A Rebellion in Dixie
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Leon mounted his horse and started on a lope after his father, but when he came up with him he found him surrounded by a lot of men and boys who were talking loudly of the secession resolutions, finding no end of fault with the Confederate Government, and praising the Union.
“They won’t get me, no matter which way they turn,” said one of the men, who lived away off in the swamp. “I live two miles from everybody, and right there is where the fight is going to take place. The river in front of my house is so narrow that you can throw a stone across it anywhere, and for a mile above and below the house it spreads out into a swamp that they couldn’t get across to save their necks.”
“So you really think there is going to be a fight, do you?” inquired Mr. Sprague.
“Oh, sure. It’s just as that enrolling officer said. The Confederates ain’t a-going to leave us to be the black sheep in the flock. We are going to see some fun before we get through with this.”
That was the opinion of all the men, and they concluded, too, that the best place to hold the fight would be right there in front of this man’s house. “But I’ll tell you what’s a fact,” said Giddings, “you will have to look out for your wife and children. The rebels will make short work of them if they get hold of them.”
“The swamp is big,” said the man. “If they get out in there I will risk the rebels getting hold of them.”
Then men and boys dropped off one after the other when they came to the cross-roads that led to their homes, and by the time Mr. Sprague reached his home there were but few men besides Giddings left. The latter got off his horse at the gate and went in to take a view of the cabin in which Mr. Sprague told him he could live until the trouble was all over, and he straightway came to the conclusion that it was a much better house than the one he now occupied.
“You see there was nobody there to tell me that I could go into that house or I could stay out of it,” said Giddings. “It wasn’t occupied, and so I went into it, and sometimes when it rains you might just as well be outside. If it suits you, I will come here to-morrow.”
Mr. Sprague told him that the sooner he came the better; but Giddings declined an invitation to supper, because he knew his wife was waiting for him, so he got on his horse and rode off.
“It kinder runs in my mind that that man Giddings will be a good fellow to tie to,” said Mr. Sprague, as he drew his chair up to the table. “There’s no end to the way he hates the rebels, and it’s my opinion that when he shoots at them he will shoot to kill.”
“But do you really think there is going to be a fight?” inquired his wife. She asked this in a very indifferent manner, as if she did not care whether it came or not. She had got used to thinking of such things.
Mr. Sprague, by way of reply, told her all about the convention, and described to her the visit of the enrolling officers who had come up there to enlist men for the Confederate army.
“Did they get any?” inquired Mrs.Sprague.
“Not much. There were a thousand men there under arms, and that is rather more than two men want to handle. They know all about our plans, for Knight showed them the resolutions. Of course, they are going back to their headquarters, and are going to make a fuss about it.”
“I tell you it won’t be long now before we shall see some Confederate soldiers up here, and I wonder if I dare shoot at any of them?” said Leon. “If they will let me alone I believe I’ll let them alone.”
“How about those rebels that we are going to drive away from here to-morrow?” asked his father. “I think I have heard you say something pretty rough against Carl Swayne.”
“Well, that’s a different matter. Carl won’t let me alone, and I am determined that hereafter I am going to live in peace. He told Tom Howe that he wished he had been jammed up in that log heap, and I don’t like to have people talk that way.”
Early the next morning Mr. Sprague’s family were up and stirring. Leon was surprised when he looked at his father. There was a determined expression on his face, and the boy became aware that he was about to engage in an enterprise that promised at some future time to bring him no end of trouble. Leon took his cue from it, and from that time he was not so joyous as he had been. He took his revolver out, shot it at a mark, and then proceeded to load it very carefully. There was only a man and a boy and two women in the family he intended to send out of the county, and Leon could not understand that determined look on his father’s face. When he sat down at the breakfast-table he asked him about it.
“Father, you seem to think you are going to have a handful in sending that Swayne family away from among their friends,” said he. “What do you look for?”
“I don’t look for anything now,” said Mr. Sprague. “There will be a time when they will come back. Old man Swayne is a fighter, and it will stand us well in hand to get rid of him entirely.”
The conversation was dropped there, and they ate breakfast in silence. Before it was fairly ended the five men on whom Mr. Sprague was depending to assist him stepped up on the porch and came into the house. They were all invited to sit down and take another breakfast, but all declined, having broken their fast several hours before.
“You see, Mrs. Sprague, we got an order from the Secretary of War, and we’ve got to be on hand,” said one of the men. “It would not do to go back on anything he tells us.”
“I don’t know what they put me in for that office for,” said Mr. Sprague. “I don’t see that I have got anything to do.”
“Well, wait until it comes to fighting, and then you will find plenty to do. Now if you are all ready we’ll go on,” said the man, forgetting that he was giving orders to his superior officer. “We can’t get rid of that Swayne family any too quick. They’re all the time boasting and bragging of what they intend to do, and now we will give them a chance.”
