Merry Christmas from This Mighty Scourge!

As a devout Christian, Christmas holds a very special place in my heart. Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus who was sent to our world by God. His present to us: forgiveness, love and life forever enduring. I love old Christmas songs that bring back memories of my youth – especially “O Come, O Come, Emanuel” – which I’m listening to right now.

This morning, as I look out my office window, it is snowing. Everything is receiving a beautiful coating of white snowflakes. Peace comes to mind. That is what my wish is for each of you: Peace for Christmas and the New Year. Please remember our soldiers who are in harm’s way this Christmas season along with all those good and noble men who sacrificed for their country in times past. May God bless each and everyone of them.

Merry Christmas, friends!

About Michael Noirot

I grew up in the Central Illinois farming community, of Dunlap. Growing up, I played sports, tinkered with cars and enjoyed photography. While I did well in school, I did not become passionate about history until my early 30's. I have built a large library, of books on early America, politics and the Civil War. I am an avid reader. Fortunately, I have had plenty of opportunities to travel, over the years, and have been to most of the Civil War battlefields. I work while I travel, so more often than not, I am up, in the middle of the night, to get sunrise pictures, or I will be out until well after dark, exploring Civil War battlefields. I have other hobbies, and passions, that I really enjoy. Number one on the list would be guitar. I play my guitars on a regular basis, and enjoy the Bluegrass, and Contemporary Christian (CCM) genres. I play a style of guitar, called FLATPICKING, where using a flat pick, you play lead solos, similar to the way a fiddle would have been played during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Laura, my wife, and I also enjoy scuba diving, travel and spending time at our property, in the country. Lastly, we spend as much time with our families, as possible. Thanks for stopping by.
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16 Responses to Merry Christmas from This Mighty Scourge!

  1. Richard Norris says:

    Michael,

    Have a very Merry Christmas!

    I really enjoy reading all your posts, and look forward to many more in the future. Thank you for all the hard work you put into them.

    Wishing you a prosperous New Year!

  2. april1865 says:

    November 15, 1864 – Atlanta, Georgia

    Atlanta burning to the ground: Up close, torches wave against the night sky and ignite bales of cotton, stacks of wood, pallets of feedbags, anything useful that can be burned. Then wider to show shops, factories, railroad stations and finally, elegant houses with graceful verandas – none spared! Children, the elderly, slaves who did not flee earlier, now rush into the fiery night as crazed soldiers in blue coats turn the once stately city into a picture of Hell!

    On a hilltop just outside the city sits a General Officer of the Union Army. His boots are dirty, his coat distinguished only by the rows of buttons on the front and the gold stars on his shoulder straps, indicating the rank of Major General. His frame is thin, almost weak looking, but his spine is straight, chest forward, shoulders back as befits an officer of his rank. A beaten slouch hat covers his cropped, spiky red hair and, when viewed closer, a stubble of graying beard fails to cover the deeply etched lines of his face. General William Tecumseh Sherman turns away from the horrifying scene to acknowledge his aide, who has just ridden up.

    “Major Dayton, please inform McCoy and the others that I intend to leave tomorrow at seven o’clock.” “Yes sir!” As his aide-de-camp rides off, Sherman turns his head further away from the smoldering city towards the north – Georgia and the Carolinas.

    December 24, 1864 – The White House – Christmas Eve – Six Weeks Later

    A drawn and gaunt Abraham Lincoln stands beside the darkening window of his office on the second floor of the East Wing. Outside, in the twilight, he can see the tents and campfires of hundreds of Federal soldiers stretching down past the unfinished Washington monument to the river beyond. Snow is just starting to fall and the President can dimly hear the voices of carolers singing ‘Oh Come, All Ye Faithful’ on the lawn below. There is a rap on the door and a young Union Captain comes into the room without waiting to be asked. In his hand are several pieces of paper. “Dispatches?” Lincoln asks absently. “Yes, Sir,” the officer replies.

    Getting his reading glasses from his desk, Lincoln takes the pages and moves to the blazing fireplace to read them. Two in particular catch his eye: The first is an elaborate Nast cartoon showing him inviting the Confederate President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee to Christmas dinner. He smiles at the cartoon for a second and then unfolds the second paper, a decoded dispatch. The message is very brief and we hear it in the voice of General William Tecumseh Sherman:

    Headquarters, Military Department of Mississippi, Savannah
    To His Excellency President Lincoln, Washington, D. C.:

    I beg to present you as a Christmas-gift the city of Savannah with one hundred and fifty heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousand bales of cotton.

    W. T. Sherman, Major-General

    Lincoln lowers his hand and stares at the fire. The impact of this Christmas-gift from Sherman is not lost on the man’s leathery face. Lincoln knows it now. This is the ending. Soon it will all be over…just a matter of time…

    The Captain, still standing by the desk, interrupts Lincoln’s thoughts: “Mr. President, Mrs. Lincoln has again requested your presence downstairs. She says your guests are waiting.” “Please tell Mrs. Lincoln I will be down shortly, Captain. Thank you.”

    Lincoln returns to his desk and stares into the blazing fireplace before starting his reply to Sherman. As he writes, we hear the words in the President’s voice as the flames of the burning logs dissolve into the horrifying images of the torching of Atlanta.
    :
    Major-General W.T. Sherman, commanding
    Military Division of the Mississippi

    My dear General Sherman:

    Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift – the capture of Savannah.
    When you were leaving Atlanta for the Atlantic coast, I was anxious, if not fearful; but feeling that you were the better judge, and remembering that ‘nothing risked, nothing gained’ I did not interfere. Now, the undertaking being a success, the honor is all yours. Not only does it afford the obvious and immediate military advantage, it brings those who sat in darkness, to see a great light. But what next? I suppose it will be safer if I leave Gen. Grant and yourself to decide. Please make my grateful acknowledgements to your whole army – officers and men.

    Yours, very truly,

    A. Lincoln

    He muses, almost silently to himself: “It is just a matter of time, General…Just a matter of time…”

    (To be continued, if you like…)

  3. Thank you for writing this.

  4. april1865 says:

    December 31, 1864 – New Year’s Eve – Liberty County, Georgia

    Twenty-five horses, one hundred hooves, pound the hard-pack of the dirt road. Ahead in the late afternoon light, a single plantation house is seen, partially hidden by the parallel rows of live oak trees. The Union cavalry unit trotting up to it is not exactly what one would expect: There are troopers carrying large silver trays or coffee urns, musical instruments, candlesticks and paintings still in their frames. In fact, some of these men are even dressed in women’s clothing, complete with straw bonnets, banded by fine ribbon. All are laughing; all are swearing; all are wild.

