Part 3 out of 3
prisoners. But, in the first place, I am going into that house to get
something to eat."
"I hope to thunder that you will be gobbled up," said the lieutenant,
"Easy, easy!" exclaimed Frank; "you are talking treason when you wish
evil to befall one of Uncle Sam's boys; and I am not one to stand by
and listen to it; so keep a civil tongue in your head, or I shall be
obliged to put a stopper on your jaw. As I said before," he continued,
"I am going into that house to get some supper; and, as I wish you to
remain here until I come back, I shall take the liberty to tie your
hands and feet. That's the way you serve your prisoners, I believe."
As Frank spoke, he cut the bridle from the horse with his Bowie-knife,
and securely bound the rebel--who submitted to the operation with a
very bad grace--and laid him away, as he would a log of wood, behind
one of the cabins.
"Now, you barbarian," he continued, as he shouldered his rifle, and
thrust the revolver and Bowie-knife into his belt, "you are in the
power of one who has very little love for a man who is guilty of the
cruelty of hunting a fellow-being with blood-hounds; so, if you expect
to live to see daylight, don't make any noise." With this piece of
advice, Frank left his captive, and started for the house.
He walked up the steps that led to the portico, which ran entirely
around the house, and boldly knocked at the door. The summons was
answered by a fine-looking, elderly lady, who, as soon as she saw the
Confederate uniform, exclaimed:
"Good evening, sir; walk in."
Frank followed the lady through the hall, into a large room, whose
only inmates were three young ladies, who rose and bowed as he came
in. He was very much relieved to find that there were no men in the
"Take a chair, sir," said the elderly lady. "Is there any thing we can
do for you?"
"Yes, ma'am," answered Frank. "I am out on a scout with some of my
men, and my provisions have given out. I have taken the liberty to
come here and see if I could not purchase some from you."
"We are glad to see you," said one of the young ladies. "I will have
some food put up for you immediately; and you shall have a nice, warm
supper before you go."
"I am under obligations to you, madam," answered Frank; "but,
really, I can not wait, for I am on the trail of some escaped Yankee
prisoners; and, besides, I always make it a point never to fare better
than the men I command."
"I should like to have you stay," said the elderly lady, whom Frank
set down as the mother of the girls; "but you know your duty better
than we do. I wish all of our officers were as careful of their men,
and as devoted to the cause, as you are. But what regiment do you
"The Seventeenth Georgia," answered Frank.
"Did you catch any of the Yankees you are after?"
"No, ma'am, not yet. But we shall have them before to-morrow night."
"Oh, I hope so! I suppose you will hang them to the nearest tree, as
fast as you catch them?"
"No, ma'am, I can't do that. They will be prisoners, you know, and
must be treated as such."
"Then bring them here, and I will hang them for you," exclaimed the
lady, excitedly. "I think our government is entirely too lenient with
During the conversation that followed, Frank gained some very valuable
information concerning the plans the rebels had on foot for the
capture of the runaways. He also learned that the lady's husband was
an officer of high rank in the rebel army, and that she was expecting
him home every moment. Frank, as may be supposed, was not very well
pleased with this information, and he cast uneasy glances toward the
door, expecting to see the officer enter. But his fears were soon set
at rest by the return of the young lady from the kitchen, with a large
traveling bag, filled with provisions.
When Frank inquired what was to pay, he was informed that any one who
would think of charging a soldier for provisions ought to be tarred
and feathered and sent into the Yankee lines. This was good news to
Frank, for, if there had been any thing to pay, he would not have
known how to act, as money was a thing he had not seen for many a day.
So, after thanking the ladies for their kindness, and bidding them
good-night, he picked up his provisions and started out.
"Now, you man that hunts Union soldiers with blood-hounds," he
exclaimed, as he walked up to his captive, and untied the strap with
which his feet were bound, "get up, and lead me to the place where you
left your prisoners;" and Frank seized the rebel by the collar, and
helped him rather roughly to his feet.
The rebel made no reply, but led the way down the road which ran
through the plantation. Frank followed close behind him, carrying his
rifle and provisions in one hand, and his revolver in the other. At
length they came to the fence at the end of the field, and, as he was
helping his prisoner over, a voice from the woods called out:
"Who goes there?"
"Is that your man?" inquired Frank, in a whisper, turning to his
"Yes," answered the rebel, gruffly.
"Then keep your mouth shut, and let me talk to him," commanded Frank.
Raising his voice, he answered to the hail, "Friend!"
"Is that you, Lieutenant Somers?" inquired the voice.
"Yes," answered Frank. "Come here; I've got a supply of provisions,
and another prisoner."
"Another Yank, eh!" said the man; and Frank heard him coming through
the woods toward him.
"Well, we've one less to catch, then. Where is he? Let's have a squint
"Never mind the prisoner," exclaimed Frank, "but come and take these
provisions; they're heavy."
The rebel, who could not discover that any thing was wrong, reached
out his hand, and took the traveling-bag from Frank, when the latter
suddenly seized him by the collar, and exclaimed, as he pressed the
muzzle of his revolver against his head:
"You're my prisoner!"
For an instant the rebel appeared utterly dumfounded; then, suddenly
recovering himself, he struck up Frank's arm, and, with a quick
movement, tore himself away from his grasp, and drew his Bowie-knife.
"Kill him, Jake! kill him!" shouted the lieutenant, who, of course,
was unable to assist his man, as his hands were securely bound behind
But Frank was too quick for him, for, before the rebel could make a
thrust with his knife, the sharp report of the revolver echoed through
the woods, and the man sank to the ground like a log.
"Now," exclaimed Frank, turning to his prisoner, "I've a good notion
to shoot you, also. But I will try you once more; and I tell you now,
once for all, don't open your head again to-night, unless you are
spoken to. Now, show me where you left your prisoners."
"Here we are!" exclaimed a voice from the bushes.
Frank soon found them, and, when he had cut the ropes with which they
were bound, and set them at liberty, they each seized his hands, and
wrung them in silent gratitude.
"Thank heaven, we're free men once more!" exclaimed one of the poor
fellows. "But where is that lieutenant that captured us?"
"He's my prisoner," answered Frank.
"Here you are, you thunderin', low-lived secesh!" exclaimed the man,
who had not yet spoken, as he walked up to the rebel, and laid his
hand on his shoulder. "I've a mind to stop your wind for you, you
"Easy, easy, boys," exclaimed Frank; "he's a prisoner, you know, and
we've no right to put him in misery simply because he's in our power."
"Why, the varmint hunted us yesterday with blood-hounds," exclaimed
one of the soldiers.
"He served me the same way to-day," answered Frank; "but, still, we
have no right to abuse him. But I have two more friends around here
somewhere;" and Frank put his hand to his mouth, and gave two low
whistles. It was answered immediately, and a voice, which Frank
recognized as the captain's, inquired:
"Ish dat you, you gun-boat feller?"
"Yes, I'm here, captain; come along."
The Dutchman soon made his appearance, followed by the major. They had
remained in their hiding-place, and heard all that was going on; but,
so fearful were they of treachery, that they dared not come out. Frank
briefly related to them the circumstances connected with the capture
of the lieutenant, and the release of the two soldiers; after this a
consultation was held, and it was decided that it would not be prudent
to attempt to reach Red River for a day or two, at least. The major
thought it best to remain concealed during the day, and at night
boldly follow the road.
This plan was adopted, for the entire party--including the soldiers
Frank had just released--were dressed in butternut clothes; besides
this, the papers which had been taken from the lieutenant would
greatly assist them, if their plan was carried out with skill and
determination. And, in regard to the prisoner--who, of course, had not
heard a word of the consultation--it was decided to detain him for a
day or two, in order that he might be led to believe that it was their
intention to keep as far away from Red River as possible, and then
After their plans had all been determined upon, Frank opened his sack
of provisions, when, eating a scanty meal, they again started forward.
