Harry Castlemon.

A Rebellion in Dixie





If you are all ready, go on, said Mr. Sprague.

Mr. Swayne was a long time in getting into his wagon. He would place his foot upon the hub, and then one of the men would say something insulting in regard to the men they had just left, and Mr. Swayne would take his foot down and stand there until he heard what the man had to say. He was in earnest when he said they were coming back to clean the Union men all out, and that there wouldnt be hide nor hair of them left when they did come, and finally he got into his wagon and drove on. When he looked behind to see what had become of Mr. Sprague and his party, he saw them just disappearing around the nearest bend in the road.

I wish I dared shoot at them, said he.

Well, Ill shoot at them, and welcome, said the man whom Bob Lee had struck, as he reached for his gun.

Dont do it, Jim, expostulated Mr. Swayne.

Dog-gone it, dont you see the bump under my eye? said the man. I can see the chap who did it, and I can pick him off just as easy as you would kill a squirrel.

If you shoot at them they will come back here and arrest the whole of us, and take us back to their camp and make us stand a court-martial, said Mr. Swayne. I am not a-going to stand punishment for your deeds and mine into the bargain.

This view of the matter rather arrested the mans hand, and he sat with his gun resting across his knees, muttering curses not loud but deep, until he saw the Union men disappear around a bend in the road. Mr. Sprague knew that he stood a chance of being fired upon, and that was what he intended to do; he would arrest the whole of them and take them to camp. But Mr. Swayne was a little too sharp for him. It was two oclock when they arrived at the camp, and the men, to show that they knew what sort of respect ought to be paid to the Secretary of War, went off to hunt up some forage for his horse and Leons before they went to bed.

Well, Leon, said Mr. Sprague, after the horses had been picketed with plenty to eat and the men had all gone away, we havent got any blankets.

No matter for that, said Leon. It wont be the first time I have slept out with nothing to cover me. Get some leaves, and they will do just as well.

They walked along the road as they talked, and Mr. Sprague could not help thinking what a big army he was going to have to attack that wagon-train. Every step of the way he saw lean-tos, and he knew that there were stalwart men sleeping under them. Finally he drew up before a lean-to where there was a sentry sitting in front of the door. He did not carry his arms at a support, nor did he bring his piece to arms port and call out, Who comes there? when he saw Mr. Sprague and Leon approaching. But he greeted him in regular backwoods style.

Hallo, Sprague said he. Did you get your parties through all right?

The Secretary of War replied that he did, adding

This must be the home of that rebel, isnt it?

Yes.

But he has been perfectly peaceable all night. He didnt sleep at all the night before.

No; but I am awake now, called out a voice from the inside; and there was a little fussing in the cabin and the rebel came to the door.

Say, Colonel, are you going to stay here all night?

That is the intention. I want to get an early start, and it is too far for me to go home.

Well, now, I know that you havent got any quilts, said the rebel, disappearing under the roof of the lean-to. Heres some that will add to your comfort to-night. Take them and welcome.

Mr. Sprague thanked the rebel for his gift and spread the quilts down where they intended to camp for the night, while Leon told himself that it was a good thing to have a father who was Secretary of War, after all. They slept soundly for a little while, but at half-past three Mr. Sprague was awake and busily engaged in arousing the men. In less time than it takes to tell it they were all up and cooking their breakfast, and in an hour more the grove was empty. Five hundred men were going out to attack that wagon-train, and, if possible, secure something to eat. We dont mean to say that they were hard up for provisions, for there was bacon and corn-meal enough in the county to last them for months; but we mean that they had lived so long on these things that they had grown tired of them. They had been used to something better than that before the war, and when their boats came back from tide-water, after their owners had succeeded in selling their logs, the housewife found pickles, canned meat and condensed milk enough to last her family for six months. That was one thing that the men had in view; and another thing, some of them were in need of clothes; and they believed that this wagon-train had something of that kind stowed away for the boys in Mobile. And, better than all and here was the thing that led the men to look with favor upon robbing the train it would show the Confederates they were in earnest; just what the Union people wanted to do.

