A Rebellion in Dixie
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“What do you suppose that rebel fellow has come out here with Leon for?” said Cale. “Has he got any relatives or things down here that he is going after?”
“That’s just what’s a-bothering of me. I don’t know, but we can watch and find out. Now we’ll wait until they come back,” said Dan, picking out a comfortable seat for himself against a tree where the bushes were so thick that one might have passed within five feet of him without knowing that he was there. “He’s a rebel, he deserted to the enemy with a uniform on, and if we see some Confederates come along here we will tell them where he is.”
“But we don’t know where he is,” said Cale, looking around to find an easy spot to sit down.
“Well, the rebels can easy watch here until he comes back,” retorted his brother. “What’s there to hinder them from jumping out on him and taking him and all that he’s got into the bargain? Now, I like, when I am sitting down in this way, to talk about what I am going to do with those things we are going to take away from Leon. I speak for his revolver.”
This started Cale off on a new subject, and it wasn’t long before he forgot that there were armed men within less than a quarter of a mile from him. If Leon and Tom could have been dealt with as these young backwoodsmen wanted them to be it wouldn’t be long before they would have changed places. They probably passed an hour in talking over their various plans, and then they were brought to an abrupt silence by the sound of horses’ hoofs upon the road. The men had been advancing so cautiously that they were close upon them before they knew it. Cale, whose greatest care was to keep out of sight, at once stretched himself at full length in the bushes, while Dan, who wanted to see who the men were, raised himself to his full height and looked over the thicket. What he saw was about a dozen men, all on horseback, and noted, too, that they were all dressed in Confederate uniform; but one thing that astonished him was a revolver that was pointed straight at his head. The leader of the horsemen was an old soldier, and he could not be taken unawares.
“Halloo! By George, there’s a Yank,” he exclaimed. “Come out of that.”
Dan was thunderstruck. He had never expected to be greeted this way by his friends, and for a moment or two he stood with his hands down by his side unable to move or speak; while Cale, uttering a smothered ejaculation, began to worm his way out of the bushes on his belly.
“Hold on! There are two of you there, and if you move another hair I will cut loose on you!” shouted the leader; and to show that he was in earnest he turned his horse and rode into the woods. His men were with him, and when Dan cleared his eyes of a mist that seemed to obstruct their vision he found that there were half a dozen revolvers looking at him. “We’ve got you and you might as well come out. Where do you belong?”
“Are you Confederates?” stammered Dan.
“Of course we are.What did you take us for? Come out of that.”
“Well, now, if you are Confederates you want to turn those weapons the other way,” said Dan, growing bolder when he heard his own voice. “I am as good a Confederate as you are.”
“Oh, well, then, it is all right. Come out here on the road so that we can talk to you. Get up there, you fellow lying in those bushes. You needn’t think we are going to hurt you. Now, then, what do you know? Have you seen any Confederates around here to-day?”
“No, I haven’t. But say,” added Dan, who had by this time taken up his stand in the road and grew bolder when he saw that none of the soldiers addressed him by name, “you want to get all the head men of Jones county in your hands, don’t you?”
“Well, I should say so,” exclaimed the leader, showing more enthusiasm than he had thus far exhibited. “Can you put me in the way of getting my hands onto them?”
“How much will you give?” said Dan.
“How much will I give?” asked the leader, as if he did not quite catch Dan’s meaning.
“Yes. My father had some talk with you fellows about it, and he says he is working for a colonel’s commission. He won’t work for any less. Now, you can afford to give me captain and my brother here lieutenant, can’t you?”
The captain, for that’s who he was, was taken aback by this bold declaration on the part of Dan. He looked hard at him to see if he was in earnest, and then looked around at his men. There was one present, a lieutenant, who evidently measured Dan by his own estimate, for he said:
“I was there and heard all about it, Captain. We had a long talk with the old man – what’s your father’s name?” he added, bending down from his saddle and trying to get a glimpse of Dan’s face.
“His name is Newman,” said Dan.
“Dan; and this is my brother, Cale Newman. We are two good Confederates, dyed in the wool.”
“I know you are, for I recognize the name. We had a long talk with Mr. Newman about it, and we agreed to give him a colonel’s position if he would put us in the way of getting the chief men of Jones county into our hands. Now, Captain, you can afford to give two such little offices as he wants in return for his services.”
