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DESTINY Made Them BROTHERS
By Andrew J. Fenady
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2013 Andrew J. Fenady
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEntwined, the naked bodies that knew each other so well since their marriage eleven years ago, he a flamboyant, heroic figure of the Civil War and scores of Indian campaigns, and she, one of the most beautiful women in America, together in triumph and disgrace, and even more in love for having tasted both.
The bedroom dark, except for a slanting colonnade of moonlight. Silent, but for the soft, sibilant ticking of the timepiece on the bed stand—and the murmurs of rapture, until:
The persistent rapping on the downstairs door, and becoming even more persistent and intense.
"George," she whispered.
"Whoever it is, he'll go away."
"It doesn't sound like it."
"No, it doesn't."
"What time is it?" "I don't know, and I don't care."
He sat up in the bed, reached for the gold watch and chain, and held it up to catch the moonlight.
"Can't quite tell ... After two."
"It must be important."
"I can think of something more important." He smiled in the dark.
"All right, all right. But I'd better put on my pants—and I'll be right back unless the house is on fire, in which case ..."
The rapping became even more relentless.
"Have a little mercy on that door, you bastard!" "The bastard can't hear you." She smiled.
"He will—and then some." Shirtless, he made his way down the stairs, stuffing the gold watch and chain into a pocket.
The knocking stopped only as he opened the door and a big man in civilian clothes stepped in, followed by two bigger men in uniform.
Without hesitation he clipped the first man with his right fist, backhanded the uniformed sergeant, and caught the other soldier with a swift left hook.
"I don't remember inviting you in."
"Sorry, sir. We were just following orders." The man in mufti rubbed his ample chin.
"Not at liberty to say."
"What are you at liberty to say?"
"We're special couriers."
"What's so special?"
"Before two thirty a.m., the morning of May 16, 1873—in Monroe, Michigan, to be delivered by hand, General Custer."
"I'm not a general anymore, not even a colonel. Maybe not even in the army. I've been suspended for a year without pay—or haven't you heard?" "I've heard. Everybody has, but you'll always be the general I followed on the charge at Yellow Tavern, sir."
"I was Lieutenant Gary Aikins then, sir."
"Oh, I'm ... I'm sorry. Didn't recognize you out of uniform, Lieutenant."
"I'd recognize you, sir, in or out of uniform." Aikins smiled.
George Armstrong Custer grinned. "Been a little out of sorts lately."
"Don't blame you, sir. You've got good reason to be."
"There's diverse opinion about that, Lieutenant."
"Not with me, or any of us who know you. And I'm out of the army, too, sir. As I said, special courier now, from Washington."
"What're you couriering?"
"Don't know. Just following orders, General."
"So did I ... sometimes."
Special Courier Gary Aikins reached into his coat pocket and handed Custer a letter and a package.
"Hope it's good news, General."
"Not likely, not lately. And I apologize to all three of you for my ... my ..."
"Not necessary, sir. It's been an honor to be ..."
"That, too, sir. Good night ... and good luck, General."
"Thank you, gentlemen, and ... 'pearls in your oysters.'"
Gary Aikins smiled and saluted. So did the two soldiers as they turned and walked out.
Custer closed the door, looked at the letter and package in his hand, and whispered, "Custer's Luck."
He remembered the story about Napoleon. One of Bonaparte's generals had recommended a young officer for promotion, saying that the officer was intelligent, loyal, and brave. "Yes," Napoleon responded, "but is he lucky?"
Napoleon believed in luck. So did Custer—in spite of recent events.
It was Libbie's voice, Elizabeth Bacon Custer, as she walked down the stairs, in her robe, carrying a small lamp.
"Who were they? What was all that about?"
"They were old acquaintances, Libbie. And it was about this."
He held out the letter and package.
Chapter TwoAfter receiving the telegraph from Mr. Dodson—and the long journey home—Yuma had been back in Mason City only a matter of days. But during that time he once again realized how much he loved Rosemary, now a widow, and her son, who was his son, too.
He also realized, that more often than not, he gravitated toward trouble, or else trouble gravitated toward him. This time another gunfight, right here in the newspaper pressroom where he and Sheriff Jess Evans shot it out with Jim Gettings and a passel of his henchmen, killing Gettings and two of his gang, while the rest of them fled, a couple with bullets embedded in their bodies.
But several bullets that the attackers had fired were now embedded in Mr. Dodson's printing press, rendering it inoperative.
It was past midnight and he was doing his best to fix the Mason City Bulletin's press so he and Elmer Dodson, who was now upstairs asleep, could print the story and meet the weekly's deadline.
Not yet twenty, he had run away to join the 3rd Texas and fought valiantly until his brigade suffered overwhelming losses at Vicksburg in May of 1863, ten years ago—a lot of dead men ago, both gray and blue.
The events before and after Vicksburg he recorded in a journal he had sent back to Elmer Dodson, a journal that one day he hoped would be part of his dream to be a writer.
