Produced by Suzanne Shell, Carla Kruger and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
[Illustration: FRANK SAVING THE BOAT]
THE GUN-BOAT SERIES.
FRANK ON A GUN-BOAT
AUTHOR OF “THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN SERIES,” “THE GO-AHEAD SERIES,” ETC.
IN THE NAVY.
LEARNING THE ROPES.
SQUARING THE YARDS.
A MIDNIGHT ALARM.
A DISCOMFITED REBEL.
FRANK’S FIRST EXPLOIT.
ON A GUN-BOAT.
THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN THE LINES.
A UNION FAMILY.
A SPUNKY REBEL.
FRANK A PRISONER.
THE FAITHFUL NEGRO.
CHASED BY BLOOD-HOUNDS.
A FRIEND IN NEED.
THE SCENE AT THE PLANTATION.
FRANK ON A GUN-BOAT.
In the Navy.
“Well, Frank, did you bring home the evening’s paper?” inquired Mrs. Nelson, as her son entered the room where she was sitting.
“Yes, ma’am. Here it is!” answered Frank, producing it. “But there is no news in it. The Army of the Potomac has not moved yet. I don’t see what makes them wait so long. Why don’t McClellan go to work and thrash the rebels?”
“You must remember that the rebels have about as many men as we have,” answered his mother. “Perhaps, if McClellan should undertake to ‘thrash’ the rebels, as you say, he would get whipped himself”
“That makes no difference,” answered Frank. “If I was in his place, and the rebels _should_ whip me, it wouldn’t do any good, for I’d renew the battle every day, as long as I had a man left.”
It was toward the close of the first year of the war, during the “masterly inactivity” of the Army of the Potomac. For almost eight months McClellan had been lying idle in his encampment, holding in check that splendid army, which, with one blow, could have crushed out the rebellion, and allowing the rebels ample time to encircle their capital with fortifications, before which the blood of loyal men was to be poured out like water. The people of the North were growing impatient; and “On to Richmond!” was the cry from every part of the land.
From the time Fort Sumter had fallen, Frank had been deeply interested in what as going on. The insults which had been heaped upon the flag under which his grandfather had fought and died, made the blood boil in his veins, and he often wished that he could enlist with the brave defenders of his country. He grew more excited each day, as the struggle went on, and the news of a triumph or defeat would fire his spirit, and he longed to be standing side by side with the soldiers of the Union, that he might share in their triumphs, or assist in retrieving their disasters.
He was left almost alone now, for many of the boys of his acquaintance had shouldered their muskets and gone off with the others; and that very day he had met Harry Butler, who had enlisted as a private, wearing the uniform of a lieutenant, which he had won by his bravery at Fort Donelson.
He had never said one word to his mother about enlisting, for he was an only son, and he dreaded to ask her permission. But that mother’s quick eye easily read what was going on in her son’s mind. She had Puritan blood in her veins; her ancestors had fought in the war of the Revolution, and she had resolved that, if Frank wished to go, she would give her full consent. A mother’s heart alone can tell the struggle it had cost her to come to this determination.
“I’ve got a letter from Archie, also,” said Frank.
His mother took it from his hand, and read as follows:
Portland, _March_ 18, 1862.
I am about to tell you something which you will call strange news. Father has at last given his consent to my going to war, provided you will go too. He says that if I go, I must have you with me, to take care of me, and keep me straight. I suppose he thinks I will never go if I am obliged to wait for you, for he says your mother will not consent to your going. You can ask her, any way. You know you always wanted to have a hand in putting down this rebellion.
If we go at all, I think the best plan is to enter the navy. It is a much better branch of the service than the army–the discipline is better; there are no long marches to endure; and, wherever you go, your house goes with you.
Now, be sure and do your best, for now is our chance, if ever. Please write immediately, for I am afraid father will change his mind.
Yours, in haste, Archibald Winters.
When Mrs. Nelson had read the letter, she handed it back to her son without saying a word.
“Well, mother, what do you think of it?” inquired Frank.
“The matter rests entirely with you, my son,” answered Mrs. Nelson, dropping her sewing into her lap. “Do just as you think best.”
“Do you say I may go?” inquired Frank, joyfully.
“Certainly. You have my full consent to go, if you wish to.”
“Oh, mother,” exclaimed Frank, springing up and throwing his arms around her neck, “I wish I had known, long ago, that you were willing to have me go.”
“Where are you going, Frank?” inquired Julia, who had a vague suspicion of what was going on.
“I’m off to the war,” answered her brother. “I am going into the navy with Archie.”
“Oh, Frank,” she exclaimed, bursting into tears, “you must not go. There’s enough in the army without you. You will certainly get shot.”
“I’ll never be shot in the back,” said Frank; “you may rely on that. But you don’t suppose that every one who goes to war gets shot, do you? I may be one of the lucky ones; so don’t cry any more.”
But Julia could not control her feelings. The thought that her brother was to be exposed to the slightest danger was terrible; and Frank, seeing that it would do no good to talk to her, left the room, and went into his study, where he wrote to Archie, stating that he would start for Portland the next day. He spent the forenoon in wandering about the house and orchard, taking a long and lingering look at each familiar object. He locked the museum, and gave the key to Julia, who was close at his side wherever he went. Even Brave seemed to have an idea of what was going on, for he followed his master about, and would look into his face and whine, as though he was well aware that they were about to be separated.
Immediately after dinner, the carriage which was to convey Frank and his baggage to the Julia Burton drew up before the door. The parting time had come. “Good-by, mother,” said Frank, as he stood at the door, ready to go.
“Good-by, my son,” said Mrs. Nelson, straining him to her bosom, and struggling hard to keep back a sob. “We may never see you again, but I hope I shall never hear that you shrunk from your duty.”
Frank could not reply–his breast was too full for utterance: and hastily kissing his sister, and shaking Hannah’s hand, he hurried down the walk toward the gate. He had not gone far before Brave came bounding after him.
“Go back, old fellow,” said Frank, caressing the faithful animal; “you can’t go with me this time. It will be a long while before you and I will go anywhere together again. Go back, sir.”
Brave understood his master perfectly; and he turned and trotted toward the house, looking back now and then, and whining, as if urging his master to allow him to go too. Frank did not stop to look back, but sprang into the carriage, and the driver closed the door after him, and mounted to his seat and drove off. He had scarcely time to get his baggage on board the steamer before she moved off into the stream. And Frank was glad it was so, for the longer he remained in sight of the village, the harder grew the struggle to leave it. But, at length, every familiar object was left behind, and being surrounded by new scenes, Frank gradually recovered his usual spirits.
In two days he arrived at Portland, and as he was getting off the cars, he was seized by Archie, who had come to the depot to meet him.
“I’m glad to see you,” said the latter; “it is lucky that you wrote just as you did, for father has said a dozen times that I can’t go. But I guess he will not refuse me, now that you are here.”
“I hope not,” said Frank; “we can go as well as any one else. If every one was to stay at home, we shouldn’t have any army at all.”
“That’s just what I told father; but he didn’t seem to see it. He says there are some who ought to go, for they are of no earthly use here; but he thinks that boys like you and me ought to stay at home until we know enough to take care of ourselves.”
But Mr. Winters did not raise many objections when he found that Frank had obtained his mother’s consent; and, on the next day but one after Frank’s arrival, he accompanied the boys on board the receiving-ship, where they were speedily examined and sworn in. Each was then supplied with a bag and hammock, and two suits of clothes; and, when they were rigged out in their blue shirts and wide pants, they made fine-looking sailors. At Mr. Winters’ request they were granted permission to remain on shore until a raft of men was ready to be sent away. The boys were allowed to do pretty much as they pleased while they remained, for, as they were to leave so soon, Mr. Winters could not find it in his heart to raise any objections to the plans they proposed for their amusement. Besides, he knew that Archie was in good hands, for Frank was a boy of excellent habits, and possessed sufficient moral courage to say _no_, when tempted to do wrong; and, as he had great influence over his cousin, Mr. Winters knew their conduct would be such as he could approve.
At length, one morning, when they went on board the receiving-ship to report as usual, they were ordered to present themselves at the depot at two o’clock that afternoon, with their bags and hammocks, in readiness to take the train for the West. The boys were a good deal disappointed when they heard this, for the idea of serving out their year on the Mississippi River was not an agreeable one. They had hoped to be ordered to the coast. But, as Archie remarked, it was “too late to back out,” and they were obliged to submit. When Archie came to bid farewell to his parents, he found it to be a much more difficult task than he had expected. The tears would come to his eyes, in spite of himself, as he embraced his mother; and, as soon as he could disengage himself from her arms, he seized his bag and hammock, and rushed out of the house to conceal his emotion. When they reached the depot, they found that the draft to which they belonged numbered nearly two hundred men, some of whom were old sailors, while others, like themselves, were entirely unacquainted with the life they were about to lead.
The journey to Cairo–which was then the naval depot of the Western rivers–was a long and tedious one. They were treated with the greatest kindness by the officers who accompanied them, and at almost every station the people would flock around the cars with baskets of provisions, which were freely distributed.
Early on the fifth morning they reached their destination, and were immediately marched on board a small steamer which lay alongside of the naval wharf-boat, and carried to the receiving-ship, which lay anchored in the middle of the river.
Learning the Ropes.
As they came on board the receiving-ship they were all drawn up in a line, the roll was called, and they were divided off into messes. The mess to which Frank and his cousin belonged was called “Number Twenty-five.” As they were about to be dismissed, the officer who had called the roll said to Archie:
“You will be cook of this mess.”