    At the head of this ridiculous line of warriors rides their leader, Brigadier General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, not yet thirty years old. His uniform is tidy and, aside from those on his shoulder straps, a single gold star has been placed in the center of his slouch hat. As the unit approaches the house, Kilpatrick sees a few slaves running out the back and several white women with their children hiding behind a small out-building off to the side. Oddly, defiantly, a single elderly white man stands with his dog in the doorway, both refusing to be intimidated.

    Kilpatrick raises his right hand and the motley column comes to a halt just in front of the veranda. The General turns to his men and shouts: “Last one of the day, Boys. And make short work of it.” He orders his Aide to see that his men return to camp before nightfall, then wheels his horse and gallops off alone just as his troopers dismount and, shoving the old man out of the way, rush into the mansion to start their looting. Almost as an afterthought, the last trooper running in stops only long enough to shoot the dog.

    Kilpatrick’s camp is set up on the grounds of a tidy, white church. The general dismounts just in front of his own tent, where a corporal rushes up to take the reins and lead the horse away. Kilpatrick stops to light a cigar as Sergeant Dennehy approaches and offers a sharp salute. “Happy New Year, General.” “Happy New Year to you, Sergeant.” Kilpatrick looks over to the closed flap of the large tent. Dennehy understands. “Yes, Sir. Your laundry has been delivered and is waiting for you.” Without another word, Kilpatrick slips inside.

    The only light comes from a small oil lamp off to the right, but it is enough to illuminate Kilpatrick’s field cot. As the general stands just inside the closed flap, he unhitches his sword and puts it on the table along with his hat, all the while staring at the mound of blankets and furs. Then he takes a step closer to the cot, stamps out his freshly lit cigar on the packed dirt floor and says, “Show me.”

    Slowly and sweetly, a thin arm emerges, then shiny black hair, parted in the middle with two thick braids framing a beautiful, young oriental face. This is Molly, as we shall learn, a company laundress and now the un-official ‘companion’ of General Kilpatrick. Modestly, she rises to one elbow. “Show me more, Molly.” The girl lets the blankets slide to reveal small but perfect breasts. Kilpatrick keeps staring. “Show me all, now, Molly. Show me everything.”

  5. april1865 says:

    January 1, 1865

    Blue Ridge Mountains – North Carolina

    A light snow is falling as a small group of five Rebel home guards makes its way along a narrow trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains to a cabin that will serve as their shelter for the night. As they near the place, their conversation turns to thoughts of hot coffee and the salt pork and beans they are carrying with them. Then, a single shot rings out from the thick laurel groves that line the path on both sides and the rear-most man instantly falls. Before the others can even turn completely around, a second shot rings out from the other side and the next Rebel goes down. In the confusion that comes before panic, the other three, (young boys, little more than children), gawk and muddle with their rifles just long enough for two more shots and two more down! The final ‘Home Guard’, a lad of about fifteen or sixteen, drops his gun and darts into the darkening wood, seeking desperately for a place in the shadows to hide. His chest heaving, he slams his back against the frosted trunk of a narrow tree and the snow falls down his tearing cheeks. He closes his eyes wanting it all to go away.

    He barely feels the blade of the knife as it severs his throat clear back to his spine.

    Later, after nightfall, the two ‘Rebel-killers’ sit on logs and drink coffee around a fire, hoods over their heads against the snow which is coming harder now. Still, they feel safe here. These are their mountains as well. Then, dumping their cups, they mount the low stairs and enter the cabin where two candles are already burning.

    Throwing his wet hood back and running his fingers through his long, greasy hair, Keith Blalock, now a guerrilla soldier fighting for the Union against his own fellow North Carolinians turns to his companion. “We’ve got to go early tomorrow, before the snow gets too deep.” His partner throws off the wet cape, tosses the felt hat onto a chair, and smiles back at him. “I’ll be ready when you are…Like always.” Then Malinda Blalock, ten years younger at 23, and his wife of just over three years, stares him in the eye as she starts to undo the buttons on her flannel shirt.

  6. Thank you, April1865. I’m sure there is more to this short story than meets the eye?

  7. april1865 says:

    Michael: Thank you. For now, I’ll try to keep up with the calendar…

    December 25, 1864 – Christmas Day – Columbia, South Carolina

    A man, rather frail and seeming older than his fifty-seven years, stands on the veranda of an elegant house overlooking a quiet street in Columbia, South Carolina. He has just received a letter from a Confederate messenger, even though the man is dressed in civilian clothes, a wool scarf tight around his neck against the chill. From the doorway, he hears the voice of his wife, Lydia, urging him to come back inside and join the family for Christmas supper.

    The elegant dining room is decorated for Christmas and two well-dressed slaves, Ellie Brown and her husband Jacob, are setting out the first course of oyster stew and chicken salad, but when Lydia and the others see the expression on her husband’s face, the mood suddenly turns quiet. Joseph E. Johnston, formerly commander of Jefferson Davis’ Army of Tennessee, crosses the room and slumps into a chair by the fire, rather than taking his place at the head of the table. “Joseph, what is it?” Lydia asks. After a pause, and while all in the room wait silently, Johnston finally answers in a soft yet fatalistic voice. “He’s taken Savannah.” Everyone in the room knows who the ‘He’ is…William Tecumseh Sherman, and everyone, including Ellie and Jacob, is aware of what this means. Johnston balls the letter and hurls it into the fire.
    “I am not a coward! I’ve beaten him, Lydia. I have beaten that bastard before! But ‘His Excellency’, President Davis and the others always need someone else to blame for their own failures. So now here I am in my living room while Sherman is standing on our doorstep and there is nothing I can do about it!”

    Johnston tells his family they are no longer safe in Columbia and will have to move north, out of Sherman’s path. He tells his wife that she will take her relatives and their slaves to their house North Carolina and that he will join them there in a short while.

    From the dining room doorway, Ellie and Jacob also hear this news and while Jacob, a large, quiet man, seems accepting of it, it is clear that Ellie sees something else in this turn of events.