They kept along on the edge of the plantations until the day began to
dawn, and then turned into the woods and encamped.
A Friend in Need.
In the evening, at dark, they resumed their journey. They boldly
followed the road, and met with no opposition until just before
daylight, when a voice directly in front of them shouted, "Halt!"
"Now, boys," whispered the major, "our safety depends upon our nerve.
It is so dark they can't see our faces, so don't be frightened at
any thing that may happen. Captain, take care of that prisoner, and
remember and blow his brains out the moment he makes the least attempt
"Who goes there?" shouted the voice again.
"Scouts!" answered the major, promptly.
"Advance, one scout, and give the counter sign."
The Major accordingly advanced to the place where the sentry was
standing, and the captain cautiously cocking his musket, placed its
cold muzzle against the prisoner's head, whispering, between his
"I guess you hear what the major did said, ain't it? Well, then, don't
The laconic captain probably thought this warning sufficient, for
he brought his musket to an "order arms," and did not afterward even
deign to cast a single glance at the prisoner.
In the mean time, the major was endeavoring to convince the lieutenant
of the guard that, although they did not have the countersign, they
were in reality Confederate soldiers.
"It may be that you'uns is all right," said the lieutenant, after
reading, by the aid of a dark lantern, the papers which Frank had
captured. "But, you see, thar's so many of these yere Yanks running
away, that we'uns has got to be mighty careful how we let folks go
"I tell you," said the major, speaking as though he considered himself
highly insulted, "I tell you, that I am on special service by order
of General Taylor. I have been out on a scout to recapture the very
prisoners you have just mentioned. I have already caught one of them,"
he added, pointing to their prisoner, who, let it be remembered, was
dressed in Frank's uniform.
"If you'uns is out on a scout," said a soldier, who had been aroused
from his blanket, and pressed up to obtain a glance at the major,
"whar's your hosses?"
"I left them about a mile down the river. I have already been through
your lines once to-night, and I might have gone through this time
without your knowledge, if I had seen fit to do so."
"Maybe it's all right," said the lieutenant, shaking his head
dubiously; "but I'll be dog-gone if I don't think I've seen your face
somewhere before;" and as he said this he raised the lantern, and
allowed the light to shine full upon him. Frank, who had been waiting
impatiently for the interview to be brought to a close, gave himself
up for lost when he saw a smile of triumph light up the rebel's face.
But the major was equal to the emergency. Meeting the lieutenant's
gaze without flinching, he replied, carelessly:
"Very likely you have. I have been in the service ever since the war
broke out. But do you intend to allow us to proceed, or shall I be
obliged to report you at head-quarters? Remember, I can say that you
do not keep a very good watch, seeing I have already passed you once."
This threat seemed to decide the lieutenant, who replied, "I guess
it's all right--you'uns can pass."
When Frank heard this, it seemed as though a heavy load had been
removed from his breast. But the hardest part of the trial, with him,
had yet to come. What if he should be recognized? But he had that
risk to run; so, summoning up all his fortitude, he marched with his
companions by the guards, apparently as unconcerned as though he was
entering a friendly camp.
The moment they got out of hearing of the tread of the sentinel,
the major turned from the road and led the way into the woods. After
walking a short distance, at a rapid pace, he whispered:
"Perhaps we fooled the rascals, but I think not. I didn't like the way
that lieutenant eyed me. I am certain we shall be pursued as soon as
he can send for assistance; and the best thing we can do is to get
away from here. So, forward, double-quick. Don't make too much noise
now. Captain, look out for that prisoner."
It was well that the major had adopted the precaution of leaving the
road and taking to the woods, for, in less than half an hour after
they had passed the guards, a squad of cavalry came up, having a full
and correct description of Frank and his companions. By some means,
the capture of the rebel lieutenant had become known, and a portion of
his own regiment--which had followed Frank from Shreveport, but which
had given up the chase and returned--had again started in pursuit.
The guards were astounded when they learned that the young gun-boat
officer (with whose flight and subsequent almost miraculous escapes
from recapture every scout in the country was acquainted) had been
within their very grasp, and a portion of them joined the cavalry in
pursuit; but, as they kept on down the road, Frank and his companions
again escaped. They had heard their pursuers pass by, and knowing that
the country would be thoroughly alarmed, and that it would be useless
to attempt to reach Red River at present, they directed their course
toward Washita River, which lay about thirty-five miles distant,
hoping to deceive the rebels as to their real intentions, and thus, by
drawing their pursuers into the country, leave their avenue of escape
One clear, moonlight night they halted, as usual, in the rear of a
plantation, and were debating upon the best means to be employed in
obtaining food, when a man, dressed in a shabby Federal uniform, was
discovered coming slowly toward them, on the opposite side of the
fence that separated the woods from the plantation.
His sudden and wholly unexpected appearance took them completely by
surprise. Frank immediately proposed to challenge him. Perhaps, like
themselves, he was a fugitive from a rebel prison, and in need of
assistance. But the captain strongly opposed this, and was in favor
of shooting the man, who still continued to advance, as if wholly
unconscious of the presence of any one--arguing, in his broken
English, and with good reason, too, that the appearance of a Federal
uniform in that part of the country boded them no good, but was a sure
sign of treachery; and evidently thinking that he had won the day, he
was about to put his plan into execution, when the major struck up his
musket, and shouted:
"Who comes there?"
The stranger, instead of replying, instantly threw himself on the
ground behind the fence, out of sight.
"Gott in himmel, major," exclaimed the disappointed captain, "I
pelieve it's better you shoots that man--purty quick we all gets
ketched again;" and as he said this the captain, who, although a very
brave man on the field of battle, was very much opposed to fighting an
invisible enemy, drew himself behind a tree, as if fully expecting to
see a whole army of rebels rush out of their concealments upon them.
"Be quiet, captain," said the major. "You have grown very suspicious
lately." Then, raising his voice, he called out: "Whoever you are
behind that fence, whether a friend or an enemy to the Union, come out
immediately, or you are a dead man."
A deep silence, which lasted for several seconds, followed his words.
Then came the ominous click of half a dozen gun-locks, which, in the
stillness of the night, could be heard a long distance.
The stranger evidently heard it too, for, without further hesitation,
he arose from behind the fence, and came forward.
The major allowed him to approach within a few yards, and then ordered
him to halt, and inquired:
"Now, sir! who and what are you? Tell the truth, for you have
desperate men to deal with."
"From your language," answered the stranger, in a voice so soft that
it was almost feminine, but which, nevertheless, betrayed not the
slightest trepidation, "I should judge that you are escaped prisoners;
if so, permit me to make one of your number. If not, you will find me
as desperate as yourselves; for I have suffered too much in prison
to ever allow myself to be taken back alive;" and, as he spoke, he
displayed a brace of pistols, which showed that he meant what he said.
"Gott in himmel!" exclaimed the captain, springing out from behind
his tree, and forgetting, in a moment, all his suspicions, "vos you
captured, too? We been mighty glad to see you, any how."
"Yes," answered the man, "I have been a prisoner for twenty-two
months, and it was not until three weeks since that I succeeded in
making my escape."
"We'll take your story for what it is worth, at present," said
the major, "for we can not stop to talk. We must first make some
arrangements about obtaining something to eat, and then we must be
"My haversack has just been replenished," said the stranger, "and we
have sufficient to last us for a day or two, at least."
"Well, let us be moving, then."
The major, as usual, led the way, and Frank walked beside the
stranger, who firmly, but respectfully, repelled every attempt he made
to enter into conversation, a circumstance which Frank regarded with
At length day began to dawn, and the fugitives commenced to cast
sidelong glances at their new companion. He was a tall, slimly-built
youth, apparently but little older than Frank, and his boyish face
wore a look of care and sorrow, which if once seen could never be
forgotten, and which showed that, young as he was, his path through
life had been any thing but a smooth one. His clothing was reduced
almost to tatters; but still there was enough of it left to show that
it was "Uncle Sam's blue;" and, as Frank surveyed him from head to
foot, he discovered something hanging to one of the shreds of his
coat, which immediately interested him in the silent stranger. It was
a navy button. This was enough for Frank, who, forgetting the manner
in which his advances had been received, inquired:
"Are you a naval officer, sir?"
