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Love and War
The North and South Trilogy (Book Two)
By John Jakes
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1984 John Jakes
All rights reserved.
Morning sunshine drenched the pasture. Suddenly, at the far side, three black horses burst into sight at the summit of a low hill. Two more followed them over and down into the windblown grass, splendid coats shining, manes and tails streaming. Close behind the five appeared two mounted sergeants in hussar jackets heavy with braid. Riding at the gallop, great grins on their faces, the sergeants hallooed and waved their kepis at the black horses.
The sight immediately distracted Captain Charles Main's troop of young South Carolina volunteers walking their matched bays in file along a road that meandered through the woods and farmlands of Prince William County. The three-day field exercise had taken them well north of their camp between Richmond and Ashland, but Charles felt a long ride was needed to sharpen the men. They were born riders and hunters; Colonel Hampton wanted no other kind in the cavalry units of the legion he'd raised in Columbia. But their reaction to the Poinsett Tactics, the unofficial name for the manual that had been the cavalryman's textbook ever since '41, ranged from restrained indifference to loud contempt.
"Deliver me from gentlemen soldiers," Charles muttered as several of his men turned their mounts toward the rail fence separating road and pasture. The black horses veered, galloping beside the fence. The sweating sergeants chased them hard, speeding past the long line of troopers in trim gray jackets decorated with bright gilt buttons.
"Who are you, boys?" shouted Charles's senior lieutenant, a stocky, cheery young man with red curls.
On the June breeze, blurred by hoofbeats, the answer came back: "Black Horse. Fauquier County."
"Let's give 'em a run, Charlie," First Lieutenant Ambrose Pell yelled to his superior.
To stave off chaos, Charles reacted with a bellowed order. "Form twos—trot—march!"
The execution of the maneuver was so sloppy as to defy belief. The troop managed to straggle into a double file at the proper gait, then responded with whoops and much kepi-flourishing when Charles gave the order to gallop. But they were too late to catch the sergeants, who drove the five black horses away to the left, crossing the pasture and vanishing in a grove.
Envy stung Charles. If the noncoms indeed came from the Black Horse Cavalry he'd heard so much about, they had found some fine animals. He was dissatisfied with his own mount, Dasher, bought in Columbia. She came of good Carolina saddle-horse stock, but she was frequently balky. So far she didn't live up to her name.
The road curved northeast, away from the fenced pasture. Charles reduced the gait to a trot, ignored another frivolous question from Ambrose, whom he had the professional misfortune to like, and wondered how in heaven he could forge a fighting unit from this assortment of aristocrats who called you by your first name, disdained all graduates of West Point, and tried to knock you down if you gave an order to which they objected. Twice since arriving at the bivouac down in Hanover County, Charles had resorted to his fists to curb disobedience.
In the Hampton Legion, his was a kind of misfit troop, consisting of men who'd come in from all parts of South Carolina. Nearly every one of the foot and mounted units in Hampton's command had been raised in a single county, or even a single town. The man who put a company together generally won the election by which the volunteers chose their captain. There was no such familiarity and friendship to produce a similar outcome in Charles's troop; his roster included boys from the mountains, the piedmont, even his own low country. This assortment called for a leader who possessed not only good family background but also plenty of experience with military organization. Ambrose Pell, who'd opposed Charles in the election, had the former but not the latter. And Wade Hampton had indicated his clear choice before the balloting. Even so, Charles won with only a two-vote margin. He was beginning to wish he'd electioneered for Ambrose.
With the sweet summer breeze bathing his face, and Dasher moving smoothly under him, however, he felt he might be too concerned with discipline. Thus far, the war was a lark. One Yankee general, Butler, had already been trounced in a sharp fight at Bethel Church. The Yankee capital, presided over by the Western politician many South Carolinians called "the gorilla," was said to be a terrified village as deserted as Goldsmith's. The main problem in the four troops of Hampton Legion cavalry seemed to be an epidemic of bellyaches brought on by too many fetes in Richmond.
All the volunteers had signed on for twelve months, but none of them believed this muss between the two governments would last ninety days. Inhaling the fragrance of sun-warmed grass and horseflesh, Charles, twenty-five, tall and ruggedly handsome and deeply browned, found it hard to believe there really was a war in progress. He had even more trouble remembering the watery feel of the gut when a man heard bullets fired in anger, though he'd dodged his share before he resigned from the Second U.S. Cavalry in Texas early in the year and came home to join the Confederacy.
"Oh, young Lochinvar is come out of the west—" Charles smiled; Ambrose was singing the poem in a monotone. Others quickly joined in. "—through all the wide border his steed was the best."
Liking for these high-spirited youngsters tempered Charles's professional reservations. He shouldn't let them continue singing, but he did, relishing in silence his own separateness. He was only a year or two older than most of them, but he felt like a parent.
