Part 2 out of 5
the arrival of the regiment in camp of instruction. "You remember
that that was his favorite figure of rhetoric, and he repeated it
"Don't know anything about figger of retterick," growled Abe, who,
his comrades said, had the evenest temper in the regiment, "for he
was always mad. But I do remember that he said that over several
times, with a lot o' other things without much pint to 'em, until
I thought I'd drop, I was so thirsty and tired."
"Yes? Well, now if you want to get a good idea of what that
expression meant, look over there. Not only his heart swells, but
he swells all over."
"I should think he did," replied Abe, after a moment's inspection.
"Unless his hat has an Injy-rubber band, he'll have to git it cut
offen his head, which ought to be hooped, for it can't swell no
more without busting."
It was Jacob Alspaugh crossing the parade ground in more than Solomonic
splendor of uniform. His inflated form bore upon it all the blue
and tinsel prescribed by the Army Regulations for the raiment and
insignia of a First Lietenant of Infantry, with such additions as
had been suggested by his exuberant fancy. His blue broadcloth
was the finest and shiniest. Buttons and bugles seemed masses of
barbric gold. From broad-brimmed hat floated the longest ostrich
feather procurable in the shops. Shining leather boots, field-marshal
pattern, came above his knees. Yellow gauntlets covered his massive
hands and reached nearly to his elbows, and on his broad shoulders
were great glittering epaulets--then seldom worn by anyone, and
still more rarely by volunteer officers. He evidently disdained to
hide the crimson glories of his sash in the customary modest way,
by folding it under his belt, but had made of it a broad bandage
for his abdominal regions, which gae him the appearance of some
gigantic crimson-breasted blue-bird. Behind him trailing, clanking
on the ground as he walked, not the modest little sword of his
rank, but a long cavalry saber, with glittering steel scabbard. But
the sheen of gold and steel was dimmed beside the glow of intense
satisfaction with hs make-up that shone in his face. There might
be alloy in his gleaming buttons and bullion epaulets; there was
none in his happiness.
"I feel sorry for the poor lilies of the field that he comes near,"
sighed Kent, sympathetically. "He is like them now, in neither
toiling nor spinning, and yet how ashamed he must make them of
their inferior rainment."
"Faugh! it makes me sick to see a dunghill like that strutting
around in feathers that belong to game birds."
"O, no; no game bird ever wore such plumage as that. You must be
thinking of a peacock, or a bird-of-paradise."
"Well, then, blast it, I hate to see a peacock hatched all at once
out of a slinking, roupy, barnyard rooster."
"O, no; since circuses are out of the question now, we ought to
be glad of so good a substitute. It only needs a brass band, with
some colored posters, to be a genuine grand entry, with street
Alspaugh's triumphal march had now brought him within a few feet
of them, but they continued to lounge indifferently on the musket
box upon which they had been sitting, giving a mere nod as recognition
of his presence, and showing no intention of rising to salute.
The glow of satisfaction faded from Alspaugh's horizon, and a cloud
"Here, you fellers," he said angrily, "why don't ye git up an'
saloot? Don't ye know your business yit?"
"What business, Jake?" asked Kent Edwards, absently, paying most
attention to a toad which had hopped out form the cover of a budock
leaf, in search of insects for his supper.
Alspaugh's face grew blacker. "The business of paying proper
respect to your officers."
"It hasn't occured to me that I am neglecting anything in that
line," said Kent, languidly, shifting over to recline upon his
left elbow, and with his right hand gathering up a little gravel
to flip at the toad; "but maybe you are better acquainted with our
business than we are."
Abe contributed to the dialogue a scornful laugh, indicative of a most
heartless disbelief in his superior officer's superior intellectuality.
The dark cloud burst in storm: "Don't you know," said Alspaugh,
angry in every fiber, "that the reggerlations say that 'when an
enlisted man sees an officer approach, he will rise and saloot,
and remain standin' and gazin' in a respectful manner until the
officer passes five paces beyond him?' Say, don't you know that?"
Kent Edwards flipped a bit of gravel with such good aim that it
struck the toad fairly on the head, who blinked his bright eyes in
surprise, and hopped back to his covert. "I am really glad," said
he, "to know that you have learned SOMETHING of the regulations.
Now, don't say another word about it until I run down to the company
quarters and catch a fellow for a bet, who wants to put up money
that you can never learn a single sentence of them. Don't say
another word, and you can stand in with me on the bet."
"Had your head measured since you got this idea into it?" asked
Abe Bolton, with well-assumed interest.
"If he did, he had to use a surveyor's chain," suggested Kent,
flipping another small pebble in the direction of the toad's retreat.
Alspaugh had grown so great upon the liberal feed of the meat of
flattery, that he could hardly make himself believe that he had
heard aright, and that these men did not care a fig for himself or
his authority. Then recovering confidence in the fidelity of their
ears, it seemed to him that such conduct was aggravated mutiny, which
military discipline demanded should receive condign punishment on
the spot. Had he any confidence in his ability to use the doughy
weapon at his side, he would not have resisted the strong temptation
to draw his sword and make an example then and there of the contemners
of his power and magnificence. But the culprits has shown such an
aptitude in the use of arms as to inspire his wholesome respect,
and he was very far from sure that they might not make a display
of his broadsword an occasion for heaping fresh ridicule upon him.
An opportune remembrance came to his aid:
"If it wasn't for the strcit orders we officers got yesterday not
to allow ourselves to be provoked under any circumstances into
striking our men, I'd learn you fellers mighty quick not to insult
your superior officers. I'd bring you to time, I can tell you.
But I'll settle with you yit. I'll have you in the guard hose
on bread and water in short meter, and then I'll learn you to be
respectful and obedient."
"He means 'teach,' instead of 'learn,'" said Kent, apologetically,
to Abe. "It's just awful to have a man, wearing shoulder-straps,
abuse English grammar in that way. What's grammar done to him to
deserve such treatment? He hasn't even a speaking acquaintance
"I 'spose it's because grammar can't hit back. That's the kind he
always picks on," answered Abe.
"You'll pay for this," shouted Alspaugh, striding off after the
Seargent of the Guard.
At that moment a little drummer appeared by the flagstaff, and beat
a lively rataplan.
"That's for dress-parade," said Kent Edwards, rising. "We'd better
skip right over to quarters and fall in."
"Wish their dress-parades were in the brimstone flames," growled
Abe Bolton, as he rose to accompany his comrade. "All they're for
is to stand up as a background, to show off a lot of spruce young
officers dressed in fancy rigs."
"Well," said Kent, lightly, as they walked along, "I kind of like
that; don't you? We make picturesque backgrounds, don't we? you
and I, especially you, the soft, tender, lithe and willowy; and
I, the frowning, rugged and adamantine, so to speak. I think the
background business is our best hold."
He laughed heartily at his own sarcasm, but Abe was not to be moved
by such frivolity, and answered glumly:
"O, yes; laugh about it, if you choose. That's your way: giggle
over everything. But when I play background, I want it to be with
something worth while in the foreground. I don't hanker after
making myself a foil to show off such fellers as our officers are,
to good advantage."
"That don't bother me any more than it does a mountain to serve as
a background for a nanny goat and a pair of sore-eyed mules!"
"Yes, but the mountain sometimes has an opportunity to drop an
avalanche on 'em."
At this point of the discussion they arrived at the company grounds,
and had scarcely time to snatch up their guns and don their belts
before the company moved out to take its place in the regimental
The occasion of Lieutenant Alspaugh's elaborate personal ornamentation
now manifested itself. By reason of Captain Bennett's absence,
he was in command of the company, and was about to make his first
appearance on parade in that capacity. Two or three young women,
of the hollyhock order of beauty, whom he was very anxious to
impress, had been brought to camp, to witness his apotheosis into
a commanding officer.
The moment, however, that he placed himself at the head of the company
and drew sword, the chill breath of distrust sent the mercury of
his self-confidence down to zero. It looked so easy to command
a company when some one else was doing it; it was hard when he
tried it himself. All the imps of confusion held high revel in
his mind when he attempted to give the orders which he had conned
until he supposed he had them "dead-letter perfect." he felt his
usually-unfailing assurance shrivel up under the gaze of hundreds
of mercilessly critical eyes. He managed to stammer out:
"ATTENTION, COMPANY! FORWARD, FILE RIGHT, MARCH!"
But as the company began to execute the order, it seemed to be
going just the opposite to what he had commanded, and he called
"Not that way! Not that way! I said 'file right,' and you're
"We are filing right," answered some in the company. "You're turned
around; that's what's the matter with you."
So it was. He had forgotten that when standing facing the men, he
must give them orders in reverse from what the movement appeared to
him. This increased his confusion, until all his drill knowledge
seemed gone from him. The sight of his young lady friends, clad
in masses of primary colors, stimulated him to a strong effort to
recover his audacity, and bracing himself up, he began calling out
the guide and step, with a noisy confidence that made him heard
all over the parade ground:
"Left! left! left! Hep! hep! hep! Cast them head and eyes to the
Trouble loomed up mountainously as he approached the line.
Putting a company into its place on parade is one of the crucial
tests of tactical proficiency. To march a company to exactly the
right spot, with every man keeping his proper distance from his
file-leader--"twenty-eight inches from back to breast," clear down
the column, so that when the order "front" was given, every one
turns, as if on pivot, and touches elbows with those on each side
of him, in a straight, firm wall of men, without any shambling "closing
up," or "side-stepping" to the right or left,--to do all this at
word of command, looks very simple and easy to the non-military
spectator, as many other very difficult things look simple and easy
to the inexperienced. But really it is only possible to a thoroughly
drilled company, held well in hand by a competent commander. It
is something that, if done well, is simply done well, but if not
done well, is very bad. It is like an egg that is either good or
Alspaugh seemed fated to exhaust the category of possible mistakes.
Coming on the ground late he found that a gap had been left in the
line for his company which was only barely sufficient to receive
it when it was aligned and compactly "dressed."
In his nervousness he halted the company before it had reached the
right of the gap by ten paces, and so left about one-quarter of the
company lapping over on the one to his left. Even this was done
with an unsightly jumble. His confusion as to the reversal of right
and left still abode with him. He commanded "right face" instead
of "front," and was amazed to see the whole one hundred well-drilled
men whirl their backs around to the regiment and the commanding
officer. A laugh rippled down the ranks of the other companies;
even the spectators smiled, and something sounded like swearing by
the Adjutant and Sergeant-Major.
