A Rebellion in Dixieñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“By going to Leon and telling him that I want to see him in the woods,” said Smith, sinking his voice almost to a whisper. “If I once get him out there, away from everybody, I will tell him that if he wants to see daylight again he can tell me where that money is.”
“Good gracious! What are you going to do with him? Kill him?”
“Then you can get somebody else to help you get that money,” said Coleman, drawing a long breath. “You won’t get any help out of me.”
“But think of the thousand dollars,” said Smith, who began to see that he had made a mistake.
“I don’t care if it’s twice a thousand dollars. I wouldn’t dare show my face in Jones county again.”
“You needn’t come back to Jones county,” said Smith, who began to fear that he had run against a snag when he least expected it. “I am not coming back. I am going over to the rebels.”
“Well, there! That’s just what I expected you to do. Here you promise to support this government, and then go back on it the first chance you get!”
“You say you won’t meet the rebels,” retorted Smith.
“I know it; but I didn’t say I was going over to them. Good land! You can get somebody else to help you,” said Coleman, rising to his feet. “That’s a little too dangerous a piece of business for me. If that’s all you wanted to say I’ll go back.”
“Well, here, hold on a minute,” exclaimed Smith, who saw that it would not do to permit Coleman to go back among his friends feeling as he did now. “There is all of twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars in that will, and Leon knows where it is.”
“Let him keep it. That’s what I say.”
“Now, suppose, instead of hanging him,” continued Smith, paying no heed to the interruption, “we will just make believe to hang him – pull him up until he sees stars and then pull him down again. We could do that.”
“No, we couldn’t. Leon’s eyes would be unbandaged, and he could easy see who pulled him up. I tell you you had better get somebody else.”
“Well, I supposed you were willing to work hard for a thousand dollars,” said Smith, in disgust. “But you are willing to live along just as you are now, without any thought for the morrow. Thank goodness, there are plenty of men in this party who will help me.”
“Then you had better get one of them.”
“You won’t say anything about what I have told you?”
“Never a word; only, don’t mention it to me again. I would rather be poor all my life than make a living in that dishonest way.”
“Say, Coleman, sit down here a minute. I want to whisper something to you.”
The man was a long time in sitting down. He seemed to think that Smith had some other terms to disclose which would lead him into his scheme, whether he wanted to or not.
“I will give you five thousand dollars,” said Smith, in an earnest undertone. “Just think of that! Here you will be as poor as Job’s turkey, and that amount of money will easily set you on your feet.”
“I don’t care if it’s ten thousand.
I won’t do it.”
“Well, Coleman, I was only just fooling you,” said Smith, and in order to give color to his words he leaned back and laughed heartily. “You will do to tie to.”
“Yes?” said Coleman, and he laughed, too, but it was a different sort of laugh. “You have an awful funny way of fooling a fellow, I must say. If you were not in earnest when you sat down here I shall miss my guess.”
Coleman got upon his feet again, and Smith was so angry that he let him go without compelling him to promise over again that he would not tell anybody of the scheme that had been proposed to him. He laid down on his bed and filled his pipe, but he rolled over to see where Smith went.
“That fellow is a-going to get himself in a power of disturbance the first thing he knows,” said he to his wife, as he saw Smith moving down toward Mr. Sprague’s end of the street. “He is fixing himself to get hung.”
“Good land! How is that?” exclaimed the woman.
In spite of the fact that he had promised Smith that he would not say a word about it, it did not take Coleman long to go over his interview with him, and when he told of the amount of money that had been offered him his wife fairly gasped for breath.
“I know that is a big sum,” continued Coleman, “but just think of the danger there will be. If Leon gets off in the woods and don’t come back they will hunt high and low for him, and it won’t take them long to determine who it was that had a hand in his taking off. If they make-believe they were going to hang him, why, of course, he will know who it was and he’ll tell of it when he comes back. I think I was pretty smart in keeping out of it. There goes Smith off toward the boats. Now I believe I’ll go and see Leon.”
Smith had evidently missed his guess by a long ways when he selected Coleman to assist him. He had never known anything against this man’s honesty. He supposed, of course, that a fellow who hated to work as bad as he did, and who was content to lay around home all the time in company with the dogs and the children in preference to handling an axe, ought to be willing to engage in anything that he thought would bring him money; but as it happened, there were some honest men in that party, although they did wear ragged jackets. Without further thought Coleman arose and sauntered off toward Mr. Sprague’s end of the street, and when he came opposite their lean-to he found the boy he wanted to see, talking with his mother.
