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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 22. Morgan's Men
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The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 22. Morgan's Men Post by :Arun_Pal_Singh Category :Long Stories Author :John Fox Date :May 2012 Read :3728

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The Little Shepherd Of Kingdom Come - Chapter 22. Morgan's Men

Boots and saddles at daybreak!

Over the border, in Dixie, two videttes in gray trot briskly from out a leafy woodland, side by side, and looking with keen eyes right and left; one, erect, boyish, bronzed; the other, slouching, bearded, huge--the boy, Daniel Dean; the man, Rebel Jerry Dillon, one of the giant twins.

Fifty yards behind them emerges a single picket; after him come three more videttes, the same distance apart. Fifty yards behind the last rides "the advance"--a guard of twenty-five picked men. No commission among "Morgan's Men" was more eagerly sought than a place on that guard of hourly risk and honor. Behind it trot still three more videttes, at intervals of one hundred yards, and just that interval behind the last of these ride Morgan's Men, the flower of Kentucky's youth, in columns of fours--Colonel Hunt's regiment in advance, the colors borne by Renfrew the Silent in a brilliant Zouave jacket studded with buttons of red coral. In the rear rumble two Parrot guns, affectionately christened the "Bull Pups."

Skirting the next woodland ran a cross-road. Down one way gallops Dan, and down the other lumbers Rebel Jerry, each two hundred yards. A cry rings from vidette to vidette behind them and back to the guard. Two horsemen spur from the "advance" and take the places of the last two videttes, while the videttes in front take and keep the original formation until the column passes that cross-road, when Dean and Dillon gallop up to their old places in the extreme front again. Far in front, and on both flanks, are scouting parties, miles away.

This was the way Morgan marched.

Yankees ahead! Not many, to be sure--no more numerous than two or three to one; so back fall the videttes and forward charges that advance guard like a thunderbolt, not troubling the column behind. Wild yells, a clattering of hoofs, the crack of pistol-shots, a wild flight, a merry chase, a few riderless horses gathered in from the fleeing Yankees, and the incident is over.

Ten miles more, and many hostile bayonets gleam ahead. A serious fight, this, perhaps--so back drops the advance, this time as a reserve; up gallops the column into single rank and dismounts, while the flank companies, deploying as skirmishers, cover the whole front, one man out of each set of fours and the corporals holding the horses in the rear. The "Bull Pups" bark and the Rebel yell rings as the line--the files two yards apart--"a long flexible line curving forward at each extremity"--slips forward at a half run. This time the Yankees charge.

From every point of that curving line pours a merciless fire, and the charging men in blue recoil--all but one. (War is full of grim humor.) On comes one lone Yankee, hatless, red-headed, pulling on his reins with might and main, his horse beyond control, and not one of the enemy shoot as he sweeps helplessly into their line. A huge rebel grabs his bridle-rein.

"I don't know whether to kill you now," he says, with pretended ferocity, "or wait till the fight is over."

"For God's sake, don't kill me at all!" shouts the Yankee. "I'm a dissipated character, and not prepared to die."

Shots from the right flank and rear, and the line is thrown about like a rope. But the main body of the Yankees is to the left.

"Left face! Double-quick!" is the ringing order, and, by magic, the line concentrates in a solid phalanx and sweeps forward.

This was the way Morgan fought.

And thus, marching and fighting, he went his triumphant way into the land of the enemy, without sabres, without artillery, without even the "Bull Pups," sometimes--fighting infantry, cavalry, artillery with only muzzle-loading rifles, pistols, and shotguns; scattering Home Guards like turkeys; destroying railroads and bridges; taking towns and burning Government stores, and encompassed, usually, with forces treble his own.

This was what Morgan did on a raid, was what he had done, what he was starting out now to do again.

Darkness threatens, and the column halts to bivouac for the night on the very spot where, nearly a year before, Morgan's Men first joined Johnston's army, which, like a great, lean, hungry hawk, guarded the Southern border.

Daniel Dean was a war-worn veteran now. He could ride twenty hours out of the twenty-four; he could sleep in his saddle or anywhere but on picket duty, and there was no trick of the trade in camp, or on the march, that was not at his finger's end.

Fire first! Nobody had a match, the leaves were wet and the twigs soggy, but by some magic a tiny spark glows under some shadowy figure, bites at the twigs, snaps at the branches, and wraps a log in flames.