And now he and Dodson would write about the gunfight with Gettings—if he could repair the press. There were broken windows and other damage to the room, but his present concern and task was the press.
He wiped at the ink smeared on his face and spun toward the sound at the door—the sound of knocking, then rattling.
His immediate thought was of some of Gettings' survivors back to finish the job—a thought he quickly dismissed. They wouldn't have knocked.
He could make out the silhouettes of three figures in the darkness as he approached the front entrance. "Okay, hold on. I'm coming." He unlocked and opened the door with his left hand. His right hand hovered just above the holstered Colt at his side.
Three men in uniforms of the United States Army. A captain, a sergeant, and a private. All three looked as if they had ridden hard and far. He could hear the snorting of their sweated mounts hitched to the rail in front.
"Good morning, gentlemen. What can I do for you?"
"All depends," the percussive voice responded.
"Is your name Yuma?"
"It is, Captain."
"Late of the Third Texas?"
"And other outfits."
"Then can we come in?"
"You were at Vicksburg?" the captain asked.
"And other places."
"My brother died at Vicksburg."
"So did a lot of other brothers. Is that why you're here?"
"You weren't easy to find, but we did and just in time."
"In time for what?"
"To make a delivery. I'm Captain Robert Bixby."
"Captains make deliveries these days?"
"Captains follow orders—in the United States Army."
"You'll find out before we do—if we ever do.
All we know it's from one of our superior officers, to be delivered before two thirty a.m. the morning of May 16, 1873."
"What's the delivery?"
Captain Bixby reached into the pocket of his tunic and produced a letter and package and handed them to Johnny Yuma.
"Well, I guess your mission is completed, Captain.
"Not as far as I'm concerned, Reb."
"At Appomattox General Grant said to General Lee, 'We are all countrymen again.'"
"Not as far as I'm concerned, Reb."
"Sorry to hear that. Good night ... gentlemen."
As the three turned and left, a beautiful, but apprehensive, young woman entered through the open door.
"Hello, Rosemary. You just missed a little get-together."
"They came to my place first. What is it? Is anything wrong?"
"What could be wrong? The war's over. Least I thought it was, 'til this came."
"What is it?" "What the hell is going on?" Dodson's croaking voice called out as he came down the stairs.
"Special delivery," Yuma smiled, "from the U.S. Army."
"At this time of night? What's so important that it couldn't wait until daylight?"
"There's only one way to find out," Yuma said.
Chapter Three"George, do you think this has anything to do with ... with ..."
"Say it, Libbie. Go ahead and say it. It's been said before and it'll be said again ... The term is court-martial."
"I've got another term for it and it isn't ladylike."
"Libbie there's never been any other lady like you."
"And there's never been any man like my 'Custer Boy.' Remember?"
"How could I forget that pert, dimpled and beautiful eight-year-old girl swinging on the front gate?
'Hey you, Custer Boy,' she blurted and ran into the house leaving me dead in my tracks."
"Not for long. You knew how to take command even at the age of ten."
"Eleven ... and now I'm in command of what? Not even ..."
"George, are we going to stand here all night? Or are we going to find out what's in that letter and package? Usually you're a lot more curious and impetuous."
"You. My 'Custer Boy.'"
"Libbie." He held out the letter and package.
"No matter what's in here, good or bad, I'm the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
"Married to the luckiest lady."
He set the package on the table and opened the letter.
"Turn up the lamp, will you, please?" "Who's it from?"
"An old comrade. Listen, Libbie."
Chapter Four"Well, we're going to find out right now," Yuma said.
"Johnny." Rosemary looked at the letter. "Whatever it is, maybe you'd like to read it alone."
"Alone? You and Mr. Dodson are part of me ... and so is the boy. Where is he?"
"At the house sleeping. Jed's more than ten years old, Johnny, and a lot older than his age."
"He sure is."
"If I'm going to lose my sleep, I damn well want to know why," Dodson said. "Open the damn thing."
"What is this?" Sheriff Jess Evans opened the door with his left hand. His right arm was in a sling.
"Come in, Jess. That'll make a quorum. How's the arm?"
"Just creased. Doc Barnes fixed it up fine. What did those dirty blueshirts want? Rode in and out like their britches were burnin'. Blue's never been my favorite color."
"Never mind the rhetoric," Dodson bellowed, "I repeat, open the damn thing!" "I'm opening it." Yuma smiled, "But what about that press?" "The press can wait, I can't—except for some coffee."
"There's a pot on the stove." Yuma pointed.
"I'll get it." Rosemary started to move.
"Good," Dodson nodded, "and get a bottle of rye to keep it company. This might call for a bracer.
Most people my age don't get to be my age."
Rosemary poured the coffee as Johnny Yuma unfolded the pages of the letter and began to read softly in a voice of almost reverent remembrance at the words on the first page.
Chapter FiveGeorge Armstrong Custer also read the letter in his hand as the woman he loved listened.
