A Rebellion in Dixie
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УI tell you we gave it to them down there in the woods,Ф said Dawson, as he rode along behind the breastworks until he found Leon and Tom. УYou ought to have been along. I reckon I have paid the rebels for burning our house. I lifted one officer out of his saddle as clean as a whistle.Ф
УDid you kill him?Ф asked Leon.
УWell, I reckon so. He threw his arms above his head, and that is a pretty good sign that he was done for.Ф
УDid you hear any bullets come near you?Ф inquired Leon, who shuddered when he thought how coolly Dawson could talk of shooting another in cold blood.
УYes, sir, I heard them; but the rebels fired too high. I saw one man clap his hand to his mouth and say СOh!Т but I didnТt see who it was. There they come!Ф said Dawson, grasping his carbine with a firmer hold and creeping up to an opening in the breastworks. УNow, Leon, show what you are made of.Ф
УIt is certain death to send those fellows up here!Ф said Leon. УI wish I could warn them away.Ф
УHaw! haw!Ф laughed Dawson. УThey know what is behind here better than we can tell them. If they donТt, they will soon find it out.Ф
Mr. Sprague stood a little ways from Leon with his rifle in his hand. He had charge of the brigade now, and it was his duty to give the order to fire. Nearer and nearer came the rebels, yelling like so many mad men, but the report of Mr. SpragueТs gun couldnТt be heard. As soon as the men saw him raise his piece to his shoulder they all fired, and the way the rebels went down before it was certain proof that their bullets had not all been thrown away. But these men were not to be defeated by one volley. They kept on until they reached the breastworks, and then they found that they were too high to be scaled by their horses. The Union men on the other side reached over and fired their guns in their faces, until the Confederates could stand it no longer. They turned their horses and fled, and did not stop until they were safe in the woods, from which they had just emerged.
УLong live the Jones-County Confederacy!Ф shouted some one in the ranks; and the shout was taken up by all the men in the line.
УLetТs go after them!Ф said another. УWe can easy whip them.Ф
УNo, stay where you are,Ф said Mr. Sprague, who got his instructions from Mr. Knight. УWe can whip them here, but if we should get out of line of the breastworks they might prove too much for us.Ф
It was the occasion of no little difficulty for the Confederate officers to rally their men, and the trouble was that those who belonged to the right and left wings reported that it was impossible to flank the Union position. Those on the right said that there was a swamp in which many men had been killed in their efforts to get around it, and the men who belonged on the left reported that there was the river there, and that any attempt to get by it would be useless. General Lowery began to see that the Union men were not to be easily whipped, but he used all his eloquence and authority to induce them to make an effort to carry the centre of the line.He dismounted some of his men with instructions to go and throw down the breastworks, and the rebel cavalry was to be close behind them and go in at the openings they had made. This was the plan that General Lee decided on when he made the attempt to split GrantТs lines by his assault on Fort Steadman. He had half his army in that exploit, but his effort ended just as General LoweryТs did to split the Union lines here. The second attempt was grandly made, and the fight lasted a little longer than it did at first; but the dismounted men were quickly picked off, the cavalry began dropping here and there, and finally, without a word from anybody, they all took to their heels. This time there was nothing said about pursuit, for the Union men had their blood up, and nobody could have controlled them. By the time the rebels were in the woods the Union men had mounted their horses and started after them. Leon was in this exploit, and his father did not tell him to stay behind. He didnТt find any Confederates on the way, but he assisted in making some noise, so he did just as much as anybody.
This was the last attempt that was made to break up the Jones-county Confederacy. The rebels saw that the Union men were in earnest and they gave it up as a bad job. A week afterward a big wagon-train was captured and taken to their place of refuge on the island, and after that the Union men breathed a good deal easier. They were going to have grub enough to support them, no matter what happened. About this time, too, some more men began to come in, and Leon saw the army grow from one thousand men to more than twenty thousand. Of course with such an army as that the Confederates wouldnТt try to whip them. They minded their own business, going out whenever they thought that their provisions were getting low, and picking up wagon-trains and taking them where they would do the most good. Of course, too, these parties when they went out always captured some papers, which were read until they almost crumbled to pieces. When the rebels were defeated at Vicksburg and Gettysburg the Union men drew a long breath of relief, for they thought that the war was almost ended and that they could go home; but there were some severe battles to be fought before their flag could wave over the entire country. One day, long months after this, when Leon had got so tired of being a soldier that he wished that the Confederacy would sink or do something else that would wipe it out of existence, he was out with a party of skirmishers, when they ran plump onto a rebel soldier who had a gun on his shoulder, and acted as though he was going somewhere. In an instant Bud McCoyТs pistol was aimed at his breast.