Leon found opportunity to kiss his mother good-bye, and when he went out on the porch, where Tom Howe was sitting and waiting for him, they fell in behind the men, who shouldered their rifles and marched at a brisk pace toward Mr. Swayne’s house. There was no attempt at military movement, for there was not one in the party who knew anything about it, but they went ahead just as if they were going hog-hunting in the woods. In due time they came to a cross-roads which led down to Swayne’s house, and here they stopped, for there was something that drew their attention and angered them not a little. Before they left Ellisville, on the day of the convention, Mr. Knight had given several copies of the resolutions to men living in different parts of the county, with the request that they should nail them up on trees (there was no printing-press in the county), in order to give those who were not there timely notice of what they had done. The man who served this notice performed his duty, for the tacks were in the tree plain enough, but it hadn’t been able to do much good. The notice had been torn down and the pieces scattered about on the ground.
“Well, I do think in my soul!” began one of the men, “he wasn’t going to let anybody see it, was he?”
“Look here,” exclaimed Leon, who had grown wonderfully sharp sighted of late; “I know who did it. It was that miserable Carl Swayne. Do you not see his footprints here in the dust?”
“That’s so. Now what shall we do with him? Sprague, you are Secretary of War, and you ought to be able to say what shall be done with him. Knight never thought yesterday, when he gave out those resolutions, that somebody would go to work and pull them down.”
Meanwhile Leon had been busy gathering up the torn fragments of the resolution that were scattered around. When he got them together he compared them and saw they were all there.
“I’ll fix him,” said he. “And I’ll make him so sorry that he ever tore this down that he’ll go by a resolution the next time he sees it.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I’ll make him write it over again and come here and put it up,” said Leon, savagely.
“That’s the idea,” said Tom Howe. “He pulled it down, and of course he must put it up. I’ll be close at your heels when you are doing it.”
Mr. Sprague said nothing, but Leon noticed that the look on his face got deeper than ever. He led the way at increased speed toward Swayne’s house, and in a few minutes turned through the carriageway and saw Mr. Swayne and his nephew, Carl, sitting on the front porch. They evidently grew alarmed at seeing them, for they arose from their chairs and held on to the backs of them.
“Good morning,” said Swayne, and his voice trembled and his hand shook as he hauled up some chairs for them to seat themselves. “I did not expect to see so many of you here this fine morning.”
“We have no time to sit down,” said Mr. Sprague, who was supposed to do all the talking. “You are a rebel, are you not?”
“Well – yes; that is it depends on what you call a rebel,” said Mr. Swayne, trying to laugh at his own wit. “I am opposed to your trying to take this county out of the State; because why – ”
“So I supposed. We have come here to tell you that you can pack up and leave this county as soon as you please. We don’t want to hear any argument about it.”
“Why – why, where shall I go to?” exclaimed Swayne, while the boy turned whiter than ever. “If I leave here, I leave everything I have got behind me.”
“We will give you an hour to pack up things. If you are in the house at the end of that time, we shall set fire to it.”
“Well, now, see here,” said Swayne, who grew more frightened than ever; “I can’t pack up in an hour – ”
“I have told you just what I intend to do,” said Mr. Sprague, consulting his watch. “It is now ten o’clock. If you are in here at eleven we shall set the house going. If you are out of it in that time, why, we’ll save it. You want to make up your mind in a hurry.”
“Of all the brazen-faced fellows I ever saw you are the beat,” said Swayne, his fear giving place to anger. “I wish I had half a dozen Confederate soldiers here to protect me.”
“By gum! We’ll set the house a-going before you get out of it,” said one of Mr. Sprague’s men. “You ain’t a-going to talk to us like that.”
“One moment, Bud. We’ll sit down here on the porch until he gets through being mad, and then maybe he’ll pack up. You had better go, Swayne, for as sure as we are sitting on this porch, so sure will we set fire to it.”
In the meantime Leon and Tom had stood close together, and as Carl flounced into the house after his uncle, the two bounded up the steps and went up to the frightened boy.
“A word in your ear,” said Leon.
“Well, I don’t want anything to do with you,” said Carl, almost ready to cry when he found himself driven away from his home. “A man who will do as you have done has no business with a white person.”
“One moment,” said Leon, while Tom cocked his gun and brought it to bear on Carl’s head. “That brings you to your senses, don’t it? Here’s a resolution of secession that my father got up yesterday, and which was left on a tree down here, and I found it torn up and strewn on the ground. Did you have a hand in it?”
“Say, Tom, I want you to turn that gun the other way,” said Carl, who dared not move for fear that the rifle would still be pointed at him.
“Did you have a hand in it?” repeated Leon.