"Yes," answered the youth, in a low voice, "or, rather, I was once."
"So was I. Give us your hand."
The sad, gloomy look gave way to a smile of genuine pleasure, as the
stranger grasped the proffered hand, and shook it heartily.
"What vessel were you attached to, and when and how were you
captured?" inquired Frank.
But his companion had relapsed into his former state of gloominess and
silence, and seemed to be pondering upon something at once painful and
Frank made no further attempts to draw him into conversation, and,
just as the sun was rising, the major gave the order to halt. He also
had noticed the sorrowful look of the young stranger, and, attributing
it to a depression of spirits, which any one would feel at finding
himself in such circumstances, addressed him, as he came up, with:
"My friend, you appear to be sorely troubled about something. Cheer
up; it does no good to be despondent. I know our case is desperate,
but it is not altogether hopeless. We do not intend to be recaptured,
as long as one of us has strength to draw a trigger."
"I am not troubled about that, sir," answered the youth, throwing
himself wearily on the ground. "The cause of my sorrow dates further
back than my capture and confinement in prison. I know that I am not
the only one who has suffered during this rebellion; but mine is a
peculiar case. I have not known a happy day since the war commenced.
Every tie that bound me to earth was severed when the first gun was
fired on Fort Sumter."
"Ah!" exclaimed Frank, guessing the truth at once. "Then your
relatives are rebels."
"Yes, they are; and the most bitter kind of rebels, too. I have kept
my secret until I can no longer endure it. I have become
completely discouraged, and am greatly in need of what I at first
shunned--sympathy. If you will bear with me, I will tell you my
circumstances. It will serve to relieve me, and may interest you, and
prove that I am really what I profess to be, an escaped prisoner."
"Certainly, let us hear it. Go on," said the major.
Thus encouraged, the youth proceeded:
"My name is George Le Dell; and I am the youngest son of General
Le Dell, of the Confederate army. My home is, or rather was, on
the Washita River, about ten miles from this very place. When I was
seventeen years of age, I was sent North to complete my education,
at Yale College, and was just about commencing my senior year, when I
received this letter from my father."
Here George paused, and drew from his pocket a bundle of papers,
carefully tied up, and, producing a letter, from which the writing was
almost obliterated, he handed it to Frank, who read aloud as follows:
CATAHOOLA PARISH, _February_ 12, 1861.
MY DEAR GEORGE:
Your letter of the 2d ult. was duly received.
Although your ideas of the civil war, to which you seem to look
forward with such anxiety, are rather crude, you are, in the main,
correct in your conjectures as to our intentions. Secession is a
fixed fact. You know it has often been discussed by our leading
men, and the election of Mr. Lincoln has only served to
precipitate our action. Had he been defeated, it might have been
put off four years longer; but it would be certain to come then.
For years the heaven-sanctioned institution of slavery has been
subjected to all the attacks that the fiendish imaginations of the
Yankee abolitionists could suggest, and we are determined to bear
with them no longer. We intend to establish a confederacy of our
own, whose corner-stone shall be slavery.
I wish you to come home immediately, as I have secured you a first
lieutenant's commission in a cavalry company, which is to be
mustered into my regiment. Your brothers have already accepted
theirs, and are drilling their companies twice every week. Of
course, we do not expect a war, for we have kept the cowardly
Yankees under our thumbs so long that they will not dare to oppose
us. However, we consider it best to be on the safe side.
Inclosed I send you a check for two hundred dollars, which, I
think, will be sufficient to pay all your bills, and to defray
your expenses home.
Your mother and sisters send their love.
Hoping to see you soon, and to join hands with you in destroying
every vestige of the old Union, I remain,
Yours, affectionately, EDWARD LE DELL.
While Frank was reading this letter, George had sat with his face
buried in his hands, not once moving or giving a sign of life: but,
as soon as the letter was finished, he raised his pale face, and
inquired, in a husky voice:
"What do you think of that? It does not seem possible that a father,
who had the least spark of affection for his son, could advise him to
follow such a course, does it? Turn the letter over, and you will see
a copy of my answer written on the back."
It ran as follows:
YALE COLLEGE, _March_ 20, 1861.
MY DEAR FATHER:
You can not imagine with what feelings of astonishment and sorrow
I read your letter of the 12th ult., which was received nearly
three weeks since. The reason for my delay in replying you can
easily divine. Has it, then, come to this? Is it possible that, in
order to do my duty to my country, I must be willing to incur the
displeasure of my father? What would you have me do? Assist in
pulling down the old flag, and in breaking up the best government
the world over saw? Why, father, this is downright madness. I _can
not_ "join hands" with you in so unholy a cause. On the contrary,
as long as that flag needs defenders, you will find me among them.
You are deceiving yourself when you say the "cowardly Yankees"
will not fight. They are a people "slow to wrath," but they are
not cowards, father; and you will find, to your sorrow, that they
will resist, to the death, "any and every attempt to alienate any
portion of this _Union_ from the rest."
Living in the South, as I have, I have long seen this war brewing,
but was unwilling to confess it, even to myself; and I had hoped,
that if it did come, my father would not countenance it. Why will
you do it? You never, never can succeed. The very first attempt
you make to withdraw from your allegiance to the United States
will be the signal for a war, the like of which the world has
never witnessed, and the blood of thousands of men, who will be
sacrificed to glut your ambition, will be upon your own heads.
Inclosed, I respectfully return the check, with many thanks for
your kindness. I can not use it for the purpose you wish.
Hoping and praying that you and my brothers will consider well
before you take the step that will bring you only suffering and
disgrace, and will use all your influence to prevent the effusion
of blood that must necessarily follow the suicidal course you
would pursue, I am, as ever,
Your affectionate son, GEO. LE DELL.
"That was the best I could do at the time," said George, as Frank
finished the letter. "I believe I must have been crazy when I wrote
it. If I could only have known as much as I do now, I think I could
have made a much better plea than that."
"Didn't it have any effect upon your father?" inquired the major.
"Effect!" repeated George. "Yes, it had the effect of making him
disinherit and cast me off. Read that," he continued, handing Frank
another soiled paper, which looked as though it had been read and
thumbed continually. "I felt like one with his death-warrant when I
It ran thus:
CATAHOOLA PARISH, _March_ 31, 1861.
In reply to your scandalous and insulting letter, I have but a few
words to say.
This, then, is the only return you have to make for all the favors
I have showered upon you! I had expected great things of you,
George, for you have the abilities that would have raised you to a
high position in the South; and it seems hard that my fond hopes
should be dashed to the ground, by one fell blow, given, too, by
your own hand. But I know my duty; and now, sir, I have done with
you. I cast you off forever. You will never enter my house again;
and not a cent of my property shall ever be possessed by you--no,
not even if you were starving. I have instructed my family to
forget that such a person as George Le Dell ever existed. Take
part with our oppressors, if you choose, but be assured that the
justly-merited consequences of your folly will be visited upon
In conclusion, I have to say, that if any more letters are
received from you, they shall be returned unopened.
EDWARD LE DELL.
"Now you can see exactly how I am situated," said George, taking the
letter from Frank's hand, and putting it with the others carefully
away in his pocket. "Do you wonder, then, that I am sorrowful, cut off
as I am from all my relatives, with strict orders never to cross the
threshold of my father's house again, not even if I am dying for want
of food? You have, doubtless, heard of the malignity displayed by the
rebel leaders toward any Southerner who dares to differ with them
in opinion, and have looked upon them as idle stories, gotten up
for effect; but I know, by the most bitter experience, that it is a
reality. Does it seem possible that a person can be so blind, and act
with such cruelty toward a son?
