Friday, July 18, 2014

The start of the second chapter of the civil war romance

This one seems to be writing itself. Nearly 5000 words already. There won't be a lot happening in the first section, but it sets the stage for the sparks, sturm and drang of the rest of the book.

2. Covington.

The 23rd arrived at the town square in Covington well ahead of the infantry. They set up camp in the town square and waited for the leading elements of infantry to trickle in. Over the vociferous protests of some of his men, Captain Patrick insisted on placing out a picket line and putting an observer up in the church tower. He explained to them, “Just because Joe Wheeler or the local militia ain't Forrest doesn't mean we can slack off.”
Walking back to Miss Mary and her servant, he stated, “We've got the time. Where's your Aunt?”
Mary glared at him, angry at being brought to town and doubly angry at being escorted there by a union division. Sally, practical as ever, replied, “Miss Mary, he's trying to help you, and Massa Sam. Though I don't know why he would with how you've been sassing him. Do you want me to tell him?”
Mary remained aloof and defiant, so Sally finally answered for her, “Down Church street. Not far.” This was met with an explosion of wrath from her mistress, “Sally, no! You don't answer for me, ever! I should have you whipped for this.”
“But you won't, will you?” Mary seethed for a few minutes, and then finally gasped out, “No. I can't do that. Not to my oldest friend. You know it, don't you?”
Captain Patrick waited for her to calm down, and then said, “Let's go. I want to get shot of you two before I have to deal with the provost.”
While the scratches the Captain's roundels made on Mrs Joan Cummings' polished floors would be shown as evidence of “Yankee brutality” for the next forty years, Mary's Aunt was pleased to have her niece stay with her. “I was worried stiff with her out at that farm, only servants and no overseer. Glad to see she's here with her kin.”
“I suggest, that until her war paint wears off, your niece stays inside. If they find out what she was up to, the provost marshal's won't be as nice as I was about releasing her.”
“What was Mary doing?”
“I was counting the blue-bellies in Atlanta.”
“In other words, she was spying.” Turning to Mary he continued, “You're done with that, aren't you? Because the next time you're caught, that's it.”
“What do you mean 'that's it'?”
“We don't usually shoot ladies. Hang them instead. Doesn't make much difference to you though, except shootings faster.”
“Now about your brother Sam. I'll see if he can be paroled, but Mrs. Cummings will have to answer for him. Keep him from getting into any more mischief.”
Mary explained, “Sam's militia unit attacked these blue-bellies this morning. They shot them all. All but Sam.”
Her aunt gasped, “All of them, even Mr. Fair?”
“They charged out of the mist at dawn yelling and waving their sabers. Even fired a shot or two. So yes, unless some of them ran away, we shot them all.”
“That's awful.”
“I agree. There's no reason to use schoolboys for such a forlorn mission. There weren't enough of them to succeed in any case. Whoever ordered that attack has a lot of innocent blood on his hands.”
“And you don't?”
“Not from that, Ma'am. Not one single drop of it. My men are disciplined and we prepare for a surprise attack when we stop. Shooting soldiers, well Ma'am,” he paused, “that's what the army does.” He boasted, “We're darned good at it. Had a lot of practice.”
Neither Mary nor her aunt agreed with him, but politely kept their mouths shut. The Captain continued, “With your permission, could Miss Sally here, wait with my division? She can come and get you when a provost marshal arrives. It won't be long.”
Captain Patrick and Sally walked back to the center of town. He stopped near the church, turned and asked bluntly asked her, “Miss Cummings, are you going to stay with your sister?”
My sister, How did you know?”
“It's obvious when I see the two of you together. I'd rather you stay here if you are willing. I wasn't exaggerating when I told Old Joshua about the difficulties they'd run into if they followed the army.”
“I thought you union men were for freedom.”
Not all of us. Uncle Billy doesn't particularly like niggers. I fought next to some damned fine black regiments before we were transferred south with General Hooker. None of those regiments is welcome in this army.”
It's all changing. I don't want to stay a sla- a servant.”
Don't blame you at all. From what I've seen I'd rather be dead that one of these slaves. Just be aware that the only darkies Sherman wants are laborers to help his army. He isn't going to lift a finger to help anyone else. I'm worried about what will happen to them.
It's going to be different after the war isn't it?”
“Yes, but I don't know how much. I was home on leave in '63, couldn't recognize the place. I can barely imagine what it's like for you.”
It's scary and exciting. All mixed up at once. It's my turn to ask you a question, Captain.”
“Ask me.”
“Why do you care about Miss Mary? These white southerners hate you. They all do, her included.”
As if I didn't already know that. Is it that hard to imagine that a Yankee can be an officer and a gentleman?”
Suppose not. The governor issued a proclamation claiming you all are vandals and savages. Miss Mary read it to us. Guess they was lyin' just like when the said you Yankee's ate black babies.
War is a cruel business. You saw what we did this morning. I'll do the same tomorrow if I have to. It's the chances to be kind that are rare in this business. They help to make it possible to go on.
By the time they returned to the town square, the advance units of the infantry from the second division of the Army of Georgia1 had arrived.
Captain Patrick left Sally with his lieutenants and reported to General Morgan. Other than the skirmish with the militia, his sweep had been uneventful, and the maps Captain Poe had given them were accurate.
“Sir, there is one other matter that I have to report.”
“What is it?'
“Prisoners, a thirteen year old boy and his older sister.”
“Local militia, I'll direct the provost to parole him.”
“He can stay with his aunt in town. She's willing to keep him out of trouble. It's the sister who's a problem.”
“She wore black-face and spied on us in Atlanta. I destroyed her reports and she promises not to continue, but-.”
The general chuckled, “Pretty girl is she Dan? You want me to put the scare into her, don't you?”
“If you could, just have someone search for her.”
“You know where this aunt lives?”
“I'll post a guard. That'll scare them enough.”
“Thank you Sir. Unless you have other orders, I'll get my men's ammunition resupplied and be off on the next sweep.”
“Impatient are you?”
“Sir, cavalry does no one any good sitting in camp with the infantry.”
“Something tells me you like the independent command too.”
“There is that.”
“Makes you a good scout. Be careful Dan, I don't want to have to write a letter to your mother.”
Captain Patrick saluted, and returned to his unit.
1The left wing of Sherman's army.