
but little now. The cuts and bruises were healing fast and he ate with a
keen appetite. He heard then of the signs that Whitley had seen. He had
found two broad trails, one three miles from the house, and the other
about four miles. Each indicated the passage of several hundred men, but
he had no way of knowing whether they belonged to the same force. They
were bound to be Confederate cavalry as Colonel Winchester’s regiment
was known to be the only Union force in that section.

Dick knew their position to be dangerous. Colonel Winchester had done
his duty in discovering that Forrest and Wheeler were raiding through
Mississippi, and that a heavy force was gathering in the rear of Grant,
who intended the siege of Vicksburg. It behooved him now to reach Grant
as soon as he could with his news.

Refreshed and watchful, the regiment rode away from Bellevue. Dick
looked back at the broad roof and the great piazzas, and then he thought
of young Woodville with a certain sympathy. They had fought a good fight
against each other, and he hoped they would meet after the war and be
friends.

It was about an hour after sunrise, and the day was bright and warm. The
beads of water that stood on every leaf and blade of grass were drying
fast, and the air, despite its warmth, was pure and bracing. Dick, as
he looked at the eight hundred men, tanned, experienced and thoroughly
armed, under capable leaders, felt that they were a match for any roving
Southern force.

“Just let Forrest come on,” he said. “I know that the Colonel is aching
to get back at him for that surprise in Tennessee, and I believe we
could whip him.”

“You’re showing great spirit for a man who was beaten up in the prize
ring as you were last night. I thought you’d want to rest for a few
days.”

“Drop it, George. I did get some pretty severe cuts and bruises, but I
was lucky enough to have the services of two very skillful and devoted
young physicians. Their treatment was so fine that I’m all right
to-day.”

“Unless I miss my guess, we’ll need the services of doctors again before
night comes. No mountains are here, but this is a great country for
ambush. It’s mostly in forest, and even in the open the grass is already
very tall. Besides, there are so many streams, bayous, and ponds. Notice
how far out on the flanks the skirmishers and scouts are riding, and
others ride just as far ahead.”

Two miles from Bellevue and they came to a small hill, covered with
forest, from the protection of which the officers examined the country
long and minutely, while their men remained hidden among the deep
foliaged trees. Dick had glasses of his own which he put to his eyes,
bringing nearer the wilderness, broken here and there by open spaces
that indicated cotton fields. Yet the forest was so dense and there
was so much of it that a great force might easily be hidden within its
depths only a mile away.

“Have we any information at all about Forrest’s strength?” whispered
Pennington to Dick.

“His full force isn’t down here. It is believed he has not more than a
thousand or twelve hundred men. But he and his officers know the country
thoroughly, and of course the inhabitants, being in full sympathy with
them, will give them all the information they need. The news of every
movement of ours has been carried straight to the rebel general.”

“And yet the country seems to have no people at all. We come to but few
houses, and those few are deserted.”

“So they are. What was that? Did you see it, Frank?”

“What was what?”

“I forgot that you are not using glasses. I caught a momentary glitter
in the woods. I think it was a sunbeam passing through the leaves and
striking upon the polished barrel of a rifle. Ah! there it is again! And
Colonel Winchester has seen it too.”

The colonel and his senior officers were now gazing intently at the
point in the wood where Dick had twice seen the gleam, and, keener-eyed
than they, he continued to search the leafy screen through his own
glasses. Soon he saw bayonets, rifles, horses and men advancing swiftly,
and then came two of their own scouts galloping.

“The enemy is advancing!” they cried. “It’s Forrest!”

A thrill shot through Dick. The name of Forrest was redoubtable, but
he knew that every man in the regiment was glad to meet him again. He
glanced at Colonel Winchester and saw that his face had flushed. He knew
that the colonel was more than gratified at this chance.

“We’ll make our stand here,” said Colonel Winchester. “The hill runs to
the right, and, as you see over there, it is covered with forest without
undergrowth. Thus we can secure protection, and at the same time be able
to maneuver, mounted.”

The regiment was posted rapidly in two long lines, the second to fire
between the intervals of the first. They carried carbines and heavy
cavalry sabers, and they were the best mounted regiment in the Northern
service.

Yet these men, brave and skillful as they were, were bound to feel
trepidation, although they did not show it. They were far in the
Southern forest, cut off from their army, and Forrest, in addition
to his own cavalry, might have brought with him fresh reserves of the
enemy.

Dick, Warner, and Pennington, as usual, remained close to their colonel,
and Sergeant Daniel Whitley was not far away. But Colonel Winchester
presently rode along the double line of his veterans, and he spoke to
them quietly but with emphasis and conviction:

“My lads,” he said, “you see Forrest’s men coming through the woods to
attack us. Forrest is the greatest cavalry leader the South has, west of
the Alleghanies. Some of you were with me when we were surprised and cut
up by him in Tennessee. But you will not be surprised by him now, nor
will you be cut up by him. All of you have become great riders, a match
for Forrest’s own, and as I look upon your faces here I know that there
is no fear in a single heart. You have served under Grant, and you have
served under Thomas. They are two generals who always set their faces
toward the front and never turn them toward the rear. You will this day
prove yourselves worthy of Grant and Thomas.”

They were about to cheer, but he checked it with the simple gesture of
a raised hand. Then they did a thing that only a beloved leader could
inspire. Every man in the regiment, resting his carbine across the
pommel of his saddle, drew his heavy cavalry saber and made it whirl in
coils of glittering light about his head.

The great pulse in Dick’s throat leaped as he saw. The long double line
seemed to give back a double flash of flame. Not a word was said, and
then eight hundred sabers rattled together as they were dropped back
into their scabbards. Colonel Winchester’s face flushed deeply at the
splendid salute, but he did not speak either. He took off his cap and
swept it in a wide curve to all his men. Then he turned his face toward
the enemy.

The Southern trumpet was singing in the forest, and the force of
Forrest, about twelve hundred strong, was emerging into view. Dick,
through his glasses, saw and recognized the famous leader, a powerful,
bearded man, riding a great bay horse. He had heard many descriptions of
him and he knew him instinctively. He also recognized the fact that the
Winchester regiment had before it the most desperate work any men could
do, if it beat off Forrest when he came in his own country with superior
numbers.

Neither side had artillery, not even the light guns that could be
carried horse- or muleback. It must be left to carbine and saber.
Colonel Winchester carefully watched his formidable foe, trying to
divine every trick and expedient that he might use. He had a memory to
avenge. He had news to carry to Grant, and Forrest must not keep
him from carrying it. Moreover, his regiment and he would gain great
prestige if they could beat off Forrest. There would be glory for the
whole Union cavalry if they drove back the Southern attack. Dick saw the
glitter of his colonel’s eye and the sharp compression of his lips.

But the men of Forrest, although nearly within rifle shot, did not
charge. Their bugle sang again, but Dick did not know what the tune
meant. Then they melted away into the deep forest on their flank, and
some of the troop thought they had gone, daunted by the firm front of
their foe.

But Dick knew better. Forrest would never retreat before an inferior
force, and he was full of wiles and stratagems. Dick felt like a
primitive man who knew that he was being stalked by a saber-toothed
tiger through the dense forest.

Colonel Winchester beckoned to Sergeant Whitley. “Pick a half-dozen
sharp-eyed men,” he said, “and ride into those woods. You’re experienced
in this kind of war, Whitley, and before you go tell me what you think.”

“General Forrest, sir, besides fighting as a white man fights, fights
like an Indian, too; that is, he uses an Indian’s cunning, which is
always meant for ambush and surprise. He isn’t dreaming of going away.
They’re coming back through the thick woods.”

“So I think. But let me know as soon as you can.”

Ten minutes after the sergeant had ridden forward with his comrades they
heard the sound of rapid rifle shots, and then they saw the little band
galloping back.

“They’re coming, sir,” reported the sergeant. “Forrest has dismounted
several hundred of his men, and they are creeping forward from tree to
tree with their rifles, while the others hold their horses in the rear.”

“Then it’s an Indian fight for the present,” said Colonel Winchester.
“We’ll do the same.”

He rapidly changed his lines of battle. The entire front rank was
dismounted, while those behind held their horses. The four hundred in
front, spreading out in as long a line as possible in order to protect
their flanks, took shelter behind the trees and awaited the onset.

The attack was not long in coming. The Southern sharpshooters, creeping
from tree to tree, began to fire. Scores of rifles cracked and Dick,
from a convenient place behind a tree, saw the spouts of flame appearing
along a line of four or five hundred yards. Bullets whizzed about him,
and, knowing that he would not be needed at present for any message, he
hugged the friendly bark more tightly.

“It’s lucky we have plenty of trees,” said a voice from the shelter of
the tree next to him. “We have at least one for every officer and man.”

It was Warner who spoke and he was quite cheerful. Like Colonel
Winchester, he seemed to look forward to the combat with a certain joy,
and he added:

“You’ll take notice, Dick, old man, that we’ve not been surprised.
Forrest hasn’t galloped over us as he did before. He’s taking the
trouble to make the approach with protected riflemen. Now what is the
sergeant up to?”

Sergeant Whitley, after whispering a little with Colonel Winchester,
had stolen off toward the right with fifty picked riflemen. When they
reached the verge of the open space that lay between the two sides they
threw themselves down in the thick, tall grass. Neither Dick nor Warner
could see them now. They beheld only the stems of the grass waving as if
under a gentle wind. But Dick knew that the rippling movement marked the
passage of the riflemen.

Meanwhile the attack in their front was growing hotter. At least six
or seven hundred sharpshooters were sending a fire which would have
annihilated them if it had not been for the trees. As it was, fragments
of bark, twigs, and leaves showered about them. The whistling of the
bullets and their chugging as they struck the trees made a continuous
sinister note.

The Union men were not silent under this fire. Their own rifles were
replying fast, but Colonel Winchester continually urged them to take
aim, and, while death and wounds were inflicted on the Union ranks, the
Southern were suffering in the same manner.

Dick turned his eyes toward the right flank, where the fifty picked
riflemen, Sergeant Whitley at their head, were crawling through the
tall grass. He knew that they were making toward a little corner of the
forest, thrust farther forward than the rest, and presently when the
rippling in the grass ceased he was sure that they had reached it. Then
the fifty rifles cracked together and the Southern flank was swept by
fifty well-aimed bullets. Lying in their covert, Whitley’s men reloaded
their breech-loading rifles and again sent in a deadly fire.

The main Northern force redoubled its efforts at the same time. The men
in blue sent in swarms of whistling bullets and Dick saw the front line
of the South retreating.

“We’re rousing the wolves from their lairs,” explained Pennington
exultantly as he sprang from his tree, just in time for a bullet to send
his hat flying from his head. Fortunately, it clipped only a lock of
hair, but he received in a good spirit Warner’s admonishing words:

“Don’t go wild, Frank. We’ve merely repelled the present attack. You
don’t think that Forrest with superior forces is going to let us alone,
do you?”

“No, I don’t,” replied Pennington, “and don’t you get behind that tree.
It’s mine, and I’m coming back to it. I’ve earned it. I held it against
all kinds of bullets. Look at the scars made on each side of it by rebel
lead.”

The firing now died. Whitley’s flank movement had proved wholly
successful, and Colonel Winchester reinforced him in the little forest
peninsula with fifty more picked men, where they lay well hidden, a
formidable force for any assailant.

The silence now became complete, save for the stamping of the impatient
horses and the drone of insects in the woods and grass. Dick, lying
on his stomach and using his glasses, could see nothing in the forest
before them. It was to him in all its aspects an Indian battle, and he
believed in spite of what Warner had said that the enemy had retired
permanently.

Colonel Winchester and all the officers rose to their feet presently and
walked among the trees. No bullets came to tell them that they were
rash and then the senior officers held a conference, while all the men
remounted, save a dozen or so who would ride no more. But the colonel
did not abate one whit of his craft or caution.

They resumed the march toward Grant, but they avoided every field or
open space. They would make curves and lose time in order to keep in the
dense wood, but, as Dick knew, Colonel Winchester still suspected that
Forrest was hovering somewhere on his flank, covered by the great forest
and awaiting a favorable opportunity to attack.

They approached one of the deep and narrow streams that ultimately
find their way to the Mississippi. It had only one ford, and the scouts
galloping back informed them that the farther shore was held by a
powerful force of cavalry.

“It’s Forrest,” said Colonel Winchester with quiet conviction. “Knowing
every path of the woods, they’ve gone ahead of us, and they mean to cut
us off from Grant. Nevertheless we’ll make a way.”

He spoke firmly, but the junior officers of the staff did not exactly
see how they were going to force a ford defended by a larger number of
cavalry under the redoubtable Forrest.

“I didn’t think Forrest would let us alone, and he hasn’t,” said
Pennington.

“No, he hasn’t,” said Warner, “and it seems that he’s checkmated us,
too. Why, that river is swollen by the rains so much that it’s a hard
job to cross it if no enemy were on the other side. But you’ll note,
also, that the enemy, having got to the other side, can’t come back
again in our face to attack us.”

“But we want to go on and they don’t,” said Dick. “They’re satisfied
with the enforced status quo, and we’re not. Am I right, Professor?”

“You certainly are,” replied Warner. “Now, our colonel is puzzled, as
you can tell by his looks, and so would I be, despite my great natural
military talents.”

The Winchester regiment fell back into the woods, leaving the two
forces out of rifle shot of each other. Sentinels were posted by both
commanders not far from the river and the rest, dismounting, took their
ease, save the officers, who again went into close conference.

Afterward they sat among the trees and waited. It was low ground, with
the earth yet soaked from the heavy rain of the night before, and the
heat grew heavy and intense. The insects began to drone again, and once
more mosquitoes made life miserable. But the soldiers did not complain.
It was noon now, and they ate food from their knapsacks. Two springs of
clear water were found a little distance from the river and all drank
there. Then they went back to their weary waiting.

On the other side of the river they could see the dismounted troopers,
playing cards, sleeping or currying their horses. They seemed to be in
no hurry at all. Colonel Winchester sent divisions of scouts up and down
the stream, and, both returning after a while, reported that the river
was not fordable anywhere.

Colonel Winchester sat down under a tree and smoked his pipe. The longer
he smoked the more corrugated his brow became. He looked angrily at the
ford, but it would be folly to attempt a passage there, and, containing
himself as best he could, he waited while the long afternoon waned. His
men at least would get a good rest.

Dick and his comrades, selecting the dryest place they could find,
spread their blankets and lay down. Protecting their faces from the
mosquitoes with green leaves, they sank into a deep quiet. Dick even
drowsed for a while. He could not think of a way out of the trap, and
he was glad it was the duty of older men like Colonel Winchester and the
majors and captains to save them.

The heat of the day increased with the coming of afternoon, and Dick’s
eyelids grew heavier. He had become so thoroughly hardened to march and
battle that the presence of the enemy on the other side of a river did
not disturb him. What was the use of bothering about the rebels as long
as they did not wish to fire upon one?

His eyes closed for a few minutes, and then his dreaming mind traversed
space with incredible rapidity. He was back in Pendleton, sitting on
the portico with his mother, watching the flowers on the lawn nod in the
gentle wind. His cousin Harry Kenton saluted him with a halloo and came
bounding toward the porch, and the halloo caused Dick to awake and sit
up. He rubbed his eyes violently and looked around a little bit ashamed.
But two captains older than himself were sound asleep with their backs
against trees.

Dick stood up and shook himself violently. Whatever others might do he
must not allow himself to relax so much. He saw that the sun was slowly
descending and that the full heat of the afternoon was passing. Colonel
Winchester had withdrawn somewhat among the trees and he beckoned to
him. Sergeant Whitley was standing beside the colonel.

“Dick,” said Colonel Winchester, “colored men have brought us news that
Colonel Grierson of our army, with a strong raiding force of nearly two
thousand cavalry is less than a day’s march away and on the same side
of this river that we are. We have received the news from three separate
sources and it must be true. Probably Forrest’s men know it, too, but
expect Grierson to pass on, wholly ignorant that we’re here. I have
chosen you and Sergeant Whitley to bring Grierson to our relief. The
horses are ready. Now go, and God speed you. The sergeant will tell you
what we know as you ride.”

Dick sprang at once into the saddle, and with a brief good-bye he and
the sergeant were soon in the forest riding toward the southeast. Dick
was alive and energetic again. All that laziness of mind and body was
gone. He rode on a great ride and every sense was alert.

“Tell me,” he said, “just about what the news is.”

“Three men,” replied the sergeant, “came in at different times with
tales, but the three tales agree. Grierson has made a great raid, even
further down than we have gone. He has more than double our numbers, and
if we can unite with him it’s likely that we can turn Forrest into the
pursued instead of the pursuer. They say we can hit his trail about
twenty-five miles from here, and if that’s so we’ll bring him up to the
ford by noon to-morrow. Doesn’t it look promising to you, Lieutenant
Mason?”

“It does look promising, Sergeant Whitley, if we don’t happen to be
taken by the Johnnies who infest this region. Besides, you’ll have to
guide through the dark to-night. You’re trained to that sort of thing.”

“You can see pretty well in the dark yourself, sir; and since our way
lies almost wholly through forest I see no reason why we should be
captured.”

“That’s so, sergeant. I’m just as much of an optimist as you are. You
keep the course, and I’m with you to the finish.”

They rode rather fast at first as the sun had not yet set, picking their
way through the woods, and soon left their comrades out of sight. The
twilight now came fast, adding a mournful and somber red to the vast
expanse of wilderness. The simile of an Indian fight returned to Dick
with increased force. This was not like any battle with white men in
the open fields. It was a combat of raiders who advanced secretly under
cover of the vast wilderness.

The twilight died with the rapidity of the South, and the darkness,
thick at the early hours, passed over the curve of the earth. For a time
Dick and the sergeant could not see many yards in front and they rode
very slowly. After a while, as the sky lightened somewhat and their eyes
also grew keen, they made better speed. Then they struck a path through
the woods leading in the right direction, and they broke into a trot.

The earth was so soft that their horses’ feet gave back but little
sound, and both were confident they would not meet any enemy in the
night at least.

“Straight southeast,” said the sergeant, “and we’re bound to strike
Grierson’s tracks. After that we’d be blind if we couldn’t follow the
trail made by nearly two thousand horsemen.”

The path still led in the direction they wished and they rode on
silently for hours. Once they saw a farmhouse set back in the woods, and
they were in fear lest dogs come out and bark alarm, but there was no
sound and they soon left it far behind.

They passed many streams, some of which were up to their saddle girths,
and then they entered a road which was often so deep in mud that they
were compelled to turn into the woods on the side. But no human being
had interfered with their journey, and their hopes rose to the zenith.

They came, finally, into an open region of cotton fields, and the
sergeant now began to watch closely for the great trail they hoped to
find. A force as large as Grierson’s would not attempt a passage through
the woods, but would seek some broad road and Sergeant Whitley expected
to find it long before morning.

It was now an hour after midnight and they reckoned that they had come
about the right distance. There was a good moon and plenty of stars and
the sergeant gave himself only a half-hour to find the trail.

“There’s bound to be a wide road somewhere among these fields, the kind
we call a county road.”

“It’s over there beyond that rail fence,” said Dick. They urged their
horses into a trot, and soon found that Dick was right. A road of red
clay soft from the rains stretched before them.

“A man doesn’t have to look twice here for a trail. See,” said the
sergeant.

The road from side to side was plowed deep with the hoofs of horses,
every footprint pointing northward.

“Grierson’s cavalry,” said Dick.

“I take it that it can’t be anything else. There is certainly in these
parts no rebel force of cavalry large enough to make this trail.”

“How old would you say these tracks are?”

“Hard to tell, but they can’t have been made many hours ago. We’ll press
forward, lieutenant, and we can save time going through the fields on
the edge of the road.”

Although they had to take down fences they made good speed and just
as the sun was rising they saw the light of a low campfire among some
trees, lining either bank of a small creek. They approached warily,
until they saw the faded blue uniforms. Then they galloped forward,
shouting that they were friends, and in a few minutes were in the
presence of Grierson himself.

He had been making a great raid, but he was eager now for the
opportunity to strike at Forrest. He must give his horses a short rest,
and then Dick and the sergeant should guide him at speed to the ford
where the opposing forces stood.

“It’s twenty-five miles, you tell me?” said Grierson to Dick.

“As nearly as I can calculate, sir. It’s through swampy country, but I
think we ought to be there in three or four hours.”

“Then lead the way,” said Grierson. “Like your colonel, I’ll be glad to
have a try at Forrest.”

Sergeant Whitley rode in advance. A lumberman first and then a soldier
of the plains, he had noted even in the darkness every landmark and he
could lead the way back infallibly. But he warned Grierson that such a
man as Forrest would be likely to have out scouts, even if they had to
swim the river. It was likely that they could not get nearer by three or
four miles to Colonel Winchester without being seen.

“Then,” said Grierson, who had the spirit of a Stuart or a Forrest,
“we’ll ride straight on, brushing these watchers out of our way, and if
by any chance their whole force should cross, we’ll just meet and fight
it.”

“The little river is falling fast,” said the sergeant. “It’s likely that
it’ll be fordable almost anywhere by noon.”

“Then,” said Grierson, “it’ll be all the easier for us to get at the
enemy.”

Dick, just behind Grierson, heard these words and he liked them. Here
was a spirit like Colonel Winchester’s own, or like that of the great
Southern cavalry leaders. The Southerners were born on horseback, but
the Northern men were acquiring the same trick of hard riding. Dick
glanced back at the long column. Armed with carbine and saber the men
were riding their trained horses like Comanches. Eager and resolute
it was a formidable force, and his heart swelled with pride and
anticipation. He believed that they were going to give Forrest all he
wanted and maybe a little more.

Up rose the sun. Hot beams poured over forest and field, but the
cavalrymen still rode fast, the scent of battle in their nostrils. Dick
knew that these Southern streams, flooded by torrents of rain, rose fast
and also fell fast.

“How much further now, sergeant?” asked Grierson, as they turned from a
path into the deep woods.

“Not more than three miles, sir.”

“And they know we’re coming. Listen to that!”

Several rifles cracked among the trees and bullets whizzed by them.
Forrest’s skirmishers and scouts were on the south side of the stream.
As they had foreseen, the river had sunk so much that it was fordable
now at many points. Dick was devoutly grateful that they had found
Grierson. Otherwise the Winchester regiment would have been flanked, and
its destruction would have followed.

Skirmishers were detached from Grierson’s command and drove off the
Southern riflemen. Dick heard the rattling fire of their rifles in the
deep wood, but he seldom saw a figure. Then he heard another fire, heavy
and continuous, in their front, coming quite clearly on a breeze that
blew toward them.

“Your whole regiment is engaged,” exclaimed Grierson. “Forrest must have
forded the river elsewhere!”

He turned and shook aloft his saber.

“Forward, lads!” he shouted. “Gallant men of our own army will be
overwhelmed unless we get up in time!”

The whole force broke into a gallop through the woods, the fire in their
front rapidly growing heavier. In ten minutes they would be there, but
rifles suddenly blazed from the forest on their flank and many saddles
were emptied. Nothing upsets like surprise, and for a few moments the
whole command was in disorder. It was evident that Forrest was attacking
Winchester with only a part of his force, while he formed an ambush for
Grierson.

But the Northern cavalrymen had not learned in vain through disaster and
experience. Grierson quickly restored order and drew his men back into
the forest. As the enemy followed the Northern carbines began to flash
fast. The troopers in gray were unable to flank them or drive them back.
Grierson, sure of his superior numbers, pushed on toward Winchester,
while fighting off the foe at the same time.

Dick and the sergeant kept in the van, and presently they came within
sight of Colonel Winchester’s men, who, dismounted, were holding off as
best they could the overwhelming attack of Forrest. The Southern leader,
after sending the majority of his men to a new crossing lower down had
forced the ford before the Winchester regiment, and would have crushed
it if it had not been for the opportune arrival of Grierson.

But a tremendous cheer arose as the Northern cavalry leader, who was
already proving his greatness, charged into the battle with his grim
troopers. The men in blue were now more numerous, and, fighting with the
resolve to win or die, they gradually forced back Forrest. Dick began to
foresee a victory won over the great Southern cavalryman.

But the astute Forrest, seeing that the odds were now heavily against
him, ordered a retreat. The trumpets sang the recall and suddenly
the Southern horsemen, carrying their dead with them, vanished in the
forest, where the Northern cavalry, fearful of ambushes and new forces,
did not dare to pursue.

But Winchester and Grierson were shaking hands, and Winchester thanked
the other in brief but emphatic words.

“Say no more, colonel,” exclaimed Grierson. “We’re all trying to serve
our common country. You’d help me just the same if we had the chance,
and I think you’ll find the road clear to Grant. While the siege of
Vicksburg was determined on long ago, as you know, I believe that he is
now moving toward Grand Gulf. You know he has to deal with the armies of
Johnston and Pemberton.”

“We’ll find him,” said Winchester.

A quarter of an hour later his regiment was galloping toward Grant,
while Grierson’s command rode eastward to deal with other forces of the
Confederacy.



CHAPTER III. GRANT MOVES


The Winchester regiment had not suffered greatly. A dozen men who had
fallen were given speedy burial, and all the wounded were taken away on
horseback by their friends. Dick rejoiced greatly at their escape from
Forrest, and the daring and skill of Grierson. He felt anew that he was
in stronger hands in the West than he had been in the East. In the East
things seemed to go wrong nearly always, and the West they seemed to
go right nearly always. It could not be chance continued so long. He
believed in his soul that it was Grant, the heroic Thomas, and the great
fighting powers of the western men, used to all the roughness of life
out-of-doors and on the border.

They turned their course toward the Mississippi and that afternoon they
met a Union scout who told them that Grant, now in the very heart of the
far South, was gathering his forces for a daring attack upon Grand
Gulf, a Confederate fortress on the Mississippi. In the North and at
Washington his venture was regarded with alarm. There was a telegram
to him to stop, but it was sent too late. He had disappeared in the
Southern wilderness.

But Dick understood. He had both knowledge and intuition. Colonel
Winchester on his long and daring scout had learned that the Confederate
forces in the South were scattered and their leaders in doubt. Grant,
taking a daring offensive and hiding his movements, had put them on the
defensive, and there were so many points to defend that they did not
know which to choose. Joe Johnston, just recovered from his wound at
Fair Oaks the year before, and a general of the first rank, was coming,
but he was not yet here.

Meanwhile Pemberton held the chief command, but he seemed to lack energy
and decision. There were forces under other generals scattered along the
river, including eight thousand commanded by Bowen, who held Grand Gulf,
but concert of action did not exist among them.

This knowledge was not Dick’s alone. It extended to every man in
the regiment, and when the colonel urged them to greater speed they
responded gladly.

“If we don’t ride faster,” he said, “we won’t be up in time for the
taking of Grand Gulf.”

No greater spur was needed and the Winchester regiment went forward as
fast as horses could carry them.

“I take it that Grant means to scoop in the Johnnies in detail,” said
Warner.

“It seems so,” said Pennington. “This is a big country down here, and we
can fight one Confederate army while another is mired up a hundred miles
away.

“That’s General Grant’s plan. He doesn’t look like any hero of romance,
but he acts like one. He plunges into the middle of the enemy, and if he
gets licked he’s up and at ‘em again right away.”

Night closed in, and they stopped at an abandoned plantation--it seemed
to Dick that the houses were abandoned everywhere--where they spent the
night. The troopers would have willingly pushed on through the darkness,
but the horses were so near exhaustion that another hour or two would
have broken them down permanently. Moreover, Colonel Winchester did not
feel much apprehension of an attack now. Forrest had certainly turned
in another direction, and they were too close to the Union lines to be
attacked by any other foe.

The house on this plantation was not by any means so large and fine as
Bellevue, but, like the other, it had broad piazzas all about it, and
Dick, in view of his strenuous experience, was allowed to take his
saddle as a pillow and his blankets and go to sleep soon after dark in a
comfortable place against the wall.

Never was slumber quicker or sweeter. There was not an unhealthy tissue
in his body, and most of his nerves had disappeared in a life amid
battles, scoutings, and marchings. He slept heavily all through the
night, inhaling new strength and vitality with every breath of the
crisp, fresh air. There was no interruption this time, and early in the
morning the regiment was up and away.

They descended now into lower grounds near the Mississippi. All around
them was a vast and luxuriant vegetation, cut by sluggish streams and
bayous. But the same desolation reigned everywhere. The people had fled
before the advance of the armies. Late in the afternoon they saw pickets
in blue, then the Mississippi, and a little later they rode into a Union
camp.

“Dick,” said Colonel Winchester, “I shall want you to go with the senior
officers and myself to report to General Grant on the other side of the
Mississippi. You rode on that mission to Grierson and he may want to ask
you questions.”

Dick was glad to go with them. He was eager to see once more the man who
had taken Henry and Donelson and who had hung on at Shiloh until Buell
came. The general’s tent was in a grove on a bit of high ground, and he
was sitting before it on a little camp stool, smoking a short cigar, and
gazing reflectively in the direction of Grand Gulf.

He greeted the three officers quietly but with warmth and then he
listened to Colonel Winchester’s detailed account of what he had seen
and learned in his raid toward Jackson. It was a long narrative, showing
how the Southern forces were scattered, and, as he listened, Grant’s
face began to show satisfaction.

But he seldom interrupted.

“And you think they have no large force at Jackson?” he said.

“I’m quite sure of it,” replied Colonel Winchester.

Grant chewed his cigar a little while and then said:

“Grierson is doing well. It was an achievement for you and him to beat
off Forrest. It will raise the prestige of our cavalry, which needs it.
I believe it was you, Lieutenant Mason, who brought Grierson.”

“It was chiefly, sir, a sergeant named Whitley. I rode with him and
outranked him, but he is a veteran of the plains, and it was he who did
the real work.”

The general’s stern features were lightened by a smile.

“I’m glad you give the sergeant credit,” he said. “Not many officers
would do it.”

He listened a while longer and then the three were permitted to withdraw
to their regiment, which was posted back of Grand Gulf, and which had
quickly become a part of an army flushed with victory and eager for
further action.

Before sunset Dick, Warner, and Pennington looked at Grand Gulf, a
little village standing on high cliffs overlooking the Mississippi,
just below the point where the dark stream known as the Big Black River
empties into the Father of Waters. Around the crown of the heights was a
ring of batteries and lower down, enclosing the town, was another ring.

Far off on the Mississippi the three saw puffing black smoke marking
the presence of a Union fleet, which never for one instant in the whole
course of the war relaxed its grip of steel upon the Confederacy. Dick’s
heart thrilled at the sight of the brave ships. He felt then, as most of
us have felt since, that whatever happened the American navy would never
fail.

“I hear the ships are going to bombard,” said Warner.

“I heard so, too,” said Pennington, “and I heard also that they will
have to do it under the most difficult circumstances. The water in front
of Grand Gulf is so deep that the ships can’t anchor. It has a swift
current, too, making at that point more than six knots an hour. There
are powerful eddies, too, and the batteries crowning the cliffs are
so high that the cannon of the gunboats will have trouble in reaching
them.”

“Still, Mr. Pessimist,” said Dick, “remember what the gunboats did at
Fort Henry. You’ll find the same kind of men here.”

“I wasn’t trying to discourage you. I was merely telling the worst
first. We’re going to win. We nearly always win here in the West, but it
seems to me the country is against us now. This doesn’t look much like
the plains, Dick, with its big, deep rivers, its high bluffs along the
banks, and its miles and miles of swamp or wet lowlands. How wide would
you say the Mississippi is here?”

“Somewhere between a mile and a mile and a half.”

“And they say it’s two or three hundred feet deep. Look at the steamers,
boys. How many are there?”

“I count seven pyramids of smoke,” said Warner, “four in one group and
three in another. All the pyramids are becoming a little faint as the
twilight is advancing. Dick, you call me a cold mathematical person, but
this vast river flowing in its deep channel, the dark bluffs up there,
and the vast forests would make me feel mighty lonely if you fellows
were not here. It’s a long way to Vermont.”

“Fifteen hundred or maybe two thousand miles,” said Dick, “but look
how fast the dark is coming. I was wrong in saying it’s coming. It just
drops down. The smoke of the steamers has melted into the night, and you
don’t see them any more. The surface of the river has turned black as
ink, the bluffs of Grand Gulf have gone, and we’ve turned back three or
four hundred years.”

“What do you mean by going back three or four hundred years?” asked
Warner, looking curiously at Dick.

“Why, don’t you see them out there?”

“See them out there? See what?”

“Why, the queer little ships with the high sides and prows! On my soul,
George, they’re the caravels of Spain! Look, they’re stopping! Now they
lower something in black over the side of the first caravel. I see a man
in a black robe like a priest, holding a cross in his hand and standing
at the ship’s edge saying something. I think he’s praying, boys. Now
sailors cut the ropes that hold the dark object. It falls into the river
and disappears. It’s the burial of De Soto in the Father of Waters which
he discovered!”

“Dick, you’re dreaming,” exclaimed Pennington.

“Yes, I know, but once there was a Chinaman who dreamed that he was a
lily. When he woke up he didn’t know whether he was a Chinaman who had
dreamed he was a lily or a lily now dreaming he was a Chinaman.”

“I like that story, Dick, but you’ve got too much imagination. The tale
of the death and burial of De Soto has always been so vivid to you that
you just stood there and re-created the scene for yourself.”

“Of course that’s it,” said Pennington, “but why can’t a fellow create
things with his mind, when things that don’t exist jump right up before
his eyes? I’ve often seen the mirage, generally about dark, far out on
the western plains. I’ve seen a beautiful lake and green gardens where
there was nothing but the brown swells rolling on.”

“I concede all you say,” said Dick readily. “I have flashes sometimes,
and so does Harry Kenton and others I know.”

“Flashes! What do you mean?” asked Warner.

“Why, a sort of lightning stroke out of the past. Something that lasts
only a second, but in which you have a share. Boys, one day I saw myself
a Carthaginian soldier following Hannibal over the Alps.”

“Maybe,” said Pennington, “we have lived other lives on this earth, and
sometimes a faint glimpse of them comes to us. It’s just a guess.”

“That’s so,” said Warner, “and we’d better be getting back to the
regiment. Grand Gulf defended by Bowen and eight thousand good men is
really enough for us. I think we’re going to see some lively fighting
here.”

The heavy boom of a cannon from the upper circle of batteries swept over
the vast sheet of water flowing so swiftly toward the Gulf. The sound
came back in dying echoes, and then there was complete silence among
besieged and besiegers.

The Winchesters had found a good solid place, a little hill among the
marshes, and they were encamped there with their horses. Dick had no
messages to carry, but he remained awake, while his comrades slept
soundly. He had slept so much the night before that he had no desire for
sleep now.

From his position he could see the Confederate bluffs and a few lights
moving there, but otherwise the two armies were under a blanket of
darkness. He again felt deeply the sense of isolation and loneliness,
not for himself alone, but for the whole army. Grant had certainly shown
supreme daring in pushing far into the South, and the government at
Washington had cause for alarm lest he be reckless. If there were any
strong hand to draw together the forces of the Confederacy they could
surely crush him. But he had already learned in this war that those who
struck swift and hard were sure to win. That was Stonewall Jackson’s
way, and it seemed to be Grant’s way, too.

Still unable to sleep, he walked to a better position, where he could
see the shimmering dark of the river and the misty heights with their
two circles of cannon. A tall figure standing there turned at his tread
and he recognized Colonel Winchester.

“Uneasy at our position, Dick?” said the colonel, fathoming his mind at
once.

“A little, sir, but I think General Grant will pull us through.”

“He will, Dick, and he’ll take this fort, too. Grant’s the hammer we’ve
been looking for. Look at his record. He’s had backsets, but in the end
he’s succeeded in everything he’s tried. The Confederate government and
leaders have made a mess of their affairs in the West and Southwest, and
General Grant is taking full advantage of it.”

“Do we attack in the morning, sir?”

“We do, Dick, though not by land. Porter, with his seven gunboats, is
going to open on the fort, but it will be a hazardous undertaking.”

“Because of the nature of the river, sir?”

“That’s it. They can’t anchor, and with full steam up, caught in all the
violent eddies that the river makes rounding the point, they’ll have to
fire as best they can.”

“But the gunboats did great work at Fort Henry, sir.”

“So they did, Dick, and we’ve come a long way South since then, which
means that we’re making progress and a lot of it here in the West. Well,
we’ll see to-morrow.”

They walked back to their own camp and sleep came to Dick at last. But
he awoke early and found that the thrill of expectation was running
through the whole army. Their position did not yet enable them to attack
on land, but far out on the river they saw the gunboats moving. Porter,
the commander, divided them into two groups. Four of the gunboats were
to attack the lower circle of batteries and three were to pour their
fire upon the upper ring.

Dick by day even more than by night recognized the difficulty of the
task. Before them flowed the vast swift current of the Mississippi,
gleaming now in the sunshine, and beyond were the frowning bluffs,
crested and ringed with cannon. Grant had with him twenty thousand men
and his seven gunboats, and Bowen, eight thousand troops. But if the
affair lasted long other Southern armies would surely come.

Dick and his comrades had little to do but watch and thousands watched
with them. When the sun was fully risen the seven boats steamed out in
two groups, four farther down the river in order to attack the lower
batteries, while the other three up the stream would launch their fire
against those on the summit.

He watched the crest of the cliffs. He saw plainly through his glasses
the muzzles of cannon and men moving about the batteries. Then there
was a sudden blaze of fire and column of smoke and a shell struck in the
water near one of the gunboats. The boat replied and its comrades also
sent shot and shell toward the frowning summit. Then the batteries, both
lower and upper, replied with full vigor and all the cliffs were wrapped
in fire and smoke.

The boats steamed in closer and closer, pouring an incessant fire from
their heavy guns, and both rings of batteries on the cliffs responded.
The water of the river spouted up in innumerable little geysers and now
and then a boat was struck. Over both cliffs and river a great cloud
of smoke lowered. It grew so dense that Dick and his comrades, watching
with eagerness, were unable to tell much of what was happening.

Yet as the smoke lifted or was shot through with the blaze of cannon
fire they saw that their prophecies were coming true. The boats in water
too deep for anchorage were caught in the powerful eddies and their
captains had to show their best seamanship while they steamed back and
forth.

The battle between ship and shore went on for a long time. It seemed at
last to the watching Union soldiers that the fire from the lower line of
batteries was diminishing.

“We’re making some way,” said Warner.

“It looks like it,” said Dick. “Their lower batteries are not so well
protected as the upper.”

“If we were only over there, helping with our own guns.”

“But there’s a big river in between, and we’ve got to leave it to the
boats for to-day, anyhow.”

“Look again at those lower batteries. Their fire is certainly
decreasing. I can see it die down.”

“Yes, and now it’s stopped entirely. The boats have done good work!”

A tremendous cheer burst from the troops on the west shore as they saw
how much their gallant little gunboats had achieved. Every gun in the
lower batteries was silent now, but the top of the cliffs was still
alive with flame. The batteries there were far from silent. Instead
their fire was increasing in volume and power.

The four gunboats that had silenced the lower batteries now moved up to
the aid of their comrades, and the seven made a united effort, steaming
forward in a sort of half-moon, and raining shot and shell upon the
summits. But the guns there, well-sheltered and having every advantage
over rocking steamers, maintained an accurate and deadly fire. The
decks of the gunboats were swept more than once. Many men were killed or
wounded. Heavy shot crashed through their sides, and Dick expected every
instant to see some one of them sunk by a huge exploding shell.

“They can’t win! They can’t win!” he exclaimed. “They’d better draw off
before they’re sunk!”

“So they had,” said Warner sadly. “Boats are at a disadvantage fighting
batteries. The old darky was right when he preferred a train wreck to a
boat wreck, ‘ef the train’s smashed, thar you are on the solid ground,
but ef the boat blows up, whar is you?’ That’s sense. The boats are
retiring! It’s sad, but it’s sense. A boat that steams away will live to
fight another day.”

Dick was dejected. He fancied he could hear the cheering of their foes
at what looked like a Union defeat, but he recalled that Grant, the
bulldog, led them. He would never think of retiring, and he was sure to
be ready with some new attempt.

The gunboats drew off to the far western shore and lay there, puffing
smoke defiantly. Their fight with the batteries had lasted five hours
and they had suffered severely. It seemed strange to Dick that none of
them had been sunk, and in fact it was strange. All had been hit many
times, and one had been pierced by nearly fifty shot or shell. Their
killed or wounded were numerous, but their commanders and crews were
still resolute, and ready to go into action whenever General Grant
wished.

“Spunky little fellows,” said Pennington. “We don’t have many boats out
where I live, but I must hand a bunch of laurel to the navy every time.”

“And you can bind wreaths around the hair of those navy fellows, too,”
 said Warner, “and sing songs in their honor whether they win or lose.”

“Now I wonder what’s next,” said Dick.

To their surprise the gunboats opened fire again just before sundown,
and the batteries replied fiercely. Rolling clouds of smoke mingled
with the advancing twilight, and the great guns from either side flashed
through the coming darkness. Then from a stray word or two dropped
by Colonel Winchester Dick surmised the reason of this new and rather
distant cannonade.

He knew that General Grant had transports up the river above Grand Gulf,
and he believed that they were now coming down the stream under cover of
the bombardment and the darkness. He confided his belief to Warner, who
agreed with him. Presently they saw new coils of smoke in the darkness
and knew they were right. The transports, steaming swiftly, were soon
beyond the range of the batteries, and then the gun boats, drawing off,
dropped down the river with them.

Long before the boats reached a point level with Grant’s camp the army
was being formed in line for embarkation on the gunboats and transports.
The horses were to be placed on one or two of the transports and the men
filled all the other vessels.

“You can’t down Grant,” said Pennington. “A failure with him merely
means that he’s going to try again.”

“But don’t forget the navy and the Father of Waters,” said Dick, as
their transports swung from the shore upon the dark surface of the
river. “The mighty rivers help us. Look how we went up the Cumberland
and the Tennessee and now we’ve harnessed a flowing ocean for our
service.”

“Getting poetical, Dick,” said Warner.

“I feel it and so do you. You can’t see the bluffs any more. There’s
nothing in sight, but the lights of the steamers and the transports. We
must be somewhere near the middle of the stream, because I can’t make
out either shore.”

There were two regiments aboard the transport, the Winchester and one
from Ohio, which had fought by their side at both Perryville and Stone
River. Usually these boys chattered much, but now they were silent,
permeated by the same feelings that had overwhelmed Dick. In the
darkness--all lights were concealed as much as possible--with both banks
of the vast river hidden from them, they felt that they were in very
truth afloat upon a flowing ocean.

They knew little about their journey, except that they were destined for
the eastern shore, the same upon which Grand Gulf stood, but they did
not worry about this lack of knowledge. They were willing to trust to
Grant, and most of them were already asleep, upon the decks, in the
cabins, or in any place in which a human body could secure a position.

Dick did not sleep. The feeling of mystery and might made by the
tremendous river remained longer in his sensitive and imaginative
nature. His mind, too, looked backward. He knew that the great
grandfathers of Harry Kenton and himself, the famous Henry Ware and the
famous Paul Cotter, had passed up and down this monarch of streams.
He knew of their adventures. How often had he and his cousin, who now,
alas! was on the other side, listened to the stories of those mighty
days as they were handed from father to son! Those lads had floated
in little boats and he was on a steamer, but it seemed to him that the
river with its mighty depths took no account of either, steamer or canoe
being all the same to its vast volume of water.