  8. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    January 12, 1865 – General Johnston’s House – Columbia, South Carolina

    Outside his house, Johnston says good-bye to Lydia and her relatives as they board a carriage, while Ellie, Jacob and two other slaves load a follow wagon with what few possessions they can take with them.

    Johnston tells Lydia that she should be safe at their house in Lincolnton, a hill country town in North Carolina, well out of Sherman’s probable line of march and that he will join her there shortly, since there is still nothing he can do to help defend the city. Even the local defense forces, to which he offered his services, would have nothing to do with him. “I hate them all, Lydia…Sherman, Davis, Hood, Bragg! I will be happy to see them all in Hell!”

    As the coach and wagon are set to move out and join the line of others already fleeing the city, Jacob climbs up to find a place sitting on a steamer trunk. He calls to Ellie, but she refuses to join him. “You run if you want to, but I’m stayin’ here.” Jacob tells her that the Blue Coats are ‘Devils’ and that some even have little horns sticking out of their heads, but Ellie stands firm.

    Seeing this, Joe Johnston goes over to Ellie and tells her to climb up with her husband. She tells him she cannot and will not. Johnston is shocked at being talked to like this by a Negro, let alone his own servant. He orders her to climb up or he will have her whipped. Ellie knows that Johnston is a kind man and that his words are all bluster borne out of frustration, but she remains resolute. “And just who is going to do that whippin’, General? Look around you. They’re all leavin’. But I’m stayin’!”

    Resigned to the world finally being turned upside-down, Johnston looks at Lydia and then gives a nod to her driver. The General watches as the two vehicles join the stream of others moving to ‘safety’…Moving away from Sherman!

    For her part, Ellie can see the tears in her husband’s eyes as the wagon lumbers away. She has made her choice and he has made his. No one can tell how it will end.

    January 19, 1865 – Customs House – Savannah, Georgia

    Major General William Tecumseh Sherman, along with his aide, Major Dayton and several others, stands on the roof of the granite Customs House and watches as columns of Federal soldiers assemble and march through the checkerboard streets of Savannah. Tens of thousands of infantry; Thousands of cavalry in two great supporting wings; Hundreds of cannons, each pulled by a team of six or eight horses and all the outriders that go with them; Hundreds and hundreds of wagons and carts and ambulances all moving out of the city to the north and the Carolinas or down to the Savannah River where they will board steamers and packets and God-knows-what for voyages to destinations known only to the highest command.

    Dayton reminds Sherman that he, himself, will be leaving, along with his entire staff and headquarters by steamer for Beaufort in two day’s time. Sherman grunts as he pulls on the stub of his cigar and he stares almost blankly at the many moving lines of blue. Without turning, lost in his own thought, Sherman raises his right arm and points toward the northeast. “There is where it started, Major. There in Carolina. That is where the first shot was fired. That is where I will end it and damn the suffering I will leave behind me!”

    January 20, 1865 – Outside Savannah, Georgia

    As Kilpatrick’s cavalry unit moves northward towards Augusta in a driving rainstorm, the wagons at the rear of the line have trouble keeping up. Sergeant Dennehy and several other non-coms ride back to ‘urge’ the baggage train to keep pace. “Move, you bastards! Push those wagons!” Among those, all soaked to the skin, bent to the back of one of the laundry wagons, is Molly. Dennehy sees her and rides close enough to touch her. “This is all you’re good for now, you yellow whore! Push or I’ll whip the piss out of you!” Molly glares at him and tries to spit on his muddy boot, but instead vomit comes out, which seems to satisfy her even more. Dennehy has no time for this. He slaps at her with his gloved hand and then rides ahead to ‘urge’ on the others. As he goes, Molly turns to put her back into the pushing. She sees her wet stomach as her head bows forward and she knows that the father of her baby is only three miles up the line, perhaps waiting to take her back!

  9. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    January 23, 1865 – Johnston Family House -Lincolnton, North Carolina

    A small town, patched with dark pines and bare-limbed hardwoods. Jacob is at the woodshed at the side of the house picking through the split pieces of oak as a rider comes galloping up the street waving a newspaper and shouting out Jacob’s name. The rider reins up as he reaches the large black man. “Jacob! Jacob! Is your master inside? You’ve got to take this to him!” and he hands the paper to him. “What is it?” Jacob asks. “Look! There, on the front!” Jacob stares at the front page and then races for the porch steps.

    Inside the warm living room, Joe Johnston sits writing at his desk as Jacob enters with the paper. Waiting to be invited to approach, he finally gets to hand the newspaper to the ‘General’. Johnston looks at the headlines and suddenly becomes very still as he reads further.

    Lydia, knitting by the fire with her sister, Ellen, turns to see him. “What is it, Joseph?” she asks, noting the change. ”Did someone die?” Johnston shakes his head no and then looks at his wife. “It’s Lee…Davis and the Senate have appointed him Commander-in-Chief of all the armies.” Ellen thinks this is good news. Lee is much respected and the only man trusted enough to ‘save’ the Confederacy. But Lydia, in her wisdom, waits for Johnston to go on. “It also says there is a proposal to assign me as commander of the Army of Tennessee.”

    Hearing this, Ellen becomes giddy, shouting “I knew it! I knew it!”, but Lydia puts her hand on her shoulder to stop her. “What?” “They always need someone to blame, Ellen. Someone who lost the war, but isn’t Bobby Lee. Sherman has three armies and over sixty thousand men and he is marching straight at us.” He explains that here he would only be able to put together scraps of beaten armies, boys, old men. “I cannot defeat him. I cannot push him back. I cannot stop him. As it stands now, Ellen, the best I could do to Sherman is slow him down, and for what?”

    January, 1865 –Savannah, Georgia

    Sherman has treated Savannah with a gentile hand. The city is not burned, although the railroads and other lines of supply have been disassembled. Many are fleeing. White families and their slaves are moving northward, hoping to stay out of Sherman’s path. Others stay in the occupied city, ‘collaborating’ with the Blue Devils, serving them, sleeping with them, exploiting them and still others choose to resist. Some ‘slaves’ continue to serve, others begin to defy and rebel, being slaves no longer.