"When the war was fairly begun," he continued, "I kept the vow I had
made--that as long as the old flag needed defenders, I should be found
among them, by enlisting as fourth master, in what was then called
the 'Gun-boat Flotilla,' about to commence operations on the Western
waters. I participated in the battle of Island No. 10; was at the
taking of Memphis, and at St. Charles; when the 'Mound City' was blown
up, I barely escaped being scalded to death. I was on the 'Essex,'
when she ran the batteries at Vicksburg, and during the subsequent
fight, which resulted in the defeat of the 'Arkansas' ram. About a
month after that I was captured with a party of men, while on shore
on a foraging expedition. I fought as long as I could, for I knew that
death would be preferable to the treatment I should receive; but I was
overpowered, and finally surrendered to save the lives of my men. The
rebels, of course, immediately commenced crowding about us, and the
very first officer I saw was my brother Henry, who had risen to the
position of adjutant, in father's regiment. He instantly recognized
me, and, after giving strict orders that I should be closely confined,
rode off. I had many acquaintances in the regiment. Some of them had
been my classmates at college; and the story of my _treason_, as they
called it, was given a wide circulation. I fared even worse than I had
expected. My food was of the very worst quality, and barely sufficient
to sustain life. I was never allowed a shelter of any kind, not even
a blanket; and, when my clothing was worn out, I could not obtain
another suit. 'Stick to your dirty blue,' said the officer under whose
charge I had been placed, 'and every time you look at it, think of the
meanness of which you have been guilty.'
"At length, to my relief, the order came for me to be transferred to
the prison at Tyler. When I arrived at that place, I was thrust into
an old slave-pen, where I was contained nearly twenty months before
I succeeded in effecting my escape. I was given to understand that it
had been ordered that I was not to be exchanged, but might expect
to die a traitor's death at no distant day. Whether or not this was
intended to terrify me, I do not know; but, since my escape, I have
thought that there were some good grounds for fear; for, during my
journey from Tyler to Shreveport, I was not once out of hearing of the
blood-hounds that were following my trail. The only support I have had
is the consciousness that I have tried to do my duty. If it were not
for that, I should be the most miserable person in the world; and I
should not care how soon some rebel bullet put an end to my existence.
"Although I am now looked upon by my relatives as a stranger and an
outcast, I have determined to visit once more the place which, long
ago, I used to call _home_. It is only ten miles from here, and not a
step out of our way. Will you accompany me?"
Of course, this strange proposition at first met with strong
opposition, especially from the captain. But George assured them that
there was not the slightest danger, as all the troops in that part
of the country had been ordered to Fort De Russy, and were hourly
expecting an attack; consequently they would find no one at home
except George's mother, sisters, and a few old negroes who were too
feeble to work on the fortifications. Besides as all the troops were
now at Red River, their safest course would be to abandon, for awhile,
at least, the idea of taking it as their guide to the Mississippi.
This silenced their objections, and, after the sentinels for the day
had been selected, the fugitives, stretching themselves out on the
ground, and fell asleep--all except Frank, who leaned back against a
tree. While he kept watch over his sleeping companions, he pondered
upon the history of their new acquaintance, and admired the high
sense of duty and patriotism that had animated him to make so great a
sacrifice for the sake of the "old flag."
The Scene at the Plantation.
Next evening, George took the lead, and conducted them through the
woods, with a certainty that showed that he was well acquainted with
the ground over which they were passing. Not a word did he speak until
they emerged from the woods, and found before them a large plantation,
with the huge, old-fashioned farm-house, surrounded by its negro
quarters and out-buildings, looming up in the distance.
George gazed upon the scene long and earnestly, until his feelings
overcame him, when he leaned his head upon his hand, and gave full
vent to his sorrow. He did not weep, but the heaving of his chest, and
the quivering of his whole frame, showed how severe was the struggle
that was going on within him. His companions, who well knew what was
passing in his mind, leaned on their weapons, and silently waited
until the burst of grief had subsided. At length, George recovered his
composure, and said, slowly:
"It looks natural, boys; every thing is just as I left it five years
ago. Let us go up to the house. I _must_ see my mother and sisters
once more. We will say that we are rebel soldiers, and want something
to eat. My father and brothers are at Fort De Russy with their
commands, so there will be no danger."
"But your uniform," said Frank, anxiously, "that will certainly betray
"No danger of that," answered George; "a great many soldiers in the
rebel army wear the Federal uniform. There's no danger."
Frank was far from being satisfied, but he fell in with the rest, and
followed George toward the house. A few moments' walk brought them to
a barn, where they again halted, and, while George stood feasting his
eyes on each familiar object, the captain bound the rebel lieutenant
hand and foot, and laid him away under a fence-corner; and left him,
with the information that his life depended upon his observing the
strictest silence. This course was the wisest that could have
been adopted, under the circumstances; for it would have been very
imprudent to have taken the prisoner with them, as he could easily
have found means to make himself known.
George again took the lead, and, when they had almost reached the
house, they heard the sound of a piano, and a female voice singing the
never-failing "Bonnie Blue Flag."
"There you have it," said George, bitterly; "but don't stop--let's
go right in. Major, you had better go up to the door, and ask them
to give us something to eat. I dare not trust myself to do it. Be a
bitter rebel now, and they will certainly invite us all in, and we
will get whatever we ask for. Now, boys," he continued, turning to the
others, "don't watch me too closely when we get in the house, or you
will betray me."
The major--after making sure that the papers, which had already been
of so much service to them, were still in his pocket--ascended the
broad stone steps that led up to the portico, and knocked at the door.
It was opened by a servant, who, after inquiring what he wanted, led
the way into a brilliantly-lighted parlor, where he saw before him
George's mother and sisters.
"Good evening, sir," said Mrs. Le Dell, rising from her seat. "Is
there any way in which we can serve you?"
The major made known his wants, and a servant was at once dispatched
to order supper, and to invite the remainder of the fugitives into
the house. As they filed slowly into the room--George bringing up the
rear--the particular orders which the major gave about the muskets
caused the lady to say:
"You need have no fear, sir. The Yankees have never yet favored us
with a visit."
"I know it, ma'am," replied the major, accepting a chair that one of
the sisters offered him, "but I have been a soldier so long, that I
never omit to make preparations for a fight."
As soon as they were fairly seated, Frank turned to look at George.
"That boy must be made of iron," said he to himself, "or else he
is among his friends, and we are betrayed;" for, instead of being
embarrassed, or wearing his habitual sorrowful look, he sat easily in
his chair, and gazed carelessly about the room, as though he were a
perfect stranger there, and not a muscle quivered, to show the
emotion he really felt, as his eye rested on the familiar faces of
his relatives. He calmly met their glances, which Frank thought were
directed toward him rather suspiciously, but all attempts to draw him
into the conversation that followed, about the war, and the certainty
of speedily overpowering the Yankees, and driving them from the
land, were unavailing. Once Frank thought he heard one of his sisters
whisper, "How much he looks like George!" but he was not recognized,
and the supper, which was enlivened by conversation on indifferent
subjects, passed off pleasantly.
When the meal was finished, a large bag was filled with provisions,
sufficient to last them nearly a week, and given in charge of one
of the soldiers; and the major, after thanking the ladies for their
kindness, was about to bid them good evening, when there was a clatter
of horses' hoofs on the walk, then heavy steps sounded in the hall,
and the next moment, to the utter astonishment and horror of the
fugitives, three rebel officers entered the room.
They were General Le Dell and his two sons.