УPut up your revolver, young man!Ф said the rebel, who did not seem at all abashed by finding himself in the company of Union men. УYou belong down in Jones county, donТt you? Well, I want to say that you are behind the times. General Lee has surrendered!Ф
Bud and the rest were so astonished that they could not say a word.
УItТs a fact,Ф continued the rebel. УI wasnТt there, because I was in our Western army, but I heard of it, and more than five thousand of us escaped that night. The Confederacy has gone up!Ф
УI tell you I am glad of it,Ф replied Leon. УWhy didnТt you surrender when you got whipped at Gettysburg?Ф
УA good many men said it ought to have been done,Ф answered the rebel, Уbut I wasnТt at the head of affairs. You had better let me go, for I want to reach home and see my wife. I havenТt seen her since I went into the service.Ф
The foragers were only too glad to let him go. They would have passed anybody who brought such news as that; and, furthermore, they wheeled their horses and went back to Ellisville with much more speed than they had shown in coming out. There was joy on the island when they told what the rebel had said to them, and some of the men fired off their guns in ecstacy; but Mr. Knight said that the rebels had so long been accustomed to lying that they didnТt know when they spoke the truth, and suggested that it would be better for them if they sent a couple of men down to Mobile to see what was going on there. Any number of men offered themselves, but two were promptly sent, and while they were gone the refugees hardly knew what to do with themselves. In due time the men came back, and, better than all, they swung a paper over their heads.
УItТs a Yankee paper, and now weТll get at the truth of the matter,Ф said one of the messengers. УYes, sir, Lee has surrendered; that whole army has surrendered, and the fortifications down at Mobile are just black with Yankees!Ф
Cheers long and loud rent the air at this announcement, so that it was a long time before Mr. Sprague could read what the paper said in regard to LeeТs surrender. When he read it, the cheers once more broke out afresh.
УThey said that we couldnТt take this county out of the Confederacy,Ф said Mr. Knight. УI reckon weТve done something that nobody else could do.Ф
A day or two after this, companies of Union cavalry began scouting about Mobile to see if they could find any rebels, and some of them presented themselves before Mr. Knight. The officer listened in amazement while he was told the story, and when Mr. Knight had got through he laughed until he could hardly sit on his horse. The Union men all laughed, too; and, taken all together, it was a jolly party Ц very different from what they felt while they were resisting the cavalry that tried so hard to overpower them. The officer told them that they could go home, that the war was ended, and that they would never be called upon to fight for the flag again.
After that there was a good deal of excitement in and around Ellisville, for the refugees were making efforts to go home. The bridge over the bayou that had been burned to keep the rebels from getting across so easily was rebuilt, and after that Leon and his father had their hands full in saying good-bye to the Union men, who wished them every success in life. Then they went home and went to work, getting their ground ready to plant a supply of cotton, glad indeed to handle a plow once more instead of a rifle. Their object was to throw Smith off the scent. They had seen him a few times during the last few months, but he had nothing to say to them; but the sequel proved that he knew what he was talking about when he threatened to camp on his cousinТs place and shoot the man or boy who came there for the money. He lived in Mr. SmithТs house, for the rebels had not had time to set the buildings on fire; but it was close to the pig-pen, so it would be next to impossible for them to go there and dig for what was hidden in it, and every day he rode over the plantation, to make sure that the Spragues had not dug in some other place. Mr. Sprague kept close watch of his movements, and one day announced to Leon his plan of action.