Water next! A tin cup rattles in a bucket, and another shadowy figure steals off into the darkness, with an instinct as unerring as the skill of a water-witch with a willow wand. The Yankees chose open fields for camps, but your rebel took to the woods. Each man and his chum picked a tree for a home, hung up canteens and spread blankets at the foot of it. Supper--Heavens, what luck--fresh beef! One man broils it on coals, pinning pieces of fat to it to make gravy; another roasts it on a forked stick, for Morgan carried no cooking utensils on a raid.

Here, one man made up bread in an oilcloth (and every Morgan's man had one soon after they were issued to the Federals); another worked up corn-meal into dough in the scooped-out half of a pumpkin; one baked bread on a flat rock, another on a board, while a third had twisted his dough around his ram-rod; if it were spring-time, a fourth might be fitting his into a cornshuck to roast in ashes. All this Dan Dean could do.

The roaring fire thickens the gloom of the woods where the lonely pickets stand. Pipes are out now. An oracle outlines the general campaign of the war as it will be and as it should have been. A long-winded, innocent braggart tells of his personal prowess that day. A little group is guying the new recruit. A wag shaves a bearded comrade on one side of his face, pockets his razor and refuses to shave the other side. A poet, with a bandaged eye, and hair like a windblown hay-stack, recites "I am dying, Egypt--dying," and then a pure, clear, tenor voice starts through the forest-aisles, and there is sudden silence. Every man knows that voice, and loves the boy who owns it--little Tom Morgan, Dan's brother-in-arms, the General's seventeen-year-old brother--and there he stands leaning against a tree, full in the light of the fire, a handsome, gallant figure--a song like a seraph's pouring from his lips. One bearded soldier is gazing at him with curious intentness, and when the song ceases, lies down with a suddenly troubled face. He has seen the "death-look" in the boy's eyes--that prophetic death-look in which he has unshaken faith. The night deepens, figures roll up in blankets, quiet comes, and Dan lies wide awake and deep in memories, and looking back on those early helpless days of the war with a tolerant smile.

He was a war-worn veteran now, but how vividly he could recall that first night in the camp of a big army, in the very woods where he now lay--dusk settling over the Green River country, which Morgan's Men grew to love so well; a mocking-bird singing a farewell song from the top of a stunted oak to the dead summer and the dying day; Morgan seated on a cracker-box in front of his tent, contemplatively chewing one end of his mustache; Lieutenant Hunt swinging from his horse, smiling grimly.

"It would make a horse laugh--a Yankee cavalry horse, anyhow--to see this army."

Hunt had been over the camp that first afternoon on a personal tour of investigation. They were not a thousand Springfield and Enfield rifles at that time in Johnston's army. Half of the soldiers were armed with shotguns and squirrel rifle and the greater part of the other half with flintlock muskets. But nearly every man, thinking he was in for a rough-and-tumble fight, had a bowie knife and a revolver swung to his belt.

"Those Arkansas and Texas fellows have got knives that would make a Malay's blood run cold."

"Well, they'll do to hew firewood and cut meat," laughed Morgan.

The troops were not only badly armed. On his tour, Hunt had seen men making blankets of pieces of old carpet, lined on one side with a piece of cotton cloth; men wearing ox-hide buskins, or complicated wrapping of rags, for shoes; orderly sergeants making out reports on shingles; surgeon using a twisted handkerchief instead of a tourniquet. There was a total lack of medicine, and camp diseases were already breaking out--measles, typhoid fever, pneumonia, bowel troubles--each fatal, it seemed, in time of war.

"General Johnston has asked Richmond for a stand of thirty thousand arms," Morgan had mused, and Hunt looked up inquiringly.

"Mr. Davis can only spare a thousand."

"That's lucky," said Hunt, grimly.

And then the military organization of that army, so characteristic of the Southerner! An officer who wanted to be more than a colonel, and couldn't be a brigadier, would have a "legion"--a hybrid unit between a regiment and a brigade. Sometimes there was a regiment whose roll-call was more than two thousand men, so popular was its colonel. Companies would often refuse to designate themselves by letter, but by the thrilling titles they had given themselves. How Morgan and Hunt had laughed over "The Yellow Jackets," "The Dead Shots," "The Earthquakes," "The Chickasha Desperadoes," and "The Hell Roarers"! Regiments would bear the names of their commanders--a singular instance of the Southerner's passion for individuality, as a man, a company, a regiment, or a brigade. And there was little or no discipline, as the word is understood among the military elect, and with no army that the world has ever seen, Richard Hunt always claimed, was there so little need of it. For Southern soldiers, he argued, were, from the start, obedient, zealous, and tolerably patient, from good sense and a strong sense of duty. They were born fighters; a spirit of emulation induced them to learn the drill; pride and patriotism kept them true and patient to the last, but they could not be made, by punishment or the fear of it, into machines. They read their chance of success, not in opposing numbers, but in the character and reputation of their commanders, who, in turn, believed, as a rule, that "the unthinking automaton, formed by routine and punishment, could no more stand before the high-strung young soldier with brains and good blood, and some practice and knowledge of warfare, than a tree could resist a stroke of lightning." So that with Southern soldiers discipline came to mean "the pride which made soldiers learn their duties rather than incur disgrace; the subordination that came from self-respect and respect for the man whom they thought worthy to command them."