“Sir?” said Archie, in surprise.
“You will be cook of this mess,” repeated the officer, in a louder tone. “But what is the matter with you? Are you hard of hearing?”
“No, sir; but I can’t cook.”
“Never mind; you can try. You may go below, lads.”
The men did as they were ordered, and our heroes seated themselves on one of the broadside guns, and Archie said:
“I’m in a nice fix, ain’t I? I don’t know any more about cooking than a hog does about gunpowder.”
“I will assist you all I can,” said Frank; “but I wonder what we shall have for dinner? I hope it will be something good, for I’m as hungry as a bear.”
At this moment the whistle of the boatswain’s mate sounded through the ship, and that personage passed them and called out, in a low voice:
“Mess cook Number Twenty-five!”
“He means me, don’t he?” inquired Archie, turning to his cousin.
“I don’t know, I’m sure. Ask him.”
“Mess cook Number Twenty-five,” again shouted the mate.
“Here I am,” said Archie.
“Well, you ought to be somewhere else,” said the mate, sharply. “Why don’t you go and draw your rations?”
“I don’t know where I should go,” answered Archie.
“Then fly around and find out;” and the mate turned on his heel and walked away.
“Now, that’s provoking,” exclaimed Archie. “Why couldn’t he tell a fellow where to go? I’ll tell that officer that I didn’t ship for a cook; I shipped to fight. I wish I was at home again.”
But regrets were worse than useless, and Archie began to look around to find some one who could tell him where to go to draw his rations. At length he met one of the men who belonged to his mess, whose name was Simpson, who told him that he must go to the paymaster’s store-room, and offered to show him the way; and, as he saw that Archie was entirely unacquainted with life on shipboard, Simpson told him to come to him whenever he wanted any advice.
As Archie entered the store-room, the paymaster’s steward, a boy about his own age, who was serving out the provisions, after inquiring the number of his mess, said:
“It’s lucky that you came in just as you did, for I have sent the master-at-arms after you. If you don’t attend to your business better than this, I shall have you put on the black-list for a week or two.”
Now, Archie had never been accustomed to being “ordered about by any boy of his size,” as he afterward remarked, and he felt very much like making an angry reply. But he knew it would only get him into trouble, and, choking down his wrath, he answered:
“If any one will tell me what my duty is, I shall be glad to do it.”
“You haven’t been in the navy a great while, have you?” inquired the steward, with a laugh.
“No; this is my first attempt at learning to be a sailor.”
“Well, all I have got to say,” continued the steward, “is, that you will soon be sorry that you ever made the attempt.”
“I am sorry now,” said Archie; “and if I ever get home again, you’ll never catch me in another scrape like this. I don’t like the idea of having everybody order me around, and talk to me as though I was a dog.”
“No reflections,” said the steward sharply. “Better keep a civil tongue in your head. But now to business. In the first place, here are your dishes,” and he handed Archie a number of tin pots and plates, a large pan, and a mess-kettle.
“What shall I do with these?” asked Archie.
“Why, eat out of them, to be sure,” answered the steward; “what else would you do with them? I shall hold you responsible for them,” he continued; “and if any of them are lost, they will be charged to your account. Now go and put them away in your mess-chest, which you will find on the berth-deck, and then come back, and I will give you your rations.”
Archie accordingly picked up his dishes, and started–he knew not whither, for he had no idea to which part of the vessel he should go in order to find the berth-deck. But he had often boasted that he would have no difficulty in getting along in the world while he had a tongue in his head; so he made inquiries of the first man he met, who told him to go up to the captain, who was always ready to send the executive officer to show landlubbers over the ship. If there was any joke in this, Archie was too angry to notice it, and he was about to make a suitable rejoinder, when a voice close behind him said:
“Now, shipmate, what’s the use of being so hard on the boy?”
Archie turned, and found Simpson at his side.
“The youngster hain’t been to sea as long as you and I have,” continued the latter. “If we were ashore, he would stand a better chance of gettin’ along than you nor me.”
“Then, shiver his tim’ers, why didn’t he stay ashore, where he belongs?” asked the man, gruffly.
“Oh, he’s got the right stuff in him, and will soon learn the ropes,” answered Simpson. “Come, now, my little marlinspike,” he continued, turning to Archie, “follow in my wake, and I’ll show you where our mess-chest is;” and the kind-hearted sailor led the way to the berth-deck, and showed Archie the mess-chest, which had “No. 25” painted on it. Archie put all his dishes into it, with the exception of the mess-kettle and two plates, which, according to Simpson’s directions, he took back to the store-room, to put his rations in. The steward then gave him a large piece of salt beef, some coffee, sugar, butter, and sea-biscuit.
“Is this all we have to eat?” inquired Archie, as he picked up his rations and followed Simpson back to his mess-chest.
“All!” repeated Simpson; “yes, my hearty, and you may thank your lucky stars that you have got even this. You’ll have to live on worse grub nor this afore your year is out. But I see you don’t like the berth of cook, so I’ll take it off your hands. Give me the key of the chist.”
Archie accordingly handed it over, and then went in search of his cousin, whom he found perched upon a coil of rope, engaged in writing a letter.
“Well,” exclaimed the latter, as Archie came up, “how do you get along?”
“I don’t get along at all,” said Archie; “I tell you, we’ve got ourselves in a fix. What do you suppose we are going to have for dinner?”
“I don’t know,” answered Frank. “Well, we will have a chunk of salt beef, coffee without any milk, butter strong enough to go alone, and crackers so hard that you couldn’t break them with an ax. I tell you, the navy is played out.”
“Well, it can’t be helped,” said his cousin. “We are in for it. But we’ll soon get accustomed to the food; we are seeing the worst of our year now.”
“I certainly hope so,” said Archie; “but I know I can stand it if any one else can; and when I fairly get started, I won’t ask favors of any one.”
Frank made no reply, but went on with his letter, and Archie leaned on one of the guns and gazed listlessly into the water. At length they were interrupted by the boatswain’s whistle, blown three times in succession, long and loud.
“What’s the matter now, I wonder,” said Frank, as the sailors commenced running about the ship in all directions.
“I know,” answered Archie, as he saw Simpson dive into the cook’s galley and reappear bearing the mess-kettle, filled with steaming coffee, in one hand, and a large pan, containing the salt beef, in the other–“dinner is ready.”
The cousins walked aft to their mess-chest, and found the berth-deck filled with men, who were sitting around the chests, brandishing their sheath-knives over plates fall of salt beef and “hard-tack.”
Coming directly from home, where they had been accustomed to luxurious living, our young sailors thought they could not relish this hard fare but, as they had eaten no breakfast, they were very hungry, and the food tasted much better than they had expected.
When dinner was ended, Simpson began to gather up the dishes belonging to his mess, preparatory in washing them. Frank and Archie offered their assistance, and Simpson directed the former to take the mess-kettle and go up to the galley after some hot water. When he was returning, he saw a man stealing around the deck, holding something behind him that looked very much like a bundle of rope, and keeping a close watch on every one he met. Frank did not know what to make of this, and stepping up to the boatswain’s mate, he inquired:
“What is that man doing with that bundle of rope behind him?”
“That ain’t a bundle of rope, you landlubber,” replied the mate; “that’s a swab.”
“Well, what is he doing with it?”
“The best way for you to learn would be for you to spill some of that water you have got in your kettle on the deck.”
Frank, without stopping to think, tipped up his kettle, and turned out some of the water; and the man, who had been watching his every movement, sprang toward him and threw down the swab, exclaiming, “I’ve caught you, my hearty; now you may log this bit of rope for awhile.”
“What do you mean?” inquired Frank, amid a roar of laughter from every sailor who had witnessed the performance. “What does he mean?” repeated the mate; “why, he means that you have got to wipe up that water you have spilt on deck, and carry that swab until you can catch some one else doing the same thing.”
For the benefit of the uninitiated, we will make an explanation. It often happens on shipboard, especially receiving-ships, that the men become very careless; and in carrying water, paint, or grease about the ship, frequently spill some of it on deck. While this state of things continues, it is impossible to keep a ship clean, and, in order to break up this habit, the culprits are obliged to wipe up whatever they have spilled, and then carry a swab about the deck until they can detect some one else equally unfortunate. This is not a pleasant task; for, as soon as this rule is put in force, the men become very careful, and the luckless offender is sometimes obliged to walk the decks the entire day before he can detect any one in the act of violating it.
Frank, of course, did not understand this, and the mate had got him into the scrape for the purpose of getting the man who first had the swab, who was a particular friend of his, out of his unpleasant position.
“Come, youngster, drop that mess-kettle and pick up that swab,” commanded the mate.
Frank knew he had no alternative; so he set his mess-kettle on deck out of the way, and picking up the swab, walked aft to the place where he had left Simpson.
“Hullo, there,” exclaimed the latter, as Frank approached, “what’s the matter with you?”
Frank related the whole circumstance, and Simpson could scarcely restrain his indignation.
“That bo’son’s mate ought to be mast-headed for a whole week,” he exclaimed. “But I’ll square yards with him some day. I’m sorry you have got into this scrape, but it can’t be helped. I’ve seen many a good fellow, in my time, in the same fix. Now you must walk around the ship, and if you see any one spill the least drop of water, or any thing else, on deck, rush up and give him the swab. There are a good many landlubbers on board, who don’t know the rules, and you won’t have any trouble in catching them. Always be careful to keep the swab behind you, out of sight.”