He was standing by the rail looking over, when happening to glance back
he saw by the ship’s lantern what he thought was a familiar face. A
second glance and he was sure. He remembered that fair-haired Ohio lad,
and, smiling, he said:

“You’re one of those Ohio boys who, marching southward from its mouth
in the Ohio, drank the tributary river dry clear to its source, the
mightiest achievement in quenching thirst the world has ever known.
You’re the boy, too, who told about it.”

The youth moved forward, gazed at him and said:

“Now I remember you, too. You’re Dick Mason of the Winchester regiment.
I heard the Winchesters were on board, but I haven’t had time to look
around. It was hot when we drank up the river, but it was hotter that
afternoon at Perryville. God! what a battle! And again at Stone
River, when the Johnnies surprised us and took us in flank. It was you
Kentuckians then who saved us.”

“Just as you would have saved us, if it had been the other way.”

“I hope so. But, Mason, we left a lot of the boys behind. A big crowd
stopped forever at Perryville, and a bigger at Stone River.”

“And we left many of ours, too. I suppose we’ll land soon, won’t we, and
then take these Grand Gulf forts with troops.”

“Yes, that’s the ticket, but I hear, Mason, it’s hard to find a landing
on the east side. The banks are low there and the river spreads out to
a vast distance. After the boats go as far as they can we’ll have to get
off in water up to our waists and wade through treacherous floods.”

The question of landing was worrying Grant at that time and worrying him
terribly. The water spread far out over the sunken lands and he might
have to drop down the river many miles before he could find a landing on
solid ground, a fact which would scatter his army along a long line, and
expose it to defeat by the Southern land forces. But his anxieties were
relieved early in the morning when a colored man taken aboard from a
canoe told him of a bayou not five miles below Grand Gulf up which his
gunboats and transports could go and find a landing for the troops on
solid ground.

Dick was asleep when the boats entered the bayou, but he was soon
awakened by the noise of landing. It was then that most of the
Winchester and of the Ohio regiment discovered that they were comrades,
thrown together again by the chances of war, and there was a mighty
welcome and shaking of hands. But it did not interfere with the rapidity
of the landing. The Winchester regiment was promptly ordered forward
and, advancing on solid ground, took a little village without firing a
shot.

All that day troops came up and Grant’s army, after having gone away
from Grand Gulf in darkness, was coming back to it in daylight.

“They say that Pemberton at Vicksburg could gather together fifty
thousand men and strike us, while we’ve only twenty thousand here,” said
Pennington.

“But he isn’t going to do it,” said Warner. “How do I know? No, I’m not
a prophet nor the son of a prophet. There’s nothing mysterious about
it. This man Grant who leads us knows the value of time. He makes up his
mind fast and he acts fast. The Confederate commander doesn’t do either.
So Grant is bound to win. Let z equal resolution and y equal speed and
we have z plus y which equals resolution and speed, that is victory.”

“I hope it will work out that way,” said Dick, “but war isn’t altogether
mathematics.”

“Not altogether, but that beautiful study plays a great part in every
campaign. People are apt to abuse mathematics, when they don’t know what
they’re talking about. The science of mathematics is the very basis of
music, divine melody, heaven’s harmony.”

“You needn’t tell me,” said Pennington, “that a plus b and z minus y
lie at the basis of ‘Home, Sweet Home’ and the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’
I accept a lot of your tales because you come from an old state like
Vermont, but there’s a limit, George.”

Warner looked at him pityingly.

“Frank,” he said, “I’m not arguing with you. I’m telling you. Haven’t
you known me long enough to accept whatever I say as a fact, and to
accept it at once and without question? Not to do so is an insult to me
and to the truth. Now say over slowly with me: ‘The basis of music is
mathematics.’”

They said slowly together:

“The basis of music is mathematics.”

“Now I accept your apologies,” said Warner loftily.

Pennington laughed.

“You’re a queer fellow, George,” he said. “When this war is over and I
receive my general’s uniform I’m coming up into the Vermont mountains
and look your people over. Will it be safe?”

“Of course, if you learn to read and write by then, and don’t come
wearing your buffalo robe. We’re strong on education and manners.”

“Why, George,” said Pennington in the same light tone, “I could
read when I was two years old, and, as for writing, I wrote a lot of
text-books for the Vermont schools before I came to the war.”

“Shut up, you two,” said Dick. “Don’t you know that this is a war and
not a talking match?”

“It’s not a war just now, or at least there are a few moments between
battles,” retorted Warner, “and the best way I can use them is in
instructing our ignorant young friend from Nebraska.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Colonel Winchester, who ordered
the regiment to move to a new point. General Grant had decided to attack
a little town called Port Gibson, which commanded the various approaches
to Grand Gulf. If he could take that he might shut up Bowen and his
force in Grand Gulf. On the other hand, if he failed he might be shut
in himself by Confederate armies gathering from Jackson, Vicksburg, and
elsewhere. The region, moreover, was complicated for both armies by the
mighty Mississippi and the Big Black River, itself a large stream, and
there were deep and often unfordable bayous.

But Grant showed great qualities, and Dick, who was experienced enough
now to see and know, admired him more than ever. He pushed forward with
the utmost resolution and courage. His vanguard, led by McClernand, and
including the Winchester regiment, seized solid ground near Port Gibson,
but found themselves confronted by a formidable Southern force. Bowen,
who commanded in Grand Gulf, was brave and able. Seeing the Union army
marching toward his rear, and knowing that if Grant took it he would be
surrounded, both on land and water, by a force outnumbering his nearly
three to one, he marched out at once and took station two miles in front
of Port Gibson.

Dick was by the side of Colonel Winchester as he rode forward. The faint
echo of shots from the skirmishers far in front showed that they had
roused up an enemy. Glasses were put in use at once.

“The Confederates are before us,” said Colonel Winchester.

“So they are, and we’re going to have hard fighting,” said a major.
“Look what a position!”

Dick said nothing, but he was using his glasses, too. He saw before him
rough ground, thickly sown with underbrush. There was also a deep ravine
or rather marsh choked with vines, bushes, reeds, and trees that like a
watery soil. The narrow road divided and went around either end of the
long work, where the two divisions united again on a ridge, on which
Bowen had placed his fine troops and artillery.

“I don’t see their men yet, except a few skirmishers,” said Dick.

“No, but we’ll find them in some good place beyond it,” replied Colonel
Winchester, divining Bowen’s plan.

It was night when the army in two divisions, one turning to the right
and the other to the left, began the circuit of the great marshy ravine.
Dick noticed that the troops who had struggled so long in mud and water
were eager. Here, west of the Alleghanies, the men in blue were always
expecting to win.

The sky was sown with stars, casting a filmy light over the marching
columns. Dick was with the troops passing to the right, and he observed
again their springy and eager tread.

Nor was the night without a lively note. Skirmishers, eager riflemen
prowling among the bushes, fired often at one another, and now and then
a Union cannon sent a shell screaming into some thick clump of forest,
lest a foe be lurking there for ambush.

The reports of the rifles and cannon kept every one alert and watchful.
Early in the night while it was yet clear Dick often saw the flashes
from the firing, but, as the morning hours approached, heavy mists began
to rise from that region of damp earth and great waters. He shivered
more than once, and on the advice of Sergeant Whitley wrapped his
cavalry cloak about him.

“Chills and fever,” said the sergeant sententiously. “So much water and
marsh it’s hard to escape it. The sooner we fight the better.”

“Well, that’s what General Grant thinks already,” said Dick; “so I
suppose he doesn’t need chills and fever to drive him on. All the same,
Sergeant, I’ll wrap up as you say.”

All the men in the Winchester regiment were soon doing the same. The
mists of the Mississippi, the Big Black and the bayous were raw and
cold, although it would be hot later on. But the period of coldness did
not last long. Soon the low sun showed in the east and the warm daylight
came. In the new light they saw the Confederate forces strongly posted
on the ridge where the halves of the road rejoined. As the Union column
came into view a cannon boomed and a shell burst in the road so near
that dirt was thrown upon them as it exploded and one man was wounded.
At the same time the column on the left under Osterhaus appeared, having
performed its semicircle about the marsh, and the whole Union army,
weary of body but eager of soul, pressed forward. The Winchester
regiment and the Ohio regiment beside it charged hotly, but were
received with a fire of great volume and accuracy that swept them from
the road. Another battery on their far left also raked them with a cross
fire, and so terrible was their reception that they were compelled to
abandon some of their own cannon and seek shelter.

The Winchester regiment, except the officers, were not mounted in this
march, as Grant would not wait for their horses, which were on another
transport. The very fact saved from death many who would have made a
more shining target. Dick’s own horse was killed at the first fire,
and as he leaped clear to escape he went down to his waist in a marsh,
another fact which saved his life a second time as the new volleys swept
over his head. The horses of other officers also were killed, and the
remainder, finding themselves such conspicuous targets, sprang to the
ground. The frightened animals, tearing the reins from their hands,
raced through the thickets or fell into the marsh.

All the time Dick heard the shells and bullets shrieking and whining
over his head. But, regaining his courage and presence of mind, he
slowly pulled himself out of the marsh, taking shelter behind a huge
cypress that grew at its very edge. As he dashed the mud out of his eyes
he heard a voice saying:

“Don’t push! There’s room enough here for the three of us. In fact,
there’s room enough behind the big trees for all the officers.”

It was Warner who was speaking with such grim irony, and Pennington by
his side was hugging the tree. Shells and shot shrieked over their heads
and countless bullets hummed about them. The soldiers also had taken
shelter behind the trees, and Warner’s jest about the officers was
a jest only. Nevertheless the Southern fire was great in volume and
accuracy. Bowen was an able commander with excellent men, and from
his position that covered the meeting of the roads he swept both Union
columns with a continuous hail of death.

“We must get out of this somehow,” said Dick. “If we’re held here in
these swamps and thickets any longer the Johnnies can shoot us down at
their leisure.”

“But we won’t be held!” exclaimed Pennington. “Look! One of our brigades
is through, and it’s charging the enemy on the right!”

It was Hovey who had forced his way through a thicket, supposed to be
impenetrable, and who now, with a full brigade behind him, was rushing
upon Bowen’s flank. Then, while the Southern defense was diverted to
this new attack, the Winchester and the Ohio regiment attacked in front,
shouting with triumph.

Hovey’s rush was overpowering. He drove in the Southern flank, taking
four cannon and hundreds of prisoners, but the dauntless Confederate
commander, withdrawing his men in perfect order, retreated to a second
ridge, where he took up a stronger position than the first.

Resolute and dangerous, the men in gray turned their faces anew to the
enemy and sent back a withering fire that burned away the front ranks
of the Union army. Osterhaus, in spite of every effort, was driven back,
and the Winchesters and their Ohio friends were compelled to give ground
too. It seemed that the utmost of human effort and defiance of death
could not force the narrow passage.

But a new man, a host in himself, came upon the field. Grant, who had
been on foot for two days, endeavoring to get his army through the
thickets and morasses, heard the booming of the cannon and he knew that
the vanguards had clashed. He borrowed a cavalry horse and, galloping
toward the sound of the guns, reached the field at mid-morning. Grant
was not impressive in either figure or manner, but the soldiers had
learned to believe in him as they always believe in one who leads them
to victory.

A tremendous shout greeted his coming and the men, snatching off their
hats and caps, waved them aloft. Grant took no notice but rapidly
disposed his troops for a new and heavier battle. Dick felt the strong
and sure hand over them. The Union fire grew in might and rapidity.
McPherson arrived with two brigades to help Osterhaus, and the
strengthened division was able to send a brigade across a ravine, where
it passed further around Bowen’s flank and assailed him with fury.

Dick felt that their own division under McClernand was also making
progress. Although many men were falling they pressed slowly forward,
and Grant brought up help for them too. For a long time the struggle was
carried on. It was one of the little battles of the war, but its results
were important and few were fought with more courage and resolution.
Bowen, with only eight thousand against twenty thousand, held fast
throughout all the long hot hours of the afternoon. Grant, owing to the
nature of the field, was unable to get all his numbers into battle at
once.

But when the twilight began to show Dick believed that victory was at
hand. They had not yet driven Bowen out, but they were pressing him
so close and hard, and Grant was securing so many new positions of
advantage, that the Southern leader could not make another such fight
against superior numbers in the morning.

Twilight turned into night and Bowen and his men, who had shown so much
heroism, retreated in the dark, leaving six guns and many prisoners as
trophies of the victors.

It was night when the battle ceased. Cannon and rifles flashed at fitful
intervals, warning skirmishers to keep away, but after a while they
too ceased and the Union army, exhausted by the long march of the night
before and the battle of the day, threw itself panting upon the ground.
The officers posted the sentinels in triple force, but let the remainder
of the men rest.

As Dick lay down in the long grass two or three bullets dropped from
his clothes and he became conscious, too, that a bullet had grazed his
shoulder. But these trifles did not disturb him. It was so sweet to
rest! Nothing could be more heavenly than merely to lie there in the
long, soft grass and gaze up at the luminous sky, into which the stars
now stole to twinkle down at him peacefully.

“Don’t go to sleep, Dick,” said a voice near him. “I admit the
temptation is strong. I feel it myself, but General Grant may have to
send you and me forward to-night to win another battle.”

“George, I’m glad to hear your preachy voice over there. Hurt any?”

“No. A million cannon balls brushed my right cheek and another million
brushed my left cheek, but they didn’t touch me. They scared me to
death, but in the last few minutes I’ve begun to come back to life. In a
quarter of an hour I’ll be just as much alive as I ever was.”

“Do you know anything of Pennington?”

“Yes. The rascal is lying about six feet beyond me, sound asleep. In
spite of all I could do he wouldn’t stay awake. I’ve punched him all
over to see if he was wounded, but as he didn’t groan at a single punch,
he’s all right.”

“That being the case, I’m going to follow Pennington’s example. You may
lecture me as much as you please, George, but you’ll lecture only the
night, because I’ll be far away from here in a land of sweet dreams.”

“All right, if you’re going to do it, I will too. You’ll hear my snore
before I hear yours.”

Both sank in a few minutes into a deep slumber, and when they awoke the
next morning they found that Bowen had abandoned Port Gibson and had
retreated into Grand Gulf again. There was great elation among the lads
and Dick began to feel that the position of the Union army in the far
South was strengthened immeasurably. He heard that Sherman, who had
stood so staunchly at Shiloh, was on his way to join Grant. Their united
forces would press the siege of Grand Gulf and would also turn to strike
at any foe who might approach from the rear.

Never since the war began had Dick felt so elated as he did that
morning. When he saw the short, thick-set figure of Grant riding by
he believed that the Union, in the West at least, had found its man at
last.



CHAPTER IV. DICK’S MISSION


The night came down warm and heavy. Spring was far advanced in that
Southern region, and foliage and grass were already rich and heavy.
Dick, from his dozing position beside a camp fire, saw a great mass of
tall grass and green bushes beyond which lay the deep waters of a still
creek or bayou. The air, although thick and close, conduced to rest and
the peace that reigned after the battle was soothing to his soul.

His friends, the two lads, who were knitted to him by so many hardships
and dangers shared, were sound asleep, and he could see their tanned
faces when the light of the flickering fires fell upon them. Good
old Warner! Good old Pennington! The comradeship of war knitted youth
together with ties that never could be broken.

He moved into an easier position. He lay upon the soft turf and he had
doubled his blanket under his head as a pillow. At first the droning
noises of camp or preparation had come from afar, but soon they ceased
and now the frogs down by the sluggish waters began to croak.

It was a musical sound, one that he had heard often in his native state,
and, singularly enough, the lad drew encouragement from it. “Be of good
cheer! Be of good cheer! Trust in the future! Trust in the future!” said
all those voices down among the swamps and reeds. And then Dick said
to himself: “I will trust and I will have hope!” He remembered his last
glimpse of Grant’s short, strong figure and the confidence that this man
inspired in him. He, with tens of thousands of others, Abraham Lincoln
at their head, had been looking for a man, they had looked long and in
vain for such a man, but Dick was beginning to believe that they had
found him at last.

It would take much of a man to stand before the genius of Lee, but it
might be Grant. Dick’s faith in the star of his country, shattered so
often for the moment, began to rise that night and never sank again.

He fell asleep to the homely music of the frogs among the reeds, and
slept without stir until nearly dawn.

Just as the first strip of gray showed in the east Colonel Winchester
walked toward the spot where Dick and his comrades lay. The colonel had
not slept that night. His fine face was worn and thin, but the blue eyes
were alight with strength and energy. He had just left a conference of
high officers, and he came upon a mission. He reached the three lads,
and looked down at them with a sort of pity. He knew that it was his
duty to awake them at once and send them upon a perilous errand, but
they were so young, and they had already been through so much that he
hesitated.

He put his hand upon Dick’s shoulder and shook him. But it took more
than one shake to awaken the lad, and it was fully a minute before he
opened his eyes and sat up. Dick conscious but partly and rubbing his
sleepy eyes, asked:

“What is it? Are we to go into battle again? Yes, sir! Yes, sir! I’m
ready!”

“Not that, Dick, but I’ve orders for you.”

Dick now awoke completely and saw that it was Colonel Winchester. He
sprang to his feet and saluted.

“We’ll wake up Warner and Pennington next,” said the colonel, “because
they go also on the kind of duty to which you’re assigned.”

“I’m glad of that,” said Dick warmly.

Warner and Pennington were aroused with difficulty, but, as soon as
they realized that Colonel Winchester was before them and that they were
selected for a grave duty, they became at once keen and alert.

“Lads,” said the colonel briefly, “you’ve all felt that we’re now led by
a great commander. But energy and daring on the part of a leader demand
energy and daring on the part of his men. General Grant is about to
undertake a great enterprise, one that demands the concentration of his
troops. I want you, Warner, to go to General Sherman with this dispatch,
and here is one for you, Pennington, to take to General Banks.”

He paused a moment and Dick asked:

“Am I to be left out?”

Colonel Winchester smiled.

He liked this eagerness on the part of his boys, and yet there was
sadness in his smile, too. Young lieutenants who rode forth on errands
often failed to come back.

“You’re included, Dick,” he said, “and I think that yours is the most
perilous mission of them all. Pennington, you and Warner can be making
ready and I’ll tell Dick what he’s to do.”

The Vermonter and the Nebraskan hurried away and Colonel Winchester,
taking Dick by the arm, walked with him beyond the circle of firelight.

“Dick,” he said gently, “they asked me to choose the one in my command
whom I thought most fit for this duty to be done, and I’ve selected you,
although I’m sending you into a great peril.”

Dick flushed with pride at the trust. Youth blinded him at present to
its perils.

“Thank you, sir,” he said simply.

“You will recall Major Hertford, who was with us in Kentucky before the
Shiloh days?”

“I could not forget him, sir. One of our most gallant officers.”

“You speak truly. He is one of our bravest, and also one of our ablest.
I speak of him as Major Hertford, but he has lately been promoted to the
rank of colonel, and he is operating toward the East with a large body
of cavalry, partly in conjunction with Grierson, who saved us at the
ford.”

“And you want me to reach him, sir!”

“You’ve divined it. He is near Jackson, the capital of this state, and,
incidentally, you’re to discover as much as you can about Jackson and
the Confederate dispositions in that direction. We wish Hertford to join
General Grant’s advance, which will presently move toward Jackson, and
we rely upon you to find him.”

“I’ll do it, if he’s to be found at all,” said Dick fervently.

“I knew it, but, Dick, you’re to go in your uniform. I’ll not have you
executed as a spy in case you’re taken. Nor are you to carry any written
message to Colonel Hertford. He knows you well, and he’ll accept your
word at once as truth. Now, this is a ride that will call for woodcraft
as well as soldiership.”

“I start at once, do I not, sir?”

“You do. Warner and Pennington are ready now, and your own horse is
waiting for you. Here is a small map which I have reason to believe is
accurate, at least fairly so, although few of our men know much of this
country. But use it, lad, as best you can.”

It was a sheet of thick fibrous paper about six inches square and, after
a hasty glance at it, Dick folded it up carefully and put it in his
pocket. Warner and Pennington appeared then, mounted and armed and ready
to tell him good-bye. He and Colonel Winchester watched them a moment
or two as they rode away, and then an orderly appeared with Dick’s
own horse, a fine bay, saddled, bridled, saddlebags filled with food,
pistols in holsters, and a breech-loading rifle strapped to the saddle.

“I’ve made your equipment the best I could,” said Colonel Winchester,
“and after you start, lad, you must use your own judgment.”

He wrung the hand of the boy, for whom his affection was genuine and
deep, and Dick sprang into the saddle.

“Good-bye, colonel,” he said, “I thank you for this trust, and I won’t
fail.”

It was not a boast. It was courage speaking from the heart of youth and,
as Dick rode out of the camp on his good horse, he considered himself
equal to any task. He felt an enormous pride because he was chosen for
such an important and perilous mission, and he summoned every faculty to
meet its hardships and dangers.

He had the password, and the sentinels wished him good luck. So did the
men who were gathering firewood. One, a small, weazened fellow, gave him
an envious look.

“Wish I was going riding with you,” he said. “It’s fine in the woods
now.”

Dick laughed through sheer exuberance of spirits.

“Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t,” he said. “Perhaps the forest is filled
with rebel sharpshooters.”

“If you ride toward Jackson you’re likely to strike Confederate bands.”

“I didn’t say where I’m going, but you may be certain I’ll keep a watch
for those bands wherever I may be.”

The little man was uncommonly strong nevertheless, as he carried on his
shoulder a heavy log which he threw down by one of the fires, but Dick,
absorbed in his journey, forgot the desire of the soldier to be riding
through the forest too.

He soon left the camp behind. He looked back at it only once, and beheld
the luminous glow of the campfires. Then the forest shut it out and he
rode on through a region almost abandoned by its people owing to the
converging armies. He did not yet look at his map, because he knew that
he would soon come into the main road to Jackson. It would be sufficient
to determine his course then.

Dick was not familiar with the farther South, which was a very different
region from his own Kentucky. His home was a region of firm land, hills
and clear streams, but here the ground lay low, the soil was soft and
the waters dark and sluggish. But his instincts as a woodsman were
fortified by much youthful training, and he felt that he could find the
way.

It gave him now great joy to leave the army and ride away through the
deep woods. He was tired of battle and the sight of wounds and death.
The noises of the camp were painful to his ear, and in the forest he
found peace.

He was absolutely alone in his world, and glad of it. The woods were in
all the depth and richness of a Southern spring. Vast masses of green
foliage billowed away to right and left. Great festoons of moss hung
from the oaks, and trailing vines wrapped many of the trees almost to
their tops. Wild flowers, pink, yellow and blue, unknown by name to
Dick, bloomed in the open spaces.

The air of early morning was crisp with the breath of life. He had come
upon a low ridge of hard ground, away from the vast current and low,
sodden shores of the Mississippi. Here was a clean atmosphere, and the
forest, the forest everywhere. A mockingbird, perched on a bough almost
over his head, began to pour forth his liquid song, and from another far
away came the same song like an echo. Dick looked up but he could not
see the bird among the branches. Nevertheless he waved his hand toward
the place from which the melody came and gave a little trill in reply.
Then he said aloud:

“It’s a happy omen that you give me. I march away to the sound of
innocent music.”

Then he increased his speed a little and rode without stopping until he
came to the main road to Jackson. There he examined his map upon which
were marked many rivers, creeks, lagoons and bayous, with extensive
shaded areas meaning forests. In the southeastern corner of the map was
Jackson, close to which he meant to go.

He rode on at a fair pace, keeping an extremely careful watch ahead and
on either side of the road. He meant to turn aside soon into the woods,
but for the present he thought himself safe in the road--it was not
likely that Southern raiders would come so near to the Union camp.

His feeling of peace deepened. He was so far away now that no warlike
sound could reach him. Instead the song of the mockingbird pursued
him. Dick, full of youth and life, began to whistle the tune with the
songster, and his horse perhaps soothed too by the rhythm broke into the
gentle pace which is so easy for the rider.

It was early dawn, and the west was not yet wholly light. The east was
full of gold, but the silver lingered on the opposite horizon, and
the hot sun of Mississippi did not yet shed its rays over the earth.
Instead, a cool breeze blew on Dick’s face, and the quick blood was
still leaping in his veins. The road dipped down and he came to a brook,
which was clear despite its proximity to the mighty yellow trench of the
Mississippi.

He let his horse drink freely, and, while he drank, he surveyed the
country as well as he could. On his left he saw through a fringe of
woods a field of young corn and showing dimly beyond it a small house.
Unbroken forest stretched away on his right, but in field as well as
forest there was no sign of a human being.

He studied his map again, noting the great number of water courses,
which in the spring season were likely to be at the flood, and, for
the first time, he realized the extreme difficulty of his mission.
Mississippi was in the very heart of the Confederacy. He could not
expect any sympathetic farmers to help him or show him the way. More
likely as he advanced toward Jackson he would find the country swarming
with the friends of the Confederacy, and to pass through them would
demand the last resource of skill and courage. Perhaps it would have
been wiser had he put on citizens clothes and taken his chances as a
spy! He did not know that Colonel Winchester would have ordered the
disguise had the one who rode on this most perilous mission been any
other than he.

The realization brought with it extreme caution. Growing up in a country
which was still mainly in forest, not differing much from its primitive
condition, save for the absence of Indians and big game, he had learned
to be at home in the woods, and now he turned from the path, riding
among the trees.

He kept a course some distance from the road, where he was sheltered
by the deep foliage and could yet see what was passing along the main
artery of travel. The ground at times was spongy, making traveling hard,
and twice his horse swam deep creeks. He would have turned into the road
at these points but the bridges were broken down and he had no other
choice.

The morning waned, and the coolness departed. The sun hung overhead,
blazing hot, and the air in the forest grew dense and heavy. He would
have been glad to turn back into the road, in the hope of finding a
breeze in the open space, but caution still kept him in the forest.
He soon saw two men in brown jeans riding mules, farmers perhaps, but
carrying rifles on their shoulders, and, drawing his horse behind a big
tree, he waited until they passed.

They rode on unseeing and he resumed his journey, to stop an hour later
and eat cold food, while he permitted his horse to graze in an opening.
He had seen only three houses, one a large colonial mansion, with the
smoke rising from several chimneys, and the others small log structures
inhabited by poor farmers, but nobody was at work in the fields.

When he resumed the journey he was thankful that he had kept to the
woods as a body of Confederate cavalry, coming out of a path from the
north, turned into the main road and advanced at a good pace toward
Jackson. They seemed to be in good spirits, as he could hear them
talking and laughing, but he was glad when they were out of sight as
these Southerners had keen eyes and a pair of them might have discerned
him in the brush.

He went deeper into the woods and made another long study of his map. It
seemed to him now that he knew every hill and lagoon and road and path,
and he resolved to ride a straight course through the forest. There
was a point, distinctly marked north of Jackson, where he was to find
Hertford if he arrived in time, or to wait for him if he got there ahead
of time, and he believed that with the aid of the map he could reach it
through the woods.

He rode now by the sun and he saw neither path nor fields. He was in the
deep wilderness once more. The mockingbirds sang around him again and
through the rifts in the leaves he saw the sailing hawks seeking their
prey. Three huge owls sitting in a row on a bough slept undisturbed
while he passed. He took it as an omen that the wilderness was deserted,
and his confidence was strong.

But the firm ground ceased and he rode through a region of swamps. The
hoofs of his horse splashed through mud and water. Now and then a snake
drew away its slimy length and Dick shuddered. He could not help it.
Snakes, even the harmless, always gave him shivers.

The wilderness now had an evil beauty. The vegetation was almost
tropical in its luxuriance, but Dick liked better the tender green of
his more northern state. Great beds of sunflowers nodded in the light
breeze. Vast masses of vines and creepers pulled down the trees, and
on many of the vines deep red roses were blooming. Then came areas
of solemn live oaks and gloomy cypresses, where no mockingbirds were
singing.

He rode for half a mile along a deep lagoon or bayou, he did not know
which, and saw hawks swoop down and draw fish from its dark surface.
The whole scene was ugly and cruel, and he was glad when he left it and
entered the woods again. Once he thought he heard the mellow voice of a
negro singing, but that was the only sound, save the flitting of small
wild animals through the undergrowth.

He came, mid-afternoon, to a river, which he made his horse swim boldly
and then entered forest that seemed more dense than ever. But the ground
here was firmer and he was glad of a chance to rest both himself and his
mount. He dismounted, tethered the horse and stretched his own limbs,
weary from riding.

It was a pretty little glade, surrounded by high forest, fitted for rest
and peace, but his horse reared suddenly and tried to break loose. There
was a heavy crashing in the undergrowth and a deer, wild with alarm,
darting within a dozen feet of Dick, disappeared in the forest, running
madly.

He knew there were many deer in the Mississippi woods, but he was
observant and the flight aroused his attention. His first thought that
he and his horse had scared the deer could not be true, because it had
come from a point directly behind and had rushed past them. Then its
alarm must have been caused by some other human being near by in the
forest or by a panther. His theory inclined to the human being.

Dick was troubled. The more he thought of the incident the less he liked
it. He made no effort to hide from himself the dangers that surrounded
him in the land of the enemy, and remounting he rode briskly forward. As
the ground was firm and the forest was free enough from undergrowth to
permit of speed he finally broke into a gallop which he maintained for a
half-hour.

He struck marsh again and was a long time in passing through it. But
when he was a half-mile on the other side he drew into a dense cluster
of bushes and waited. He could not get the flight of the deer out of
his mind, and knowing that it was well in the wilderness to obey
premonitions he watched more closely.

Dick sat on his horse behind the bush a full five minutes, and presently
he became conscious that his heart was pounding heavily. He exerted his
will and called himself foolish, but in vain. The flight of the deer
persisted in his mind. It was a warning that somebody else was in the
woods not far behind him, and, while he waited, he saw a shadow among
the trees.

It was only a shadow, but it was like the figure of a man. A single
glimpse and he was gone. The stranger, whoever he was, had darted back
in the undergrowth. Dick waited another five minutes, but the shadow did
not reappear. He felt a measure of relief because all doubts were gone
now. He was sure that he was followed, but by whom?

He knew that his danger had increased manifold. Some Southern scout or
skirmisher had discovered his presence and, in such a quest, the trailer
had the advantage of the trailed. Yet he did not hesitate. He knew his
general direction and, shifting the pistols from the saddle-holsters to
his belt he again urged his horse forward.

When they came to good ground he walked, leading his mount, as the
animal was much exhausted by the effort the marshes needed. But whenever
the undergrowth grew dense he stopped to look and listen. He did not see
the shadow and he heard nothing save the ordinary sounds of the woods,
but either instinct or imagination told him that the stranger still
followed.

The sun was far down the westward slope, but it was still very hot
in the woods. There was no breeze. Not a leaf, nor a blade of grass
stirred. Dick heard his heart still pounding. The unseen pursuit--he had
no doubt it was there--was becoming a terrible strain upon his nerves.
The perspiration ran down his face, and he sought with angry eyes for a
sight of the fellow who presumed to hang upon his tracks.

He began to wonder what he would do when the night came. There would be
no rest, no sleep for him, even in the darkness. Twice he curved from
his course and hid in the undergrowth to see his pursuer come up, but
there was nothing. Then he reasoned with himself. He had not really seen
the flitting figure of a man. It was merely the effect of an alarmed
imagination, and he told himself to ride straight on, looking ahead, not
back. But reason again yielded to instinct and he curved once more into
the deep forest, where the tangle of vines and undergrowth also was so
thick that it would take a keen eye to find him.

Dick looked back along the path which he had come and he was confident
that he saw some of the tall bushes shake a little. It could not be
wind, because the air was absolutely still, and soon he was convinced
that his instinct had been right all the time. Fancy had played him no
trick and the shadow that he had seen was a human figure.

He felt with all the force of conviction that he was in great danger,
but he did not know what to do. So he did nothing, but sat quietly on
his horse among the bushes. The heat was intense there and innumerable
flies, gnats, and mosquitoes assailed him. The mosquitoes were so fierce
that they drew blood from his face a half-dozen times.

Alone in the heat of the deep marshy wilderness he felt fear more than
in battle. Danger threatened here in a mysterious, invisible fashion and
he could only wait.

He saw a bush move again, but much nearer, and then came the crack of
a rifle. If his horse, alarmed perhaps, had not thrown up his head
suddenly, and received the bullet himself the lad’s career would have
ended there.

The horse made a convulsive leap, then staggered for a few seconds,
giving his rider time to spring clear, and fell among the bushes.
Dick dropped down behind him and quickly unstrapped the rifle from the
saddle, meaning to use the animal’s body as a breastwork against renewed
attack.

His fear, the kind of fear that the bravest feel, had been driven away
by rage. The killing of his innocent horse, although the bullet was
intended for him, angered him as much as if he had received a wound
himself. The spirit of his ancestor, the shrewd and wary Indian fighter,
descended upon him again, and, lying upon his stomach behind the horse,
with the rifle ready he was anxious for the attack to come.

Dick was firmly convinced that he had but a single enemy. Otherwise he
would have been attacked in force earlier, and more than one shot would
have been fired. But the report of the rifle was succeeded by deep
silence. The forest was absolutely still, not a breath of wind stirring.
His enemy remained invisible, but the besieged youth was confident that
he was lying quiet, awaiting another chance. Dick, still hot with anger,
would wait too.

But other enemies were far more reckless than the hidden marksman. The
swarm of gnats, flies, and mosquitoes assailed him again and he could
have cried out in pain. His only consolation lay in the fact that the
other man might be suffering just as much.

He was aware that his enemy might try a circling movement in order to
reach him on the flank or from behind, but he believed that his ear
would be keen enough to detect him if he came near. Moreover he lay in
a slight dip with the body of the horse in front of him, and it would
require an uncommon sharpshooter to reach him with a bullet. If he could
only stand those terrible mosquitoes an hour he felt that he might get
away, because then the night would be at hand.

He saw with immense relief that the sun was already very low. The
heat, gathered in the woods, was at its worst, and over his head the
mosquitoes buzzed and buzzed incessantly. It seemed to him a horrible
sort of irony that he might presently be forced from his shelter by
mosquitoes and be killed in flight to another refuge.

But he was endowed with great patience and tenacity and he clung to his
shelter, relying rather upon ear than eye to note the approach of an
enemy. Meanwhile the sun sank down to the rim of the wood, and the
twilight thickened rapidly in the east. Then a shot was fired from the
point from which the first had come. Dick heard the bullet singing over
his head, but it gave him satisfaction because he was able to locate his
enemy.

He sought no return fire, but lay in the dip, wary and patient. The sun
sank beyond the rim, the western sky flamed blood red for a few moments,
and then the Southern night swept down so suddenly that it seemed to
come with violence. Dick believed that his escape was now at hand, but
he still showed an infinite patience.

He did not stir from his place until the night was almost black, and
then, carrying his weapons and the saddlebag of provisions, he crept
among the thickets.

When he stood up he found himself stiff from lying long in a cramped
position. His face burned from the bites of the mosquitoes, which still
hung in swarms about him, and he felt dizzy.

But Dick remembered his mission, and his resolve to perform it was not
shaken a particle. He had lost his horse, but he could walk. Perhaps his
chance of success would be greater on foot in such a dangerous country.

He advanced now with extreme caution, feeling the way carefully and
testing the ground before he put his foot down solidly. Still trusting
to his ears he stopped now and then, and listened for some sound from
his enemy in pursuit. But nothing came, and soon he became quite sure
that he had shaken him off. He was merely a dot in the wilderness in the
dark, and, feeling secure now, he pressed forward with more speed.

He was hoping to get to a piece of firm, high ground, where he might
secure a measure of protection from those terrible mosquitoes which
still buzzed angrily about his head. In an hour chance favored him, as
he reached a low ridge much rockier than usual in that region. He would
have built a little smudge fire to protect himself from the mosquitoes,
but it would be sure to draw the lurking sharpshooter, and instead he
found a nook in the ridge, under the low boughs of a great oak. Then
he took a light blanket which he carried tied to his saddlebags, and
wrapped it around his neck and face, covering everything but his mouth
and eyes.

He sank into the nook with his back against the turf, and the reclining
position was wonderfully easy. The mosquitoes, apparently finding the
points of exposure too small, left him alone and went away. His face
still burned from numerous stings, but he forgot it in present comfort.
There was food in the saddlebags, and he ate enough for his needs. Then
he laid the saddlebags beside him and the rifle across his knees and
stared out into the darkness.

He felt a great relief after his extreme danger and long exertions.
It was both physical and mental, and sitting there alone in a sunken
wilderness he was nevertheless happy. Believing that the mosquitoes
would not come back, he wrapped the blanket about his whole body by and
by, and pulled his cap down over his eyes.

Dick had no plans for the night. He did not know whether he intended to
remain there long or not, but nature settled doubts for him. His head
drooped, and soon he slept as easily and peacefully as if he had been at
home at Pendleton in his own bed.

Then the wilderness blotted him out for the time. The little wild
animals scurried through the grass or ran up trees. In the far distance
an owl hooted solemnly at nothing, and he slept the mighty sleep of
exhaustion.



CHAPTER V. HUNTED


Dick slept the whole night through, which was a very good thing for him,
because he needed it, and because he could have made no progress in the
thick darkness through the marshy wilderness. No human beings saw him,
but the wild animals took more than one look. Not all were little. One
big clumsy brute, wagging his head in a curious, comic way, shuffled up
from the edge of the swamp, sniffed the strange human odor, and, still
wagging his comic head, came rather close to the sleeping boy. Then the
black bear decided to be afraid, and lumbered back into the bushes.

An owl perched on a bough almost over Dick’s head, but this was game far
too large for Mr. Owl’s beak and talons, and he soon flew away in search
of something nearer his size. A raccoon on a bough stared with glowing
eyes and then slid out of sight.

Man, although he had just come, became king of this swamp, king for the
night. The prowling beasts and birds of prey, after their first look,
gave Dick all the berth he needed, and he did not awake until a bright
sun was well above the edge of the earth. Then he rose, shook himself,
much like an animal coming from its lair, and bathed his face in a
little stream which ran down the hill into the swamp. It was swollen and
painful from the mosquito bites, but he resolved not to think of them,
and ate breakfast from the saddlebags, after which he studied his map a
little.

Baggage and rifle on shoulder, he pursued a course south by east. There
was a strong breeze which gave him a rest from the dreaded insects, and
he pushed on with vigorous footsteps. The country remained thoroughly
wild, and he soon had proof of it. Another deer, this time obviously
started up by himself, sprang from the canebrake and darted away in the
woods. He noted tracks of bear and resolved some day when the war was
over to come there hunting.

His course led him again from firm ground into a region of marshes and
lagoons, which he crossed with difficulty, arriving about an hour before
noon at a considerable river, one that would require swimming unless he
found a ford somewhere near. He was very weary from the journey through
the marsh and, sitting on a log, he scraped from his clothes a portion
of the mud they had accumulated on the way.

He was a good swimmer, but he had his arms and ammunition to keep dry,
and he did not wish to trust himself afloat on the deep current. Wading
would be far better, and, when his strength was restored, he walked up
the bank in search of a shallower place.

He came soon to a point, where the cliff was rather high, although it
was clothed in dense forest here as elsewhere, and when he reached the
crest he heard a sound like the swishing of waters. Alert and suspicious
he sank down among the trees and peered over the bank. Two men in a
canoe were paddling in a leisurely manner along the stream.

The men were in faded and worn Confederate uniforms, and Dick saw
their rifles lying in the bottom of the boat. He also saw that they
had strong, resolute faces. They were almost opposite him and they were
closely scanning the forest on his side of the river. He was glad that
he had not tried to swim the stream, and he was glad too that he had
kept so well under cover. The men in the canoe were surely keen of eye,
and they must be a patrol.

He sank closer to the earth and did not stir. One of the watchers drew
in his paddle and took up his rifle, while the other propelled the canoe
very slowly. It seemed that they expected something or somebody, and it
suddenly occurred to him that it might be he. He felt a little shiver of
apprehension. How could they know he was coming? It was mysterious and
alarming.

He waited for them to pass down the river and out of sight, but at the
curve they turned and came back against the stream, the man with the
rifle in his hand still keenly watching the western shore, where Dick
lay hidden. Neither of them spoke, and the only sound was the swishing
of the paddle. The hoot of an owl came from the depths of the forest
behind him and he knew that it was a signal. The hair of his head
lifted.

He felt the touch of the supernatural. The invisible pursuer was behind
him again, and the silent soldiers held the crossing. The hoot of the
owl came again, a little nearer now. He was tempted to rise and run, but
his will held him back from such folly. His unknown enemy could pursue,
because his boots left a deep trail in the soft earth. That was why he
had been able to follow again in the morning.

He crept back some distance from the river and then, rising, retreated
cautiously up the stream. He caught glimpses of the water twice through
the bushes, and each time the canoe was moving up the river also, one
man paddling and the other, rifle on his arm, watching the western
shore.

Dick had a feeling that he was trapped. Colonel Winchester had been wise
to make him wear his uniform, because it was now certain that he
was going to be taken, and death had always been the punishment of
a captured spy. He put down the thought resolutely, and began to run
through the forest parallel with the river. If it were only the firm
hard ground of the North he could hide his trail from the man behind
him, but here the soil was so soft that every footstep left a deep mark.
Yet he might find fallen trees thrown down by hurricanes, and in a few
minutes he came to a mass of them. He ran deftly from trunk to trunk,
and then continued his flight among the bushes. It broke his trail less
than a rod, but it might take his pursuer ten minutes to recover it, and
now ten minutes were precious.

The soil grew harder and he made better speed, but when he looked
through the foliage he saw the canoe still opposite him. It was easy for
them, on the smooth surface of the river, to keep pace with him, if such
was their object. Furious anger took hold of him. He knew that he must
soon become exhausted, while the men in the canoe would scarcely feel
weariness. Then came the idea.

The canoe was light and thin almost like the birch bark Indian canoe of
the north, and he was a good marksman. It was a last chance, but raising
his rifle he fired the heavy bullet directly at the bottom of the canoe.
As the echo of the first shot was dying he slipped in a cartridge and
sent a second at the same target. He did not seek to kill the men, his
object was the canoe, and as he ran rapidly away he saw it fill with
water and sink, the two soldiers in the stream swimming toward the
western shore.

Dick laughed to himself. He had won a triumph, although he did not yet
know that it would amount to anything. At any rate the men could no
longer glide up and down the river at their leisure looking for him to
come forth from the forest.

He knew that the shots would bring the single pursuer at full speed,
and, as he had saved some ounces of strength, he now ran at his utmost
speed. The river curved again and just beyond the curve it seemed
shallow to him. He plunged in at once, and waded rapidly, holding his
rifle, pistols and saddlebags above his head. He was in dread lest he
receive a bullet in his back, but he made the farther shore, ran into
the dense undergrowth and sank down dripping and panting.

He had made the crossing but he did not forget to be ready. He rapidly
reloaded his rifle, and fastened the pistols at his belt. Then he looked
through the bushes at the river. The two canoemen, water running from
them in streams, were on the other bank, though a little farther down
the stream. He believed that they were no longer silent. He fondly
imagined that they were cursing hard, if not loud.

His relief was so great that, forgetting his own bedraggled condition,
he laughed. Then he looked again to see what they were going to do. A
small man, his face shaded by the broad brim of a hat, emerged from the
woods and joined them. Dick was too far away to see his face, even
had it been uncovered, but his figure looked familiar. Nevertheless,
although he tried hard, he could not recall where he had seen him
before. But, as he carried a long-barreled rifle, Dick was sure that
this was his unknown pursuer. There had certainly been collusion
also between him and the men in the boat, as the three began to talk
earnestly, and to point toward the woods on the other side.