Boots and saddles again at daybreak! By noon the column reached Green River, over the Kentucky line, where Morgan, even on his way down to join Johnston, had begun the operations which were to make him famous. No picket duty that infantry could do as well, for Morgan's cavalry! He wanted it kept out on the front or the flanks of an army, and as close as possible upon the enemy. Right away, there had been thrilling times for Dan in the Green River country--setting out at dark, chasing countrymen in Federal pay or sympathy, prowling all night around and among pickets and outposts; entrapping the unwary; taking a position on the line of retreat at daybreak, and turning leisurely back to camp with prisoners and information. How memories thronged! At this very turn of the road, Dan remembered, they had their first brush with the enemy. No plan of battle had been adopted, other than to hide on both sides of the road and send their horses to the rear.

"I think we ought to charge 'em," said Georgie Forbes, Chad's old enemy. Dan saw that his lip trembled, and, a moment later, Georgie, muttering something, disappeared.

The Yankees had come on, and, discovering them, halted. Morgan himself stepped out in the road and shot the officer riding at the head of the column. His men fell back without returning the fire, deployed and opened up. Dan recognized the very tree behind which he had stood, and again he could almost hear Richard Hunt chuckling from behind another close by.

"We would be in bad shape," said Richard Hunt, as the bullets whistled high overhead, "if we were in the tops of these trees instead of behind them." There had been no maneuvering, no command given among the Confederates. Each man fought his own fight. In ten minutes a horse-holder ran up from the rear, breathless, and announced that the Yankees were flanking. Every man withdrew, straightway, after his own fashion, and in his own time. One man was wounded and several were shot through the clothes.

"That was like a camp-meeting or an election row," laughed Morgan, when they were in camp.

"Or an affair between Austrian and Italian outposts," said Hunt.

A chuckle rose behind them. A lame colonel was limping past.

"I got your courier," he said.

"I sent no courier," said Morgan.

"It was Forbes who wanted to charge 'em," said Dan.

Again the Colonel chuckled.

"The Yankees ran when you did," he said, and limped, chuckling, away.

But it was great fun, those moonlit nights, burning bridges and chasing Home Guards who would flee fifteen or twenty miles sometimes to "rally." Here was a little town through which Dan and Richard Hunt had marched with nine prisoners in a column--taken by them alone--and a captured United States flag, flying in front, scaring Confederate sympathizers and straggling soldiers, as Hunt reported, horribly. Dan chuckled at the memory, for the prisoners were quartered with different messes, and, that night, several bottles of sparkling Catawba happened, by some mystery, to be on hand. The prisoners were told that this was regularly issued by their commissaries, and thereupon they plead, with tears, to be received into the Confederate ranks.

This kind of service was valuable training for Morgan's later work. Slight as it was, it soon brought him thirty old, condemned artillery-horses--Dan smiled now at the memory of those ancient chargers--which were turned over to Morgan to be nursed until they would bear a mount, and, by and by, it gained him a colonelcy and three companies, superbly mounted and equipped, which, as "Morgan's Squadron," became known far and near. Then real service began.

In January, the right wing of Johnston's hungry hawk had been broken in the Cumberland Mountains. Early in February, Johnston had withdrawn it from Kentucky before Buell's hosts, with its beak always to the foe. By the middle of the month, Grant had won the Western border States to the Union, with the capture of Fort Donelson. In April, the sun of Shiloh rose and set on the failure of the first Confederate aggressive campaign at the West; and in that fight Dan saw his first real battle, and Captain Hunt was wounded. In May, Buell had pushed the Confederate lines south and east toward Chattanooga. To retain a hold on the Mississippi valley, the Confederates must make another push for Kentucky, and it was this great Southern need that soon put John Morgan's name on the lips of every rebel and Yankee in the middle South. In June, provost-marshals were appointed in every county in Kentucky; the dogs of war began to be turned locals on the "secesh sympathizers" throughout the State, and Jerome Conners, overseer, began to render sly service to the Union cause.

For it was in June that Morgan paid his first memorable little visit to the Bluegrass, and Daniel Dean wrote his brother Harry the short tale of the raid.

