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The Rebel: Johnny Yuma
By Andrew J. Fenady
Copyright © 2006
Andrew J. Fenady
All right reserved.
Palm Sunday. April 9. A nation divided and bleeding. A nation
less than a hundred years old. A nation whose sixteenth
president, a man who wanted peace, but who led his country
into a bloodbath of battle after battle, burying thousands
upon thousands of sons and fathers and brothers. And there
were thousands more whose limbs were torn and maimed,
survivors who would never be the same in body, mind, or
The battles on land and sea, in fields and streams, in cities
and swamps-conquests and defeats-on horseback and foot, all
the dynamite and destruction, fire and devastation-all led to
the inevitable end:
Wilmer McLean had been forced to move twice. First from
Manassas Junction where the war's first fierce battle had
occurred in 1861, then again during the Second Battle of Bull
Run. He settled in the quiet little community of Appomattox
Court House, and that is where the conflict would be settled.
An unreal quiet prevailed outside McLean's house that fateful
Sunday. The Sky remained melancholy from the recent rain, the
ground still April soft.
April. The time of rebirth. Of aspiring life. With spring rain
bathing newborn birds and chasing the chill winds of winter.
April. The time of seedling hope. Of budding promise.
April at Appomattox. The time for burying yesterday's
casualties. The time to pause. The time to listen to the
silence of the machinery of war-and wait for the rebirth of a
Outside of McLean's house they waited, some of the remnants of
General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
One Confederate soldier stood in front of the steps leading to
the porch of McLean's house. The soldier's uniform was dirty
and worn, and in the area of the left shoulder there was a
wound, slight, but with a crusted crimson. With his right
hand, the soldier held the reins of a magnificent white steed.
Most of the rest stood with a weary rigidness, looking toward
the north. But there were two others in the nearby barn:
Johnny Yuma and Douglas Baines. Bains sat on a stool, rubbing
his forehead. Yuma passed and spoke with a hushed nervousness.
"Doug, we can't let it happen...."
"Let what happen?"
"It's got to be stopped."
"Johnny, your saddle's slippin'. You're off your feed ..."
"I'm telling you ..."
"You think you, a little ol' nubbin' of a corporal, is going
to tell General Robert E. Lee what to do? It's all over, son!"
"Not yet, it's not."
Baines rose from the stool and faced Yuma.
"Well, it will be and, thank God, in a matter of minutes. No
more fear and death every morning. Pretty soon, old fuzzy face
Grant and his staff'll ride up to McLean's house outside, and
Lee'll sign a piece of paper and give him a tin sword and we
can go home, son."
"I'll tell you ..."
"No, I'll tell you. To boot lickin' shame and sufferin'."
"To life! To my Cora and little Jimmy."
"Well, then," Bains turned away and walked two steps, "you
stay and keep playing soljer."
Yuma advanced, grabbed the man, and whirled him so they were
face-to-face. "Don't you fun me, paperback! I fought every day
you fought ..."
"Did you fight as much as Stone Jackson and Jeb Stuart? Hill
and Pender? And Rhodes? They're all dead ... and most of their
soljer boys with 'em!"
"Sure they are, all dead. And if we give up now, what'd they
all die for? What?"
"Sometimes you lose."
"Well, not yet."
"Yes, yet! Now! Lost! Listen to me. I ain't no general, but I
know somethin'. Two weeks ago, Gordon had seventy-five hundred
men. Now there's less than two thousand, all starved. You
"I'm listening," Johnny Yuma answered.
"Field's got more men absent than present! All that's left of
Pickett's whole army is sixty bone-beaten men! Now, what do
you expect to fight with?"
"So long as I got a gun, I fight!"
"If I didn't, I'd be untrue to those screamin' Rebs I charged
with at Cedar Creek and Cold Harbor. We vowed together that
we'd fight until we were all dead if we had to-and then our
ghosts 'ud go right on fighting!"
"Yeah, well that's about all we got left is a phantom army.
And as far as I'm concerned, Grant's welcome to the leavin's."
"Grant!" Yuma grunted out the name. "Grant! That hogback
blisterface! That craven drunk, no good blue belly! I can see
him strutting up to General Lee trying to make him
grovel-humiliating a saint-beating him over the head with the
bones of the Confederacy!"
"There's nothin' to be done about it, son, so you'd just
better be content to witness some history this here Palm
"Witness?" Johnny Yuma drew the side arm from its holster.
"Witness? I'm gonna make it-and alone if you're not a mind to
"Johnny ... What you nurturin' in that hot Texas head of yours?"
Johnny Yuma took a couple of steps toward the door of the
barn, then turned back, still gripping the gun in his hand.
"I've been in McLean's house this morning."
"So right now General Lee's sitting in the parlor. I'm
climbing around back to a room right over that parlor. A room
with a vent. It's there, al right. I've laid it all out, and
when Grant walks in that room, he's going to run straight into
a head full of lead."
"I sure am. If a Southerner kills Grant, there'll be no peace.
We'll have to keep fighting. And you'll see, we'll win."
Doug Baines leaped at Yuma, grabbed him, and tried to get the
"No. I won't see, you young owl head. Give me that ..."
Yuma smashed his left fist into Baine's jaw, and as Baines
started to fall, lifted the gun to hit him with the barrel but
realized that it would not be necessary. Baines was
unconscious as he fell to the floor.
Johnny Yuma looked around. He spotted a length of rope across
one of the stalls. He walked over, holstered the gun, took the
rope, and started to tie up the unconscious soldier lying on
"I'm sorry ol' Doug. But now you know, and I got to make sure
you don't spoil it. Four years is nothing. We'll fight forty.
And we'll win without them having Grant."
Excerpted from The Rebel: Johnny Yuma
by Andrew J. Fenady
Copyright © 2006 by Andrew J. Fenady.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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