« PreviousContinue »
gave themselves up to rest and refresh- etc., between Jackson and Vicksburg, and ment, - luxuries that all were much in now had nothing to do but enter in and need of, having been in the saddle since take possession of the rebel stronghold.” daybreak
“ The beginning of the story is not far The two officers threw themselves un out of the way. We have actually fought der the spreading branches of a huge two battles, and captured Raymond and hemlock, whose fallen leaves furnished a Edward's Station.” thick carpet not uncomfortable to their Carleton made no remark at this intel. weary frames, and whose umbrella-like ligence beyond a calm “ Indeed!” and canopy had effectually sheltered the ground remained some time buried in deep from the rains.
thought, and it would seem by his coun" This is glorious, Carleton!” said the tenance of not a very pleasant nature. major, as he stretched out his limbs, and In fact, great disturbance of mind was leaned his back against the broad trunk. very legibly expressed in his face; but But I wonder what there is in my haver- his companion, not appearing to observe sack; for my six hours' ride has given me it, seemed likewise buried in his own rean appetite."
flections. The two haversacks were soon opened, “How do the people on the present and their contents, consisting of hard-tack route of our army, major, seem to regard and hard cheese, disposed of with a relish it?” he at length inquired. only exercise and out-door air can give
. Oh, they generally desert their homes, A canteen of the delicious water finished leaving but empty houses behind them.
A few, however, are bolder, and, in spite The two officers now sat watching the of bullets and bombshells remain fast by soldiers, gliding through the mist like their dwellings. The women, especially, spectres, or lying on the ground under the I think, have either great confidence in hemlock trees, each one vigorously masti- the humanity and forbearance of Grant, cating his hard-tack and cracking jokes or their love for their household altars is with his comrades, as if their position was strong enough to overcome the fear of the pleasantest in the world, and life had danger from our army." not a care beyond the present hour. “ But the guerrillas, major ? It seems
“Well,” said Carleton, after a long to me the inhabitants have far more reapause, during which many thoughts, some son to fear them than our armies, enemies of not the inost agreeable character, had though they be.” been stirring his brain, “ this is not so bad “ And they do fear them more, and, as as it might be; but I would rather be with you say, with good reason ; for they rob my regiment; and besides, I have matter alike friend and foe. The miserable maunder my belt which ought to be in the rauders! When this war is over, I think hands of Grant before I am many hours the rebel States will find to their cost what older.”
it is to have fostered such lawless banHis companion pricked up his ears like ditti; for they will have acquired a taste a mettlesome war-horse. “So you were for plunder and lawless raids which will sent away as bearer of despatches ?” he not be easily cured.” inquired.
Captain Carleton gave a long sigh, “ Yes, but don't ask me where I have while his companion curiously regarded been. I am not at liberty to tell. You him. can employ yourself, if you please, much “I have a peculiar interest in the subbetter by telling me where the army is ject of our conversation,” said Carleton, now, and what it has been doing these at length ; " so great that, in fact, someyou?
coolly, “ but it will be after he has taken “ She is not in the city,- at least, she Vicksburg. What is the matter with was not a few months ago.
I tried every No man in his senses who loves way, before Sherman attempted to take his country, or reverences his flag, could, Vicksburg, to induce her to go North I should think, endure to think for a mo- among my relations. I represented how ment of disgrace and disaster like that of unsafe it would be for her to remain in giving up Vicksburg now. Why, Carle- the neighborhood of contending armies ton, you are feverish with your fatigue. and a beleagued city. But no ! my lady Your brain is bewildered."
refused to budge an inch. She would “No, I am perfectly well, and I did stay on her plantation with her children not really mean what I said. But I am and her servants. "Nobody would harm troubled, Bateman."
such a harmless little body as she.' And “About what? Anything I can help so I suppose she is there now, and whethyou in? If you have, you know you er worse or better off than she would be have only to say the word, and I am in the beleagued city, I can't even guess.” your man.”
“I don't wonder you are anxious and “I know it, my dear fellow. You perplexed. I hope none of my friends have shown your friendship and good-will will die and leave me guardian to a beauoften enough in times past; but, unfortu- tiful, wilful widow and two little cherubs. nately, neither you nor any one else can I'd rather help bombard Vicksburg, or help me in my present difficulty. You even charge its batteries at the cannon's see, Bateman, my trouble is just this: mouth. But maybe after all she has
“I have a distant relative — a second gone into the city since our arny has cousin — who is a young widow with two been advancing on its rear.” little children, who lives not far from “Yes, and is now living in a hole in Vicksburg. She is very wealthy, — owns the ground, with a shell bursting over her several plantations, and negroes without head every hour or two. She'll never be number. Her husband died directly after able to stand it! She is too delicate for the war commenced, leaving all his prop- such hardship. They'll all die." The erty to her and her children, and her and young captain grew too nervous to keep myself their joint guardians. And a his seat, and began pacing back and forth pretty job I have had of it! I have been in the mist. living in St. Louis for several years, en- “Don't imagine the worst, Carleton ; gaged in business there. My cousin is look at things philosophically. I dare young, beautiful, and headstrong, knows say your cousin will get on very well. nothing about business, but still, in the They say the caves in Vicksburg are not coolest manner, persists in having her such very bad places to live in!” own way in everything. A fine rig she " Don't be a fool, Bateman!”