Frank was a good deal mortified at being the victim of this novel mode of punishment; but he consoled himself with the thought that he would soon learn his duty, and be enabled to avoid all such scrapes. He walked about the vessel for an hour, trailing the swab along the deck behind him; but it seemed as though every one was particularly careful.
Meanwhile Archie, who had learned the particulars of the case from Simpson, was acting as a sort of scout, hoping to be of some assistance to his cousin. But he looked and waited in vain for some one to violate the rule, and finally he resolved to make use of a little strategy in releasing Frank.
Discovering a man coming out of the galley with a pail of water, Archie walked rapidly down the deck, and jostled him with sufficient force to empty half the contents of his pail on the deck. Archie did not, of course, stop to apologize, but hurried on, and before the man could look up to see who had caused the mischief, he had disappeared Frank, who had been watching his cousin’s motions, immediately stepped up and dropped the swab before the man, and walked away, laughing in his sleeve, when he thought how cleverly his release had been accomplished.
When the hour of bedtime arrived, the boys were instructed how to get into their hammocks, and laughed at for tumbling out on the opposite side. But, after a few attempts, they succeeded in gaining the center of their suspended beds, and were soon in a sound sleep.
Squaring the Yards.
By degrees the boys became accustomed to their new situation, and began to feel much more contented. The only thing that troubled them was the food they received. It consisted, for the most part, of salt pork and beef, and hard crackers, with now and then a little flour and dried apples. Simpson, who had been in the navy nearly all his life, and had become well acquainted with its rules and regulations, asserted that they did not receive half their allowance, and promised that, if he could detect the paymaster’s steward in the act of cheating them, he would pay him back in his own coin. Now Blinks, for that was the steward’s name, was a notorious cheat; he never gave the men their full rations. On the contrary, he often boasted that he cleared not less than a hundred pounds of provisions every day. He was the caterer of the steerage mess, and many a pound of flour and apples, which should have been given to the men, found its way to his table, in the shape of pies and puddings. Blinks always rose early, and as soon as he was dressed, the steerage steward, every morning, brought to his room a lunch, consisting of coffee and apple-pie. He was very fond of pies, and had several made every day. Every time the men passed the galley, they saw long rows of them set out to cool. Many a midnight plundering expedition had been planned against the galley, but without success. The door and windows were securely fastened at sundown, and all attempts to effect an entrance were unavailing. It was also useless to attempt to bribe the cook, for Blinks, who was a strict accountant, always knew how many pies were made every day, and if any of them were missing, the cook was sure to suffer. One evening, while Frank and Simpson were engaged in washing up the supper-dishes, the latter inquired:
“Would you like one of those pies we saw in the galley to-day?”
“Yes,” answered Frank; “they looked very tempting.”
“Well,” said Simpson, lowering his voice to a whisper, “we’ll have some of them to-night.”
“How will we get them?” inquired Frank.
“Why, we’ll steal them. We can’t beg or buy them. Besides, the stuff they are made of rightfully belongs to us. I don’t care a snap for the pies, but I don’t want to see that rascally steward growing fat off our grub.”
“I’m in for it,” answered Frank, who had long wanted an opportunity to revenge himself on Blinks.
“Will that cousin of yours lend us a hand?” inquired Simpson.
“Yes, without any coaxing. He does not like the steward any better than I do. But I’d like to know how we are going to work to get at the pies? The doors and windows are all fastened.”
“We will pry up the galley, so that one of us can crawl under it. I’ve put a handspike where I can find it in a moment. We shall have no trouble at all.”
As soon as the dishes were washed and stowed away in the mess-chest, Frank went to find his cousin, who was always ready for any mischief of that kind, and readily agreed to the proposal. When bedtime came, the three slung their hammocks together, and, to all appearances, were soon fast asleep. At nine o’clock the ship’s corporal put out all the berth-deck lights, which left the place shrouded in darkness. As soon as he had gone forward again, Simpson raised himself on his elbow, and whispered:
“Turn out, lads. Now’s our time.”
The boys crept noiselessly out of their hammocks, and followed the sailor, who led the way directly to the galley, which was, in fact, a small house, about ten feet square, built on the deck, to which it was insecurely fastened. Simpson found his handspike without any difficulty, and placing one end of it under the galley, easily raised it from the deck, while Archie threw himself on his hands and knees, and crawled in under it. It was as dark as pitch inside the galley, but he knew exactly where the pies were kept, and had no difficulty in finding them. He handed three of them to his cousin, and then crawled out again, and the galley was lowered to its place. After stowing the pies safely away in their mess-chest, they again sought their hammocks. The next morning, when the steward entered the galley to prepare the usual lunch for Blinks, he was surprised, and a good deal terrified, to find that some of the pies were missing. He immediately went on deck, and reported it to Blinks, who furiously asked:
“Where have they gone to, you rascal?”
“I don’t know, sir, I’m sure,” answered the steward, while visions of double-irons danced before his eyes. “There were eight pies in the galley when I locked it up last night.”
“I don’t believe it, you scoundrel. You sold the pies, and think that, by telling me they are missing, you can make me believe that they were stolen.”
“I have never done any thing of the kind since I have been your steward, Mr. Blinks,” said the man, with some spirit. “I have always been as careful of your interests as I would be of my own. Did you ever detect me in a mean or a dishonest act?”
“No; but I have often caught the cook stealing things. I’ll report you to the executive officer, and have you punished. Go below.”
The man sullenly withdrew, and Blinks hurried to the executive officer’s room and reported the affair.
“Are you sure the steward stole the pies, Mr. Blinks?” inquired the officer; “perhaps some one broke into the galley. It would be well for you to go down and see, before punishing the steward.”
Blinks hurried below, and commenced a thorough examination of the locks and window-fastenings, but all to no purpose; and he was still more surprised when the steward affirmed that he had found all the doors and windows closed, just as he had left them. This was also reported to the executive officer, who advised Blinks to say nothing about the affair, but to set a watch over the galley, and, if possible, discover the offender.
Blinks resolved to act upon this suggestion; and, the following evening, he posted a sentry over lite galley, with instructions to arrest any one who might be discovered prowling around. After fastening the doors and windows himself, he put the keys in his pocket and walked away.
At half-past nine o’clock our young sailors and Simpson were again on hand. After a careful reconnoissance, the sentry was discovered fast asleep at his post. They immediately set to work as before–the galley was raised up, and three more pies secured. It was all done in a moment, and the sentinel was not awakened; and as they retreated to their hammocks, they could scarcely refrain from laughing outright, when they thought how nicely the trick was performed.
The next morning Blinks opened the galley at an early hour, and was surprised and enraged to find that some of his pies were again missing. He carefully examined every nook and corner of the galley, but failed to discover a place where any one could effect an entrance.
For four nights more, in succession, Frank and his accomplices visited the galley, each time taking pies enough to last them a whole day; and Blinks, in the mean time, was making unavailing efforts to discover the offenders. On the fifth night, Archie, who was the one that always went into the galley, was much longer than usual in finding the pies. At length he whispered,
“I say, Simpson!”
“Ay, ay, my hearty; what is it?”
“I can’t find but one pie.”
“You can’t, hey?” said Simpson; “I smell a rat. Bring the pie out here.”
Archie accordingly handed it out, saying, as he did so–
“I’m hungry as blazes; I believe I’ll eat a piece of that pie to-night.”
“Not in a hurry,” said Simpson, as they began to crawl back toward their hammocks; “not in a hurry; I’ve been in such scrapes as this before, and can’t be fooled easy.”
“What do you mean?” inquired Frank.
“Why, I mean that this pie was made on purpose for us,” said Simpson; “it has got some kind of medicine in it that will make a fellow sick. If we should eat it, they would not be long in finding out who stole the pies.”
“I’ll tell you what to do with it,” said Frank, suddenly; “let’s give it to Jenkins, the boatswain’s mate; he’s a mean fellow, and I shouldn’t be sorry to see him sick.’
“That’s just what I was going to do with it,” said Simpson. “Now, you go back to your hammocks, and I’ll carry him the pie.”
“As Simpson had taken particular notice of the place where Jenkins was in the habit of slinging his hammock, he had no difficulty whatever in finding it.
“I say, shipmate,” he whispered, shaking the mate by the shoulder.
“What do you want?” he growled.
“Wake up,” said Simpson; “I’ve got a nice pie for you; do you want it?”
“Of course I do,” answered the mate, taking it from Simpson’s hand. “But who are you?” he inquired, for it was so dark that he could not have recognized the features of his most intimate friend.
“I’m Jack Smith,” answered Simpson; “but I can’t stop to talk with you, for some one may discover me;” and before Jenkins could detain him, he had slipped off quietly in the darkness.
It was as Simpson had said–the pie had made “on purpose for them.” When Blinks saw that it was impossible to discover the guilty party, he ordered his steward to make a nice large pie, into which he put two doses of jalap. It was his intention to make the offender sick; and he told the doctor what he had done, and requested him to keep an eye on all who came to him for medicine.
The next morning Jenkins was not heard blowing his whistle, but was seen moving slowly about the ship, with a pale, woe-begone countenance; and as soon as the doctor appeared, he made application to go on the “sick-list.”
“What’s the matter with you?” inquired the doctor.