УWe will go there and hunt for that money to-night,Ф said he. УBut, mind you, we wonТt dig where it is. We will go down into the lower part of the plantation and dig there, and when we come away weТll leave a shovel there. How will that do? He will be sure to see the shovel, and at night he will watch that place and leave the pig-pen free for us.Ф
Leon didnТt see that anything else could be done, so he readily fell in with his fatherТs proposal. When night came they set out, and selecting a place where some brush had been thrown to get it out of the way, they threw it aside, and in a few minutes had a hole dug there that was six feet deep. Then they placed a shovel in a conspicuous position and went home, wondering what was to be the result of Mr. SpragueТs new scheme. They were not long in finding out. The next day about ten oТclock Leonard Smith rode by on his horse, and, seeing the father and son employed in plowing the field, stopped and had a word to say to them.
УYou didnТt get the money last night, did you?Ф he asked, while his face was white with fury. УI know where it is now, and I will give you fair warning that if either of you go there again I will shoot you.Ф
Mr. Sprague made no reply, and Smith rode off. When night came they set out again Ц only, this time they went on horseback, and told Mrs. Sprague that if she heard them going by some time during the night Ц she must pack up the next day and go to Mobile. Mr. Sprague and Leon were armed, of course. They went up the road until they came to Mr. SmithТs gate, and there Mr. Sprague left Leon while he went ahead to reconnoitre. He was gone half an hour, and when he came back his words were full of news.
УThereТs nobody about the house,Ф said he, and one wouldnТt think that he had a hundred thousand dollars at stake. УNow, we must go quickly. Stay by the horsesТ heads, so that they wonТt call out. I will do the digging.Ф
With a heart that beat like a trip-hammer Leon dismounted, passed the shovel over to his father, and followed along after him when he led the way toward the pig-pen. The house was all dark, and it didnТt look as though anybody lived there, but Leon couldnТt help drawing a long breath when he thought of the unerring rifle that was hidden somewhere about. His father got into the pen and pried up the boards, and he did it without causing anything to creak. Then by putting down his shovel in various positions he found where the earth had been disturbed, and then he went to work. Never had he worked so hard before, but it seemed an age to Leon, as he stood there holding fast to the horses. At length, to his great relief, his father seized something and held it over the side of the pen.
УLeon,Ф he exclaimed, УhereТs one of them!Ф
How heavy it was! But just as Leon was going to take it he heard the sound of horsesТ hoofs up Mr. SmithТs lane. His horses heard it, too, and raised their heads to see what was coming.
УFather, father, they are coming back!Ф he faltered. УCanТt you find the other one?Ф
УYes, here it is. Now, you get on your horse and ride for dear life and I will stay behind. I will keep them from overtaking you.Ф
Leon was on his horse in a moment, the other valise was passed up to him, and in another second he was flying down the road. Mr. Sprague was close behind him, but before they had gone far they heard some muttered ejaculations from the horsemen, followed by the command:
УI declare, there is that Sprague. Halt! I say halt!Ф
But Leon and his father were not given to halting. Their horses went faster than ever, and by the time Smith Ц for he was one of the party Ц had lingered to look at the pig-pen, they were far out of sight. Then followed a volley from their carbines Ц not one or two of them Ц but from a dozen which proved that Smith had found more than one man to assist him. But all the balls went high or wild, and Mr. Sprague and Leon got safely off. They crossed the bridge, travelled rapidly along the road that led to Mobile, and by ten oТclock the next day had the money safely in the bank. On the next day but one Mrs. Sprague came along. She told a pretty thrilling story about what had happened to her since Mr. Sprague left. Smith was so mad to think they had got away with the money that he burned her house over her head, and did not even leave her a negro cabin to go in to.
The hidden fortune safe at last.
Here we will leave Leon Sprague, only stating that he came on to Clayton, where Mr. Sprague had some friends, who gave him a cordial welcome. They purchased a neat little house which had been deserted by its owner during the war, and as they now lived there six years it began to look very home-like. He made the acquaintance of Bob Nellis almost as soon as he got into town, through him learned of the academy at which the latter was preparing for college, and went with him and entered his name on the books when he went there next term. Of course he was in the lowest class, but he studied his books night and day, and the result was very soon apparent. In two years he was up with boys of his own age.
We said that Joe Lufkin had not forgotten the raid he was going to make on that watering place the time he talked of stealing all the jewels. He made it, and perhaps we shall see what came of it. His son Hank got a boat about this time; and what he did with it, and how it took Joe Lufkin almost two hundred miles to sea, shall be told in УThe Cruise of the Ten-Ton Cutter.Ф
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