I can tell you! Under any Halloo, my fine fellow ! Take it a circumstances it would have been difficult little more coolly! I did not mean to to manage the property so far away; but say that a comfortable house in a quiet it has been made ten times more difficult village is not better; but those caves are by her pretty wilful way of mismanaging really said to be very safe, and they manand disarranging everything I do." age to make them comfortable, I have no
" Why do you not give up your guar- doubt.” dianship, then?”
“I beg your pardon, my friend; but “Give it up? What, and leave her to think of a woman like Florence Mac and her children to the mercy of the Alpine reduced to such straits is rather wicked and designing world ? I will more than I can bear!” never do it!"
“ Florence Mac Alpine! What! the “But what can you do? She is in beautiful young widow of the old Scotch Vicksburg, of course, now, and you must planter Mac Alpine? Is she the lady?” wait until we capture the city before you “ Do you know her ?” can do anything more."
has run me,
Carleton turned short round in his The mist did, indeed, seem breaking up, walk, and looked in his companion's face. and a thin streak of sunshine just then It was flushed and radiant, a warm light fell at their feet. Orders for marching beaming from his eyes.
were immediately given, and the soldiers " Bateman, what is my cousin to you?” were promptly on their feet, and busily
"Nothing, more than any beautiful and engaged in saddling their horses, which good woman should be to a man who were much refreshed by their rest and knows how to respect her.”
hearty grazing. Each animal was led to “ Bateman, you love her? I read it the spring, and drank abundantly of the in your face!"
cold, sweet water, when they were all « And if I do?"
ready to remount and start. “ You are interfering where you have “ Lieutenant Ludlow, you will look to no right."
the equipments of the horses. We may “ Do you love her ?”
have need to try their speed before we “ Yes.”
reach camp, and I would not like to have " And does she return your affection ?” a saddle or a bridle give out.”
Carleton hung his head. "I do not “I will, major," briskly replied the know; I cannot tell. Who can read a young officer, touching his hat, and in a wilful woman's heart? I would give up moment he was actively engaged among every other good for her sake.”
the horses, examining their equipments Bateman reached out his hand. “Let and trying their girths; not one escaped us still be friends, — to each other, and to him. her. She may need it.”
“That young officer will make his Carleton grasped the offered hand, and mark yet, or I am mistaken,” observed tears rushed to his eyes. “She is so his superior to Carleton. strangely conservative. No one can read All was found in complete order. The her. I do not even know, long as we company mounted, and at the order to have been acquainted, whether she is loy- March!" the little cavalcade wound al or a rebel at heart. I sometimes fear slowly down the knoll and on to level the latter; get there have been other ground. It was not yet clear, but opentimes when such a glorious light flashed ings in the fog were visible, and great from her eyes on hearing the expression columns of vapor rolled majestically upof a loyal sentiment, I felt sure of her ward and off toward the east. Pretty loyalty.”
soon the sun burst forth in all its bright" Her husband was a secessionist, and, ness, dispersing the mist like magic, and I think, a violent one,” remarked the the whole country for miles around lay major.
distinctly visible. The two officers paused, "He was, — the old curmudgeon! but and anxiously looked around them. that is no rule to judge Florence by. She
“ I have it !” said the major, after has a great heart, and a will of her own, careful survey of the horizon; “I know and, notwithstanding her husband's dis- where we are, but we have twenty miles loyalty, and her own occasional mysteri- yet to make, and a bad road. Let us ous remarks and movements, I have still make the best of our time. We will a secret feeling that she is loyal." keep on this high grass for a while,
“ I hope so, indeed ! for, aside from the bad as it is, it is better than a fathom of regret I should feel to know her disloyal, mud." those Southern secesh ladies are such fierce They set off on a slow trot, the horses
To cross these they with high banks and a narrowed channel. found it necessary to take to the bridges The bridge was narrow and very rustic, of the travelled road. So they went on being constructed, in corduroy fashion, of for two or three hours. They had struck logs with a partially hewn face, and, several miles inland, when a winding belt though a very picturesque feature in the of trees in the distance indicated a river landscape, giving little indication of great or lesser stream, which they were ap- strength. The road was thickly belted proaching.
by a thick growth of the same majestic “That is the Black River," remarked oaks, maples, and elms which dotted the Major Bateman; we shall follow it a open space, and was delightfully shaded. considerable part of the distance to camp. “Really, this is one of the prettiest We must keep our senses on the alert ; scenes I have seen in Mississippi,” said for this heavy belt of timber is the place Carleton, looking around him with an eye to shelter guerrillas. Look well to the that could well appreciate its beauties. primings of your pistols, boys, and be “ A pretty scene,” replied the major ; ready for a guerrilla attack. We may but I would give a week's pay to be soon have it.”