    To continue if you like

  10. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    January 30, 1865 – Sister’s Ferry, Georgia

    His main unit behind him, Major General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick sits astride his horse, a bitter wind swirling in eddies around him. Ahead is a winter-parched landscape, brown, brittle and hard. Beyond that is saturated marsh and beyond that, the wide Savannah River, swollen well up on its bank by the past weeks of heavy rains. Kilpatrick would have to cross this river. They would all have to cross this river to move into the Carolinas. But these are Sherman’s orders and they will be carried out to the letter.

    Rain starts and lashes against Kilpatrick’s face as he calls up his aide, Colonel Diedrich, Chief Engineer. “Here, Colonel!” he shouts over the wind and points forward with his gloved finger extended. “Here is where you will build your road and place your pontoons.” The old Colonel smiles and then salutes. “Yes, General. Just here. As you wish!”

  11. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    January 31, 1865 – Augusta, Georgia

    The delicate finger trembles slightly as it skims across the surface of the ink-washed map. The nail of that finger is perfectly polished, the shirt cuff, starched and pure white and the sleeve of the tunic, soft, grey twill with three gold buttons, glistening in the lamplight. It is the hand of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, Commander of Confederate Forces in the West. With him this night are two other Generals: D.H. Hill and Gustavus Smith.

    Beauregard explains the situation as he refers them to the map of the Savannah river, the natural boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. “Sherman has to cross this river and push his way through these swamps. I estimate it will take him two weeks at best.” Hill, an engineer and Smith, a mathematician, both agree. “That will give us some time to prepare our defenses.” Beauregard, still using the map, explains that General Hardee’s group has moved north to Charleston and General Stevenson’s men are arriving from Tennessee. “I am ordering them to hold Sherman in the swamps as long as possible, then fall back to protect Columbia.”

    General Hill is uncomfortable with the next question. “And the ‘command’, General?” Beauregard stiffens his spine. “It will be Johnston. He is Lee’s man. I shall serve as his subordinate.” (He does not add: ‘Once again’)

    General Smith asks the final question. “And, how many men, Sir, will Johnston have, once the others are assembled?” Beauregard looks up from the map and then rubs his eyes, as if he has a headache. His hand is trembling more noticeably. “Twenty…Twenty-three thousand…” Smith looks at Hill, each silently acknowledging that the number is impossibly small for the task they have just been given. Beauregard goes back to the details of his plan.

    February 2, 1865 – Savannah River

    Wet axe blades bite into tall, wet pine trees. Three thousand axmen fell the trees as the rain falls in torrents. Thousands more dress the logs and rope them to five hundred horse teams. Another two thousand men lay the logs, one against the other, shifting them and leveling them with pry bars, to make a sturdy wooden road through the marshland to the river’s edge
    .
    North, a little further up the river, another road has already been built. Here forty wagons assemble carrying pontoons, sixty men working around each wagon. The craft are lifted, slid, jimmied, tied-off and sent down the bank. Hundreds of men are in the water or in working barges floating the pontoons downstream where other wagons wait. Wagons with the cribbing, others the planking and still others the tools and cabling. Thirty men, to their knees in muck, work around each load to get the pontoons tied together and the bridge securely across the river. The rain is now blowing sideways.

    Charging from spot to spot, barking encouragement and intelligent orders, dismounting to help a fallen soldier or push a stuck wagon, Judson Kilpatrick is no ‘ladies’ man here.

    Men drown. Men are crushed between the timbers. Men are swept away down the river, but the bridge continues to grow
    .
    More Union troops arrive: Three thousand more cavalry; more than two hundred heavy guns with their carriages, caissons and outriders churning through the mud; Sixty thousand infantry and the countless vehicles of the rear, all moving toward the river from Savannah.

    By nightfall the rain has stopped and a cold half moon is sitting in the clear sky between Mars and Neptune. Still, there is work to be done, but Kilpatrick cannot wait and, at the head of his line, leads his cavalry across the bridge into South Carolina and the miles of swamps between Sherman’s Army and the stately city of Columbia.

  12. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    February 3, 1865 – Mustering Grounds – Augusta Georgia

    A group of perhaps two thousand Confederate troops are assembled in a windswept field outside Augusta. It is an almost ‘comical’ assemblage of men and equipment: Few are in uniform, many lack proper shoes, some are old men with white stubble on their chins and even more are mere boys, not old enough yet to even grow stubble.

    Riding along in front of the line is General Beauregard and, just slightly behind him, Generals Hill and Smith accompanied by their aides. This is the first time he is seeing the army he will be turning over to Johnston to command. He stops and turns to Hill, pensive. “Look, General. This is the grand army Lee and Davis have given me to defend the South. Just look at them. I trust General Johnston will do well by them. After all, they used to be his boys.” “They are your men, General,” Hill replies. “For now, General…for now.”

    But the moment is broken by a rider galloping towards them and then pulling up short when he reaches the officers. He breathlessly announces that he has dispatches and immediately hands them to Beauregard. The General salutes and opens the papers. He is shocked by the words in the dispatch. He tells Hill and Smith it’s from General Hardee in the field. The Federals have crossed the flooded Salkehatchie…Guns, wagons and all! Sherman’s vanguard has built bridges, some over a mile and a half long, and miles of ‘corduroy’ log roads, all within two days time! They have stormed Hardee’s defenses and cleared much of the countryside and now they are headed toward Barnwell and from there, no one knows: Charleston, Columbia or even here to Augusta! To Beauregard this is a disaster, but an ‘impressive’ one nevertheless.

    He turns back to Hill. “If this is true…and Hardee writes that he has seen it with his own eyes…then I tell you, General, there has not much time for Johnston to prepare.”

    Somewhere in the line, a Master Sergeant barks an order and the mustered soldiers ‘snap’ to attention, rifles to the shoulder.

    February 3, 1865 – Grandfather Mountain – North Carolina

    A bitterly cold morning as four horsemen wearing Union blue under heavy winter cloaks gallop up to a cabin in the trees on the side of the mountain. The lead horseman dismounts and storms up the steps to bang on the door nearly hard enough to knock it down. The others watch from their saddles as the door is opened my a terrified woman in her late thirties. “Where is he!”, Keith Blalock demands. “He was warned not to join up and now he has! Tell me where he is, or I’ll kill you!” The woman falls to her knees and sobs that they made her boy enlist and if he didn’t, they’d hang him.