"We left Dixie with nine hundred men," the letter ran, "and got back in twenty-four days with twelve hundred. Travelled over one thousand miles, captured seventeen towns, destroyed all Government supplies and arms in them, scattered fifteen hundred Home Guards, and paroled twelve hundred regular troops. Lost of the original nine hundred, in killed, wounded, and missing, about ninety men. How's that? We kept twenty thousand men busy guarding Government posts or chasing us, and we're going back often. Oh Harry, I AM glad that you are with Grant."

But Harry was not with Grant--not now. While Morgan was marching up from Dixie to help Kirby Smith in the last great effort that the Confederacy was about to make to win Kentucky--down from the yellow river marched the Fourth Ohio Cavalry to go into camp at Lexington; and with it marched Chadwick Buford and Harry Dean who, too, were veterans now--who, too, were going home. Both lads wore a second lieutenant's empty shoulder-straps, which both yet meant to fill with bars, but Chad's promotion had not come as swiftly as Harry had predicted; the Captain, whose displeasure he had incurred, prevented that. It had come, in time, however, and with one leap he had landed, after Shiloh, at Harry's side. In the beginning, young Dean had wanted to go to the Army of the Potomac, as did Chad, but one quiet word from the taciturn colonel with the stubbly reddish-brown beard and the perpetual black cigar kept both where they were.

"Though," said Grant to Chad, as his eye ran over beautiful Dixie from tip of nose to tip of tail, and came back to Chad, slightly twinkling, "I've a great notion to put you in the infantry just to get hold of that horse."

So it was no queer turn of fate that had soon sent both the lads to help hold Zollicoffer at Cumberland Gap, that stopped them at Camp Dick Robinson to join forces with Wolford's cavalry, and brought Chad face to face with an old friend. Wolford's cavalry was gathered from the mountains and the hills, and when some scouts came in that afternoon, Chad, to his great joy, saw, mounted on a gaunt sorrel, none other than his old school-master, Caleb Hazel, who, after shaking hands with both Harry and Chad, pointed silently at a great, strange figure following him on a splendid horse some fifty yards behind. The man wore a slouch hat, tow linen breeches, home-made suspenders, a belt with two pistols, and on his naked heels were two huge Texan spurs. Harry broke into a laugh, and Chad's puzzled face cleared when the man grinned; it was Yankee Jake Dillon, one of the giant twins. Chad looked at him curiously; that blow on the head that his brother, Rebel Jerry, had given him, had wrought a miracle. The lips no longer hung apart, but were set firmly, and the eye was almost keen; the face was still rather stupid, but not foolish--and it was still kind. Chad knew that, somewhere in the Confederate lines, Rebel Jerry was looking for Jake, as Yankee Jake, doubtless, was now looking for Jerry, and he began to think that it might be well for Jerry if neither was ever found. Daws Dillon, so he learned from Caleb Hazel and Jake, was already making his name a watchword of terror along the border of Virginia and Tennessee, and was prowling, like a wolf, now and then, along the edge of the Bluegrass. Old Joel Turner had died of his wound, Rube had gone off to the war and Mother Turner and Melissa were left at home, alone.

"Daws fit fust on one side and then on t'other," said Jake, and then he smiled in a way that Chad understood; "an' sence you was down thar last Daws don't seem to hanker much atter meddlin' with the Turners, though the two women did have to run over into Virginny, once in a while. Melissy," he added, "was a-goin' to marry Dave Hilton, so folks said; and he reckoned they'd already hitched most likely, sence Chad thar--"

A flash from Chad's eyes stopped him, and Chad, seeing Harry's puzzled face, turned away. He was glad that Melissa was going to marry--yes, he was glad; and how he did pray that she might be happy!

Fighting Zollicoffer, only a few days later, Chad and Harry had their baptism of fire, and strange battle orders they heard, that made them smile even in the thick of the fight.

"Huddle up thar!" "Scatterout, now!" "Form a line of fight!" "Wait till you see the shine of their eyes!"

"I see 'em!" shouted a private, and "bang" went his gun. That was the way the fight opened. Chad saw Harry's eyes blazing like stars from his pale face, which looked pained and half sick, and Chad understood--the lads were fighting their own people, and there was no help for it. A voice bellowed from the rear, and a man in a red cap loomed in the smoke-mist ahead:

"Now, now! Git up and git, boys!"