Jenkins then explained how he had been suddenly taken very ill during the night, and was afraid he was going to die. The doctor, who knew in a moment that it was the effect of the medicine contained in the pie, exclaimed:
“Why, you’re just the man Mr. Blinks has been wanting to see for the last week. Orderly, ask Mr. Blinks if he will have the kindness to come here a moment.”
The orderly disappeared, and Jenkins stood, looking the very picture of despair, too sick to know or care what was going on.
“Mr. Blinks, I’ve found your man,” said the doctor, when the paymaster’s steward made his appearance.
“Well, my fine fellow,” said Blinks, turning to the mate, and smiling grimly, “how do you feel by this time? Very pleasant morning, isn’t it! I knew I’d catch you, you scoundrel,” he exclaimed, suddenly changing his tune; “I’ll teach you to steal my pies!”
“I–I–don’t know what you mean, sir!” said the mate, in surprise.
“Don’t talk to me, you villain,” said Blinks savagely; “didn’t you eat a pie last night?”
“Yes, sir,” answered Jenkins, hesitatingly, “but”–
“I knew you did, you rascal.”
“But the pie was given to me, sir,” said the mate.
“Oh, that story won’t do at all. I’ll fix you. Go below.”
In a short, time the mate, who was so weak that he was scarcely able to stand alone, was summoned before the captain, who gave him a severe reprimand, and disrated him. He came down on deck, looking very forlorn indeed; and as he passed by Simpson, who, with Frank and Archie, was standing in the starboard gangway, the former exclaimed:
“That’s what I call squaring the yards; I’m even with him now.”
As soon as Jenkins had recovered from the effects of the physic, he began to make efforts to find Jack Smith. One day he approached Simpson who was seated on a coil of rope, spinning one of his forecastle yarns to Frank and Archie, and said:
“Shipmate, do you know any one aboard here named Jack Smith?”
“No,” answered Simpson, with the utmost gravity, “I don’t know any one who goes by that name.”
“Well, there _is_ a chap here by that name,” said Jenkins, “and I wish I could find him. He got me into a bad scrape.”
But, it is needless to say, he never found Jack Smith.
A Midnight Alarm.
On the afternoon of the following day, as Frank and his cousin were walking up and down the deck, talking over old times, Simpson hurriedly approached them, exclaiming,
“Boys, do you want to leave this ship?”
“Yes,” answered Frank; “we’re tired of staying here.”
“Well, it’s all right, then. I volunteered to go, and I had both your names put down. The executive officer says if you want to go, just get your donnage and go for’ard.”
“Where are we to go?” inquired Archie.
“On board of the Illinois,” answered Simpson. “She is a magazine-ship, and is lying half-way between here and Mound City. No work at all to do, I’m going.’
“Then we’ll go, of course,” said Frank; “for we don’t want to lose you.”
They immediately got down their hammocks and bags, and went forward, where they found the executive officer standing on the forecastle, waiting for them.
“Well, lads, do you volunteer to go on the Illinois?” he asked.
“Jump down into that dingy, then,” said the officer, pointing to a small boat that lay alongside.
The boys did as they were ordered, and just as they had finished storing away their bags and hammocks under the thwarts, a man dressed in the uniform of a sailor sprang down into the boat, exclaiming:
“Man your oars, lads, and shove off–you’ve a long pull before you.”
Archie took one of the oars, Frank the other; Simpson stowed himself away in the bow of the boat, and the sailor took his seat at the helm.
The cousins were both good oarsmen, and they made the little boat dance over the water like a duck. It was full five miles to the place where the Illinois lay, and they soon found that it was indeed “a long, hard pull.” The current was very strong, and it reminded the boys of many a tough struggle they had had around the head of Strawberry Island, in the Kennebec River.
In about two hours they reached the Illinois, and, as they sprang on board, their baggage was seized by willing hands, and carried to the cabin, which had been stripped of nearly all its furniture, and presented, altogether, a desolate appearance. After a few moments’ conversation with one of their new messmates, they learned that there were only fifteen men on board the vessel, including one sergeant and two corporals. These were the only officers; and they were, in fact, no officers at all, for they were all rated, on the books of the receiving-ship, as “landsmen.”
They soon discovered that there was no discipline among the crew–there could not be under the circumstances. Each stood a two-hour watch, at night, and assisted in pumping out the ship, morning and evening. With the exception of these duties, there was no work to be done on board the vessel. The remainder of the day was spent as suited them best. Some passed the time in hunting and nailing, some in reading, and some lounged about the decks, from morning until night.
Frank and Archie were very much pleased with their new situation. There was no boatswain’s mate to trouble them, and they were in no danger of rendering themselves liable to punishment for some unintentional offense.
After stowing away their bags and hammocks, they amused themselves in strolling about the boat, until a neat-looking little sailor stepped up, and informed them that supper was ready. They followed him into the cabin, and took their seats at the table, with the rest, and one of the sailors, who went by the name of Woods, exclaimed:
“Now, boys, pitch in, help yourselves, for if you don’t, you won’t be helped at all. Every one that comes here has to learn to take care of himself.”
“You will not find us at all bashful,” answered Frank, and he began helping himself most bountifully to every thing on the table.
It did not take them long to become acquainted, and the boys found that their new shipmates were much better educated than the majority of the sailors they had met. They were a good-natured, jovial set of fellows, and the meal-hour passed away quickly and pleasantly.
Immediately after supper the corporal ordered all hands below to pump out the ship. In a quarter of an hour this was accomplished, and as they were ascending to the boiler-deck. Woods remarked:
“I wish I was back in Wisconsin again for a little while.”
“Are you tired of the navy?” inquired Frank.
“Oh, no!” answered Woods; “but I should like to see my friends again, and try my hand at quail-shooting.”
“Are you fond of hunting?”
“Yes, indeed; I spend all my spare time in the woods, when I am at home.”
This was the very man, of all others, that Frank would have chosen for a companion, and he informed Woods that he also was very fond of rural sports. They seated themselves on the boiler door railing, and each related some of his hunting and fishing adventures, and, finally, Woods proposed that they should go over the river into Kentucky, on the following morning, on a squirrel hunt. Frank, of course, readily agreed to this. He immediately started in search of his cousin and Simpson, and informed them of the proposed excursion. When he returned to the place where he had left Woods, he found him with a musket on his shoulder, and a cartridge-box buckled about his waist, pacing up and down the deck.
“I’m on watch, you see,” he said, as Frank came up, “You will go on at midnight; so you had better go and turn in. If we go hunting to-morrow, we must start by four o’clock at least, for we have a good way to walk before we reach the hunting-ground. Good night.” And Woods, settling his musket more firmly on his shoulder, continued his beat, while Frank sought his hammock.
About midnight he was awakened by a hand laid on his shoulder, when, starting up, he found one of the corporals standing beside his hammock holding a lantern in his hand.
“Is your name Nelson?” he inquired.
Frank answered in the affirmative, and the corporal continued:
“Roll out, then, for it is time for you to go on watch. But be careful when you come out, or you’ll be shot.”
“Shot!” exclaimed Frank. “Who’ll shoot me? Are there any rebels around here?”
“Yes, plenty of them. There are some out on the bank now. I was walking with Woods, when I happened to look up, and saw two men, with their muskets pointed straight at us; but we got out ofthe way before they had time to shoot. Hurry up, now, but don’t expose yourself,” and the corporal hurried aft, hiding his lantern under his coat of the went.
What Frank’s feelings were, we will not attempt to say. He was not a coward, for we once saw him alone in the forest, standing face to face with a wounded wild-cat, with no weapon in his hands but an ax; but fighting a wild-cat and a rebel sharp-shooter were two widely different things. He had never heard the whistle of a hostile bullet, nor had he ever seen a rebel; and it is not to be wondered at, if his feelings were not of the most enviable nature. But he was not one to shrink from his duty because it was dangerous; and he drew on his clothes as quickly as possible, and seizing a musket and cartridge-box that stood in a rack close by the cabin door, he hurried aft, where he found Woods concealed behind the port wheel-house, and the corporal behind a chicken-coop. They both held their guns in readiness, and were peering into the woods, as if trying to pierce the thick darkness that enshrouded them. The Illinois was tied up close to the bank, which, as the water in the river was low, was about thirty feet in hight; and as the moon was shining very brightly, a person hidden in the bushes could distinctly see every thing on deck.
“Keep close there,” said Woods, as Frank came up. “The corporal says he saw some guerrillas on the bank.”
Frank accordingly concealed himself behind a stanchion, and his hand trembled considerably as he cocked his musket and brought it to his shoulder. They remained in this position for nearly a quarter of an hour, when, suddenly, something stirred in the bushes.
“There they are,” whispered the corporal, drawing himself entirely out of sight, behind the chicken-coop. “Look out, they’ll shoot in a moment.”
Frank kept a close watch on the bushes, and presently discovered a white object moving about among them.
“I see something, boys,” he said; “but it don’t look to me like a man.”
“Yes, it is a man,” exclaimed the corporal, excitedly. “Shoot him.”
In obedience to the order, Frank raised his gun to his shoulder, and an ounce ball and a couple of buckshot went crashing through the bushes. The commotion increased for a moment, and then ceased, and something that sounded very much like a groan issued from the woods.
“By gracious, you hit one of them,” exclaimed the corporal. “That was a good shot. We’ll teach these rebs that it isn’t healthy to go prowling about here at night.”
Frank hastily reloaded his musket, and they waited, impatiently, for nearly an hour, for the other guerrilla to show himself, but the woods remained as silent as death.