Alspaugh lifted his plumed hat, and wiped the beaded perspiration
from his brow with the back of one of the yellow gauntlets.
"Order an 'about face,'" whispered the Orderly-Sergeant, whose
face was burning with shame at the awkward position in which the
company found itself.
"ABOUT--FACE!" gasped Alspaugh.
The men turned on their heels.
"Side-step to the right," whispered the Orderly.
"Side-step to the right," repeated Alspaugh, mechanically.
The men took short side-steps, and following the orders which
Alspaugh repeated from the whispered suggestions of the Orderly,
the company came clumsily forward into its place, "dressed," and
"opened ranks to the rear." When at the command of "parade-rest,"
Alspaugh dropped his saber's point to the ground, he did it with
the crushed feeling of a strutting cock which has been flung into
the pond and emerges with dripping feathers.
He raised his heart in sincere thanksgiving that he was at last
through, for there was nothing more for him to do during the parade,
except to stand still, and at its conclusion the Orderly would have
to march the company back to its quarters.
But his woes had still another chapter. The Inspector-General had
come to camp to inspect the regiment, and he was on the ground.
Forty years of service in the regular army, with promotion averaging
one grade every ten years, making him an old man and a grandfather
before he was a Lieutenant-Colonel, had so surcharged Col. Murbank's
nature with bitterness as to make even the very air in his vicinity
seem roughly astringent. The wicked young Lieutenants who served
with him on the Plains used to say that his bark was worse than
his bite, because no reasonable bite could ever be so bad as his
bark. They even suggested calling him "Peruvian Bark," because a
visit to his quarters was worse than a strong does of quinia.
"Yeth, that'th good," said the lisping wit of the crowd. "Evely
bite ith a bit, ain't it? And the wortht mutht be a bitter, ath
The Colonel believed tha the whole duty of man consisted in loving
the army regulations, and in keeping their commandments. The best
part of all virtue was to observe them to the letter; the most
abhorrent form of vice, to violate or disregard even their minor
His feelings were continually lacerated by contact with volunteers,
who cared next to nothing for the FORM of war-making, but everything
for its spirit, and the martinet heart within him was bruised and
sore when he came upon the ground to inspect the regiment.
Alspaugh's blundering in bringing the company into line awakened
this ire from a passivity to activity.
"I'll have that dunderhead's shoulder-straps off inside of a
fortnight," he muttered between his teeth.
The unhappy Lietenant's inability to even stand properly during the
parade, or repeat an order intensified his rage. When the parade
was dismissed the officers, as usual, sheathed their swords, and
forming a line with the Adjutant in the center, marched forward
to teh commanding and inspecting officers, and saluted. Then the
wrath of the old Inspector became vocable.
"What in God's name," he roared, fixing his glance upon Alspaugh
so unmistakably that enve the latter's rainbow-clad girls, who had
crowded up closely, could not make a mistake as to the victim of
the expletives. "What in God's name, sir," repeated the old fellow
with purpling face, "do you mean by bringing your company on to the
ground in that absurd way, sir? Did you think, sir, that it was a
hod of brick--with which I have no doubt you are most familiar--that
you could dump down any place and any how, sir? Such misconduct
is simply disgraceful, sir, I'd have you know. Simply disgraceful,
He paused for breath, but Alspaugh had no word of defense to offer.
"And what do you mean, sir," resumed the Inspector, after inflating
his lungs for another gust, "what in the name of all the piebald
circus clowns that ever jiggered around on sawdust, do you mean
by coming on parade dressed like the ringmaster of a traveling
monkey-show, sir? Haven't you any more idea of the honor of wearing
a United States sword--the noblest weapon on earth, sir--than to
make yourself look like the drum-major of a band of nigger minstrels,
sir! A United States officer ought to be ashamed to make a damned
harlequin of himself, sir. I'd have you to understand that most
The Inspector's stock of breath, alas, was not so ample as in the
far-off days when his sturdy shoulders bore the modest single-bar,
instead of the proud spread eagle of the present. Even had it been,
the explosive energy of his speech would have speedily exhausted
it. Compelled to stop to pump in a fresh supply, the Colonel of
the regiment took advantage of the pause to whisper in his ear:
"Don't be too rough on him, please. He's a good man but green.
Promoted from the ranks for courage in action. First appearance
on parade. He'll do better if given a chance."
The Inspector's anger was mollified. Addressing himself to all
the officers, he continued in a milder tone:
"Gentlemen, you seem to be making progress in acquiring a knowledge
of your duties, though you have a world of things yet to learn.
I shall say so in my report to the General. You can go to your
The line of officers dissolved, and the spectators began to melt
away. Alspaugh's assurance rose buoyantly the moment that the
pressure was removed. He raised his eyes from the ground, and
looked for the young ladies. They had turned their backs and were
leaving the ground. He hastened after them, fabricating as he
walked an explanation, based on personal jealousy, of the Inspector's
treatment of him. He was within a step of overtaking them when he
heard one say, with toss of flaunting ribbons, and hoidenish giggle:
"Did you EVER see ANY-body wilt as Alspaugh did when old
Bite-Your-Head-Off-In-a-Minute was jawing him? It was so awfully
FUNNY that I just thought I SHOULD DIE."
The sentence ended with the picturesque rapid CRESCENDO employed
by maidens of her type in describing a convulsive experience.
"Just didn't he," joined in another. "I never saw ANY-thing so
funny in all my BORN DAYS. I was AFRAID to look at either one of
YOU; I knew if I DID I would BURST RIGHT OUT laughing. I couldn't've
HELPED it--I know I COULDN'T, if I'd'a knowed I'd'a DIED the next
"This would seem to be a pretty good time to drop the fellow,"
added the third girl, reflectively.
Alspaugh turned and went in another direction. At the 9 o'clock
roll-call he informed the company that the Inspector was well
pleased with its appearance on parade.
Chapter VIII. The Tedium of Camp.
And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding. --Henry V.
To really enjoy life in a Camp of Instruction requires a peculiar
cast of mind. It requires a genuine liking for a tread-mill round
of merely mechanical duties; it requiers a taste for rising in the
chill and cheerless dawn, at the unwelcome summons of "reveille,"
to a long day filled with a tiresome routine of laborious drills
alternating with tedious roll-calls, and wearisome parades and
inspections; it requires pleased contentment with walks continually
cut short by the camp-guard, and with amusements limited to rough
horse-play on the parade-ground, and dull games of cards by sputtering
candles in the tent.
As these be tastes and preferences notably absent from the mind of
the average young man, our volunteers usually regard their experience
in Camp of Instruction as among the most unpleasant of their war
These were the trials that tested Harry Glen's resolution sorely.
When he enlisted with the intention of redeeming himself, he
naturally expected that the opportunity he desired would be given
by a prompt march to the field, and a speedy entrance into an
engagement. He nerved himself strenuously for the dredful ordeal of
battle, but this became a continually receding point. The bitter
defeat at Bull Run was bearing fruit in months of painstaking
preparation before venturing upon another collision.
Day by day he saw the chance of retrieving his reputation
apparently more remote. Meanwhile discouragements and annoyances
grew continually more plentiful and irksome. He painfully learned
that the most disagreeable part of war is not the trial of battle,
but the daily sacrifices of personal liberty, tastes, feelings and
conveniences involved in camp-life, and in the reduction of one's
cherished individuality to the dead-level of a passive, obedient,
will-less private soldier.
"I do wish the regiment would get orders to move!" said almost hourly
each one of a half-million impatient youths fretting in Camps of
Instruction through the long Summer of 1861.
"I do wish the regiment would get orders to move!" said Harry Glen
angrily one evening, on coming into the Surgeon's tent to have his
blistered hands dressed. he had been on fatigue duty during the
day, and the Fatigue-Squad had had an obstinate struggle with an
old oak stump, which disfigured the parade-ground, and resisted
removal like an Irish tenant.
"I am willing--yes, I can say I am anxious, even--to go into battle,"
he continued, while Dr. Paul Denslow laid plasters of simple cerate
on the abraded palms, and then swathed them in bandages. "Anything
is preferable to this chopping tough stumps with a dull ax, and
drilling six hours a day while the thermometer hangs around the
"I admit that there are things which would seem pleasanter to a young
man of your temperament and previous habits," said the Surgeon,
kindly. "Shift over into that arm-stool, which you will find easier,
and reat a little while. Julius, bring in that box of cigars."
While Julius, who resembled his illustrious namesake as little
in celerity of movement as he did in complexion, was coming, the
Surgeon prepared a paper, which he presented to Harry, saying:
"There, that'll keep you off duty to-morrow. After that, we'll
see what can be done."
Julius arrived with the cigars as tardily as if he had had to cross
a Rubicon in the back room. Two were lighted, and the Surgeon
settled himself for a chat.
"Have you become tired of soldier-life?" asked he, studying Harry's
face for the effect of the question.
"I can not say that I have become tired of it," said Harry, frankly,
"because I must admit that I never had the slightest inclination
to it. I had less fancy for becoming a soldier than for any other
honorable pursuit that you could mention."
"Then you only joined the army--"
"From a sense of duty merely," said Harry, knocking the ashes from
"And the physical and other discomforts now begin to weight nearly
as much as that sense of duty?"
"Not at all. It only seems to me that there are more of them than
are absolutely essential to the performance of that duty. I want
to be of service to the country, but I would prefer that that
service be not made unnecessarily onerous."
"Quite natural; quite natural."
"For example, how have the fatigues and pains of my afternoon's
chopping contributed a particle toward the suppression of the
rebellion? What have my blistered hands to do with the hurts of
"Let us admit that the connection is somewhat obscure," said Doctor
"It is easier for you, than for me, to view the matter calmly. Your
hands are unhurt. I am the galled jade whose withers are wrung."
"Body and spirit both bruised?" said the Surgeon, half reflectively.
Harry colored. "Yes," he said, rather defiantly. "In addition to
desiring to serve my country, I want to vindicate my manhood from
some aspersions which have been cast upon it."
