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IN WHICH THE ENEMY'S SUPPLIES ARE CONFISCATED
"Deck, what is that glittering over there?" cried Artie, as they were crossing the creek bridge. "I declare, it's one of mother's spoons!"
"You're right, Artie," answered the major, leaping to the ground. "And here is another. That rascal I wounded must have thrown them away after I left him on the bridge bench."
Artie dismounted also, and the pair began a rigorous search for the balance of the missing silverware. Four additional spoons were brought to light, all having lain within a distance of two yards of each other.
"That's all," said Artie, after looking around for quarter of an hour without finding any more. "More than likely several of the guerillas divided the tableware between them."
Mrs. Lyon was much pleased over the recovery of even a part of the stolen property, and a hunt was immediately instituted at the various spots where the prisoners had been shot down or captured. Before night a dozen and a half spoons were in, also the gold butter dish. The other spoons were never found, although long after it was learned that the thief had thrown them into the creek.
Immediately after learning what was to be ascertained concerning Totterly, Levi had gone off with General and Clinker to run the men down, were such a thing possible. The overseer was gone two days and a night, and came back looking worn and haggard.
"I couldn't catch him, try my best," he said. "He has escaped into Tennessee, and I doubt very much if any of us ever lay eyes on him again."
From one of the prisoners they had received a very good description of the guerilla, who was said to be tall, with a marked stoop to his left shoulder, and with a long nose which did not point directly ahead, but somewhat to the right. He was said to be a well-educated man, inclined to drink, and was put down as using "school English."
"We shall never see or hear of him again," sighed Mrs. Lyon. "The money and that precious paper are gone forever."
"I don't see why he took the paper," said Artie. "I don't believe it is of any value excepting to father."
"We ought to write to father at once," said Hope, who, though younger than any present, took a deep interest in what had occurred. "If the paper concerned the slaves, what will he do if it is not found?"
"That's the conundrum, Hope," answered her big brother. "I'll write to-night, and father will get the letter inside of forty-eight hours, I think."
The major and the captain had expected to have a right royal time at home while on their furlough; but the attack on Riverlawn had upset all of their calculations. Nevertheless, they were warmly welcomed by those at the plantation, and Kate Belthorpe made Deck especially happy by coming over with her sister to spend a whole day at the mansion.
The furlough of the major and the captain was for ten days, and before the time was up a letter came from Colonel Lyon, stating that he had received the news of the attack on Riverlawn even before Deck's communication was handed to him. The loss of the private document intrusted to him by his dead brother worried him greatly, but he presumed everything possible was being done to recover it, so he would not risk leaving his command to take a hand personally.
"General Rosecrans is almost certain the enemy is up to some movement," he added. "I was talking to Colonel Minty only yesterday, and he thinks we shall have work cut out for us inside of a week. Unless you can accomplish something at home, you and Artie had better return to your positions at the front."
The note had evidently been written in a hurry, for no mention was made of the lost money, the colonel evidently valuing that at less than the stolen paper. The communication produced a profound impression on Deck and Artie, and after talking it over, both decided to leave for their regiment on the following morning. Levi urged them to do this, and promised to guard more carefully than ever against any possible future attack at Riverlawn.
Early in the year 1863 several changes were made in the Army of the Cumberland, and one of these was to transfer Fort Henry and Fort Donelson from Grant to Rosecrans, giving the latter the entire control of the Cumberland River. In the meantime, and during the several months to follow, the cavalry of the Union forces was recruited as much as possible, and many companies of infantry were placed on horseback, for Rosecrans had discovered that little or nothing could be done against the enemy's raiders by foot soldiers, no matter how daring or long-winded on the double-quick the latter might be.
Toward the end of January, General Bragg, somewhat recovered from the shock of the conflict at Murfreesboro, thought it about time to make another demonstration against the army of the North, and he accordingly directed General Wheeler to make an attack against Fort Donelson, so gallantly taken by the forces under Grant nearly a year previous. Wheeler directed Forrest to move his brigade with a battery of four guns along the river road to the neighborhood of Dover, while he with Wharton's command took a road to the left.