“I guess that shot finished them,” said the corporal; “so I will go and turn in. Keep a good look-out,” he added, turning to Frank, “and don’t expose yourself too much.”
Woods and the corporal then went into the cabin, and Frank was left to himself. A feeling of loneliness he had never before experienced came over him. At first he determined to go and call his cousin to come and stand watch with him, so that he would have some one to talk with; but, on second thought, he remembered that Archie was to come on watch at two o’clock, and probably would not like to be disturbed. Besides, if he called him, it would look as though he was a coward, and afraid to stand his watch alone; so he gave up the idea, and remained in his place of concealment. Once he thought he discovered the sheen of a musket among the bushes; but it was only his imagination, and after waiting half an hour without hearing any thing suspicious, he shouldered his gun, and commenced pacing the deck, in full view of the woods. But he was not molested, and when two o’clock came he saw a figure steal cautiously out of the cabin, and creep along toward him, under cover of the wheel-house. As he approached nearer, Frank recognized his cousin.
“Where are the rebs?” inquired the latter.
“The corporal said he saw two of them out there in the woods,” answered Frank, pointing to a thick clump of bushes that stood on the edge of the bank; “and there was _something_ out there, and I shot at it. But I’ve been on deck here, in plain sight, for the last hour, and haven’t seen any thing.”
“I hope there are no rebs in there,” said Archie; “but I’ll keep dark for awhile. I shipped to fight, but I don’t like the idea of having a fellow send a bullet into me when I can’t see him,” and he began to settle himself into a comfortable position behind the chicken-coop.
“I don’t think there is any danger,” said Frank; “but perhaps it is well to be careful at first. Be sure and call us when you come off watch,” and he shouldered his rifle and walked leisurely into the cabin.
A Discomfited Rebel.
Archie stood his watch without seeing or hearing any thing of the rebels, and when he was relieved, at four o’clock, he aroused Simpson, Woods, and his cousin, and after they had tied up their hammocks, and stowed them away in the nettings, Woods went to the sergeant’s room to obtain his consent to their proposed excursion. This was easily accomplished, and while they were filling their pockets with musket-cartridges, Frank proposed that they should go out and see what it was that had occasioned the alarm during the night; so they leaned their muskets up in one corner of the cabin, and ran out on the bank, and there, weltering in his blood, lay, not a rebel, but a white mule. He it was that, while feeding about in the woods, had occasioned the disturbance in the bushes, and Frank’s shot had done its work. The two men with muskets had existence only in the corporal’s imagination. Simpson burst into a loud laugh.
“A nice set of fellows you are,” he exclaimed. “I shouldn’t want you stationed at my gun in action.”
“Why not?” inquired Frank.
“Why, because you can’t tell the difference between a mule and a secesh.”
Frank made no reply to this, for, although he was very much relieved to find that it was a mule, and not a man, that he had killed, he was a good deal mortified at first, for he expected to be made the laughing-stock of his companions. But he consoled himself with the thought that he was not to blame. The corporal had said that he had seen guerrillas in the woods, and he had, as in duty bound, done his best to drive them away; besides, he would not have fired his gun had he not been ordered to do so.
“It’s no matter,” said Simpson, who noticed that Frank looked a little crest-fallen; “It was the corporal’s fault.”
“I know it,” said Frank. “But that’s poor consolation. I killed the mule, and shall probably be laughed at for it.”
“What’s the odds?” asked Simpson. “I’ve seen many a better man than you laughed at. But let us be going, for we have a long way to walk.”
They accordingly retraced their steps to the vessel, and Woods awoke one of the corporals, who had volunteered to row them over into Kentucky. The dingy, which was kept fastened to the stern of the Illinois, was hauled alongside, and, in a few moments, they reached the opposite shore. Our four hunters sprang out, and, bidding the corporal good-by, shouldered their muskets, and disappeared in the forest. Woods, who was well acquainted with the “lay of the land,” led the way. Just at sunrise they reached a ridge covered with hickory and pecan-trees.
“Here we are,” he exclaimed, as he leaned on his gun, and wiped his forehead with his coat-sleeve. “There are plenty of squirrels around here. But I’m hungry; we have plenty of time to eat some breakfast before we begin.”
They seated themselves under the branches of some small hickories, and Simpson produced from a basket some salt pork, hard crackers, and a bottle of cold coffee. Their long walk had given them good appetites, and the meal, homely as it was, was eaten with a relish. After they had rested a few moments, they started off in different directions, to commence the hunt. As Frank walked slowly along, with his gun on his shoulder, he could not help thinking of the many times he had been on such excursions about his native village. What a change a year had made! The “Boys of Lawrence” were no longer amateur sportsmen. They were scattered all over the country, engaged in the work of sustaining the integrity of the best government on earth. Would they ever all meet again? It was not at all likely. Perhaps some had already been offered up on the altar of their country; and if he should ever live to return home, there would be some familiar faces missing. In short, Frank was homesick. Finding himself once more in his favorite element had made him think of old times. He wandered slowly along, recalling many a fishing frolic and boat-race he had engaged in, until a loud chatter above his head roused him from his reverie. He looked up just in time to see a large squirrel striving to hide himself among the leaves on a tree that stood close by. Frank’s gun was at his shoulder in a moment, and taking a quick aim at the squirrel, he pulled the trigger. But the old Springfield musket was not intended for fine shooting; for, though the shot cut the leaves all around, the squirrel escaped unhurt, and, running up to the topmost branch, again concealed himself. While Frank was reloading, Archie came up, and stood leaning on his gun, with rather a dejected air. “What’s the matter with you?” inquired Frank.
“I wish I was down to the river,” answered Archie.
“What would you do there? go fishing?”
“No, but I’d sink this musket so deep that no one would ever find it again. It don’t shoot worth a row of pins. If I was standing twenty feet from the side of a barn, I couldn’t hit it, I wish I had my shot-gun here.”
“So do I,” answered Frank; “I would very soon bring down that squirrel. I’m going to try him again;” and going around to the side of the tree where the squirrel had taken refuge, he fired again, but with no better success. The squirrel, not in the least injured, appeared amid a shower of leaves, and speedily found a new hiding-place.
“It’s no use, I tell you,” said Archie; “you can’t hit any thing with that musket.”
“It does look a little that way. But I must have that squirrel, if I have to shoot all day. Haven’t you got a load in your gun?”
“Yes; but I might as well have none. I can kill as many squirrels by throwing the musket at them, as I can by shooting at them.”
“Never mind, fire away–the ammunition doesn’t cost us any thing.”
“I know it; but another thing, this musket kicks like blazes. I had as soon stand before it, as behind it. But I’ll try him;” and Archie raised his gun and blazed away. This time there was no mistake; the squirrel was torn almost to pieces by the ball; and when the smoke cleared away, Frank saw his cousin sitting on the ground, holding both hands to his nose, which was bleeding profusely.
“You’ve killed the squirrel,” he said.
“Yes,” answered Archie; “but I hurt myself as much as I did him.”
Frank was a good deal amused, and could scarcely refrain from laughing at his cousin’s misfortune. He tried to keep on a sober face, but the corners of his mouth would draw themselves out into a smile, in spite of himself. Archie noticed this, and exclaimed:
“Oh, it’s a good joke, no doubt.”
“If you would hold your gun firmly against your shoulder,” said Frank, “it wouldn’t hurt half so bad. But hadn’t we better go on?”
Archie raised himself slowly from the ground, and they moved off through the woods. The squirrels were very plenty; but it required two or three, and, sometimes, as many as half a dozen shots, to bring one down.
At length, after securing four squirrels, their shoulders became so lame that they could scarcely raise their guns; so they concluded to give up shooting, and start in search of Woods and Simpson, who had gone off together. About noon they found them, sitting on the fence that ran between the woods and a road. Simpson had three squirrels in his hand.
“We are waiting for you,” he said, as Frank and Archie came up; “it’s about time to start for the boat.”
“I’m hungry,” said Frank; “why can’t we go down to that house and hire some one to cook our squirrels for us?”
“That’s a good idea,” said Woods; “come along;” and he sprang off the fence, and led the way toward the house spoken of by Frank, which stood about a quarter of a mile down the road, toward the river.
As they opened the gate that led into the yard, they noticed that a man, who sat on the porch in front of the house, regarded them with a savage scowl on his face.
“How cross that man looks!” said Archie, who, with his cousin, was a little in advance of the others; “maybe he’s a reb.”
“How do you do, sir?” inquired Frank, as he approached the place where the man was sitting.
“What do yees want here?” he growled, in reply.
“We came here to see if we couldn’t hire some one to cook a good dinner for us,” answered Frank.
“No, ye can’t,” answered the man, gruffly; “get out o’ here. I never did nothin’ for a Yank, an’ I never will. I’d like to see yer all drove from the country. Get out o’ here, I tell yer,” he shouted, seeing that the sailors did not move, “or I’ll let my dogs loose on yer!”
“Why, I really believe he is a reb,” said Archie; “he’s the first one I ever saw. He looks just like any body else, don’t he, boys?”
“If yees don’t travel mighty sudden, I’ll make a scatterin’ among yer,” said the man, between his clenched teeth; “I’ll be dog-gone if I don’t shoot some o’ yer;” and he reached for a long double-barrel shot-gun that stood behind his chair.