That was the order for the charge, and the blue line went forward. Chad never forgot that first battle-field when he saw it a few hours later strewn with dead and wounded, the dead lying, as they dropped, in every conceivable position, features stark, limbs rigid; one man with a half-smoked cigar on his breast; the faces of so many beardless; some frowning, some as if asleep and dreaming; and the wounded--some talking pitifully, some in delirium, some courteous, patient, anxious to save trouble, others morose, sullen, stolid, independent; never forgot it, even the terrible night after Shiloh, when he searched heaps of wounded and slain for Caleb Hazel, who lay all through the night wounded almost to death.

Later, the Fourth Ohio followed Johnston, as he gave way before Buell, and many times did they skirmish and fight with ubiquitous Morgan's Men. Several times Harry and Dan sent each other messages to say that each was still unhurt, and both were in constant horror of some day coming face to face. Once, indeed, Harry, chasing a rebel and firing at him, saw him lurch in his saddle, and Chad, coming up, found the lad on the ground, crying over a canteen which the rebel had dropped. It was marked with the initials D. D., the strap was cut by the bullet Harry had fired, and not for a week of agonizing torture did Harry learn that the canteen, though Dan's, had been carried that day by another man.

It was on these scouts and skirmishes that the four--Harry and Chad, and Caleb Hazel and Yankee Jake Dillon, whose dog-like devotion to Chad soon became a regimental joke--became known, not only among their own men, but among their enemies, as the shrewdest and most daring scouts in the Federal service. Every Morgan's man came to know the name of Chad Buford; but it was not until Shiloh that Chad got his shoulder-straps, leading a charge under the very eye of General Grant. After Shiloh, the Fourth Ohio went back to its old quarters across the river, and no sooner were Chad and Harry there than Kentucky was put under the Department of the Ohio; and so it was also no queer turn of fate that now they were on their way to new head-quarters in Lexington.

Straight along the turnpike that ran between the Dean and the Buford farms, the Fourth Ohio went in a cloud of thick dust that rose and settled like a gray choking mist on the seared fields. Side by side rode Harry and Chad, and neither spoke when, on the left, the white columns of the Dean house came into view, and, on the right, the red brick of Chad's old home showed through the dusty leaves; not even when both saw on the Dean porch the figures of two women who, standing motionless, were looking at them. Harry's shoulders drooped, and he stared stonily ahead, while Chad turned his head quickly. The front door and shutters of the Buford house were closed, and there were few signs of life about the place. Only at the gate was the slouching figure of Jerome Conners, the overseer, who, waving his hat at the column, recognized Chad, as he rode by, and spoke to him, Chad thought, with a covert sneer. Farther ahead, and on the farthest boundary of the Buford farm, was a Federal fort, now deserted, and the beautiful woodland that had once stood in perfect beauty around it was sadly ravaged and nearly gone, as was the Dean woodland across the road. It was plain that some people were paying the Yankee piper for the death-dance in which a mighty nation was shaking its feet.

On they went, past the old college, down Broadway, wheeling at Second Street--Harry going on with the regiment to camp on the other edge of the town; Chad reporting with his colonel at General Ward's head-quarters, a columned brick house on one corner of the college campus, and straight across from the Hunt home, where he had first danced with Margaret Dean.

That night the two lay on the edge of the Ashland woods, looking up at the stars, the ripened bluegrass--a yellow, moonlit sea--around them and the woods dark and still behind them. Both smoked and were silent, but each knew that to the other his thoughts were known; for both had been on the same errand that day, and the miserable tale of the last ten months both had learned.

Trouble had soon begun for the ones who were dear to them, when both left for the war. At once General Anderson had promised immunity from arrest to every peaceable citizen in the State, but at once the shiftless, the prowling, the lawless, gathered to the Home Guards for self-protection, to mask deviltry and to wreak vengeance for private wrongs. At once mischief began. Along the Ohio, men with Southern sympathies were clapped into prison. Citizens who had joined the Confederates were pronounced guilty of treason, and Breckinridge was expelled from the Senate as a traitor. Morgan's great raid in June, '61, spread consternation through the land and, straightway, every district and county were at the mercy of a petty local provost. No man of Southern sympathies could stand for office. Courts in session were broken up with the bayonet. Civil authority was overthrown. Destruction of property, indemnity assessments on innocent men, arrests, imprisonment, and murder became of daily occurrence. Ministers were jailed and lately prisons had even been prepared for disloyal women. Major Buford, forced to stay at home on account of his rheumatism and the serious illness of Miss Lucy, had been sent to prison once and was now under arrest again. General Dean, old as he was, had escaped and had gone to Virginia to fight with Lee; and Margaret and Mrs. Dean, with a few servants, were out on the farm alone.

But neither spoke of the worst that both feared was yet to come--and "Taps" sounded soft and dear on the night air.

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