Dick felt that he had avenged himself upon the boatmen, but his rage
rose high against the little man under the broad-brimmed hat. It was he
who had followed him so long, and who had tried ruthlessly to kill him.
The lad’s rifle was of the most improved make and a bullet would reach.
He was tempted to try it, but prudence came to his rescue. Still lying
close he watched them. He felt sure that they would soon be hunting for
his footprints, but he resolved to stay in his covert, until they began
the crossing of the river, to which his trail would lead when they found
it.

He saw them cease talking and begin searching among the woods. It might
be at least a half-hour before they found the trail and his strength
would be restored fully then. His sinking of the canoe had been in
reality a triumph, and so he remained at ease, watching the ford.

He was quite sure that when his trail was found the little man would
be the one to find it, and sure enough at the end of a half-hour the
weazened figure led down to the ford. Dick might have shot one of them
in the water, but he had no desire to take life. It would serve no
purpose, and, refreshed and strengthened, he set out through the forest
toward Jackson.

He came to a brook soon, and, remembering the old device of Indian
times, he waded in it at least a half-mile. When he left it he passed
through a stretch of wood, crossed an old cotton field and entered the
woods again. Then he sat down and ate from his store, feeling that he
had shaken off his pursuers. Another examination of his map followed. He
had kept fixed in his mind the point at which he was to find Hertford,
and, being a good judge of direction, he felt sure that he could yet
reach it.

The sun, now high and warm, had dried his clothing, and, after the food,
he was ready for another long march. He struck into a path and walked
along it, coming soon to a house which stood back a little distance from
a road into which the path merged. A man and two women standing on the
porch stared at him curiously, but he pretended to take no notice. After
long exposure to weather, blue uniforms did not differ much from gray,
and his own was now covered with mud. He could readily pass as a soldier
of the Confederacy unless they chose to ask too many questions.

“From General Pemberton’s army?” called the man, when he was opposite
the house.

Dick nodded and stepped a little faster.

“Won’t you stop for a bite and fresh water with friends of the cause?”

“Thanks, but important dispatches. Must hurry.” They repeated the
invitation. He shook his head, and went on. He did not look back, but he
was sure that they stared at him as long as he was in sight. Then, for
safety’s sake, he left the road and entered the wood once more.

He had now come to country comparatively free from swamp and marsh, and
pursued his way through a great forest, beautiful with live oaks and
magnolias. In the afternoon he took a long rest by the side of a clear
spring, where he drew further upon the store of food in his saddlebags,
which he calculated held enough for another day. After that he would
have to forage upon the country.

He would sleep the second night in the forest, his blanket being
sufficient protection, unless rain came, which he would have to endure
as best he could. Another look at his map and he believed that on the
following afternoon he could reach Hertford.

He took the remaining food from his saddlebags, wrapped it in his
blanket, and strapped the pack on his back. Then, in order to lighten
his burden, he hung the saddlebags on the bough of a tree and abandoned
them, after which he pressed forward through the woods with renewed
speed.

He came at times to the edge of the forest and saw houses in the fields,
but he always turned back among the trees. He could find only enemies
here, and he knew that it was his plan to avoid all human beings.
Precept and example are of great power and he recalled again much that
he had heard of his famous ancestor, Paul Cotter. He had been compelled
to fight often for his life and again to flee for it from an enemy who
reserved torture and death for the captured. Dick felt that he must do
as well, and the feeling increased his vigor and courage.

A little later he heard a note, low, faint and musical. It was behind
him, but he was sure at first that it was made by negroes singing. It
was a pleasing sound. The negro had a great capacity for happiness, and
Dick as a young lad had played with and liked the young colored lads of
his age.

But as he walked on he heard the low, musical note once more and, as
before, directly behind him. It seemed a little nearer. He paused and
listened. It came again, always nearer and nearer, and now it did not
seem as musical as before. There was a sinister thread in that flowing
note, and suddenly Dick remembered.

He was a daring horseman and with his uncle and cousin and others at
Pendleton he had often ridden after the fox. It was the note of the
hounds, but of bloodhounds, and this time they were following him. From
the first he had not the slightest doubt of it. Somebody, some traitor
in the Union camp, knew the nature of his errand, and was hanging on to
the pursuit like death.

Dick knew it was the little man whom he had seen by the river, and
perhaps the canoemen were with him--he would certainly have comrades,
or his own danger would be too great--and they had probably obtained the
bloodhounds at a farmhouse. Nearly everybody in Mississippi kept hounds.

The long whining note came again and much nearer. Now all music was gone
from it for Dick. It was ferocious, like the howl of the wolf seeking
prey, and he could not restrain a shudder. His danger had returned with
twofold force, because the hounds would unerringly lead his pursuers
through the forest as fast as they could follow.

He did not yet despair. A new resolution was drawn from the depths of
his courage. He did not forget that he was a good marksman and he
had both rifle and pistols. He tried to calculate from that whining,
ferocious note how many hounds were pursuing, and he believed they were
not many. Now he prepared for battle, and, as he ran, he kept his eye on
the ground in order that he might choose his own field.

He saw it presently, a mass of fallen timber thrown together by a great
storm, and he took his place on the highest log, out of reach of a
leaping hound. Then, lying almost flat on the log and with his rifle
ready, he waited, his heart beating hard with anger that he should be
pursued thus like an animal.

The howling of the hounds grew more ferocious, and it was tinged with
joy. The trail had suddenly grown very hot, and they knew that the
quarry was just before them. Dick caught a good view of a long, lean,
racing figure bounding among the trees, and he fired straight at a spot
between the blazing eyes. The hound fell without a sound, and with equal
ease he slew the second. The third and last drew back, although the lad
heard the distant halloo of men seeking to drive him on.

Dick sprang from his log and ran through the forest again. He knew
that the lone hound after his first recoil would follow, but he had his
reloaded rifle and he had proved that he knew how to shoot. It would
please him for the hound to come within range.

When he took to renewed flight the hound again whined ferociously and
Dick glanced back now and then seeking a shot. Once he caught a glimpse
of two or three dusky figures some distance behind the hound, urging
him on, and his heart throbbed with increased rage. If they presented an
equal target he would fire at them rather than the hound.

He could run no longer, and his gait sank to a walk. His very exhaustion
brought him his opportunity, as the animal came rapidly within range,
and Dick finished him with a single lucky shot. Then, making an extreme
effort, he fled on a long time, and, while he was fleeing, he saw the
sun set and the night come.

The strain upon him had been so great that his nerves and brain were
unsteady. Although the forest was black with night he saw it through a
blood-red mist. Something in him was about to burst, and when he saw a
human figure rising up before him it broke and he fell.

Dick was unconscious a long time. But when he awoke he found himself
wrapped in a blanket, while another was doubled under his head. It was
pitchy dark, but he beheld the outline of a human figure, sitting by his
side. He strove to rise, but a powerful hand on his shoulder pushed him
back, though gently, and a low voice said:

“Stay still, Mr. Mason. We mustn’t make any sound now!”

Dick recognized in dim wonder the voice of Sergeant Daniel Whitley. How
he had come there at such a time, and what he was doing now was past all
guessing, but Sergeant Whitley was a most competent man. He knew more
than most generals, and he was filled with the lore of the woods. He
would trust him. He let his head sink back on the folded blanket, and
his heavy eyes closed again.

When Dick roused from his stupor the sergeant was still by his side,
and, as his eyes grew used to the darkness, he noticed that Whitley was
really kneeling rather than sitting, crouched to meet danger, his finger
on the trigger of a rifle. Dick’s brain cleared and he sat up.

“What is it, Sergeant?” he whispered.

“I see you’re all right now, Mr. Mason,” the sergeant whispered back,
“but be sure you don’t stir.”

“Is it the Johnnies?”

“Lean over a little and look down into that dip.”

Dick did so, and saw four men hunting among the trees, and the one
who seemed to be their leader was the little weazened fellow, with the
great, flap-brimmed hat.

“They’re looking for your trail,” whispered the sergeant, “but they
won’t find it. It’s too dark, even for a Sioux Indian, and I’ve seen
them do some wonderful things in trailing.”

“I seem to have met you in time, Sergeant.”

“So you did, sir, but more of that later. Perhaps you’d better lie down
again, as you’re weak yet. I’ll tell you all they do.”

“I’ll take your advice, Sergeant, but am I sound and whole? I felt
something in me break, and then the earth rose up and hit me in the
face.”

“I reckon it was just the last ounce of breath going out of you with a
pop. They’re hunting hard, Mr. Mason, but they can’t pick up the trace
of a footstep. Slade must be mad clean through.”

“Slade! Slade! Who’s Slade?”

“Slade is a spy partly, and an outlaw mostly, ‘cause he often works on
his own hook. He’s the weazened little fellow with so much hat-brim, and
he’s about twenty different kinds of a demon. You’ve plenty of reason to
fear him, and it’s lucky we’ve met.”

“It’s more than luck for me, Sergeant. It’s salvation. I believe it
wouldn’t have been half as hard on me if somebody had been with me, and
you’re the first whom I would have chosen. Are they still in the dip,
Sergeant?”

“No, they’ve passed to the slope on the right, and I think they’ll go
over the hill. We’re safe here so long as we remain quiet; that is, safe
for the time. Slade will hang on as long as there’s a possible chance to
find us.”

“Sergeant, if they do happen to stumble upon us in the dark I hope
you’ll promise to do one thing for me.”

“I’ll do anything I can, Mr. Mason.”

“Kill Slade first. That little villain gives me the horrors. I believe
the soul of the last bloodhound I shot has been reincarnated in him.”

“All right, Mr. Mason,” returned the sergeant, placidly, “if we have to
fight I’ll make sure of Slade at once. Is there anybody else you’d like
specially to have killed?”

“No thank you, Sergeant. I don’t hate any of the others, and I suppose
they’d have dropped the chase long ago if it hadn’t been for this fellow
whom you call Slade. Now, I think I’ll lie quiet, while you watch.”

“Very good, sir. I’ll tell you everything I can see. They’re passing
over the hill out of sight, and if they return I won’t fail to let you
know.”

Sergeant Whitley, a man of vast physical powers, hardened by the long
service of forest and plain, was not weary at all, and, in the dusk, he
looked down with sympathy and pity at the lad who had closed his eyes.
He divined the nature of the ordeal through which he had gone. Dick’s
face, still badly swollen from the bites of the mosquitoes, showed
all the signs of utter exhaustion. The sergeant could see, despite the
darkness, that it was almost the face of the dead, and he knew that
happy chance had brought him in the moment of Dick’s greatest need.

He ceased to whisper, because Dick, without intending it, had gone
to sleep again. Then the wary veteran scouted in a circle about their
refuge, but did not discover the presence of an enemy.

He sat down near the sleeping lad, with his rifle between his knees,
and watched the moon come out. Owing to his wilderness experience he had
been chosen also to go on a scout toward Jackson, though he preferred to
make his on foot, and the sound of Dick’s shots at the hounds had drawn
him to an observation which finally turned into a rescue.

After midnight the sergeant slept a little while, but he never awakened
Dick until it was almost morning. Then he told him that he would go with
him on the mission to Hertford, and Dick was very glad.

“What’s become of Slade and his men?” asked Dick.

“I don’t know,” replied the sergeant, “but as they lost the trail in the
night, it’s pretty likely they’re far from here. At any rate they’re not
bothering us just now. How’re you feeling, Mr. Mason?”

“Fine, except that my face still burns.”

“We’ll have to hold up a Confederate house somewhere and get oil of
pennyroyal. That’ll cure you, but I guess you’ve learned now, Mr.
Mason, that mosquitoes in a southern swamp are just about as deadly as
bullets.”

“So they are, Sergeant, and this is not my first experience. Luck has
been terribly against me this trip, but it turned when I met you last
night.”

“Yes, Mr. Mason. In this case two rifles are better than one. We’re
prowling right through the heart of the Confederacy, but I’m thinking
we’ll make it. We’ve got a great general now, and we mustn’t fail to
bring up Colonel Hertford and his cavalry. I’ve an idea in my head that
General Grant is going to carry through big plans.”

“Then I think it’s time we were starting.”

“So do I, Mr. Mason, and now will you take these crackers and smoked
ham? I’ve plenty in my knapsack. I learned on the plains never to travel
without a food supply. If a soldier starves to death what use is he to
his army? And I reckon you need something to eat. You were about tired
out when I met you last night.”

“I surely was, Sergeant, but I’m a new man this morning. You and I
together can’t fail.”

Dick, in truth, felt an enormous relief. He and his young comrades had
learned to trust Sergeant Whitley implicitly, with his experience of
forest and plain and his infinite resource.

“Where do you figure we are, Sergeant?” he asked.

“In the deep woods, Mr. Mason, but we haven’t turned much from the line
leading you to the place where you were to meet Colonel Hertford. You
haven’t really lost time, and we’ll start again straight ahead, but
we’ve got to look out for this fellow Slade, who’s as tricky and
merciless as they ever make ‘em.”

“Tell me more about Slade, Sergeant.”

“I don’t know a lot, but I heard of him from some of our scouts. He was
an overseer of a big plantation before the war. From somewhere up North,
I think, but now he’s more of a rebel than the rebels themselves. Often
happens that way. But you’ve got to reckon with him.”

“Glad I know that much. He reminds me of a man I’ve seen, though I can’t
recall where or when. It’s enough, though, to watch out for Slade. Come
on, Sergeant, I’m feeling so fine now that with your help I’m able to
fight a whole army.”

The two striding through the forest, started toward the meeting place
with Hertford. Now that he had the powerful comradeship of Sergeant
Whitley, the wilderness became beautiful instead of gloomy for Dick.
The live oaks and magnolias were magnificent, and there was a wild
luxuriance of vegetation. Birds of brilliant plumage darted among the
foliage, and squirrels chattered on the boughs. He saw bear tracks
again, and called the sergeant’s attention to them.

“It would be nice to be hunting them, instead of men,” said Whitley.
“You can find nice, black fellows down here, good to eat, and it’s a
deal safer to hunt them than it is the grizzlies and silver-tips of the
Rockies.”

They saw now much cleared land, mostly cotton fields, and now and then
a white man or a negro working, but there was always enough forest
for cover. They waded the numerous brooks and creeks, allowing their
clothing to dry in the warm sun, as they marched, and about two hours
before sunrise the sergeant, wary and always suspicious, suggested that
they stop a while.

“I’ve an idea,” he said, “that Slade and his men are still following us.
Oh, he’s an ugly fellow, full of sin, and if they’re not far behind us
we ought to know it.”

“Just as you say,” said Dick, glad enough to shift the responsibility
upon such capable shoulders. “How would this clump of bushes serve for a
hiding place while we wait?”

“Good enough. Indians pursued, often ambush the pursuer, and as we’ve
two good men with two good rifles, Mr. Mason, we’ll just see what this
Slade is about.”

“When I last saw him,” said Dick, “he had the two canoemen with him, and
perhaps they’ve picked up the owner of the hounds.”

“That’s sure, and they’re likely to be four. We’re only two, but we’ve
got the advantage of the ambush, and that’s a big one. If you agree
with me, Mr. Mason, we’ll wait here for ‘em. We were sent out to take
messages, not to fight, but since these fellows hang on our trail we may
get to Colonel Hertford all the quicker because we do fight.”

“Your opinion’s mine too, Sergeant. I’m not in love with battle, but I
wouldn’t mind taking a shot or two at these men. They’ve given me a lot
of trouble.”

The sergeant smiled.

“That’s the way it goes,” he said. “You don’t get mad at anybody in
particular in a big battle, but if two or three fellows lay around in
the woods popping away at you you soon get so you lose any objections to
killing, and you draw a bead on ‘em as soon as a chance comes.”

“That’s the way I feel, Sergeant. It isn’t Christian, but I suppose it
has some sort of excuse.”

“Of course it has. Drop a little lower, Mr. Mason. I see the bushes out
there shaking.”

“And that’s the sign that Slade and his men have come. Well, I’m not
sorry.”

Both Dick and the sergeant lay almost flat with their heads raised a
little, and their rifles pushed forward. The bushes ceased to shake,
but Dick had no doubt their pursuers were before them. They had probably
divined, too, that the quarry was at bay and was dangerous. Evidently
the sergeant had been correct when he said Slade was full of craft and
cunning.

While they waited the spirit of Dick’s famous ancestor descended upon
him in a yet greater measure. Their pursuers were not Indians, but this
was the deep wilderness and they were merely on a skirt of the great
war. Many of the border conditions were reproduced, and they were to
fight as borderers fought.

“What do you think they’re doing?” Dick whispered.

“Feeling around for us. Slade won’t take any more risk than he has to.
Did you see those two birds fly away from that bough, sudden-like? I
think one of the men has just crept under it. But the fellow who exposes
himself first won’t be Slade.”

Dick’s inherited instinct was strong, and he watched not only in front,
but to right and left also. He knew that cunning men would seek to flank
and surprise them, and he noticed that the sergeant also watched in a
wide circle. He still drew tremendous comfort from the presence of the
skillful veteran, feeling that his aid would make the repulse of Slade a
certainty.

A rifle cracked suddenly in the bushes to their right, and then another
by his side cracked so suddenly that only a second came between. Dick
heard a bullet whistle over their heads, but he believed that the one
from his comrade’s rifle had struck true.

“I’ve no way of telling just now,” said the sergeant, calmly, “but I
don’t believe that fellow will bother any more. If we can wing another
they’re likely to let us alone and we can go on. They must know by
the trail that we’re now two instead of one, and that their danger has
doubled.”

Dick had felt that the danger to their pursuers had more than doubled.
He had an immense admiration for the sergeant, who was surely showing
himself a host. The man, trained so long in border war, was thoroughly
in his element. His thick, powerful figure was drawn up in the fashion
of a panther about to spring. Bulky as he was he showed ease and grace,
and wary eyes, capable of reading every sign, continually scanned the
thickets.

“They know just where we are, of course,” whispered the sergeant, “but
if we stay close they’ll never get a good shot at us.”

Dick caught sight of a head among some bushes and fired. The head
dropped back so quickly that he could not tell whether or not his bullet
sped true. After a long wait the sergeant suggested that they creep
away.

“I think they’ve had enough,” he said. “They’ve certainly lost one man,
and maybe two. Slade won’t care to risk much more.”

Dick was glad to go and, following the sergeant’s lead, he crawled four
or five hundred yards, a most painful but necessary operation. Then they
stood up, and made good time through the forest. Both would have been
willing to stay and fight it out with Slade and what force he had left,
but their mission was calling them, and forward they went.

“Do you think they’ll follow us?” asked Dick.

“I reckon they’ve had enough. They may try to curve ahead of us and give
warning, but the salute from the muzzles of our rifles has been too warm
for any more direct pursuit. Besides, we’re going to have a summer storm
soon, and like as not they’ll be hunting shelter.”

Dick, in the excitement of battle and flight, had not noticed the
darkening skies and the rising wind. Clouds, heavy and menacing, already
shrouded the whole west. Low thunder was heard far in the distance.

“It’s going to be a whopper,” said the sergeant, “something like those
big storms they have out on the plains. We must find shelter somewhere,
Mr. Mason, or it will leave us so bedraggled and worn out that for a
long time we won’t be able to move on.”

Dick agreed with him entirely, but neither yet knew where the shelter
was to be found. They hurried on, looking hopefully for a place.
Meanwhile the storm, its van a continual blaze of lightning and roar of
thunder, rolled up fast from the southwest. Then the lightning ceased
for a while and the skies were almost dark. Dick knew that the rain
would come soon, and, as he looked eagerly for shelter, he saw a
clearing in which stood a small building of logs.

“A cornfield, Sergeant,” he exclaimed, “and that I take it is a crib.”

“A crib that will soon house more than corn,” said the sergeant. “Two
good Union soldiers are about to stop there. It’s likely the farmer’s
house itself is just beyond that line of trees, but he won’t be coming
out to this crib to-night.”

“Not likely. Too much darkness and rain. Hurry, Sergeant, I can hear
already the rush of the rain in the forest.”

They ran across the field, burst open the door of the crib, leaped in
and banged the door shut again, just as the van of the rain beat upon it
with an angry rush.

Save for a crack or two they had no light, but they stood upon a dry
floor covered deep with corn shucks, and heard the rain sweep and roar
upon the roof. On one side was a heap of husked corn which they quickly
piled against the door in order to hold it before the assaults of the
wind, and then they sought warm places among the shucks.

It was a small crib, and the rain drove in at the cracks, but it
furnished abundant shelter for its two new guests. Dick had never been
in a finer hotel. He lay warm and dry in a great heap of shucks, and
heard the wind and rain beat vainly upon walls and roof and the thunder
rumble as it moved off toward the east. He felt to the full the power of
contrast.

“Fine in here, isn’t it, Sergeant?” he said.

“Fine as silk,” replied the sergeant from his own heap of shucks. “We
played in big luck to find this place, ‘cause I think it’s going to rain
hard all night.”

“Let it. It can’t get me. Sergeant, I’ve always known that corn is our
chief staple, but I never knew before that the shucks, which so neatly
enclose the grains and cob, were such articles of luxury. I’m lying upon
the most magnificent bed in the United States, and it’s composed wholly
of shucks.”

“It’s no finer than mine, Mr. Mason.”

“That’s so. Yours is just like mine, and, of course, it’s an exception.
Now, I wish to say, Sergeant, the rain upon the roof is so soothing that
I’m likely to go to sleep before I know it.”

“Go ahead, Mr. Mason, and it’s more’n likely I’ll follow. All trails
will be destroyed by the storm and nobody will think of looking here for
us to-night.”

Both soon slept soundly, and all through the night the rain beat upon
the roof.



CHAPTER VI. A BOLD ATTACK


Dick was the first to awake. The sergeant had not slept the night before
at all, and, despite his enormous endurance, he was overpowered. Having
fallen once into slumber he remained there long.

It was not yet morning and the rain was yet falling steadily. Its sweep
upon the roof was still so pleasant and soothing that Dick resolved to
go to sleep again, after he had looked about a little. He had grown used
to dusk and he could see just a little. The sergeant, buried all but his
head among the corn shucks, was breathing deeply and peacefully.

He looked out at one of the cracks, but he saw only rain sweeping by
in misty sheets. The road that ran by the field was invisible. He gave
devout thanks that this tight little corn crib had put itself in their
way. Then he returned to his slumbers, and when he awoke again the
sergeant was sitting by one of the cracks smoothing his thick hair with
a small comb.

“I always try to keep as neat as I can, Mr. Mason,” he said, apologizing
for such weakness. “It gives you more courage, and if I get killed I
want to make a decent body. Here’s your breakfast, sir. There’s enough
left for the two of us, and I’ve divided it equally.”

Cold ham, bacon and crackers were laid out on clean shucks, and they ate
until nothing was left. It was now full daylight, and the rain was dying
away to a sprinkle. The farmer might come out at any time to his crib,
and they felt that they must be up and away.

They bade farewell to their pleasant shelter of a night, and, after
pulling through the deep mud of the field, entered again the forest,
which was now soaking wet.

“If Colonel Hertford is near where we reckon he is we ought to meet him
by nightfall,” said Sergeant Whitley.

“We’re sure to reach him before then,” said Dick joyously.

“Colonel Hertford is a mighty good man, and if he says he’s going to
be at a certain place at a certain time I reckon he’ll be there, Mr.
Mason.”

“And then we’ll bring him back and join General Grant. What do you think
of our General, Sergeant?”

Dick spoke with all the freedom then so prevalent in the American
armies, where officer and man were often on nearly a common footing, and
the sergeant replied with equal freedom.

“General Grant hits and hammers, and I guess that’s what war is,”
 he said. “On the plains we had a colonel who didn’t know much about
tactics. He said the only way to put down hostile Indians was to find
‘em, and beat ‘em, and I guess that plan will work in any war, big or
little.”

“I heard before I left the army that Washington was getting scared,
afraid that he was taking too big a risk here in the heart of the
Confederacy, and that his operations might be checked by orders from the
capital.”

Sergeant Whitley smiled a wise smile.

“We sergeants learn to know the officers,” he said, “and I’ve had the
chance to look at General Grant a lot. He doesn’t say much, but I guess
he’s doing a powerful lot of thinking, while he’s chawing on the end of
his cigar. You notice, Mr. Mason, that he takes risks.”

“He took a big one at Shiloh, and came mighty near being nipped.”

“But he wasn’t nipped after all, and now, if I can judge by the signs,
he’s going to take another chance here. I wouldn’t be surprised if he
turned and marched away from the Mississippi, say toward Jackson.”

“But that wouldn’t be taking Vicksburg.”

“No, but he might whip an army of the Johnnies coming to relieve
Vicksburg, and I’ve a sneaking idea that the General has another daring
thought in mind.”

“What is it, Sergeant?”

“When he turns eastward he’ll be away from the telegraph. Maybe he
doesn’t want to receive any orders from the capital just now.”

“I believe you’ve hit it, Sergeant. At least I hope so, and anyway we
want to reach Colonel Hertford right away.”

Still following the map and also consulting their own judgment, they
advanced now at a good rate. But as they came into a more thickly
populated country they were compelled to be exceedingly wary. Once a
farmer insisted on questioning them, but they threatened him with their
rifles and then plunged into a wood, lest he bring a force in pursuit.

In the afternoon, lying among some bushes, they saw a large Confederate
force, with four cannon, pass on the road toward Jackson.

“Colonel Hertford might do them a lot of damage if he could fall on them
with his cavalry,” said the sergeant thoughtfully.

“So he could,” said Dick, “but I imagine that General Grant wants the
colonel to come at once.”

They turned northward now and an hour later found numerous hoofprints in
a narrow road.

“All these were made by well-shod horses,” said the sergeant, after
examining the tracks critically. “Now, we’ve plenty of horseshoes and
the Johnnies haven’t. That’s one sign.”

“What’s the other?”

“I calculate that about six hundred men have passed here, and that’s
pretty close to the number Colonel Hertford has, unless he’s been in a
hot fight.”

“Good reasoning, Sergeant, and I’ll add a third. Those men are riding
directly toward the place where, according to our maps and information,
we ought to meet Colonel Hertford.”

“All these things make me sure our men have passed here, Mr. Mason.
Suppose we follow on as hard as we can?”

Cheered by the belief that they were approaching the end of their quest
they advanced at such a rate that the great trail rapidly grew fresher.

“Their horses are tired now,” said the sergeant, “and likely we’re going
as fast as they are. They’re our men sure. Look at this old canteen that
one of ‘em has thrown away. It’s the kind they make in the North. He
ought to have been punished for leaving such a sign.”

“I judge, Sergeant, from the looks of this road, that they can’t now be
more than a mile away.”

“Less than that, Mr. Mason. When we reach the top of the hill yonder I
think we’ll see ‘em.”

The sergeant’s judgment was vindicated again. From the crest they saw a
numerous body of muddy horsemen riding slowly ahead. Only the brilliant
sunlight made their uniforms distinguishable, but they were, beyond a
doubt, the troops of the Union. Dick uttered a little cry of joy and the
sergeant’s face glowed.

“We’ve found ‘em,” said the sergeant.

“And soon we ride,” said Dick.

They hurried forward, shouted and waved their rifles.

The column stopped, and two men, one of whom was Colonel Hertford
himself, rode back, looking curiously at the haggard and stained faces
of the two who walked forward, still swinging their rifles.

“Colonel Hertford,” said Dick joyfully, “we’ve come with a message for
you from General Grant.”

“And who may you be?” asked Hertford in surprise.

“Why, Colonel, don’t you know me? I’m Lieutenant Richard Mason of
Colonel Winchester’s regiment, and this is Sergeant Daniel Whitley of
the same regiment.”

The colonel broke into a hearty laugh, and then extended his hand to
Dick.

“I should have known your voice, my boy,” he said, “but it’s certainly
impossible to recognize any one who is as thickly covered with dry
Mississippi mud as you are. What’s your news, Dick?”

Dick told him and the sergeant repeated the same tale. He knew them both
to be absolutely trustworthy, and their coming on such an errand through
so many dangers carried its own proof.

“We’ve several spare horses, bearing provisions and arms,” said Colonel
Hertford. “Two can be unloaded and be made ready for you and the
sergeant. I fancy that you don’t care to keep on walking, Dick?”

“I’ve had enough to last me for years, Colonel.”

They were mounted in a few minutes, and rode with the colonel. The world
had now changed for Dick. Astride a good horse and in a column of six
hundred men he was no longer the hunted. These troopers and he were
hunters now.

The column turned presently into another road and advanced with speed in
the direction of Grant. Colonel Hertford asked Dick many questions about
Slade.

“I’ve been hearing of him since we were on this raid,” he said. “He’s
more of a guerilla than a regular soldier, but he may be able to gather
a considerable force. I wish we could cut him off.”

“So do I,” said Dick, but his feeling was prompted chiefly by Slade’s
determined attempts upon his life.

Colonel Hertford now pushed forward his men. He, too, was filled with
ambitions. He began to have an idea of Grant’s great plans, in which
all the Union leaders must cooperate, and he meant that his own little
command should be there, whenever the great deed, whatever it might be,
was done. He talked about it with Dick, who he knew was a trusted
young staff officer, and the two, the lad and the older man, fed the
enthusiasm of each other.

This attack deep into the flank of the Confederacy appealed to them with
its boldness, and created a certain romantic glow that seemed to clothe
the efforts of a general so far from the great line of battle in the
East. They talked, too, of the navy which had run past forts on the
Mississippi, and which had shown anew all its ancient skill and courage.

As they talked, twilight came, and the road led once more through the
deep woods, where the shade turned the twilight into the darkness of
night. Then rifles flashed suddenly in the thickets, and a half-dozen
horsemen fell. The whole column was thrown for an instant or two into
disorder, frightened horses rearing and stamping, and, before their
riders could regain control, another volley came, emptying a half-dozen
saddles.

Colonel Hertford gave rapid commands. Then, shouting and waving his
saber he galloped boldly into the forest, reckless of trees and bushes,
and Dick, the sergeant, and the whole troop followed. The lad was nearly
swept from his horse by a bough, but he recovered himself in time to see
the figures of men on foot fleeing rapidly through the dusk.

Bullets pattered on bark and leaves, and the angry horsemen, after
discharging their carbines, swept forward with circling sabers. But the
irregulars who had ambushed them, save a few fallen before the bullets,
escaped easily in the dense woods, and under cover of the darkness which
was now coming down, thick and fast.

A trumpet sounded the recall and the cavalrymen, sore and angry, drew
back into the road. They had lost a dozen good men, but Colonel Hertford
felt that they could not delay for vengeance. Grant’s orders were to
come at once; and he intended to obey them.

“I’d wager a year’s pay against a Confederate five-dollar note,” said
Sergeant Whitley to Dick, “that the man who laid that ambush was Slade.
He’ll keep watch on us all the way to Grant, and he’ll tell the Southern
leaders everything the general is doing. Oh, he’s a good scout and spy.”

“He’s proved it,” said Dick, “and I’d like to get a fair shot at him.”

They rode nearly all night and most of the next day, and, in the
afternoon, they met other men in blue who told them that a heavy Union
force was advancing. They had no doubt now that Grant’s great plan was
already working and in a short time they reached McPherson, advancing
with Logan’s division. Hertford reported at once to McPherson, who was
glad enough to have his cavalry, and who warmly praised Dick and the
sergeant for the dangerous service they had done so well. As it would
have been unwise for them to attempt to reach Grant then he kept them
with him in the march on Jackson.

Dick slept that night under the stars, but thousands of Union men were
around him and he felt neither the weight of responsibility, nor the
presence of danger. He missed Warner and Pennington, but he and the
sergeant were happy. Beyond a doubt now Grant was going to strike
hard, and all the men were full of anticipation and hope. His force in
different divisions was advancing on Jackson, leaving Vicksburg behind
him and the Southern army under Pemberton on one side.

Dick heard, too, that the redoubtable Joe Johnston was coming to take
command of the Southern garrison in Jackson, and a leader less bold than
Grant might have shrunk from such a circle of enemies, but Grant’s own
courage increased the spirit of his men, and they were full of faith.

“I expect they’re alarmed in Washington,” said the sergeant, as they
sat on their blankets. “There ain’t any telegraph station nearer than
Memphis. They’ve heard in the capital that the general has begun to move
toward Jackson, but they won’t know for days what will happen.”

“I don’t blame the President for being disturbed,” said Dick. “After all
the army is to serve the nation and fights under the supreme civilian
authority. The armies don’t govern.”

“That’s so, but there come times when the general who has to do the
fighting can judge best how it ought to be done.”

Dick lay down on one blanket and put another over him. It was well into
May, which meant hot weather in Mississippi, but, if he could, he always
protected himself at night. He was not a vain lad, but he felt proud
over his success. Hertford’s six hundred horse were a welcome addition
to any army.

He lay back soon with a knapsack as a pillow under his head and listened
to the noises of the camp, blended now into a rather musical note.
Several cooking fires still burned here and there and figures passed
before them. Dick observed them sleepily, taking no particular note,
until one, small and weazened, came. The figure was about fifty yards
away, and there was a Union cap instead of a great flap-brimmed hat on
the head, but Dick sprang to his feet at once, snatched a pistol from
his belt and rushed toward it.

The evil figure melted away like a shadow, and two astonished soldiers
seized the youth, who seemed to be running amuck in the camp, pistol in
hand.

“Let go!” exclaimed Dick. “I’ve seen a man whom I know to be a spy, and
a most dangerous one, too.”

They could find no trace of Slade. Dick returned crestfallen to his
blanket, but he recalled something now definitely and clearly. Slade
was the little man whom he had seen carrying the log the morning he left
General Grant’s camp, on his mission.

The sergeant, who had never stirred from his own blanket, sat up when
Dick returned.

“Who was he, Mr. Mason?” he asked.

“Slade himself. He must have seen me jump up, because he vanished like
a ghost. But I gained something. I know now that I saw him here in our
uniform just before I started to find Colonel Hertford. That was why I
was followed.”

“The cunning of an Indian. Well, we’ll be on the watch for him now,
but I imagine he’s already on the way to Jackson with the news of our
advance and an estimate of our numbers. We can’t do anything to head him
off.”

On the second day after joining the column Dick was ahead with the
cavalry, riding beside Colonel Hertford, and listening to occasional
shots in their front on the Jackson road. Both believed they would soon
be in touch with the enemy. Sergeant Whitley, acting now as a scout, had
gone forward through a field and in a few minutes galloped back.

“The enemy is not far away,” he said. “They’re posted along a creek,
with high banks and in a wood. They’ve got a strong artillery too, and I
think they about equal us in numbers.”

Dick carried the report to the commander of the column, and soon the
trumpets were calling the men to battle. The crackle of rifle shots
ahead increased rapidly. The skirmishers were already pulling trigger,
and, as Dick galloped back to Hertford he saw many puffs of white smoke
down the road and in the fields and woods on either side. The Union men
began to cheer. In the West they had suffered no such defeats as their
brethren in the East, and every pulse beat with confidence. As the whole
line moved forward the Southern cannon began to crash and their shells
swept the road.

The cavalry were advancing in a field, but they were yet held back to
a slow walk. Dick heard many impatient exclamations, but he knew the
restraint was right. He saw the accuracy of the Southern gunners. They
were driving the Northern infantry from the road. Their fire was rapid
and deadly, and, for a while, the Union army was checked.

Hertford was calmly examining the Southern position through his glasses,
while he restrained his eager men. The volume of Southern fire was
growing fast. Shells and shrapnel rained death over a wide area, and the
air was filled with whistling bullets. It was certain destruction for
any force to charge down the road in face of the Southern cannon, and
the Northern army began to spread out, wheeling toward either flank.

An aide arrived with an order to Hertford, and then he loosed his eager
cavalry. Turning to one side they galloped toward the creek. Some of the
Southern gunners, seeing them, sent shells toward them, and a swarm
of riflemen in a wood showered them with bullets. But they passed so
rapidly that not many saddles were emptied, and the trumpeter blew a
mellow note that urged on spirits already willing enough.

The sweep of the cavalry charge exhilarated Dick. The thought of danger
passed away for the moment. He saw all around him the eager faces of
men, and horses that seemed just as eager. Dust and dirt flew beneath
the thudding hoofs, and the dust and floating smoke together made a
grimy cloud through which they galloped.

They passed around still further on the flank. They seemed, for a few
minutes, to be leaving the battle, which was now at its height, the
Southern artillery still holding the road and presenting an unbroken
front.

Dick saw a flash of water and then the whole troop thundered into the
creek, almost without slackened rein. Up the bank they went, and with
a wild shout charged upon the Southern infantry. On the other flank
another Northern force which also had crossed the creek attacked with
fire and spirit.

But the battle still swayed back and forth. Hertford and his cavalry
were thrown off, merely to return anew to the charge. A portion of
the Northern force was driven back on the creek. The strong Southern
batteries poured forth death. Dick felt that they might yet lose, but
they suddenly heard a tremendous cheer, and a fresh force coming up
at the double quick enabled them to sweep the field. Before sunset the
Southern army retreated toward Jackson, leaving the field to the men in
blue.

Dick dismounted and, examining himself carefully, found that he had
suffered no wound. Colonel Hertford and the sergeant had also taken no
hurt. But the lad and his elder comrade secured but little rest. They
were bidden to ride across the country at once to General Sherman with
the news of the victory. Sherman was at the head of another column, and
Grant was farther away with the main body.

Dick and the sergeant, with the battle smoke still in their eyes, were
eager for the service.

“When you’re with Grant you don’t stay idle, that’s certain,” said Dick
as they rode across the darkening fields.

“No, you don’t,” said the sergeant, “and I’m thinking that we’ve just
begun. I know from the feel of it that big things are going to happen
fast. Sheer away from the woods there, Mr. Mason. We don’t want to be
picked off by sharpshooters.”

They arrived after dark in Sherman’s camp and he received them himself.
Dick remembered how he had seen this thin, dry man holding fast with his
command at Shiloh, and he saluted him with the deepest respect. He knew
that here was a bold and tenacious spirit, kin to that of Grant. Sherman
had heard already of the battle, but he wished more and definite news.

“You say that our victory was complete?” he asked tersely.

“It was, sir,” replied Dick. “The entire force of the enemy retired
rapidly toward Jackson, and our men are eager to advance on that city.”

“It would be a great stroke to take the capital of Mississippi,” said
Sherman musingly. Then he added in his crisp manner:

“Are you tired?”

“Not if you wish me to do anything,” replied Dick quickly.

Sherman smiled.

“The right spirit,” he said. “I wish you and your comrade to ride at
once with this news to General Grant. He may hear it from other sources,
but I want to send a letter by you.”

In ten minutes Dick and the sergeant were riding proudly away on another
mission, and, passing through all the dangers of Southern scouts and
skirmishers, they reached General Grant, to whom they delivered the
letter from Sherman. Grant, who had recently been in doubt owing to the
threat of Pemberton on his flank, hesitated no longer when he heard of
the victory, and resolved at once upon the capture of Jackson.

Dick, after his battle and two rides, went to sleep in a wagon, while an
orderly took his horse. When he awoke unknown hours afterward he found
that he was moving. He knew at once that the army was advancing. Before
him and behind him he heard all the noises of the march, the beat of
horses’ hoofs, the grinding of wheels, the clanking of cannon, the
cracking of whips and the sounds of many voices.

He was wonderfully comfortable where he lay and he had the satisfaction
and pride of much duty done. He felt that he was entitled to rest, and,
turning on his side, he went to sleep again. After another unknown time
his second awakening came and he remained awake.

He quietly slipped out at the tail of the wagon, and stood for a few
moments, dazzled by the blazing sunlight. Then a loud, cheery voice
called out:

“Well, if it isn’t our own Lucky Dick come back again, safe and well to
the people to whom he belongs!”

“If z equals Dick and y equals his presence then we have z plus y, as
Dick is certainly present,” called out another voice not quite so loud,
but equally cheery. “Luck, Frank, is only a minor factor in life. What
we usually call luck is the result of foresight, skill and courage.
There are facts that I wouldn’t have you to forget, even if it is a hot
day far down in Mississippi.”

Warner and Pennington sprang from their horses and greeted Dick warmly.
They had returned a day or two before from their own less perilous
errands, but they were in great anxiety about their comrade. They were
glad too, when they heard that the sergeant had joined him and that he
had come back safe.

“I suppose it means a battle at Jackson,” said Warner. “We’re surely on
the move, and we’re going to keep the Johnnies busy for quite a spell.”

“Looks like it,” said Dick.

Colonel Winchester came soon, and his face showed great relief when he
shook hands with Dick.

“It was a dangerous errand, Dick, my lad,” he said, “but I felt that you
would succeed and you have. It was highly important that we gather all
our forces for a great stroke.”

Dick resumed at once his old place in the Winchester regiment, with
Warner, Pennington and his other comrades around him. Refreshed by
abundant sleep and good food he was in the highest of spirits. They
were embarked upon a great adventure and he believed that it would be
successful. His confidence was shared by all those about him. Meanwhile
the army advanced in diverging columns upon the Mississippi capital.

Jackson, on Pearl River, had suddenly assumed a vast importance in
Dick’s mind, and yet it was but a tiny place, not more than three or
four thousand inhabitants. The South was almost wholly agricultural,
and cities, great in a political and military sense, were in reality but
towns. Richmond, itself the capital of the Confederacy, around which so
much centered, had only forty thousand people.

The Winchester regiment was detached that afternoon and sent to join the
column under McPherson, which was expected to reach Jackson first. Dick
was mounted again, and he rode with Warner and Pennington on either
side of him. They speculated much on what they would find when they
approached Jackson.

“If Joe Johnston is there,” said Warner, “I think we’ll have a hard
fight. You’ll remember that he did great work against us in Virginia,
until he was wounded.”

“And they’ll know, of course, just when to expect us and in what force,”
 said Dick. “Slade will tell them that. He probably has a large body of
spies and scouts working under him. But I don’t think he’ll come inside
our camp again.”

“Not likely since he’s been recognized,” said Warner, thoughtfully. “But
I don’t think General Grant is afraid of anything ahead. That’s why he
made the separation from our own world so complete, and our men are
out cutting down the telegraph lines, so the Johnnies in Jackson can’t
communicate with their own government either. It’s important to us that
we take Jackson before Pemberton with his army can come up.”

Warner had estimated the plan correctly. Grant, besides cutting
himself off from his own superiors at Washington, was also destroying
communication between the garrison of Jackson and Pemberton’s army of
Vicksburg, which was not far away. The two united might beat him, but
he meant to defeat them separately, and then besiege Vicksburg. It was
a complicated plan, depending upon quickness, courage and continued
success. Yet the mind of Grant, though operating afterward on fields of
greater numbers, was never clearer or more vigorous.

They went into camp again after dark, knowing that Jackson was but a
short distance away, and they expected to attack early in the morning.
Dick carried another dispatch to Sherman, who was only a little
more than two miles from them, and on his way back he joined Colonel
Winchester, who, with Warner, Pennington and a hundred infantry, had
come out for a scout. The dismounted men were chosen because they wished
to beat up a difficult piece of wooded country.

