A Rebellion in Dixie
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The two boys referred to stood patiently by until the resolutions were complete; then Tom took his copy and Leon fastened his eyes upon the torn manuscript and waited for him to read it. It was all correct; there wasn’t a mistake in it.
“You write a pretty good hand for a boy who hasn’t been to school more than you have,” said Leon.
“Keep your compliments for them that need them,” said Carl, snappishly. “I don’t care to hear them.”
“You haven’t got through with this business yet,” said Leon, in a voice which he meant should carry conviction with it. “You found this resolution on a tree, and you tore it down so that people couldn’t see it. I intend that you shall go back and post this thing up there.”
“But you told me I should have to help my uncle carry out his things,” said Carl, anxious to shirk all the responsibility he could.
“Oh, we’ll wait until you carry out your things,” said Leon, with a smile. “You are going right by the tree, and it won’t hurt you at all to stop and nail this thing up.”
Carl gathered up the pen and ink and disappeared in the house, and Leon and Tom went down the steps to join the men who were sitting there.
“I got it, but I had hard work in getting it, too,” said Leon. “How much longer time has he got?”
“Not quite fifteen minutes,” said Mr. Sprague.
“And I see he is hustling things more lively than he did. You won’t start the fire when the quarter of an hour is up, seeing that he is doing the best he can to get them out?”
“Oh, no. I wanted to see him get to work, that is all.”
At the end of half an hour the furniture and clothes they intended to take with them had been loaded on the wagons, and then the women began to slam the blinds and fasten them securely. When Mr. Swayne came out on the porch he locked that door and put the key into his pocket.
“We have got some things in there yet, but we don’t want these traitors to have them,” said his wife, in a tone which was intended very plainly for the ears of Mr. Sprague and his friends. “Let them go somewhere else and steal somebody else poor.”
Mr. Swayne did not pay any attention to it. He buttoned up the key in his pocket, and looked all around as if he were searching for someone. At last he called out:
“Cuff! Where is that lazy nigger Cuff? Come here this minute, or I will stripe your jacket till you can’t rest.”
Mr. Sprague was surprised. He thought it very likely that he could tell Mr. Swayne what had become of the negro Cuff. He had been sent with all his companions to the quarters to bring some clothes and other things they wanted to save, and he hadn’t showed up since. It would be very easy for them to slip through the cornfield, and so into the woods, and that was right where Cuff was when his master was calling him.
“Carl, suppose you run down to the quarters and hurry them up,” said his uncle. “We want to get away from here as soon as we can. There’s too many Union people here.”
The man who had threatened to burn the house before they got out of it was sitting on the steps a little way from Mr.Sprague. He wiggled and twisted and wanted to say something in return, but there was his superior officer who didn’t say anything, and he thought he would hold in for a better opportunity. Carl was away about fifteen minutes, and when he came back his face bore evidence that he was utterly confounded.
“There ain’t a nigger about the quarters,” said he. “Their clothes, both bedding and wearing apparel, are gone, and that proves that they have run away.”
“That’s the first time I ever had a nigger serve me that way,” said Mr. Swayne, pacing up and down the porch. “Run away, have they? If I ever get my hands on them I’ll make it awfully uneasy for them to lie down, now I tell you. Did you follow them into the woods to see where they went?”
“No, I didn’t. I saw their tracks leading through the cornfield, and then I came home to report the matter to you. Those niggers think they are going to get their freedom now.”
“Yes, and you might have expected it,” said his aunt, turning her flashing eyes upon Mr. Sprague. “What are these Union men here for if it isn’t to coax the niggers away from an honest Confederate?”
“Mrs. Swayne, we had no hand in inducing your negroes to run away from you,” said Mr. Sprague, who now began to get angry. “They said they were not going into the other county with you, and I told them that they must depend entirely upon themselves.”
“By gum! You want to see your house go before you get away from it,” said the man who had threatened to burn them out. “Any more such talk as that and I’ll set her a-going; by gum I will.”
“Carl, you will have to do some driving for us, for we can’t stop to hunt the niggers,” said Mr. Swayne.
“Oh, now, I didn’t agree to do driving,” whined Carl. “Let’s stop and go into the woods after them.”
“You have already got your things loaded on the wagons, and I must ask you to drive on,” said Mr. Sprague. “It is my duty to stay by you until you get beyond Ellisville.”
“Carl, jump on that wagon and drive after me,” said Mr. Swayne. “I don’t want to hear any more argument about it.”
“Tom, you haven’t got any horse, and I advise you to get into that wagon with Carl,” said Leon. “When you come to the tree on which the resolution was posted, make him get out and post this one in its place. He’ll object, but we can’t help it.”
While Carl was tying his riding-horse behind the wagon Tom climbed in and seated himself on the table which had been placed there for one of the negroes who had gone off with Cuff. Carl saw what he was doing, but didn’t make any fuss about it. He had arrived at his uncle’s conclusion that the best thing they could do was to take no notice of the Union men. By doing that they would irritate them, and they would not have so much to brag of when they talked about driving Confederate families out of the county. But they didn’t know Mr. Sprague and his friends. The task was one they did not like, but they did it because they had been ordered to. Carl kept his mouth resolutely closed until they came to the tree from which he had torn down the resolutions. He whipped up his mules when he came there, but Tom laid hold of the reins and stopped them.