Several trusted scouts reported this movement to Rosecrans without delay, and the general immediately ordered Davis to take his division and two brigades of cavalry under Colonel Minty down the Versailles road and endeavor to take Wheeler in the rear, while Steedman was directed to watch the Confederate general's movements by way of Triune.
As the work of the Riverlawn Cavalry was well known, Colonel Lyon was pressed into the services of the cavalry moving toward Fort Donelson without, however, Captain Batterson's battery being attached, as heretofore. The brigades of cavalry were directed to move by way of the Unionville and Rover roads, the infantry going direct to Eaglesville.
The major and the captain arrived in camp just as the men were striking their tents. They were warmly received by Major Belthorpe, who wanted to know the news from home, and by Captain Gadbury, who was likewise anxious to hear from Lyndhall and especially from Margie. Both young men, however, lost no time in reporting to their father.
"It's a bad business, Dexter," said the colonel, when the loss of the secret letter was alluded to. "I must say I am treed, as the bear said to Davy Crockett."
"Don't you think the letter referred to the slaves, father?" said the major. "I always thought it did."
"I did think so, because I was particularly cautioned by Brother Duncan not to dispose of any of the slaves under any circumstances. They originally numbered fifty-one, but three have died, leaving forty-eight, as perhaps you know."
"Perhaps they were to be given their freedom," said Artie. "If that is so, President Lincoln's proclamation has forestalled Uncle Duncan's design."
At this the colonel smiled. "Almost true, Artie, but not quite," he said slowly. "If we lived in a rebellious State the proclamation would act as you say, but Kentucky, being still in the Union, is not affected by that proclamation, strange as the statement may seem."
"Creation! but I reckon you're right, father!" almost shouted Major Deck. "I never looked at it in that light before. We can hold slaves even if the folks living below the Mason and Dixon's line can't."
Colonel Lyon turned his eyes fully on the young commander, and studied that resolute face for several seconds in silence. From his parent's manner Deck knew something important was coming.
"My son, would you care to hold our colored people as slaves if all the other colored people in these United States were set at liberty? I say these United States, for I pray God that this conflict will speedily come to an end and that we shall remain an undivided Union."
"No; I say let them be free! Let us hire them to work for us," answered the major, promptly.
"Yes; give them their liberty," echoed Artie. "I never believed in slavery when we lived in New Hampshire, and I haven't got used to it yet. It isn't a Christian-like institution."
"My boys, I am glad you speak my thoughts," said Colonel Lyon, and grasped each by the hand. "Yes, the slaves shall be free; I settled that in my mind as soon as I read our President's proclamation. I have already begun a letter of instructions to Levi Bedford on the subject."
At this juncture Colonel Lyon was called away to confer with the officer in command of the division to which the Riverlawns had been assigned, and Deck and Artie hurried to their respective headquarters, the one to assume command of his company and the other his battalion.
"Major, you are looking as fine as fine can be!" exclaimed Captain Life Knox, of the seventh company, as he came up, saluted Deck, and then gave a hearty shake to the proffered hand. "Your furlough has evidently agreed with you."
"It would have agreed with me if it hadn't been for the trouble we had at Riverlawn."
"I heard something of that, but I'd like to listen to the particulars," continued Life.
They were readily given. When the tall Kentuckian heard Totterly's name mentioned his face grew dark.
"I know the skunk!" he cried. "He hails from the western part of the State and once cheated me in a hoss trade. So he is the man? Very well, we'll keep our eyes open for him."
Major Truman was also at hand, an eager listener to what was said. The former squire of Barcreek shook his head dubiously. "I was hoping our neighborhood would miss being raided after that last trouble," he said. "But, being on the border of this conflict, I dare say we shall suffer in this fashion as long as the war lasts."
In less than two hours after this the Riverlawn Cavalry was on the march, Deck at the head of the first battalion, with Artie as commander of his fourth company, and Colonel Lyon in charge of the whole. Major Batterson of the battery was sorry to be left behind, but wished "the boys" the best of luck.