    As the others, Malinda and two men, George Perkins and William Blackwell, sit unmoved in their saddles, the woman tells Keith that her son, Keith’s own cousin, has run away, but Keith knows that is not true. As he starts to push her aside to enter her house, Perkins sees something at the edge of a wide, snow-covered field: It is a man moving towards them from the tree line. He appears to have two freshly killed rabbits by the ears and an old rifle slung across his back. “There, Keith! That’s him!”

    Blalock shoves the frantic woman away and runs to mount his horse. All four tear out at the gallop, drawing their sidearms as they ride. The ‘man’ spots them coming through the snow directly at him. We can see that the ‘hunter’ is no more than a boy of fourteen or fifteen years. He drops the rabbits, turns and tries to run, but the horsemen are soon directly upon him. Finally, when they have reached him, he stops and turns back again to face Blalock and the others. The boy is no coward as he stares eye to eye with Keith, then one shot rings out, the boy’s chest opens in blood and he falls back, dead, but it is not Keith Blalock who shoots him. It is William Blackwell, his barrel still smoking. Offering only to Keith in explanation, “I knew he was your kin.” Guns holstered, the four gallop off toward the tree line.

    February 3, 1865 – Lincolnton, North Carolina

    Jacob is sitting at the dining room table polishing the silver service when Billings, General Johnston’s caretaker, comes in and asks him why he’s there doing ‘Nigga-woman’s’ work. “Get your ass outside, fetch Henry and the two of you start chopping cord wood. I want enough for the week by sundown, you understand?” Of course Jacob does and goes outside as he is told.
    Jacob’s axe smashes through the hardwood sending the split pieces flying as Henry runs around trying to gather and stack them. Finally, Henry asks Jacob what the matter is. Jacob doesn’t stop his work, but tells him that he misses Ellie terribly and can’t sleep at night, fretting. He also says that ‘Old Joe’ never treated him like a Nigga slave, but now that he’s off to run the army, his man Billings thinks he’s back on the plantation where he came from. “This is a city house, dammit! And I’m a servant, not some ignorant tobacco chopper!”
    Jacob stops for a moment and draws Henry nearer. He tells him that as soon as the time is right, he is leaving. He is heading back to Columbia to find Ellie. Henry is terrified by this and tells Jacob that, in spite of the Yankees heading their way, he is still a slave! And if he gets caught running away, they will not just beat him, they will hang him because he is General Johnston’s Nigga! “They will look for you, Jacob. They will find you. But just wait and the Blue Coats will free you when they get here. I heard it is so.” But Jacob doesn’t care. He tells Henry it isn’t ‘freedom’ he’s after. “It’s Ellie, plain and simple. It’s Ellie.” The axe head smashes down through the wood even harder than before

  13. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    February 5, 1865 – Railroad Lines near Bamburg, South Carolina

    Federal Forces are tearing up this portion of railroad tracks. Fires have been built from the tar-soaked cross ties and send thick columns of dark smoke into the even darker rain clouds overhead. The straight rails have been pulled up and then laid on top of these pyres to heat through. In another place where the rails are already glowing, teams of men take them and pressing against both ends, ‘wrap’ them like Christmas ribbons around nearby trees rendering them unsalvageable.

    Sherman, puffing on the stub of his cigar, is conferring with his aides under a set of tent flies that have been set up to keep the rain off. He has a small map stretched over a flat rock and is explaining his plans to wait for the rest of the infantry to draw up and then march north about five miles to capture the station itself. “We’ll deploy a line along this ridge to protect our flank and then we’ll attack in two columns from here and here.” He explains that he imagines General McLaws will put up a strong defense as this rail line is of vital importance to the Rebel Government.

    As they go to mount their horses, Sherman sees an large Negro man talking to one of his sergeants, who then comes over and salutes. He tells General Sherman that this man, dressed in the ragged clothing of a field hand, wants to join the army. Sherman is a bit annoyed by this trivial interruption until the sergeant finishes. “He says, Sir, that the other Yankees who came through here this morning said he could. All he had to do was ask you, Sir, and then they rode off.” Sherman cocks his head at this and calls the black man over. He repeats the same story. “You are certain these men were Union soldiers?” “Yessir, General. They were ridin’ like hell and only stopped here to water their horses at the creek.” Sherman turns to Major Dayton and says that they are the advance force and that he has not ordered any units, other than scouts, ahead.

    At that very moment, a loud ‘Whoop!’ is heard coming from up the rail line and six men on horses riding as fast as they can tear along the right-of-way. The lead rider is mounted on a white charger, with a rope bridle and blanket for a saddle…all clearly stolen from someone.
    As they get closer, Sherman realizes that these are some of his own ‘foragers’ off on their own accord. The front rider hollers out, “Hurry up, General! We’ve got the railroad!…All of it!”

    So, while Sherman and the others were planning a major assault, a rag-tag group of ’Bummers’ single-handedly captured the most important rail line in the area.

    February 5, 1865 – Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

    Keith and Malinda Blalock and six others of their band of Union marauders are silently taking up positions in the birch woods near an old cabin where they know several Rebel Home Guards are sleeping inside. While the six others are dressed in regulation blue uniforms, Keith and Malinda are in homespun grays.

    Before they can get completely into firing position, one of the Rebels comes out to piss off the porch. The cracking of a twig instantly sets him on the alert and just as he wheels to shout ‘Ambush”, a ball from one of the marauder’s Spencer rifles rips through his head. Within seconds, window panes are smashed out by rifle barrels and a firefight ensues. One of the Federals, a man named Joseph Webb, who is firing next to Malinda, takes a bullet in the shoulder, spinning him around and dropping him to the snow. Malinda ducks more bullets to get to him and haul him out of harm’s way, all the while, the firing continues and balls smash jagged splinters from the trees all around her.

    February 6, 1865 – Barnwell, South Carolina

    The women and children of the small town of Barnwell can see the smoke and hear the music from their porches. The smoke is coming from the torched buildings on the edge of town and the music is played by Judson Kilpatrick’s company band, marching at the front of his long cavalry column. Curiously, they are playing Dixie.

    Kilpatrick leads his army into the town as more women, children and elderly come out to their porches to watch. Smiling, Kilpatrick doffs his hat as if he is some sort of grand marshal. Behind him, even more buildings start to burn and now scores of slaves, men, women and children, have come out to join the parade shouting “We are free!” and “Hallelujah!” as they skip alongside the horses.