“Why, yes, of course,” said the captain, who fell in at once with his lieutenant’s ruse. “You see, Captain – I want all of you men hereafter to address this man as captain and his brother as lieutenant – do you hear?” he added, turning to his squad; and a responsive “Yes, sir,” came from all the men; although candor compels us to say that some of them wanted to laugh. Some of them looked back down the road, and others had something to to do with fixing their feet in their stirrups.
“Thank-ee, Captain; thank-ee,” said Dan, who didn’t know whether he was awake or dreaming. “Just give us a horse apiece and a gun, and we will lead you against those men any day.”
Cale Newman scarcely believed he had heard aright. He knew more about military matters than his brother did, and he did not know that an officer had a right to promote one to his own rank without going first through some preliminary steps. He listened in a dazed sort of way to the conference between the leader of the squad and Dan, but as no one spoke to him and addressed him as “lieutenant,” he did not know whether he was an officer or not. At any rate, he decided to get home before he built any hopes upon it. His father had “seen some military” (although where he saw it, it would be hard to tell, unless he had seen some military companies march along the street), and he would know whether or not everything was just as it should be.
“You see, Captain, I was not with my officers when they talked this matter over with your father, and consequently I didn’t know anything about it,” said the leader of the squad. “However, I am glad to be set right on the matter. You spoke of surrendering the chief men into our hands; now, how are you going to do it?”
“I will tell you where you can get one of them right here,” said Dan. “Leon Sprague has gone down the road with a rebel fellow that he has been running with since yesterday – ”
“A rebel fellow?” interrupted the captain, in astonishment. “Have any of our men deserted to you?”
“Oh, yes; there’s lots of them. We had 1498 men when this war broke out,” replied Dan, copying what he had often heard his father say, “and now we have a thousand fighting men camped right up this road.”
“Well, I declare,” said the captain, turning to his lieutenant. “We came within an ace of getting right in the midst of it. They are camping right up this road, you say?”
“Yes; and they stole a big lot of provisions from you yesterday.”
“We know that, dog-gone them!” said the captain. “We have come up here to see about those provisions. Do you know where they are?”
“The most of them have been hauled to the swamp.”
“There!” said the lieutenant. “Then it is of no use to go any further. If those goods have been taken to the swamp they are lost to us.”
“I confess it does look that way. Now, about this rebel fellow who has just gone off. What is he going after; do you know?”
“He may be out scouting, the same as you are,” replied Dan.
“And he takes a couple of green boys to help him scout the same as we are?” exclaimed the captain. “I guess not. He’s got some friends down here, and he wants to get them on the other side of the line. Do you know where this boy lives or what he is?”
“We can easy catch him as we go back,” said the lieutenant. “And in the meantime I would suggest to you the propriety of going up and finding out for ourselves the number of pickets they have placed at the bridge. I believe you said there were some there?” he continued, turning to Dan.
“There’s a whole pile of them,” answered Dan. “We didn’t see them ourselves, because we swum the creek; but when we got over here I went out to see if I could see anything of the sentinels, and they saw and halted me.”
“But you didn’t go in, did you?”
“Not much I didn’t. I took leg bail, and got into the woods. You see the men up there are acquainted with us, and if they got us they would make us stretch hemp.” Another quotation from his father.
“Well, we shall have to ask you to stay here until we come back,” said the captain. “We shan’t be gone but a little while. Forward, and hold your sabres in so that they won’t hit against your heels.”
The two boys stood there in the road and saw them ride around the first bend, and they went so silent and still that one who didn’t know they were there would not have suspected anything. As soon as they were out of hearing Dan showed off a little of the enthusiasm that was in him.
“Captain! Captain Dan Newman!” said he, with a violent attempt to refrain from giving a wild hurrah. “And I never was in the army in my life! And you are a lieutenant, Cale. But you don’t seem to think much of it.”
“The fact is, I don’t know whether I am an officer or not,” replied Cale, looking down at the ground. “I don’t believe that officer had any right to promote us.”
“Well, I declare, you are a dunce,” said his brother, more than half inclined to get angry with him. “Didn’t you hear what the officer said to his men – ‘I want you all to address him as captain and his brother as lieutenant’ – I tell you that’s enough for me.”
“But this officer was a captain.”
“No matter for that.”
“And I don’t believe that he had a right to promote you to the same rank as himself. They don’t do business like that in Jones county.”
“Why, the President has something to do with it.”
“Somebody has been stuffing you. Of course they don’t do business that way in Jones county; but these men are in the service, and of course they know what’s right.”