"Quite a fair showing of motives. Better, perhaps, than usual,
when a careful weighing of the relative proportions of self-esteem,
self-interest and higher impulses is made."
"I am free to say that the discouragements I have met with are very
different, and perhaps much greater than I contemplated. Nor can
I bring myself to belived tha they are necessary. I am trying to
be entirely willing to peril life and limb on the field of battle,
but instead of placing me where I can do this, and allowing me to
concentrate all my energies upon that object, I am kept for months
chafing under the petty tyrannies of a bullying officer, and
deprived of most of the comforts that I have heretofore regarded
as necessary to my existence. What good can be accomplished by
diverting forces which should be devoted to the main struggle into
this ignoble channel? That's what puzzles and irritates me."
"It seems to be one of the inseperable conditions of the higher
forms of achievement that they require vastly more preparation for
them than the labor of doing them."
"That's no doubt very philosophical, but it's not satisfactory,
for all that."
"My dear boy, learn this grand truth now: That philosophy is never
satisfactory; it is only mitigatory. It consists mainly in saying
with many fine words: 'What can't be cured must be endured.'"
"I presume that is so. I wish, though, that by the mere syaing
so, I could make the endurance easier."
"I can make your lot in the service easier."
"Indeed! how so?"
"By having you appointed my Hospital Steward. I have not secured
one yet, and the man who is acting as such is so intemperate that
I feel a fresh sense of escape with every day that passes without
his mistaking the oxalic axid for Epsom salts, to the destruction
of some earnest but constipated young patriot's whole digestive
"If you accept this position," continued the Surgeon, flinging away
his refractory cigar in disgust, and rising to get a fresh one,
"you will have the best rank and pay of any non-commissioned officer
in the regiment; better, ineed, than that of a Second Lieutenant.
You will have your quarters here with me, and be compelled
to associate with no one but me, thus reducing your disagreeable
companions at a single stroke, to one. And you will escape finally
from all subserviency to Lieutenant Alspaugh, or indeed to any
other officer in the regiment, except your humble servant. As to
food, you will mess with me."
"Those are certainly very strong inducements," said Harry, meditating
upon the delightfulness of relief from the myriad of rasping little
annoyances which rendered every day of camp-life an infliction.
"Yes, and still farther, you will never need to go under fire, or
expose yourself to danger of any kind, unless you choose to."
Harry's face crimsoned to the hue of the western sky where the sun
was just going down. He started to answer hotly, but an understanding
of the Surgeon's evident kindness and sincerity interposed to deter
him. He knew there was no shaft of sarcasm hidden below this plain
speech, and after a moment's consideration he replied:
"I am very grateful, I assure you, for your kindness in this
matter. I am strongly tempted to accept your offer, bu there are
still stronger reasons why I should decline it."
"May I ask your reasons?"
"My reasons for not accepting the appointment?"
"Yes, the reasons which impel you to prefer a dinner of bitter
herbs, under Mr. Alspaugh's usually soiled thumb, to a stalled ox
and my profitable society," said the Surgeon, gayly.
Harry hesitated a moment, and then decided to speak frankly. "Yes,"
he said, "your kindness gives you the right to know. To not tell
you would show a lack of gratitude. I made a painful blunder before
in not staying unflinchingly with my company. The more I think of
it, the more I regret it, and the more I am decided not to repeat
it, but abide with my comrades and share their fate in all things.
I feel that I no longer have a choice in the matter; I must do it.
But there goes the drum for roll-call. I must go. Good evening,
and very many thanks."
"The young fellow's no callow milksop, after all," said the Surgeon
Denslow, as his eyes followed Harry's retreating form. "His gristle
is hardening into something like his stern old father's backbone."
Chapter IX. On the March.
"He smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the Captains and the shouting."
The weary weeks in Camp of Instruction ended with the Summer.
September had come, and Nature was hanging out crimson battle-flags
every-where--on the swaying poppy and the heavy-odored geranium.
The sumach and the sassafras wore crimson signals of defiance, and
the maples blazed with the gaudy red, yellow and orange of warlike
The regiment made its first step on Kentucky soil with a little bit
of pardonable ostentation. Every one looked upon it as the real
beginning of its military career. When the transport was securely
tied up at the wharf, the Colonel mounted his horse, drew his sword,
placed himself at the head of the regiment, and gave the command
"Forward." Eleven hundred superb young fellows, marching four
abrest, with bayonets fixed, and muskets at "right shoulder shift,"
strode up the bank after him and went into line of battle at the
top, where he made a short soldierly speech, the drums rolled, the
colors dipped, the men cheered, and the band played "Star-spangled
Banner" and "Dixie."
Three years later the two hundred survivors of this number
returning from their "Veteran furlough," without a band and with
their tattered colors carefully cased, came off a transport at the
same place, without uttering a word other than a little grumbling
at the trouble of disposing of some baggage, marched swiftly and
silently up the bank, and disappeared before any one fairly realized
that they were there. So much had Time and War taught them.
"Now our work may be said to be fairly begun." said the Colonel,
turning from the contemplation of his regiment, and scanning
anxiously the tops of the distant line of encircling hills, as if
he expected to see there signs of the Rebels in strong force. All
the rest imitated his example, and studied the horizon solicitously.
"And I expect we shall have plenty of it!" continued the Colonel.
"No doubt of that," answered the Major. "They say the Rebels are
filling Kentucky with troops, and gonig to fight for every foot of
the Old Dark and Bloody Ground. I think we will have to earn all
we get of it."
"To-day's papers report," joined in Surgeon Denslow, "that General
sherman says it will take two hundred thousand troops to redeem
"Yes," broke in the Colonel testily, "and the same papers agree in
pronouncing Sherman crazy. But no matter how many or how few it
takes, that's none of our affair. We've got eleven hundred good
men in ranks, and we're going to do all that eleven hundred good
men can do. God Almighty and Abe Lincoln have got to take care of
It will be seen that the Colonel was a very practical soldier.
"First think we know, the Colonel will be trying to make us 'leven
hundred clean out 'leven thousand Rebs," growled Abe Bolton.
"Suppose the Colonel should imagine himself another Leonidas,
and us his Spartan band, and want us to die around him, and start
another Thermopylae down her in the mountains, some place," suggested
Kent Edwards, "you would cheerfully pass in your checks along with
the rest, so as to make the thing an entire success, wouldn't you?"
"The day I'm sent below, I'll take a pile of Rebs along to keep me
company," answered Abe, surlily.
Glen, standing in the rear of his company in his place as file-closer,
listened to these words, and saw in the dim distance and on the
darkling heights the throngs of fierce enemies and avalanches of
impeding dangers as are likely to oppress the imagination of a young
soldier at such unfavorable moments. The conflict and carnage seemed
so imminent that he half expected it to begin that very night, and
he stiffened his sinews for the shock.
Lieutenant Alspaugh also heard, studied over the unwelcome
possibilities shrouded in the gathering gloom of the distance, and
regretted that he had not, before crossing the Ohio, called the
Surgeon's attention to some premonitory symptoms of rheumatism,
which he felt he might desire to develop into an acute attack in
the event of danger assuming an unpleasant proximity.
But as no Rebels appeared on the sweeping semi-circle of hills that
shut in Convington on the south, he concluded to hold his disability
in abeyance, by a strong effort of the will, until the regiment
had penetrated farther into the enemy's country.
For days the regiment marched steadily on through the wonderfully
lovely Blue Grass Region, toward the interior of the State, without
coming into the neighborhood of any organized body of the Rebels.
Glen's first tremors upon crossing the Ohio subsided so as to
permit him to thoroughly enjoy the beauties of the scenery, and
the pleasures of out-door life in a region so attractive at that
season of the year.
The turnpike, hard and smooth as a city pavement, wound over
and around romantic hills--hills crowned with cedar and evergreen
laurel, and scarred with cliffs and caverns. It passed through
forests, aromatic with ripening nuts and changing leaves, and glorious
in the colors of early Autumn. Then its course would traverse farms
of gracefully undulating acres, bounded by substantial stone-walls,
marked by winding streams of pure spring water, centering around
great roomy houses, with huge outside chimneys, and broad piazzas,
and with a train of humble negro cabins in the rear. The horses
were proud stepping thoroughbreds, the women comely and spirited,
the men dignified and athletic, and all seemed well-fed and
comfortable. The names of the places along the route recalled to
Harry's memory all he had ever read of the desperate battles and
massacres and single-handed encounters of Daniel Boone and his
associates, with the Indians in the early history of the country.
"This certainly seems an ideal pastoral land--a place where one
would naturally locate a charming idyl or bucolic love-story!"
he said one evening, to Surgeon Paul Denslow, after descanting at
length upon the beauties of the country which they were "redeeming"
from the hands of the Rebels.
"Yes, answered Dr. Denslow, "and it's as dull and sleepy and
non-progressive as all those places are where they locate what you
call your idyls and pastorals! These people haven't got an idea
belonging to this century, nor do they want one. They know how to
raise handsome girls, distil good whisky, and breed fast horses.
This they esteem the end of all human knowledge and understanding.
Anything moer is to them vanity and useless vexation of spirit."
At last the regiment halted under the grand old beeches and hickories
of teh famous Camp Dick Robinson, in the heart of the Blue Grass
Region. In this most picturesque part of the lovely Kentucky River
Valley they spent the bright days of October very delightfully.
Nature is as kindly and gracious in Central Kentucky as in any part
of the globe upon which her sun shines, and she seemed to be on
her best behavior, that she might duly impress the Northern visitors.
The orchards were loaded with fruit, and the forest trees showered
nuts upon the ground. In every field were groups of persimmon trees,
their branches bendingunder a burden of luscious fruit, which the
frost had coated with sheeny purple outside, and made sweeter than
fine wine within. Over all bent softly brilliant skies, and the
bland, bracing air was charged with the electricity of life and
It was the very poetry of soldiering, and Harry began to forget
the miseries of life in a Camp of Instruction, and to believe that
there was much to be enjoyed, even in the life of an enlisted man.
"This here air or the apple-jack seems to have a wonderfully improving
effect on Jake Alspaugh's chronic rheumatics," sneered Abe Bolton.