On the eve of any battle there is a destiny which makes some men enemies and some men brothers. And so, ten years ago tonight, destiny made a choice for the three of us—at Vicksburg ...
Both Yuma and Custer paused and recalled what happened to the three of them at Vicksburg.
Chapter SixVicksburg—disputed passage of North and South.
Whoever held Vicksburg controlled the Mississippi and the Mississippi bisected the South—east and west.
Vicksburg, the most strategic geographic prize of the war.
And General Grant had been ordered by President Lincoln to siege and seize the guardian gate of the Confederacy—at any cost.
The South ultimately would stand or fall with the outcome at Vicksburg.
And so would Grant.
There were those, those in great number, who shook their heads in dismay at the appointment of Grant to command the Army of the Tennessee, a man who had been a flat-out failure at the age of thirty-nine, less than two years ago when the war began.
And it was rumored around that Grant had fallen back on his old weakness—whiskey.
But Lincoln had put his faith in nearly a dozen other generals, including McDowell, McClellan, Lyon, Scott, Fremont, Hooker, and Meade. They had all been out-generaled and suffered defeat at the hands of the Southern commanders, most of whom had graduated from West Point, as did Grant, but unlike them, near the bottom of his class. One achievement few could dispute: U.S. Grant was the best horseman in his or any other class, with the possible exception of George Armstrong Custer a few years later.
Lieutenant Grant had served with distinction and valor in the Mexican War in 1846 under command of General Zachary Taylor. He was at the front of the charge at Buena Vista, led by a colonel named Jefferson Davis—along with other comrades, including West Point graduates Robert E. Lee and George McClellan. Grant fought at Monterrey and at the fall of Veracruz and marched with General Winfield Scott into Mexico City.
After that campaign Captain Grant married Julia Boggs Dent. Never before or since had Grant been with another woman. There were few married couples as suited to each other as Ulysses Grant and Julia Dent—from the time they met through their lifetime together. She was the sister of Fredrick T. Dent, Grant's roommate at West Point. Julia and Grant became acquainted while he was on leave, and the mutual attraction was immediate and permanent.
Julia was somewhat less than beautiful, with one eye slightly askew, but winsome, with a ready smile which widened at the sight, even the mention, of her husband. What her countenance lacked in outright beauty, Julia more than made up for in grace and sparkle.
It was a cool cloud-free February evening with a silver ring of moon. They sat on the steps of the Dent family plantation, White Haven, just west of St. Louis, Missouri:
"Julia, do you know the date today?"
"February 14, eighteen forty ..."
"The year doesn't matter."
"No ... well, I mean ..."
"What do you mean, Ulysses?" She smiled.
"Well ..." He cleared his throat. "This sounds sort of ... juvenile, coming from an army man, but ..."
"Charge ahead, Lieutenant."
"Will you be ... my valentine?"
"Juvenile or no, the answer is 'yes'—or as you say in the army—'affirmative.'"
"Will you be my wife?" he blurted.
"You do know how to charge ahead, Ulysses. Do you want the answer in army triplicate? The answer is 'yes' ... 'yes' ..."
"That won't be necessary!" He leaped to his feet, grinning, and brought her closer. "Besides, I won't always be in the army ..."
"But I'll always be your wife."
"Then we're engaged?!"
"Unofficially." She took his hand. "Meanwhile, I'll wear your West Point ring."
It remained "unofficially" for four years, including the Mexican War, during which Grant saw Julia only once—until their marriage on August 22, 1848, at White Haven. And after that Julia mostly called him "Ulys."
Grant had remained in the army, with Julia never far away, until he was sent to Humboldt, a remote outpost in California—without her.
That was the beginning of heavy drinking and led to the end of his military career—and failure after failure in civilian life—until the North-South hostilities.
The armies of both North and South needed soldiers, and soldiers needed to be led by officers, especially officers with battlefield experience. Grant reentered service at the outbreak of the Civil War as a colonel of an Illinois volunteer regiment. In August of 1861, he was appointed brigadier general and found his destiny—or destiny found him.
There was never a more tenacious, aggressive, defiant, and determined officer, and his men loved him, because inevitably, he led them to victory, from Fort Henry to Fort Donaldson, to Shiloh, and that led Lincoln to put him in command at the siege of Vicksburg, where it was his mission to divide the Confederacy in two—a mission that put a visible strain on Grant as never before.
By the time of Vicksburg, Grant and Julia had three sons, Fredrick Dent Grant, Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., Jesse Root Grant, and a daughter, Ellen Wrenshall Grant.
Major General Ulysses S. Grant—commanding the frontline hammers of his Army of the Tennessee, Generals William T. Sherman, Phil Sheridan, James B. McPherson, and Lew Wallace—had crossed the Mississippi River, then drove back the Confederate army of Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, but into strong defensive lines circling the fortress city of Vicksburg.
Excerpted from DESTINY Made Them BROTHERS by Andrew J. Fenady Copyright © 2013 by Andrew J. Fenady . Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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