Every pistol was care- well across that bridge and on the open fully examined, and they rode cautiously prairie beyond. This would be a nice forward for about a mile and reached the trap for the guerrillas to catch us in ; so edge of the timber, which they skirted for the sooner we cross the better." some distance, hoping to find an opening The men, who had also paused to ad. that would indicate a bridge or a ford. mire the scene, with the habit of long It was some time before they succeeded; discipline, had kept their ranks, and at but at length the light breaking through the command "Forward !” were again the trees, and a wide bridle-path, gave instantly in motion, and advancing toward promise of what they were looking for. the bridge at a brisk trot. They turned silently into the path, wind- Suddenly wild yells arose behind them, ing along by twos, keeping their eyes and on the forest side, and rifles and shotbusy on both sides of them, and in anoth- guns poured a fierce volley into them. er minute came
out upon a circular “ The guerrillas are upon us !” shoutplateau of several acres nicely grassed ed the major. “Over the bridge, boys ! over, and occupied by a comfortable-look- Gallop for your lives! Over, and tear ing log-cabin, now apparently unoccu- up the bridge !” pied. It was a noble amphitheatre, sur- There was no need of the order. They rounded by majestic oaks and elms, and dashed down to the river, and went safedotted here and there with clumps of ly over, though the narrow bridge swayed beautiful trees, brilliant with blossoms and trembled under the tramp of gallopred, white, and pink, - altogether form- ing horses. But the guerrillas were in ing one of the loveliest pictures imagin- considerable force, and the thundering able, A flower-garden, now neglected sound of cavalry at full speed followed and overgrown with weeds, through which hard after them, while the buckshot flew a wilderness of flowers of every dye thickly, wounding men and horses, and struggled upward to the light, gave pleas- the infernal yells ringing louder and more ant token of taste and refinement : while threatening than either.
were on it. It began to give way; it The men plunged their spurs into the lifted ; it was displaced from its founda- steaming sides of their weary horses, and tion, and went thundering down into the dashed on. river, a dozen men and horses going down “One mile more, and we are safe. with it.
Faster, boys, faster!” shouted the major, ** Three cheers, and then forward again!” still dashing on by the side of Carleton. cried the major.
The brave horses were reeling under The brave little band gave three rous- their furious speed, and one or two stuming cheers, which were answered by yells bled and nearly fell. of rage and disappointment, a fresh vol- “ Their animals are strong and fresh!” ley of buckshot from the rebel raiders, said Carleton, as he once more glanced and on again they went at a swift and back. “They are gaining on us. We steady gallop.
shall have to wheel and face them!” “We have gained time,” said Carle- “If we do, we are lost! Our only ton, who, riding by the major's side, was salvation is this unbroken gallop. On! looking back; " for I see they are gallop- on! on!!” ing down the river to find a ford, and the But the road grew worse. Bog-holes, fellows to whom we gave such a nice into which the tired horses plunged, beducking will have to go some distance gan to lay in their road. Here a horse before they find a place where the beach fell over a fallen tree, and there another is sloping enough to permit of their land- mired and could not be extricated, and ing."
their ranks became broken, confused, and God grant it!” said the major ; " for irregular. And still the rebels gained they are three to our one, and a more in- they were now within gun-shot distance. fernal set of devils never bestrode good | They overtook some who were dismounthorses. We have six miles farther before ed, and shot them without mercy. The we reach camp, and we shall have to race pursuers still dashed on, their triumphant for it."
yells sounding more like the yells of de“We must beat them that way if at mons than of human beings, pouring in all,” said Carleton, “ for our pistols are their volleys, shot after shot telling on Do match for their rifles and shot-guns; both men and horses. Men dropped from and the rascals know how to fire." their saddles, and their steeds, infuriated
The road was still heavy, but far better by the noise and the exciting chase, dashthan on the other side of the river, and ed into the ranks and increased the conthe little party dashed on with unabated fusion already prevailing. speed, the horses seeming to feel all the The foremost of the guerrillas was urgency of the occasion.
rushing on neck and neck with the hind* Brave fellows! if they will only hold most of the flying soldiers, his gun clubout like this !” said Carleton, patting his bed to brain him, when an opening in the horse's neck. “We get on well.” timber they had for some time been apAnd on they still swept.
proaching revealed the camp of the army “ We shall soon hear more from the of Grant, a hundred rods before them. rascals if I am not mistaken,” said the Loud cheers from the men announced the major, looking behind him. “I see a fact. dozen or more already on this side. They The firing of the pickets, and the spurare swarming up — they are coming ! ring of a regiment of cavalry to the resFaster! faster! if the poor beasts can cue, was the signal for the guerrillas to bear it!”
retire. Maliciously discharging their Again the wild yells of the guerrillas guns into the ranks of the soldiers once rose high and shrill behind them, and the more, with wild yells of disappointment thunder of cavalry at its maddest speed they galloped off, followed by the cavalry, was evidently drawing nearer.
who fired volley after volley into them, " Faster ! faster!” again shouted the dropping many from their saddles, but major.
who, unused to the country, at length lost