They went directly toward Jackson, advancing very cautiously through the
forest, the mounted officers riding slowly. The night was hot and dark,
moon and stars obscured by drifting clouds. Pennington, who was an
expert on weather, announced that another storm was coming.

“I can feel a dampness in the air,” he said. “I’m willing to risk my
reputation as a prophet and say that the dawn will come with rain.”

“I hope it won’t be a big rain,” said Colonel Winchester, “because if it
is it will surely delay our attack. Our supply of cartridges is small,
and we can’t risk wetting them.”

Pennington persisted that a storm was at hand. His father had taught
him, he said, always to observe the weather signs on the great Nebraska
plains. They were nearly always hoping for rain there, and he had
learned to smell it before it came. He could smell it now in the same
way here in Mississippi.

His opinion did not waver, when the clouds floated away for a while,
disclosing a faint moon and a few stars. They were now on the banks of a
brook, flowing through the wood, and Colonel Winchester thought he saw
a movement in the forest beyond it. It was altogether likely that so
skillful a leader as Joe Johnston would have out bodies of scouts, and
he stopped, bidding his men to take cover.

Dick sat on his horse by the colonel’s side under the thick boughs of a
great tree, and studied the thickets before them. He, too, had noticed
a movement, and he was confident that the Southern sharpshooters were
there. At the command of the colonel all of the officers dismounted,
and orderlies took the horses to the rear. On foot they continued their
examination of the thickets, and the colonel sent for Sergeant Whitley,
who confirmed his opinion that the enemy was before them. At his
suggestion the Union force was spread out, lest it be flanked and
annihilated in the thickets.

Just as the movement was completed rifles began to crack in front and on
both flanks, and the piercing yell of the South arose.

It was impossible to tell the size of the force that assailed them, but
the Winchester men were veterans now, and they were not afraid. Standing
among the bushes or sheltered by the trees they held their fire until
they saw dusky figures in the thickets.

It had all the aspects of an old Indian battle in the depths of the
great forest. Darkness, the ambush and the caution of sharpshooters were
there. Dick carried a rifle, but he did not use it. He merely watched
the pink beads of flame among the bushes, while he stayed by the side of
his colonel and observed the combat.

It soon became apparent to him that it would have no definite result.
Each side was merely feeling out its foe that night, and would not force
the issue. Yet the Southern line approached and some bullets whistled
near him. He moved a little to one side, and watched for an enemy. It
was annoying to have bullets come so close, and since they were shooting
at him he might as well shoot at them.

While he was absorbed in watching, the colonel moved in the other
direction, and Dick stood alone behind a bush. The fire in front had
increased somewhat, although at no time was it violent. Occasional shots
from his own side replied. The clouds that had drifted away were now
drifting back, and he believed that darkness alone would soon end the
combat.

Then he saw a bush only a dozen yards in his front move a little, and a
face peered through its branches. There was yet enough light for him
to see that the face was youthful, eager and handsome. It was familiar,
too, and then with a shock he remembered. Woodville, the lad with whom
he had fought such a good fight, nature’s weapons used, was before him.

Dick raised his rifle. Young Woodville was an easy target. But the
motion was only a physical impulse. He knew in his heart that he had
no intention of shooting the young Southerner, and he did not feel the
slightest tinge of remorse because he evaded this part of a soldier’s
work.

Yet Woodville, seeing nobody and hearing nothing, would come on. Dick,
holding his rifle in the crook of his left arm, drew a pistol and fired
it over the lad’s head. At the same moment he dropped almost flat upon
the ground. The bullet cut the leaves above Woodville and he sprang
back, startled. A half-dozen Southern skirmishers fired at the flash
of Dick’s pistol, but he, too, lying on the ground, heard them cutting
leaves over his head.

Dick saw the face of Woodville disappear from the bush, and then he
crept away, rejoining Colonel Winchester and his comrades. Five minutes
later the skirmish ceased by mutual consent, and each band fell back on
its own army, convinced that both were on the watch.

They were to advance at four o’clock in the morning, but Pennington’s
prediction came true. After midnight, flashes of lightning cut the sky
and the thunder rolled heavily. Then the rain came, not any fugitive
shower, but hard, cold and steady, promising to last many hours.

It was still pouring when the advance began before dawn, but Grant’s
plans were complete. He had drawn up his forces on the chessboard,
and they were converging closely upon Jackson. They must keep their
cartridges dry and advance at all costs.

The Winchesters were in the van in a muddy road. Dick, Warner and
Pennington were in the saddle, and they were wet through and through.
The rain and dusk were so heavy that they could not see fifty feet, and
they shivered with cold. But their souls were eager and high, and they
were glad when the army toiled slowly forward to battle.



CHAPTER VII. THE LITTLE CAPITAL


Dick was bent down in his saddle, trying to protect himself a little
from the driving rain which beat in his eyes and soaked through his
clothing. Warner and Pennington beside him were in the same condition,
and he saw just before him the bent back of Colonel Winchester, with his
left arm raised as a shield for his face. Hoofs and wheels made a heavy,
sticky sound as they sank in the mud, and were then pulled out again.

“Do you see any signs of daylight, Dick?” asked Pennington.

“Not a sign. I see only a part of our regiment, trees on either side of
us bending before the wind, and rain, and mud, mud everywhere. I’ll be
glad when it’s over.”

“So will I,” said Warner. “I wonder what kind of hotels they have in
Jackson. I’d like to have a bath, good room and a big breakfast.”

“The Johnnies are holding breakfast for you,” said Pennington. “Their
first course is gunpowder, their second bullets, their third shells and
shrapnel, and their fourth bayonets.”

“They’ll have to serve a lot at every course,” said Dick, “because
General Grant is advancing with fifty thousand men, and so many need a
lot of satisfying.”

The storm increased in violence. The rain, falling in a deluge, was
driven by a wind like a hurricane. The horses strove to turn their heads
from it, and confusion arose among the cavalry. The infantry mixed
in the mud swore heavily. Staff officers had the utmost difficulty in
keeping the regiments together. It was time for the sun, but it did not
appear. Everything was veiled in clouds and driving rain.

Dick looked at his watch, and saw that it was seven o’clock. They had
intended to attack at this hour, but further advance was impossible
for the time, and, bending their heads, they sought to protect their
ammunition. Presently they started again and toiled along slowly and
painfully for more than two hours. Then, just as they saw the enemy
ahead of them, the storm seemed to reach the very zenith of its fury.

Dick, in the vanguard, beheld earthworks, cannon and troops before
Jackson, but the storm still drove so hard that the Union forces could
not advance to the assault.

“This is certainly a most unusual situation,” said Colonel Winchester,
with an effort at cheerfulness. “Here we are, ready to attack, and the
Southerners are ready to defend, but a storm holds us both fast in our
tracks. Our duty to protect our cartridges is even greater than our duty
to attack the enemy.”

“The biggest rain must come to an end,” said Dick.

But it was nearly noon before they could advance. Then, as the storm
decreased rapidly the trumpets sounded the charge, and horse, foot and
artillery, they pressed forward eagerly through the mud.

The sun broke through the clouds, and Dick saw before them a wood, a
ravine full of thickets, and the road commanded by strong artillery.
The Northern skirmishers were already stealing forward through the wet
bushes and grass, and soon their rifles were crackling. But the Southern
sharpshooters in the thickets were in stronger force, and their rapid
and accurate fire drove back the Northern men. Then their artillery
opened and swept the road, while the Northern batteries were making
frantic efforts to get up through the deep, sticky mud.

But the trumpets were still calling. The Winchester regiment and others,
eager for battle and victory, swept forward. Dick felt once more the
fierce thrill of combat, and, waving his revolver high above his head,
he shouted with the others as they rushed on. The stream of bullets from
the ravine thickened, and the cannon were crashing fast. But the Union
masses did not check their rush for an instant. Although many fell they
charged into the ravine, driving out the enemy, and pursued him on the
other side.

But the Southern cannon, manned by daring gunners, still held the field
and, aided by the thick mud which held back charging feet, they repulsed
every attack. The Winchester regiment was forced to cover, and then Dick
heard the booming of cannon in another direction. He knew that Grant and
Sherman were coming up there, and he expected they would rush at once
into Jackson, but it was a long time before the distant thunder came any
nearer.

Johnston, whose astuteness they feared, was proving himself worthy of
their opinion. Knowing that his forces were far too small to defend
Jackson, he had sent away the archives of the state and most of the
army. Only a small force and seventeen cannon were left to fight and
cover his retreat. But so bold and skillful were they that it was far
beyond noon before Grant and Sherman found that practically nothing was
in front of them.

But where Dick and his comrades rode the fighting was severe for a
while. Then everything seemed to melt away before them. The fire of the
Southern cannon ceased suddenly, and Colonel Winchester exclaimed that
their works had been abandoned. They charged forward, seized the cannon,
and now rode without resistance into the capital of the state, from
which the President of the Confederacy hailed, though by birth a
Kentuckian.

Dick and his comrades were among the first to enter the town, and not
until then did they know that Johnston and all but a few hundreds of his
army were gone.

“We’ve got the shell only,” Dick said.

“Still we’ve struck a blow by taking the capital of the state,” said
Colonel Winchester.

Dick looked with much curiosity at the little city into which they were
riding as conquerors. It was too small and new to be imposing. Yet there
were some handsome houses, standing back on large lawns, and surrounded
by foliage. The doors and shutters of all of them were closed tightly.
Dick knew that their owners had gone away or were sitting, hearts full
of bitterness, in their sealed houses.

The streets were deep in mud, and at the corners little knots of negroes
gathered and looked at them curiously.

“They don’t seem to welcome us as deliverers,” said Warner.

“They don’t yet know what to think of us,” said Dick. “There’s the
Capitol ahead of us, and some of our troops are going into it.”

“Others have gone into it already,” said Pennington. “Look!”

They saw the flag of the Union break out above its dome, the beautiful
stars and stripes, waving gently in the light breeze. A spontaneous
cheer burst from the Union soldiers, and the bitter hearts in the sealed
houses grew more bitter.

The army was now pouring in by every road and Colonel Winchester and his
staff sought quarters. They were on the verge of exhaustion. All their
clothing was wet and they were discolored with mud. They felt that they
were bound to have rest and cleanliness.

The victorious troops were making their camp, wherever they could find
dry ground, and soon they were building the fires for cooking. But many
of the officers were assigned to the residences, and Colonel Winchester
and his staff were directed by the general to take quarters in a large
colonial house, standing on a broad lawn, amid the finest magnolias and
live oaks that Dick had ever seen.

Remembering an earlier experience during the Shiloh campaign Colonel
Winchester and his young officers approached the house with some
reluctance. In ordinary times it must have been brilliant with life. Two
little fountains were playing on either side of the graveled walk that
led to the front door. After the old fashion, three or four marble
statues stood in the shrubbery. Everything indicated wealth. Probably
the town house of a great planter, reflected Dick. In Mississippi a man
sometimes owned as many as a thousand slaves, and lived like a prince.

The house offered them no welcome. Its doors and windows were closed,
but Dick had seen thin smoke rising from a chimney in the rear. He
expected that they would have to force the door, but at the first knock
it was thrown open by a tall, thin woman of middle years. The look she
gave them was full of bitter hatred--Dick sometimes thought that
women could hate better than men--but her manner and bearing showed
distinction. He, as well as his comrades, took her to be the lady of the
house.

“We ask your pardon, madame, for this intrusion,” said Colonel
Winchester, “but we are compelled to occupy your house a while. We
promise you as little trouble as possible.”

“We ask no consideration of any kind from men who have come to despoil
our country and ruin its people,” she said icily.

Colonel Winchester flushed.

“But madame,” he protested, “we do not come to destroy.”

“I do not care to argue with you about it,” she said in the same lofty
tone, “and also you need not address me as madame. I am Miss Woodville.”

Dick started.

“Does this house belong to Colonel John Woodville?” he asked.

“It does not,” she replied crisply, “but it belongs to his elder
brother, Charles Woodville, who is also a colonel, and who is my father.
What do you know of Colonel John Woodville?”

“I met his son once,” replied Dick briefly.

She glanced at him sharply. Dick thought for a moment that he saw alarm
in her look, but he concluded that it was only anger.

They stood confronting each other, the little group of officers and the
woman, and Colonel Winchester, embarrassed, but knowing that he must do
something, went forward and pushed back a door opening into the hall.
Dick automatically followed him, and then stepped back, startled.

A roar like that of a lion met them. An old man, with a high, bald and
extremely red forehead lay in a huge bed by a window. It was a great
head, and eyes, set deep, blazed under thick, white lashes. His body was
covered to the chin.

Dick saw that the man’s anger was that of the caged wild beast, and
there was something splendid and terrible about it.

“You infernal Yankees!” he cried, and his voice again rumbled like that
of a lion.

“Colonel Charles Woodville, I presume?” said Colonel Winchester
politely.

“Yes, Colonel Charles Woodville,” thundered the man, “fastened here
in bed by a bullet from one of your cursed vessels in the Mississippi,
while you rob and destroy!”

And then he began to curse. He drew one hand from under the cover and
shook his clenched fist at them in a kind of rhythmic beat while the
oaths poured forth. To Dick it was not common swearing. There was
nothing coarse and vulgar about it. It was denunciation, malediction,
fulmination, anathema. It had a certain majesty and dignity. Its
richness and variety were unequaled, and it was hurled forth by a voice
deep, powerful and enduring.

Dick listened with amazement and then admiration. He had never heard its
like, nor did he feel any offense. The daughter, too, stood by,
pursing her prim lips, and evidently approving. Colonel Winchester was
motionless like a statue, while the infuriated man shook his fist at him
and launched imprecations. But his face had turned white and Dick saw
that he was fiercely angry.

When the old man ceased at last from exhaustion Colonel Winchester said
quietly:

“If you had spoken to me in the proper manner we might have gone away
and found quarters elsewhere. But we intend to stay here and we will
repay your abuse with good manners.”

Dick saw the daughter flush, but the old man said:

“Then it will be the first time that good manners were ever brought from
the country north of the Mason and Dixon line.”

Colonel Winchester flushed in his turn, but made no direct reply.

“If you will assign us rooms, Miss Woodville,” he said, “we will go
to them, otherwise we’ll find them for ourselves, which may be less
convenient for you. I repeat that we desire to give you as little
trouble as possible.”

“Do so, Margaret,” interrupted Colonel Woodville, “because then I may
get rid of them all the sooner.”

Colonel Winchester bowed and turned toward the door. Miss Woodville,
obedient to the command of her father, led the way. Dick was the last to
go out, and he said to the old lion who lay wounded in the bed:

“Colonel Woodville, I’ve met your nephew, Victor.”

He did not notice that the old man whitened and that the hand now lying
upon the cover clenched suddenly.

“You have?” growled Colonel Woodville, “and how does it happen that you
and my nephew have anything in common?”

“I could scarcely put it that way,” replied Dick, refusing to be
angered, “unless you call an encounter with fists something in common.
He and I had a great fight at his father’s plantation of Bellevue.”

“He might have been in a better business, taking part in a common brawl
with a common Yankee.”

“But, sir, while I may be common, I’m not a Yankee. I was born and grew
up south of the Ohio River in Kentucky.”

“Then you’re a traitor. All you Kentuckians ought to be fighting with
us.”

“Difference of opinion, but I hope your nephew is well.”

The deep eyes under the thick white thatch glared in a manner that Dick
considered wholly unnecessary. But Colonel Woodville made no reply,
merely turning his face to the wall as if he were weary.

Dick hurried into the hall, closing the door gently behind him. The
others, not missing him, were already some yards away, and he quickly
rejoined Pennington and Warner. The younger men would have been glad
to leave the house, but Colonel Winchester’s blood was up, and he was
resolved to stay. The little party was eight in number, and they were
soon quartered in four rooms on the lower floor. Miss Woodville promptly
disappeared, and one of the camp cooks arrived with supplies, which he
took to the kitchen.

Dick and Warner were in one of the rooms, and, removing their belts
and coats, they made themselves easy. It was a large bedroom with high
ceilings and wicker furniture. There were several good paintings on the
walls and a bookcase contained Walter Scott’s novels and many of the
eighteenth century classics.

“I think this must have been a guest chamber,” said Dick, “but for us
coming from the rain and mud it’s a real palace.”

“Then it’s fulfilling its true function,” said Warner, “because it has
guests now. What a strange household! Did you ever see such a peppery
pair as that swearing old colonel and his acid daughter?”

“I don’t know that I blame them. I think, sometimes, George, that
you New Englanders are the most selfish of people. You’re too truly
righteous. You’re always denouncing the faults of others, but you never
see any of your own. Away back in the Revolution when Boston called,
the Southern provinces came to her help, but Boston and New England have
spent a large part of their time since then denouncing the South.”

“What’s struck you, Dick? Are you weakening in the good cause?”

“Not for a moment. But suppose Mississippi troops walked into your
own father’s house in Vermont, and, as conquerors, demanded food and
shelter! Would you rejoice over them, and ask them why they hadn’t come
sooner?”

“I suppose not, Dick. But, stop it, and come back to your normal
temperature. I won’t quarrel with you.”

“I won’t give you a chance, George. I’m through. But remember that while
I’m red hot for the Union, I was born south of the Ohio River myself,
and I have lots of sympathy for the people against whom I’m fighting.”

“For the matter of that, so’ve I, Dick, and I was born north of the
Ohio River. But I’m getting tremendously hungry. I hope that cook will
hurry.”

They were called soon, and eight officers sat at the table. The cook
himself served them. Miss Woodville had vanished, and not a servant was
visible about the great house. Despite their hunger and the good quality
of the food the group felt constraint. The feeling that they were
intruders, in a sense brigands, was forced upon them. Dick was sure
that the old man with the great bald head was swearing fiercely and
incessantly under his breath.

The dining-room was a large and splendid apartment, and the silver still
lay upon the great mahogany sideboard. The little city, now the camp
of an overwhelming army, had settled into silence, and the twilight was
coming.

With the chill of unwelcome still upon them the officers said little.
As the twilight deepened Warner lighted several candles. The silver
glittered under the flame. Colonel Winchester presently ordered the cook
to take a plate of the most delicate food to Colonel Woodville.

As the cook withdrew on his mission he left open the door of the
dining-room and they heard the sound of a voice, uplifted in a
thunderous roar. The cook hurried back, the untouched plate in his hand
and his face a little pale.

“He cursed me, sir,” he said to Colonel Winchester. “I was never cursed
so before by anybody. He said he would not touch the food. He was sure
that it had been poisoned by the Yankees, and even if it were not he’d
rather die than accept anything from their hands.”

Colonel Winchester laughed rather awkwardly.

“At any rate, we’ve tendered our good offices,” he said. “I suppose his
daughter will attend to his wants, and we’ll not expose ourselves to
further insults.”

But the refusal had affected the spirits of them all, and as soon as
their hunger was satisfied they withdrew. The soldier who had acted as
cook was directed to put the dining-room back in order and then he might
sleep in a room near the kitchen.

Dick and Warner returned to their own apartment. Neither had much to
say, and Warner, lying down on the bed, was soon fast asleep. Dick
sat by the window. The town was now almost lost in the obscurity. The
exhausted army slept, and the occasional glitter from the bayonet of a
sentinel was almost the only thing that told of its presence.

Dick was troubled. In spite of will and reason, his conscience hurt
him. Theory was beautiful, but it was often shivered by practice. His
sympathies were strongly with the old colonel who had cursed him so
violently and the grim old maid who had given them only harsh words.
Besides, he had pleasant memories of Victor Woodville, and these were
his uncle and cousin.

He sat for a long time at the window. The house was absolutely quiet,
and he was sure that everybody was asleep. There could be no doubt about
Warner, because he slumbered audibly. But Dick was still wide awake.
There was some tension of mind or muscle that kept sleep far from him.
So he remained at the window, casting up the events of the day and those
that might come.

The evening was well advanced when he was quite sure that he heard a
light step in the hall. He would have paid little attention to it at an
ordinary time, but, in all that silence and desolation, it called
him like a drum-beat. Only a light step, and yet it filled him with
suspicion and alarm. He was in the heart of a great and victorious
Union army, but at the moment he felt that anything could happen in this
strange house.

Slipping his pistol from his belt, he opened the door on noiseless
hinges and stepped into the hall. A figure was disappearing in its dim
space, but, as he saw clearly, it was that of a woman. He was sure that
it was Miss Woodville and he stepped forward. He had no intention
of following her, but his foot creaked on the floor, and, stopping
instantly, she faced about. Then he saw that she carried a tray of food.

“Are we to have our house occupied and to be spied upon also?” she
asked.

Dick flushed. Few people had ever spoken to him in such a manner, and it
was hard to remember that she was a woman.

“I heard a footstep in the hall, and it was my duty to see who was
passing,” he said.

“I have prepared food and I am taking it to my father. He would not
accept it from Yankee hands.”

“Colonel Woodville sups late. I should think a wounded man would be
asleep at this hour, if he could.”

She gave him a glance full of venom.

“What does it matter?” she said.

Dick refused to be insulted.

“Let me take the tray for you,” he said, “at least to the door. Your
father need not know that my hands have touched it.”

She shrank back and her eyes blazed.

“Let us alone!” she exclaimed. “Go back to your room! Isn’t it
sufficient that this house shelters you?”

She seemed to Dick to show a heat and hate out of all proportion to the
occasion, but he did not repeat the offer.

“I meant well,” he said, “but, since you do not care for my help, I’ll
return to my room and go to sleep. Believe me, I’m sincere when I say I
hope your father will recover quickly from his wound.”

“He will,” she replied briefly.

Dick bowed with politeness and turned toward his own room. Nevertheless
his curiosity did not keep him from standing a moment or two in the dark
against the wall and looking back at the woman who bore the tray.
He drew a long breath of astonishment when he saw her pass Colonel
Woodville’s door, and hurry forward now with footsteps that made no
sound.

The suspicion which had lain deep in his mind sprang at once into life.
Keeping close to the wall, he followed swiftly and saw her disappear up
a stairway. There he let the pursuit end and returned thoughtfully to
his room.

Dick was much troubled. An ethical question had presented itself to him.
He believed that he had divined everything. The solution had come to him
with such suddenness and force that he was as fully convinced as if he
had seen with his own eyes. Military duty demanded that he invade the
second floor of the Woodville house. But there were feelings of humanity
and mercy, moral issues not less powerful than military duty, and maybe
more so.

He was pulled back and forth with great mental violence. He was sorry
that he had seen Miss Woodville with the tray. And then he wasn’t.
Nevertheless, he stayed in his own room, and Warner, waking for a
moment, regarded him with wonder as he sat outlined against the window
which they had left unshuttered and opened to admit air.

“What’s the matter, Dick? Have you got a fever?” he asked. “Why haven’t
you gone to bed?”

“I’m going to do so right away. Don’t bother yourself about me, George.
My nerves have been strained pretty hard, and I had to wait until they
were quiet until I could go to sleep.”

“Don’t have nerves,” said Warner, as he turned back on his side and
returned to slumber.

Dick undressed and got into bed. It was the first time in many nights
that he had not slept in his clothes, and beds had been unknown for many
weeks. It was a luxury so penetrating and powerful that it affected
him like an opiate. Such questions as military and moral duty floated
swiftly away, and he slept the sleep of youth and a good heart.

Breakfast was almost a repetition of supper. The army cook prepared and
served it, and the Woodvilles remained invisible. Colonel Winchester
informed the young officers that they would remain in Jackson two or
three days, and then great events might be expected. All felt sure
that he was predicting aright. Pemberton must be approaching with the
Vicksburg army. The wary and skillful Johnston had another army, and he
could not be far away. Moreover, this was the heart of the Confederacy
and other unknown forces might be gathering.

They felt the greatness of the hour, Grant’s daring stroke, and the
possibility that he might yet be surrounded and overwhelmed. Their minds
were attuned, too, to other and yet mightier deeds, but they were glad,
nevertheless, of a little rest. The Woodville house was a splendid
place, and in the morning they did not feel so much the chill of
embarrassment that had been created for them the night before.

Dick went straight to the room of Colonel Woodville, opened the door
without knocking, and closed it behind him quickly but noiselessly.

The colonel was propped up in his bed and a tray bearing light and
delicate food lay on a chair. His daughter stood beside the bed,
speechless with anger at this intrusion. Dick lifted his hand, and the
look upon his face checked one of the mightiest oaths that had ever
welled up from the throat of Colonel Charles Woodville, king of
swearers.

“Stop!” said Dick in a voice not loud, but sharp with command.

“Can’t we at least have privacy in the room of an old and wounded man?”
 asked Miss Woodville.

“You can hereafter,” replied Dick quietly. “I shall not come again, but
I tell you now to get him out of the house to-night, unless he’s too
badly hurt to be moved.”

“Why should my father be taken away?” demanded Miss Woodville.

“I’m not speaking of your father.”

“Of whom, then?”

Dick did not answer, but he met her gaze steadily, and her face fell.
Then he turned, walked out of the room without a word, and again closed
the door behind him. When he went out on the piazza he saw excitement
among his comrades. The moment for great action was coming even sooner
than Colonel Winchester had expected.

“Johnston is communicating with Pemberton,” said Warner, “and he has
ordered Pemberton to unite with him. Then they will attack us. He sent
the same order by three messengers, but one of them was in reality a
spy of ours, and he came straight to General Grant with it. We’re
forewarned, and the trap can’t shut down on us, because General Grant
means to go at once for Pemberton.”

Dick understood the situation, which was both critical and thrilling.
Grant was still in the heart of the Confederacy, and its forces were
converging fast upon him. But the grim and silent man, instead of merely
trying to escape, intended to strike a blow that would make escape
unnecessary. All the young officers saw the plan and their hearts
leaped.

Dick, in the excitement of the day, forgot about the Woodville house
and its inmates. Troops were already marching out of Jackson to meet the
enemy, but the Winchester regiment would not leave until early the next
morning. They were to spend a second night, or at least a part of it, in
Colonel Woodville’s house.

It was the same group that ate supper there and the same army cook
served them. They did not go to the bedrooms afterward, but strolled
about, belted, expecting to receive the marching call at any moment.

Dick went into the library, where a single candle burned, and while he
was there Miss Woodville appeared at the door and beckoned to him. She
had abated her severity of manner so much that he was astonished, but he
followed without a word.

She saw that the hall was clear and then she led quickly into her
father’s room. Colonel Woodville was propped up against the pillows, and
there was color in his face.

“Young man,” he said, “come here. You can afford to obey me, although
I’m a prisoner, because I’m so much older than you are. You have a heart
and breeding, young sir, and I wish to shake your hand.”

He thrust a large hand from the cover, and Dick shook it warmly.

“I wouldn’t have shaken it if you had been born north of the Ohio
River,” said Colonel Woodville.

Dick laughed.

“My chief purpose in having you brought here,” said Colonel Woodville,
“was to relate to you an incident, of which I heard once. Did I read
about it, or was it told to me, Margaret?”

“I think, sir, that some one told you of it.”

“Ah, well, it doesn’t matter. A few words will tell it. In an old,
forgotten war a young soldier quartered in the house of his defeated
enemy--but defeated only for the time, remember--saw something which
made him believe that a wounded nephew of the house was hid in an upper
room. But he was generous and he did not search further. The second
night, while the young officer and his comrades were at supper, the
nephew, who was not hurt badly, was slipped out of the house and escaped
from the city in the darkness. It’s not apropos of anything, and I don’t
know why I’m relating it to you, but I suppose this terrible war we are
fighting is responsible for an old man’s whim.”

“I’ve found it very interesting, sir,” said Dick, “and I think it’s
relevant, because it shows that even in war men may remain Christian
human beings.”

“Perhaps you’re right, and I trust, young sir, that you will not be
killed in this defeat to which you are surely marching.”

Dick bowed to both, and left them to their fears and hopes. The glow was
still about his heart when he rode forth with the Winchester regiment
after midnight. But, owing to the need of horses for the regular
cavalry, it had become an infantry regiment once more. Only the officers
rode.

At dawn they were with Grant approaching a ridge called Champion Hill.



CHAPTER VIII. CHAMPION HILL


Dick on that momentous morning did not appreciate the full magnitude of
the event about to occur, nor did he until long afterward. He knew
it was of high importance, and yet it might have ranked as one of the
decisive battles of history. There were no such numbers as at Shiloh and
Chancellorsville, but the results were infinitely greater.

Nor was it likely that such thoughts would float through the head of a
lad who had ridden far, and who at dawn was looking for an enemy.

The scouts had already brought word that the Southerners were in strong
force, and that they occupied Champion Hill, the crest of which was
bare, but with sides dark with forests and thickets. They were riding at
present through forests themselves, and they felt that their ignorance
of the country might take them at any moment into an ambush.

“We know what army we’re going against, don’t we?” asked Pennington.

“Why, Pemberton’s, of course,” replied Dick.

“I’m glad of that. I’d rather fight him than Joe Johnston.”

“They’ve been trying to unite, but we hear they haven’t succeeded.”

Pemberton, in truth, had been suffering from the most painful doubt.
Having failed to do what Johnston had expected of him, he had got
himself into a more dangerous position than ever. Then, after listening
to a divided council of his generals, he had undertaken a movement which
brought him within striking distance of Grant, while Johnston was yet
too far away to help him.

Dick did not know how much fortune was favoring the daring that morning,
but he and his comrades were sanguine. They felt all the time the
strong hand over them. Like the soldiers, they had acquired the utmost
confidence in Grant. He might make mistakes, but he would not doubt and
hesitate and draw back. Where he led the enemy could not win anything
without having to fight hard for it.

The early summer dawn had deepened, bright and hot, and the sun was now
clear of the trees, turning the green of the forests to gold. Coffee and
warm food were served to them during a momentary stop among the trees,
and then the Winchester regiment moved forward again toward Champion
Hill.

Rifle shots were now heard ahead of them. They were scattered, but the
lads knew that the hostile skirmishers had come in contact. Presently
the reports increased and through the woods they saw puffs of smoke.
Trumpets to right and left were calling up the brigades.

“Open up for the guns!” cried an aide, and a battery lumbered through,
the men swearing at their panting horses. But the Southern cannon were
already at work. From the bare crest of Champion Hill they were sending
shells which crashed in the ranks of the advancing foe. Two or three
of the Winchesters were hit, and a wounded horse, losing its rider, ran
screaming through the wood.

The forest and thickets now grew so dense that the officers dismounted,
giving their horses to an orderly, and led on foot. The country before
them was most difficult. Besides the trees and brush it was seared with
ravines. A swarm of skirmishers in front whom they could not see now
poured bullets among them, and the shells, curving over the heads of
the ambushed sharpshooters, fell in the Union ranks. On either flank the
battle opened and swelled rapidly.

“We may have got Pemberton trapped,” said Pennington, “but he’s got so
many bristles that we can’t reach in a hand and pull out our captive. My
God, Dick, are you killed?”

He was pulling Dick to his feet and examining him anxiously.

“I’m all right,” said Dick in a moment. “It was the wind of a big round
shot that knocked me down. Just now I’m thanking God it was the wind and
not the shot.”

“I wish we could get through these thickets!” exclaimed Warner. “Our
comrades must be engaged much more heavily than we are. What an uproar!”

The combat swelled to great proportions. The Southern army, being
compelled to fight, fought now with all its might. The crest of the long
hill blazed with fire. The men in gray used every advantage of position.
Cannon and rifles raked the woods and thickets, and at many points the
Union attack was driven back. The sun rose slowly and they still held
the hill, fighting with all the fire and valor characteristic of the
South. They were cheered at times by the expectation of victory, but the
stubborn Grant brought up his remaining forces and continually pressed
the battle.

The Winchester regiment crossed a ravine and knelt among the thickets.
Its losses had not yet been heavy, as most of the cannon fire was
passing over their heads. Grape and canister were whistling among the
woods, and Dick was devoutly grateful that these deadly missiles were
going so high. Yet if they did not hurt they made one shiver, and it
was not worth while to recall that when he heard the sound the shot had
passed already. One shivered anyhow.

As well as Dick could judge from the volume of sound the battle seemed
to be concentrated directly upon the hill. He knew that Grant expected
to make a general attack in full force, and he surmised that one of the
commanders under him was not pushing forward with the expected zeal. His
surmise was correct. A general with fifteen thousand men was standing
almost passive in front of a much smaller force, but other generals were
showing great fire and energy.

The Winchester regiment contained many excellent riflemen and they were
so close now that they could use the weapons for which the Kentuckians
were famous. Firing deliberately, they began to cut gaps in the first
ranks of the defenders on the slope. Then they rose and with other
regiments pushed forward again.

But they came to a road in the side of the hill defended powerfully by
infantry and artillery, and a heavy fire, killing and wounding many, was
poured upon them. They sought to cross the road and attack the defenders
with the bayonet, but they were driven back and their losses were so
heavy that they were compelled to take cover in the nearest thickets.

The men, gasping with heat and exhaustion, threw themselves down, a
sleet of shells and bullets passing over their heads. Dick had a sense
of failure, but it lasted only a moment or two. From both left and right
came the fierce crash of battle, and he knew that, if they had been
driven back before the road, their comrades were maintaining the combat
elsewhere.

“It’s merely a delay. We pause to make a stronger attack,” said Colonel
Winchester, as if he were apologizing to himself. “Are you all right,
Dick?”

“Unhurt, sir, and so are Warner and Pennington, who are lying here
beside me.”

“Unhurt, but uneasy,” said Warner. “I don’t like the way twigs and
leaves are raining down on me. It shows that if they were to depress
their fire they would be shearing limbs off of us instead of boughs off
the trees.”

The sun was high and brilliant now, but it could not dispel the clouds
of smoke gathering in the thickets. It floated everywhere, and Dick felt
it stinging his mouth and throat. Murmurs began to run along the lines.
They did not like being held there. They wanted to charge again. They
were still confident of victory.

Dick was sent toward another part of the army for orders, and he saw
that all along the hill the battle was raging fiercely. But Grant could
not yet hear the roar of guns which should indicate the advance of
McClernand and his fifteen thousand. The silent leader was filled with
anger, but he reserved the expression of it for a later time.

Dick saw the fiery and impetuous Logan, noticeable for his long
coal-black hair, lead a headlong and successful charge, which carried
the Union troops higher up the hill. But another general was driven
back, losing cannon, although he retook them in a second and desperate
charge. Still no news from McClernand and his fifteen thousand! There
was silence where his guns ought to have been thundering, and Grant
burned with silent anger.

It was noon, and a half-hour past. The Union plans, made with so much
care and judgment, and the movements begun with so much skill and
daring seemed to be going awry. Yet Grant with the tenacity, rather
than lightning intuition, that made him a great general, held on. His
lieutenants clung to their ground and prepared anew for attack.

Dick hurried back to his own regiment, which was still lying in the
thickets, bearing an order for its advance in full strength. Colonel
Winchester, who was standing erect, walking among his men and
encouraging them, received it with joy. Word was speedily passed to all
that the time to win or lose had come. Above the cannon and rifles the
music of the calling trumpets sounded. The fire of both sides suddenly
doubled and tripled in volume.

“Now, boys,” shouted Colonel Winchester, waving his sword, “up the hill
and beat ‘em!”

Uttering a deep-throated roar the Winchesters rushed forward, firing
as they charged. Dick was carried on the top wave of enthusiasm. He
discharged his pistol into the bank of fire and smoke in front of them
and shouted incessantly. He heard the bullets and every form of missile
from the cannon whining all about them. Leaves and twigs fell upon him.
Many men went down under the deadly fire, but the rush of the regiment
was not checked for an instant.

They passed out of the thicket, swept across the road, and drove the
defenders up the hill. Along the whole line the Union army, fired with
the prospect of success, rushed to the attack. Grant threw every man
possible into the charge.

The Southern army was borne back by the weight of its enemy. All of the
front lines were driven in and the divisions were cut apart. There
was lack of coordination among the generals, who were often unable to
communicate with one another, and Pemberton gave the order to retreat.
The battle was lost to the South, and with it the chance to crush Grant
between two forces.

The Union army uttered a great shout of victory, and Grant urged forward
the pursuit. Bowen, one of the South’s bravest generals, was the last to
give way. The Winchester regiment was a part of the force that followed
him, both fighting hard. Dick found himself with his comrades, wading
a creek, and they plunged into the woods and thickets which blazed with
the fire of South and North. A Confederate general was killed here, but
the brave Bowen still kept his division in order, and made the pursuit
pay a heavy cost for all its gain.

Dick saw besides the Confederate column many irregulars in the woods,
skilled sharpshooters, who began to sting them on the flank and bring
down many a good soldier. He caught a glimpse of a man who was urging
on the riflemen and who seemed to be their leader. He recognized Slade,
and, without a moment’s hesitation, fired at him with his pistol. But
the man was unhurt and Slade’s return bullet clipped a lock of Dick’s
hair.

Then they lost each other in the smoke and turmoil of the battle, and,
despite the energy of the pursuit by the Union leaders, they could not
break up the command of Bowen. The valiant Southerner not only made good
his retreat, but broke down behind him the bridge over a deep river,
thus saving for a time the fragments of Pemberton’s army.

The Winchester regiment marched back to the battlefield, and Dick saw
that the victory had been overwhelming. Nearly a third of the Southern
army had been lost and thirty cannon were the trophies of Grant. Yet the
fighting had been desperate. The dead and wounded were so numerous that
the veteran soldiers who had been at Shiloh and Stone River called it
“The Hill of Death.”

Dick saw Grant walking over the field and he wondered what his feelings
were. Although its full result was beyond him he knew, nevertheless,
that Champion Hill was a great victory. At one stroke of his sword Grant
had cut apart the circle of his foes.

Dick came back from the pursuit with Colonel Winchester. He had lost
sight of Warner and Pennington in the turmoil, but he believed that they
would reappear unhurt. They had passed through so many battles now that
it did not occur to him that any of the three would be killed. They
might be wounded, of course, as they had been already, but fate would
play them no such scurvy trick as to slay them.

“What will be the next step, Colonel?” asked Dick, as they stood
together upon the victorious hill.

“Depends upon what Johnston and Pemberton do. Pemberton, I’m sure, will
retreat to Vicksburg, but Johnston, if he can prevent it, won’t let his
army be shut up there. Still, they may not be able to communicate, and
if they should Pemberton may disobey the far abler Johnston and stay in
Vicksburg anyhow. At any rate, I think we’re sure to march at once on
Vicksburg.”

A figure approaching in the dusk greeted Dick with a shout of delight.
Another just behind repeated the shout with equal fervor. Warner and
Pennington had come, unharmed as he had expected, and they were exultant
over the victory.

“Come over here,” said Warner to Dick. “Sergeant Whitley has cooked a
glorious supper and we’re waiting for you.”

Dick joined them eagerly, and the sergeant received them with his
benevolent smile. They were commissioned officers, and he gave them all
the respect due to rank, but in his mind they were only his boys, whom
he must watch and protect.

While the fires sprang up about them and they ate and talked of the
victory, Washington was knowing its darkest moments. Lee had already
been marching thirteen days toward Gettysburg, and he seemed unbeatable.
Grant, who had won for the North about all the real success of which
it could yet boast, was lost somewhere in the Southern wilderness. The
messages seeking him ran to the end of the telegraph wires and no answer
came back. The click of the key could not reach him. Many a spirit, bold
at most times, despaired of the Union.

But the old and hackneyed saying about the darkest hour just before the
dawn was never more true. The flame of success was already lighted in
the far South, and Lincoln was soon to receive the message, telling him
that Grant had not disappeared in the wilderness for nothing. Thereafter
he was to trust the silent and tenacious general through everything.

They were up and away at dawn. Dick was glad enough to leave the hill,
on which many of the dead yet lay unburied, and he was eager for the new
field of conflict, which he was sure would be before Vicksburg. Warner
and Pennington were as sanguine as he. Grant was now inspiring in them
the confidence that Lee and Jackson inspired in their young officers.

“How big is this city of Vicksburg?” asked Pennington.

“Not big at all,” replied Warner. “There are no big cities in the South
except New Orleans, but it’s big as a fortress. It’s surrounded by
earthworks, Frank, from which the Johnnies can pot you any time.”

“Well, at any rate, I’ll be glad to see it--from a safe distance. I
wouldn’t mind sitting down before a town. There’s too much wet country
around here to suit me.”

“It’s likely that you’ll have a chance to sit for a long time. We won’t
take Vicksburg easily.”

But the time for sitting down had not yet come. The confidence of the
soldiers in their leader was justified continually. He advanced rapidly
toward Vicksburg, and in pursuit of Pemberton’s defeated men. The
victory at Champion Hill had been so complete that the Southern army
was broken into detached fragments, and the Southern generals were now
having the greatest difficulty in getting them together again.

Grant, with his loyal subordinate, Sherman, continued to push upon the
enemy with the greatest vigor. Sherman had not believed in the success
of the campaign, had even filed his written protest, but when Grant
insisted he had cooperated with skill and energy. He and Grant stood
together on a hill looking toward the future field of conflict, and he
told Grant now that he expected continued success.

It was the fortune of the young officers of the Winchester regiment
sitting near on their horses to see the two generals who were in such
earnest consultation, and who examined the whole circle of the country
so long and so carefully through powerful glasses.

The effects of the victory deep in the South were growing hourly in
Dick’s mind, and the two figures standing there on the hill were full
of significance to him. He had a premonition that they were the men more
than any others who would achieve the success of the Union, if it were
achieved at all. They had dismounted and stood side by side, the figure
of Grant short, thick and sturdy, that of Sherman, taller and more
slender. They spoke only at intervals, and few words then, but nothing
in the country about them escaped their attention.

Dick had glasses of his own, and he, too, began to look. He saw a region
much wooded and cut by deep streams. Before them lay the sluggish waters
of Chickasaw Bayou, where Sherman had sustained a severe defeat at an
earlier time, and farther away flowed the deep, muddy Yazoo.

“See the smoke, George, rising above that line of trees along the
river?” said Dick.

“Yes, Dick,” replied Warner, “and I notice that the smoke rises in
puffs.”

“It has a right to go up that way, because it’s expelled violently from
the smoke-stacks of steamers. And those steamers are ours, George, our
warships. Our navy in this war hasn’t much chance to do the spectacular,
but we can never give it enough credit.”

“That’s right, Dick. It keeps the enemy surrounded and cuts off his
supplies, while our army fights him on land. Whatever happens the waters
are ours.”

“And the Mississippi has become a Union river, splitting apart the
Confederacy.”

“Right you are, Dick, and we’re already in touch with our fleet there.
The boats do more than fight for us. They’re unloading supplies in vast
quantities from Chickasaw Bayou. We’ll have good food, blankets, tents
to shelter us from the rain, and unlimited ammunition to batter the
enemy’s works.”

The investment of Vicksburg had been so rapid and complete that
Johnston, the man whom Grant had the most cause to fear, could not unite
with Pemberton, and he had retired toward Jackson, hoping to form a new
army. Only three days after Champion Hill Grant had drawn his semicircle
of steel around Vicksburg and its thirty thousand men, and the navy in
the rivers completed the dead line.

Dick rode with Colonel Winchester and took the best view they could get
of Vicksburg, the little city which had suddenly become of such vast
military importance.

Now and then on the long, lower course of the Mississippi, bluffs rise,
although at far intervals. Memphis stands on one group and hundreds
of miles south Vicksburg stands on another. The Vicksburg plateau runs
southward to the Big Bayou, which curves around them on the south and
east, and the eastern slope of the uplift has been cut and gulleyed by
many torrents. So strong has been the effect of the rushing water upon
the soft soil that these cuts have become deep winding ravines, often
with perpendicular banks. One of the ravines is ten miles long. Another
cuts the plateau itself for six miles, and a permanent stream flows
through it.