“Avast, there, you old landlubber,” exclaimed Simpson; “just drop that shootin’ iron, will you. We’re four to your one, and you don’t suppose that we are going to stand still and be shot down, like turkeys on Thanksgivin’ morning, do you? No, sir, that would be like the handle of a jug, all on one side. Shootin’ is a game two can play at, you know. Come, put that we’pon down;” and Simpson held his musket in the hollow of his arm, and handled the lock in a very significant manner.
The man saw that the sailors were not to be intimidated, and not liking the way Simpson eyed him, he leaned his gun up in the corner again, and muttered something about Yankee mudsills and Abolitionists.
“Just clap a stopper on that jaw of yours, will you,” said Simpson; “or, shiver my timbers, if we don’t try man-o’-war punishment on you. Now, Frank,” he continued, “you just jump up there, and shoot off the old rascal’s gun; and then keep an eye on him, and don’t let him get out of his chair; and the rest of us will look around and see what we can find in the way of grub.”
Frank sprang up the steps that led on to the porch, and fired both barrels of the gun into the air, and then, drawing a chair to the other end of the porch, coolly seated himself, and deposited his feet on the railing; while the others went into the house, where they secured a pail of fresh milk and a loaf of bread. From the house they went into the wood-shed, where they found a quantity of sweet potatoes. They then returned to the place where they had left Frank.
“Come on, now,” said Woods; “we’ll have a tip-top dinner, in spite of the old secesh.
“Hold on,” said Frank; “where are you going? I move we cook and eat our dinner here. There’s a stove in the house, and every thing handy.”
The man was accordingly invited into his own house by the boys, and requested to take a seat, and make himself perfectly at home, but to be careful and not go out of doors. They deposited their muskets in one corner of the room; and while Archie started a fire in the store, Frank dressed the squirrels, and washed some of the sweet potatoes, and placed them in the oven to bake. Woods drew the table out into the middle of the room; and Simpson, after a diligent search, found the cupboard, and commenced bringing out the dishes Frank superintended the cooking; and, in half an hour, a splendid dinner was smoking on the table. When the meal was finished, they shouldered their muskets, and Simpson said to the man:
“Now, sir, we’re very much obliged to you for your kindness; but, before we go, we want to give you a bit of advice. If you ever see any more Yankee sailors out this way, don’t try to bully them by talking treason to them. If you do, just as likely as not you’ll get hold of some who won’t treat you as well as we have. They might go to work and clean out your shanty. Good day, sir;” and Simpson led the way toward the boat.
Frank’s First Exploit.
During the three months following that Frank and Archie were attached to the Illinois, they met with no adventure worthy of notice. They passed nearly every day in the woods, and, after considerable practice, had become splendid shots with their muskets; and as game was abundant, their table was kept well supplied.
At length, the new magazine-boat, which had for some time been building at Cairo, was towed alongside the Illinois, and a detachment of men from the receiving-ship were set to work to transfer the ammunition. The crew of the Illinois were not at all pleased with this, for they knew that the easy life they had been leading was soon to be brought to an end.
When the ammunition had all been removed into the new boat, the steamer Champion came alongside, and the Illinois was towed down to Columbus, where she was to undergo repairs, and her crew was transferred to the receiving-ship again.
The day after they arrived on board, while Frank and his cousin were seated on a coil of rope, as usual, talking over old times, and wondering how George and Harry Butler liked the army, and why they had not written, the boatswain’s mate came along, and called out, in a loud voice:
“Here I am,” said Archie.
“Well, go up on deck,” said the mate; “the captain wants to see you.”
“The captain wants to see me!” repeated Archie, in surprise.
“Yes; and you had better bear a hand, too, for the captain isn’t the man to wait long when he sends after any one.”
Archie accordingly went on deck, trying all the while to think what he had done that was wrong, and expecting a good blowing up for some unintentional offense. Perhaps the captain had by some means learned who it was that had made the descent on the cook’s galley, and had called him up for the purpose of punishing him.
Finding the captain on deck, talking with the executive officer, he very politely remained out of hearing, holding his hat in his hand, and waited for a chance to speak to him. At length the captain inquired:
“Hasn’t Winters come up yet?”
“Yes, sir,” answered Archie, stepping up with his best salute.
“Is this your writing?” inquired the captain, holding out to Archie a letter addressed, in a splendid business hand, to James Winters, Esq., Boston.
“Yes, sir,” answered Archie; “that’s a letter I wrote to my father.”
“Well,” continued the captain, “I have got a splendid position for you, as second clerk in the fleet paymaster’s office. Would you like to take it?”
“Yes, sir,” answered Archie; “but–but”–
“But what?” inquired the captain.
“I don’t like to be separated from my cousin. We shipped together, and I should like to remain with him as long as possible.”
“Oh, as to that,” said the captain, “you can’t expect to be together long; there is no certainty that you will be ordered to the same ship. You might as well separate one time as another. I think you had better accept this position.”
“I should like to speak with my cousin before I decide, sir.”
“Very well; look alive, and don’t keep me waiting.”
Archie touched his hat, and hurried below.
“What did he want with you?” inquired Frank, who was sitting with Simpson on their mess-chest.
Archie told his story, and ended by saying:
“I don’t believe I’ll take it; for I don’t want to leave you.”
“You’re foolish,” said Simpson; for, as the captain said, you can’t expect to remain together a great while. To-morrow one of you may be ordered to a vessel in the Cumberland River, and the other to the lower fleet. Better take it; Frank can take care of himself.”
“Yes” said Frank, “I should certainly take it, if I were in your place. You’ll be an officer then, you know.”
“Yes, I shall be an officer,” said Archie, contemptuously; “and if I meet one of you anywhere, I mustn’t associate with you at all. No sir; I’ll go and tell the captain I can’t take it.”
“But, hold on a minute,” said Frank, as his cousin was about to move away; “perhaps you may find that there is another good place, and then you can recommend me.”
“That’s so,” said Archie; “I did not think of that; I believe I’ll take it;” and he hurried on deck again.
“Well, what conclusion have you come to?” inquired the captain. “Will you take it?”
“Yes, sir, with many thanks for your kindness.”
“What is your cousin’s name?”
Archie told him, and the captain continued:
“I’ll keep an eye open for him. I don’t forget that I was young once myself; and I know that a sailor’s life is rather tough for one who is not accustomed to it; and when I find a deserving young man, I like to help him along. Mr. Tyler,” he continued, turning to the officer of the deck; “please send this young man over to the fleet paymaster’s office in the first boat that leaves the ship. You need not take your donnage,” he said, turning to Archie again; “if you suit the paymaster, you can come over for it at any time.”
“Very good, sir,” answered Archie; and he went below again.
When the ten o’clock boat was called away, Archie, in obedience to the captain’s order, was sent over to the paymaster’s office; and Frank was left alone. He watched the boat until it reached the landing, and he saw his cousin spring out. He then walked aft, and seated himself on the mess-chest, and commenced writing a letter to his mother. While he was thus engaged, he heard the order passed, in a loud voice: “All you men that belonged to the Illinois, muster on the forecastle with your bags and hammocks.”
As Frank hastened to obey the order, he met Simpson, who exclaimed:
“We’re off again, my hearty; and I’m glad of it. I don’t like to lay around here.”
“Where are we going?” inquired Frank.
“I don’t know for certain; but I suspect we are to be the crew of the store-ship Milwaukee, now lying alongside the wharf-boat.”
Simpson’s surmise proved to be correct. The entire crew of the Illinois, with the exception of Archie, was mustered around the capstan; and after answering to their names, they were crowded into a cutter that lay alongside, and, in a few moments, were landed on board the Milwaukee.
She had steam up; her stores were on board, and she was all ready to sail; and the crew had scarcely time to stow away their bags and hammocks, when the order was passed: “All hands stand by to get ship under way.”
The gang-planks were quickly hauled in; the line with which she was made fast to the wharf-boat was cast off, and the Milwaukee was soon steaming down the river, and Cairo was rapidly receding from view.
The Milwaukee, which was now dignified by the name of “store-ship,” was an old river packet. She was loaded with clothing, provisions, and small stores, with which she was to supply the fleet. It was not, of course, intended that she should go into action; but, in order that she might be able to defend herself against the guerrillas, which infested the river between Cairo and Helena, she mounted a twelve-pound howitzer on her boiler-deck, and was well supplied with muskets. Her destination was Helena.
They reached that place without any adventure, and, after supplying the fleet with stores, started to return to Cairo. One pleasant afternoon, as they were passing through Cypress Bend, the officer of the deck discovered a man standing on the bank, waving a flag of truce. A bale of cotton lay near him; and the man, as soon as he found that he had attracted their attention, pointed to the cotton, and signified, by signs, that he wished it carried up the river.
The Milwaukee was immediately turned toward the shore, and as soon as they arrived within speaking distance, the captain called out:
“What do you want?”
“I would like to have you take this cotton to Cairo for me,” answered the man.
“Are you a loyal citizen?” asked the captain.
“Yes, sir; and here is a permit from Admiral Porter to ship my cotton;” and, as the man spoke, he held up a letter to the view of the captain.
“Bring her into the bank, Mr. Smith,” said the captain, addressing the pilot; “and, Mr. O’Brien,” he continued, in a lower tone, turning to an officer who stood near, “go down and stand by that howitzer. Perhaps there is no treachery intended, but it is well to be on the safe side.”