It was a sunny afternoon. Bolton and Kent Edwards were just ouside
of the camp lines, in the shade of a grand old black walnut, and
had re-seated themselves to finsih devouring a bucketful of lush
persimmons, after having reluctantly risen from that delightful
occupation to salute Lieutenant Alspaugh, as he passed outward in
imposing blue and gold stalwarthood.
"I've been remarking that myself," said Kent, taking out a handful
of the shining fruit, and deliberately picking the stems and dead
leaves from the sticky sides, preparatory to swallowing it. "He
hasn't had an attack since we thought those negroes and teams on
the hills beyond Cynthiana was John Morgan's Rebel cavalry."
"Yes," continued Abe, helping himself also the mellow date-plums,
"his legs are so sound now that he is able to go to every frolic
in the country for miles around, and dance all night. He's going
to the Quartermaster's now, to get a horse to ride to a dance and
candy-pulling at that double log-house four miles down the Harrodsburg
Pike. I heard him talking to some other fellows about it when I
went up with the squad to bring the rations down to the company."
"Seems to em, come to think of it, that I HAVE heard of some
rheumatic symptoms recently. Remember that a couple of weeks ago
Pete Sanford got a bullet through his blouse, that scraped his
ribs, don't you?"
"Yes," said Abe, spitting the seeds out from a mouthful of honeyed
"Well, the boys say that Jake went to a candy-pulling frolic down
in the Cranston settlement, and got into a killing flirtation with
the prettiest girl there. She was taken with his brass buttons,
and his circus-horse style generally, but she had another fellow
that it didn't suit so well. He showed his disapproval in a way
that seems to be the fashion down here; that is, he 'laid for'
Jake behind a big rock with a six-foot deer rifle, but mistook Pete
Sanford for him."
"The dunderhead's as poor a judge of men as he's marksman. He's
a disgrace to Kentucky."
"At all events it served as a hint, which Alspaugh did not
fail to take. Since that time there has been two or three dances
at Cranston's, but every time Jake has had such twinges of his
rheumatism that he did not think it best to 'expose himself to the
night air,' and go with the boys."
"O!---ouw!---wh-i-s-s-s-sh!" sputtered Abe, spitting the contents
of his mouth out explosively, while his face was contorted as if
every nerve and muscle was being twisted violently.
"Why, what is the matter, Abe?" asked Kent, in real alarm. "Have
you swallowed a centipede or has the cramp-colic griped you?"
"No! I hain't swallowed no centerboard, nor have I the belly-ache--blast
your chucklehead," roared Abe, as he sprang to his feet, rushed
to the brook, scooped up some water in his hands, and rinsed his
mouth out energetically.
"Well, what can it be, then? You surely ain't doing all that for
"No, I ain't doing it for fun," shouted Abe, angrier still; "and
nobody but a double-and twisted idiot would ask such a fool question.
I was paying so much attention to your dumbed story that I chewed
up a green persimmon--one that hadn't been touched by the frost.
It's puckered my mouth so that I will never get it straight again.
It's worse than a pound of alum and a gallon of tanbark juice mixed
together. O, laugh, if you want to--that's just what I'd expect
from you. That's about all the sense you've got."
There was enough excitement in camp to prevent any danger of ennui.
The probability of battle gave the daily drills an interest that
they never could gain in Ohio. The native Rebels were numerous
and defiant, and kept up such demonstrations as led to continual
apprehensions of an attack. New regiments came in constantly,
and were received with enthusiasm. Kentucky and East Tennessee
Loyalists, tall, gaunt, long-haired and quaint-spoken, but burning
with enthusiasm for the Government of their fathers, flocked to the
camp, doffed their butternut garb, assumed the glue, and enrolled
themselves to defend the Union.
At length it became evident that the Rebel "Army of Liberation"
was really about crossing the Cumberland Mountains to drive out
the "Yankees" and recover possession of Kentucky for the Southern
Outposts were thrown out in all directions to gain the earlies
possible intelligence of the progress of the movement, and to make
such resistance to it as might be possible. One of these outposts
was stationed at Wildcat Gap, an inexpressibly wild and desolate
region, sixty miles from Camp Dick Robinson, where the road entering
Kentucky from Tennessee at Cumberland Gap crosses the Wildcat range
One day the startling news reached camp that an overwhelming
Rebel force under Gen. Zollicoffer was on the eve of attacking the
slender garrison of Wildcat Gap. The "assembly" was sounded, and
the regiment, hastily provided with rations and ammunition, was
hurried forward to aid in the defense of the threatened outpost.
Nature, as if in sympathy with the gathering storm of war, ceased
her smiling. The blue, bending skies were transformed intoa scowling,
leaden-visaged canopy, from which fell a chill incessant rain.
When the order to prepare for the march came, Glen, following the
example of his comrades, packed three days' cooked rations in his
haversack, made his blankets into a roll, tieing their ends together,
threw them scarf-fashion over his shoulder, and took his accustomed
place as file-closer in the rear of his company. He was conscious
all the time, though he suffered no outward sign to betray the fact,
that he was closely watched by the boys who had been with him in
Western Virginia, and who were eager to see how he would demean
himself in this new emergency.
He was shortly ordered to assist in the inspection of cartridge-boxes
and the issuing of cartridges, adn the grim nature of the errand
they were about to start upon duly impressed itself upon his mind
as he walked down the lines in the melancholy rains, examined each
box, and gave the owner the quantity of cartridges required to make
up the quota of forty rounds per man.
Those who scrutinized his face as he passed slowly by, saw underneath
the dripping eaves of his broad-brimmed hat firm-set lines about
his mouth, and a little more luminous light in his eyes.
"Harry Glen's screwing his courage to the sticking point. He's
bound to go through this time," said Kent Edwards.
"The more fool he," answered Abe Bolton, adjusting his poncho so
as to better protect his cartridges and rations from the rain. "If
he wanted to play the warrior all so bold why didn't he improve
his opportunities in West Virginia, when it was fine weather and
he only had three months to do it in? Now that he's in for three
years it will be almighty strange if he can't find a pleasanter
time to make his little strut on the field of battle than in this
"I have seen better days than this, as the tramp remarked who had
once been a bank cashier," murmured kent, tightening the tompion
in his musket-muzzle with a piece of paper, the better to exclude
the moisture, and wrapping a part of the poncho around the lock
for the same purpose. "Where is that canteen?"
"It's where it'll do you no good until you need it much worse'n you
do now. O, I know you of old, Mr. Kent Edwards," continued Abe,
with that deep sarcasm, which was his nearest approach to humor.
"I may say that I've had the advantages of an intimate acquaintance
with you for years, and when I trust you with a full canteen of
apple-jack at the beginning of such a march as this'll be, I'll
be ready to enlist in the permanent garrison of a lunatic asylum,
I will. This canteen ony holds three pints; that's great deal
less'n you do. It's full now, and you're empty. Fill up some place
else, and tomorrow or next day, when you'd give a farm for a nip,
this'll come in mighty handy."
The Hospital Steward approached, and said:
"Captain, the Surgeon presents his compliments and requests that you
send four men to convey your First Lieutenant Alspaugh to comfortable
quarters which have been prepared for him in the hospital barracks.
His rheumatic trouble has suddenly assumed an acute form--brought
on doubtless by the change in the weather--and he is suffering
greatly. Please instruct the men to be very careful carrying him,
so as to avoid all unnecessary pain, and also all exposure to the
rain. He will have a good room in the hospital, with a fire in
it, and every attention, so that you need have no fears concerning
"I never had," said Kent, loud enough to be heard all over the
right wing of the company.
"I have," said Abe. "There's every danger in the world that he'll
Away the regiment marched, through the dismal rain, giong as fast
as the heavily laden men could be spurred onward by the knowledge
of their comrades' imminent need.
It was fearful hard work even so long as the pike lasted, and they
had a firm, even foundation for their feet to tread upon. But the
pike ended at Crab Orchard, and then they plunged into the worst
roads that the South at any time offered to resist the progress
of the Union armies. Narrow, tortuous, unworked substitutes for
highways wound around and over steep, rocky hills, through miry
creek bottoms, and over bridgeless streams, now so swollen as to
be absolutely unfordable by less determined men, starting on a less
For three weary, discouraging days they pressed onward through the
dispiriting rain and over all the exhausting obstacles. On the
morning of the fourth they reached the foot of the range in which
Wildcat Gap is situated. They were marching slowly up the steep
mountain side, their soaked garments clinging about their weary
limbs and clogging their footsteps. Suddenly a sullen boom rolled
out of the mist that hung over the distant mountain tops.
Every one stopped, held their breaths, and tried to check the
beating of their hearts, that they might hear more.
They needed not. There was no difficulty about hearing the succeeding
reports, which became every instant more distinct.
"By God, that's cannon!" said the Colonel. "They're attacking our
boys. Throw off everything, boys, and hurry forward!"
Overcoats, blankets, haversacks and knapsacks were hastily pied,
and the two most exhausted men in each company placed on guard over
Kent and Abe did not contribute their canteen to the company pile.
But then its weight was much less of an impediment than when they
left Camp Dick Robinson.
They employed the very brief halt of the regiment in swabbing out
the barrels of their muskets very carefully, and removing the last
traces of moisture from the nipples and hammers.
"At last I stand a show of getting some return from this old piece
of gas-tube for the trouble it's been to me," said Kent Edwards,
as he ran a pin into the nipple to make assurance doubly sure that
it was entirely free. "Think of the transportation charges I have
against it, for the time I have lugged it around over Ohio and
Kentucky, to say nothing of the manual labor and the mental strain
of learning and prectising 'present arms,' 'carry arms,' 'support
arms,' and such military monkey-shines under the hot sun of last
He pulled off the woolen rag he had twisted around the head of the
rammer for a swab, wiped the rammer clean and bright and dropped
it into the gun. It fell with a clear ring. Another dextrous
movement of the gun sent it flying into the air. Kent caught it as
it came down and scrutinized its bright head. He found no smirch
of dirt or dampness. "Clean and clear as a whistle inside," he
said, approvingly. "She'll make music that our Secession friends
will pay attention to, though it may not be as sweet to their ears
as 'The Bonnie Blue Flag.'"
"More likely kick the whole northwest quarter section of your
shoulder off when you try to shoot it," growled Abe, who had been
paying similar close attention to his gun. "If we'd had anybody
but a lot of mullet-heads for officers we'd a'been sent up here
last week, when the weather and the roads were good, and when we
could've done something. Now our boys'll be licked before we can
get where we can help 'em."