    Raising his hand, Kilpatrick stops his column in front of a large, elegant house, a broad flag – The Stars and Bars in the upper corner of a white field – hangs in defiance. Below that flag is a handsome, resolute woman, and her very attractive young daughter. Also, at the side of the porch, are two black girls smiling broadly at the Union General. Kilpatrick calls to the woman and asks her name. She replies that it is Oakman, Mrs. Oakman. The plucky general asks her where Mr. Oakman might be. “Out trying to kill you!”, she replies, eliciting a great howl from the troops. Kilpatrick smiles, tips his hat and says, “I wish him luck.” With that, the odd procession continues through the town.

    Kilpatrick stops his men in front of the Church of the Holy Apostles and orders them to set up camp here for the night. The quartermaster is summoned and told to use the church’s baptistery to water the horses. Kilpatrick then confers with one of his aides, a Captain Owens, about some ‘plans’ he has. He tells the Captain that he will be making his headquarters at the Oakman house while they are ‘visiting’ and that he will hold an ‘Officers’ Ball’ there tomorrow evening. All the young women of the town will be requested (and required) to attend. Music will be provided by his company’s band. He moves closer to Owens as he lights a cheroot. He asks his aide if he remembers seeing two black girls on Mrs. Oakman’s porch. Owens does. “Well, go on over there…don’t send anybody, you go…fetch those two little niggers and bring them here. Tell them I have ‘presents’ for them. I am certain they will be most happy to join you.” Without another word, Owens leaves to carry out the order.

    (To be continued, if you like…)

  14. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    February 6, 1865 – Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

    Outside the cabin, snow is just starting to cover six Rebel bodies laid side-by-side to freeze. Inside, the cabin is lit by several candles and oil lamps. Keith Blalock sits at a table with his fellow marauders reviewing the plans for the next day. In a corner by the fireplace, Malinda is tending to the wounded Joseph Webb. His shirt is off he has a thick piece of branch between his teeth to bite on as Malinda feels inside the wound with a set of small pincers for the bullet. Webb winces at every move. She tells him it’s alright and that she has wound just like that so she knows how he feels.

    Finally, the ball is extracted. Webb spits out the stick and takes a big swig of whiskey. “So, why are you a ‘girl’?” he asks, “I mean a ‘girl’ soldier?” Malinda is not happy with the wording, but she is content to answer as she heats the blade of a knife in the open flame of an oil lamp. She explains that she and Keith got married just a week before the Rebs attacked Fort Sumter. They both sided with the Unionists but mostly wanted to stay out of it. The locals put pressure on Keith to sign up, but he kept refusing. Finally, they told him: Join the Rebel Army or we’ll hang you. Keith made a plan to join up, but desert as soon as he got near Union lines. Malinda would meet him later. “So, off he went,” but Malinda couldn’t stand the separation, so “Off I went too! You should have seen his face when he saw me, hair short, face dirty, marching next to him.” She takes a swig of the whiskey and looks to see if the knife blade is hot enough. “I actually enlisted! Yup, I am officially Private Samuel Blalock, Company F, 26th North Carolina. I’ve still got the papers.” She explains that their plan didn’t work out and that they actually ended up fighting Yankees. That’s when she got wounded in the shoulder. Not long after that, the field doctor discovered ‘Sam’ was ‘more’ than natural for a man and she was drummed out. “Keith was frantic. If we both just ran away, they’d find us and kill us for sure.” Keith devised a new plan and that very night stripped himself naked and rolled all around in a poison ivy patch he had seen earlier. “By morning Keith was so swole up, when he reported for muster, the sergeant, fearing small pox or swamp fever, refused to let him join the company. Not long after that, Keith was given a medical discharge and…off we went, back to the hills to join up with the Federals”

    Webb is enjoying the story (as much as he can under the circumstances), but now he has his eyes fixed on the glowing knife blade Malinda is moving toward his wound. “Now, this may ‘hurt’ a little…and, by the way…” She presses the blade hard against the flesh. Smoke issues all around it and the skin crackles as Webb has all he can do not to scream. “…Don’t ever call me a ’girl’ again.”

    February 7, 1865 – Oakman Hall – Barnwell, South Carolina

    The candles have been lighted; The furniture swept away to clear the floor; The servants white-gloved in their places and in the corner of the ball room of Mrs. Oakman’s stately house, five of Kilpatrick’s musicians, two trumpets, a baritone horn, a bugle and a snare drum, are playing a popular Steven Foster waltz called “Ah, May the Red Rose Live Always”. Union Cavalry officers in their best uniforms are dancing with perfectly attired Southern Belles as, outside, the glow from burning buildings can be seen through the windows. The conversations reveal that Kilpatrick has promised any young lady who attends this ball will have her property spared. The wasp-wasted women do not seem quite so assured of this, but do their best to maintain a civil front.

    Judson Kilpatrick, his sandy hair slicked back, his jowl chops brushed outward so that they resemble ‘wings’, dances flawlessly with Mrs. Oakman’s charming daughter, Jennie, while the mother bitterly watches from the wide, curving stairway. Jennie has been instructed to do her best to be proper and polite and, under all circumstances, must refrain from spitting in his face.

    As they dance, Kilpatrick tells Jennie that one day the war will be over and that they will all be friends. He much prefers the Southern countryside and easy way of life to that of the North and might decide to settle here. He tells Jennie he could make a girl like her very happy. Flustered (and on the point of actually vomiting), Jennie wishes the General well in this, but makes it clear she has no interest in sharing any of the ‘sunny’ days of his proposed future.

    As Kilpatrick dances, the windows glow brighter as the flames come deeper into the town. The music gets faster as the band plays a reel and the scene becomes even more bizarre. Four officers burst into the party, each with a black girl on his arm and each girl, dressed in her own mistress’ finest clothing. The crowd is shocked, but the band plays on and the frantic dancing does not stop. The Officers and their ‘companions’ join in the dance, the young ‘nigresses’ happily mocking the affected airs of their former mistresses.

    At one point, Kilpatrick notices something disturbing peeking from a small doorway in a distant corner of the room. He excuses himself for a moment and goes over to Sergeant Dennehy, who has guard duty at the door. Kilpatrick whispers something to the man, who also looks over to the doorway and nods. As Kilpatrick goes back to continue his pursuit of Jennie, he glances away from her face just long enough to see Dennehy very roughly grabbing Molly by the back of the neck and hauling her away, out of sight.