The colonel and Dick saw everywhere rivers, brooks, bayous, hills,
marshes and thickets, the whole turned by the Southern engineers into
a vast and most difficult line of intrenchments. Grant now had forty
thousand men for the attack or siege, but he and his generals did
not yet know that most of the scattered Confederate army had gathered
together again, and was inside. They believed that Vicksburg was held by
fifteen thousand men at the utmost.

“What do you think of it, Colonel?” asked Dick, as they sat horseback on
one of the highest hills.

“It will be hard to take, despite the help of the navy. Did you ever see
another country cut up so much by nature and offering such natural help
to defenders?”

“I’ve heard a lot of Vicksburg. I remember, Colonel, that, despite its
smallness, it is one of the great river towns of the South.”

“So it is, Dick. I was here once, when I was a boy before the Mexican
war. Down on the bar, the low place between the bluffs and the river,
was the dueling ground, and it was also the place for sudden fights. It
and Natchez, I suppose, were rivals for the wild and violent life of the
great river.”

“Well, sir, it has a bigger fight on its hands now than was ever dreamed
of by any of those men.”

“I think you’re right, Dick, but the general means to attack at once. We
may carry it by storm.”

Dick looked again at the vast entanglement of creeks, bayous, ravines,
forests and thickets. Like other young officers, he had his opinion, but
he had the good sense to keep it to himself. He and the colonel rejoined
the regiment, and presently the trumpets were calling again for battle.
The men of Champion Hill, sanguine of success, marched straight upon
Vicksburg. All the officers of the Winchester regiment were dismounted,
as their portion of the line was too difficult for horses.

Their advance, as at Champion Hill, was over ground wooded heavily and
they soon heard the reports of the rifles before them. Bullets began to
cut the leaves and twigs, carrying away the bushes, scarring the trees
and now and then taking human life. The Winchester men fired
whenever they saw an enemy, and with them it was largely an affair
of sharpshooters, but on both left and right the battle rolled more
heavily. The Southerners, behind their powerful fortifications at the
heads of the ravines and on the plateau, beat back every attack.

Before long the trumpets sounded the recall and the short battle ceased.
Grant had discovered that he could not carry Vicksburg by a sudden
rush and he recoiled for a greater effort. He discovered, too, from the
resistance and the news brought later by his scouts that an army almost
as numerous as his own was in the town.

The Winchester regiment made camp on a solid, dry piece of ground beyond
the range of the Southern works, and the men, veterans now, prepared
for their comfort. The comrades ate supper to the slow booming of great
guns, where the advanced cannon of either side engaged in desultory
duel.

The distant reports did not disturb Dick. They were rather soothing. He
was glad enough to rest after so much exertion and so much danger and
excitement.

“I feel as if I were an empty shell,” he said, “and I’ve got to wait
until nature comes along and fills up the shell again with a human
being.”

“In my school in Vermont,” said Warner, “they’d call that a considerable
abuse of metaphor, but all metaphors are fair in war. Besides, it’s just
the way I feel, too. Do you think, Dick, we’ll settle down to a regular
siege?”

“Knowing General Grant as we do, not from what he tells us, since he
hasn’t taken Pennington and you and me into his confidence as he ought
to, but from our observation of his works, I should say that he would
soon attack again in full force.”

“I agree with you, Knight of the Penetrating Mind, but meanwhile I’m
going to enjoy myself.”

“What do you mean, George?”

“A mail has come through by means of the river, and my good father and
mother--God bless ‘em--have sent me what they knew I would value most,
something which is at once an intellectual exercise, an entertainment,
and a consolation in bereavement.”

Dick and Pennington sat up. Warner’s words were earnest and portentous.
Besides, they were very long, which indicated that he was not jesting.

“Go ahead, George. Show us what it is!” said Dick eagerly.

Warner drew from the inside pocket of his waist coat a worn volume which
he handled lovingly.

“This,” he said, “is the algebra, with which I won the highest honors
in our academy. I have missed it many and many a time since I came into
this war. It is filled with the most beautiful problems, Dick, questions
which will take many a good man a whole night to solve. When I think of
the joyous hours I’ve spent over it some of the tenderest chords in my
nature are touched.”

Pennington uttered a deep groan and buried his face in the grass. Then
he raised it again and said mournfully:

“Let’s make a solemn agreement, Dick, to watch over our poor comrade.
I always knew that something was wrong with his mind, although he means
well, and his heart is in the right place. As for me, as soon as I
finished my algebra I sold it, and took a solemn oath never to look
inside one again. That I call the finest proof of sanity anybody could
give. Oh, look at him, Dick! He’s studying his blessed algebra and
doesn’t hear a word I say!”

Warner was buried deep in the pages of a plus b and x minus y, and Dick
and Pennington, rising solemnly, walked noiselessly from the presence
around to the other side of the little opening where they lay down
again. The bit of nonsense relieved them, but it was far from being
nonsense to Warner. His soul was alight. As he dived into the intricate
problems memories came with them. Lying there in the Southern thickets
in the close damp heat of summer he saw again his Vermont mountains with
their slopes deep in green and their crests covered with snow. The sharp
air of the northern winter blew down upon him, and he saw the clear
waters of the little rivers, cold as ice, foaming over the stones. That
air was sharp and vital, but, after a while, he came back to himself and
closed his book with a sigh.

“Pardon me for inattention, boys,” he said, “but while I was enjoying
my algebra I was also thinking of old times back there in Vermont, when
nobody was shooting at anybody else.”

Dick and Pennington walked solemnly back and sat down beside him again.

“Returned to his right mind. Quite sane now,” said Pennington. “But
don’t you think, Dick, we ought to take that exciting book away from
him? The mind of youth in its tender formative state can be inflamed
easily by light literature.”

Warner smiled and put his beloved book in his pocket.

“No, boys,” he said, “you won’t take it away from me, but as soon
as this war is over I shall advance from it to studies of a somewhat
similar nature, but much higher in character, and so difficult that
solving them will afford a pleasure keener and more penetrating than
anything else I know.”

“What is your greatest ambition, Warner?” asked Pennington. “Do you,
like all the rest of us, want to be President of the United States?”

“Not for a moment. I’ve already been in training several years to be
president of Harvard University. What higher place could mortal ask?
None, because there is none to ask for.”

“I can understand you, George,” said Dick. “My great-grandfather became
the finest scholar ever known in the West. There was something of the
poet in him too. He had a wonderful feeling for nature and the forest.
He had a remarkable chance for observation as he grew up on the border,
and was the close comrade in the long years of Indian fighting of Henry
Ware, who was the greatest governor of Kentucky. As I think I’ve
told you fellows, Harry Kenton, Governor Ware’s great-grandson and my
comrade, is fighting on the other side.”

“I knew of the great Dr. Cotter long before I met you, Dick,” replied
Warner. “I read his book on the Indians of the Northern Mississippi
Valley. Not merely their history and habits, but their legends, their
folk lore, and the wonderful poetic glow so rich and fine that he threw
over everything. There was something almost Homeric in his description
of the great young Wyandot chieftain Timmendiquas or White Lightning,
whom he acclaimed as the finest type of savage man the age had known.”

“He and Henry Ware fought Timmendiquas for years, and after the great
peace they were friends throughout their long lives.”

“And I’ve studied, too, his wonderful book on the Birds and Mammals
of North America,” continued Warner with growing enthusiasm. “What
marvelous stores of observation and memory! Ah, Dick, those were
exciting days, and a man had opportunities for real and vital
experiences!”

Dick and Pennington laughed.

“What about Vicksburg, old praiser of past times?” asked Frank. “Don’t
you think we’ll have some lively experiences trying to take it? And
wasn’t there something real and vital about Bull Run and Shiloh and
Perryville and Stone River and all the rest? Don’t you worry, George.
You’re living in exciting times yourself.”

“That’s so,” said Warner calmly. “I had forgotten it for the moment.
We’ve been readers of history and now we’re makers of it. It’s
funny--and maybe it isn’t funny--but the makers of history often
know little about what they’re making. The people who come along long
afterward put them in their places and size up what they have done.”

“They can give all the reasons they please why I won this war,” said
Pennington, “but even history-makers are entitled to a rest. Since
there’s no order to the contrary I mean to stretch out and go to sleep.
Dick, you and George can discuss your problems all night.”

But they went to sleep also.



CHAPTER IX. THE OPEN DOOR


“Dick,” said Colonel Winchester the next morning, “I think you are the
best scout and trailer among my young officers. Mr. Pennington, you are
probably the best on the plains, and I’ve no doubt, Warner, that you
would do well in the mountains, but for the hills, forests and rivers
I’ll have to choose Dick. I’ve another errand for you, my boy. You’re
to go on foot, and you’re to take this dispatch to Admiral Porter, who
commands the iron-clads in the river near the city. Conceal it carefully
about you, but I anticipate no great danger for you, as Vicksburg is
pretty well surrounded by our forces.”

The dispatch was written on thin, oiled paper. Dick hid it away in the
lining of his coat and departed upon another important mission, full
of pride that he should be chosen for it. He had all the passwords and
carried two good pistols in his belt. Rich in experience, he felt able
to care for himself, even should the peril be greater than Colonel
Winchester had expected.

The sun was not far above the horizon but it was warm and brilliant,
and it lighted up the earth, throwing a golden glow over the plateau of
Vicksburg, the great maze of ravines and thickets and the many waters.

He passed along the lines, walking rapidly southward, and saw more than
one officer of his acquaintance. Hertford’s cavalry were in a field, and
the colonel himself sat on a portion of the rail fence that had enclosed
it. He hailed the lad pleasantly.

“Into the forest again, Dick,” he said.

“Not this time, sir,” Dick replied. “It’s just a little trip, down the
river.”

“Success to the trip and a speedy return.”

Dick nodded and walked on. He was quite sure that his dispatch was an
order from Grant for Porter to come up the stream and join in a general
attack which everybody felt sure was planned for an early date.

As he passed through the regiments and brigades he received much
good-humored chaff. The great war of America differed widely from the
great wars of Europe. The officers and men were more nearly on a plane
of equality. The vast majority of them had been volunteers in the
beginning and perhaps this feeling of comradeship made them fight all
the better. North and South were alike in it.

“Which way, sonny?” called a voice from a group. “You don’t find the
fighting down there. It’s back toward Vicksburg.”

Dick nodded and smiled.

“Maybe he’s out walking for exercise. These officers ride too much.”

Dick walked on with a steady swinging step. He regarded the sunbrowned,
careless youths with the genuine affection of a brother. Many of them
were as young as he or younger, but they were now veterans of battle
and march. Napoleon’s soldiers themselves could not have boasted of more
experience than they.

He was coming to the last link in the steel chain, and the colonel of
a regiment, an old man, warned him to be careful as he approached the
river.

“Southern sharpshooters are among the ravines and thickets,” he said.
“They fired on our lads about dawn and then escaped easily in the thick
cover.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Dick, “I’ll be on my guard.” Yet he did not feel
the presence of danger. Youth perhaps becomes more easily hardened in
war than middle age, or perhaps it thinks less of consequences. The
Union cannon, many of great weight and power, had begun already to
fire upon Vicksburg. Huge shells and shot were rained upon the city.
Pemberton had two hundred guns facing the river and the army, but to
spare his ammunition they made little reply.

Dick looked back now and then. He saw flakes of fire on the northern
horizon, puffs of smoke and the curving shells. He felt that Vicksburg
was no pleasant place to be in just now, and yet it must be full of
civilians, many of them women and children. He was sorry for them. It
was Dick’s nature to see both sides of a quarrel. He could never hate
the Southerners, because they saw one way and he another.

It was a passing emotion. It was too fine a morning for youth to grieve.
At the distance the plumes of smoke made by the shells became decorative
rather than deadly. From a crest he saw upon the plateau of Vicksburg
and even discerned the dim outline of houses. Looking the other way,
he saw the smoke of the iron-clads down the river, and he also caught
glimpses of the Mississippi, gold in the morning sun over its vast
breadth.

Then he entered the thickets, and, bearing in mind the kindly warning
of the old colonel, proceeded slowly and with extreme caution. The
Southerners knew every inch of the ground here and he knew none. He
came to a ravine and to his dismay found that a considerable stream was
flowing through it toward the bayou. It was yellow water, and he thought
he might find a tree, fallen across the stream, which would serve him as
a foot log, but a hunt of a few minutes disclosed none, and, hesitating
no longer, he prepared to wade.

He put his belt with the pistols in it around his neck and stepped in
boldly. His feet sank in the mud. The water rose to his knees and then
to his waist. It was, in truth, deeper than he had expected--one could
never tell about these yellow, opaque streams. He took another step and
plunged into a hole up to his shoulders.

Angry that he should be wet through and through, and with such muddy
water too, he crossed the stream.

He looked down with dismay at his uniform. The sun would soon dry it,
but until he got a chance to clean it, it would remain discolored and
yellow, like the jeans clothes which the poorer farmers of the South
often wore. And yet the accident that he bemoaned, the bath in water
thick with mud, was to prove his salvation.

Dick shook himself like a big dog, throwing off as much of the water as
he could. He had kept his pistols dry and he rebuckled his belt around
his waist. Then he returned to his errand. Among the thickets he saw but
little. Vicksburg, the Mississippi, and the Union camp disappeared. He
beheld only a soft soil, many bushes and scrub forest. After going a
little distance he was compelled to stop again and consider. It was
curious how one could lose direction in so small a space.

He paused and listened, intending to regain his course through the sense
of hearing. From the north and east came the thunder of the siege guns.
It had grown heavier and was continuous now. Once more he was sorry for
Vicksburg, because the Union gunners were unsurpassed and he was sure
that bombs and shells were raining upon the devoted town.

Now he knew that he must go west by south, and he made his way over
difficult country, crossing ravines, climbing hills, and picking his
path now and then through soft ground, the most exhausting labor of all.
The sun poured down upon him and his uniform dried fast. He had just
crossed one of the ravines and was climbing into the thicket beyond when
a voice asked:

“See any of the Yanks in front?”

Dick’s heart stood still, and then all his presence of mind came
back. Not in vain had the kindly colonel warned him of the Southern
sharpshooters in the bush.

“No,” he replied. “They seem to be farther up. One of our fellows told
me he saw a whole regiment of them off there to the right.”

He plunged deeper into the bush and walked on as if he were among his
own comrades. He realized that his faded uniform with its dye of yellow
mud had caused him to be mistaken for one of Pemberton’s men. His
accent, which was Kentuckian and therefore Southern, had helped him
also. He passed three or four other men, bent over, rifle in hand and
watching, and he nodded to them familiarly. In such a crisis he knew
that boldness and ease were his best cards, and he said to one of the
men, with a laugh:

“You’ll have to tell us Tennesseeans about all your bayous and creeks.
I’ve just fallen into one that had no right to be there.”

“You Tennesseeans need a bath anyhow,” replied the man, chuckling.

“We’d never choose a Mississippi stream for it,” said Dick in the
same vein, and passed on leaving the rifleman in high good humor. How
wonderfully these Southerners were like the Northerners! He noticed
presently a half-dozen other sharpshooters in the Confederate butternut,
prowling among the bushes, and through an opening he saw his own people
to the west, but too far away to be reached by anything but artillery.
The slow, deep music of the Northern guns came steadily to his ear, but
their fire was always turned toward Vicksburg.

Dick knew that his position was extremely critical. Perhaps it was
growing more so all the while, but he was never cooler. A quiet lad, he
always rose wonderfully to an emergency. He was quite sure that he
was among Mississippi troops, and they could not possibly know all the
soldiers from the other states gathered for the defense of Vicksburg. He
did not differ from those around him in any respect, except that he did
not carry a rifle.

He paused and looked back thoughtfully at the distant Union troops.

“Can you tell me how they’re posted?” he said to a tall, thin
middle-aged man who had a chew of tobacco in his cheek. “I carry
dispatches to General Pemberton, and the more information I can give him
the better.”

“Yes, I kin tell you,” replied the man, somewhat flattered. “They’re
posted everywhere. What, with their army and them boats of theirs in the
river, they’ve got a high fence around us, all staked and ridered.”

“It doesn’t take any more work to tear a fence down than it does to
build it up.”

“I reckon you’re right thar, stranger. But was you at Champion Hill?”

“No, I missed that.”

“Then it was a good thing for you that you did. I didn’t set much store
by the Yanks when this war began. One good Southerner could whip five of
‘em any time, our rip-roarin’, fire-eatin’ speech-makers said. I knowed
then, too, that they was right, but I was up thar in Kentucky a while,
an’ after Donelson I reckoned that four was about as many as I wanted
to tackle all to oncet. Then thar was Shiloh, an’ I kinder had a thought
that if three of ‘em jumped on me at one time I’d hev my hands purty
full to lick ‘em. Then come Corinth, an,’ reasonin’ with myself, I said
I wouldn’t take on more’n two Yanks at the same time. An’ now, since
I’ve been at Champion Hill, I know that the Yank is a pow’ful good
fighter, an’ I reckon one to one jest about suits me, an’ even then I’d
like to have a leetle advantage in the draw.”

“I feel that way about it, too. The Yankees are going to make a heap
of trouble for us here. But I must be going. What’s the best path into
Vicksburg?”

“See that little openin’ in the bushes. Follow it. Jest over the hill
you’ll run into a passel of our fellers, but pay no ‘tention to ‘em. If
they ask you who you are an’ whar you’re boun’ tell ‘em to go straight
to blazes, while you go to Vicksburg.”

“Thank you,” said Dick, “I like to meet an obliging and polite man like
you. It helps even in war.”

“Don’t mention it. When I wuz a little shaver my ma told me always to
mind my manners, an’ when I didn’t she whaled the life out of me. An’,
do you know, stranger, she’s just a leetle, withered old woman, but if
she could ‘pear here right now I’d be willin’ to set down right in these
bushes an’ say, ‘Ma, take up that stick over thar an’ beat me across the
shoulders an’ back with it as hard as you kin.’ I’d feel good all over.”

“I believe you,” said Dick, who thought of his own mother.

He followed the indicated path until he was out of sight of everybody,
and then he plunged into the bushes and marsh toward the river. When he
was well hidden he stopped and considered.

It was quite evident that he had wandered from the right road, but
it was no easy task to get back into it. There was an unconscious
Confederate cordon about him and he must pass through it somewhere. He
moved farther toward the river, but only went deeper into the swamp.

He turned to the south and soon reached firm ground, but he heard
Confederate pickets talking in front of him. Then he caught glimpses of
two or three men watching among the trees, and he lay down in a clump of
bushes. He might pass them as he had passed the others, but he thought
it wiser not to take the risk.

He was willing also to rest a little, as he had done a lot of hard
walking. His clothing was now dry, and the mud had dried upon it.

He turned aside into one of the deep ravines and then into a smaller one
leading from it. The bushes were dense there and he lay down among them,
so completely hidden that he was invisible ten feet away. Here he still
heard the mutter of the guns, which came in a long, droning sound, and
occasionally a rifle cracked at some point closer by. The Union army
was still busy and he felt a few moments of despondency. His dispatch
undoubtedly was of great importance, and yet he was not able to deliver
it. It was highly probable that for precaution’s sake other messengers
bore the same dispatch, but he was anxious to arrive with his
nevertheless, and he wanted, too, to arrive first. The last now seemed
impossible and the first improbable.

The crackling fire came nearer. Owing to the lack of percussion caps,
Pemberton had ordered his men to use their rifles sparingly, but
evidently a considerable body of sharpshooters near Dick were attempting
a flanking movement of some kind, and meant to carry it out with
bullets. He was impatient to see, but prudence kept him in his covert, a
prudence that was soon justified, as presently he heard voices very near
him and then the sound of footsteps.

He rose up a little and saw several hundred Confederate soldiers passing
on the slopes not more than a hundred yards away. They went south of
him, and he recognized with growing alarm that the wall across his way
was growing higher. When they were gone and he could no longer hear
their tread among the bushes he slipped from his hiding place and went
directly toward Vicksburg. Being within an iron ring he thought that
perhaps he would be safer somewhere near the center. He might make his
way without much trouble through the vast confused crowd in Vicksburg,
and then in the night go down the river’s edge and to the fleet.

It was a daring idea, so very daring that it appealed to the strain of
high adventure in the lad. He was encouraged, too, by his earlier and
easy success in passing among the Confederate soldiers. But in order not
to appear reckless and to satisfy his own conscience he tried once more
for the way to the south. But the soldiers entirely barred the path
there, and, being on some duty that required extreme vigilance, they
were likely to prove exacting.

He advanced with a clear mind toward Vicksburg, picking his way among
the forests and ravines, but, after long walking over most difficult
ground, he saw before him extensive earthworks thronged with Southern
troops. When he turned westward the result was the same, and then it
became evident that there was no flaw in the iron ring. He could not go
through to Porter, he could not go back to his own army, but Vicksburg
invited him as a guest.

He would make the trial at night. It was a long wait, but he dared not
risk it by day, and, going back into one of the ravines, he sought
a secluded and sheltered place. Threshing the bushes to drive away
possible snakes, he crawled into a clump and lay there. Resolved to be
patient in spite of everything, he did not stir, but listened to the far
throbbing of the cannon which poured an incessant storm of missiles upon
unhappy Vicksburg.

The warmth and the heavy air in the ravine were relaxing. His brain grew
so dull and heavy that he fell asleep, and when he awoke the twilight
was coming. And yet he had lost nothing. He had gained rather. The time
had passed. His body had been strengthened and his nerves steadied while
he slept.

The distant booming of the guns still came. He had expected it. That was
Grant. He had wrapped the coil of steel around Vicksburg and he would
never relax. Dick felt that there was no hope for the town, unless
Johnston outside could gather a powerful army and fight Grant on even
terms. But he considered it impossible, and there, too, was the great
artery of the river along which flowed men and supplies of every kind
for the Union.

The Southern twilight turned swiftly into night and, coming from his
lair, Dick walked boldly toward the town. He had eaten nothing since
morning, but he had not noticed it, until this moment, when he began to
feel a little faintness. He resolved that Vicksburg should supply him.
It was curious how much help he expected of Vicksburg, a hostile town.

He saw lights soon both to right and to left and he strengthened his
soul. He knew that he must be calm, but alert and quick with the right
answer. With his singular capacity for meeting a crisis he advanced into
the thick of danger with a smiling face, even as his great ancestor,
Paul Cotter, had often done.

His calm was of short duration. There was a rushing sound, something
struck violently, and a tremendous explosion followed. Fire flashed
before Dick’s eyes, pieces of red hot metal whistled past his head,
earth spattered him and he was thrown to the ground.

He sprang up again, understanding all instantly. A shell from his own
army had burst near him, and he had been thrown down by the concussion.
But he had not been hurt, and in a few seconds his pulse beat steadily.

He heard a shout of laughter as he stood, brushing the fresh dirt from
his clothing. He glanced up in some anger, but he saw at once that the
arrival of the shell had been most fortunate for his plan. To come near
annihilation by a Federal gun certainly invested him with a Confederate
character.

It was a group of young soldiers who were laughing and their amusement
was entirely good-natured. They would have laughed the same way had the
harmless adventure befallen one of their own number. Dick judged that
they were from the Southwest.

“Close call,” he said, smiling that attractive smile, which was visible
even in the twilight.

“It was a friendly shell,” said one of the youths, “and it concluded
not to come too close to you. These Yankee shells are so loving that
sometimes they spray themselves in little pieces all over a fellow, like
a shower of rice over a bride at a wedding.”

“How long do you think the Yankees will keep it up?” asked Dick, putting
indignation in his tone. “Haven’t they any respect for the night?”

“Not a bit. That fellow Grant is a pounder. They say he’ll blow away the
whole plateau of Vicksburg if we don’t drive him off.”

“Well, we’ll do it. You wait till old Joe Johnston comes up. Then we’ll
shut him between the jaws of a vise and squeeze the life out of him.”

“Hope so. Where’ve you been?”

“Down below the town. I’m coming back with messages.”

“So long. Good luck. Keep straight ahead, and you’ll find all the
generals you want.”

The lights increased and he went into a small tavern, where he bought
food and a cup of coffee, paying in gold. The tavern keeper asked no
questions, but his eyes gleamed at sight of the yellow coin.

“Mighty little of this comes my way now,” he said frankly, “and our
own money is worth less and less every day. If things keep on the way
they’re headed it’ll take a bale of it as big as a bale of cotton to pay
for one good, square meal.”

Dick laughed.

“Not so bad as that,” he said. “You wait until we’ve given Grant a big
thrashing and have cleared their boats out of the river. Then you’ll see
our money becoming real.”

The man shook his head.

“Seein’ will be believin’,” he said, “an’ as I ain’t seein’ I ain’t
believin’.”

Dick with a friendly good night went out. Grant, the persistent, was
still at work. His cannon flared on the dark horizon and the shells
crashed in Vicksburg. Scarcely any portion of the town was safe. Now and
then a house was smashed in and often the shells found victims.

The town was full of terror and confusion. Many of the rich planters had
come there with their families for refuge. Women and children hid from
the terrible fire, and the civilians already had begun to burrow. Caves
had been dug deep into the sides of the ravines and hundreds found in
them a rude but safe shelter.

Dick now found that his plans were going wrong. He could wander about
almost at will and to any one to whom he spoke he still claimed to be
a Tennesseean, but he knew that it could not last forever. Sooner or
later, some officer would question him closely, and then his tale would
be too thin for truth.

Unable to make a way toward the river, he returned to the slopes and
ravines, where they were digging the caves, and then fortune which had
been smiling upon him turned its face the other way. A small man in
butternut and an enormous felt hat passed near. He did not see Dick,
but his very presence gave the lad a shiver. He believed afterward that
before he saw him he had felt the proximity of Slade.

The man, carrying a rifle, was hurrying toward the center of the town,
and Dick, after one long look, hurried at equal speed the other way. He
knew that Slade, if he saw him, would recognize him at once. Dusk and a
muddy uniform would not protect him.

It was his idea now to go down through the ravines and make another
trial toward the South. He saw ahead of him a line of intrenchments,
which he was resolved to pass in some fashion, but the face of fortune
was still away from him. The unknown officers who at any time might ask
too many questions appeared.

A captain, a sunbrowned, alert man, stopped him at the edge of the
bushes which clothed the slopes of the ravine.

“Your regiment?” he asked sharply.

“Tennessee regiment, sir,” replied Dick, afraid to mention any number,
since this officer might be a Tennesseean himself, and would want
further identification. But the man was not to be put off--Dick judged
from his uniform that he was a colonel--and demanded sharply his
regiment’s number and his business.

The lad mumbled something under his breath, hopeful that he would pass
on, but the officer stepped forward, looked at him closely and then
suddenly turned back the collar of his army jacket, disclosing a bit of
the under side yet blue.

“Thunderation, a Yankee spy!” he exclaimed.

Dick always believed that his life was due to a sudden and violent
impulse, or rather a convulsive jerk, because he had no time to think.
He threw off the officer’s hand, dashed his fist into his face, and,
without waiting to see the effect, ran headlong among the bushes down
the side of the ravine. He heard a shouting behind him, the reports of
several shots, the rapid tread of feet, and he knew that the man-hunt
was on.

He had all the instincts of the hunted to seek cover, and the night was
his friend. But few lights glimmered in that portion of Vicksburg, and
in many parts of the ravine the bushes were thick. He darted down the
slope at great speed, then turned and ran along its side, still keeping
well under cover. Where the shadows were darkest and the bushes thickest
he paused panting.

He heard his pursuers calling to one another, and he also heard the
excited voices of people in the ravine. The civilians had been aroused
by the shots so close by and he thought the confusion would help him. He
stood in the deep shadow, his breath gradually growing easier, and then
he started down the ravine, coming to a little path that led along
the side of the slope. He noticed a dark opening, and as the voices of
pursuers were now coming nearer, he popped into it, trusting to blind
luck.

Dick had thought it was a mere wash-out or deep recess, but at the third
step his foot struck upon a carpet and he saw ahead a dim light. He
paused, amazed, and then he remembered that he had heard about the
civilians digging caves for shelter from the shells and bombs. Evidently
some forethoughtful man had prepared his cave early.

Uncertain what to do he did nothing, pressing his back against the earth
and listening. No sound came, and the dim light still flickering ahead
reassured him.

The opening through which he had come was large, and admitted plenty
of fresh air. As he stood four or five feet from the entrance he saw
several soldiers hurrying along the path, and he knew they were hunting
for him. He realized then his fortune in finding this improvised
cave-house. After the soldiers passed he walked gently toward the light.
Apparently the regular occupants were gone away for the time, and he
might find a hiding place there until it was safe to go out.

The passage was narrow, but the carpet was still under his feet, and
further in, the sides and roof of the earthen walls had been covered
with planks. The light grew brighter and he was quite sure that a room
of some size was just ahead. His curiosity became so great that it
smothered all apprehension, and he stepped boldly into the room, where
the lamp burned on a table.

He would have stepped back as quickly, but a pair of great burning eyes
caught his and held them. A bed was standing against the board wall of
the cave, and in this bed lay an old man with a huge bald head, immense
white eyebrows and eyes of extraordinary intensity.

Once more did Colonel Charles Woodville and Richard Mason stare into the
eyes of each other, and for a long time neither spoke.

“I managed to escape from Jackson with my little family,” said the
colonel at length, “and I thought that in this, so to say, sylvan
retreat I might drop all undesirable acquaintances that I made there.”

The whole scene was grotesque and wild to Dick. It was like a passage
out of the Arabian Nights, and an extraordinary spirit of recklessness
seized him.

“I appreciate your words, sir,” he said, “and I can understand your
feelings. I have felt myself that it was never wise to go where one
might not be welcome, and yet chance plays us such tricks that neither
your wish nor mine is granted.”

The old man then raised his head a little higher on the pillow. A spark
leaped from the burning eyes.

“A lad of spirit,” he said. “I would not withhold praise where praise
is due. I recall meeting some one who resembled you very much. Perhaps a
brother of yours, eh?”

“No, he was not my brother.”

“Well, it does not matter and we will not pursue the subject. How does
it happen that you have come into this hillside castle of mine?”

Young Mason saw a flicker of amusement in the eyes of the old man. He
was aware that in his muddy uniform he made no imposing figure, but
his spirit was as high as ever, and the touch of recklessness was still
there.

“I saw some men coming down the path,” he replied; “men with whom I do
not care to associate, and I turned aside to avoid them. I beheld
the open door and stepped within, but I did not know the chamber was
occupied, and it was far from my purpose to intrude upon you or any one.
I trust, sir, that you will believe me.”

The lad took off his cap and bowed. His face was now revealed more
clearly, and it was a fine one, splendidly molded, intellectual, and
with noble blue eyes. After all, despite the mud and stains, he made a
graceful figure as he stood there, so obviously confident of himself,
but respectful.

The spark leaped again from the eyes of Colonel Woodville, and,
remembering something, there was a slight warmth about the heart which
lately had been so cold and bitter.

“I do not blame you,” he said. “A lad, one in his formative years,
cannot be too careful about his associates. Doubtless you were justified
in taking advantage of the open door. But now that you are here may I
ask you what you purpose next to do?”

“I admit, sir, that the question is natural,” replied Dick, suiting his
tone and manner to those of the old man. “I have scarcely had time yet
to form a purpose, but, since the danger of contamination of which we
spoke still exists, it occurs to me that perhaps I might stay here a
while. Is there some nook or a cover in which I might rest? I hope I do
not trespass too much upon your hospitality.”

Colonel Woodville pondered. His great white eyebrows were drawn together
and, for a moment or two, he gazed down the beak of his nose.

“I confess,” he said, “that the appeal to hospitality moves me. I am
stirred somewhat, too, by pleasant recollections of the lad who looked
like you. But wait, my daughter is coming. We will confer with her.
Margaret is a most capable woman.”

Dick heard a light step in the passage and he wheeled quickly. Miss
Woodville was before him, a plain, elderly figure in a plain black
dress, with a basket on her arm. The basket contained a fowl and some
eggs which she had just bought at a great price. When she saw Dick her
hand flew to her throat, but when the pulse ceased to beat so hard it
came away and she looked at him fixedly. Then a slow smile like the dawn
spread over the severe, worn face.

“Come in, Margaret, and put down your basket,” said the colonel in a
genial tone. “Meanwhile bid welcome to our unexpected guest, a young man
of spirit and quality with whom I was holding converse before you came.
He does not wish to go out to-night, because there are many violent men
abroad, and he would avoid them.”

Then he turned to Dick, and asked in a tone, sharp and commanding:

“I have your word, young sir, that your unexpected visit to our city was
not of a secret nature; that is, it was not of a lawless character?”

“An accident, sir, an accident pure and simple. I answer you on my
honor. I have seen nothing and I shall not seek to see anything which I
should not see.”

“Margaret,” continued the colonel, and now his tone became deferential
as behooved a gentleman speaking to a lady, “shall we ask him to share
our simple quarters to-night?”

The lad slowly turned his gaze to the face of the woman. He felt with
all the power of intuition that his fate rested on her decision. But she
was a woman. And she was, too, a true daughter of her father. A kindred
spark leaped up in her own soul, and she met Dick’s gaze. She noted
his fearless poise, and she saw the gallant spirit in his eye. Then she
turned to her father.

“I think you wish him to stay, sir,” she said, “and the wish seems right
to me. Our narrow quarters limit our hospitality in quality, but not
in intent. We can offer him nothing but the little alcove behind the
blanket.”

She inclined her head toward the blanket, which Dick had not noticed
before. It hung near the bed and, wishing to cause this household little
trouble, he said:

“Then I assume that you will shelter me for the night, and, if I may, I
will go at once to my room.”

Colonel Woodville lowered his head upon the pillow and laughed softly.

“A lad of spirit. A lad of spirit, I repeat,” he said. “No, Margaret,
you and I could not have turned him from our earthen roof.”

Dick bowed to Miss Woodville, and that little ghost of a tender smile
flitted about her thin lips. Then he lifted the blanket, stepped into
the dark, and let the curtain fall behind him.

He stood for a space until his eyes, used to the dusk, could see dimly.
It was a tiny room evidently used as a place of storage for clothing and
bedding, but there was space enough for him to lie down, if he bent his
knees a little.

The strain upon both muscle and nerve had been very great, and now came
collapse. Removing his shoes and outer clothing he dropped upon a
roll of bedding and closed his eyes. But he was grateful, deeply and
lastingly grateful. The bread that he had cast upon the waters was
returning to him fourfold.

He heard low voices beyond the blanket, and he did not doubt that they
were those of Colonel Woodville and his daughter. The woman in plain
black, with the basket on her arm, had seemed a pathetic figure to him.
He could not blame them for feeling such intense bitterness. What were
the causes of the war to people who had been driven from a luxurious
home to a hole in the side of a ravine?

He slept, and when he woke it seemed to be only a moment later, but he
knew from the slender edge of light appearing where the blanket just
failed to touch the floor that morning had come. He moved gently lest
he disturb his host in the larger room without, and then he heard the
distant thunder, which he knew was the booming of Grant’s great guns.
And so the night had not stopped them! All through the hours that he
slept the cannon had rained steel and death on Vicksburg. Then came a
great explosion telling him that a shell had burst somewhere near. It
was followed by the voice of Colonel Woodville raised in high, indignant
tones:

“Can’t they let a gentleman sleep? Must they wake him with one of their
infernal shells?”

He heard a slight rustling sound and he knew that it was the great bald
head moving impatiently on the pillows. Inferring that it was early, he
would have gone back to sleep himself, but slumber would not come. He
remained a while, thoughtful, for his future lay very heavy upon him,
and then he heard the sound of several voices beyond the blanket.

He listened closely, trying to number and distinguish them. There were
three and two belonged to Colonel Woodville and his daughter. The third
repelled and puzzled him. It seemed to have in it a faint quality of the
fox. It was not loud, and yet that light, snarling, sinister note was
evident.

The sensitive, attuned mind can be easily affected by a voice, and the
menace of the unknown beyond the blanket deepened. Dick felt a curious
prickling at the roots of his hair. He listened intently, but he could
not understand anything that was spoken, and then he drew himself
forward with great caution.

They must be talking about something of importance, because the voices
were earnest, and sometimes all three spoke at once. He reached a slow
hand toward the blanket. The danger would be great, but he must see.

He drew back the blanket slightly, a quarter of an inch, maybe, and
looked within the room. Then he saw the owner of the sinister voice, and
he felt that he might have known from the first.

Slade, standing before Colonel Woodville’s bed, his hat in his hand, was
talking eagerly.



CHAPTER X. THE GREAT ASSAULT


The light from the door that was always open illumined the room. The
rising sun must have struck full upon it, because it was almost as
bright as day there. Slade was in his butternut uniform, and his rifle
leaned against the wall. Now that he had made the slight opening Dick
could understand their words.

“There are spies within Vicksburg, sir,” said Slade. “Colonel Dustin
detected one last night, but in the darkness he escaped down this
ravine. The alarm was spread and he could not have got outside our
lines. I must catch him. It will be a credit to me to do so. I was under
your command, and, although not in active service owing to your wound,
your word will go far. I want you to get me an order to search every
house or place in which he could hide.”

“Not too much zeal, my worthy Slade. Talleyrand said that, but you never
heard of him. Excessive suspicion is not a good thing. It was your chief
fault as an overseer, although I willingly pay tribute to your energy
and attention to detail. This business of hunting spies is greatly
overdone. The fate of Vicksburg will be settled by the cannon and the
rifles.”

“But, sir, they can do us great harm.”

“Listen to that, my good Slade.”

The deep booming note of the distant cannon entered the cave.

“That is the sound of Grant’s guns. He can fight better with those
weapons than with spies.”

But Slade persisted, and Colonel Woodville, with an occasional word
from his daughter, fenced with him, always using a light bantering tone,
while the lad who lay so near listened, his pulses beating hard in his
temples and throat.

“Your vigilance is to be commended, my good Slade,” Dick heard Colonel
Woodville say, “but to-day at least I cannot secure such a commission
for you from General Pemberton. We hear that Grant is massing his troops
for a grand attack, and there is little time to thresh up all our own
quarters for spies. We must think more of our battle line. To-morrow we
may have a plan. Come back to me then, and we will talk further on these
matters.”

“But think, sir, what a day may cost us!”

“You show impatience, not to say haste, Slade, and little is ever
achieved by thoughtless haste. The enemy is closing in upon us, and it
must be our chief effort to break his iron ring. Ah, here is my nephew!
He may give us further news on these grave matters.”

Dick saw the entrance darken for a moment, then lighten again, and
that gallant youth, Victor Woodville, with whom he had fought so good a
fight, stood in the room. He was still pale and he carried his left arm
in a sling, but it was evident that his recovery from his wound had been
rapid. Dick saw the stern face of the old colonel brighten a bit, while
the tender smile curved again about the thin lips of the spinster.

Young Woodville gave a warm greeting to his uncle and elderly cousin,
and nodded to Slade. Dick believed from his gesture that he did not like
the guerilla leader, or at least he hoped so.

“Victor,” said the colonel, “what word do you bring?”

“Grant is advancing his batteries, and they seem to be massing for
attack. It will surely come in a day or two.”

“As I thought. Then we shall need all our energies for immediate battle.
And now, Mr. Slade, as I said before, I will see you again to-morrow
about the matter of which we were speaking. I am old, wounded, and I
grow weary. I would rest.”

Slade rose to go. He was not a pleasant sight. His clothes were soiled
and stained, and his face was covered with ragged beard. The eyes were
full of venom and malice.

“Good day, Colonel Woodville,” he said, “but I feel that I must bring
the matter up again. As a scout and leader of irregulars for the
Confederacy. I must be active in order to cope with the enemy’s own
scouts and spies. I shall return early to-morrow morning.”

Colonel Woodville waved his hand and Slade, bowing, withdrew.

“Why was he so persistent, Uncle Charles?” asked Victor. “He seemed to
have some underlying motive.”

“He always has such a motive, Victor. He is a man who suspects everybody
because he knows everybody has a right to suspect him. He may even have
been suspecting me, his old, and, I fear, too generous employer. He has
a mania about a spy hidden somewhere in Vicksburg.”

Young Victor Woodville laughed gayly.

“What folly,” he said, “for your old overseer, a man of Northern origin
to boot, to suspect you, of all men, of helping a Yankee in any way.
Why, Uncle Charles, everybody knows that you’d annihilate ‘em if you
could, and that you were making good progress with the task until you
got that wound.”

Colonel Woodville drew his great, white eyebrows together in his
characteristic way.

“I admit, Victor, that I’m the prince of Yankee haters,” he said.
“They’ve ruined me, and if they succeed they’ll ruin our state and the
whole South, too. We’ve fled for refuge to a hole in the ground, and yet
they come thundering at the door of so poor an abode. Listen!”

They heard plainly the far rumble of the cannon. The intensity of the
fire increased with the growing day. Shells and bombs were falling
rapidly on Vicksburg. The face of Colonel Woodville darkened and the
eyes under the white thatch burned.

“Nevertheless, Victor,” he said, “hate the Yankees as I do, and I hate
them with all my heart and soul, there are some things a gentleman
cannot do.”

“What for instance, Uncle?”

“He cannot break faith. He cannot do evil to those who have done good to
him. He must repay benefits with benefits. He cannot permit the burden
of obligation to remain upon him. Go to the door, Victor, and see if any
one is lurking there.”

Young Woodville went to the entrance and returned with word that no one
was near.

“Victor,” resumed Colonel Woodville, “this man Slade, who was so
preposterously wrong, this common overseer from the hostile section
which seeks with force to put us down, this miserable fellow who had
the presumption to suspect me, lying here with a wound, received in the
defense of the Confederacy, was nevertheless right.”

Victor stared, not understanding, and Colonel Woodville raised himself a
little higher on his pillows.

“Since when,” he asked of all the world, “has a Woodville refused to
pay his debts? Since when has a Woodville refused asylum to one who
protected him and his in the hour of danger? Margaret, lift the blanket
and invite our young friend in.”

Dick was on his feet in an instant, and came into the chamber, uttering
thanks to the man who, in spite of so much bitterness against his cause,
could yet shelter him.

Young Woodville exclaimed in surprise.

“The Yankee with whom I fought at Bellevue!” he said.

“And the one who ignored your presence at Jackson,” said Miss Woodville.

The two lads shook hands.

“And now,” said Colonel Woodville, his old sharpness returning,
“we shall be on even terms, young sir. Your uniform bears a faint
resemblance to that of your own army, and Slade, cunning and cruel, may
have had you shot as a spy. You would be taken within our lines and this
is no time for long examinations.”

“I know how much I owe you, sir,” said Dick, “and I know how much danger
my presence here brings upon you. I will leave as soon as the ravine is
clear. The gathering of the troops for battle will give me a chance.”

“You will do nothing of the kind. Having begun the task we will carry it
through. Our cave home rambles. There is a little apartment belonging
to Victor, in which you may put yourself in shape. I advise you to lie
quiet here for a day or two, and then if I am still able to put my hand
on you I may turn you over with full explanations to the authorities.”

Dick noted the significance of the words, “if I am still able to put my
hand on you,” but he merely spoke of his gratitude and went with young
Woodville into the little apartment. It was on the right side of the
hall, and a round shutterless hole opened into the ravine, admitting
light and air. The “window,” which was not more than a foot in diameter
faced toward the east and gave a view of earthworks, and the region
beyond, where the Union army stood.