"Don't let the enemy take Fort Donelson," he said. "Grant had too much of a job taking it from Buckner."
The cavalry forces under Minty had been divided, one taking the road through Unionville and the other that through Rover. The weather was cold and threatened a storm, yet the Riverlawns made good progress over the semi-frozen and rough highway.
The most worried man in the column was Quartermaster Hickman. For several weeks the troops had been living on half rations, for the government could get no supplies through, owing to the wrecking of the railroad. The country for miles around had been so thoroughly foraged that absolutely nothing was left that was worth picking up.
"It's easy enough to talk about providing something," grumbled the quartermaster, while riding at ease beside Deck. "I'd turn the shirt on my back into a peck of potatoes if I could, but the thing can't be done--and there you are. I've lived on nothing but hardtack and a couple of potatoes for two days,--and your father has done the same,--and yet some of the boys kick."
"It's hard lines, truly," answered Deck, soberly. "But we shall have to make the best of it, and that is all there is to it. When we halt for dinner, I'll make my battalion a little speech on the subject."
"I wish you would, for the third company is the hardest kicker of the lot," grumbled Hickman, and rode off, trying to solve in his mind how he was going to make six boxes of hardtack, two barrels of potatoes, and one box of beans last nearly a thousand men two days or more. "I'll just have to swell out them beans, that's all," he said. "And all hands will have to play Yankees and eat 'em," he added, remembering that some of the Kentuckians had turned up their noses at this particularly New England dish.
When the halt came Major Deck made his promised speech. "Our quartermaster is doing his best," he said, "and officers are faring no better than the men. If we are badly off, the enemy is worse, so let us leave the growling to them. I feel certain our government will not forget us, and that supplies will soon be coming through in abundance."
For a moment there was a silence. "We didn't mean anything, Major," came from a private of the second company. "The quartermaster is all right. Three cheers for him!" The cheers were given with a will; and then Hickman felt much better.
Life Knox and several others had gone off on a scout for "extras." They had brought down two rabbits when they ran across a house set in a grove of untrimmed trees. The front door was open on a crack, and at the crack an elderly man was stationed with a shot-gun.
"Keep off! keep off!" cried the man as he stepped onto the porch. "I don't want any soldiers around here."
"So it would seem," answered the tall Kentuckian, dryly. "Who are you?"
"Eh?" queried the man, who was a bit deaf.
"Stand still and tell us who you are."
"That's my business. You clear out!"
"Rather guess it's our business just now," laughed another of the cavalrymen.
"A man's house is his castle, and I want you to leave me," stormed the man with the shot-gun. "You are nothing but Yankees!"
"That is true," returned Life. "What have you in your house?"
"Most awfully deaf, he is," grunted another of the party. "Have you got many provisions on hand?" he added, in a louder key.
"Eh?" and the man with the shot-gun leaned forward. "Did you say provisions?"
"Yes; have you any?" joined in Life.
"Enough for myself. Ain't got none for you--I can tell you that!"
"Reckon you have got something for us," grinned the tall Kentuckian.
Another of the party, Sandy Lyon, had, in the meantime, slipped behind the house. He now appeared at the edge of the porch and suddenly leaped upon the elderly man.
Utterly off his guard, for he had not heard Sandy approaching, the deaf man proved an easy victim, and in a twinkle his gun was taken from him.
"That was a good move, Sandy," said Life. "Now sit down and behave yourself, sir," he added, to the man, whose name was Gessel, and forced the deaf one to a seat on the porch.
Having overcome the only inhabitant of the house, the cavalrymen made an inspection of the premises and found over a score of boxes and barrels, filled with provisions intended for a Confederate force encamped in the vicinity of Rover.
Orders were at once sent to the quartermaster to take possession of the prize, and Colonel Lyon was notified of the Confederate detachment mentioned.
Realizing that the matter would brook of no delay, a consultation with the general of the command was held, and this resulted in Deck being sent off with his battalion to locate the Confederates, if possible, and engage them.
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