    Judson Kilpatrick returns his attention to his attractive dance partner, smug in the knowledge that he will be having her later that evening and Jennie Oakman knows as well that she will be giving herself to him, ensuring that her house is spared, her property protected and her mother’s larder filled with supplies enough to last three months. Such it is in war time.

    February 8, 1865 – Gastonia, North Carolina

    Gastonia is a small town south of Lincolnton on the way to Columbia. As Jacob walks openly down the main street, he wonders about what Henry said about folks searching for him. Here people both black and white are on the move. Some, mostly whites and their loyal or ignorant slaves, move northward, away from Sherman’s threatening force. Others, mostly blacks who realize that they are in fact ‘free’ now and that there are no men here to stop them in any event, stream south, back to their original homes and families.

    Taking all this in, Jacob seems confused. Things are changing too fast for him. It is then he hears his named called out from across the street. Jacob turns to see an old buckboard with six black men loading on a sack of flour and climbing up onto it. “Jacob! Jacob!” one calls to him. “What are you doin’ here?”

    Jacob recognizes the men who are also from Lincolnton and joins them. He tells the one, Willie, that he has run away from General Johnston’s house and is trying to ’escape’ back to Columbia to find Ellie. “Escape?” and all the men laugh. “You don’t need to escape. You are escaped!” They now all consider themselves free men.

    Jacob asks them where they are headed and Willie tells him they’re going south to the coast, maybe Charleston. “We heard there are some colored Union Army units down that way, so we thought we’d find ‘em and join up before it’s too late.” Willie urges Jacob to join them, but he says he has to go to look for Ellie. They tell him to climb on. They have to pass that way anyway.

    On the corner of a porch nearby, two white men stand and watch the commotion in the streets. They are too old to be soldiers, too few to stop anyone and turn them back, but not too old to still care. We cannot hear them, but it seems clear from their body language that one of them recognizes Jacob.

  15. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    February 9, 1865 – Hardeeville, South Carolina

    Federal troops ransack the town of Hardeeville and deliberately burn the churches.

    February 11, 1865 – Aiken, South Carolina

    Kilpatrick leads his men toward the town of Aiken. Once inside the town, he is immediately ambushed by units of Confederate General Joseph Wheeler. It is a great dust-up: pistols shooting, carbines firing, sabers slashing, horses rearing and falling, men ‘Whooping’…all right in the middle of the town. Kilpatrick believes he is outnumbered and orders the retreat to be sounded. As the Yankees are chased back to their own lines, three Confederate cavalrymen get close enough to old ‘Kil-Cav’ as he is now called, to actually grab his fluttering coattails.

    February 12, 1865 – Orangeburg, South Carolina

    Only token resistance greets Federal troops as they march into Orangeburg. The soldiers instantly start collecting chickens, pigs, turkeys from their pens. Stores are rifled and all sorts of things are thrown out into the streets and in the distance, smoke can be seen rising from burning buildings.

    February 13, 1865 – General Johnston’s House – Columbia, South Carolina

    There is panic in the streets of Columbia as word reaches the city that Sherman’s army has taken Orangeburg, not more than thirty miles away. Carriages of all sorts fill the streets trying to head north. Some are even driven by white women in hooped skirts and bonnets because their ‘slave’ drivers will no longer serve them.

    Jacob takes it all in as he hops off the buckboard in front of General Johnston’s house and says good-bye and good luck to his friends. He looks at the house, a two storey mansion on Laurel Street, but it appears vacated. He runs up the front porch, calling Ellie’s name. He pounds on the door and then remembers the keys in his pocket.

    Inside, the house is empty. Furniture – gone; Rugs and curtains – gone; Family portraits – gone from the walls. The place has a haunted look to it. Jacob moves silently through the rooms. When he steps out the back, onto the porch by the summer kitchen, Jacob sees Old Nanny, a blind lady of nearly one hundred years. She is sitting in a rocker, smoking a cigar. Jacob freezes, but Nanny says in a clear voice. “Jacob. Where have you been?” How she knows that he is there and that it is even him, is a mystery. Jacob goes over to her and asks where everyone is…where Ellie is. She tells him she doesn’t know. “Most flew off when they heard the Yankees was comin’, but a lot of the folks is stayin’ in town just to see what happens. She might be among ‘em.” Jacob nods, a tear in his eye, and then he bends to kiss Old Nanny good-bye.

    February 14, 1865 – Outside Lexington, South Carolina

    Sherman’s columns are on the march in another driving rain storm. He is at the head the line, riding with his aides, the drums so wet they hardly make ‘thuds’ as the boys beat the cadence. Sherman calls Major Dayton to his side and shouts to him above the wind. He points ahead and tells Dayton to pass the word. The main column will bivouac at Lexington. He then sends orders for General Howard to enter Columbia from the north. “Tell him he is only to burn public buildings, railroad property, factories and storehouses. All private property must be spared. Is that clear, Colonel” “Yes, sir!” And with that, Dayton rides off to deliver the orders.

    At the back of the enormously long line, the wagons struggle to keep pace with the infantry. Down this line of Negro laborers, oriental cooks, white washer women, cheap vendors and whores, Sergeant Dennehy rides with two other soldiers. They scan each wagon and its occupants. Finally, Dennehy sees what he’s looking for and stops with his men. Cowering in a wagon, trying to hide under a tarpaulin is Molly, soaked to the skin and terrified. With a single gesture, Dennehy signals to his men. They know what to do. Both board the wagon and drag Molly roughly off of it, her small body falling hard onto the rocks and mud. None of the other Chinese workers on the wagon lifts a finger to help her. Then, yanking her up by both arms, the two soldiers drag her into the nearby tree line and disappear in the shadows. Dennehy remains in his saddle as the rest of the wagons continue to roll past him toward Lexington and then Columbia. The rain comes down even harder.

  16. Donald P.H. Eaton says:

    February 14, 1865 – Millwood Plantation – Columbia, South Carolina

    Morning light is just filtering into the enormous room through floor to ceiling windows. For the most part, the room is empty of furnishings except for several antique pieces too large or awkward to be removed quickly. This is the main salon of Millwood, the estate of Confederate General Wade Hampton III, who is sitting alone in the center of that room in a plush chair smoking a cigar. He hardly hears his wife Mary’s voice as she comes down the stairs followed by their six-year-old son, George, and a black servant girl who has him by the hand. All are dressed for travel and carrying small, personal bags.