Glen leaned on his musket, and listening to the deepening roar of
battle, was shaken by the surge of emotions natural to the occasion.
It seemed as if no one could live through the incessant firing
the sound of which rolled down to them. To go up into it was
to deliberately venture into certain destruction. Memory made a
vehement protest. He recalled all the pleasant things that life
had in store for him; all that he could enjoy and accomplish; all
that he might be to others; all that others might be to him. Every
enjoyment of the past, every happy possibility of the future took
on a more entrancing roseatenesss.
Could he give all this up, and die there on the mountain top, in
this dull, brutal, unheroic fashion, in the filthy mud and dreary
rain, with no one to note or care whether he acted courageously or
It did not seem that he was expected to fling his life away like a
dumb brute entering the reeking shambles. His youth and abilities
had been given him for some other purpose. Again palsying fear
and ignoble selfishness tugged at his heart-strings, and he felt
all his carefully cultivated resolutions weakening.
"A Sergeant must be left in command of the men guarding this
property," said the Colonel. The Captain of Company A will detail
one for that duty."
Captain Bennett glanced from one to another of his five Sergeants.
Harry's heart gave a swift leap, with hope that he might be ORDERED
to remain behind. Then the blood crimsoned his cheeks, for the
first time since the sound of the firing struck his ears; he felt
that every eye in the Company was upon him, and that his ignoble
desire had been read by all in his look of expectancy. Shame came
to spur up his faltering will. He set his teeth firmly, pulled
the tompion out of his gun, and flung it away disdainfully as if he
would never need it again, blew into the muzzle to see if the tube
was clear, and wiped off the lock with a fine white handkerchief--one
of the relics of his by-gone elegance--which he drew from the breast
of his blouse.
"Sergeant Glan--Sergeant Glancey will remain," said the Captain
peremptorily. Glancey, the Captain knew, was the only son and
support of a widowed mother.
"Now, boys," said the Colonel in tones that rang like bugle notes,
"the time has come for us to strike a blow for the Union, and for
the fame of the dear old Buckeye State. I need not exhort you to
do your duty like men; I know you too well to think that any such
words of mine are at all necessary. Forward! QUICK TIME! MARCH!"
The mountain sides rang with the answering cheers from a thousand
The noise of the battle on the distant crest was at first in separate
bursts of sound, as regiment after regiment came into position and
opened fire. The intervals between these bursts had disappeared,
and it had now become a steady roar.
A wild mob came rushing backward from the front.
"My God, our men are whipped!" exclaimed the young Adjutant in
tones of Anguish.
"No, no," said Captain Bennett, with cheerful confidence. "These
are only the camp riff-raff, who run whenever so much as a cap is
burst near them."
So it proved to be. There were teamsters upon their wheel-mules,
cooks, officers' servants, both black and white, and civilian
employees, mingled with many men in uniform, skulking from their
companies. Those were mounted who could seize a mule anywhere,
and those who could not were endeavoring to keep up on foot with
the panic-stricken riders.
All seemed wild with one idea: To get as far as possible from the
terrors raging around the mountain top. They rushed through the
regiment and disordered its ranks.
"Who are you a-shovin', young fellow--say?" demanded Abe Bolton,
roughly collaring a strapping hulk of a youth, who, hatless, and
with his fat cheeks white with fear came plunging against him like
a frightened steer.
"O boys, let me pass, and don't go up there! Don't! You'll all be
killed. I know it, I'm all the one of my company that got away--I
am, really. All the rest are killed."
"Heavens! what a wretched remnant, as the dry-goods man said, when
the clerk brought him a piece of selvage as all that the burglars
had left of his stock of broadcloth," said Kent Edwards. "It's
too bad that you were allowed to get away, either. You're not a
proper selection for a relic at all, and you give a bad impression
of your company. You ought to have thought of this, and staid up
there and got killed, and let some better-looking man got away,
that would have done the company credit. Why didn't you think of
"Git!" said Abe, sententiously, with a twist in the coward's
collar, that, with the help of an opportune kick by Kent, sent him
sprawling down the bank.
"Captain Bennett," shouted the Colonel angrily, "Fix bayonets there
in front, and drive these hounds off, or we'll never get there."
A show of savage-looking steel sent the skulkers down a side-path
through the woods.
The tumult of the battle heightened with every step the regiment
advanced. A turn in the winding road brought them to an opening
in the woods which extended clear to the summit. Through this the
torrent of noise poured as when a powerful band passes the head
of a street. Down this avenue came rolling the crash of thousands
of muskets fired with the intense energy of men in mortal combat,
the deeper pulsations of the artillery, and even the firece yells
of the fighters, as charges were made or repulsed.
Glen felt the blood settle around his heart anew.
"Get out of the road and let the artillery pass! Open up for the
artillery!" shouted voices from the rear. Everybody sprang to the
side of the road.
There came a sound of blows rained upon horses bodies--of shouts
and oaths from exited drivers and eager officers--of rushing wheels
and of ironed hoofs striking fire from the grindng stones. Six
long-bodied, strong-limbed horses, their hides reeking with sweat,
and their nostrils distended with intense effort, tore past,
snatching after them, as if it were a toy, a gleaming brass cannon,
surrounded by galloping cannoneers, who goaded the draft horses
on with blows with the flats of their drawn sabers. Another gun,
with its straining horses and galloping attendants, and another,
and another, until six great, grim pieces, with their scres of
desperately eager men and horses, had rushed by toward the front.
It was a sight to stir the coldest blood. The excited infantry
boys, wrought up to the last pitch by the spectacle, sprang back
into the road, cheered vociferously, and rushed on after the battery.
Hardly had the echoes of their voices died away, when they heard
the battery join its thunders to the din of the fight.
Then wounded men, powder-stained, came straggling back--men with
shattered arms and gashed faces and garments soaked with blood from
"Hurrah, boys!" each shouted with weakened voice, as his eyes
lighted up at sight of the regiment, "We're whipping them; but
hurry forward! You're needed."
"If you ain't pretty quick," piped one girl-faced boy, with a pensive
smile, as he sat weakly down on a stone and pressed a delicate hand
over a round red spot that had just appeared on the breast of his
blouse, "you'll miss all the fun. We've about licked 'em already.
Abe and Kent sprang forward to catch him, but he was dead almost
before they could reach him. They laid him back tenderly on the
brown dead leaves, and ran to regain their places in the ranks.
The regiment was now sweeping around the last curve between it and
the line of battle. The smell of burning powder that filled the
air, the sight of flowing blood, the shouts of teh fighting men,
had awakened every bosom that deep-lying KILLING instinct inherited
from our savage ancestry, which slumbers--generally wholly
unsuspected--in even the gentlest man's bosom, until some accident
gives it a terrible arousing.
Now the slaying fever burned in every soul. They were marching with
long, quick strides, but well-closed ranks, elbow touching elbow,
and every movement made with the even more than the accuracy of a
parade. Harry felt himself swept forward by a current as resistless
as that which sets over Niagara.
They came around the little hill, and saw a bank of smoke indicating
where the line of battle was.
"Let's finish the canteen now," said Kent. "It may get bored by
a bullet and all run out, and you know I hate to waste."
"I suppose we might as well drink it," assented Abe--the first time
in the history of the regiment, that he agreed with anybody. "We
mayn't be able to do it in ten minutes, and it would be too bad to
've lugged that all the way here, just for some one else to drink."
An Aide, powder-grimed, but radiant with joy, dashed up. "Colonel,"
he said, "you had better go into line over in that vacant space
there, and wait for orders; but I don't think you will have anything
to do, for the General believes that the victory is on, and the
Rebels are in full retreat."
As he spoke, a mighty cheer rolled around the line of battle, and
a band stationed upon a rock which formed the highest part of the
mountain, burst forth with the grand strains of "Star-spangled
The artillery continued to hurl screaming shot and shell down into
the narrow gorge, through which the defeated Rebels were flying
with mad haste.
Chapter X. The Mountaineer's Revenge.
And if we do but watch the hour,
There never yet was human power
Which could evade, if unforgiven,
The patient search and vigil long
Of him who treasures up a wrong.
Harry Glen's first feeling when he found the battle was really over,
was that of elation that the crisis to which he had looked forward
with so much apprehension, had passed without his receiving any
bodily harm. This was soon replaced by regret that the long-coveted
opportunity had been suffered to pass unimproved, and still another
strong sentiment--that keen sense of disappointment which comes
when we have braced ourselves up to encounter an emergency, and it
vanishes. There is the feeling of waste of valuable accumulated
energy, which is as painful as that of energy misapplied.
Still farther, he felt sadly that the day of his vindication had
been again postponed over another weary period of probation.
All around was intense enthusiasm, growing stronger every instant.
It was the first battle tha the victors had been engaged in, and
they felt the tumultuous joy that the first triumph brings to young
soldiers. It was the first encounter upon the soil of Kentucky;
it was the first victory between the Cumberland Mountains and the
Mississippi River, and the loss of the victors was insignificant,
compared with that of the vanquished.
The cold drench from the skies, the dreary mud--even the dead and
wounded--were forgotten in the jubilation at the sight of the lately
insolent foe flying in confusion down the mountain side, recking
for nothing so much as for personal safety.
The band continued to play patriotic airs, and the cannon to thunder
long after the last Rebel had disappeared in the thick woods at
the bottom of the gloomy gorge.
A detail of men and some wagons were sent back after the regiment's
baggage, and the rest of the boys, after a few minutes survey of
the battle-field, were set to work building fires, cooking rations
and preparing from the branches and brush such shelter as could be
made to do substitute duty for the tents left behind.
Little as was Harry's normal inclination to manual labor, it was
less than ever now, with these emotions struggling in his mind,
and leaving his comrades hard at work, he wandered off to where
Hoosier Knob, a commanding eminence on the left of the battle-field
seemed to offer the best view of the retreat of the forces of
Zollicoffer. Arriving there, he pushed on down the slope to where
the enemy's line had stood, and where now were groups of men in
blue uniforms, searching for trophies of the fight. In one place
a musket would be found; in another a cap with a silver star, or a
canteen quaintly fashioned from alternate staves of red and white
cedar. Each "find" was proclaimed by the discoverer, and he was
immediately surrounded by a group to earnestly inspect and discuss
it. It was still the first year of the war; the next year "trophies"
were left to rot unnoticed on the battle-fields they covered.