As soon as the Milwaukee touched the bank, Frank and Simpson, with two others, sprang ashore with a line, and, after making it fast to a tree, returned on board, and commenced pushing out a plank, so that the cotton could be easily rolled on, when, suddenly, several men rose from behind the levee, and the quick discharge of their rifles sent the bullets around those standing on the forecastle, like hailstones; and Simpson, who was standing directly in front of Frank, uttered a sharp cry of pain, and sank heavily to the deck. The next moment the guerrillas, with loud yells, sprang down the bank in a body, intending to board the boat and capture her. But they had not taken her so much by surprise as they had imagined, for a shell from the howitzer exploded in their very midst, and one of the rebels was killed, and three disabled. The others turned and hastily retreated behind the levee. Frank took advantage of this, and lifting the insensible form of his friend, retreated under cover, and laid him on a mattress behind a pile of coal, where he would be safe from the bullets of the guerrillas, which now began to come through the sides of the boat in every direction.
This was the first time Frank had ever been under fire, and he was thoroughly frightened; but he knew that it was his duty to resist the rebels, and to do them as much damage as possible; so, instead of looking round for a safe place to hide, his first impulse was to run up on deck after a gun. This he knew was a dangerous undertaking, for the vessel lay close to the bank, the top of which was on a level with the boiler-deck; and behind the levee, scarcely half a dozen rods distant, were the guerrillas, who were ready to shoot the first man that appeared.
Nevertheless, Frank resolved to make the attempt, for he wanted to take revenge on them for shooting Simpson. But, just as he was about to start out, he heard the captain shout down through the trumpet which ran from the pilot-house to the engine-room:
“Back her, strong! We must get away from the bank or they will pick us all off.”
In obedience to the order, the engineers let on the steam, and a heavy puffing told Frank that the powerful engines were doing their utmost to break the line which held them to the bank. Here was another thing that Frank knew he ought to do; he knew that he ought to cut that line, for it would be an impossibility to break it. There was an ax handy, and a sudden rush and a couple of lusty strokes would put the vessel out of danger. But, at short intervals, he heard the bullets crashing through the side of the boat, and he knew that the guerrillas were on the watch. If he made the attempt he could scarcely hope to come back alive; and he thought of his mother and Julia, how badly they would feel when they heard of his death. But even where he stood he was in danger of being struck by the bullets that were every moment coming through the vessel; and would not his mother much rather hear that he fell while performing his duty, than that he was shot while standing idly by, taking no part in the fight? He did not wait to take a second thought, but seized the ax, and, with one bound, reached the gangway that led out on to the forecastle. Here he hesitated again, but it was only for a moment. Clutching his ax with a firmer hold, and gathering all his strength for the trial, he sprang forward, and a few rapid steps brought him to the capstan, to which the line was made fast. He raised his ax, and one swift blow severed the line, and the Milwaukee swung rapidly out from the bank Without waiting an instant, Frank turned and retreated; but, instead of going back to the place where he had left Simpson, he bounded up the steps that led to the boiler-deck, and the next moment was safe behind a pile of baled clothing. His sudden appearance had taken the rebels completely by surprise, and before they could recover themselves, the line had been cut, and the young hero was safe. But they had seen where he had taken refuge, and, with loud yells of disappointment and rage, sent their bullets about his hiding-place in a perfect shower. Frank, however, knowing that he was safe, was not in the least alarmed. Waiting until the fire slackened a little, he sprang up, and, snatching a musket and cartridge-box from the rack which stood close by the door of the cabin, was back to his hiding-place in a moment.
“Now,” he soliloquized, “we are on more equal terms. Better keep close, or I’ll drop some of you.”
In his cool, sober moments, Frank would have shuddered at the thought of taking the life of a fellow-being; but he had seen Simpson shot down before his eyes–perhaps killed; and is it to be wondered that he wished to avenge his fall?
It was some time before Frank could get an opportunity to use his musket; for if he exposed the smallest portion of his body, it was the signal for his watchful enemies, who sent the bullets about him in unpleasant proximity. In spite of his dangerous situation, he could not help thinking that the rebels were very proficient in “Indian fighting,” for, with all his watchfulness, he could not get an opportunity to put in a shot. All he could see of his enemies would be, first, a rifle thrust carefully over the levee, then a very small portion of a head would appear, and the bullet would come straight to the mark.
In the mean time the Milwaukee was working her way out into the stream, and the rebels, finding that their fire was not returned, grew bolder by degrees, and became less careful to conceal themselves. This was what Frank wanted; but he reserved his fire until a tall rebel rose to his full hight from behind the levee, fired his gun, and stood watching the effect of the shot. Frank’s musket was at his shoulder in an instant, his finger pressed the trigger, and the rebel staggered for a moment, and disappeared behind the levee.
“There,” said Frank to himself, “that’s what Simpson would call ‘squaring the yards.’ I’m even with the rascals now.”
The rebels answered the shot with load yells, and their bullets fell thicker than ever; but the Milwaukee was almost out of range, and, in a few moments, the firing ceased altogether.
On a Gun-boat.
When the Milwaukee was fairly out of range of the bullets of the guerrillas, Frank put his gun back in the rack, and started in search of the doctor’s steward. He ran into the cabin without ceremony, and was about to enter the steward’s room, when he discovered a pair of patent-leather boots, which he thought he recognized, sticking out from under a mattress which lay on the cabin floor; and, upon examination, he found that it concealed the steward, who was as pale as a sheet, and shaking as though he had been seized with the ague.
“What do you want here?” he asked, in a trembling voice, as Frank raised the mattress.
“Simpson is shot,” answered Frank, “and I would like to have you come down and see him.”
“Do you suppose I am fool enough to go out on deck, and run the risk of being shot? No, sir; I’ll stay here, where I am safe;” and the steward made an effort to draw his head under the mattress again.
“There’s no danger now,” said Frank; “the rebels have stopped firing. Besides, we are out of”–
“Go away, and let me alone,” whined the steward.
“I am not going to expose myself.”
“You’re a coward,” exclaimed Frank, now fairly aroused “But I guess the captain can”–
“Oh, don’t,” entreated the steward; “I haven’t been here a minute. I started to get a gun, to pay the rebels back in their own coin; but the bullets came through the cabin so thick that I thought it best to retreat to a safe place;” and the steward threw off the mattress, and arose, tremblingly, to his feet.
“You went after a gun, did you?” inquired Frank, in a tone of voice which showed that he did not believe the steward’s story.
“Yes; and I would have given them fits, for I am a dead shot.”
“Where did you put your gun when you found that you had to retreat?”
“I put it back in the rack again.”
This was a likely story; for a person as badly frightened as was the steward would not have stopped to put the gun back in its place; and, in his heart, Frank despised the man who could be guilty of such a falsehood.
As they were about to go out on deck, the steward drew back, exclaiming:
“I don’t hardly believe it is safe to go out there just yet. Let us wait a few moments.”
“I shan’t wait an instant,” said Frank. “Simpson has been neglected too long already. You can come down and attend to him, or not, just as you please.” So saying, he opened the cabin door, and walking rapidly out, descended the stairs that led to the main deck.
The steward dreaded to follow; but he knew that, if he did not attend the wounded sailor, he would be reported to the captain, who, although a kind-hearted man, was a strict disciplinarian, and one who always took particular pains to see that his crew was well provided for. He dared not hesitate long; so, drawing in a long breath, he ran swiftly out on deck, and disappeared down the stairs like a shot.
Frank found Simpson sitting upon the mattress where he had been lain, with his elbows on his knees, and his head supported by his hands. As Frank came up, he said, in a weak voice:
“I came very near losing the number of my mess, didn’t I? The rascals shot pretty close to me;” and he showed Frank an ugly-looking wound in the back of his head, from which the blood was flowing profusely.
By this time the steward arrived. After examining the wound, he pronounced it very severe, and one that would require constant attention.
Simpson was speedily conveyed to the sick bay, and every thing possible done to make him comfortable. Although the Milwaukee was completely riddled by the bullets of the guerrillas, he was the only one hurt. Frank was excused from all duty, that he might act as Simpson’s nurse; and he scarcely left him for a moment during the two weeks of fever and delirium that followed. By the time they reached Cairo, however, he was pronounced out of danger.
Frank wanted very much to see his cousin; but the Milwaukee was anchored out in the river, and no one was allowed to go ashore. One afternoon, as he sat by his friend’s hammock, reading aloud a letter from Harry Butler, in which he gave a vivid description of a late battle in which his regiment had participated, the orderly entered and informed him that the captain wished to see him. He followed the orderly, and, as he entered the cabin, the captain said:
“Please help yourself to a chair, Mr. Nelson; I shall be at liberty in a moment. I should like to finish this letter before the mail-steamer sails. You will excuse me, will you not?”
“Certainly, sir,” answered Frank; and he seated himself, lost in wonder.
The captain had addressed him as _Mr._ Nelson, while heretofore he had always been called, by the officers, Nelson, or Frank. What could it mean? The captain had always treated him with the greatest kindness; but, since the engagement with the guerrillas, all the officers had shown him more consideration than ever. He had noticed the change, and wondered at it.
At length the captain, after hastily directing the letter he had written, and giving it in charge of the orderly, took an official document from his desk, saying, as he did so:
“I am greatly pleased, Mr. Nelson, to be able to give you this, for you deserve it;” and after unfolding the letter, he gave it to Frank, who read as follows:
NAVY DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 18, 1862.