“Well, I am going to wait until I see father, and if he tells me that I am an officer, why I’ll have to believe it.”
This was a new thing to Dan, and he did not say any more. He supposed that the next thing was to be ordered to Mobile, where his uniform, a horse and weapons would be given him, and after that he would be at liberty to take command of a body of scouts the same as this captain had done; but now he began to look at it in a different light.
“I’ll tell you what is the matter with you,” said Cale, after thinking the matter over. “It all comes of your wanting father to get that commission as colonel.”
“Hasn’t he got a right to it, I’d like to know?” retorted Dan. “He said he wouldn’t work for any less.”
“I know, but they didn’t tell him that they would give him that commission. He told us that he was working for it; and here the rebs have gone and got on your blind side – ”
“Whoop!” yelled Dan, his anger getting the start of him; and with the word he kicked out savagely at his brother, who was just a little bit too quick for him. He slipped out of the way, and Dan’s momentum took him around on one foot and finally seated him rather roughly on the ground.
“That shows that you don’t believe it more than I do,” said Cale. “Heavens and earth! What’s that?”
It was fortunate that something happened to turn Dan’s mind from all thoughts of revenge, for just then there was a rapid fusillade of carbines heard up the road. Dan picked himself up, and before he could answer there came another report of rifles in reply to the first, and they were so accurately aimed that some of the bullets passed through the branches above their heads. The first alarm was given by the rebels, who wanted to see how many men there were at the bridge. They had halted a little ways from the creek, leaving two men to hold their horses, and crept up on the unconscious sentinel and brought him bleeding to the ground. A moment later they became aware that the pickets at the bridge were too strong to be carried by the small force they had at their command, for the answering volleys that came across the creek – they came thick and fast, too – showed them that the insurgents of Jones county had taken ample precautions. It demonstrated another point to their satisfaction: it showed them that they knew how to fight.
“They are shooting at us!” cried Cale, who straightway dove into the bushes.
Dan stood there in the road and didn’t know what to do. While he was considering the matter the firing ceased, and then all was still. He stood there for a long time, half an hour, it seemed to him, and then he heard the sound of horses’ hoofs coming from the direction of the bridge, and in a few minutes the Confederates rode up.
“Did you hit any of them?” inquired Dan.
“We hit one that we know of, and that was the sentry,” said the captain. “We filled him so full of holes that he never will hold that position again. Now we will go on and report that they have got sentries at the bridge. I’ll look into all the houses as I go by, and if that rebel fellow is about I’ll have him, sure.”
“Well, now, look here,” said Dan, who began to think now that there was some truth in what his brother told him. “What be I going to do?”
“You? Oh, yes. We shall want you to stay here, so as to be on hand, you know, the next time we come out after the Yanks. You will be right here when we want you?”
“No. I live all of twelve miles from here, and how will I know when you are coming? Couldn’t you take me on to Mobile with you?”
“Why, of what use would you be there?” answered the captain, speaking before he thought. “Why – you see,” he added, on receiving a nudge from his lieutenant, “your company isn’t ready for you to command it.”
“Couldn’t you take me on your staff?”
“Well, you see, I don’t have a staff,” said the leader, struggling hard to keep from laughing outright. “I’ll speak to the colonel about you as soon as I get back. Good-bye. Forward!”
“Of all things I ever heard of this is the beat,” thought Dan, as he stood there and watched the men out of sight. “If I am a captain, I do not see what’s the reason my company isn’t ready for me to command it. I guess I have made a botch of this business. Well, Cale,” he added, aloud, “let’s catch up and go home. And Cale, I won’t say anything to the old man about this.”
“I reckon I wouldn’t if I was in your place,” said Cale.
“No; but I will depend upon you to do it for me,” continued Dan, coaxingly. “You can repeat what the captain said to us without mentioning any names, can’t you?”
“I suppose so.”
“And all the while I will listen and be as earnest as you for disbelieving it,” said Dan. “In that way we will get at the truth of the matter. But I do say that I think that that captain was up to mighty mean business. I reckon he’ll find somebody else that he wants to promote in the same way, and I wish I could be there to whisper a word or two in his ear.”
Cale followed along behind his brother as he bent his steps toward home, swam the creek, and just at daylight arrived within sight of his dilapidated shelter. His father was up, and a smoke lazily ascended from the chimney.