Frank's heart fairly came up into his mouth at this unwelcome
intrusion, and his first impulse was to draw his revolver and shoot
the rebels where they stood; but, on glancing at the major who always
seemed to have his wits about him, he abandoned the idea. The major,
with the rest, had seized his musket, but, as the rebels entered, he
returned it to its place in the corner, (motioning to the others to do
the same,) and, saluting the general, said, with a smile:
"I beg your pardon, sir. I did not know but that the Yankees were upon
"No danger of that," said the general, with a laugh; "you'll never see
them as far up in the country as this. Pray be seated, sir."
After greeting his wife and daughters, the general again turned to the
major, whom, by his soldierly bearing, he at once picked out as the
leader of the band, and inquired:
"May I ask what you are doing up here? Has not your command been
ordered to Fort De Russy?"
"Yes, sir. But I am out on a scout, by order of General Taylor."
"You can have no objection to produce those orders?"
"O no, sir! certainly not. Here they are," answered the major, drawing
from his pocket the papers which Frank had captured. The general,
after hastily running his eye over them, suddenly exclaimed:
"Why, Lieutenant Somers, how do you do, sir? I am very glad to meet
you again. I heard that you had been taken prisoner. I am most happy
to see that you have escaped."
This was rather more than the major had been expecting, and he
suddenly found himself placed in a most awkward position. But his
presence of mind never forsook him; and, accepting the rebel's
proffered hand, he shook it with apparent cordiality, and replied:
"Thank you, sir. I, myself, am not sorry to know that I am a free man
"You probably do not remember me," continued the general, "but I was
well acquainted with your father before he moved to Georgia, and used
to trot you on my knee when you were a little fellow; and I do believe
you were the ugliest little brat I ever had any thing to do with. You
did nothing but yell and screech from morning until night. But, by the
way, your father met his death in a very singular manner, did he not?"
"Yes, sir--very singular--very singular, indeed," replied the major,
promptly, as though he were perfectly familiar with all of the
particulars, although in reality he was sorely puzzled to know what to
say. What if the rebel should ask him to explain the affair? But the
general appeared to be well enough acquainted with the matter, for he
"He died like a brave man, and a soldier. I suppose you intend to take
ample revenge upon the Yankees to pay for it."
"Yes, sir; and I am now on the trail of the very man who shot him."
The major said this at a venture; but, fortunately, he was correct in
his surmise as to the manner in which Mr. Somers departed this life.
While this conversation was going on, Frank was a good deal annoyed
to see that George's sisters, and one of his brothers, were engaged in
mysterious whisperings, now and then darting suspicious glances toward
his new companion. When the general entered, George had risen with
the rest and saluted him, after which he had resumed his seat, and
the deep blush of excitement that arose to his cheek had quickly given
place to the same careless look that Frank had before noticed. George
was also aware that the whispering that was going on related to
himself, and it was evident that his relatives had some suspicions of
who he was; but, if it caused him any uneasiness, he was very careful
to conceal it.
At length, one of his brothers drew his chair to his side, and said:
"Excuse me, sir; but I believe I've seen you before."
"I shouldn't be surprised if you had, sir," answered George, steadily
meeting the rebel's gaze. "I _know_ I've seen you before."
His brother started back in his chair, and a gleam of triumph shot
across his face as he exclaimed:
"George, I know you."
"And you will have cause to know me better before this war is over,"
answered George, forgetting, in his excitement, all the precautions he
had before adopted to escape being recognized.
Had a thunderbolt fallen into the room, the astonishment of the
general and his wife could not have been greater. They sat in their
chairs as motionless as if they had been suddenly turned into stone,
gazing at their son as though they could scarcely believe their eyes,
while the fugitives sat with their hands on their weapons, wondering
what would be the result of George's imprudence. At length the
general, who was the first to recover from his astonishment,
"You here, you rascal--you young traitor! I thought you were safe in
the prison at Tyler again by this time."
"No doubt you did," answered George, bitterly. "But I'm a free man
now, and intend to remain so."
"You are free!" repeated the general; "that's a capital joke.
Lieutenant Somers, I charge you with his safe delivery at Tyler."
The major, greatly relieved to find that the general still considered
him a rebel, was about to promise that George should be well taken
care of, when the latter, to the astonishment of all, boldly declared:
"That is not Lieutenant Somers. These gentlemen are all my
friends--Union to the backbone."
"Eh! what?" ejaculated the general, in surprise, scarcely believing
what he heard. "These men all Yankees?"
"Yes, sir; every one of them."
"A nice-looking set, surely--a fine lot of jailbirds you are."
"So I have been feeding a lot of tyrants instead of loyal Confederate
soldiers," said Mrs. Le Dell, while the sisters gazed at the young
hero with contempt pictured in their faces.
"No, mother, you have _not_ fed tyrants," answered George, with a good
deal of spirit, "but true Union men. It is nothing you need be ashamed
"Well, we _are_ ashamed of it," said the general, who seemed to be
fairly beside himself with rage. "Didn't I tell you never to darken my
door again? Where are you traveling to, and what do you intend to do?"
"I am on my way North, and I purpose to join my vessel, if she is
"You'll do no such thing. Just consider yourselves prisoners--all of
"O no sheneral, I pelieve not," said the captain, quietly, "cause you
see we six been more as you three."
"No, father, we shall never be taken prisoners again--never."
"You are very bold, young man," said the general, who, as he gazed
upon the flushed countenance and flashing eyes of his son, could not
but admire his courage. "This is big talk for a boy of your age."
"We have already wasted time enough," said the major, growing
impatient. "Captain, relieve those gentlemen of their weapons."
The order was promptly obeyed, the rebels offering no resistance.
"Now," resumed the major, "we shall take our leave. Good evening."
"You'll all be in Fort De Russy in less than forty-eight hours,"
shouted the general, "or I am very much mistaken."
"We'll be dead men, then," answered George. "You will never take us
The fugitives did not linger to converse, but made all haste to get
into the open air. The horses belonging to the rebels, which were
found fastened in front of the house, were immediately turned loose,
and a thrust from the captain's bayonet sent them galloping up the
George silently led the way to the place where they had left their
prisoner, and, as soon as he was set at liberty, they bent their steps
across the plantation, toward the woods at the rear. Although George
had borne up bravely while in the presence of his rebel parents,
he could control himself no longer, and tears, which he could not
repress, coursed down his cheeks, as ever and anon he turned to take a
long, lingering look at the place he could no longer call home. Every
emotion he experienced found an echo in the generous heart of Frank,
who was scarcely less affected than himself. He could not believe that
the scene through which they had just passed was a reality. It did not
seem possible that parents could address a son in the language that he
had heard used toward George.
The unexpected denouement at the house had rendered the major and
captain doubly anxious; for now nothing but the most consummate skill
and daring could save them from recapture; and, while the former kept
close watch on the house to catch the first sign of pursuit that
should be made, the latter gave vent to his feelings by railing, in
his broken English, first at George for proposing such an expedition,
and then by deprecating his own folly for yielding his consent to
it. But there was no help now; regrets could not mend the matter, and
nothing but rapid flight could save them.
When they reached the end of the field, George became suddenly
aroused. Brushing away the tears that dimmed his eyes, he placed
himself at the head of the party, and started on at a rapid pace
through the woods.
Whither he was leading them no one knew, or cared to ask; for, if they
had entertained any suspicions in regard to George, the scene at the
house had dispelled them; and knowing that he had as much, if not
more, cause to dread recapture than themselves, they relied implicitly
on him to get them out of their present difficulty.
The woods were pitch-dark, but George seemed to understand what he was
about, and, for two hours, not a word was spoken, except, perhaps,
now and then a growl of anger, as some one stumbled over a log or bush
that lay in his way. Finally, the softness of the ground under their
feet indicated that they were approaching a swamp. George now paused,
"Major, with your permission, we will stop here until daylight. It is
impossible to go further in this darkness, for it is an ugly road to
"What makes you take to the swamp?" inquired Frank.