"So faithful in love and so dauntless in war—there never was a knight like young Lochinvar!"
How they loved their Scott, these Southern boys. The women were no different. All of them worshiped Scott's chivalric vision and endlessly read every novel and poem he'd written to give it life. Maybe that odd devotion to old Sir Walter was one of the clues to this decidedly odd war which as yet had not quite begun. Cousin Cooper, considered the heretic of the Main family, often said the South looked back too much, instead of concentrating on today—or the North, where manufactories like the great ironworks of the Hazard family dominated the physical and political landscapes. Looking backward worshipfully to the era of Scott's plumed knights was a custom Cooper excoriated passionately and often.
Suddenly, ahead, two shots. A shout from the rear. Twisting to look back, Charles saw that the trooper who'd cried out was still upright—surprised, not hit. Swinging front again and silently cursing his inattention, he focused on a thick walnut grove down the road to the right. Flashes of blue amid the trees confirmed the source of the musket fire.
Ambrose and several others reacted to the sniping with grins. "Let's go catch that bunch," a private whooped.
You idiot, Charles thought as his midsection tightened. He glimpsed horses in the grove and heard the pop of other muskets, overlaid by the roar of his own voice bellowing the order to charge.CHAPTER 2
The charge from the road to the trees was ragged but effective. The sunlit blue flashes, bright as plumage, became the trouser legs of a half-dozen patrolling enemy horsemen. The Yanks galloped off when Charles's men cantered into the grove, assorted shoulder weapons ready.
Charles went in first, his double-barrel shotgun cocked. The Academy and Texas had taught him that successful officers led; they didn't prod. No one exemplified that more than the rich and physically powerful planter who'd raised the legion. Hampton was one of the rare ones who didn't need West Point to teach them to soldier.
Among the walnut trees, with shotguns booming, muskets snapping replies, smoke thickening, Charles's troop scattered. The men went skylarking off every which way, taunting the retreating enemy, now barely visible.
"Where you Yankee boys goin' so fast?"
"Come on, turn around and fight us!"
"They aren't worth our time, lads," Ambrose Pell cried. "Wish our niggers were here. They could chase 'em."
A single musket shot from a dark part of the grove punctuated the last of his sentence. Charles instinctively ducked down close to Dasher's neck. The bay seemed nervous, uncertain, even though, like all of the legion's horses, she'd been drilled to the sound of shotgun and artillery fire in camp in Columbia.
A ball whizzed past. Sergeant Peterkin Reynolds yelled. Charles fired both barrels into the trees. Immediately, he heard a cry of pain.
He yanked Dasher's head hard, turning back. "Reynolds—?" The sergeant, pale but grinning, held up his cadet gray sleeve to show a tear near the cuff and only a small spot of blood.
Friends of Reynolds treated the wounding less lightly. "Goddamn tailors and shoemakers on horseback," one man shouted as he galloped past Charles, who vainly ordered him back.
Through a gap in the trees Charles saw a laggard from the Union patrol, a plump blond fellow with no control of his horse, one of the heavy draft plugs typical of the hastily assembled Northern cavalry. The man kicked the animal and cursed. German.
The Dutchman was such a poor horseman, the trooper who'd shot past Charles had no trouble riding up to him and pulling him sideways. He fell out of his saddle and hit the ground, wailing till he freed his boot from the left stirrup.
The young man from South Carolina had drawn his forty-inch, six-pound, two-edged, straight-bladed sword, bigger than regulation and forged in Columbia to the colonel's specifications. Hampton had equipped his legion using his own money.
Ambrose rode up beside Charles. He pointed. "Look at that, will you, Charlie? Scared as a treed coon."
Ambrose didn't exaggerate. On his knees, the Yank trembled as the trooper climbed down, took a two-handed grip and raised the blade over his head. Charles yelled, "Manigault! No!"
Private Manigault turned and glared. Charles shoved his shotgun into his lieutenant's hand and dismounted in a leap. He dashed to the trooper, seizing the still-raised sword arm.
"I said no."
Defiant, the trooper struggled and strained against Charles's grip. "Let go of me, you damned puppy, you damned West Point son of a bitch, you damned—"
Charles let go, then smashed his right fist into Manigault's face. Bleeding from his nose, the young man crashed backward into a tree trunk. Charles wrenched the trooper's sword away from him and turned to confront the glowering men on horseback. He stared right back.
"We're soldiers, not butchers, and you'd better remember that. The next man who disobeys my order or curses me or calls me by my first name goes up for court-martial. After I deal with him personally."
He let his eyes drift past a few hostile faces, then threw the sword down and reclaimed his shotgun. "Form them up, Lieutenant Pell."