The room itself contained but little, a cot, some blankets, clothing,
and articles of the toilet.

“Mason,” said Woodville, “make yourself as comfortable as you can here.
I did not know until I escaped from Jackson that it was you who ignored
my presence there. You seem in some manner to have won the good opinion
of my uncle, and, in any event, he could not bear to remain in debt to a
Yankee. If you’re careful you’re safe here for the day, although you may
be lonesome. I must go at once to our lines. Cousin Margaret will bring
you something to eat.”

They shook hands again.

“I can’t do much fighting,” said Woodville, “owing to this wounded arm
of mine, but I can carry messages, and the line is so long many are to
be taken.”

He went out and Miss Woodville came soon with food on a tray. Dick
suspected that they could ill spare it, but he must eat and he feared to
offer pay. It embarrassed him, too, that she should wait upon him, but,
in their situation, it was absolutely necessary that she do so, even
were there a servant somewhere, which he doubted. But she left the tray,
and when she returned for it an hour later she had only a few words to
say.

Dick stood at the round hole that served as a window. There were
bushes about it, and, at that point, the cliff seemed to be almost
perpendicular. He was safe from observation and he looked over a
vast expanse of country. The morning was dazzlingly clear, and he saw
sections of the Confederate earthworks with their men and guns, and far
beyond them other earthworks and other guns, which he knew were those of
his own people.

While he stood there alone, free from the tension that had lasted
while Slade was present, he realized the great volume of fire that the
Northern cannon were pouring without ceasing upon Vicksburg. The deep
rumble was continually in his ears, and at times his imagination made
the earth shake. He saw two shells burst in the air, and a shattering
explosion told that a third struck near by. To the eastward smoke was
always drifting. The Southern cannon seldom replied.

He resolved to attempt escape during the coming night. It hurt him to
bring danger upon the Woodvilles and he wished, too, to fulfill his
mission. Others, beyond question, would reach the fleet with the
message, but he wished to reach it also.

Yet nothing new occurred during all the long day. Miss Woodville brought
him more food at noon, but scarcely spoke. Then he returned to the hole
in the cliff, and remained there until twilight. Young Woodville
came, and he gathered from his manner that there had been no important
movement of the armies, that all as yet was preparation. But he inferred
that the storm was coming, and he told Victor that he meant to leave
that night.

He was opposed vehemently. The line of Southern sentinels watched
everywhere. Slade was most vigilant. He might come at any time into the
ravine. No, he must wait. The next night, perhaps, but in any event he
must remain a while.

Nor did he depart the next night either. Instead, two or three days
passed, and he was still in the house dug in the hillside, a guest and
yet a captive. The bombardment had gone on, his food was still brought
to him by Miss Woodville, and once or twice Victor came, but Dick, as he
was in honor bound, asked him no question about the armies.

The waiting, the loneliness and the suspense were terrible to one so
young, and so ambitious. And yet he had fared better than he had a right
to expect, a fact, however, that did not relieve his situation.

Another night came, and he went to sleep in his lonely cell in the wall,
but he was awakened while it was yet intensely dark by a cannonade far
surpassing in violence any that had gone before. He rushed to the hole,
but he could see nothing in the ravine. Yet the whole plateau seemed to
shake with the violence of the concussions and the crash of exploding
shells.

The fire came from all sides, from the river as well as the land. The
boom of the huge mortars on the boats there sounded above everything.
Dick knew absolutely now that the message he was to carry had been
delivered by somebody else.

He heard under the continued thunder of the guns sharp commands, and the
tread of many troops moving. He knew that the Southern forces were going
into position, and he felt himself that the tremendous fire was the
prelude to a great attack. His excitement grew. He strained his eyes,
but he could see nothing in the dark ravine, or out there where the
cannon roared, save the rapid, red flashes under the dim horizon. He had
his watch and he had kept it running. Now he was able to make out that
it was only three o’clock in the morning. A long time until day and
he must wait until then to know what such a furious convulsion would
achieve.

The slow time passed, and there was no decrease of the fire. Once or
twice he came away from the window and listened at the entrance to his
little room, but he could hear nothing stirring in the larger chamber.
Yet it was incredible that Colonel Woodville and his daughter should not
be awake. They would certainly be listening with an anxiety and suspense
not less than his.

Dawn came after painful ages, and slowly the region out there where the
Union army lay rose into the light. But it was a red dawn, a dawn in
flame and smoke. Scores of guns crashed in front, and behind the heavy
booming of the mortars on the boats formed the overnote of the storm.

The opening was not large, but it afforded the lad a good view, and he
thrust his head out as far as he could, every nerve in him leaping at
the deep roar of the cannonade. He had no doubt that the assault was
about to be made. He was wild with eagerness to see it, and it was a
cruel hurt to his spirit that he was held there, and could not take a
part in it.

He thought of rushing from the place, and of seeking a way through the
lines to his own army, but a little reflection showed him that it would
be folly. He must merely be a witness, while Colonel Winchester, Warner,
Pennington, the sergeant, Colonel Hertford, all whom he knew and the
tens of thousands whom he did not know, fought the battle.

A tremendous sound, distant and steady, would not blot out much smaller
sounds nearby, and now he heard noises in the larger chamber. The voice
of Colonel Woodville was raised in sharp command.

“Lift me up!” he said, “I must see! Must I lie here, eating my soul out,
when a great battle is going on! Help me up, I say! Wound or no wound, I
will go to the door!”

Then the voice of Miss Woodville attempting to soothe was heard, but
the colonel broke forth more furiously than ever, not at her, but at his
unhappy fate.

Dick, spurred by impulse, left his alcove and entered the room.

“Sir,” he said respectfully to Colonel Woodville, “you are eager to see,
and so am I. May I help you?”

Colonel Woodville turned a red eye upon him.

“Young man,” he said, “you have shown before a sense of fitness, and
your appearance now is most welcome. You shall help me to the door,
and I will lean upon you. Together we will see what is going to happen,
although I wish for one result, and you for another. No, Margaret, it
is not worth while to protest any further. My young Yankee and I will
manage it very well between us.”

Miss Woodville stepped aside and smiled wanly.

“I think it is best, Miss Woodville,” Dick said in a low tone.

“Perhaps,” she replied.

Colonel Woodville impatiently threw off the cover. He wore a long purple
dressing gown, and his wound was in the leg, but it was partly healed.
Dick helped him out of the bed and then supported him with his arm under
his shoulder. Within that singular abode the roar of the guns was a
steady and sinister mutter, but beneath it now appeared another note.

Colonel Woodville had begun to swear. It was not the torrent of loud
imprecation that Dick had heard in Jackson, but subdued, and all the
more fierce because it was so like the ferocious whine of a powerful and
hurt wild animal. Swearing was common enough among the older men of the
South, even among the educated, but Colonel Woodville now surpassed them
all.

Dick heard oaths, ripe and rich, entirely new to him, and he heard the
old ones in new arrangements and with new inflections. And yet there was
no blasphemy about it. It seemed a part of time and place, and, what was
more, it seemed natural coming from the lips of the old colonel.

They reached the door, the cut in the side of the ravine, and at once a
wide portion of the battlefield sprang into the light, while the roar
of the guns was redoubled. Dick would have stepped back now, but Colonel
Woodville’s hand rested on his shoulder and his support was needed.

“My glasses, Margaret!” said the colonel. “I must see! I will see! If
I am but an old hound, lying here while the pack is in full cry, I will
nevertheless see the chase! And even if I am an old hound I could run
with the best of them if that infernal Yankee bullet had not taken me in
the leg!”

Miss Woodville brought him the glasses, a powerful pair, and he glued
them instantly to his eyes. Dick saw only the field of battle, dark
lines and blurs, the red flare of cannon and rifle fire, and towers and
banks of smoke, but the colonel saw individual human beings, and, with
his trained military eye, he knew what the movements meant. Dick felt
the hand upon his shoulder trembling with excitement. He was excited
himself. Miss Woodville stood just behind them, and a faint tinge of
color appeared in her pale face.

“The Yankees are getting ready to charge,” said the colonel. “At the
point we see they will not yet rush forward. They will, of course, wait
for a preconcerted signal, and then their whole army will attack at
once. But the woods and ravines are filled with their skirmishers,
trying to clear the way. I can see them in hundreds and hundreds, and
their rifles make sheets of flame. All the time the cannon are firing
over their heads. Heavens, what a bombardment! I’ve never before
listened to its like!”

“What are our troops doing, father?” asked Miss Woodville.

“Very little yet, and they should do little. Pemberton is showing more
judgment than I expected of him. The defense should hold its fire until
the enemy is well within range and that’s what we’re doing!”

The colonel leaned a little more heavily upon him, but Dick steadied
himself. The old man still kept the glasses to his eyes, and swept them
back and forth in as wide an arc as their position permitted. The hills
shook with the thunder of the cannon, and the brilliant sun, piercing
through the smoke, lighted up the vast battle line.

“The attack of the skirmishers grows hotter,” said the old man. “The
thickets blaze with the fire of their rifles. Heavy masses of infantry
are moving forward. Now they stop and lie on their arms. They are
awaiting the word from other parts of the field, and it shows with
certainty that a grand attack is coming. Two batteries of eight guns
each have come nearer. I did not think it possible for the fire of their
cannon to increase, but it has done so. Young sir, would you care to
look through the glasses?”

“I believe not, Colonel. I will trust to the naked eye and your report.”

It was an odd feeling that made Dick decline the glasses. If he looked
he must tell to the others what he saw, and he wished to show neither
exultation nor depression. The colonel, the duty of courtesy discharged,
resumed his own position of witness and herald.

“The columns of infantry are getting up again,” he said. “I see a man in
what I take to be a general’s uniform riding along their front. He
must be making a speech. No doubt he knows the desperate nature of
the attack, and would inspire them. Now he is gone and other officers,
colonels and majors are moving about.”

“What are the skirmishers doing, Colonel?”

“Their fire is not so hot. They must be drawing back. They have made
the prelude, and the importance of their role has passed. The masses
of infantry are drawing together again. Now I see men on horseback with
trumpets to their lips. Yes, the charge is coming. Ah-h! That burnt
them!”

There was a terrific crash much nearer, and Dick knew that it was the
Southern batteries opening fire. The shoulder upon which the colonel’s
hand rested shook a little, but it was from excitement. He said nothing
and Colonel Woodville continued:

“The smoke is so heavy I can’t see what damage was done! Now it has
cleared away! There are gaps in the Yankee lines, but the men have
closed up, and they come on at the double quick with their cannon still
firing over their heads!”

In his excitement he took his hand off Dick’s shoulder and leaned
forward a little farther, supporting himself now against the earthen
wall. Dick stood just behind him, shielded from the sight of any one
who might be passing in the ravine, although there was little danger now
from searchers with a great battle going on. Meanwhile he watched the
combat with an eagerness fully equal to that of the old colonel.

The mighty crash of cannon and rifles together continued, but for a
little while the smoke banked up in front so densely that the whole
combat was hidden from them. Then a wind slowly rolled the smoke away.
The figures of the men began to appear like shadowy tracery, and then
emerged, distinct and separate from the haze.

“They are nearer now,” said the Colonel. “I can plainly see their long
lines moving and their light guns coming with them. But our batteries
are raking them horribly. Their men are falling by the scores and
hundreds.”

Miss Woodville uttered a deep sigh and turned her face away. But she
looked again in a few moments. The terrible spell was upon her, too.

Dick’s nerves were quivering. His heart was with the assailants and
theirs with the assailed, but he would not speak aloud against the hopes
of Colonel Woodville and his daughter, since he was in their house, such
as it was, and, in a measure, under their protection.

“Their charge is splendid,” continued the colonel, “and I hope Pemberton
has made full use of the ground for defense! He will need all the help
he can get! Oh, to be out of the battle on such a day! The smoke is in
the way again and I can see nothing. Now it has passed and the enemy is
still advancing, but our fire grows hotter and hotter! The shells and
the grape and the canister and the bullets are smashing through them.
They cannot live under it! They must go back!”

Nevertheless the blue lines came steadily toward the Southern
earthworks. Dick saw officers, some ahorse, and some afoot, rushing
about and encouraging the men, and he saw many fall and lie still while
the regiments passed on.

“They are in the nearer thickets,” cried the colonel, “and now they’re
climbing the slopes! Ah, you riflemen, your target is there!”

The Northern army was so near now that the Southern rifle fire was
beating upon it like a storm. Never flinching, the men of the west and
northwest hurled themselves upon the powerful fortified positions. Some
reached shelves of the plateau almost at the mouths of the guns and hung
there, their comrades falling dead or dying around them, but now the
rebel yell began to swell along the vast line, and reached the ears of
those in the ravine.

“The omen of victory!” exclaimed the colonel exultantly. “Our brave lads
feel that they’re about to triumph! Grant can’t break through our line!
Why doesn’t he call off his men? It’s slaughter!”

Dick’s heart sank. He knew that the colonel’s words were true. The
Southern army, posted in its defenses, was breaking the ring of steel
that sought to crush it to death. Groups of men in blue who had seized
ground in the very front of the defenses either died there or were
gradually driven back. The inner ring along its front of miles thundered
incessantly on the outer ring, and repelled every attempt to crush it.

“They yield,” said the colonel, after a long time. “The Northern fire
has sunk at many points, and there! and there! they’re retreating! The
attack has failed and the South has won a victory!”

“But Grant will come again,” said Dick, speaking his opinion for the
first time.

“No doubt of it,” said Colonel Woodville, “but likely he will come to
the same fate.”

He spoke wholly without animosity. The battle now died fast. The men
in gray had been invincible. Their cannon and rifles had made an
impenetrable barrier of fire, and Grant, despite the valor of his
troops, had been forced to draw off. Many thousands had fallen and the
Southern generals were exultant. Johnston would come up, and Grant,
having such heavy losses, would be unable to withstand the united
Confederate armies.

But Grant, as Colonel Woodville foresaw, had no idea of retreating.
Fresh troops were pouring down the great river for him, and while he
would not again attempt to storm Vicksburg, the ring of steel around it
would be made so broad and strong that Pemberton could not get out nor
could Johnston get in.

When the last cannon shot echoed over the far hills Colonel Woodville
turned away from the door of his hillside home.

“I must ask your shoulder again, young sir,” he said to Dick. “What I
have seen rejoices me greatly, but I do not say it to taunt you. In
war if one wins the other must lose, and bear in mind that you are the
invader.”

“May I help you back to your bed, sir?” asked Dick.

“You may. You are a good young man. I’m glad I saved you from that
scoundrel, Slade. As the score between us is even I wish that you were
out of Vicksburg and with your own people.”

“I was thinking, too, sir, that I ought to go. I may take a quick
departure.”

“Then if you do go I wish you a speedy and safe journey, but I tell you
to beware of one, Slade, who has a malicious heart and a long memory.”

Dick withdrew to his own cell, as he called it, and he passed bitter
hours there. The repulse had struck him a hard blow. Was it possible
that Grant could not win? And if he could not win what terrible risks
he would run in the heart of the Confederacy, with perhaps two armies to
fight! He felt that only the Mississippi, that life-line connecting him
with the North, could save him.

But as dusk came gradually in the ravine he resolved that he would go.
His supper, as usual, was brought to him by Miss Woodville. She was as
taciturn as ever, speaking scarcely a half-dozen words. When he asked
her if Victor had gone through the battle unharmed she merely nodded,
and presently he was alone again, with the dusk deepening in the great
gully.

Dick was confident that nobody but Colonel Woodville, his daughter, and
himself were in the cave-home. It was but a small place, and new callous
places on her hands indicated that she was doing the cooking and all
other work. His resolve to risk everything and go was strengthened.

He waited patiently until the full night had come and only the usual
sounds of an army in camp arose. Then he made ready. He had surrendered
his holster and pistols to Colonel Woodville, and so he must issue forth
unarmed, but it could not be helped. He had several ten dollar gold
pieces in his pocket, and he put one of them on the tiny table in his
cell. He knew that it would be most welcome, and he could not calculate
how many hundreds in Confederacy currency it was worth. He was glad that
he could repay a little at least.

Then he stepped lightly toward the larger chamber in which Colonel
Woodville lay. The usual candle was burning on the table near his bed,
but the great bald head lay motionless on the pillow, and the heavy
white eyebrows drooped over closed lids. Sound asleep! Dick was glad
of it. The colonel, with his strong loyalty to the South, might seek
to hold him, at least as his personal prisoner, and now the trouble was
avoided.

He moved gently across the floor, and then passed toward the open door.
How good that puff of fresh air and freedom felt on his face! He did not
know that Colonel Woodville raised his head on the pillow, glanced after
him, and then let his head sink back and his eyes close again. A low
sigh came between the colonel’s lips, and it would have been difficult
to say whether it was relief or regret.

Dick stepped into the narrow path cut in the side of the ravine and
inhaled more draughts of the fresh air. How sweet and strong it was! How
it filled one’s lungs and brought with it life, courage and confidence!
One had to live in a hole in a hill before he could appreciate fully the
blessed winds that blew about the world. He knew that the path ran
in front of other hollows dug in the earth, and he felt sorry for the
people who were compelled to burrow in them. He felt sorry, in truth,
for all Vicksburg, because now that he was outside his fears for Grant
disappeared, and he knew that he must win.

While he remained in the path a deep boom came from the direction of the
Union army and a huge shell burst over the town. It was followed in a
moment by another and then by many others. While the besieged rejoiced
in victory the besiegers had begun anew the terrible bombardment,
sending a warning that the iron ring still held.

Dick paused no longer, but ran rapidly along the path until he emerged
upon the open plateau and proceeded toward the center of the town. He
judged that in the hours following a great battle, while there was yet
much confusion, he would find his best chance.

He had reckoned rightly. There was a great passing to and fro in
Vicksburg, but its lights were dim. Oil and candles alike were scarce,
and there was little but the moon’s rays to disclose a town to the eye.
The rejoicings over the victory had brought more people than usual into
the streets, but the same exultation made them unsuspicious, and Dick
glided among them in the dusk, almost without fear.

He had concluded that “the longest way around was the shortest way
through,” and he directed his steps toward the river. He had formed a
clear plan at last, and he believed that it would succeed. Twisting and
turning, always keeping in the shadows, he made good progress, descended
the bluff, and at last stood behind the ruins of an old warehouse near
the stream.

Southern batteries were not far away from him and he heard the men
talking. Then, strengthening his resolution, he came from behind the
ruins, flung himself almost flat on the ground, and crawled toward the
river, pushing in front of him a board, which some Northern gun had shot
from the warehouse.

He knew that his task was difficult and dangerous, though in the last
resort he could rush to the water and spring in. But he was almost
at the edge before any sentinel saw the black shadow passing over the
ground.

A hail came, and Dick flattened himself against the ground and lay
perfectly still. Evidently the sentinel was satisfied that his fancy had
been making merry with him, as he did not look further at the shadow,
and Dick, after waiting two or three minutes, resumed his slow creeping.

He reached the edge, shoved the board into it, and dropped gently into
the water beside it, submerged to the head. Then, pushing his support
before him, he struck out for the middle of the stream.



CHAPTER XI. THE TAKING OF VICKSBURG


Dick was a fine swimmer, he had a good stout plank, and the waters of
the river were warm. He felt that the chief dangers were passed, and
that the muddy Mississippi would now bear him safely to the blockading
fleet below. He gave the plank another shove, sending it farther out
into the stream, and then raised himself up until his elbows rested upon
it. He could thus float gently with a little propulsion from his legs to
the place where he wanted to go.

He saw lights along the bluff and the bar below, and then, with a sudden
shoot of alarm he noticed a dim shadow move slowly from the shore. It
was a long boat, holding a dozen rowers, and several men armed with
rifles, and it was coming toward him. He did not know whether it was
merely an ordinary patrol, or whether they had seen the darker blot on
the stream that he and the plank made, but in any event the result would
be the same.

He slipped his arm off the plank and sank in the stream to the chin.
Then, propelling it gently and without any splashing of the water, he
continued to move down the stream. He was hopeful that the riflemen
would mistake him and his plank for one of those stumps or logs which
the Mississippi carries so often on its bosom.

The head of the boat turned from him a little, and he felt sure now that
he would drift away unnoticed, but one of the soldiers suddenly raised
his rifle and fired. Dick heard the bullet clip the water close beside
him, and he swam as hard as he could for a few moments. Then he
settled again into quiet, as he saw the boat was not coming toward him.
Doubtless the man had merely fired the shot to satisfy himself that it
was really a log, and if Dick allowed it to float naturally he would be
convinced.

It was a tremendous trial of nerves to run the gantlet in this way, but
as it was that or nothing he exerted all his will upon his body, and let
himself float slowly, sunk again to the mouth and with his head thrown
back, so it would present only a few inches above the surface.

The boat turned, and seemed once upon the point of coming toward him. He
could hear the creaking of the oars and the men talking, but they turned
again suddenly and rowed up the stream. Again, his fate had hung on a
chance impulse. He drifted slowly on until the town and the bluffs sank
in the darkness. Then he drew himself upon his plank and swam, doubling
his speed. He knew that some of the Union gunboats lay not far below,
and, when he rounded a curve, he saw a light in the stream, but near the
shore.

He approached cautiously, knowing that the men on the vessel would be on
guard against secret attack, and presently he discerned the outlines
of a sidewheel steamer, converted into a warship and bearing guns. He
dropped down by the side of his plank until he was quite close, and
then, raising himself upon it again, he shouted with all his voice:
“Ship ahoy!”

He did not know whether that was the customary method of hailing on the
Mississippi, but it was a memory from his nautical reading, and so he
shouted a second and yet a third time at the top of his voice: “Ship
ahoy!” Figures bearing rifles appeared at the side, and a rough voice
demanded in language highly unparliamentary who was there and what he,
she or it wanted.

Dick was in a genial mood. He had escaped with an ease that surprised
him, and the warmth of the water in which he was immersed had saved him
from cramp or chill. The spirit of recklessness seized him again. He
threw himself astride his plank, and called out:

“A detachment of the army of the United States escaped from captivity in
Vicksburg, and wishing to rejoin it. It’s infantry, not marines, and it
needs land.”

“Then advance infantry and give the countersign.”

“Grant and Victory,” replied Dick in a loud, clear voice.

A laugh came from the steamer, and the rough voice said again:

“Let the detachment advance again, and holding up its hands, show
itself.”

Dick paddled closer and, steadying himself as well as he could, threw
up his hands. The light of a ship’s lantern was thrown directly on his
face, and the same voice ordered men to take a small boat and get him.

When Dick stepped upon the deck of the steamer, water streaming from
his clothes, several men looked at him curiously. One in a dingy blue
uniform he believed to be the owner of the rough voice. But his face was
not rough.

“Who are you?” asked the man.

“Lieutenant Richard Mason of Colonel Winchester’s regiment in the army
of General Grant, sent several days ago with a message to the fleet, but
driven by Confederate scouts and skirmishers into Vicksburg, where he
lay hidden, seeking a chance of escape.”

“And he found it to-night, coming down the river like a big catfish.”

“He did, sir. He could find no other way, and he arrived on the useful
board which is now floating away on the current.”

“What proof have you that you are what you say.”

“That I saw you before you saw me and hailed you.”

“It’s not enough.”

“Then here is the message that I was to have delivered to the commander
of the fleet. It’s pretty wet, but I think you can make it out.”

He drew the dispatch from the inside pocket of his waistcoat. It was
soaked through, but when they turned the ship’s lantern upon it the
captain could make out its tenor and the names. Doubt could exist no
longer and he clapped his hands heartily upon the lad’s shoulder.

“Come into the cabin and have something to eat and dry clothes,” he
said. “This is the converted steamer Union, and I’m its commander,
Captain William Hays. I judge that you’ve had an extraordinary time.”

“I have, captain, and the hardest of it all was when I saw our army
repulsed to-day.”

“It was bad and the wounded are still lying on the field, but it doesn’t
mean that Vicksburg will have a single moment of rest. Listen to that,
will you, lieutenant?”

The far boom of a cannon came, and Dick knew that its shell would break
over the unhappy town. But he had grown so used to the cannonade that
it made little impression upon him, and, shrugging his shoulders, he
descended the gangway with the captain.

Clothing that would fit him well enough was found, and once more he was
dry and warm. Hot coffee and good food were brought him, and while he
ate and drank Captain Hays asked him many questions. What was the rebel
strength in Vicksburg? Were they exultant over their victory of the day?
Did they think they could hold out? What food supply did they have?

Dick answered all the questions openly and frankly as far as he could.
He really knew little or nothing about those of importance, and, as for
himself, he merely said that he had hid in a cave, many of which had
been dug in Vicksburg. He did not mention Colonel Woodville or his
daughter.

“Now,” said Captain Hays, when he finished his supper, “you can have
a bunk. Yes, lieutenant, you must take it. I could put you ashore
to-night, but it’s not worth while. Get a good night’s sleep, and we’ll
see to-morrow.”

Dick knew that he was right, and, quelling his impatience, he lay down
in one of the bunks and slept until morning.

Then, after a solid breakfast, he went ashore with the good wishes of
Captain Hays, and, a few hours later, he was with the Union army and his
own regiment. Again he was welcomed as one dead and his own heart was
full of rejoicing because all of his friends were alive. Warner alone
had been wounded, a bullet cutting into his shoulder, but not hurting
him much. He wore a bandage, his face had a becoming pallor, and
Pennington charged that he was making the most of it.

“But it was an awful day,” said Warner, “and there’s a lot of gloom
in the camp. Still, we’re not moving away and the reinforcements are
coming.”

Dick explained to Colonel Winchester why he had failed in his mission,
and the colonel promised to report in turn to the commander that the
hand of God had intervened. Dick’s conscience was now at rest, and he
resumed at once his duties with the regiment.

Many days passed. While Grant did not make any other attack upon
Vicksburg his circle of steel grew tighter, and the rain of shells and
bombs upon the devoted town never ceased. Reinforcements poured forward.
His army rose to nearly eighty thousand men, and Johnston, hovering
near, gathering together what men he could, did not dare to strike. Dick
was reminded more than once of Caesar’s famous siege of Alesia, about
which he had read not so long ago in Dr. Russell’s academy at Pendleton.

There were long, long days of intrenching, skirmishing and idleness. May
turned into June, and still the steel coil enclosed Vicksburg. Here the
Union men were hopeful, but the news from the East was bad. Not much
filtered through, and none of it struck a happy note. Lee, with
his invincible legions, was still sweeping northward. Doubtless the
Confederate hosts now trod the soil of a free State, and Dick and his
comrades feared in their very souls that Lee was marching to another
great victory.

“I wish I could hear from Harry Kenton,” said Dick to Warner. “I’d like
to know whether he passed through Chancellorsville safely.”

“Don’t you worry about him,” said Warner. “That rebel cousin of yours
has luck. He also has skill. Let x equal luck and y skill. Now x plus y
equals the combination of luck and skill, which is safety. That
proves to me mathematically that he is unharmed and that he is riding
northward--to defeat, I hope.”

“We’ve got to win here,” said Dick. “If we don’t, I’m thinking the
cause of the Union will be more than doubtful. We don’t seem to have the
generals in the East that we have in the West. Our leaders hang on here
and they don’t overestimate the enemy.”

“That’s so,” said Pennington. “Now, I wonder what ‘Pap’ Thomas is
doing.”

“He’s somewhere in Tennessee, I suppose, watching Bragg,” said Dick.
“That’s a man I like, and, I think, after this affair here is over, we
may go back to his command. If we do succeed in taking Vicksburg,
it seems likely to me that the heavy fighting will be up there in
Tennessee, where Bragg’s army is.”

“Do you know if your uncle, Colonel Kenton, is in Vicksburg?”

“I don’t think so. In fact, I’m sure he isn’t. His regiment is with
Bragg. Well, George, what does your algebra tell us?”

Warner had taken out his little volume again and was studying it
intently. But he raised his head long enough to reply.

“I have just achieved the solution of a very important mathematical
problem,” he answered in precise tones. “An army of about thirty-five
thousand men occupies a town located on a river. It is besieged by
another army of about seventy-five thousand men flushed with victory.
The besiegers occupy the river with a strong fleet. They are also led
by a general who has shown skill and extraordinary tenacity, while the
commander of the besieged has not shown much of either quality and must
feel great discouragement.”

“But you’re only stating the side of the besieged.”

“Don’t interrupt. It’s impolite. I mean to be thoroughly fair. Now
come the factors favoring the besieged. The assailing army, despite its
superior numbers, is far in the enemy’s country. It may be attacked at
any time by another army outside, small, but led by a very able general.
Now, you have both sides presented to you, but I have already arrived at
the determining factor. What would you say it is, Dick?”

“I don’t know.”

“You haven’t used your reasoning powers. Remember that the man who not
merely thinks, but who thinks hard and continuously always wins. It’s
very simple. The answer is in four letters, f-o-o-d, food. As we know
positively, Pemberton was able to provision Vicksburg for five or
six weeks. We can’t break in and he can’t break out. When his food
is exhausted, as it soon will be, he’ll have to give up. The siege of
Vicksburg is over. I know everything, except the exact date.”

Dick was inclined to believe that Warner was right, but he forgot about
his prediction, because a mail came down the river that afternoon, and
he received a letter from his mother, his beautiful young mother, who
often seemed just like an elder sister.

She was in Pendleton, she wrote, staying comfortably in their home. The
town was occupied by three companies of veteran Union troops who behaved
well. They were always glad to have a garrison of good soldiers whether
Federal or Confederate--sometimes it was one and sometimes the other.
But she thought the present Union force would remain quite a while, as
she did not look for the reappearance of the Southern army in Kentucky.
But if the town were left without troops she would go back to her
relatives in the Bluegrass, as Bill Skelly’s band to the eastward in
the mountains was raiding and plundering and had become a great menace.
Guerillas were increasing in numbers in those doubtful regions.

“The regular troops will have to deal with those fellows later on,” said
Dick.

“Dr. Russell has had a letter from Harry Kenton,” continued Mrs. Mason.
“It was written from some point near the Pennsylvania line, and, while
Harry did not say so in his letter, I know that General Lee is expecting
a great victory in the North. Harry was not hurt at Chancellorsville,
but he says he does not see how he escaped, the fire of the cannon and
rifles being more awful than any that he had ever seen before. He was
present when General Jackson was mortally wounded, and he seems to have
been deeply affected by it. He writes that the Confederacy could better
have lost a hundred thousand men.”

There was more in the letter, but it was strictly personal to Dick, and
it closed with her heartfelt prayer that God, who had led him safely so
far, would lead him safely through all.

After reading it several times he put it in a hidden pocket. Soldiers
did not receive many letters and they always treasured them. Ah, his
dear, beautiful young mother! How could anyone ever harm her! Yet the
thought of Skelly and his outlaws made him uneasy. He hoped that the
Union garrison would remain in Pendleton permanently.

His mind was soon compelled to turn back to the siege. They were digging
trenches and creeping closer and closer. Warner had made no mistake
in his mathematics. The army and the people in Vicksburg had begun to
suffer from a lack of food. They were down to half rations. They had
neither tea nor coffee, and medicines were exhausted. Many and many a
time they looked forth from their hills and prayed for Johnston, but he
could not come. Always the Union flag floated before them, and the ring
of steel so strong and broad was contracting inch by inch.

The Northern engineers ran mines under the Confederate works. They used
every device of ingenious minds to push the siege. Spies brought word
that all food would soon be gone in Vicksburg, and Grant, grim of
purpose, took another hitch in the steel belt about the hopeless town.
The hostile earthworks and trenches were now so near that the men could
hear one another talking. Sometimes in a lull of the firing they
would come out and exchange tobacco or news. It was impossible for the
officers to prevent it, and they really did not seek to do so, as the
men fought just as well when they returned to their works.

June now drew to a close and the great heats of July were at hand. Dick
was convinced that the defense of Vicksburg was drawing to a like close.
They had proof that some of the irregulars in Vicksburg had escaped
through the lines and he was convinced that Slade would be among them.
They were the rats and Vicksburg was the sinking ship.

They heard that Johnston had gathered together twenty-five thousand men
and was at last marching to the relief of the town. Dick believed that
Grant must have laughed one of his grimmest laughs. They knew that
Johnston’s men were worn and half-starved, and had been harassed by
other Union troops. Johnston was skillful, but he would only be a lean
and hungry wolf attacking a grizzly bear. He was sure that all danger
from him had passed.

Now, as they closed in the Northern guns increased their fire. It seemed
to Dick that they could have blown away the whole plateau of Vicksburg
by this time. The storm of shells raked the town, and he was glad that
the people had been able to dig caves for refuge. Colonel Woodville must
be doing some of his greatest swearing now. Dick thought of him with
sympathy and friendliness.

“I don’t think it can last much longer, Mr. Mason,” said Sergeant Daniel
Whitley on the morning of the second of July. “Their guns don’t answer
ours often and it means that they’re out of ammunition, or almost.
Besides, you can stand shells and bullets easier than lack of food.
‘Pears to me I can nearly feel ‘em crumpling up before us.”

Trumpets blew the next morning. All the firing ceased suddenly and the
three lads saw a Southern general with several officers of lower rank,
riding forward under a white flag. It was Bowen, who came out to meet
Grant.

Dick drew a deep, long breath. He knew that this was the end. So did his
comrades. A cheer started and swept part of the way along the lines, but
the officers quickly stopped it.

“Vicksburg is ours,” said Dick.

“Looks like it,” said Warner.

But Grant told Bowen that he would treat only with Pemberton, and after
delays General Pemberton came out. General Grant went forward to meet
him. The two stood alone under a tree within seventy yards of the
Confederate lines and talked.

Chance or fortune presented a startling coincidence. Almost at the very
moment that Grant and Pemberton met under the tree Pickett’s men were
rising to their feet and preparing for the immortal but fatal charge at
Gettysburg. While the cannon had ceased suddenly at Vicksburg they were
thundering from many score mouths at Gettysburg. Fortune was launching
two thunderbolts upon the Confederacy at the same moment. They were to
strike upon fields a thousand miles apart, and the double blow was to be
mortal.

But Dick knew nothing of Gettysburg then, nor was he to know anything
until days afterward. He certainly had no thought of the East while he
watched the two generals under the tree. Dick’s comrades were with him,
but so intense was their curiosity that none of them spoke. Thousands
of men were gazing with the same eagerness, and the Southern earthworks
were covered with the defenders.

It was one of the most dramatic scenes in Dick’s life, the two men under
the tree, and the tens of thousands who watched. Nobody moved. It seemed
that they scarcely breathed. After the continuous roar of firing the
sudden silence was oppressive, and Dick felt the blood pounding in his
ears.

The heat was close and heavy. Black clouds were floating up in the west,
and lightning glimmered now and then on the horizon. Although the storm
threatened no one noticed. All eyes were still for Grant and Pemberton.
After a while each returned to his own command, and there was an
armistice until the next day, when the full surrender was made, and
Grant and his officers rode into Vicksburg. At the same time Lee was
gathering his men for the retreat into the South from the stricken field
of Gettysburg. It was the Fourth of July, the eighty-seventh anniversary
of the Declaration of Independence, and no one could have possibly
conceived a more striking celebration.

As soon as Dick was free for a little space he hurried to the ravine,
and, as before, found there the open door. He passed in without
hesitation.

The light as of old filtered into the room, and Colonel Woodville lay
just as before in bed with his great bald head upon the pillow. Miss
Woodville sat beside the bed, reading aloud from Addison. Dick’s step
was light, but the colonel heard him and held up a finger. The lad
paused until Miss Woodville, finishing a long sentence, closed the
book. Then the colonel, raising a little the great white thatch of his
eyebrows, said:

“Young sir, you have returned again, and, personally, you are welcome,
but I do not conceive how you can stand the company you keep. My
daughter informs me that the Yankees are in Vicksburg, and I have no
reason to doubt the statement.”

He paused, and Dick said:

“Yes, Colonel, it’s true.”

“I suppose we must endure it. I should have gone myself and have offered
my sword to General Grant, but this confounded leg of mine is still
weak.”

“At least, sir, we come with something besides arms. May I bring you
rations?”

“You are generous, young man, and my daughter and I appreciate the
obvious nature of your errand here. Speaking for both of us, a little
food will not be unwelcome.”

“Tell me first, what has become of your nephew. Has he escaped from the
city?”

“He slipped out nearly a week ago, and will join his father’s regiment
in Bragg’s command. That scoundrel, Slade, is gone too. Since the city
had to be surrendered I would gladly have made you a present of Slade,
but it’s out of my power now.”

Dick soon returned with ample food for them and helped them later, when
they moved to quarters outside in the shell-torn city. Dick saw that
they were comfortable, and then his mind turned toward Tennessee.
Detachments from Grant’s army were to be sent to that of Rosecrans, who
was now heavily threatened by Bragg, and the Winchester regiment, which
really belonged with him, was sure to go.

The order to march soon came, and it was welcome. The regiment, or
rather what was left of it, promptly embarked upon one of the river
steamers and started northward.

As they stood on the deck and looked down at the yellow waters in which
Dick had swum on his trusty plank Warner said:

“I’ve news of importance. It arrived in a telegram to General Grant, and
I heard it just as we were coming on board.”

“What is it?” asked Dick.

“General Lee was defeated in a great battle at a little place called
Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, and has retreated into Virginia.”

“Gettysburg and Vicksburg!” exclaimed Dick. “The wheel has turned nearly
‘round. The Confederacy is doomed now.”

“I think so, too,” said Warner.



CHAPTER XII. AN AFFAIR OF THE MOUNTAINS


Although they were on board one of the fastest steamers in the Union
service, Dick and his comrades had a long journey by river. But it
was not unpleasant. They enjoyed the rest and ease after the weeks of
fighting and service in the trenches before Vicksburg. The absence of
war and the roar of cannon and rifles was like a happy dream between
days of fighting. As they went northward on the great river it almost
seemed as if peace had returned.

Warner studied his algebra and two other books of mathematics which he
was lucky enough to find on board. Pennington slept a great deal of the
time.

“I learned it on the plains from the Indians,” he said. “When they don’t
have anything to do they sleep and gather strength for the hour of need.
I think the time is coming soon when they won’t let me sleep at all, and
then I can draw on the great supply I have in stock.”

“Likely enough it’s near,” said Dick dreamily. “They say Bragg has a
great army now, and you know that, while Rosecrans is slow he’s pretty
sure. Thomas and McCook and the others are with him, too. I expect to
see ‘Pap’ Thomas again. He’s a general to my liking.”

“And to mine, too,” said Pennington, “but we can talk about him later
on, because I’m going to sleep again inside of a minute.”

Dick was not averse to silence, as he, too, was half asleep; that is, he
was in a dreamy stage, and he was at peace with the world and his fellow
men. From under drooping eyelids he was vaguely watching the low shores
of the Mississippi, and the great mass of yellow waters moving onward
from the far vague forests of the North in their journey of four
thousand miles to the gulf.

Like all boys of the great valley, Dick always felt the romance and
spell of the Mississippi. It was to him and them one of the greatest
facts in the natural world, the grave of De Soto, the stream on which
their fathers and forefathers had explored and traded and fought since
their beginnings. Now it was fulfilling its titanic role again, and the
Union fleets upon its bosom were splitting the Confederacy asunder.

He, too, fell asleep before long. Warner glanced at his comrades who
slept so well on a hard bench, and his look was rather envious. He
returned his beloved algebra to his pocket, leaned back on the bench
also, and, although he had not believed it possible, slept also inside
of five minutes. Colonel Winchester passing smiled sympathetically, but
his glance lingered longest on Dick.

After days on the water the regiment disembarked, marched more days
across the country, joining other regiments on the way, and reached
the rear guard of the army of Rosecrans, which was already marching
southward in the direction of Chattanooga to meet that of Bragg. They
advanced now over the Cumberland mountains through a country wild
and thinly inhabited. The summer was waning, but it was cool on the
mountains and in the passes, nor was it so dry as the year before, when
they fought that terrible battle at Perryville in Kentucky.

Dick was glad to be again in the high country, the land of firm soil and
of many clear, rushing streams. Heart and lungs expanded, when he looked
upon the long ridges, clothed in deep forest, and breathed the pure air
that blew down from their summits. Yet his dream of peace was over.
As they advanced through the forests and passes they were harassed
incessantly by sharpshooters on the slopes, who melted away before them,
but who returned on the very heels of the vain pursuit to vex them again
with bullets.

They heard soon that the most daring of these bands was led by a man
named Slade, and Dick’s pulse took a jump. He felt in a curious sort of
way that this man Slade was still following him. It seemed more than a
decree of chance that their fates should be intertwined. He hoped that
Slade would never hear how he had been hidden in that hole in the ravine
with the Woodvilles. Trouble could come of it for gallant young Victor
Woodville, and even for his uncle. He was sure that Victor was now with
Bragg and they might meet face to face again.

As they rode through a defile and came into a wide valley they saw
before them an extensive Union camp, and they were overjoyed to learn
that it was the division of Thomas, the general to whom they were to
report. Dick had once received the personal thanks of Thomas, and
the grave, able man inspired him with immense respect, mingled with
affection.

He stood before Thomas in his tent that evening, Colonel Winchester
having yielded to his request to take him with him when he reported the
arrival of his regiment. Thomas, usually so taciturn, delighted the soul
of the lad by remembering him at once.

“It was you, Lieutenant Mason, who came to me there in the Kentucky
mountains with the dispatches,” he said, “and you were also with us at
Perryville and Stone River.”

“I was, sir,” said Dick, flushing with pride.

“And you were with General Grant at the taking of Vicksburg! It was a
great exploit, and it has lifted us up mightily. But I’m glad to have
you back along with Colonel Winchester and the rest of his brave lads.
I think you’ll see action before long, action perhaps on a greater scale
than any witnessed hitherto in the West.”

Dick saluted and withdrew. He knew that a young lieutenant must not stay
too long in the presence of a commanding general and he quickly rejoined
Warner and Pennington.

“How’s the old man?” asked Pennington, with the familiarity of youth,
which was not disrespectful in the absence of the “old man.”

“‘Pap’ Thomas is looking well,” replied Dick. “I fancy that his
digestion was never better. He did not act in a belligerent way, but I
think he’s hunting for a fight.”

“Since you and Warner and I have arrived he can begin it.”

“I think it’s coming,” said Dick earnestly. “Often you can feel when
things are moving to some end, and I’m sure that we’ll measure strength
again with Bragg before the autumn has gone far.”

The valley in which the camp lay was green and beautiful, and a deep,
clear little river from the mountains, ran rushing, through it. The
three lads lay on their blankets near the bank and listened to the
musical sweep of the stream. Pennington suddenly sprang up and hailed:

“Hey, Ohio, is that you? Come here!”

A tall youth emerged from the dusk and looked at them inquiringly.

“Ohio,” said Pennington, “don’t you remember your friends?”

The long, lean lad looked again, and then he was enthusiastically
shaking hands with each in turn.

“Remember you!” he exclaimed. “Of course I do. If it hadn’t been so dark
I’d have seen you and called to you first. I’m glad you’re alive. It’s
a lot to live in these times. I tried to find out about you fellows but
couldn’t. We came in a detachment ahead of you. But if you’ll invite me,
I’ll stay awhile with you and talk.”

They offered him a blanket and he stretched out upon it, turning his
eyes up to the sky, in which the stars were now coming.

“What are you thinking about, Ohio?” asked Dick.