It was a long march from the grove in Ellisville to the stream that separated the two counties, but the men went about it in earnest and determined to get there in time to stop that wagon-train. Of course, there was plenty of joking and laughing while they were on their own ground, but the moment they struck the bridge a deep silence fell upon the company. We ought by rights to say that the men had been divided into five companies, a hundred men in each, and that each one had three officers to direct them; but the Union men of Jones county had not got that far in military tactics. There was only one man at the head, Mr. Sprague, and he had the full management of them.

Mr. Sprague rode at the head of the line in company with all the men who had horses, and there must have been about fifty of them, and when he crossed the bridge he sent a dozen of them on ahead to travel at full speed, to see if the wagon-train had passed.

I neednt remind you that you want to go into every house you come to, and if there is a man in there take him in, said he. Dont say a word to the women, but ketch the men. It wont do to leave any rebels behind us, for they can easily warn the train, and so we must take them with us until we get the job done. Silas, I will appoint you captain of this squad.

Silas raised his hand to his hat with something that was intended for a military salute, called all his men about him, and went down the road at a keen jump, while the rest of the company travelled on as before. An hour afterward they came up with their scouts, and Silas at once rode up to report.

The wagon-train haint passed yet, and weve got five men, and two of them are rebels. We had to chase through a cornfield after one, and fired two shots at him.

Did you hit him?

No, we didnt hit him, but he was mighty ready to throw up his hands when he heard the bullets whistling.

Did you get their guns?

Yes, we got them all safe.

Now the best thing we can do, said Mr. Sprague, turning about to face his men, is to go down the road and conceal ourselves in the bushes. When you see me move my arm this way, here he raised his arm above his head and waved it toward the right and left of the road, you will all divide and go into the timber on different sides; and when you hear me whistle this way, he put his hand to his mouth and gave a whistle that could have been heard a mile, then you may know that it is time for you to get down to business. But bear one thing in mind: Dont shoot unless you have to.

The company, or, more properly speaking, the battalion, moved on again, and in half an hour not one of them was in sight. They had divided right and left, as Mr. Sprague had directed, and taken up their positions on opposite sides of the road, and there was not the least noise or confusion about it. Two of the men had gone down the road to see if the train was coming, and they were impatiently waiting their return. The prisoners had all been turned over to Mr. Sprague, and he was having something of a time with one of them, who was determined that he would not hold his tongue. He had a very shrill voice, and when he spoke in his ordinary tone it could be heard a long distance.

Now, Sprague, I dont see the sense in your doing this, said the shrill-voiced man, and he seemed to have pitched his tones so loud that they could have heard him at the end of the line. You take me away from my home, who never did the Union any harm

You are a nice fellow, you are, said one of the men who happened to be close around when the shrill-voiced person was talking. I take notice of the fact that Ebenezer Hale wanted to come up here so as to be among Union men, and you heard his story, and when he was asleep that night you went off and got a lot of rebels to surround and carry him off. Where is he now? In jail, likely. And you, dog-gone you, you never did the Union men any harm! You had oughter go to jail until this trouble is all over.

Well, now, Simeon, I did just what I thought was best for the community. I didnt have nothing against Ebenezer Hale, but I knew that if he went into this fight

Thats enough, said Mr. Sprague. We have listened to you all we want to.

Now, Sprague, I shant quit talking until I have a mind to, said the shrill-voiced man. You have undertaken more than you can accomplish, and I say

Sim, cut a little piece of wood about four inches long, and tie a string to each end of it, said Mr. Sprague. If Kelley dont shut up well gag him.

Oh, now, Mr. Sprague, dont gag me, said the man, sinking his voice almost to a whisper this time. I wont say one word more. I wont, upon my honor.

The gag was duly cut and prepared, and nothing was wanting except another word from Mr. Kelley to induce Sim to put it where it belonged; but the man took just one look at it and concluded that the best thing he could do was to keep still. He never showed any disposition to open his head until the scouts were seen coming back with the information that the train was approaching. They came in a hurry, too, as if they were anxious to get something off their minds.

Wheres Sprague? were the words they shouted as they galloped along the road; whereupon Mr. Sprague showed himself. The train is coming, they said, as soon as they came within hearing of their leader. Every blessed one of them is coming, and are acting as if they didnt fear anything.

Did they see you? inquired Mr. Sprague.

No, they didnt. We hid our horses in the bushes, and then went and lay down beside the road until we saw the train coming. Yes, sir, were going to get them all.