Ambrose avoided his eyes but got busy. Charles heard plenty of grumbling. The joy in the morning was gone; he'd been stupid to believe in it anyway.
Discouraged, he wondered how his men could survive in a real battle if they considered a skirmish somewhat less serious than a fox hunt. How could they win if they refused to learn to fight as a unit—which first of all meant learning to obey?
His long-time friend from his West Point days, Billy Hazard, of the federal engineers, knew the importance of taking war seriously. Cousin Orry Main and his closest friend, Billy's older brother George, knew it, too. All Academy men did. Maybe that explained the gulf between the professional officers of the old regular army and the amateur hotspurs. Even Wade Hampton sometimes mocked men from the Point—
"No worse than bees buzzing, was it?" Charles overheard a trooper say while Ambrose reformed the troop by twos on the road.
Charles withheld comment and rode to the soiled, cringing prisoner. "You'll have to walk a long way back with us. But you won't be harmed. Understand?"
"Ja, versteh'—onderstand." The Dutchman pronounced the English word with difficulty.
The troopers considered all Yankees mere mudsills or mechanics; unworthy opponents. Studying the poor tun-bellied captive, Charles could understand the viewpoint. Trouble was, there were hundreds of thousands more mudsills and mechanics in the North than in the South. The Carolina boys never considered that.
The North reminded him of his friend Billy. Where was he? Would Charles ever lay eyes on him again? The Hazard and Main families had grown close in the years before the war; would they ever be close again, even with Cousin Brett now married to Billy?
Too many questions. Too many problems. And as the double column headed south again, the sun was all at once too cool for summertime. A half mile from the site of the skirmish, Charles heard and felt Dasher cough. Saw her nostrils excessively damp when she turned her head.
A discharge beginning? Yes. The coughing persisted. God, not the strangles, he thought. It was a winter disease.
But she was a young horse, more susceptible. He realized he had another problem, this one potentially disastrous.CHAPTER 3
Each of the young man's shoulder straps bore a single bar of silver embroidery. His coat collar displayed the turreted castle within a wreath of laurel, the whole embroidered in gold on a small black velvet oval. Very smart, that uniform of dark blue frock coat and stovepipe trousers.
The young man wiped his mouth with a napkin. He had eaten a delicious meal of beefsteak, browned onions, and fried oysters, which he was just topping off with a dish of blancmange—at ten after ten in the morning. You could order breakfast here until eleven. Washington was a bizarre town. A frightened town, too. Across the Potomac on the Arlington Heights, Brigadier General McDowell was drawing up war plans in the mansion the Lees had abandoned. While awaiting new orders, the young man had hired a horse and ridden over there day before yesterday. He had not been encouraged to find army headquarters a crowded, noisy place with a distinct air of confusion. Awareness that Confederate pickets stood guard not many miles away seemed very real there.
Federal troops had crossed the Potomac and occupied the Virginia side in late May. Regiments from New England crowded the city now. Their presence had partially lifted the burden of terror Washington had borne during the first week after Fort Sumter fell; then, telegraph and even rail connections to the North had been cut for a time. An attack had been expected any hour. The Capitol had been hastily fortified. Some of the relief troops were presently bivouacked there; a military bakery operated in the basement. Tensions had lessened a little, but he still felt the same confusion he'd detected at McDowell's headquarters. Too many new and alarming things were happening, too fast.
Late yesterday, he had picked up his orders at the office of old General Totten, the chief of engineers. Brevet First Lieutenant William Hazard was assigned to the Department of Washington and instructed to report to a Captain Melancthon Elijah Farmer for temporary duty until his regular unit, Company A—all there was of the United States Army Corps of Engineers—returned from another project. Billy had missed the departure of Company A because he'd been recuperating at his home in Lehigh Station, Pennsylvania, where he'd taken his new bride, Brett. He'd married her at the Main plantation in South Carolina and then nearly been murdered for it by one of her former suitors.
Charles Main had saved his life. Billy's left arm occasionally ached from the derringer ball that could have killed him but didn't. The ache served a useful purpose. It reminded him that he would forever be Charles Main's debtor. That was true even though the friends had taken opposite sides in this peculiar, half-unwanted, still-unstarted war.
The breakfast had appeased his hunger, but it hadn't relieved his foreboding. Billy was a good engineer. He excelled in mathematics and liked the predictability of equations and such things as standard recipes for construction mortar. Now he faced a future neither neat nor predictable.
What's more, he faced it in isolation. He was cut off from his fellow engineers; from his wife, whom he loved deeply; and, by choice, from one of his older brothers. Stanley Hazard lived in the city with his disagreeable wife, Isabel, and their twin sons. Stanley had been taken along to the War Department by his political mentor, Simon Cameron.
Excerpted from Love and War by John Jakes. Copyright © 1984 John Jakes. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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