“Well, Caleb, what can I do for you to-day?” asked Mr. Sprague, who still occupied his old position in the door of the lean-to.
“Not a thing,” replied Coleman. “But I want to see Leon for about five minutes.”
“Do you want him to go out in the woods with you?” said Mr. Sprague, with a wink that spoke volumes.
“Eh? No; but I want to tell him to keep away from the woods,” replied Coleman, who wondered if Mr. Sprague knew all about it.
“Well, you might just as well come in here and tell it,” said Mr. Sprague, taking Coleman by the arm. “There are no secrets between us.”
Coleman went, and in a few minutes was seated on a trunk revealing the scheme that had been proposed to him. Leon and his father exchanged significant glances, and the boy thought how wise Mr. Sprague had been when he advised him to stick closely by his side and to let nothing draw him away.
“I did say that I wouldn’t tell this to anybody,” said Coleman, in conclusion. “And I won’t tell it to any one except you-uns, who are so deeply interested in it. You won’t tell on me?”
“Did he say how much he was going to get?” asked Leon, after his father had made the required promise.
Coleman replied that he thought he was going to get twenty-five or thirty thousand dollars, and this proved that Mr. Smith did not know anything of the value of the deceased man’s legacy.
“That’s a heap of money,” said Leon. “And now, Coleman, I’ll tell you what we will do with you. If you will stay around with Smith and learn all you can in regard to his plans you shall not lose anything by it. I want to find out if he gets somebody else to assist him.”
Coleman promised, and having had his talk out went away.
“I can easily give him a thousand dollars to pay him for the trouble he has taken,” said Leon.
“But you must remember that you haven’t got the money yet,” said his father.
“Oh, I know I shall have some trouble in getting it,” said Leon, while that firm expression settled about his mouth. “When this trouble is over that fellow is going to camp on the place, and just as likely as not he will shoot down everybody who goes anywhere near the money.”
“Leon, I am afraid to have you go there,” said Mrs. Sprague.
“But think of the money! I tell you that will set us up. Then I can get an education. That’s one thing I will never have if I stay down here.”
The matter was settled for the time being by Mrs. Sprague’s putting the will into her bosom and pinning it fast; then Leon went out and mingled with his fellow-refugees. But his feelings were very different from those which he had experienced when he followed his father into the lean-to. When he came to think of what the will bequeathed him it fairly took his breath away. It would get them a little home somewhere, his mother would be obliged to do no more work, and, better than all, he would have money enough left to send him to school.
“Well, Leon, you seem to be particularly happy, and so am I,” said Mr. Giddings, as he took his seat near the door of his lean-to, pulled off his hat and wiped the big drops of perspiration from his forehead. “Or rather, I should be happy if my brothers were out of prison. I expect they have been executed by this time.”
“If I thought that, it would make me shoot to kill,” said Leon.
“Oh, won’t I, when I get the chance!” replied Mr. Giddings, with so much excitement that Leon was glad he was not a rebel. “I am waiting for the colonel to say the word and get me down there where I will have full swing at them, and then every one that I pull on goes up. I tell you, you don’t know anything about rebellion down here.”
This started Mr. Giddings on his favorite subject of conversation, and Leon sat there and listened to him until they were called to supper.
But two adventures remain to be told regarding Leon Sprague’s life as a Jones county Confederate soldier. One was the first real fight in which he bore a part, though to tell the truth he didn’t remember much about it, and the other the exploit he went through in getting the money that had been bequeathed to him.
It took one hundred men to guard the island, and although there was no necessity for having this number of men out, the colonel thought it best to be on the safe side. He selected the men, posted them himself, and sat up nearly all night to make sure that they were doing their duty. At the first peep of day the men were all aroused, and, having had breakfast, were getting ready to march down to the hotel. How Leon’s eyes opened when he saw the men all in line after they had got across the stream! His father said that there were at least three thousand of them – enough to whip four times their number of rebels, if they were brought against them. They were going back to the hotel because it was the first point that the rebels would strike in Jones county; and, more than that, they had things very neatly fixed there for the reception of any body of men who might be brought against them. A long line of breastworks extended across the edge of the woods, one side being flanked by a deep swamp and the other by the river, so it was impossible to get behind them. They calculated to whip the men right there. If they didn’t, the island would be their next halting place. The women had congregated on the edge of the island to see them off, and after giving them a hearty cheer to ease their hearts when they were away, the cavalcade set out on its journey.