“Well, boys, what luck?” he exclaimed, when his eyes fell upon the two weary tramps coming toward him. “Did you see any rebels?”
Dan borrowed his father’s plug of nigger-twist, and Cale hunted up his pipe before either of them replied. Dan cut off a generous chew, and then seated himself on the doorstep.
“You have been gone a long time,” continued Mr. Newman, “and I think you must have seen something. Did you capture any of the head men of the county?”
“No,” replied Dan. “We saw some Confederates, but they wouldn’t go after them.”
“Why, how was that?”
Dan began and told his story just as it happened, and the old man became so interested that he allowed his pipe to go out. He told about his meeting with the Confederates, described the conversation they had with them, all except the promotion, told about the firing on the pickets, and that they went back to report that they had found sentries at the bridge.
“And didn’t they charge across the bridge and capture those pickets?” exclaimed Mr. Newman, in disgust.
“They didn’t make nary charge that we heard of,” replied Dan. “They said they would go back and report it.”
“Well, if that ain’t a pretty way to do business I don’t want a cent. They ought to have a couple of thousand men behind them; then they could have captured the sentries, and come on up here and gobbled these men.”
It was now Cale’s turn to try his hand.
“Father,” said he, “has a captain any right to promote a man to the same rank as himself?”
“No,” said his father. “What made you ask that question?”
“Oh, I was just thinking about it.”
“The captain has a right to watch his men in action, and if he sees them doing any brave act he reports it to the colonel,” said Mr. Newman. “But he has no authority to promote them himself.”
The boys were satisfied. Cale stretched himself out upon his shake-down and dropped off into a dreamless slumber, while Dan threw out his tobacco, filled a pipe with nigger-twist, and sat down and thought about it. There was one thing he did not neglect to do. While he was lost in dreaming of the glory that might have been his if his promotion had been according to law, he did not forget to vow vengeance upon the captain who had presumed to play upon his credulity in that outrageous way.
“I know just how he looks,” soliloquized Dan, “and if it ever comes in my way to do him a mean act he’ll see how quick I’ll take him up. But that promotion is what gets me. How fine that old fellow looked in his high-topped boots, slouch hat, and gloves that came up to his elbows! Never mind. I’ll see the day when I will be better off than any of them.”
Meanwhile there was one soldier in the captain’s ranks who would have given everything he possessed to have been able to have pulled out his revolver and shot Dan down when he talked about “that rebel fellow” who had gone off with a couple of Yanks. He well knew what had brought him out there. He was Mr. Dawson, and the boy who had escaped at the time the wagon-train was captured was his son. The boy had lived up to his agreement, and was now paving the way to take his mother and younger brothers inside the Federal lines in Jones county.
We have said that Mr. Dawson came out and spoke to the two men who had come into the yard with him, and they went on, while Mr. Dawson himself came toward the corn-crib, behind which he knew his boy was concealed. He was after a saddle, for his own, together with his horse and weapons, had been taken by the Jones county men when they captured the train. He had seen his boy go off into the bushes and drew a long breath of relief, for he knew that his troubles were ended. He obtained the saddle, placed it on the old clay-bank which had been given to him to replace the horse he had lost, and rode on and overtook the line just after they had made a capture of Cale and Dan Newman. He was in something of a scrape, because if either of the boys saw or recognized him they might have mistrusted something. So he sat there on his mule, and heard what Dan had to say about that “rebel fellow,” but no one thought of connecting him with it. They supposed that young Dawson was somewhere in Mobile, and that they would find him there when they got back.
The captain went into all the houses as he went along, but without finding any preparations for hurried departure. The women came to the doors as fast as they could find some clothing to put on, obediently struck a light in response to the captain’s request, and then he departed with a slight apology for his intrusion. One garrulous old woman followed him to the door and inquired:
“What did you-uns think you wanted to find, anyway?”
“I just wanted to see if any of your men folks had been at home packing up goods to take them into the Yankee lines,” said the captain.
“Sho! My men folks been in the Conf’drit army before you was born. They ain’t seed nuthing to make ’em desert yit.”
Finally they reached the house where Mr. Dawson lived, and he noticed one thing that attracted his attention at once. There was but a single dog to welcome him, and he was tied up back of the house. All the others had gone off somewhere. As the lieutenant reined his horse up close to the pin the captain turned about and said:
“Why, this is the place where one of you men live, isn’t it? You came in here after a saddle, didn’t you?”
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