Harry took no interest in relic-hunting, but walked onward toward
another prominence that gave hopes of a good view of the Rebels.
The glimpses he gained from this of the surging mass of fugitives
inflamed him with the excitement of the chase--of the most exciting
of chases, a man-hunt. He forgot his fears--forgot how far behind
he was leaving all the others, and became eager only to see more
of this fascinating sight. Before he was aware of it, he was three
or four miles from the Gap.
Here a point ran boldly down from the mountain into the valley,
and ended in a bare knob that overlooked the narrow creek bottom,
along which the beaten host was forging its way. Harry unhesitatingly
descended to this, and stood gazing at the swarming horde below.
It was a sight to rivet the attention. The narrow level space
through which the creek meandered between the two parrallel ranges
of heights was crowded as far as he could see with an army which
defeat had degraded to a demoralized mob. All semblance of military
organization had well-nigh disappeared. Horsemen and footmen,
infantry, cavalry and artillery, officers and privates, ambulances
creaking under their load of wounded and dying, ponderous artillery
forges, wagons loaded with food, wagons loaded with ammunition,
and wagons loaded with luxuries for the delectation of the higher
officers,--all huddled and crowded together, and struggled forward
with feverish haste over the logs, rocks, gullies and the deep
waters of the swollen stream, and up its slippery banks, through
the quicksands and quagmires which every passing foot and wheel
beat into a still more grievous obstacle for those that followed.
Hopelessly fagged horses fell for the last time under the merciless
blows of their frightened masters, and added their great bulks to
the impediments of the road.
The men were sullen and depressed--cast down by the wretchedness
of earth and sky, and embittered against their officers and each
other for the blood uselessly shed--oppressed with hunger and
weariness, and momentarily fearful that new misfortunes were about to
descend upon them. In brief, it was one of the saddest spectacles
that human history can present: that of a beaten and disorganized army
in full retreat, and an army so new to soldiership and discipline
as to be able to make nothing but the worst out of so great a
calamity--it was a rout after a repulse.
Nearly all of the passing thousands were too much engrossed in
the miseries of their toilsome progress to notice the blue-coated
figure on the bare knob above the road. But the rear of the fugitives
was brought up by a squad of men moving much more leisurely, and
with some show of order. They did not plunge into the mass of
men and animals and vehicles, and struggle with them in the morass
which the road had now become, but deliberately picked their way
along the sides of the valley where the walking was easier. They
saw Harry, and understood as soon as they saw, who he was. Two or
three responded to their first impulse, and raising their guns to
their shoulders, fired at him. A bullet slapped against the rock
upon which he was partially leaning, and fell at his feet. Another
spattered mud in his face, and flew away, singing viciously.
At the reports the fear-harrassed mob shuddered and surged forward
through its entire length.
The companions of those who fired seemed to reproach them with angry
gestures, pointing to the effect upon the panicky mass. Then the
whole squad rushed forward toward the hill.
Deadly fear clutched Harry Glen's heart as the angry notes of the
bullets jarred on his senses. Then pride and the animal instinct
of fighting for life flamed upward. So swiftly that he was scarcely
conscious of what he was doing he snatched a cartridge from the box,
tore its end between his teeth, and rammed it home. He replaced
the ramrod in its thimbles with one quick thrust, and as he raised
his eyes from the nipple upon which he had placed the cap, he saw
that the Rebel squad had gained the foot of the knoll and started
up its side. He raised teh gun to fire, but as he did so he heard
a voice call out from behind him:
"Skeet outen thar! Skeet outen thar! Come up heah, quick!"
Harry looked in the direction of the voice. He saw a tall,
slender, black-haired man standing in the woods at the upper edge
of the cleared space. He was dressed in butternut jeans, and looked
so much like the Rebels in front that Harry thought he was one of
them. The stranger noticed his indecision, and called out again
still more peremptorily:
"Skeet outen thar, I tell ye! Skeet outen thar! Come up heah.
I'm a friend--I'm Union."
His rifle came to his face at the same instant, and Harry saw
the flame and white smoke puff from it, and the sickening thought
flashed into his mind that the shot was fired at him, and that he
would feel the deadly ball pierce his body! Before he could more
than formulate this he heard the bullet pass him with a screech,
and strike somewhere with a plainly sharp slap. Turning his head
he saw the leading Rebel stagger and fall. Harry thre his gun up,
with the readiness acquired in old hunting days, and fired at the
next of his foes, who also fell! The other Rebels, as they came
up, gathered around their fallen comrades.
Harry ran back to where the stranger was, as rapidly as the clinging
mud and the steep hillside would permit him.
"Purty fa'r shot that," said the stranger, setting down the heavy
rifle he was carefully reloading, and extending his hand cordially
as Harry came panting up. "That's what I call mouty neat shooting--knock
yer man over at 150 yards, down hill, with that ole smooth-bore,
and without no rest. The oldest han' at the business couldn't've
done no better."
Harry was too much agitated to heed the compliment to his markmanship.
He looked back anxiously and asked:
"Are they coming on yet?"
"Skacely they hain't," said the stranger, with a very obvious sneer.
"Skacely they hain't comin' on no more. They've hed enuff, they
hev. Two of their best men dropt inter blue blazes on the first
jump will take all the aidge off ther appetite for larks. I know
"But they will come on. They'll pursue us. They'll never let us
go now," said Harry, reloading his gun with hands trembling from
the exertion and excitement.
He was yet too young a soldier to understand that his enemy's fright
might be greater than his own.
"Nary a time they won't," said the stranger, derisively. "Them
fellers are jest like Injuns; they're red-hot till one or two gits
knocked over, an' then they cool down mouty suddent. Why, me an'
two others stopt the whole of Zollicoffer's army for two days by
shootin' the officer in command of the advance-guard jest ez they
war a-comin' up the hill this side of Barboursville. Fact! They'd
a' been at Wildcat last Friday ef we hedn't skeered 'em so. They
stopt an' hunted the whole country round for bushwhackers afore
they'd move ary other step."
"But who are you?" asked Harry, looking again at his companion's
"I'm called Long Jim Forner, an' I've the name o' bein' the pizenest
Union man in the Rockassel Mountains. Thar's a good s'tifkit o'
my p'litical principles" (pointing with his thumb to where lay the
men who had felln under their bullets). Harry looked again in that
direction. Part of the squad were looking apprehensively toward
hiim, as if they feared a volley from bushwhackers concealed near
him, and others were taking from the bodies of the dead the weapons,
belts, and other articles which it was not best to leave for the
pursuers, and still others were pointing to the rapidly growing
distance between them and main body, apparently adjuring haste in
The great mental and bodily strain Harry had undergone since he
had first heard the sound of cannon in the morning at the foot of
Wildcat should have made him desperately weary. But the sight of
the man falling before his gun had fermented in his blood a fierce
intoxication, as unknown, as unsuspected before as the passion of
love had been before its first keen transports thrilled his heart.
Like that ecstacy, this fever now consumed him. All fear of harm
to himself vanished in its flame. He had actually slain one enemy.
Why not another? He raised his musket. The mountaineer laid his
hand upon it.
"No," he said, "that's not the game to hunt. They'll do when thar's
nothin' better to be had, but now powder an' lead kin be used to
more advantage. Besides they're outen range o' your smooth-bore
As Fortner threw his rifle across his shoulder Harry looked at it
curiously. It had a long, heavy, six sided barrel, with a large
bore, double triggers, and a gaily striped hickory ramrod in its
thimbles. The stock, of fine, curly rock-maple, was ornamented with
silver stars and crescents, and in the breech were cunning little
receptacles for tow and patches, and other rifle necessaries, each
closed by a polished silver cover that shut with a snap. It was
evidently the triumph of some renowned kentucky gunsmith's skill.
The mountaineer's foot was on the soil he had trodden since childhood,
and Harry found it quite difficult to keep pace with his strong,
quick stride. His step landed firm and sure on the sloping surfaces,
where Harry slipped or shambled. Clinging vines and sharp briers
were avoided without an apparent effort, where every one grasped
Harry, or tore his face and hands.
The instinct of the wolf or the panther seemed to lead Fortner by
the shortest courses through the pathless woods to where he came
unperceived close upon the flank of the mass of harassed fugitives.
Then creeping behind a convenient tree with the supple lightness
of the leopard crouching for a spring, he scanned with eager eyes
the mounted officers within range. Selecting his prey he muttered:
"'Tain't HIM, but he'll hev to do, THIS time."
The weapon rang out sharply. The stricken officer threw up his
sword arm, his bridle arm clutched his saddle-pommel, as if resisting
the attempt of Death to unhorse him. Then the muscles all relaxed,
and he fell into he arms of those who had hurried to him.
Harry fired into the mass the next instant; a few random shots
replied, and another impetus of fear spurred the mob onward.
Fortner and Harry sped away to another point of interception, where
the same scene was repeated, and then to another, and then to a
third, Fortner muttering after each shot his disappointment at not
finding the one whom he anxiously sought.
When they hurried away the third time they were compelled to make
a wide circuit, for the little valley suddenly broadened out into
a considerable plain. Upon this the long-drawn-out line of fugitives
gathered in a compact, turmoiling mass.
"That's Little Rockassel Ford," said Fortner, pointing with his
left hand to the base of the mountain that rose steeply above the
farther side of the commotion. "That's Rockassel Mountain runnin'
up thar inter the clouds. The Little Rockassel River runs round
hits foot. That's what's a-stoppin' 'em. They'll hev a turrible
time gittin' acrost hit. Hit's mouty hard crossin' at enny time,
but hit's awful now, fur the Rockassel's boomin'. The big rains
hev sent her up kitin', an' hit's now breast-deep thar in the Ford.
We'll git round whar we kin see hit all."