"It is a short cut across the country," answered George, "and if we
are pursued by blood-hounds we can more easily elude them."
Between sleeping and listening for the noise of pursuit, the fugitives
passed the night. As soon as day began to dawn, they made a hasty
breakfast on the provisions which they had obtained at the plantation,
and resumed their journey. George led the way into the swamp, and,
as he seemed to choose the most difficult path, their progress was
necessarily slow and laborious. About the middle of the afternoon the
swamp became almost impassable, and the major was about to suggest the
propriety of picking out an easier path, when George suddenly halted
on the banks of a narrow, but deep and sluggish, stream, and, wiping
his forehead with his coat-sleeve, said, with something like a sigh of
"Here we are, at last."
"I see we are," said the major, gazing impatiently about on the
labyrinth of trees and bushes with which they were surrounded, "but
I had rather be almost anywhere else. You might as well get us out of
this swamp by the shortest and easiest path you can find."
"I will, if you order me to do so," answered George; "but we are now
at as good a harboring place as can be found in a country filled with
enemies, bent upon our capture, and thirsting for our blood. I know
my father's disposition too well to think that he will allow us to get
off easily. The country is fairly overrun with cavalry by this time,
and the best thing we can do is to remain here until the excitement
has abated a little, and then push for Red River again. That high bank
you see over there," he continued, pointing across the stream, "is an
island, and all the blood-hounds and negro-hunters in Louisiana would
not think of looking for us there. However, I will lead you out of the
swamp, if you say so."
After a short consultation, it was decided that it would be best to
accept George's plan, as their pursuers would never think of looking
for them so near the plantation; and, after divesting themselves of
their clothes, they entered the water and struck out for the opposite
shore. Frank, who brought up the rear, had scarcely made half a
dozen strokes, when he was startled by a loud splashing in the water,
followed by a noise resembling the bellowing of a bull, and looked up
just in time to see the huge, shining body of an alligator disappear
in the muddy water. The utmost horror was depicted on Frank's
countenance, as he turned and hastily regained the shore. The others,
who were too far out to return, were no less terrified, but they
had the presence of mind to retain their hold of their clothing and
weapons, and a few hasty strokes brought them to the shore. George
and the lieutenant were the only ones who did not seem aware of the
danger; for, when the former reached the shore, he proceeded to pull
on his clothes, and, seeing Frank standing where he had left him,
"Why don't you come on? Can't you swim?"
"Yes," answered Frank; "but didn't you see that alligator? I almost
ran over him before I saw him."
"O, that's nothing," answered George, carelessly. "If alligators were
all we had to fear, we would all be safe at the North in less than two
months. They are death on darkeys, but they will not touch a white man
in the water, if he keeps moving. There's not the slightest danger.
Frank was very much inclined to doubt this statement; but, screwing up
his courage to the highest pitch, he stepped into the water again, and
struck out. When he reached the middle of the stream, he saw a large,
black object rise in the water but a short distance from him, and,
after regarding him a moment with a pair of small, sharp-looking eyes,
it disappeared, with another of those roars which had so startled
him but a moment before. He kept on, however, and, in a few moments,
reached the shore in safety.
"Now," said George, "there is, or was about five years ago, a cabin
on this island, where our negroes used to put up when they came here
fishing. Let us see if we can find it."
He commenced leading the way, through the thick bushes and trees,
toward the center of the island, and, after a few moments' walk, they
suddenly entered a small, clear spot, where stood the cabin of which
George had spoken. But a far different scene was presented than they
had expected; for a fire was burning near the cabin, and a man stood
over it, superintending the cooking of his supper, and conversing in
a low tone with a companion who lay stretched out on his blanket close
by. Both were dressed in the rebel uniform, and their muskets and a
cavalry saber were hung up under the eaves of the cabin. George
at once hastily drew back into the bushes, while the captain threw
forward his musket, and whispered:
"Major, I pelieve it's petter we shoots them rebels."
Before the major had time to reply, a large dog, which the fugitives
had not before noticed, arose from the blanket where he had lain
beside his master, and uttered a low growl, whereat the rebels seized
their weapons, and were beating a precipitate retreat, when a loud
"halt!" from the major brought them to a stand-still.
"We takes you all two brisoners," said the captain, as he advanced
from the bushes, followed by the remainder of the fugitives, who all
held their weapons in readiness. "Drop them guns."
The rebels did as they were ordered, and the major said:
"Now we will talk to you. Who and what are you?"
The men hesitated for a moment, and at length one of them, turning to
his companion with a meaning look, said:
"We're caught, any way we can fix it, Jim, and we may as well make a
clean breast of it. We are deserters."
"What are you doing here?"
"We came here to get out of the way of you fellows who were sent after
us. It is as good a place of refuge as we could find, and, to tell the
truth, we did not think you would discover it. You must have followed
us with blood-hounds."
"No, sir; we did not," exclaimed the major, indignantly. "What do you
take us for--savages?"
"Well, you found us in some way," replied the rebel, "and I suppose
we're done for."
"No, not necessarily. We shall not trouble you as long as you behave
yourselves, for we are in a bad fix also."
"Are you deserters, too?" inquired the rebel, joyfully. "If you are,
we are all right, for, with the force we have, we can defend this
island against as many men as they can pile into Louisiana. But, shoot
me if I didn't think you were looking after us. I see you have gobbled
a Yankee," he continued, pointing to the lieutenant. "But, come, sit
down and have some supper."
The major was perfectly willing that the rebels should consider
themselves in the presence of their own men; and, besides, if they
were really deserters, their being on the island proved what
George had told them, that it was considered to be a safe place for
concealment. The only cause he had for uneasiness was the presence
of the rebel lieutenant; if he should find opportunity to talk to the
men, he would soon make known the true state of affairs.
"Captain," he whispered, turning to that individual, "keep an eye on
that prisoner of ours, and do not, under any circumstances, leave him
alone with these deserters."
The fugitives then threw themselves on the ground, under the shade of
the trees, and, while the majority readily entered into conversation
with the rebels, Frank, who had grown suspicious of every thing that
looked like friendship, in spite of the cordial manner with which
the deserters had welcomed them, could not, for a long time, satisfy
himself that every thing was right. However, as he could detect
nothing in the actions of the men to confirm his suspicions, and, as
the fact that their food was supplied to them by a negro, who visited
the island every night, gave him good grounds for believing that there
_might_, after all, be some truth in their statement, he dismissed the
subject for the present, but determined that the men should be closely
During the two following days, which the fugitives spent on the
island, nothing suspicious was discovered. Wherever the lieutenant
went he was closely followed by his keeper, and he was never allowed
to be alone with the other rebels. In fact, he did not seem at all
desirous of having any conversation with them, for, with the exception
of taking a short walk about the island after every meal, he passed
both day and night in dozing in the cabin. The rebels, on the other
hand, appeared to believe him a "Yankee," and as such, considered him
beneath their notice. Frank was beginning to think that his fears had
been utterly groundless, when, on the third night, he was fortunate
enough to detect a plot, which, if carried into execution, would have
put an end to all his hopes of seeing home again, perhaps forever.
It was his duty to stand sentry from dark until midnight. As he walked
his beat, listening for the signal of the negro, whom he every moment
expected with another supply of provisions, and thinking over the
scenes through which he had passed since he had entered the service,
he heard a slight rustling in the bushes back of the cabin, and saw
one of the deserters disappear among the trees. What could the man
mean by moving about the island at that time of night? There must be
something wrong, for his stealthy movements proved that he did not
wish to be observed. While Frank was pondering upon the subject,
and debating the propriety of informing the major of the fact, the
lieutenant sauntered leisurely up to the place where he was standing,
and, stretching his arms, languidly inquired:
"Don't you think it is very sultry this evening? It is impossible for
me to sleep."