“Now, Carl, this is the place,” said he. “Here’s the notice, and you want to get out and tack it up. The nails are all there.”
Carl didn’t know whether to refuse or not, but just then Leon came up on his side of the wagon. Leon had a revolver in his pocket, and Carl did not like to see that; so he grabbed the notice and sprang out of the wagon. In a few minutes it was tacked up just the same as it was before.
“There,” said Leon, “that will do. Now anybody who comes along here and who wasn’t at the convention can see what we did there.”
“Now I guess you had better get out,” said Carl, addressing himself to Tom Howe.
“No, I reckon not,” replied Tom. “I’ve got to go with you as long as you stay in the county, and I reckon I can get along here as well as I can afoot. Drive on.”
Carl at once closed his lips and had nothing more to say. As they were going by his own house, Leon noticed that there was nobody present, for his mother was too refined a woman to take such a paltry vengeance on those who did not believe as she did, but there was one little circumstance that attracted his attention. He was certain that he saw old Cuff’s cottonade coat disappear around the house. He did not have more than a glimpse of it, but he was sure it was there. When they arrived at the cross-roads they met ten more men on foot who were escorting four more wagon-loads of secessionists to Perry county, which was the nearest place they could get and be among friends. They never said a word, but fell in behind Mr. Sprague, and followed along after him. They were all armed with rifles, and some of them had revolvers stuck in their belts. The sight of these men made Carl open his eyes. He had not dreamed that there were so many Union men in the county.
“I believe you’ve got more Yankees here than Confederates,” said he.
“These men are not Yankees,” said Tom. “They are men born here in the South. But these ain’t a patching to what we’ve got. If you had been down to that convention you would have seen a thousand men under arms. There were so many of them that we couldn’t get them all in the church. Some of them had to stay outside and raise the windows.”
“Well, what did you do there besides pass the resolutions of secession?” asked Carl; for now that his uncle was out of hearing he seemed anxious to learn what had been going on at that meeting.
“We elected officers,” said Tom.
“Didn’t you do anything else?”
“Well, yes. There was a couple of enrolling officers came there to enlist men for the Confederate army, and we sent them back where they came from.”
“Then the rebels don’t allow that this county is out of the State, do they?” said Carl, who was overjoyed to hear it. “You have got your own way this time, but I tell you we are coming back. And I won’t forget the boys that drew fire-arms on me.”
“Well, that’s right. I suppose they won’t draw any more on you?”
“No, sir, they won’t,” said Carl, hotly. “I don’t mind talking this way to you, but I do hate the sight of that revolver that Leon Sprague has in his pocket. Where is he now?”
“He is back talking to those men that came up awhile ago,” said Tom. “He can’t hear you, but you must remember that we can fight tolerable sharp.”
Leon had gradually slackened his pace until the single man on horseback, who seemed to be the leader of the party, came up and rode beside him.
“Well, sir, you got ’em, didn’t you?” said the man. “You know, when your father said he would go up after that man yesterday I felt rather anxious about him. I thought he would fight, sure.”
“Well, he didn’t. He did not show any signs of it. He was mighty saucy, though, and so was that nephew of his.”
“One of our men was sassy, too. Do you see that man driving the next wagon? He’s got a big lump under his eye. Bob Lee hit him.”
“Now, what did he do that for? Bob had the right on his side, and there was no reason why he should get mad and strike the man. My father had just as good reason to hit Swayne, but he didn’t do it.”
“He had no business to be sassy. If Bob hadn’t a hit him I would. He said that he hoped to goodness that the rebels would come in and take the last scalp from our heads. When Bob asked him to take it back he said he wouldn’t do it, and so Bob upended him. That was the last sassy word given to us. It showed them that we were in earnest. Hello! There’s three more fellows come up and are talking to your father, and by gracious! one of them is a rebel. Let’s go there and see what they have got to say.”
Leon and his friend urged their horses forward, and in a few minutes drew up beside Mr. Sprague, who was listening to some words the rebel had to say to him. As he spoke he looked at the women and Mr. Swayne, and then sank his voice almost to a whisper.
“Colonel, are these some rebels that you are taking out of the county?” said he.
“We have got so far with them, and we expect to get the rest of the way,” answered Mr. Sprague.
“I want you to come off on one side so that I can talk to you without fear of being overheard,” said the rebel. “Now,” he added, as the men moved some distance down the road, “the rebels are going to move a big wagon-train along that road to-morrow. You see they have got to go around this county, for they don’t want to run the risk of being captured if they pass through here.”
“We stopped and saw President Knight about it, and he advised us to come on and see you,” said one of the men who had acted as guard to the rebel.
“Take his gun away from him,” said Mr. Sprague, and the rebel promptly gave it up, together with his ammunition-box and bayonet. “Have you any other weapons about you?”