    Hampton gets up and they join in the center of the room. He asks Mary if she and George are ready. With tears in her eyes, she says she is. After brief hugs, they walk to the front door. Here, a servant is waiting to open it for them. Another servant comes with cloaks for the travelers.

    Along the great porch stand six silent fluted columns, each two covered personal possessions under a tarpaulin and an escort of six cavalry men. Hampton’s own staff wait off to the side. The officers salute the Hamptons as they emerge. Wade has a last hug for George and then his Nanny climbs into the carriage with him. The leader of the escort reminds the general that his family should hurry because theirs will probably be the last train out of Columbia for quite some time, but Mary stops for one last kiss and one last look at her home before she also climbs in. With quick step, the little caravan moves out along the circle to the long narrow road to the gate.

    Hampton watches until they are gone and then he turns to his servant, an older black man named Daniel. Hampton tells Daniel he had better go too, him and all the others. “But, Massa General, go where?” They have no place to go. Resigned, Hampton tells the old man it doesn’t matter, but they can’t stay here. “In a day or two, this will all just be a pile of ashes. You can count on that.” Old Daniel, confused about the present situation, asks ‘why?’ in disbelief. “Why?” Hampton responds, “Because he hates me. He hates this city and he hates this state. He says this is where the war began and now we will be punished for it. If he has his way…and he will…none of us will be spared and there is precious little I can do about it.”

    A messenger gallops up and breathlessly issues a quick report. “Sherman’s reached the Congaree, General, and is repairing the bridge we burned.” Without a second thought, Hampton signals for his horse to be brought up and, not waiting for his cloak, gallops off with his staff to try to delay the Northern Aggressor at the river.

    February 15, 1865 – South Carolina Railroad Depot – Columbia, South Carolina

    In the five a.m. darkness of the next morning, the station platform is crowded with people hoping to flee the city. Mostly white women, children and the elderly, accompanied by blacks of all stations, the people are pushing and shoving, some even falling to the tracks. They are all waiting for a train that will not come.

    To the side, where the railroad warehouses are, more people, many carrying torches, are rudely gathering, banging at the doors and prying at the locks to gain entry. Partly black men, there are also numbers of Wade Hampton’s own soldiers fighting to get access to the goods and stores inside: Sugar; Flour; Barrels of hams; Kegs of turpentine and bales of cotton. Men are struck down as they struggle to get in or out. Shots are fired. Bodies fall and are trampled.

    One group makes its way inside and shoves their torches into a large side room to reveal boxes of muskets, cases of ammunition and barrels of powder. All are yelling! All are cursing and all are screaming.

    The brilliant flash turns it all to silence at first…and then a cacophony of explosions, the concussion of each one, one right after the other, flings bodies into the air; blows men apart and instantly ignites others into balls of yellow flame. Glowing pillars shoot up like whirlwinds; Splinters fly; Walls disintegrate and still the explosions keep on as barrel after barrel of powder feels the flames.

    February 15, 1865 – City Center – Columbia, South Carolina

    Even by mid morning, the center of the town is illuminated by the glow of the fire. At other warehouses, more of Hampton’s soldiers are busy pulling tufted bales of cotton out into the streets. A passing Captain on a gallop to the station stops to ask the soldiers what they are doing. “General’s orders, Sir!” one replies. “General Beauregard’s orders,” the other adds. “We’re ordered to haul these bales out and fire ‘em!” “No we’re not, you ass! We’re ordered to haul them out and not fire ‘em!” Confused, the captain gallops off as the men go back to their work.

    February 15, 1865 – Washington Street – Columbia, South Carolina

    The enemy is at the river and the broad city streets are flooded with streaming refugees, mostly the elderly, the very young, women of all ages and negroes, some of whom are looting houses and shops as the go along. Most are on foot because the army has appropriated almost all of the city’s wagons and carriages for its own needs. The street is strewn with personal belongings: clothes, furniture, mattresses, whatever cannot be easily carried away by either the looters or the soldiers.

    On Washington Street the crowd is violently disrupted by one of Confederate General Wheeler’s cavalry units, galloping heedlessly through on its way to the river to try to stop Sherman. Some of the weakest are trampled by the hooves. From a corner, a frightened Ellie stands with a small group of other black women. From here, Ellie sees a white woman, dressed in a royal blue skirt, obviously pregnant, holding a small child wearing a purple cape. Ellie sees the horses coming at her, but the woman does not. Ellie shrieks, but the din is too great and the young mother turns only in time to see a great warhorse and its Rebel rider strike her down! No one near her reacts or tries to help as the woman lies crumpled in the dust, her little child next to her.

    Heedless of her own safety, Ellie breaks from the group and runs to the semi-conscious woman. Helping her to her feet, and picking up the child, Ellie looks around for a safer place to take her. Just on the side is the United Methodist Church, its red brick walls looking like those of a fortress to her. “Get up! Come with me! I’ve got the little one!” The woman does her best and they make it to the sanctuary of the church. As they duck into a side door, Ellie says: “Down here! This is a church. We’ll be safe here…”and they disappear into the shadows.

    February 15, 1865 – Outside Chester, South Carolina

    The early evening is cool and clear. Judson Kilpatrick sits in front of his tent smoking a cigar as his cavalrymen set up a bivouac camp in the fields outside Chester, sixty miles north of Columbia. The mood is up-beat and some of his men are clearly drunk. A courier rides up with a dispatch which is then handed to Kilpatrick to read. The General smirks and stands calling out to all the men nearby to listen-up as he reads the orders: “From…” Kilpatrick shouts as he holds out the page in the dim light, “Brigadier General John W. Geary, Commander – Occupying Forces…” As Kilpatrick reads, and the men listen, nudges and winks, guffaws and cuss words animate the soldiers. General Geary’s orders clearly state that, as Kilpatrick and his men pass through the town of Winnsboro, “…All private property is to be strictly protected and no houses burned…”

    “What town was that?” one of the soldiers calls out. “Winnsboro, you ass!” another replies. “You mean that pile of ashes about twenty miles back?” “Yup! That’s the one.” Kilpatrick, not overly concerned, smiles, wads up the dispatch and throws it into his campfire.

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