“I’m thinking how fast I’m growing old. Two years and a half in the war,
but it’s twenty-five years in fact. I hadn’t finished school when I left
home and here I am, a veteran of more battles than any soldiers have
fought since the days of old Bonaparte. If I happen to live through
this war, which I mean to do, I wonder how I’ll ever settle down at home
again. Father will say to me: ‘Get the plough and break up the five-acre
field for corn,’ and me, maybe a veteran of a dozen pitched battles in
every one of which anywhere from one hundred thousand to two hundred
thousand men have been engaged, not to mention fifty or a hundred
smaller battles and four or five hundred skirmishes.

“When the flies begin to buzz around me I’ll think they make a mighty
poor noise compared with the roar of three or four hundred big cannon
and a hundred thousand rifles that I’ve listened to so often. If a
yellow jacket should sting me, I’d say what a little thing it is,
compared with the piece of shrapnel that hit me at some battle not yet
fought. Maybe I’d find things so quiet I just couldn’t stand it. Wars
are mighty unsettling.”

“I’m thinking,” said Dick, “that before this war is over all of us will
get enough of it to last a lifetime. We’ve got the edge on ‘em now,
since Vicksburg and Gettysburg, but the Graybacks are not yet beaten by
a long shot. We’ve heard how Lee drew off from Gettysburg carrying all
his guns and supplies, and even with Gettysburg we haven’t been doing so
well in the East as we have in the West. You know that, Ohio?”

“Of course, I do. But I think the Johnnies have made their high-water
mark. Great work our army did down there at Vicksburg, and we’ll have
the chance to do just as well against Bragg. We’ll defeat him, of
course. Now, Mason, notice that light flickering on the mountain up
there!”

He pointed to the crest of a ridge two or three miles away, where Dick
saw a point of flame appearing and reappearing, and answered by another
point farther down, which flickered in the same manner.

“Signals of some kind, I suppose,” replied Dick, “but I don’t know who
makes them or what they mean.”

“I don’t know what they mean, either,” said Ohio; “but I can guess
pretty well who’s making them. That’s Slade.”

“Slade!” said Dick.

“Yes, you seem to have heard of him?”

“So I have, and I’ve seen him, also. I heard, too, that he was up here
making things unhappy for our side. He was in Vicksburg, although you
may not have heard of him there, but he got out before the surrender. A
cunning fellow. A sort of land pirate.”

“He’s all of that. Since we’ve been coming through the mountains he and
his band have picked off a lot of our men. Those signals must mean that
they’re preparing for another raid. I shouldn’t like to be a half-mile
from our lines to-night.”

“Why can’t we smoke him out, Ohio?”

“Because when we’re half way up the slope he and his men are gone on the
other side. Besides, they can rake us with bullets from ambush, while
we’re climbing up the ridge. And when we get there, they’re gone. It’s
these mountains that give the irregulars their chance. See, two lights
are winking at each other now!”

“How far apart would you say they are, Ohio?”

“A mile, maybe, but one is much higher than the other up the mountain.
The lower light, doubtless, is signaling information about us to the
higher. I see your colonel and our colonel talking together. Maybe we’re
going to set a trap. It would be a good thing if we could clean out
those fellows.”

“I’m thinking that your guess is a good one,” said Dick, as he rose to
his feet, “because Colonel Winchester is beckoning to me now.”

“And there’s a call for me, too,” said Ohio, rising. “Talk of a thing
and it happens. We’re surely going for those lights.”

They had reckoned right. General Thomas, when he saw the signals,
had summoned some of his best officers and they had talked together
earnestly. The general had not said much before, but the incessant
sharpshooting from the bushes and slopes as they marched southward had
caused him intense annoyance, and, if continued, he knew that it would
hurt the spirit of the troops.

“We shall try to trap Slade’s band to-night,” said Colonel Winchester to
Dick and the other young officers who gathered around him. “We think he
has three or four hundred men and my regiment can deal with that number.
We will defile to the right without noise and make our way up the
mountain. An Ohio regiment, which can also deal with Slade if it catches
him, will defile to the left. Maybe we can trap these irregulars between
us. Sergeant Whitley will guide my force.”

The sergeant stepped forward, proud of the honor and trust. Dick,
looking at him in the moonlight, said to himself for the hundredth time
that he was a magnificent specimen of American manhood, thick, powerful,
intelligent, respectful to his superior officers, who often knew less
than he did, a veteran from whom woods, hills, and plains hid few
secrets. He thought it a good thing that the sergeant was to be their
guide, because he would lead them into no ambush.

As Dick turned away for departure Ohio said to him:

“We’ll meet on the mountain side, and I hope we’ll catch our game, but
don’t you fellows fire into us in the dark.”

Dick promised and his regiment marched away toward the slope. All were
on foot, of course, and they had received strict instructions to make no
noise. They turned northward, left the camp behind them, and were soon
hidden in the dark.

Dick was at the head of the column with Colonel Winchester and the
sergeant. Warner and Pennington were further back. The darkness was
heavy in the shadow of the slope and among the bushes, but, looking
backward, Dick clearly saw the camp of General Thomas with its thousands
of men and dozens of fires. Figures passed and repassed before the
flames, and the fused noises of a great camp came from the valley.

Dick took only a glance or two. His whole attention now was for the
sergeant, who was looking here and there and sniffing the air, like a
great hound seeking the trail. The soldier had melted into the scout,
and Colonel Winchester, knowing him so well, had, in effect, turned the
regiment over to him.

Dick and other young officers were sent back through the column to see
that they marched without noise. It was not difficult to enforce the
orders, as the men were filled with the ardor of the hunt, and would do
everything to insure its success. When Dick came back to the head of the
column he merely heard the tread of feet and the rustling of uniforms
against the bushes behind them.

The sergeant led on with unerring skill and instinct. They were rising
fast on the slope, and the great forest received and hid them as if they
were its wild children returned to their home. The foliage was so dense
that Dick caught only flitting glimpses of the camp below, although many
fires were yet burning there.

The wisdom of putting the regiment into the hands of the sergeant
was now shown. Rising to the trust, he called up all his reserves of
wilderness lore. He listened attentively to the voice of every night
bird, because it might not be real, but instead the imitation call of
man to man. He searched in every opening under the moonlight for traces
of footsteps, which he alone could have seen, and, when at last he found
them, Dick, despite the dusk, saw his figure expand and his eyes flash.
He had been kneeling down examining the imprints and when he arose the
colonel asked:

“What is it, Whitley?”

“Men have passed here, sir, and, as they couldn’t have been ours, they
were the enemy. The tracks lead south on the slope, and they must have
been going that way to join Slade’s command.”

“Then you think, Sergeant, we should follow this trail?”

“Undoubtedly, sir, but we must look out for an ambush. These men know
the mountains thoroughly, and if we were to walk into their trap they
might cut us to pieces.”

“Then we won’t walk into it. Lead on, Sergeant. If the enemy is near, I
know that you will find him in time.”

The sergeant’s brown face flushed with pride, but he followed on the
trail without a word and behind him came the whole regiment, implicit
in its trust, and winding without noise like a great coiling serpent
through the forest.

Dick was a woodsman himself, and he kept close to the sergeant, watching
his methods, and seeking also what he could find. While they lost the
trail now and then, he saw the sergeant recover it in the openings. He
noted, too, that it was increasing in size. Little trails were flowing
into the big one like brooks into a river, and the main course was
uniformly south, but bearing slightly upward on the slope.

The sergeant stopped at the melancholy cry of an owl, apparently three
or four hundred yards ahead. Both he and Dick raised their heads and
listened for the answer, which they felt sure was ready. The long,
sinister hoot in reply came from a point considerably farther away, but
at about the same height on the slope.

“They have two forces, sir,” said the sergeant to Colonel Winchester,
“and I think they’re about to unite.”

“As a wilderness fighter, what would you suggest, Sergeant?”

“To wait here a little and lie hidden in the brush. We’re rightly afraid
of an ambush if we go on, then why not make the same danger theirs? I
think it likely that the other force is coming this way. Anyway, we can
tell in a minute or two, ‘cause them owls are sure to hoot again. If I’m
right, we can catch ‘em napping.”

“An excellent idea, Sergeant. Ah! there are the signals you predicted!”

The owl hooted again from the same point directly in front, and then
came the reply of the other, now nearer. The sergeant drew a deep breath
of satisfaction.

“Yes, sir, I was right,” he said. “Their meeting place is straight in
front. Will you let me slip forward a little through the brush and see?”

“Go ahead, Sergeant. We need all the information we can get, but don’t
walk into any trap yourself, leaving us here without eyes or ears.”

“Never fear, sir. I won’t be caught.”

Then he disappeared with a suddenness that made the colonel and Dick
gasp. He was with them, and then he was not. But he returned in ten
minutes, and, although Dick could not see it in his face, he was
triumphant.

“There’s a glade not more’n four hundred yards ahead,” he whispered to
the colonel, “and about a hundred and fifty men, armed with long rifles,
are lying down in it waiting for a second force, which I judge from the
cry of the owl will be there inside of five minutes.”

“Then,” said Colonel Winchester, breathing fast, “we’ll wait ten minutes
and attack. It would be a great stroke to wipe out Slade’s band. I’m
sorry for those Ohio fellows, but the luck’s ours to-night, or I should
say that the sergeant’s skill as a trailer has given us the chance.”

It was soon known along the black, winding line that the enemy was at
hand, and the men were eager to attack, but they were ordered to have
patience for a little while. Their leader wished to destroy Slade’s
whole force at one stroke.

Colonel Winchester took out his watch and held it before him in the
faint moonlight. He would not move until the ten minutes exactly had
passed. Then he closed the watch and gave the signal, but stationed
officers along the line to see that the men made as little noise as
possible. The long black column moved again through the forest and Dick,
full of excitement was at its head with the colonel and the sergeant.

They reached a slope, crept up it, and then spread out, as they knew
that the valley and the enemy were within rifle shot. Dick, glancing
through the bushes, saw the glitter of steel and caught the murmur of
voices. He knew that their presence was not yet suspected, and he did
not like the idea of firing from ambush upon anybody, but there was no
occasion for testing his scruples, as the advance of so many men created
noise sufficient to reach the alert ears in the glade.

“Up, men! The enemy!” he heard a voice shout. Colonel Winchester at the
same moment ordered his men to fire and charge with the bayonet.

A terrible volley was poured into the valley, and it seemed to Dick that
half of Slade’s force went down, but as they rushed forward to finish
the task they met a fire that caused many of the Union soldiers to drop.
Slade was evidently a man of ability. Dick saw him springing about and
blowing a little silver whistle, which he knew was a call to rally.

But the surprise was too sudden and great. The irregulars, fighting
hard, were driven out of the valley and into the woods on the upper side
of the glade. Sheltered in the underbrush, they might have made a
good defense there, but a sudden tremendous cheer arose, and they were
charged in the flank by the Ohio regiment, coming up on the run.

Spurred by emulation the Winchester men also rushed into the underbrush,
and those of Slade’s men who had not fallen quickly threw down their
arms. But they did not catch the leader, nor did they know what had
become of him, until Dick caught sight of a little, weazened figure
under an enormous wide-brimmed hat running with three or four others
along the mountain-side.

“Slade! Slade!” he cried, pointing, and instantly a score, Dick and the
sergeant among them, were hotfoot after the fugitives. Several shots
were fired, but none hit, and the chase lengthened out.

Sergeant Whitley exclaimed to Dick:

“We catch the pack, but if we don’t catch the leader there’ll be another
pack soon.”

“Right you are! We must have that little man under the big hat!”

Dick heard panting breaths, and Warner and Pennington drew up by his
side.

“Slade’s about to escape!” exclaimed Dick. “We must get him!”

“I’m running my best,” said Warner. “Look out!” Slade suddenly faced
about and fired a heavy pistol. Dick had dropped down at Warner’s
warning cry and the bullet sang over his head. The sergeant fired in
return, but the light was too faint, and Slade and the three who were
with him ran on unharmed.

The pursuit, conducted with such vigor, soon led to the top of the
mountain, and they began the descent of the far side. Several more shots
were fired, but they did no damage, and neither side was able to gain.
Two of the fugitives turned aside into the woods, but the pursuit kept
straight after Slade, and his remaining companion, a slender, youthful
figure.

“I think we’ll get ‘em,” panted the sergeant. As he spoke one of the
little mountain rivers so numerous in that region came into view. It was
narrow, but deep, and without hesitating an instant the fugitives sprang
into it and shot down the stream, swimming with all their strength, and
helped by the powerful current.

Slade was in advance, and he was already disappearing in the shadows on
the far bank, but his comrade, he of the slender figure, was still in
the moonlight, which fell across his face for a moment. A soldier raised
his rifle to fire, but Dick stumbled and fell against him and the bullet
went high in the air.

The moment had been long enough for Dick to recognize Victor Woodville.
He did not know how he happened to be with Slade, but he did not intend
that he should be shot there in the water, and his impulse was quick
enough to save Victor’s life. In another moment the young Mississippian
was gone also in the shadows, and although several of the Union men swam
the river they could discover no trace of either.

“I’m sorry,” said the sergeant as they walked back to the other side of
the mountain, “that they got away.”

“Yes,” said Dick, “it was too bad that Slade escaped.”



CHAPTER XIII. THE RIVER OF DEATH


Dick knew that he had saved young Woodville’s life, but his conscience
was quite dear. If he had the same chance he would do it over again, but
he was sorry they had not caught Slade. He felt no hostility toward the
regular soldiers of the Confederacy, but he knew there were guerillas on
their side, as well as his own, who would stop at nothing. He remembered
Skelly, who, claiming to be a Union partisan, nevertheless robbed and
even killed those of either party whenever he felt it safe to do so.
Slade was his Southern complement, and he would surely get together a
new force as venomous as the old.

But Colonel Winchester and the commander of the Ohio regiment were full
of pride in their exploit, as they had a right to be. They had destroyed
a swarm of wasps which had been buzzing and stinging almost beyond
endurance, and they were still prouder when they received the thanks of
General Thomas.

The corps moved forward the next day, and soon the whole army was united
under Rosecrans. It was a powerful force, about ninety thousand men, the
staunch fighters of the West, veterans of great battles and victories,
and to the young officers it appeared invincible. Their feeling that it
was marching to another triumph was confirmed by the news that Bragg was
retreating.

Yet the two armies were so close to each other that the Northern
vanguard skirmished with the Southern rearguard as they passed through
the mountains. At one point in a gap of the Cumberland Mountains the
Southerners made a sharp resistance, but they were quickly driven from
their position and the Union mass rolled slowly on. Exultation among the
troops increased.

“We’ll drive Bragg away down into the South against Grant,” said Ohio to
Dick, “and we’ll crush him between the two arms of the vise. That will
finish everything in the West.”

While Dick was exultant, too, he had certain reservations. He had seen
a like confidence carried to disaster in the East, although it did not
seem possible that the result here could be similar.

“I don’t think they’ll keep on retreating forever, Ohio,” he said. “All
our supplies are coming from Nashville, and we are getting farther away
from our base every day.”

But Ohio laughed.

“Our chief task is to catch Bragg,” he said. “They said he was going
to occupy Chattanooga and wait for us. He’s been in Chattanooga, but he
didn’t wait for us there. He’s left it already and gone on, anxious to
reach the Gulf before winter, I suppose.”

The Union army in its turn entered Chattanooga, a little town of which
Dick had seldom heard before, although he greatly admired its situation.
The country about it was bold and romantic. It stood in a sharp curve
of the great river, the Tennessee. Not far away was the lofty uplift of
Lookout Mountain, a half-mile high, and there were long ridges between
which creeks or little rivers flowed down to the Tennessee.

One of these streams was the Chickamauga, which in the language of the
Cherokee Indians who had once owned this region means “the river of
death.” Why they called it so no one knew, but the name was soon to have
a terrible fitness. Chattanooga itself meant in the Cherokee tongue “the
hawk’s nest,” and anybody could see the aptness of the term.

While Lookout Mountain was the loftiest summit, some of the other ridges
rose almost as high, through the gaps of which the Northern army must
pass if it continued the pursuit of Bragg.

September had now come and the winds were growing crisper in the high
country. The feel of autumn was in the air, and the coolness made the
marching brisker. The division to which Dick belonged was advancing
slowly. He often saw Thomas, and his admiration for the grave, silent
man grew. It was said that Thomas was slow, but that he never made
mistakes. Now the rumor was spreading that he had warned Rosecrans to be
cautious, that Bragg had a powerful army and when he reached favorable
positions, would certainly turn and fight.

Not many were impressed by these reports. They merely said it was “Pap”
 Thomas’ way of looking at the dark side of things first. Hadn’t they
driven Bragg through the Cumberland Mountains and out of Chattanooga,
and now they would soon be on his heels deep down in Georgia. But Dick,
noticing Colonel Winchester’s serious face, surmised that he at least
shared the opinion of his chief. And when the lad looked up at the great
coils and ridges he felt that, in truth, they might go too far. If the
Northern men were veterans, so were the Southern, and neither had taken
much change of the other at Shiloh, Perryville and Stone River.

The Winchester regiment was thrown forward as the vanguard of the
infantry, and the face of the colonel grew more serious than ever, when
the best scouts rode in with reports that the Southern retreat was now
very slow. There was news, too, that Slade had a new band much larger
than before, and they formed a rear guard of skirmishers which made
every moment of a Northern scout’s life a moment of danger. The
Winchester regiment itself was often fired upon from ambush, and there
were vacant places in the ranks.

Dick did not know whether it was his own intuition or the influence that
flowed from the opinions of Thomas and Winchester, but much of his high
exultation was abated. He regarded the lofty ridges and the deep gaps
with apprehension. It was a difficult country and the Southern leaders
must know that the Northern army was extended over a long line, with
Thomas holding the left.

His premonitions had ample cause. Bragg as he fell back slowly had
gathered new forces. Rosecrans did not yet know it, but the army before
him was the most powerful that the South ever assembled in the West.
Polk and Cleburne and Breckinridge and Forrest and Fighting Joe Wheeler
and a whole long roll of famous Southern generals were there. Nor had
the vigilant eyes of the Confederacy in the East failed to note the
situation.

Just as the armies were coming into touch a division of the Army of
Northern Virginia was passing by train over the mountains. It was led
by a thick-bearded, powerful man, no less a general than the renowned
Longstreet, sent to help Bragg. The veterans of the Army of Northern
Virginia would swell Bragg’s ranks, and the great army, turning a
sanguine face northward, was eager for Rosecrans to come on. The
Southern force would number more than ninety thousand men, more numerous
than ever before or afterward in the West.

It was now late in September, the eve of the eighteenth, and Dick
and his comrades lay near the little creek with the rhythmical name,
Chickamauga. It was the very night that a portion of the Army of
Northern Virginia had arrived in Bragg’s camp. The preceding days had
been full of detached fighting, and the night had come heavy with omens
and presages. The least intelligent knew now that Bragg had stopped, but
they did not know that Longstreet was to be with him.

Dick and his comrades sat by a smothered fire, and the vast tangle of
mountains and passes, of valleys and streams looked sinister to them.
There had been skirmishing throughout the day, and as the darkness
closed down they still heard occasional rifle shots on the slopes and
ridges.

“Don’t these mountains make you think of your native Vermont, George?”
 asked Dick.

“In a way, yes,” replied Warner, “but my hills are not bristling with
steel as these are.”

“No, you New Englanders are fortunate. The war will never be carried on
on your soil. You shed your blood, but, after all, the states that are
trodden under foot by the armies suffer most.”

“There are lights winking on the mountains again,” said Pennington.

“Let ‘em wink,” said Dick. “Their signals can’t amount to much now. We
know that Bragg is before us, and a great battle can’t be delayed long.
Fellows, I’m not so sure about the result.”

“Come! Come, Dick!” said Warner. “It’s not often you’re downhearted.
What’s struck you?”

“Nothing, George, but, between you and me and the gate post, I wish that
our old ‘Pap’ Thomas commanded all the army, instead of the left merely.
I’ve learned a few things to-day. The enemy is spreading out, trying to
enfold us on both wings.”

“What of it?”

“It means that they are sanguine of victory, and they want to stand
between us and Chattanooga, so they can cut off our retreat, after we’re
beaten, as they think we surely will be. But their main force is not
far from us now, so a scout told me. It’s massed heavily along the right
bank of the Chickamauga.”

“And if there’s a battle to-morrow we’re likely to receive the first
attack?”

“Could it come any better than at the place where Thomas stands?”

They sat long by the fire and Dick could not rest. Shiloh, his capture,
and his knowledge of the secret Southern advance, of which he could give
no warning, came back to him with uncommon vividness. He knew that
no such surprise could occur here, but they seemed to be lost in the
wilderness. The mountains and forests oppressed him.

“Well, Dick,” said Warner, “we’re posted strongly. We’ve rows of
sentinels as thick as hedges, and I’ve the colonel’s permission to go to
sleep. I’ll be slumbering in ten minutes, and I’d advise you to do the
same.”

He lay on a blanket and soon slept. Pennington followed him to
slumberland, but Dick lingered. He saw lights still flashing on the
mountains, and he heard now and then reports from the rifles of the
skirmishers, who yet sought each other despite the darkness. But he
yielded at last and he, too, slept until the dawn, which should bring
nearly two hundred thousand men face to face in mortal combat.

Dick was awake early. The September morning came, crisp and clear, the
sun showing red gleams over the mountains. He heard already the sound of
distant rifle shots in front, and, through his glasses, he saw far away
faint puffs of smoke. But it was a familiar sound in this mighty war,
and he found himself singularly calm. He never knew how he was going to
feel on the eve of battle. Sometimes the constriction at his heart was
painful, and sometimes its beat was smooth and regular.

All the officers of the Winchester regiment were dismounted owing to the
rough nature of the country in which they were stationed. They held the
most uneven part of the center, where thickets and ravines were many.
Hot food and coffee were served to them, and new warmth and courage
flowed through their bodies.

The distant fire increased, and, standing on a hillock, Dick looked
long through his glasses. A faint haze which had hung in the south was
clearing away. The rays of the sun were intensely bright. The brown
of autumn glowed like gold, and the red splashes here and there burned
scarlet. He saw pink dots appearing on a long line and he knew that the
skirmishers were active and wary.

“There can be no doubt of the advance!” he said to Warner. “A strong
body of our cavalry disclosed their forward movement, and there are
the skirmishers signaling that Bragg is near. Wonderful fellows, those
sharpshooters! They’re the eyes of the army. We stand in mass and fight
together, but every one of them individually takes his life in his own
hands. The firing is coming nearer. I think we’ll be attacked first.”

After a little pause Warner said:

“I’m sorry our line is extended so much. What if they should cut through
and get behind us?”

“They’ll never do it while General Thomas is here. I believe they called
him ‘Old Slow Top’ at West Point, but if he’s slow in advance he’s still
slower in retreat. I’d rather have him commanding us just now than any
other general in the world.”

“I think you’re right, and here he comes! Listen to the cheering!”

General Thomas rode slowly along his line, inspecting the position
of every regiment and making some changes. He showed no trace of
excitement. The face was calm and the heavy jaw was set firmly. If Grant
was a bulldog Thomas was another. The men knew him. They had seen him
stand like a rock before, and the thrill of confidence and courage which
help so much to win ran through them all.

Dick saw the general speak to Colonel Winchester and then ride on and
out of sight. All the men in the regiment were lying down, but the
officers walked back and forth in front of the line. It was the especial
pride of the younger ones to appear unconcerned, and some were able to
make a brave pretense.

But all the while the battle was rolling nearer. It was no longer an
affair of scouting parties. The skirmishers were driven in on either
side and the mighty Southern advance was coming forward in full battle
array. Shells began to shriek and fall among the Northern masses, and
the fire of cannon and rifles mingled in a sinister crash. But the Union
regiments, although not yet replying, remained steady, although the
shower of steel that was beginning to beat upon them found many a mark.
Vast columns of smoke pierced by fire rose in front.

It seemed to Dick’s vivid fancy that the earth was shaking with the
tread of the advancing brigades and the thunder of their artillery.
But he was still able to preserve his air of indifference, although his
heart was now beating hard and fast. Now and then when the smoke eddied
or the banks of it broke apart he raised his glasses and with their
powerful vision saw the long and deep Southern columns advancing, the
field batteries in the intervals pouring a storm of death.

It was a sinister and terrible sight. The South presented here an army
outnumbering its force at Shiloh two to one, and they were veterans
now, led by veteran commanders. Moreover, they had Longstreet and his
matchless fighters from Lee’s army to bear them up.

“What do you see, Dick?” asked Pennington, his voice distinctly audible
through the steady roar.

“Johnnies! Johnnies! Johnnies! Thousands and thousands of them and then
many thousands more. They’re going to strike full upon us here!”

“Let ‘em come. We’re taking root, growing deep into the ground and old
‘Pap’ Thomas has grown deepest of us all! It’ll be impossible to move
us!”

“I hope so. There go our own cannon, too, and it’s a welcome sound!
I can see the gaps smashed in their ranks by our fire, and ah, I see,
too--”

He stopped short in amazed surprise, and Pennington in wonder asked:

“What is it you see, Dick?”

“There’s a heavy cavalry force on their flank, and I caught a glimpse
of a man on a great horse leading it. I know him. He’s Colonel George
Kenton, father of Harry Kenton, that cousin of mine, of whom I’ve spoken
to you so often.”

“And here he comes charging you! But it’s happened hundreds and hundreds
of times in this war that relatives have come face to face in battle,
and it’ll happen hundreds of times more. Are they within rifle shot,
Dick?”

“Not yet, but they soon will be.”

He slung the glasses back over his shoulder. The eye alone was
sufficient now to watch the charging columns. All the artillery on both
sides was coming into action, and the ripping crash of so many cannon
became so great that the officers could no longer hear one another
unless they shouted. The gorges and hills caught up the sound and gave
it back in increased volume.

Dick heard a new note in the thunder. It was made by the swift beat
of hoofs, thousands of them, and the hair on his neck prickled at the
roots. Forrest and the wild cavalry of the South were charging on their
flanks. He felt a sudden horror lest he be trampled under the hoofs of
horses. By some curious twist of the mind his dread of such a fate was
far more acute at that moment than his fear of shells and bullets.

Colonel Winchester, shouting imperiously, ordered him and all the
other young officers to step back now and lie down. Dick obeyed, and he
crouched by the side of Warner and Pennington. The great bank of
fire and smoke was rolling nearer and yet nearer, and the cannon were
fighting one another with all the speed and power of the gunners. Off on
the flank the ominous tread of Southern horsemen was coming fast.

Bullets began now to rain among them. The regiment would have been swept
away bodily had the men not been lying down. But their time to wait and
hold their fire was at an end. The colonel gave the word, and a sheet of
light leaped from the mouths of their rifles. A vast gap appeared in the
Southern line before them, but in a minute or two it closed up, and
the Southern masses came on again, as menacing as ever. Again Dick’s
regiment poured its shattering fire upon the Southern columns and their
front lines were blown away. Colonel Winchester at once wheeled his men
into a new position to meet the mass of Forrest’s cavalry rushing down
upon their flank. He was just in time to help other troops, not in
numbers enough to withstand the shock.

There were few moments in the lives of these lads as terrifying as those
when they turned to face the fierce Forrest, the uneducated mountaineer
who had intuitively mastered Napoleon’s chief maxim of war, to pour the
greatest force upon the enemy’s weakest point.

The hurricane sweeping down upon them sent a chill to their hearts. Dick
saw a long line of foaming mouths, the lips drawn back from the cruel
white teeth, and manes flying wildly. Above them rose the faces of the
riders, their own eyes bloodshot, their sabers held aloft for the deadly
sweep. And the thunder of galloping hoofs was more menacing than that of
the cannon.

Dick looked around him and saw faces turning pale. His own might be
whiter than any of theirs for all he knew, but he shouted with the other
officers:

“Steady! Steady! Now pour it into ‘em!”

It was well that most of the men in the regiment had become
sharpshooters, and that despite the thumping of their hearts, they were
able to stand firm. Their sleet of bullets emptied a hundred saddles,
and slipping in the cartridges they fired again at close range. The
cavalry charge seemed to stop dead in its tracks, and in an instant a
scene of terrible confusion occurred. Wounded horses screaming in pain
rushed wildly back upon their own comrades or through the ranks of the
foe. Injured men, shot from their saddles, were seeking to crawl out of
the way. Whirling eddies of smoke alternately hid and disclosed enemies,
and from both left and right came the continuous and deafening crash of
infantry in battle.

But Forrest’s men paused only a moment or two. A great mass of them
galloped out of the smoke, over the bodies of their dead comrades and
directly into the Winchester regiment, shouting and slashing with their
great sabers. It was well for the men that their leader had so wisely
chosen ground rough and covered with bushes. Using every inch of
protection, they fired at horses and riders and thrust at them with
their bayonets.

The battle became wild and confused, a turmoil of mingled horse and
foot, of firing and shouting and of glittering swords and bayonets. A
man on a huge horse made a great sweep at Dick’s head with a red saber.
The boy dropped to his knees, and felt the broad blade whistle where his
head had been.

The swordsman was borne on by the impetus of his horse, and Dick caught
one horrified glimpse of his face. It was Colonel Kenton, but Dick knew
that he did not know, nor did he ever know. It was never in the lad’s
heart to tell his uncle how near he had come unwittingly to shearing off
the head of his own nephew.

The charge of the cavalrymen carried them clear through the Winchester
regiment, but a regiment coming up to the relief drove them back, and
the great mass turning aside a little attacked anew and elsewhere. A
few moments of rest were permitted Dick and his comrades, although the
mighty battle wheeled and thundered all about them.

But their regiment was a melancholy sight. A third of its numbers were
killed or wounded. The ground was torn and trampled, as if it had been
swept by a hurricane of wind and red rain. Dick had one slight wound
on his shoulder and another on his arm, but he did not feel them.
Pennington and Warner both had scratches, but the colonel was unharmed.

“My God,” exclaimed Warner, “how did we happen to survive it!”

“I live to boast that I’ve been ridden over by old Forrest himself,”
 said Pennington.

“How do you know it was Forrest?”

“Because his horse was eight feet high and his sword was ten feet long.
He slashed at me with it a hundred times. I counted the strokes.”

Then Pennington stopped and laughed hysterically, Dick seized him by the
arm and shook him roughly.

“Stop it, Frank! Stop it!” he cried. “You’re yourself, and you’re all
right!”

Pennington shook his body, brushed his hands over his eyes and said:

“Thanks, Dick, old man; you’ve brought me back to myself.”

“Get ready!” exclaimed Warner. “The cavalry have sheered off, but the
infantry are coming, a million strong! I can hear their tread shaking
the earth!”

The broken regiment reloaded, drew its lines together and faced the
enemy anew. It seemed to their bloodshot eyes that the whole Southern
army was bearing down upon them. The Southern generals, skillful and
daring, were resolved to break through the Northern left, and the attack
attained all the violence of a convulsion.

The great Southern line, blazing with fire and steel, advanced, never
stopping for a moment, while the fire of their cannon beat incessantly
upon the devoted brigades. It was well for the Northern army, well for
the Union that here was the Rock of Chickamauga. Amid all the terrible
uproar and the yet more terrible danger, Thomas never lost his courage
and presence of mind for a moment. Dick saw him more than once, and he
knew how he doubly and triply earned the famous name which that day and
the next were to give him.

But the weight was so tremendous that they began to give ground. They
went back slowly, but they went back. Dick felt as if the whole weight
were pressing upon his own chest, and when he tried to shout no words
would come.

Back they went, inch by inch, leaving the ground covered with their
dead. Dick was conscious only of a vast roar and shouting and the
continuous blaze of cannon and rifles in his very face. But he
understood the immensity of the crisis. By a huge victory in the West
the Confederacy would redress the loss of Gettysburg in the East. And
now it seemed that they were gaining it. For the first and only time in
the war they had the larger numbers in a great battle, and the ground
was of their own choosing.

Elated over success gained and greater success hoped, the Southern
leaders poured their troops continually upon Thomas. If they could break
that wing, cut it off in fact, and rush in at the gap, they would be
between Rosecrans and Chattanooga and the Northern army would be doomed.
They made gigantic efforts. The cavalry charged again and again. Huge
masses of infantry hurled themselves upon the brigades of Thomas, and
every gun that could be brought into action poured shot and shell into
his lines.

Many of the young as well as the old officers in Thomas’ corps felt the
terrible nature of the crisis. Dick knew despite the hideous turmoil
that Thomas was the chief target of the Southern army. He divined that
the fortunes of the Union were swinging in the balance there among those
Tennessee hills and valleys. If Thomas were shattered the turn of Grant
farther south would come next. Vicksburg would have been won in vain and
the Union would be broken in the West.

Order and cohesion were lost among many of the regiments, but the men
stood firm. The superb, democratic soldier fought for himself and he,
too, understood the crisis. They re-formed without orders and fought
continuously against overwhelming might. Ground and guns were lost,
but they made their enemy pay high for everything, and the slow retreat
never became a panic.

“We’re going back,” shouted Warner in Dick’s ear. “Yes, we’re going
back, but we’ll come forward again. They’ll never crush the old man.”

Yet the pressure upon them never ceased. Bragg and his staff had the
right idea. Had anyone but Thomas stood before them they would have
shattered the Union left long since, but his slow, calm mind rose to its
greatest heights in the greatest danger. He understood everything and
he was resolved that his wing should not be broken. Wherever the line
seemed weakest he thrust in a veteran regiment, and he went quickly back
and forth, observing with a measuring eye every shift and change of the
battle.

The Winchester regiment in its new position was still among the gullies
and bushes, and they were thankful for such shelter. Although veterans
now, most were lads, and they did not scorn to take cover whenever they
could. For a little while they did not reply to the enemy’s fire, but
lay waiting and seeking to get back the breath which seemed to be driven
from their bodies by the very violence of the concussion. Shrapnel,
grape and canister whistled incessantly over their heads, and on either
flank the thunder of the battle swelled rapidly.

The Southern attack was spreading along the whole front, and it was made
with unexampled vigor. It even excelled the fiery rush at Stone River,
and the generals on both sides were largely the same that had fought the
earlier great battle. Polk, the bishop-general, still led one wing for
the South, Buckner massed Kentuckians who faced Kentuckians on the other
side, and Longstreet and Hill were to play their great part for the
South. Resolved to win a victory, the veteran generals spared nothing,
and the little Chickamauga, so singularly named by the Indians “the
river of death,” was running red.

Dick crouched lower as the storm of shells swept over him. Despite all
his experience impulse made him bow his head while the whistling death
passed by. He felt a little shame that he, an officer, should seek
protection, but when he stole a look he saw that all the others, Colonel
Winchester included, were doing the same. Sergeant Whitley had sunk down
the lowest of them all, and, catching Dick’s glance, he said in clear,
low tones audible under the storm:

“Pardon me for saying it to you, an officer, Mr. Mason, but it’s
our business not to get killed when it’s not needed, so we can save
ourselves to be killed when it is needed.”

“I suppose you’re right, Sergeant. At any rate I’m glad enough to keep
under cover, but do you see anything in those woods over there? We’re on
the extreme left flank here, and maybe they’re trying to overlap us.”

“I think I do. Men with rifles are in there. I’ll speak to the colonel.”

He crawled to Colonel Winchester, who was crouched a dozen feet away,
and pointed to the wood, or rather thicket of scrub. But Dick meanwhile
saw increasing numbers of men there. They were beyond the line of battle
and were not obscured by the clouds of smoke. As he stared he saw a
weazened figure under an enormous, broad-brimmed hat, and, although he
could not discern the face at the distance, he knew that it was Slade,
come with a new and perhaps larger body of riflemen to burn away the
extreme left flank of the Union force.

As the colonel and the sergeant crawled back Dick told them what he had
seen, and they recognized at once the imminence of the danger. Colonel
Winchester looked at the great columns of fire and smoke in front of
him. He did not know when the main attack would sweep down upon them
again, but he took his resolution at once.

He ordered his men to wheel about, and, using Slade’s own tactics, to
creep forward with their rifles. Most of his men were sharpshooters and
he felt that they would be a match for those whom the guerrilla led.
Sergeant Whitley kept by his side, and out of a vast experience in
border warfare advised him.

Dick, Warner and Pennington armed themselves with rifles of the fallen,
and they felt fierce thrills of joy as they crept forward. Burning with
the battle fever, and enraged against this man Slade, Dick put all his
soul in the man-hunt. He merely hoped that Victor Woodville was not
there. He would fire willingly at any of the rest.

Before they had gone far Slade and his riflemen began to fire. Bullets
pattered all about them, clipping twigs and leaves and striking sparks
from stones.

Had the fire been unexpected it would have done deadly damage, but all
of the Winchesters, as they liked to call themselves, had kept under
cover, and were advancing Indian fashion. And now a consuming rage
seized them all. They felt as if an advantage had been taken of them.
While they were fighting a great battle in front a sly foe sought to
ambush them. They did not hate the Southern army which charged directly
upon them, but they did hate this band of sharpshooters which had
come creeping through the woods to pick them off, and they hated them
collectively and individually.

It was Dick’s single and fierce desire at that moment to catch sight
of Slade, whom he would shoot without hesitation if the chance came.
He looked for him continually as he crept from bush to bush, and he
withheld his fire until fortune might bring into his view the flaps of
that enormous hat. The whole vast battle of Chickamauga passed from his
mind. He was concentrated, heart and soul, upon this affair of outposts
in the thickets.

Men around him were firing, and the bullets in return were knocking up
the leaves about him, but Dick’s finger did not yet press the trigger.
The great hat was still hidden from view, but he heard Slade’s whistle
calling to his men. Sergeant Whitley was by the lad’s side, and he
glanced at him now and then. The wise sergeant read the youth’s face,
and he knew that he was upon a quest, a deadly one.

“Is it Slade you’re looking for, Mr. Mason?” he asked.

“Yes, I want him!”

“Well, if we see him, and you miss him, I think I’ll take a shot at him
myself.”

But Slade, crafty and cunning, kept himself well hidden. The two bands
fighting this Indian combat, while the great battle raged so near them,
were now very near to each other, but as they had both thickets and a
rocky outcrop for refuge, they fought from hiding. Nevertheless many
fell. Dick, the ferocity of the man-hunt continuing to burn his brain,
sought everywhere for Slade. Often he heard his silver whistle directing
his troop, but the man himself remained invisible. In his eagerness the
lad rose too high, but the sergeant pulled him down in time, a bullet
whistling a second later through the air where his head had been.

“Careful, Mr. Mason! Careful!” said Sergeant Whitley. “It won’t do you
much good for one of his men to get you while you are trying to get
him!”

Dick became more cautious. At last he caught a glimpse of the great hat
that he could not mistake, and, aiming very carefully, he fired. Then he
uttered an angry cry. He had missed, and when the sergeant was ready to
pull the trigger also Slade was gone.

Now, the colonel called to his men, and rising they charged into the
wood. It was evidently no part of Slade’s plan to risk destruction as he
blew a long high call on his whistle, and then he and all his men save
the dead melted away like shadows. The Winchesters stood among the
trees, gasping and staunching their wounds, but victorious.

Now they had only a few moments for rest. Bugles called and they rushed
back to their old position just as the Southern cavalry, sabers circling
aloft swept down upon them again. They went once more through that
terrible turmoil of fire and flashing steel, and a second time the
Winchesters were victorious. But they could have stood no more, and
Thomas watching everything hurried to their relief a regiment, which
formed up before them to give them breathing time.

The young soldiers threw themselves panting upon the ground, and were
assailed by a burning thirst. The canteens were soon emptied, and still
their lips and throats were parched. Exhausted by their tremendous
exertions, many of them sank into a stupor, although the battle was at
its zenith and the earth shook with the crash of the heavy batteries.

“General Thomas has had news that we’re driven in elsewhere,” said Dick.

“And we’ve yielded ground here, too,” said Warner.

“But so slowly that it’s been only a glacial movement. We’ve made ‘em
pay such a high price that I think old ‘Pap’ can boast he has held his
ground.”

Dick did not know it then nor did the general himself, but ‘Pap’ Thomas
could boast of far more than having held his ground. His long and
stubborn resistance, his skill in moving his troops from point to point
at the right time, his coolness and judgment in weighing and measuring
everything right, in all the vast turmoil, confusion and uncertainty of
a great battle, had saved the Northern army from destruction.

Now, as the Winchester men lay gasping behind the fresh regiment,
Thomas, who continually passed along the line of battle, came among
them. He was a soldier’s soldier, a soldier’s general, and he spoke
encouraging words, most of which they could not hear amid the roar of
the battle, but his calm face told their import, and fresh courage came
into their hearts.

The news spread gradually that Thomas only was holding fast, but now his
men instead of being discouraged were filled with pride. It was they and
they alone whom the Southerners could not overwhelm, and Thomas and his
generals inspired them with the belief that they were invincible. Charge
after charge broke against them. More ground was yielded, but at the
same immense price, and the corps, sullen, indomitable, maintained its
order, always presenting a front to the foe, blazing with death.

Thomas stood all day, while the Southern masses, flushed by victory
everywhere else, pressed harder. Terrible reports of defeat and
destruction came to him continually, but he did not flinch. He turned
the same calm face to everything, and said to the generals that whatever
happened they would keep their own front unbroken.

The day closed with the men of Thomas still grim and defiant. The dead
lay in heaps along their front, but as the darkness settled down on the
unfinished battle they meant to fight with equal valor and tenacity on
the morrow. The first day had favored the South, had favored it largely,
but on the Union left hope still flamed high.

Darkness swept over the sanguinary field. A cold wind of autumn blew off
the hills and mountains, and the men shivered as they lay on the ground,
but Thomas allowed no fires to be lighted. Food was brought in the
darkness, and those who could find them wrapped themselves in blankets.
Between the two armies lay the hecatombs of dead and the thousands of
wounded.

Dick, his comrades and the rest of the regiment sat together in a
little open space behind a thicket. It was to be their position for
the fighting next day. Thomas, passing by, had merely given them an
approving look, and then had gone on to re-form his lines elsewhere.
Dick knew that all through the night he would be conferring with his
commander, Rosecrans, McCook and the others, and he knew, too, that
many of the Union soldiers would be at work, fortifying, throwing up
earthworks, and cutting down trees for abattis. He heard already the
ring of the axes.

But the Winchester men rested for the present. Nature had made their own
position strong with a low hill, and a thicket in front. They lay upon
the ground, sheltering themselves from the cold wind, which cut through
bodies relaxed and almost bloodless after such vast physical exertions
and excitement so tremendous.



CHAPTER XIV. THE ROCK OF CHICKAMAUGA


Dick, after eating the cold food which was served to him, sank into a
state which was neither sleep nor stupor. It was a mystic region between
the conscious and the unconscious, in which all things were out of
proportion, and some abnormal.

He saw before him a vast stretch of dead blackness which he knew
nevertheless was peopled by armed hosts ready to spring upon them at
dawn. The darkness and silence were more oppressive than sound and
light, even made by foes, would have been. It numbed him to think there
was so little of stirring life, where nearly two hundred thousand men
had fought.

Then a voice arose that made him shiver. But it was only the cold wind
from the mountains whistling a dirge. Nevertheless it seemed human to
Dick. It was at once a lament and a rebuke. He edged over a little and
touched Warner.

“Is that you, Dick?” asked the Vermonter.