Mr. Sprague and his scouts went into the bushes again out of sight, and then he noticed that Mr. Kelley wasnt so anxious to keep in the background so much as he had been. He was even disposed to go out of the bushes, but he hadnt made many steps in that direction when Simeon seized him by the collar and stretched him flat on his back.

Oh, now, Simeon

Not another word out of you, said his guard, savagely. You will get the gag in your mouth as sure as youre alive.

Take your stand close behind him, said Mr. Sprague, who was getting angry now, and with the very first words he utters shoot him down. We are not going to have our plans spoilt for the sake of him.

Leon, who stood close at his fathers side and heard all this conversation, grew as pale as death when he found that the wagon-train was coming. He clutched his revolver nervously, and determined that whatever danger his father got into he would be there to help him. The leader glanced at his sons pale face and said, in a low tone:

Leon, I think you had better stay here as a guard to these prisoners.

Are you going out there to face that escort? asked Leon.

Of course I am. I shall be right in the thickest of it.

Then Im going, too.

But you will be safe here. They cant hit you, even if they shoot at you.

But Leon only shook his head, and at that moment somebody whispered that the foremost wagons were in sight. That turned Mr. Spragues attention into a new channel, and Leon was left to himself. He glanced at Simeon and his captive, and was gratified to see that Mr. Kelley had been forced to sit down, and Simeon was standing there with his cocked gun ranged within two inches of his head. He wanted to speak, and made a motion to Simeon to turn the gun the other way, but as often as he did this the piece was raised to his guards shoulder, and the words froze on his lips.

The foremost wagon came along as rapidly as the mules could draw it, and after what seemed an age to Leon the wagons were all in view. When the leading wagon was almost opposite to him Mr. Sprague raised his hand to his mouth and gave a shrill whistle. Never in his life had he given a better one. He wasnt excited at all. There was a moments silence there in the brush, and out popped the cavalry and infantry, and in less time that it takes to tell it the wagon-train was surrounded. Not a shot was fired. To say that the rebels were astounded would not half express their feelings. Every teamster had three or four guns looking at him, and the cavalry, who occupied the advance of the train, were surrounded with horsemen that were two to their one.

Well, by George! You have done this up in good shape, said the rebel captain, after he had taken time to get his wits together. What are you Union?

Yes, sir; Union to the backbone, replied Mr. Sprague. May I trouble you for your sword and revolver?

That was as neat a surprise as I ever saw, said the captain, as he unbuckled his belt and handed it to Mr. Sprague. You didnt give us time to fire a shot. What are you going to do with us? Put us in jail?

No, sir. We shall allow you to go where you please, said Mr. Sprague, accepting the belt and fastening it about his own waist. We are not making war on your folks now, but on your provisions. We shall have to take your horses, too. Dismount.

I guess fathers all right, and now Ill get some weapons of my own, said Leon, as he turned his horse and rode along the line of the escort. There must be some rebels in there that havent given up all their fire-arms.

As he rode along he found a soldier on the inside of the third four who held his weapons in his hand and was looking around for somebody to give them to. When he saw Leon approaching he held his sword, revolver and carbine toward him over his companions horse.

Come out here, said Leon. I shall have to take your horse as well as your weapons.

Well, I cant help it, can I? said the rebel, who was more inclined to laugh than he was to feel despondent over it. He came out and proceeded to give up his horse and weapons to Leon, and at the same time he took particular pains to place himself on the boys side next to the woods. In this way he could talk to him without his rebel friends hearing it.

Say, he added, you wont take me to jail, will you?

Certainly not, said Leon.

Dont talk so loud. I dont want my companions to know that I have found a friend among Union men. Let me go out in the woods a little while, and I will come back sure when you are all ready to start for home.

You will only be giving yourself trouble if you do that, said Leon, who thought his rebel friend was taking a queer way to escape. As soon as we get your weapons we intend to turn you all loose, to go where you please.

But I dont want to go with those rebels, said the young soldier, earnestly. I am a Union man, and I went into the army because I had to. I will come back, sure.

Well, go ahead, but dont let anybody see you.

When Leon led the captured horse back to his fathers side he found that the escort had all been dismounted and disarmed, and were now standing there and awaiting further orders. Some were disposed to be angry and sullen, while others were laughing over what they considered a first-class surprise. Mr. Sprague was highly elated over it. He did not show it, but there was something about him that made Leon feel happy, too. The goods that were captured that day must have been worth $500,000.