“Now bring on your rebs!” said Dawson.
Nearly two-thirds of the men were on horseback. They had attempted to form column of fours as nearly as they could, and aided by some old soldiers, of whom there were a goodly number in the ranks, they managed to hit the right number at last, and before the brigade had marched a mile it was going along as orderly as any old body of cavalrymen could have exhibited. Leon was riding in the first four in company with Mr. Giddings, Dawson and Tom Howe, and he was as lively and jolly as could be. He looked all around, but he couldn’t see either Smith or Coleman. But, in spite of the fact that there were men enough to protect him, he wished that Smith was out of the way.
“I declare, it is always so,” soliloquized Leon. “When you get everything going just as you want it to, there is always somebody to step in and knock the thing into a cocked hat. Smith won’t get the money, and he might as well give up trying.”
“Bring on your rebs, I say,” repeated Dawson, raising his carbine and looking all around. “We’re ready for a fight!”
“You may sing a different tune from that,” said Mr. Giddings.
“I know I may, but I hope not,” said Dawson. “I want to keep up long enough to pay the rebels for burning our house.”
It was three o’clock when they arrived within sight of Ellisville, and then Mr. Dawson, who had been riding all the way with Mr. Sprague, took command. Under his supervision the Union men were all posted behind the breastworks, and each one knew where he belonged. His camp was right where he halted, and all the men had to do was to throw off their arms, picket their horses and wait for dinner and supper, which were to be served together. If there was anything to which Leon objected it was to being held down with a firm hand. He wanted to go with his father, for by doing that he knew that he would be in a fair way to learn all the news that happened within the borders of the Jones-County Confederacy, as well as some things that occurred outside of it; so he climbed the breastworks and went down to the porch of the hotel, where he found all the chief men of the county gathered and holding a consultation with his father.
“I thought it best to burn the bridge, and move our pickets up nearer headquarters, for it would put the rebels to some trouble to swim their horses over the creek,” Mr. Knight was saying to his father when he came up. “If we only had our breastworks built nearer the creek we could whip them before they ever got across.”
“I think that is the best way, and I wondered long ago that you didn’t think of it before,” said Mr. Sprague. “Halloo! there is something coming, down there. And what’s that waving over them? It is a white flag, as sure as I live! Knight, you are getting to be a big man when the enemy comes to consult you in that way.”
“I declare, I believe that’s what it is!” said Mr. Knight, after he and the other chief men of the party had taken a good view of it. “Now, we don’t want them to see how many men we have got, and I want you to order them all into the breastworks out of sight. Tell them that we will describe the whole thing to them after the rebels go away.”
The chief men went off at once to obey the order, and by time the two Confederates got up to the hotel porch there wasn’t more than a half-dozen of them in sight – just enough to act as body-guard for the President. There were two rebels in the party, and with them were four pickets whom they had picked up after they had swam their horses across the creek.
“Here’s a couple of gentlemen who want to see the President,” said one of the pickets. “They have come to us with General Lowery’s compliments and want us to surrender.”
“Well, I guess they can take General Lowery’s compliments back to him and say we didn’t come out here to surrender,” said Mr. Knight.
“I want to see – are you the President?” asked one of the rebels, opening his eyes in surprise.
“I have that honor,” replied Mr. Knight.
The rebels looked at him in profound astonishment. If any of the other men standing around had said that he was the President of the Jones-County Confederacy, they might have believed it; but for this man, who stood there with his coat off, his hands in his pockets and his hat perched on the back of his head – for him to say that he was the head and front of that rebellion, was almost too much. The rebels looked at him, and then they looked at the men standing around. There didn’t seem to be but a few of them, and perhaps it was not going to be much to whip them, after all.
“General Lowery wants you to surrender at once,” said the rebel, who had grown bolder since he looked around.
“You have my answer, sir,” said Mr. Knight.
“If you surrender, we will let the privates off if they will enlist in the army,” said the colonel, for Leon made out that that was his rank. “But the chief men of the party will have to go under arrest and be tried for treason.”