This was something unusual for the lieutenant, who, although he had
often conversed very freely with the major, had never before spoken to
Frank since the night of his capture. The latter knew that the rebel
had some object in view, and at once determined to act as though he
suspected nothing, and to await the issue of affairs.
"Yes, it is very warm," he replied, fanning himself with his cap. "I
shall be glad when I get North again."
"No doubt of it," answered the rebel, carelessly. "I believe I'll go
down to the spring and get a cup of water, if you have no objections."
As soon as he had disappeared, Frank threw himself on his hands and
knees, and crawling to the edge of the bank, looked over, and saw the
lieutenant and the deserter, whom he had seen stealing from the cabin,
engaged in conversation.
"They will be here to-morrow night, then, without fail?" he heard the
"Yes, so the negro says," replied the deserter.
"Twelve of them, did you say? That will make sixteen, including the
negro. There will be none too many of us, for these Yankees will fight
like perfect demons. If we fail, our lives will not be worth five
"Do not have any fears," replied the other. "I have made 'assurance
doubly sure,' and failure is impossible."
"Well, go back to the cabin now," said the lieutenant, "for you might
On hearing this, Frank hastily retreated, and regained his post.
Presently the lieutenant returned, and, after giving Frank a drink of
water from his cup, sought his blanket.
"A pretty piece of business, indeed," thought Frank, as he commenced
walking his beat again. "It is fortunate I discovered it. I'll keep a
lookout for the negro, and learn all I can from him."
He was not obliged to wait long, for presently a low whistle, that
sounded from the opposite side of the bayou, told that the negro was
in waiting. Frank answered the signal, when a light canoe shot out
from the shore and approached the island. In a few moments the negro
walked up the bank, and, depositing a large bag of provisions in
the cabin, turned to go back, followed by Frank, who commenced
conversation by observing, "A warm evening, uncle;" but, the moment
they were out of sight of the cabin, he inquired, in a low voice:
"Are those twelve men all ready to come here to-morrow night?"
"Sar! what twelve men?" asked the negro, in well-feigned surprise. "I
dunno nuffin 'bout no twelve men."
"O, now, see here, uncle," said Frank, "that story won't do at all,
for I know better than that. You see this is the first chance I have
had to talk to you, for these Yanks watch me so closely. Now, at what
hour are they to be here?"
"I tol' you, massa," repeated the negro, "dat I dunno nuffin 'bout no
men;" and, thinking he had settled the matter, turned to walk away.
But Frank was not yet done with him, and, seeing that he was too
cunning to be "pumped," determined to try what effect the sight of his
weapons would produce. Seizing the negro by the collar, he pressed
the muzzle of his revolver against his head, whispering, between his
"See here, you black rascal! you _do_ know all about the matter, for
you have carried orders from these rebels here to their friends. So,
confess the whole truth, instantly."
"I dunno nuffin 'bout no men, I tol' you," persisted the negro.
"You won't confess, eh?" said Frank, cocking his revolver. "Then
you're a dead man."
"O Lor'! don't shoot, massa," exclaimed the now terrified negro. "What
shall I 'fess."
"Confess the truth," replied Frank, "and you shall not be harmed; but,
if you try to deceive me, you're a dead darkey. Answer such questions
as I shall ask you. In the first place, who are these men who say they
are rebel deserters?"
"One of 'em is my massa, an' de other is a captain in de army."
"What are they doing on this island?"
"Dey come here for to cotch young massa George Le Dell, 'cause dey
knowed he would be shore for to come here."
"Well, how many men are you going to bring over here to-morrow night?"
"Twelve, sar, an' I fotch 'em in de big canoe."
"At what hour?"
"Midnight, when de moon hab gone down, an' my massa is on guard."
Having got this important information, Frank released the negro, and
regained his post without being discovered. At midnight he called his
relief, and then lay down on the ground and fell asleep.
After breakfast, the next morning, as the major went to the spring to
fill his cup, Frank, who had followed close behind him, said suddenly:
"We're in trouble again."
"Yes, and always shall be," answered the major, coolly, "until we are
safe at the North. But what is the matter now--any thing new?"
"Yes," replied Frank, speaking in a whisper, lest he should be
overheard. "Last night I discovered that there is a plot on foot to
recapture us, and the attempt is to be made at midnight. These men we
found here are not deserters, as they claim to be, but still belong to
The major, as if not at all concerned, raised the cup to his lips and
slowly drained it, keeping his eyes fastened on Frank, who finally
began to grow impatient, and inquired:
"What shall we do to defeat them?"
"Keep cool, for one thing," answered the major. "But tell me all the
Frank then recounted every thing that had transpired. When he had
finished, the major carelessly remarked:
"The rascals played their parts pretty well; in fact, very well,
indeed. Now, the first thing to be done is to go back to the camp and
secure those two fellows. We'll determine upon our plans afterward."
They accordingly slowly returned to the cabin, and found their men
engaged, one in sharpening his Bowie-knife, and the other cleaning his
rifle. The major walked straight up to one of them, and, seizing his
musket, wrested it from him. The other, comprehending the state of
affairs in an instant, exclaimed "Betrayed!" and turned to run, when
Frank grappled with him and threw him to the ground.
"What ish the matter here, any way?" exclaimed the captain, who was
taken so completely by surprise that he stood riveted to the spot.
"Lend a hand here," answered Frank, struggling desperately with his
man, "and ask your questions afterward."
The captain at once sprang to Frank's assistance; in a moment, the
rebel was disarmed, and his hands bound behind his back. The major,
in the mean time, having succeeded in securing his man, gave a hasty
explanation of the matter, and ended by saying:
"There is but one way for us to do, and that is to leave this place at
once. Tie those two rebels to some of these trees, and then we'll be
As soon as this was accomplished, and the major had satisfied himself
that there was not the least chance for their escape, he said:
"Now, we shall leave you here. Your friends will probably be along at
midnight and liberate you."
The rebels made no reply, and the fugitives, after collecting their
weapons, again set out, taking the lieutenant with them. The major
ordered George to lead them by the most direct route to Red River.
This was a desperate measure, but their case was also desperate. The
country on all sides of them had been alarmed, and, if Red River was
closely guarded, the Washita was equally dangerous.
So anxious were they to put as long a distance as possible between
them and the scene of their late narrow escape, that they traveled
until the next morning--stopping only to eat sparingly of some
provisions which one of the soldiers had secured before leaving the
island--and then camped in the swamp, and slept soundly.
The next evening, as soon as it was dark, they again started out. For
three days they held their course straight through the woods, and,
finally, releasing their prisoner, they bent their steps toward Red
River, where, after many delays, they succeeded in securing a canoe.
They traveled entirely by night, and, in a short time reached
Alexandria, where they landed just above the village, and went ashore
to reconnoiter. To their disappointment they found that the place was
filled with soldiers, and that a pontoon-bridge had been thrown across
the river, and was guarded at both ends.
After making all their observations, they retreated to the bank of the
river, and held a consultation. Should they abandon their canoe, and
strike off through the woods again? There were many objections to
this plan. The country, for miles around, was, doubtless, filled with
encampments, and guarded by pickets, and their progress would involve
both danger and difficulty. Besides, they were almost worn out with
travel and constant watching, and, even had there been no obstacles
in their way, it would have been impossible for them to sustain a
long journey across the country. It was finally decided to follow the
river. They resolved to run the bridge, and hoped, aided by darkness,
to escape discovery. It was necessary that some one should guide
the canoe, and, as Frank perfectly understood its management, he was
selected for the purpose.
As soon as the moon had gone down, Frank seated himself in the stern
of the canoe, and his companions stretched themselves out under the
thwarts, as much out of sight as possible. As soon as all was ready,
he moved their frail craft from the shore, with one silent sweep of
the paddle, turning it toward the bridge.