“Nary one, sah,” said the rebel. “My family is down here a little ways from Ellisville, and you may know that I am all right when I bring them with me.”
“How did you say you escaped?”
“I wasn’t conscripted, as a great many were, but there was such a pressure brought to bear upon me that I thought I might as well go into the army instead of waiting until I was conscripted in reality. I have been in the service only six months, but I have been in three or four little engagements. I live in Perry county, and when I found out what you were doing here, how you had never sent any men into the army, and how there were a thousand men here who didn’t intend to go at all, I wrote to my wife, advising her to come here and I would join her after awhile; but she wrote back that she wouldn’t stir a step unless I came. On the night I escaped I was on guard, and the corporal hadn’t any more than got away from me when I was missing. I travelled all night, and at daylight reached my home. I packed up what few things I wanted to save and came here, and one of my mules dropped dead as soon as I got to Ellisville. I wanted the President to go on at once and capture that train, but he thought I had better come on and see you about it.”
“Well, you tell a pretty straight story, and I shall have to put some faith in it until I can prove the contrary,” said Mr. Sprague.
“You are at liberty to disprove my story in any way you can,” said the rebel, earnestly. “I am dead shot on this thing, and if this county is going to stay out of the Confederacy I am going to stay out, too.”
“I shall have to send you to my house,” said Mr. Sprague.
“Send me anywhere, sah, but stop and explain to my family why I don’t come home. She will appreciate the reason, for she is a soldier’s wife.”
“Father, come here a minute. I don’t see what’s the use of sending that rebel to our house,” said Leon, when his father had drawn off on one side. “He must have a camp down there in Ellisville, and, now he has given up his weapons, I don’t see how he is going to get away. There are fully five hundred men camped around Ellisville now.”
“Well, that is so,” said Mr. Sprague, after reflecting a moment. “I think I had better take him on to Ellisville and leave him there, with plenty of men to watch him.”
“That would be my way, certainly.”
“Forward, march!” shouted Mr. Sprague, as he placed himself at the head of his little train, and the cavalcade once more moved onward. The rebel kept close at his side, and Leon rode a little ways behind him. There was one thing that drew the boy’s attention, and that was the rebel’s horse. Although she was tired, her gait showed that she fretted and fumed at the bit as if she was anxious to go faster. She was a beautiful animal, with limbs so small that they did not look strong enough to support her weight.
“May I ask you where you got that horse?” said Leon, after he had watched her for some length of time.
“I stole her from the wagon-master,” said the rebel. “I should not have been able to get home if it hadn’t been for her. I did the rebels all the damage I could before leaving them.”
“There must be some escort with that wagon-train, isn’t there?” inquired Mr. Sprague.
“There are twenty-five men, including two officers,” replied the rebel. “But half of them you needn’t be afraid of, for they are all Union.”
“How many wagons are there in the train?”
“Forty;” whereat Leon opened his eyes in surprise.
“Will the teamsters fight?”
“Fight!” exclaimed the rebel, in disgust. “No, they won’t. Half of them are armed, but they don’t know what it is to fight. When they see you coming up with your guns all ready the majority of them will throw up their hands.”
If ever there was a happy man in that train it was the rebel. He joked and laughed because he said he was among friends once more and could say what he pleased, and all the way to Ellisville entertained his auditors with thrilling stories of his earliest battles. He told how frightened he was when he got into the first one, and how he looked around for a hollow log into which he could crawl and get out of sight; but there were his companions all standing up without being shot, and his pride made him stay right where he was. At three o’clock they reached Ellisville, where the President had located his office. As Leon had said, there were at least five hundred men camped around there, some with their families, some had no homes at all, but all wanted to be where they could feel that they were of some assistance to Mr. Knight. They knew that when a raid was made upon the county it would come from Perry, the county next on the south, and they calculated to be at hand to stop it. Here Mr. Sprague halted his train and went in to hold an interview with the President, taking the rebel’s gun with him. He was gone but a few minutes, and when he came out his countenance indicated that he had resolved upon something. He mounted his horse and rode in among the lean-tos and other shelters which the men had erected for themselves, and shouted “Attention!” at the top of his voice, and immediately every man who heard him came running up to see what was the matter. When he thought he had got a sufficient number about him, Mr. Sprague proceeded to unfold his plans. It wasn’t the way that a majority of leaders do, for they never let their men know what sort of dangers they are going to meet until they get fairly into them.
“We are going out to-morrow to attack that wagon-train,” said Mr. Sprague, “and I want all of you who can go to be on hand here bright and early.”
“Good!” exclaimed one. “Then we’ll have something to eat.”
Mr. Sprague then went on to tell them how many wagons there were in the train, how many teamsters, and how large an escort of soldiers; for he put implicit faith in the rebel’s word. He was certain that five hundred men, if he could secure that many, advancing with their guns at full cock, would take all the fight out of them. Mr. Sprague was careful not to talk so loud as to attract the attention of Mr. Swayne, for he knew that he would warn the Confederates. Having given his men something to think about, he rode back to place himself at the head of his train, which moved away toward the county line.