Now, Captain, you are all right, and I will bid you good-day, said Mr. Sprague. You can go ahead, and as fast as the teamsters come up, well send them on after you. Silas, go back there and send up all the teamsters.

But suppose they dont want to go? said Silas.

Then leave them behind. If they want to go and join the Confederate army, send them up here; but if they want to stay and join the Union forces, let them alone.

Colonel, I suppose I can say what I please, cant I? said the rebel captain. You have got the dead-wood on me now, but it wont be long before Ill come back. Then I shall ask you for my sword.

In a few minutes the teamsters began to come up, and, as they approached, Mr. Sprague told them to fall in behind the escort, which was marching down the road. Leon kept a close watch on them, but didnt count more than thirty who wanted to go back to the Confederacy. There must have been at least ten of them who wanted to stay with the Union men. The next thing was to turn the mules around and start back home. This occupied a good deal of time, for the mules were balky; and some of them would not back; but those five hundred men soon took the balky out of them, and in half an hour more the wagons were all turned around and the train was on its way to Ellisville.

CHAPTER VI
THE MARCH HOMEWARD

Leon remained beside his father until the wagons were turned around, and when he ordered the cavalry ahead to take its place at the advance of the column, he went with them. Forty wagons, and some of them were loaded so heavily that four mules could scarcely draw them. Everybody was pleased with the performance. If all the wagon-trains they captured were to be taken as easily as that, they had no fear but that they should have grub enough. Every drivers seat was filled with men who thought that they preferred riding to walking, and they all joined in and sang, at the top of their voices:

John Browns body lies a-mouldering in the grave.

How the song got down there they didnt know. Probably some of those who had been prisoners in the hands of the Federals, and there were a good many old soldiers in the lot, had heard it sung by their captors, and now that they were fighting for the Union they resolved to imitate them as far as possible. Finally, when Mr. Sprague appeared riding along beside them, somebody thought he ought to be praised for what he had done, so he called out, in tones that were heard to the farthest end of the line:

Three cheers for Colonel Sprague. Hip, hip, hurrah!

All the men immediately around there joined in in cheering Colonel Sprague they had given him a new title, now and Mr. Sprague took off his hat. As far as he went along the line everybody cheered him, and there was something in their way of talking to his father that made Leon feel very happy. He was bringing up the rear, leading his captured horse as he went, until he found himself opposite a wagon managed by his friend Tom Howe. Leon was glad to see him, for he had not spoken with him since they left Ellisville. There were three men on the drivers seat, and Tom was sitting on the knees of one and handling the reins over his four-mule team as if he had been used to it all his life.

Glang here! he shouted when he saw Leon riding by. We dont take no slack from anybody. But say, Leon, you will stand by me, wont you?

Of course I will stand by you, said Leon. But I dont know what you mean.

Do you see that leading muel there, that white one? said Tom, pointing out the animal in question. Well, thats mine. There aint been anybody to lay a claim to him and I want him.

I guess you can have him, said Leon. But why dont you take a horse?

I would rather have the muel than that horse you are leading by the bits. Where did you get him?

I got these weapons, said Leon, showing the revolver and sword he carried about his waist and the carbine he held in his hand, from a young fellow who gave them up to me without being asked. He has gone off in the bushes, now, to get out of sight of the other members of the escort, but hell be back directly.

Who let him go into the bushes? inquired one of the men who was sitting on the drivers seat with Tom.

I did.

Well, he has taken a rough way to escape. Why didnt he stay here and march away with his squad?

But he dont want to escape, said Leon. He is a Union man, and he wants to go home with us.

You are the most confiding man I ever saw. You will never see him again.

Then I shall have a horse and weapons to give to somebody who needs them. I dont need them myself. When you want to get that mule, Tom, you come to me.

Ill do it, said Tom, as he unwound his lash and gave the leading white mule a cut with the whip to make him pull faster; whereupon the mules ears came back and he kicked with both hind feet in the direction of the wagon, barely missing the wheel-mules head. Leon laughed heartily. Well, you see, he hasnt been taught to pull in a wagon. This is his first attempt, but he is gay on horseback, and Ill bet on it. Ill teach him in two days so that he wont kick.





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