“That’s very kind of General Lowery, but somehow we are not ready to be tried yet. We won’t surrender.”
“Why, my goodness, my friend, there won’t be a living man of you left by this time to-morrow. How many men have you got here, anyway?”
“About five thousand.”
“Why, I don’t see anybody.”
“Of course you don’t; but if you bring your four thousand four hundred men up here – ”
“Have you had spies out?” asked the rebel, more surprised than ever.
“We know how many men you have, and we know that we outnumber them,” said Mr. Knight.
“Then, of course, you won’t surrender if you have that number of men. Then we may as well go back.”
“I think it would be as well. We are bound to kill and capture some of the men you bring against us, and to-morrow we’ll send them inside of your lines with their paroles.”
“Yes? Well, their paroles won’t amount to a row of pins.”
“I think they will. If we capture any of the men without being exchanged we’ll hang them to the nearest tree. Good-morning, sir.”
It was right on the rebel’s tongue to tell Mr. Knight to look out or he would get hung himself, but he didn’t say it. After looking all around to make sure that there were no Union men in sight he wheeled his horse and rode off, accompanied by the pickets. No sooner were they out of sight around the first bend than the men began to pour out of their breastworks, and in five minutes more the hotel grounds in front of the porch were just black with an eager, excited crowd, all anxious to hear what the rebels had to say. Mr. Sprague took the part of spokesman, and when he told them what the Confederates had said about there not being one Union man left alive by this time to-morrow, the announcement was received with whoops and yells.
“Let them bring their men on!” shouted Bud McCoy. “We are all ready for them.”
“You must remember that the demand for a surrender comes before a fight,” said Mr. Sprague. “They may be up here in an hour, and I think I had better send some men down there to reinforce those pickets.”
“I’ll go for one,” and “I’ll go for another,” were the exclamations that arose from the crowd, and in less time than it takes to tell it five hundred men were all mounted and armed, and rode up to the porch to listen to their final instructions from Mr. Knight. Leon wanted to go, too, but a positive shake of the head from his father told him that that thing wouldn’t do at all.
“You will get fighting enough if you stay right here,” said Mr. Sprague. “You do your duty here under my eye and that is all I shall ask of you.”
“Make as good a fight as you can, boys,” said Mr. Knight. “Only, don’t let them get behind you. Be sure and retreat while you have the chance.”
The reinforcements rode on down the road with Mr. Dawson in command, and as soon as they were out of sight a silence fell upon the men they had left behind. All were listening for the first report of a carbine or rifle that should announce the opening of the battle. One hour passed, and then two, and just as darkness came down to conceal the movements of the rebels the long-wished-for report came. It was followed by a moment’s silence, and then it seemed as if a hurricane was going through the woods. The Confederates had deployed their line until it reached the woods, where it was lost to view, and in that manner charged across the stream and through the timber. But where were the Union men who were to oppose them? For three miles they went through the woods, and then all of a sudden the opposition came when they least expected it. It was the report of a carbine in the hands of young Dawson, and the nearest colonel threw up his arms and fell from his horse. A moment afterward the woods were fairly aflame in advance of them. Scarcely a yell was heard, for the Union men fought as though they had life and liberty at stake.
“Fire low, boys,” said Mr. Dawson, as he loaded up for another shot. “If you strike a man in the legs it will take two to carry him off.”
The Union men fired three times before they thought of retreat, and the middle of the line was not only thrown into confusion, but it was annihilated, so that their officers could not get anybody to charge upon their concealed enemy; but the wings were all right – they were stretched out so far in the woods that they could easily wrap around the Union men and capture them all – and they hastily got on their horses and beat a quick retreat. The company that came along the road was badly cut up. They were marching in column of fours, and it was their intention, after they got the Union men in full flight, to follow them in, and they would go with such rapidity that they would take the breastworks at once. But after the smoke had cleared away there wasn’t more than a dozen men left. The riders had been shot down, and the horses, having no one to control them, were running frantically about, trampling the dead and dying under their feet.
“That’s pretty well done for the first time,” said Mr. Dawson, when he had made up his mind that all of his battalion were in the road. The rest were in the woods, and could easily fight their way to Ellisville. “Now, boys, give them as good as they send.”
The retreat to Ellisville was accomplished in short order, and when the rebels broke from the woods and uttered their charging yell they couldn’t see a single man. They were all behind their breastworks.ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
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