“What’s left of me. I’ve one or two wounds, mere scratches, George, but
I feel all pumped out. I’m like one of those empty wine-skins that you
read about, empty, all dried up, and ready to be thrown away.”

“Something of the same feeling myself, Dick. I’m empty and dried up,
too, but I’m not ready to be thrown away. Nor are you. We’ll fill up in
the night. Our hearts will pump all our veins full of blood again,
and we’ll be ready to go out in the morning, and try once more to get
killed.”

“I don’t see how you and Pennington and I, all three of us, came out of
it alive to-day.”

“That question is bothering me, too, Dick. A million bullets were fired
at each of us, not to count thousands of pieces of shell, shrapnel,
canister, grape, and slashes of swords. Take any ratio of percentage
you please and something should have got us. According to every rule of
algebra, not more than one of us three should be alive now. Yet here we
are.”

“Maybe your algebra is wrong?”

“Impossible. Algebra is the most exact of all sciences. It does not
admit of error. Both by algebra and by the immutable law of averages at
least two of us are dead.”

“But we don’t know which two.”

“That’s true. Nevertheless it’s certain that those two, whoever they may
be, are here on borrowed time. What do your wounds amount to, Dick?”

“Nothing, I had forgotten ‘em. I’ve lost a little blood, but what does
it amount to on a day like this, when blood is shed in rivers?”

“That’s true. My own skin has been broken, but just barely, four times
by bullets. I’ve a notion that those bullets were coming straight for
some vital part of me, but seeing who it was, and knowing that such a
noble character ought not to be slain, they turned aside as quickly as
possible, but not so quickly that they could avoid grazing my skin.”

Dick and Pennington laughed. Warner’s fooling amused them and relieved
the painful tension of their minds.

“But, George,” said Pennington, “suppose one of the bullets failed to
turn aside and killed you. What could we say then for you?”

“That it was a silly, ignorant bullet not knowing whence it came, or
where it was going. Ah, there’s light in the darkness! Look across the
hill and see that shining flame!”

Dick rose and then the three walked to the brow of the hill, where
Colonel Winchester stood, using his glasses as well as he could in the
dusk.

“It’s the pine forest on fire in places,” he said. “The shells did it,
and it’s been burning for some time, spreading until it has now come
into our own sight.”

But they were detached fires, and they did not fuse into a general mass
at any time. Clumps of trees burnt steadily like vast torches and sent
up high flames. Bands of men from either side worked silently, removing
as many of the wounded as they could. It was a spontaneous movement, as
happened so often in this war, and Dick and his comrades took a part in
it.

North and South met in friendliness in the darkness or by the light of
the burning pines, and talked freely as they lifted up their wounded.
Dick asked often about Colonel Kenton, meeting at last some Kentuckians,
who told him that the colonel had gone through the day without a wound,
and was with Buckner. Then Dick asked if any Mississippians were along
the line.

“What do you want with ‘em?” asked a long, lank man with a bilious
yellow face.

“I’ve got a friend among ‘em. Woodville is his name, and he’s about my
own age.”

“I’ve heard of the Woodvilles. Big an’ rich family in Missip. ‘Roun’
Vicksburg and Jackson mostly. I’m from the Yazoo valley myself, an’ if
I hear of the young fellow I’ll send him down this way. But I can’t stay
out long, ‘cause it’ll soon be time for me to have my chill. Comes every
other night reg’lar. But I’ll be all right for battle to-morrow, when
we lick you Yankees out of the other boot, having licked you out of one
to-day.”

“All right, old Yazoo,” laughed Dick. “Go on and have your chill, but if
you see Woodville tell him Mason is waiting down here by the wood.”

“I’ll shorely do it, if the chill don’t git me fust,” said the yellow
Mississippian as he strolled away, and Dick knew that he would keep his
word.

The lad lingered at the spot where he had met the man, hoping that by
some lucky chance Woodville might come, and fortune gave him his wish. A
slender figure emerged from the dark, and a voice called softly:

“Is that you, Mason?”

“Nobody else,” replied Dick gladly, stepping forward and offering his
hand, which young Woodville shook warmly. “I was hoping that I might
meet you, and I see, too, that you can’t be hurt much, if at all.”

“I haven’t been touched. It’s my lucky day, I suppose.”

“Where’s your uncle? I hope he’s in some safe place, recovering from his
wound.”

Victor Woodville laughed softly.

“Uncle Charles is recovering from his wound perhaps faster than you
hope,” he said, “but he’s not in a safe place. Far from it.”

“I don’t understand.”

“His wound is so much better that he can walk, though with a hop, and
he’s right here in the thick of this battle, leading his own Mississippi
regiment. His horse was killed under him early this morning, and he’s
fought all day on foot, swearing in the strange and melodious fashion
that you know. It’s hop! swear! hop! swear! in beautiful alternation!”

“Good old colonel!”

“That’s what he is, and he’s also one of the bravest men that ever
lived, if he is my uncle. His regiment did prodigies to-day and they’ll
do greater prodigies to-morrow. The Woodvilles are well represented
here. My father is present, leading his regiment, and there are a dozen
Woodville cousins of mine whom you’ve never met.”

“And I hope I won’t meet ‘em on this field. What about your aunt?”

“She’s well, and in a safe place.”

“I’m glad of that. Now, tell me, Victor, how did you happen to be
with Slade on that raid? Of course it’s no business of mine, but I was
surprised.”

“I don’t mind answering. I suppose it was a taste for adventure, and a
desire to serve our cause. After I got up the bank and climbed into the
bushes, I looked back, and I think, Mason, that you may have saved me
from a bullet. I don’t know, but I think so.”

Dick said nothing, but despite the dusk Woodville read the truth in his
eyes.

“I shan’t forget,” said the young Mississippian as he moved away.

Dick turned back to his own group. They had noticed him talking to
the lad in gray, but they paid no attention, nor thought it anything
unusual. It was common enough in the great battles of the American civil
war, most of which lasted more than one day, for the opposing soldiers
to become friendly in the nights between.

“I think, sir,” said Sergeant Whitley, “that we won’t be able to get any
more of our wounded to-night. Now, pardon me for saying it, Lieutenant,
but we ought to have some rest, because when day comes there’s going
to be the most awful attack you ever saw. Some of our spies say that
Longstreet and the last of the Virginians did not come until night or
nearly night and that Longstreet himself will lead the attack on us.”

“Do you think, Sergeant, that it will be made first on our own corps?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Mason. We’ve stood firmest, and them rebel generals
are no fools. They’ll crash in where we’ve shown the most weakness.”

The sergeant walked on, carrying the corner of a litter. Warner, who had
stood by, whispered to Dick:

“There goes a general, but he’ll never have the title. He’s got a
general’s head on his shoulders, and he thinks and talks like a general,
but he hasn’t any education, and men with much poorer brains go past
him. Let it be a lesson to you, Dick, my son. After this war, go to
school, and learn something.”

“Good advice, George, and I’ll take it,” laughed Dick. “But he isn’t so
badly off. I wonder if those fires in the pine forest are going to burn
all night?”

“Several of ‘em will. The big one on our left will be blazing when
day comes, and I’m glad of it since no wounded are now in its way. The
night’s cold. That’s a sharp and searching wind, and the sight of flames
makes one feel warm even if they are far away.”

It would not be long until day now, and the axes ceased to ring in the
forest. A long and formidable line of abattis had been made, but the men
were compelled to seek some rest. Despite the cold they suffered from a
burning thirst, and they could reach no water, not even the red
stream of the Chickamauga. Dick suffered like the rest, but he was
philosophical.

“I fancy that after sunrise we won’t have time to think about water,” he
said.

But Dick was not destined to sleep. He lay down for a while, and he saw
hundreds of others around him lying motionless as if dead. Warner and
Pennington were among them, but he could not close his own eyes. His
brain was still hot and excited, and to calm himself if possible he
walked along the slope until he saw a faint light in the valley behind
it. A tall figure, which he recognized as that of Colonel Winchester,
was going toward the light.

Dick, being on such good terms with his colonel, would have followed
him, but when he came to the edge of the glade he drew back. General
Thomas was sitting on the huge, upthrust root of an oak, and he was
writing dispatches by the light of a flickering candle held by an aide.
Officers of high rank, one of whom Dick recognized as the young general,
Garfield, stood around him. Colonel Winchester joined the group, and
stood waiting in silence to receive orders, too, Dick supposed.

The lad withdrew hastily, but driven by an overmastering curiosity,
and knowing that he was doing no harm, he turned back and watched for a
little space beside a bush.

The flame of the candle wavered under the wind, and sometimes the light
shone full upon the face of Thomas. It was the same face that Dick had
first beheld when he carried the dispatches to him in Kentucky. He was
calm, inscrutable at this, the most desperate crisis the Union cause
ever knew in the west. Dick could not see that his hand trembled a
particle as he wrote, although lieutenant and general alike knew that
they would soon be attacked by a superior force, flushed with all the
high enthusiasm of victory. And lieutenant and general alike also knew
that their supreme commander, Rosecrans, was no genius like Lee or
Jackson, who could set numbers at naught, and choose time and place to
suit themselves. Only stubborn courage to fight and die could avail.

But Dick drew courage from the strong, thick figure sitting there so
impassively and apparently impervious to alarm. When he quit writing
and began to give verbal orders, he spoke in even tones, in which no
one could detect a trace of excitement. When the name, “The Rock of
Chickamauga,” became general, Dick remembered that night and knew how
well it was deserved.

Thomas gave his last order and his generals went to their commands. Dick
slipped back to his regiment, and lay down, but again could not sleep.

He waited in painful anxiety for the day. He had never before been
in such a highly nervous state, not at Shiloh, nor Stone River, nor
anywhere else. In those battles the chances were with the Union, but
here they were against it. He recognized that once more, save for
Thomas, the North had been outgeneraled. The army of Rosecrans had
marched from Chattanooga directly upon the positions chosen by Bragg,
where he was awaiting them with superior numbers. And the Confederate
government in the East had been quick enough to seize the opportunity
and quick enough to send the stalwart fighter, Longstreet, and his corps
to help close down the trap.

He wondered with many a painful throbbing of the heart what the dawn
would bring, and, unable to keep still any longer, he rose and went to
the brow of the low hill, behind which they lay. Colonel Winchester was
there walking through the scrub and trying to pick out something in
the opposing forest with his glasses. The cold wind still blew from
the mountains, and there were three high but distant torches, where the
clumps of pines still burned.

“Restless, Dick?” said the Colonel. “Well, so am I.”

“We have cause to be so, sir.”

“So we have, my lad. We thought the danger to the Union had passed with
Vicksburg and Gettysburg, but the day so soon to come may shatter all
our hopes. They must have a hundred thousand men out there, and they’ve
chosen time and place. What’s more, they’ve succeeded so far. I don’t
hesitate to talk to you in this way, Dick, but you mustn’t repeat what I
say.”

“I shouldn’t dream of doing so, sir.”

“I know you would not, but General Thomas apprehends a tremendous and
terrible attack. Whatever happens, we have not long to wait for it. I
think I feel the touch of the dawn in the wind.”

“It’s coming, sir. I can see a faint tinge of gray in that cleft between
the hills toward the east.”

“You have a good eye, Dick. I see it now, too. It’s growing and
turning to the color of silver. But I think we’ll have time to get our
breakfasts. General Thomas does not believe the first attack will be
made upon our wing.”

The wind was freshening, as if it brought the dawn upon its edge.
The night had been uncommonly cold for the time of the year in that
latitude, and there was no sun yet to give warmth. But the men of Thomas
were being awakened, and, as no fires were allowed, cold food was served
to them.

“What’s happened, Dick, while I was asleep?” asked Pennington.

“Nothing. The two armies are ready, and I think to-day will decide it.”

“I hope so. Two days are enough for any battle.”

Pennington’s tone was jocular, but his words were not. His face was
grave as he regarded the opposing forest. He had the feeling of youth
that others might be killed, but not he. Nevertheless he was already
mourning many a good comrade who would be lost before the night came
again.

“There are the wasps!” said Warner, bending a listening ear. “You can
always hear them as they begin to sting. I wonder if skirmishers ever
sleep?”

The shots were on the right, but they came from points far away. In
front of them the forest and hills were silent.

“It’s just as General Thomas thought,” said Dick. “The main volume of
their attack will be on our right and center. They know that Thomas
stands here and that he’s a mighty rock, hard to move. They expect to
shatter all the rest of the line, and then whirl and annihilate us.”

“Let ‘em come!” exclaimed Warner, with heightening color. “Who’s
afraid?”

The dawn was spreading. The heavy mists that hung over the Chickamauga
floated away. All the east was silver, and the darkness rolled back like
a blanket. The west became silver in its turn, and the sun burned red
fire in the east. The wind still blew fresh and cool off the mountains.
The faint sound of trumpets came from far points on the Southern line.
The crackling fire of the skirmishers increased.

“It’s a wait for us,” said Colonel Winchester, standing amid his
youthful staff. “I can see them advancing in great columns against our
right and center. Now their artillery opens!”

Dick put up his glasses and he, too, saw the mighty Southern army
advancing. Their guns were already clearing the way for the advance,
and the valleys echoed with the great concussion. Longstreet and Hill,
anxious to show what the veterans of the East could do, were pouring
them forward alive with all the fire and courage that had distinguished
them in the Army of Northern Virginia.

The battle swelled fast. It seemed to the waiting veterans of Thomas
that it had burst forth suddenly like a volcano. They saw the vast
clouds of smoke gather again off there where their comrades stood, and,
knowing the immense weight about to be hurled upon them, they feared for
those men who had fought so often by their side.

Yet Thomas had been confident that the first attack would be made upon
his own part of the line, that Bragg with an overwhelming force would
seek to roll up his left. Nor had he reckoned wrong. The lingering of
the bishop-general, Polk, over a late breakfast saved him from the first
shock, and upset the plans of the Southern commander, who had given him
strict orders to advance.

Dawn was long past, and to Bragg’s great astonishment Polk had not
moved. It seems incredible that the fate of great events can turn upon
such trifles, and yet one wonders what would have happened had not Polk
eaten breakfast so late the morning of the second day of Chickamauga.
But when he did advance he attacked with the energy and vigor of
those great churchmen of the Middle Ages, who were at once princes and
warriors, leading their hosts to battle.

Portions of the men of Thomas were now coming into the combat, but the
Winchesters were not yet engaged. They were lying down just behind the
crest of their low hill and many murmurs were running through the ranks.
It was the hardest of all things to wait, while shells now and then
struck among them. They saw to their right the vast volume of fire and
smoke, while the roaring of the cannon and rifles was like the continued
sweep of a storm.

The youthful soldier may be nervous and excited, or he may be calm. This
was one of Dick’s calm moments, and, while he watched and listened and
tried to measure all that he saw and heard, he noted that the crash of
the battle was moving slowly backward. He knew then that the Southern
advance was succeeding, succeeding so far at least. He was quite sure
now that the attack upon Thomas would be made soon and that it would
come with the greatest violence.

He rose and rejoined Colonel Winchester again, and the two looked with
awe at the gigantic combat, raging in a vast canopy of smoke, rent
continuously by flashes of fire. Dick observed that the colonel was
depressed and he knew the reason.

“Our men are being driven back,” he said.

“So they are,” said the colonel, “and I fear that there is confusion
among them, too.”

“But we’ll hold fast here as we did yesterday!”

“I hope so. Yes, I know so, Dick. I’ve seen General Thomas twice this
morning, and I know that this corps will never be routed. He’s made up
his mind to hold on or die. He’s the Rock of Chickamauga.”

It was a name that Dick was to hear often afterward, and he repeated
under his breath: “The Rock of Chickamauga! The Rock of Chickamauga!” It
rolled resoundingly off the tongue, and he liked it.

Then came a beat of hoofs and a cavalry regiment galloped into open
ground beside them. It was Colonel Hertford’s, numbering about three
hundred men, some of whom were wounded. Their leader was excited, and,
springing to the ground, he ran to Colonel Winchester. The two talked in
quick, short sentences.

“Colonel,” exclaimed Hertford, “we’ve just had a sharp brush with that
demon, Forrest, and we’ve left some good men back there. But I’ve come
both to help and to warn you. We’re being driven back everywhere else,
and now they’re gathering an immense mass of troops for a gigantic
attack on Thomas!”

Dick heard and his breath came fast. Colonel Hertford would bring
no false news, and he could see with his own eyes that the storm was
curving toward them. The two men hurried to Thomas, but in a few minutes
returned. Colonel Hertford sprang into the saddle and formed his cavalry
on the flank as a screen against the dreaded sweep of Forrest.

There was a lull for a moment in the tremendous uproar, and, Colonel
Winchester walking back and forth before his men, spoke to them briefly.
He was erect, pale and handsome, and his words came without a quiver.
Dick had never admired him more.

“Men,” he said, “you have never been beaten in battle, but your greatest
test is now at hand. Within a few minutes you will be attacked by a
force outnumbering you more than two to one. But these are the odds we
love. We would not have them less. I tell you, speaking as a man to men
who understand and fear not, that the fate of the day may rest with you.
Many gallant comrades of ours have gone already to the far shore, and
if we must go, too, to-day, let our journey be not less gallant than
theirs. We can die but once, and if we must die, let us die here where
we can serve our country most.”

His manner was quiet, but his words were thrilling, and the men of the
regiment, springing to their feet, uttered a deep, full-throated cheer.
Then sinking down again at the motion of his hand, they turned their
faces to the enemy. The time had come.

The vast Southern front rushed from the wood, and the gray horsemen of
Forrest, careless of death, swept down. It was a terrifying sight,
that army coming on amid the thunder and lightning of battle, tens of
thousands of rifle muzzles, tens of thousands of fierce brown faces
showing through the smoke, and the tremendous battle yell of the South
swelling over everything.

Dick felt a quiver, and then his body stiffened, as if it were about to
receive a physical shock. The whole regiment fired as one man, and a gap
appeared in the charging Southern column. Hertford and his horse
charged upon the hostile cavalry, and all the brigades of Thomas met the
Southern attack with a fire so heavy and deadly that the army of Bragg
reeled back.

Then ensued the most tremendous scene through which Dick had yet passed.
The Southern army came again. Bragg, Breckinridge, Buckner, Longstreet,
Hill, Cleburne and the others urged on the attacks. They had been
victors everywhere else and they knew that they must drive back Thomas
or the triumph would not be complete. They struck and spared not, least
of all their own men. They poured them, Kentuckians, Tennesseeans,
Georgians, Mississippians and all the rest upon Thomas without regard to
life.

Kentuckians on the opposing sides met once again face to face. Dick did
not know it then, but a regiment drawn from neighboring counties charged
the Winchesters thrice and left their dead almost at his feet. He had
little time to notice or measure anything amid the awful din and the
continued shock of battle in which thousands of men were falling.

The clouds of smoke enveloped them at times, and at other times floated
away. New clumps of pines, set on fire by the shells, burned brightly
like torches, lighting the way to death. Smoke, thick with the odors of
burned gunpowder clogged eye, nose and throat. Dick and the lads around
him gasped for breath, but they fired so fast into the dense Southern
masses that their rifle barrels grew hot to the touch.

The South was making her supreme effort. Her western sons were
performing prodigies of valor, and Longstreet and the Virginians were
fighting with all the courage that had distinguished them in the East.

But however violent the charge, and however tremendous the fire of
cannon and rifles, the Rock of Chickamauga merely sank deeper in the
soil, and nothing could drive him from his base. The Union dead heaped
up, regiments were shattered by the Southern fire, but Thomas, calm,
and, inspiring courage as on the day before, passed here and there,
strengthening the weak points, and sending many great guns to the crest
of Missionary Ridge, whence they swept the front of the enemy with a
devastating fire.

The hail of death from the heights enabled the infantry and cavalry
below to gather breath and strength for the new attacks of the enemy.
They knew, too, that their cannon were now giving them more help than
before, and defiant cheers swept along the line in answer to the mighty
battle cry of the South. The Rock of Chickamauga had not moved a foot.

Dick caught gleams of the sun through the smoky canopy, but he did not
know how far the day had advanced. He seemed to have been in battle
many hours, but in such moments one had little knowledge of time. He was
aware that the battle had been lost in the center and on the right, but
he had sublime faith in Thomas. The left would stand, and while it stood
the South could win but a barren triumph.

The peril was imminent and deadly. A strong Southern force, having cut
through another portion of the line, was endeavoring to take Thomas
on the flank. Rosecrans, seeing the danger and almost in despair, sent
Thomas orders which his stern lieutenant fortunately could not obey. The
rock did not move.

Bragg, an able leader, increased the attack upon Thomas. His generals
gathered around him, and seconded his efforts. Their view was better
than that of the Union commanders, and they knew it was vital to them
to move the rock from their path. Brigades, already victorious on other
parts of the field, came up, and were hurled, shouting their triumphant
battle cry against Thomas, only to be hurled back again.

The resolution of the defenders increased with their success. A sort of
fever seized upon them all. Death had become a little thing, or it was
forgotten. The blood in their veins was fire, and, transported out of
themselves, they rained shells and bullets upon men whom in their calm
moments they did not hate at all.

Dick’s regiment had suffered with the rest, but Pennington and Warner
and the colonel were alive, and he caught a few glimpses of Hertford
with his gallant horsemen beating back every attack upon their flank.
But nothing stood out with sharp precision. The whole was a huge turmoil
of fire, smoke, confusion and death. The weight upon them seemed at
last to become overwhelming. In spite of courage the most heroic, and
dreadful losses, the right of Thomas was driven back, his center was
compelled to wheel about, but his left where the Winchester regiment
stood with others held on. Thomas himself was there among them, still
cool and impassive in face of threatened ruin.

About twenty thousand men were around Thomas, and they alone stood
between the Union army and destruction. At all other points it had been
not only defeated, but routed. Vast masses of fugitives were fleeing
toward Chattanooga. Rosecrans himself withdrew, and, now wholly in
despair, telegraphed at four o’clock in the afternoon to Washington: “My
army has been whipped and routed.”

But Thomas was neither routed nor whipped. Many of the brave generals
elsewhere refused to flee with the troops, but gathering as many
soldiers as possible joined Thomas. Among them was young Sheridan,
destined to so great a fame, who brought almost all his own division and
stood beside the Rock of Chickamauga, refusing to yield any further to
the terrible pressure.

The line of Thomas’ army was now almost a semicircle. Polk was leading
violent attacks upon his left and center. Longstreet, used to victory,
was upon his right and behind him, and the veterans from the Army of
Northern Virginia had never fought better.

Dick saw the enemy all around him, and he began to lose hope. How could
they stand against such numbers? And if they tried to retreat there was
Longstreet to cut off the way. He bumped against Sergeant Whitley in the
smoke and gasped out:

“We’re done for, Sergeant! We’re done for!”

“No, we’re not!” shouted the sergeant, firing into the advancing mass.
“We’ll beat ‘em back. They can’t run over us!”

The sergeant, usually so cool, was a little mad. He was wounded in the
head, and the blood had run down over his face, dyeing it scarlet. His
brain was hot as with fire, and he hurled epithets at the enemy. His
life on the plains came back to him, and, for the time, he was like a
hurt Sioux chief who defies his foes. He called them names. He dared
them to come on. He mocked them. He told them how they had attacked
in vain all day long. He counted the number of their repulses and then
exaggerated them. He reminded them it was yet a long time until dark,
and asked them why they hesitated, why they did not come forward and
meet the death that was ready for them.

Dick gazed at him in astonishment. He heard many of his words through
the roar of the guns, and he saw his ensanguined face, through which
his eyes burned like two red-hot coals. Was this the quiet and kindly
Sergeant Whitley whom he had known so long? No, it was a raging tiger.
Still waters run deep, and, enveloped, at last, with the fury of battle
the sergeant welcomed wounds, death or anything else it might bring.

He shouted and fired his rifle again. Then he fell like a log. Dick
rushed to him at once, but he saw that he had only fainted from loss of
blood. He bound up the sergeant’s head as best he could, and, easing him
against a bank, returned to the battle front.

A shout suddenly arose. Officers had seen through their glasses a column
of dust rising far behind them. It was so vast that it could only be
made by a great body of marching troops. But who were the men that were
making it? In all the frightful din and excitement of the battle the
question ran through the army of Thomas. If fresh enemies were coming
upon their rear they were lost! If friends there was yet hope!

But they could not watch the tower of dust long. The enemy in front gave
them no chance. Polk was still beating upon them, and Longstreet,
having seized a ridge, was pouring an increased fire from his advanced
position.

“If that cloud of dust encloses gray uniforms we’re lost!” shouted
Warner in Dick’s ear.

“But it mustn’t enclose ‘em,” Dick shouted back. “Fate wouldn’t play us
such an awful trick! We can’t lose, after having done and suffered so
much!”

Fate would not say which. They could not send men to see, but as they
fought they watched the cloud coming nearer and nearer, and Dick,
whose lips had been moving for some time, realized suddenly that he was
praying. “O God, save us! save us!” he was saying over and over. “Send
the help to us who need it so sorely. Make us strong, O God, to meet our
enemies!”

He and all his comrades wore masks of dust and burned gunpowder, often
stained with scarlet. Their clothing was torn by bullets and reddened
by dripping wounds. When they shouted to one another their voices came
strained and husky from painful throats. Half the time they were blinded
by the smoke and blaze of the firing. The crash did not seem so loud to
them now, because they were partly deafened for the time by a cannonade
of such violence and length.

Dick looked back once more at the great cloud of dust which was now much
nearer, but there was nothing yet to indicate what it bore within, the
bayonets of the North or those of the South. His anxiety became almost
intolerable.

Thomas himself stood at that moment entirely alone in a clump of trees
on the elevation called Horseshoe Ridge, watching the battle, seeing the
enemy in overpowering numbers on both his flanks and even in his
rear. Apparently everything was lost. Taciturn, he never described his
feelings then, but in his soul he must have admired the magnificent
courage with which his troops stood around him, and repelled the
desperate assaults of a foe resolved to win. Although his face
grew grimmer and his teeth set hard, he, too, must have watched the
approaching cloud of dust with the most terrible anxiety. If it bore
enemies in its bosom, then in very truth everything would be lost.

Down a road some miles from the battlefield a force of eight thousand
men had been left as a reserve for one of the armies. They had long
heard the terrific cannonade which was sending shattering echoes through
the mountains, and both their chief and his second in command were eager
to rush to the titanic combat. They could not obtain orders from their
commander, but, at last, they marched swiftly to the field, all the
eight thousand on fire with zeal to do their part.

It was the eight thousand who were making the great cloud of dust,
and, as they came nearer and nearer, the suspense of Thomas’ shattered
brigades grew more terrible. Dick, reckless of shell and bullets, tried
to pierce the cloud with his eyes. He caught a glimpse of a flag and
uttered a wild shout of joy. It was the stars and stripes. The eight
thousand were eight thousand of the North! He danced up and down on the
stump, and shouted at the top of his voice:

“They’re our own men! Help is here! Help is here!”

A vast shout of relief rose from Thomas’ army as the eight thousand
still coming swiftly joined them. Granger was their leader, but
Steedman, his lieutenant, galloped at once to Thomas, who still stood in
the clump of trees, and asked him what he wanted him to do. The general,
calm and taciturn as ever, pointed toward a long hill that flamed with
the enemy’s guns, and said three words:

“Take that ridge!”

Steedman galloped back and the eight thousand charged at once. The
battle in front sank a little, as if the others wished to watch the new
combat. Dick had been dragged down from the stump by Warner, but the two
stood erect with Pennington, their eyes turned toward the ridge. Colonel
Winchester was near them, his attention fixed upon the same place.

The eight thousand firing their rifles and supported by artillery
charged at a great pace. The whole ridge blazed with fire, and the
dead and wounded went down in sheaves. But Dick could not see that they
faltered. Hoarse shouts came again from his dry and blackened lips:

“They will take it! they will take it! Look how they face the guns!” he
was crying.

“So they will!” said Warner. “See what a splendid charge! Now they’re
hidden! What a column of smoke! It floats aside, and, look, our men are
still going on! Nothing can stop them! They must have lost thousands,
but they reach the slope, and as sure as there’s a sun in the heavens
they’re going up it!”

That tremendous cheer burst again from the beleaguered Union army.
Granger and Steedman, with their fresh troops, were rushing up the
slopes of the formidable ridge, and though three thousand of the eight
thousand fell, they took it, hurling back the advancing columns of the
South, and securing the rear of Thomas.

Then the Winchester men and others about them went wild with joy. They
leaped, they danced, they sang, until they were commanded to make ready
for a new attack. Rosecrans in Chattanooga, with the most of his army
there also in wild confusion, had sent word to Thomas to retire, to
which Thomas had replied tersely: “It will ruin the army to withdraw it
now; this position must be held till night.”

And he made good his resolve. The Southern masses attacked once more
with frightful violence, and once more Thomas withstood them. The field
was now darkening in the twilight, and, having saved the Union army
from rout and wreck, Thomas, impervious to attack, fell back slowly to
Chattanooga.

The greatest battle of the West, one of the most desperate ever fought,
came to a close. Thirty-five thousand men, killed or wounded, had fallen
upon the field. The South had won a great but barren victory. She had
not been able to reap the fruits of so much skill and courage, because
Thomas and his men, like the Spartans at Thermopylae, had stood in the
way. Never had a man more thoroughly earned the title of honor that he
bore throughout the rest of his life, “The Rock of Chickamauga.”

Chickamauga, though, was a sinister word to the North. Gettysburg and
Vicksburg had stemmed the high tide of the Confederacy, and many had
thought the end in sight. But the news from “The River of Death” told
them that the road to crowning success was still long and terrible.



CHAPTER XV. BESIDE THE BROOK


When the slow retreat began Dick looked for the sergeant. But a stalwart
figure, a red bandage around the head, rose up and confronted him. It
was Sergeant Whitley himself, a little unsteady yet on his feet, but
soon to be as good as ever.

“Thank you for looking for me, Mr. Mason,” he said, “but I came to, some
time ago. I guess the bullet found my skull too hard, ‘cause it just ran
‘roun’ it, and came out on the other side. I won’t even be scarred, as
my hair covers up the place.”

“Can you walk all right?” asked Dick, overjoyed to find the sergeant was
not hurt badly.

“Of course I can, Mr. Mason, an’ I’m proud to have been with General
Thomas in such a battle. I didn’t think human bein’s could do what our
men have done.”

“Nor did I. It was impossible, but we’ve done it all the same.”

Colonel Winchester rejoiced no less than the lads over the sergeant’s
escape. All the officers of the regiment liked him, and they had an
infinite respect for his wisdom, particularly when danger was running
high. They were glad for his own sake that he was alive, and they were
glad to have him with them as they retreated into Chattanooga, because
the night still had its perils.

The moon, though clouded, was out as they withdrew slowly. On their
flanks there was still firing, as strong detachments skirmished with one
another, but the Winchester men as yet paid little attention to it. They
said grimly to one another that two days in the infernal regions were
enough for one time. They looked back at the vast battlefield and the
clumps of pines burning now like funeral torches, and shuddered.

The retreat of Thomas was harried incessantly. Longstreet and Forrest
were eager to push the attack that night and the next day and make the
victory complete. They and men of less rank dreamed of a triumph which
should restore the fortunes of the Confederacy to the full, but Bragg
was cautious. He did not wish to incur the uttermost risk, and the roll
of his vast losses might well give him pause also.

Nevertheless Southern infantry and cavalry hung on the flanks and rear
of the withdrawing Union force. The cloudy moon gave sufficient light
for the sharpshooters, whose rifles flashed continuously. The lighter
field guns moved from the forests and bushes, and the troops of Thomas
were compelled to turn again and again to fight them off.

The Winchester regiment was on the extreme flank, where the men were
exposed to the fiercest attacks, but fortunately the thickets and hills
gave them much shelter. At times they lay down and returned the fire
of the enemy until they beat him off. Then they would rise and march on
again.

All the officers had lost their horses, and Colonel Winchester strode
at the head of his men. Just behind were Dick, Pennington and some other
members of his staff. The rest had fallen. Further back was Sergeant
Whitley, his head in a red bandage, but all his faculties returned.
In this dire emergency he was taking upon himself the duties of a
commissioned officer, and there was none to disobey him. Once more was
the wise veteran showing himself a very bulwark of strength.

Despite the coolness of the night, they had all suffered on the second
day of the battle from a burning thirst. And now after their immense
exertions it grew fiercer than ever. Dick’s throat and mouth were
parched, and he felt as if he were breathing fire. He felt that he must
have water or die. All the men around him were panting, and he knew they
were suffering the same torture.

“This country ought to be full of brooks and creeks,” he said to
Pennington. “If I see water I mean to make a dash for it, Johnnies or no
Johnnies. I’m perfectly willing to risk my life for a drink.”

“So am I,” said Warner, who overheard him, “and so are all who are left
in this regiment. If they see the flash of water nothing can hold them
back, not even Bragg’s whole army. How those skirmishers hang on to us!
Whizz-z! there went their bullets right over our head!”

The Winchesters turned, delivered a heavy volley into a thicket, whence
the bullets had come, and marched on, looking eagerly now for water.
They began to talk about it. They spoke of the cool brooks, “branches”
 they called them, that they had known at home, and they told how, when
they found one, they would first drink of it, and then lie down in its
bed and let its water flow over them.

But Dick’s thirst could not wholly take his mind from the tremendous
scenes accompanying that sullen and defiant retreat. Hills and mountains
were in deepest gloom, save when the signal lights of the Southern
armies flashed back and forth. The clouded moon touched everything
nearer by with somber gray. The fire of cannon rolled through the forest
and gorges with redoubled echoes.

A shout suddenly came from the head of the Winchester column.

“Water! Water!” they cried. A young boy had caught a glimpse of silver
through some bushes, and he knew that it was made by the swift current
of a brook. In an instant the regiment broke into a run for the water.
Colonel Winchester could not have stopped them if he had tried, and he
did not try. He knew how great was their need.

“We’re off!” cried Pennington.

“I see it! The water!” shouted Dick.

“I do, too!” exclaimed Warner, “and it’s the most beautiful water that
ever flowed!”

But they stopped in their rush and dropped down in the thickets.
Sergeant Whitley had given the warning shout, and fortunately most of a
volley from a point about a hundred yards beyond the stream swept over
their heads. A few men were wounded, and they not badly.

Dick crawled to the head of the column. The sergeant was already there,
whispering to Colonel Winchester.

“They’ve taken to cover, too, sir,” said the sergeant.

“How many do you suppose they are?” asked the colonel.

“Not more than we are, sir.”

“They run a great risk when they attack us in this manner.”

“Maybe, sir,” said Dick, “they, too, were coming for the water.”

Colonel Winchester looked at Sergeant Whitley.

“I’m of the opinion, sir,” said the sergeant, “that Mr. Mason is right.”

“I think so, too,” said Colonel Winchester. “It’s a pity that men should
kill each other over a drink of water when there’s enough for all. Has
any man a handkerchief?”

“Here, sir,” said Warner; “it’s ragged and not very clean, but I hope it
will do.”

The Colonel raised the handkerchief on the point of his sword and gave
a hail. The bulk of the two armies had passed on, and now there was
silence in the woods as the two little forces confronted each other
across the stream.

Dick saw a tall form in Confederate gray rise up from the bushes on the
other side of the brook.

“Are you wanting to surrender?” the man called in a long, soft drawl.

“Not by any means. We want a drink of water, and we’re just bound to
have it.”

“You don’t want it any more than we do, and you’re not any more bound to
have it than we are.”

The colonel hesitated a moment, and then, influenced by a generous
impulse, said:

“If you won’t fire, we won’t.”

The tall, elderly Southerner, evidently a colonel, also said:

“It’s a fair proposition, sir. My men have been working so hard the last
two days licking you Yanks that they’re plum’ burnt up with thirst.”

“I don’t admit the licking, although it’s obvious that you’ve gained
the advantage so far, but is it agreed that we shall have a truce for a
quarter of an hour?”

“It is, sir; the truce of the water, and may we drink well! Come on,
boys!”

Colonel Winchester gave a similar order to his men, and each side rose
from the thickets, and made a rush for the brook. It was a beautiful
little stream, the most beautiful in the world just then to Dick and his
friends. Clear and cold, the color of silver in the moonlight, it rushed
down from the mountains. On one side knelt the men in blue, and on the
other the men in gray, and the pure water was like the elixir of heaven
to their parched and burning throats.

Dick drank long, and then as he raised his face from the stream he saw
opposite him a tall, lean youth, evidently from the far South, Louisiana
perhaps, a lad with a tanned face and a wide mouth stretched in a
friendly grin.

“Tastes good, doesn’t it, Yank?” he said.

“Yes, it does, Reb,” replied Dick. “I felt that I was drying up and just
crumbling away like old dead wood. As soon as the gallon that I’ve drunk
has percolated thoroughly through my system I intend to hoist aboard
another gallon.”

“I don’t know what percolate means, but I reckon it has something to
do with travelin’ about through your system. I think I need a couple of
gallons myself. Say, will you give a fair answer to a fair question?”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“Don’t you Yanks feel powerful bad over the thrashing we’ve given you?”

“Not so bad. Besides I wouldn’t call it a thrashing. It’s just a
temporary advantage. And you wait. We’ll take it away from you.”

“I don’t know about that, but I can’t argue with you now. I’m due for my
second gallon.”

“So am I.”

Each bent down and drank again a long, life-giving draught from the
rushing stream. For a distance of a hundred yards or more heads black,
brown and sometimes yellow were bent over the brook. Far off, both
to east and west, the cannon thundered in the darkness, but with the
drinkers it was a peaceful interlude of a quarter of an hour. Such
moments often occurred in this war when the men on both sides were blood
brethren.

Colonel Winchester stood up, and the grizzled Confederate colonel stood
up on the other side of the stream, facing him. Their hands rose in a
simultaneous salute of respect.

“Sir,” said Colonel Winchester, “I’m happy to have met you in this
manner.”

“Sir,” said the Southern colonel ornately, “we are happy to have drunk
from the same stream with such brave foes, and now, sir, I propose as
we retire that neither regiment shall fire a shot within the next five
minutes.”

“Agreed,” said Colonel Winchester, and then as the colonels gave the
signals the two regiments withdrew beyond their respective thickets.
The truce of the water was over, but these foes did not meet again that
night.

The regiment had left a great proportion of its numbers dead upon the
field. Half the others were wounded more or less, but the slightly
wounded marched on with the unhurt. Many of them were now barely
conscious. They were either asleep upon their feet or in a daze.
Nevertheless they soon rejoined the main command.

Dick, having his pride as an officer, sought to keep himself active and
alert. He passed among the lads of his own age, and encouraged them. He
told them how the older men were already speaking of the wonders they
had done, and presently he saw Thomas himself riding along with the
young general, Garfield, who had been with him throughout the afternoon.
All the Winchester men saw their commander, and, worn as they were, they
stopped and gave a mighty cheer. Thomas was moved. Under the cloudy moon
Dick saw him show emotion for the first time. He took off his hat.

“Gentlemen, comrades,” he said, “we have lost the battle of Chickamauga,
but if all our regiments fight as you fought to-day the war is won.”

Another cheer, enthusiastic and spontaneous, burst from the regiment,
and Thomas rode on. Dick had never heard him make another speech so
long.

When they reached the little town of Chattanooga within its mountains
they began to realize the full grandeur of their exploit. The remainder
of the army of Rosecrans was almost a mob, and brave as he undoubtedly
was he was soon removed to another field, leaving Thomas in supreme
command until Grant should come.

Dick had no rest until the next night, when tents were set for the
battered remains of the Winchester regiment. He, Warner, Pennington
and three others were assigned to one of the larger tents. He had been
without sleep for two days and two nights, and the tremendous tension
that had kept him up so long was relaxing fast. He felt that he must
sleep or die. Yet they talked together a little before they stretched
themselves upon their blankets.

“Do you think Bragg will attack us in Chattanooga, Dick?” asked
Pennington.

“I don’t. Our position here is too strong, and, as he was the assailant,
his losses must be something awful. Moreover, the rivers are always ours
and reinforcements will soon pour in to us. I think that General Thomas
saved the Union. What have you to say, George?”

“Just about what you are saying, Dick. We’ve been beaten, but not enough
to suit the Johnnies. They have on their side present victory. We have
on ours present but not total defeat. You might say they have x, while
we have x + y. Wait until I look into my algebra, and I can find further
mathematical and beautiful propositions proving my contention beyond the
shadow of a doubt.”

He took out his algebra and opened it. A bullet fell from the leaves
into his lap. Warner picked it up and examined it carefully. Then he
looked at the book.

“It went half way through,” he said in tones of genuine solemnity. “If
it had gone all the way it would have pierced my heart and I could never
have known how this war is going to end. It has saved my life, and I
shall always keep it over my heart until we go back home.”

Dick was asleep the next minute, and they did not wake him for twelve
hours. When he came from the tent he stood blinking in the sun, and a
tall lean youth hailed him with a joyous shout:

“Why, it’s Mason--Mason of Kentucky!” exclaimed the lad, extending a
hardened hand. “I’m glad you’re alive. How are those friends of yours,
Warner and Pennington?”

“Well, save for scratches, Ohio. They’re about somewhere.”

They shook hands again, hunted up the others, and celebrated their
escape from death.

Dick learned later that all the Woodvilles were still alive and that
Colonel Kenton, although wounded, was recovering fast. Slade, with
troublesome raids, soon gave evidence of his own continued existence.

Then, as they expected, reinforcements poured in. Grant came, and Dick
and his comrades took part in the fight at Missionary Ridge and the
battle “above the clouds” on Lookout Mountain. He witnessed great
triumphs and he had a share in them.

He saw Bragg’s army broken up, and he rejoiced with the others when the
news came that Grant for his brilliant successes had been made commander
of all the armies of the Union, and would go east to match himself
against the mighty Lee. The Winchester regiment would go with him
and Dick, Warner, Pennington and Sergeant Whitley, who was entirely
recovered, talked of it gravely:

“We’ve been in the East before,” said Pennington, “but we won’t be under
any doubting general now.”

“I fancy it will be the death grapple,” said Warner.

“And the continent will shake with it,” said Dick.

The three, as if by the same impulse, turned and faced the distant East,
where the shades were already gathering over the Wilderness.



Appendix: Transcription notes:

This etext was transcribed from a volume of the 14th printing.


The following modifications were applied while transcribing the printed
book to etext:

 Chapter 1
   Page 30, para 1, add missing close-quotes

 Chapter 2
   Page 39, para 1, add missing close-quotes
   Page 48, para 4, change “its” to “it’s”

 Chapter 3
   Page 72, para 1, add missing close-quotes

 Chapter 8
   Page 174, para 2, add a badly-needed comma
   Page 182, para 3, change “replied Pennington” to “replied Warner”
    Page 185, para 5, add missing close-quotes

 Chapter 10
   Page 216, para 2, move a badly-misplaced comma
   Page 217, para 5, add a badly-needed comma

 Chapter 12
   Page 258, para 2, add missing open-quotes

 Chapter 14
   Page 297, para 1, fixed typo “Mississipians”


 Chapter 15
   Page 320, para 2, remove an extra comma



 Limitations imposed by converting to plain ASCII:

  - The word “cooperated” in chapter 8 was presented in the printed
    book with an accented “o”
   - In chapter 11, “Caesar” was presented with the “ae” ligature
  - In chapter 11, the ship’s name “Union” was presented in italics
  - In chapter 14, “Thermopylae” was presented with the “ae” ligature





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