Sir: For your gallantry in the late action at Cypress Bend, on the 1st inst., you are hereby appointed an Acting Master’s Mate in the Navy of the United States, on temporary service. Report, without delay, to Acting Rear-Admiral David D. Porter, for such duty as he may assign you. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GIDEON WELLES, _Secretary of the Navy,_
Acting Master’s Mate FRANK NELSON,
_S.S. Milwaukee, Mississippi Squadron._
“Well,” said the captain, after Frank had read the letter over three times, to make sure that he was not dreaming, and that he was really an officer, “what do you think of it?”
“I hardly know what to think, sir,” answered Frank. “It is an honor I did not expect.”
“Very likely,” said the captain, with a laugh; “but you deserve it. If it hadn’t been for you, we should all have been captured. I saw the whole of the transaction from the pilot-house.”
“It was my duty to do it, sir.”
“It was a brave act, call it what else you will. Now go and give this to the paymaster,” continued the captain, handing Frank an order for the settlement of his accounts, “and then go immediately and report to the Admiral.”
Frank left the captain, a good deal elated at his success; and when he approached Simpson, the latter exclaimed:
“What is it, my hearty? Your promotion?”
“Yes,” answered Frank; “read that;” and he handed his appointment to his friend, who said:
“I knew you would get it. The captain isn’t the man to let such a thing as you did at Cypress Bend pass unnoticed. Give us your flipper, my boy; I’m glad to see you an officer.” And the brave fellow actually shed tears, as he shook Frank’s hand. “Now, when you are ordered to your ship,” he continued, “I wish you would speak a word for me. I am very well contented here, but I had much rather sail with you.”
Frank promised to do his best, and, after putting on his “shore togs,” as Simpson called them, and giving the captain’s order to the paymaster, he started off to report to the Admiral.
When he arrived on board the flag-ship, he was met by the officer of the deck, who inquired his business.
“I wish to see the Admiral, sir” answered Frank; “I am ordered to report to him.”
The officer immediately led the way aft, and showed Frank a marine standing at the door of the cabin, who took his name and disappeared. In a moment he returned, and informed Frank that the Admiral was waiting to see him.
He entered the cabin, and handed his appointment to the Admiral, who, after reading it, said:
“So, you are the young man that saved the Milwaukee, are you? Take a chair, sir.”
In a few moments his orders to report, without delay, on board the Ticonderoga, were ready; and as the Admiral handed them to him, he said:
“Now, young man, you will be on a ship where you will have a chance to distinguish yourself. I shall expect to hear a good account of you.”
“I shall always endeavor to do my duty, sir,” answered Frank; and he made his best bow and retired.
When he returned to the Milwaukee, his accounts had all been made out. After the paymaster paid him up in full, Frank started for the nearest clothing-store, and when he came out, he was changed into a fine-looking officer.
He immediately directed his steps toward the naval wharf-boat, where he found a lively little fellow, who seemed full of business, superintending the loading of a vessel with provisions. It was Archie Winters; but it was plain that he did not recognize his cousin in his new uniform, for Frank stood close behind him, several moments, and Archie even brushed against him, as he passed.
“Can you tell me, sir, where I can find Mr. Winters?” inquired Frank, at length.
“Yes, sir,” answered Archie, promptly, looking his cousin full in the face; “I’m the–why, Frank, how are you?” and he seized his cousin’s hand, and shook it heartily. “I’ve been on board the Milwaukee twice this morning, but you were off somewhere. I heard you had a fight down the river, with the rebels. But what are you doing? What boat are you ordered to?”
“I am not doing any thing at present,” answered Frank; “but I am ordered to report on board the Ticonderoga.”
“There she is,” said Archie, pointing to a long, low, black vessel that lay alongside of the wharf boat. “I am just putting provisions on board of her. I’ll come and see you as soon as I get my work done.”
Frank went on board his vessel, where he was received by the officer of the deck, who showed him the way into the cabin. After the captain had indorsed his orders, he strolled leisurely about the ship, examining into every thing, for as yet he knew nothing of gun-boat life.
The Ticonderoga was a queer-looking craft. She was not exactly a Monitor; but she had a turret forward, and mounted two eleven-inch guns and four twelve-pounder howitzers. She had a heavy iron ram on her bow, and the turret was protected by three inches of iron, and the deck with two inches. It did not seem possible that a cannon-ball could make any impression on her thick armor.
The officers’ quarters were all below decks; and, although it was then the middle of winter, Frank found it rather uncomfortable in his bunk.
During the two weeks that elapsed before the ship was ready to sail, the time was employed in getting every thing in order–in drilling at the great guns, and with muskets and broad-swords.
Most of the crew were old seamen, who understood their duty; and by the time their sailing orders came, every thing moved like clock-work.
In the mean time Frank had been assigned his station, which–being the youngest officer on board the ship–was to command the magazine. He learned very rapidly, and, as he was always attentive to his duties, he grew in favor with both officers and men.
At length, one afternoon, the anchor was weighed, and the Ticonderoga steamed down the river. Her orders were to report to the Admiral, who had sailed from Cairo about a week previous. They found him at Arkansas Post, where they arrived too late to take part in the fight. In a few days a station was assigned to her in the Mississippi River; and the Ticonderoga immediately set sail, in obedience to orders.
The Struggle Between the Lines.
One day, about two weeks after they came out of Arkansas River, the Ticonderoga stopped at Smith’s Landing to take on wood, as her supply of coal had run short. The vessel was made fast to the bank, and, while the seamen were bringing in the wood, the paymaster’s steward called Frank’s attention to some cattle which were feeding on the bank, and remarked: “I wish we could go out and shoot one of them.” “So do I,” said Frank; “I’ve eaten salt pork until I am tired of it. Let’s go and ask the captain.”
“I’m agreed,” said the steward.
The captain was walking on deck at the time and his permission was readily obtained, for he himself had grown tired of ship’s pork; Frank, accompanied by the steward, and a seaman who was an expert butcher, started out. They were armed with muskets, and, as they were all good shots, and did not wish to kill more than enough to feed the ship’s company once, they took with them no ammunition besides what was in the guns. At the place where the Ticonderoga was lying, the levee–an embankment about six feet high, built to prevent the water from overflowing–ran back into the woods about half a mile, then, making a bend like a horse-shoe, came back to the river again, inclosing perhaps a dozen acres of low, swampy land; and it was in this swamp that the cattle were. They proved to be very wild; but, after a considerable run, Frank succeeded in bringing down one, and the steward and seaman finally killed another. The question now was, how to get the meat on board the vessel. While they were debating on the matter, they were startled by the clatter of horses’ hoofs on the levee; and, instead of drawing back into the bushes, out of sight, they very imprudently waited to see who the horsemen were. Presently, a party of guerrillas, to their utter amazement–for they had not dreamed that the rebels were so near them–galloped up.
The rebels discovered them at the same moment, and one of them exclaimed:
“I’ll be dog-gone if thar ain’t a Yank;” and, not knowing how many there might be of the “Yanks,” they very prudently drew up their horses. One of them, however, who appeared to be the leader of the band, comprehended their situation at a glance, and exclaimed:
“Throw down your arms, and you shall be treated like men!”
This brought them to their senses, and they turned and ran for their lives. They had scarcely made a dozen steps before the bullets and buckshot began to rattle about their ears; but the trees and bushes were so thick that they escaped unhurt. Frank reached the vessel far in advance of the others; as he came over the side, panting and excited, the captain, who was still on deck, inquired:
“What’s the matter, Mr. Nelson?”
“We ran foul of some guerrillas out there in the woods, sir,” replied Frank.
“How many of them did you see?”
“They didn’t give us much of a chance to judge of their numbers, sir; but I should say that there were at least a dozen of them, and they were coming this way. I shouldn’t wonder if they intended to pick off some of the men who are carrying in wood.”
“Mr. Hurd,” said the captain, turning to the executive officer, “take thirty men, who are good shots, and go out there and keep those fellows off. Mr. Nelson will go with you.”
Frank accordingly ran below, and armed himself with a revolver and musket, and buckled on a cartridge-box. When the men were ready, he led the way, along the levee, so that, if the guerrillas were advancing, they would be certain to meet them. But they saw no signs of them until they came within sight of a barn which stood in the woods, about a mile from the river. The rebels were gathered before it, as if in consultation, and greeted the approach of the sailors with a scattering volley of musketry, which whistled harmlessly over their heads, or plowed up the ground before them.
“Give ’em a shot, boys,” said the executive officer, “and then scatter, and let each man take to a tree and fight Indian fashion.”
The sailors wheeled into line with all the promptness and regularity of veteran troops; and before the smoke of their muskets cleared away, they had disappeared, like a flock of young partridges. The rebels had also treed, and the skirmish was continued for half an hour, without any damage being done to either party.
This style of fighting did not suit Frank, and he began to urge the executive officer to advance, and drive them from their position. But the officer did not think it safe to attempt it; for, although he had seen but a small number of the rebels, he did not know how many there might be hidden away in the bushes.
“Well, then,” said Frank, after thinking a moment, “I have another proposition to make. If you will give me ten men, and engage the rebels warmly in front, I’ll go and get that fresh beef.”
“Where did you leave it?” inquired the officer.
“In the woods, about three hundred yards to the left of where the rebels now are.”
“Very well; pick out your men, and go ahead.”
Frank accordingly selected the boatswain’s mate, an old, gray-headed man, who had been in the navy from boyhood, as his first lieutenant, and ordered him to call for volunteers.
If there is any thing a sailor admires, it is bravery in an officer. Every one on board the Ticonderoga, from the captain down, was acquainted with Frank’s gallant behavior at Cypress Bend, although he himself had never