It was a dangerous undertaking; but Frank although perfectly aware
of this, and knowing what his fate would be if he was recaptured, had
never been more cool and self-possessed in his life. He remained at
his station until they were within a hundred yards of the bridge. He
then drew in his paddle, and laid on the bottom of the canoe, with the
others, awaiting the issue.
Propelled by the force of the current, the canoe rapidly approached
the bridge, and, presently, they could distinctly hear the sentinels
talking with each other. They had not been expecting an enemy in that
quarter; but, in a few moments, that danger was passed. For miles
below Alexandria, the river was lined with picket fires, and
the slightest noise would have betrayed them. But they were not
discovered; and, after a week's journey--during which the papers Frank
had taken from the rebel lieutenant procured them food--they reached
the Mississippi River.
To their disappointment they learned that Vicksburg was still in
possession of the rebels, and that they had two hundred miles further
to go before they would be among friends again. After having come so
far, they could not be discouraged, but, taking a few moments' repose,
they again set out.
The current in the river was very strong, and it was a month before
they reached Vicksburg. One dark night, they ran by the city in
safety, and the next morning, to their joy, they found themselves in
sight of a gun-boat, for which they immediately shaped their course.
As they approached her, Frank thought there was something about the
vessel that looked familiar; and when they came alongside, he found
that it was the Ticonderoga. She had been repainted, and some of
her rigging altered, which was the reason he had not recognized her
Frank almost cried with joy when he found himself once more on his own
ship; and all the dangers he had undergone were forgotten in a moment.
He saw many new officers on board, and a master's mate met them at the
gangway, who, probably, held the position he once occupied.
The captain stood on deck, but did not recognize him; and even the old
mate, with whom Frank had been an especial favorite, gazed at him as
though he were a perfect stranger.
"Walk up on deck, men," said the officer who received them, and who,
doubtless, took them for rebel deserters, "the captain wants to see
Frank led the way up the ladder, and as they filed, one after the
other, on to the quarter-deck, the captain inquired:
"Where do you belong, men?"
"I formerly belonged here, sir," answered Frank, raising his hat; "and
I have the honor to report myself on board."
"Report yourself on board!" repeated the captain, in a tone of
"Yes, sir. I haven't been on board since we were down Yazoo Pass. I
did not intend to remain away so long, when I left the ship, but I
couldn't help it."
"Explain yourself," said the captain, growing impatient; "I don't know
what you mean."
"My name is Nelson, sir; I was captured at"--
"Why, Mr. Nelson!" exclaimed the captain, seizing his hand with a grip
that almost wrung from him a cry of pain, "is it possible this is you?
I never expected to see you again. But who are these with you?"
"They are some of our soldiers, whom I met on the way down."
Their story was very soon told. When it became known that the rebel
lieutenant who was talking with the captain was none other than
Frank Nelson, the quarter-deck was filled with officers and men, who
gathered around the young hero, congratulating him on his safe return.
He was compelled to relate the particulars of his escape over and over
again; and, finally, he and his companions were taken down into the
wardroom, and supplied with clothing more befitting their stations
than that which they wore.
For two days Frank did nothing but answer questions and relate
incidents that occurred during the flight from Shreveport. But at
length the reaction came, and he, with several of his companions, were
seized with the fever. For a month Frank was very ill; but he received
the best of care, and, aided by his strong constitution, the progress
of the disease was stayed.
One day the captain came into his room, and, seating himself by his
"Well, Mr. Nelson, how do you prosper?"
"Oh, I am getting along finely, thank you, sir."
"Do you think you will be strong enough to travel, soon?"
"Yes, sir," answered Frank, wondering what made the captain ask that
"How would you enjoy a trip home?"
"Oh, I should enjoy it above all things, sir I never was away from
home so long before, in my life."
"Well," said the captain, as he rose to go, "you must hurry and get
well as fast as you can. The doctor told me that he thought you ought
to go North and recruit a little; so I wrote to the Admiral, and
obtained you a sick-leave. The dispatch boat will be along in a day
or two, and I will send you up the river on her. I think it is nothing
more than right that you should go home for a couple of months, at
least, for you have been through a good deal for a young man of your
The thought that he was soon to see his home again did Frank more good
than all the medicine the doctor had given him; and, by the time the
mail steamer arrived, he was able to walk about. In two weeks they
arrived at Cairo. The steamer had scarcely touched the wharf-boat
before Archie, who had seen his cousin standing on deck, sprang on
We can not describe the meeting. To Archie it was like finding one
risen from the dead; for he had heard of Frank's capture, and had
never expected to see him again. A multitude of questions were asked
and answered on both sides; and when Frank informed Archie that he
was on his way home, the latter abruptly left him, and hurried to the
fleet paymaster to ask permission to accompany his cousin. This, as
business was dull, and as Archie had always been very faithful, was
readily obtained. They made preparations for immediate departure.
After Archie had telegraphed to his father that Frank was safe--taking
care, however, not to say one word about their coming home--they took
their seats in the cars, and soon arrived safely in Portland. Frank
remained there only one day, and then set out for Lawrence.
Only those who have been in similar circumstances can imagine what
Frank's feelings were, as he stood on the deck of the Julia Burton,
and found himself once more in sight of his native village. Familiar
objects met his eye on every side. There were the weeds that
surrounded the perch-bed, where he, in company with George and Harry
Butler, was fishing when he made the acquaintance of Charles Morgan,
who was afterward the leader of the Regulators. Above the perch-bed
was the bass-ground, and to the left was Reynard's Island, where
the black fox had been captured. Near the middle of the river lay
Strawberry Island, which had been the silent witness of many a sailing
match between the yachts of the village; in short, every thing looked
exactly as it did when, just fifteen months before, he had sailed down
the river on that same steamer, on his way to Portland.
As soon as the steamer was made fast to the wharf, Frank gave his
trunk in charge of a drayman, and set out on foot for the cottage;
for, impatient as he was to get home, he wished to have time to enjoy
the sight of each familiar object along the road; besides, he wished
to come in upon his folks (who little dreamed that he was so near to)
suddenly, and take them by surprise. Every thing in the village, and
along the road, looked as natural as ever; not a tree, bush, or stump
seemed to have been removed. At length he reached the bend in the road
which brought him in sight of his home. He stopped to gaze upon the
scene. Not a thing about the house or orchard had been changed. He
noticed that a part of the rose-bush which covered his window, and
which had been broken off in a storm the night before he left, still
swung loose in the wind; and even his fish-pole, which he had hung up
under the eaves of his museum, had not been touched.
While he stood thus, trying in vain to choke back the tears, he was
aroused by a well-known bark; the next moment Brave bounded over the
fence, and came toward his master at the top of his speed. He had been
lying in his accustomed place in front of the house; he had seen Frank
approaching, and had recognized him in an instant. Frank wound his
arms around the faithful animal's neck, and, after caressing him for
a moment, again started toward the house, Brave leading the way, with
every demonstration of joy. As soon as Frank succeeded in quieting
him, he walked through the gate, noiselessly opened the door leading
into the hall, and paused to listen.
He heard Julia's voice singing one of his favorite songs, while a
loud clatter of dishes told him that Hannah was still in charge of the
Brave ran into the sitting-room, barking and whining furiously, and
Frank heard his mother say:
"Julia, I guess you did not close the front door when you came in. Be
quiet, Brave. What is the matter with you?" and Mrs. Nelson, dressed
in deep mourning, came into the hall. The next moment she was clasped
in her son's arms.
* * * * *
Let those who have sons and brothers in the service imagine the joy
that prevailed in that house! They had heard of Frank's capture,
through Archie and the captain of the Ticonderoga, and, afterward,
that he was killed at Shreveport, while attempting to run by the
"Mother," said Frank, as soon as the greeting was over, "you told me,
when I went away, never to shrink from my duty, but always to do what
was required of me, no matter what the danger might be. Have I obeyed
Reader, will you answer the question for her? and will you follow
Frank through his adventures before Vicksburg and on the Lower