Another wide detour to keep themselves in the concealment of the
woods brough Fortner and Harry out upon an acclivity that almost
overhung the ford, and those gathered around it. The two Unionists
crawled cautiously through the cedars and laurel to the very edge
of the cliff and looked down upon their enemies. They were so near
that everything was plainly visible, and the hum of conversation
reached their ears. They could even hear the commands of the officers
vainly trying to restore order, the curses of the teamsters upon
their jaded animals, the ribald songs of the few whose canteens
furnished them with forgetfulness of defeat, and contempt for the
All the flooding showers which had been falling upon hundreds of
square miles of precipitous mountin sides were now gorging through
the crooked, narrow throat of the Little Rockcastle. The torrent
filled the ragged banks to the brim, and in their greedy swirl
undermined and tore from there logs, great trees, and even rocks.
This wasthe barrier that stayed the flight of the fugitive throng,
and it was this that they strove to put between thm and the presumed
On the bank, field and line officers labored to calm their men and
restore organization. It was in vain that they pointed out that
there had been no pursuit thus far, and the unlikelihood of there
being one. When did Panic yield to Reason? In those demoralized
ears the thunder of the cannon at Wildcat, the crash of the bursting
shells, and the deadly whistle of bullets still rang louder than
any words officers could speak.
The worst frightened crowded into the stream in a frenzy, and
struggled wildly with the current that swept their feet off the
slimy limestone bottom, with the logs and trees dashing along like
so many catapult-bolts, and with the horses and teams urged on
by men more fear-stricken still. On the steep slope on the other
side glimmered numbers of little fires where those who were lucky
enough to get across were warming and drying themselves.
"Heavens!" said Harry with an anticipatory shudder, "if our men
should come up, the first cannon shot would make half these men
drown themselves in trying to get away."
Fortner heeded him not. The mountaineer's eyes were fixed upon a
tall, imperious looking man, whose collar bore the silver stars of
"He has found his man at last," said Harry, noticing his companion's
attitude, and picking up his own gun in readiness for what might
Fortner half-cocked his rifle, took from its nipple the cap that
had been tehre an hour and flung it away. He picked the powder
out if the tube, replaced it with fresh from his horn, selected
another cap carefully, fitted it on the nipple, and let the hammer
down with the faintest snap to force it to its place.
His eyes had the look of a rattlesnake's when it coils for a
spring, and his breast swelled out as if he was summoning all his
strength. He stepped forward to a tree so lightly that there came
no rustle from the dead leaves he trod upon. Harry took his place
on the other side of the tree, and cocked his musket.
So close were they to hundreds of Rebels with arms in their hands,
that it seemed simply an invitation to death to call their attention.
Fortner turned and waved Harry back as he heard him approach, but
Glen had apparently exhausted all his capacity for fearing, in the
march upon Wildcat, and he was now calmly desperate.
The Colonel rode out from the throng toward the level spot at the
base of the ledge upon which the two were concealed. The horse he
bestrode was a magnificent thoroughbred, whose fine action could
not be concealed, even by his great fatigue.
"Go and find Mars," said the Colonel to an orderly, "and tell him
to build a fire against that rock there, and make us some coffee.
We will not be able to get across the ford before midnight." The
orderly rode off, and the Colonel dismounted and walked forward
with the cramped gait of a man who had been long in the saddle.
Still louder yells arose from the ford. A powerful horse, ridden
by an officer who was trying to force his way across, had slipped
on the river's glassy bedstones, in the midst of a compact throng,
and carried many with it down into the deep water below the crossing.
The Colonel's lip curled with contempt as he continued his walk.
A sharp little click sounded from Fortner's rifle. He had set the
He stepped out clear of the tree, and gave a peculiar whistle. The
Colonel started as he heard the sound, looked up, saw who uttered
it, and instinctly reached his hand back to the holster for a
Down would scarcely have been ruffled by Fortner's light touch upon
Fire flamed from the rifle's muzzle.
The Colonel's haughty eyes became sterner than ever. The holster
was torn as he wrenched the revolver out. A clutch at the mane,
and he fell forward on the wet brown leaves--dead!
Dumb amazement fille dthe horse's great eyes; he stretched out his
neck and smelled his lifeless master inquiringly.
A shot from Harry's musket, fifty from the astounded Rebels, and the
two Unionists sped away unhurt into the cover of the dark cedars.
Chapter XI. Through the Mountains and the Night.
God sits upon the Throne of Kings,
And Judges unto judgement brings:
Why then so long
Maintain your wrong,
And favor lawlesss things?
Defend the poor, the fatherless;
Their crying injuries redress:
Whom wicked men oppress.
--George Sandy's Paraphrase of Psalm XXXII.
Fortner and Glen were soon so far away from the Ford that the
only reminder of its neighborhood were occasional glimpses, caught
through rifts in he forest, of the lofty slope of Rockcastle Mountain,
now outlined in the gathering darkness by twinkling fires, which
increased in number, and climbed higher towards the clouds as fast
as the fugitives succeeded in struggling across the river.
"That's a wonderful sight," said Harry, as they paused on a summit
to rest and catch breath. "It reminds me of some of the war scenes
in Scott, or the Illiad."
"Hit looks ter me like a gineral coon-hunt," said Fortner, "on'y
over thar hit's the coons, an' not the hunters, that hev the torches.
I wish I could put a bum-shell inter every fire."
"You are merciless."
"No more'n they are. They've ez little marcy ez a pack o' wolves
in a sheep-pen."
"Well," continued Fortner, meditatively, "Ole Rockassel's gittin'
a glut to-night. She'd orten't ter need no more now fur a hundred
"I don't understand you," said Harry.
"Why, they say thet the Rockassel hez ter hev a man every Spring
an' Fall. The Injuns believed hit, an' hit's bin so ever sence the
white folks come inter the country. Last Spring hit war the turn
o' the Fortner kin to gi'n her a man, an' she levied on a fust
cousin o' mine--a son o' Aunt Debby Brill. But less jog on; we've
got a good piece fur ter go."
It was now night--black and starless, and the dense woods through
which they were traveling made the darkness thick and impenetrable.
But no check in Fortner's speed hinted at any ignorance of the course
or encountering of obstacles. He continued to stride forward with
the same swift, certain step as in the day time. But for Harry,
who could see nothing but his leader's head and shoulders, and,
whose every effort was required to keep these in sight, the journey
was full of painful toil. The relaxation from the intense strain
manifested itself in proportion as they seemed to recede from the
presence of the enemy, and his spirits flagged continually.
In the daylight the brush and briers had been annoying and hurtful,
and the roughness of the way very trying. Now the one was wounding
and cruel; the other made every step with his jaded limbs a torture.
With the low spirits engendered by the great fatigue, came a return
of the old fears and tremors. The continual wails of the wildcats
roundabout filled him with gloomy forebodings. Every hair of
his head stood stiffly up in mortal terror when a huge catamount,
screaming like a fiend, leaped down from a tree, and confronted
them for an instant with hideously-gleaming yellow eyes.
"Cuss-an'-burn the nasty varmint!" said Fortner angrily, snatching
up a pine knot from his feet and flinging it at the beast, which
vanished into the darkness with another curdling scream.
"Don't that man know what fear is?" wondered Harry, ignorant that
the true mountaineer feels toward these vociferous felidae about
the same contempt with which a plainsman regards a coyote.
At length Fortner slackened his pace, and began to move with caution.
"Are we coming upon the enemy again?" asked Harry, in a loud whisper,
which had yet a perceptible quaver in it.
"No," answered Fortner, "but we're a-comin' ter what is every bit
an' grain ez dangersome. Heah's whar the path winds round Blacksnake
Clift, an' ye'll hev ter be ez keeful o' your footin' ez ef ye war
treadin' the slippery ways o' sin. The path's no wider 'n a hoss's
back, an' no better ter walk on. On the right hand side hit's
several rods down ter whar the creek's tearin' 'long like a mad
dog. Heah hit now, can't ye?"
For some time the roar of the torrent sweeping the gorge had filled
"Ye want ter walk slow," continued Fortner, "an' feel keefully with
yer foot every time afore ye sot hit squar'ly down. Keep yer left
hand a-feelin' the rocks above yer, so's ter make shore all the
time thet ye're close ter 'em. 'Bout half way, thar's a big break
in the path. Hit's jess a long step acrost hit. Take one step
arter I say thet I'm acrost; the feel keerfully with yer left foot
fur the aidge o' the break, an' then step out ez long ez ye kin
with yer right. That'll bring ye over. Be shore o' yer feet, an
ye'll be all right."
Harry trembled more than at any time before. They were already on
the path around the steep cliff. The darkness was inky. The roar
of the waters below rose loudly--angrily. The wails of the wildcats
behind, overhead and in front of them, made it seem as if the
sighing pines and cedars were inhabited with lost spirits shrieking
warnings of impending disaster.
Harry's foot came down upon a boulder which turned under his weight.
He regained his balance with a start, but the stone toppled over.
He listened. There were scores of heart-beats before it splashed
in the water below.
"Not so much as a twig between here and eternity," he said to
himself, with a shudder. Then aloud: "Can't we stay here, some
place, and not go along there to-night?"
The roar of the water drowned his voice before it reached Fortner's
ears, and Harry, obeying the instinct to accept leadership, followed
the mountaineer tremblingly.
In a little while he felt--more than saw--Fortner stop, adjust
his feet, and make a long stride forward with one of them. Glen
collected himself for the same effort. He had need of all of his
resolution, for the many narrow escapes which he had made from
slipping into the hungry torrent, had shaken every nerve.
"I'm over," called out Fortner. "Ye try hit now."
Harry balanced his gun so as to embarrass him the least, and
carefully felt with his left foot for the edge of the chasm. The
catamount announced his renewed presence by a vindictive scream.
The clouds parted just enough to let through a rift of gray light,
but it fell not upon the brink of the black gap in the path. It
showed for an instant the whirlpool, with fragments of tree trunks,
of ghastly likeness to drowned human bodies, eddying dizzily around.
"Come on," called out Fortner, impatiently.
Harry stepped out desperately. For a mental eternity he hung in air.
His hands relaxed and his gun dropped with a crash and a splash.
Then his foot touched the other side with nervous doubtfulness.
It slipped, and he felt himself falling--falling into all that he
feared. Fortner grasped his collar with a strong hand, and dragged
him up against the rocky wall of the path.
"Thar, yer all right," he said, panting with the exertion, "but
hit wuz a mouty loud call for ye. Gabriel's ho'n couldn't've made
a much mo' powerful one."