“Yes, I did,” said Carl, who, remembering that his uncle had got off easy by showing some grit, now resolved to show a little himself. “I will tear up every one you put there.”
“Well, I want you to go into the house and bring out some writing materials, and sit down at this table here on the porch and draw up a full copy of this resolution,” said Leon; and Carl had never heard him speak so before. As he spoke he drew a revolver from his pocket.
“I can’t write as well as that,” stammered Carl, who saw that he had got to do something very soon. “I wish you would put that revolver away. You don’t know how it worries me to have those things in sight.”
“You can write well enough. Go and get the pen and ink. And mind you, you want to be out here in short order, or we will be in there after you.”
Carl hurried into the house, while Tom uncocked his gun and leaned upon it, and Leon put his revolver into his pocket. They didn’t think they would have any more use for them. Carl went at once to the room in which his aunt was busy packing up some of her clothes, and the face he brought with him was enough to attract anybody’s attention.
“Well, Carl, this is pretty rough, ain’t it?” said his uncle, who was engaged in getting some of his own things together.
“I should say it was,” whimpered Carl. “Are you not going to be revenged on these fellows?”
“We’ll be revenged on them so quick that they won’t know it,” said his aunt, in a husky voice. She didn’t cry, but her hands trembled and her face was very white.
“Where are your writing materials, aunt? That little Leon Sprague is going to make me write out those resolutions I tore down. I wish, with uncle, that we had some half a dozen Confederate soldiers here. Wouldn’t we make a scattering among them?”
“Carl, you can’t have those writing materials,” said his aunt, who was struck motionless with surprise. “Tell him that we haven’t got any in the house. The young jackanapes! Where’s your rifle, that you don’t use it? I wish I were a man for about twenty minutes. There wouldn’t be so many of them as there are now.”
“But, aunt, they have got fire-arms, and they pulled them on me,” said Carl. “If I don’t get them out there very soon they will come after me.”
“You will find them in the top bureau drawer,” said his aunt, who began to think it was necessary to show a little speed. “Wait until I get my things all together and get out there, I will give them a piece of my mind.”
“Now, Lydia, you want to be mighty careful what you say out there,” said her husband. “They have got weapons, and they had just as soon use them as not. It is a pretty piece of business, this allowing strangers to drive us away from our home, but I tell you we’ll have revenge for it sooner or later. Pack up all your things in a hurry, for we have an hour left us in which to save our home.”
Carl, seeing that his uncle had no way to propose for him to get out of making a copy of that secession resolution, hunted up the writing materials as soon as he could, and went out on the porch with them. He found Leon and Tom there, and they were getting impatient.
“Look here,” said the former, “if you want to help your uncle get his things together you will move a little spryer than that. Now, sit down at this table and make out a full copy of this paper, just as it was when you pulled it down.”
“I’ll bet you won’t always have things all your own way,” said Carl, as he seated himself and removed the stopper from the ink-bottle. “You don’t suppose we’ll come back, do you?”
“I suppose you will, and that you will have men with you,” said Leon. “But you must bring all of two thousand men to put this rebellion down. Don’t let’s have any more talk. Go on and write out that paper.”
“And remember, it’s got to be the same as it was there,” said Tom, when he saw Carl arrange the pieces without reference to what came after them. “If you don’t, you will have to write it over again.”
While Carl was busy with his copying his uncle and aunt came out on the porch. They didn’t say a word, but brought with them a large bundle of clothing that they wanted to save. Aunt Lydia showed that she would have annihilated Mr. Sprague if she could, for the glance she cast upon him was full of hate. Mr. Swayne then took a horn down from a nail under the porch and blew two long blasts upon it. That was a signal to let the field-hands know that they were wanted. Presently the field-hands came up, a half a dozen of them, and although they may have been very smart negroes, the clothing which they wore did not proclaim the fact. There was hardly a piece of cloth on them that wasn’t patched until it was almost ready to drop off their persons. They looked on in surprise when they saw so many Union men there (they used to say that the darkies were rather blunt in such matters, and that they didn’t know who the Union men were), and saw the piles of clothing that had been brought out, but the first words their master spoke to them cleared everything up.
“We’ve got to go away from home now, or these men are going to burn it,” said Mr. Swayne. “Hitch those mules to the lumber-wagons and bring them up here. Be in a hurry, now, for we have no time to waste.”
The darkies rolled their eyes in great astonishment, and then went about their work with alacrity. In a few minutes the wagons were driven up to the door, and the darkies began to pile in the clothes. While Mr. Sprague was watching them he became aware that somebody was trying to attract his attention. A pebble thrown by a friendly hand hit him on the shoulder. He faced about, and saw one of the darkies behind the house. When he saw Mr. Sprague looking at him he beckoned to him to come where he was.