"I've lost my gun," said Harry, regretfully, as soon as he could
"Cuss-an'-burn the blasted ole smooth-bore," said Fortner,
contemptuously. "Don't waste no tear on that ole kick-out-behind.
We'll go 'long 'tween Wildcat an' the Ford, an' pick up a wagon-load
uv ez good shooters ez thet clumsy chunk o' pot-metal wuz. Shake
yourself together. We've on'y got a mile or so ter go now."
In Harry's condition, the "mile or so" seemed to be stretching out
a long ways around the globe, and he began to ask himself how near
he was to the much-referred-to "heart of the Southern Confederacy."
At length a little fading toward gray of the thick blackness, to
that they had emerged from the heavy woods into more open country.
Harry thought they were come to fields, but he could see nothing,
and without remark plodded painfully after his leader.
Suddenly a large pack of dogs immediately in front of them broke
the stillness with a startling diapason, ranging from the deep
bass of the mastiff to the ringing bark of the fox-hounds. Mingled
with this was the sound of the whole pack rushing fiercely forward.
Fortner stopped in his tracks so abruptly that Glen stumbled against
him. The mountaineer gave the peculiar whistle he had uttered
at the Ford. The rush ceased instantly. The deep growls of the
mastiffs and bull-dogs stopped likewise; only the hounds and the
shrill-voiced young dogs continued barking.
The darkness was rent by a long narrow lane of light. A door had
been opened in a tightly-closed house, just beyond the dogs.
"Down, Tige! Git out, Beauty!" said Forstner, imperiously. "Lay
down, Watch! Quiet Bruno!"
The clamors of the gang changed to little yelps of welcome.
"Is that you, Jim?" inquired a high-pitched but not unpleasant
voice, from the door.
"Yes, Aunt Debby," answered Fortner, "an' I hev some one with me."
As the two approached, surrounded by the fawning dogs, a slender,
erect woman appeared in the doorway, holding above her head, by its
nail and chain, one of the rude iron lamps common in the houses of
"Everything all right, Aunt Debby?" asked Fortner, as, after entering,
he turned from firmly securing the door, by placing across it a
strong wooden bar that rested in the timbers on either side.
"Yes, thank God!" she said with quiet fervor. She stepped with
graceful freedom over the floor, and hung the lamp up by thrusting
the nail into a crack in one of the logs forming the walls of the
room. "An' how is hit with ye?" she asked, facing Fortner, with
her large gray eyes eloquent with solicitude.
"O, ez fur me, I'm jes ez sound ez when I left heah last week, 'cept
thet I'm tireder 'n a plow mule at night, an' hongrier nor a b'ar
thet's lived all Winter by suckin' hits paws."
"I s'pose y' air tired an' hongry; ye look hit," said the woman,
with a compassionate glance at Harry, who had sunk limpy into a
chair before the glowing wood-fire that filled up a large part of
the end of the room.
"Set down by the fire," she continued, "an' I'll git ye some pone
an' milk. Thar's nothin' better ter start in on when yer rale
empty." She went to a rude cupboard in the farther part of the
room, whence the note of colliding crockery soon gave information
that she was busy.
Fortner took a bunch of tow from his pouch, and with it wiped off
every particle of dampness from the outside of his rifle, after
which he laid the gun on two wooden hooks above the fireplace, and
hung the accouterments on deer horns at its breech.
"Pull off yer shoes an' toast yer feet," he said to Harry. "The
fire'll draw the tiredness right out."
Harry's relaxed fingers fumbled vainly with the wet and obstinate
shoe-strings. Aunt Debby came up with a large bowl of milk in each
hand, and a great circular loaf of corn-bread under her arm. She
placed her burden upon the floor, and with quick, deft fingers
loosened the stubborn knots without an apparent effort, drew off
the muddy shoes and set them in a dark corner near the fireplace
before Harry fairly realized that he had let a woman do this humble
office for him. The sight and smell of food aroused him from the
torpor of intense fatigue, and he devoured the homely fare set before
him with a relish that he had never before felt for victuals. As
he ate his senses awakened so that he studied his hostess with
interest. Hair which the advancing years, while bleaching to
a snowy white had still been unable to rob of the curling waves
of girlhood, rippled over a broad white brow, sober but scarcely
wrinkled; large, serious but gentle gray eyes, and a small, firm
mouth, filled with even white teeth were the salient features of a
face at once resolute, refined and womanly. Long, slender hands,
small feet, covered with coarse but well-fitting shoes, a slight,
erect figure, suggestive of nervous strength, and clad in a shapely
homespun gown stamped her as a superior specimen of the class of
mountaineer woman to which she belonged.
"Heah's 'nuther pone, honey," she said to Fortner, as she handed
both of them segments of another disk of corn-bread, to replace
that which they had ravenously devoured. "An' le' me fill yer
bowls agin. Hit takes a powerful sight o' bread an' milk ter do
when one's rale hongry. But 'tain't like meat vittels. Ye can't
eat 'nuff ter do ye harm."
She took from its place behind the rough stones that formed the
jam of the fireplace a rude broom, made by shaving down to near
its end long slender strips from a stick of pliant green hickory,
then turning these over the end and confining them by a band into
an exaggerated mop or brush. With this she swept back from the
hearth of uneven stones the live coals flung out by the fire.
"Thar's some walnut sticks amongst thet wood," she said as she
replaced the hearth-broom, "an' they pops awful."
From a pouch-like basket, made of skilfully interwoven hickory
strips, and hanging against the wall, she took a half-finished
stocking and a ball of yarn. Drawing a low rocking-chair up into
the light, she seated herself and began knitting.
As he neared the last of his second bowl of milk Fortner bethought
himself, and glanced at Aunt Debby. Her work had fallen from her
nervous hands and lay idly in her lap, while her great eyes were
fixed hungrily upon him.
"They've bin fouten over ter Wildcat to-day," he said, answering
their inquiry, without waiting to empty his mouth.
"Yes, I heard the cannons," she said with such gentle voice as made
her dialect seem quaint and sweet. "I clim up on Bald Rock at the
top o' the mounting an' lissened. I could see the smoke raisin',
but I couldn't tell nothin'. Much uv a fout?"
"Awful big'un. Biggest 'un sence Buner Vister. Ole Zollicoffer
pitched his whole army onter Kunnel Gerrard's rijimint. Some other
rijiments cum up ter help Kunnel Garrard, an' both sides fit like
devis fur three or fur hours, an' the dead jess lay in winrows,
The demands of Fortner's unappeased appetite here rose superior
to his desire to impart information. He stopped to munch the last
bit of corn-bread and drain his bowl to the bottom.
"Yes," said Aunt Debby, inhospitably disregarding the exhaustion
of the provender, and speaking a little more quickly than her wont,
"but which side whipt?"
"Our'n, in course," said Fortner, with nettled surprise at the
question. "Our'n, in course. Old Zollicoffer got ez bad a licken
ez ever Gineral Zach Taylor gi'n the Mexicans."
"Rayally?" she said. Gratification showed itself in little lines
that coursed about her mouth, and her eyes illumined as when a
light shines through a window.
"Yes," answered Fortner. "Like hounds, and run clean ter the
Ford, whar they're now a-fouten an' strugglin to git acrost, and
drowndin' like so many stampeded cattle."
"Glory! Thank God!" said Aunt Debby. Her earnestness expressed
itself more by the intensity of the tone than its rise.
"Evidently a tolerable regular attendant at Methodist camp-meetings,"
thought Harry, rousing a little from the torpor into which he was
Her faded check flushed with a little confusion at having suffered
this outburst, and picking up her knitting she nervously resumed
Fortner looked wistfully at the bottom of his emptied bowl. Aunt
Debby took it away and speedily returned with it filled. She came
back with an air of eager expectancy that Fortner would continue
his narrative. But unsatisfied hunger still dominated him, and
he had thoughts and mouth only for food. She sad down and resumed
her knitting with an apparent effort at composing herself.
For a full minute the needles clicked industriously. Then
they stopped; the long, slender fingers clenched themselves about
the ball of yarn; she faced Fortner, her eyes shining with a less
brilliant but intenser light.
"Jim Fortner," she said with low, measured distinctness, "why don't
ye go on? Is thar somethin' that ye'r afeered ter tell me? What
hez hapened ter our folks? Don't flinch from tellin' me the wust.
I'm allers willin' ter bow ter the will o' the Lord without a
murmur. On'y let me know what hit is."
"Why, Aunt Debby, thar hain't been nothin' happened ter 'em," said
Fortner, deeply surprised. "Thar ain't nothin' ter tell ye 'bout
'em. They're all safe. They're in Kunnel Garrard's rijimint, ez
ye know, an' hit fit behind breastworks, and didn't lose nobody,
scacely--leastwise none uv our kin."
She rose quickly from her chair. The ball of yarn fell from her
lap and rolled unheeded toward the glowing coals under the forelog.
With arm outstretched, hands clasped, and eyes directed upward in
fervent appeal, there was much to recall that Deborah from whom she
took her name--that prophetess and priestess who, standing under
the waving palm trees of Ball-Tamar, inspired her countrymen to go
forth and overthrow and destroy their Canaanitish oppressors.
"O, God!" she said in low, thrilling tones, "Thou's aforetimes gi'n
me much ter be thankful fur, as well ez much ter dumbly ba'r when
Thy rod smote me fur reasons thet I couldn't understand. Thou knows
how gladly I'd've gi'n not on'y my pore, nigh-spent life, but also
those o' my kinsmen, which I prize much higher, fur sech a vict'ry
ez this over the inimies of Thee an' Thy people. But Thou'st gi'n
hit free ez Thy marcy, without axin' blood sacrifice from any on
us. I kin on'y praise Thee an' Thy goodness all my days."
Fortner rose and listend with bowed head while she spoke. When she
finished he snatched up the ball of shriveling yarn and quenched
its smoking with his hand. Looking fixedly at this he said softly:
"Aunt Debby, honey, I hain't tole ye all yit."
"No," said he, slowly winding up the yarn, "Arter the fouten wuz
thru with at the Gap I slipt down the mounting, an' come in on the
r'ar uv those fellers, an' me an' this ere man drapt two on 'em."
"I kinder 'spected ye would do something uv thet sort."