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Chapter 13

 
This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics.   This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies.    The McCain Ranch Forum Index -> The Civil War Years - One Writer's Reboot Written by Edward P
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Edward P
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Joined: 18 May 2015
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Location: So Cal

PostPosted: Thu Jun 11, 2015 8:30 pm    Post subject: Chapter 13  Reply with quote

Chapter 13


    There were no new cases of smallpox reported by the latter part of summer and the pest house on the island was subsequently closed down. Almost a year had passed since the battle of Chickamauga, the siege of Chattanooga, and the raid for explosives at the old railroad construction shed. After four months of engaging the enemy General Sherman had finally captured Atlanta. The general’s next endeavor would take him and his men further south to Savannah. He proposed a march to there, right through the heart of the south, its cities and towns, among its women and children. The idea was to put fear into those that lived in the enemy’s homeland.  While he waited for approval of this march, preparations went underway.

     At Alton, the 10th Kansas Infantry had finished their assignment and its soldiers were sent back into the war effort. Replacement for the prison guard duty came chiefly from Alton’s own local citizens. Perhaps inspired by the 37th Iowa Graybeards, many of those local recruits were older men. The sight of, and working with older guards again made Lucas McCain all the more restless and anxious to conclude his assignment at Alton, like all the others had, and return to his regiment. Oatman, still in Chattanooga, was active in helping secure troops for Sherman’s roster. He hoped his work would help erase the blemish of the missing Spencer that happened under him. Thoughts of that episode still bothered him some and he did not loose any sleep over the knowledge that McCain was far away and could not cause any more problems for him. Meticulous at his work, Oatman was a schemer at times. Looking at a stack of mail at his desk caused him to glance over to a corner of his quarters where an old long rifle was leaning against the wall, protruding up behind boxes of supplies. He knew that McCain would have to return soon. In fact, he knew that McCain was overdue to return. It seems that with all the major movements of this war, having one man misplaced and overlooked was not surprising. And he never did mention McCain’s name especially around Colonel Stoddard. But since McCain should be returning then why not see about having him become part of Sherman’s assembly. McCain on his return would continue on to Atlanta, the stepping off point for the march. Oatman got to work on the process.  

*    *    *

    As another autumn was coming to Alton and the duties and responsibilities of a guard all too familiar, Lucas McCain sat at the desk and by the late morning light wrote a few lines of a letter. One of the older guards approached and notified the sergeant he was wanted in the commander’s office.

    “Sergeant McCain, I have received papers that I am authorizing for you to be reassigned to your Indiana company.” the commander announced. “Congratulations McCain, you’re going back to your unit.”

    “Thank you sir, thank you very much sir,” McCain replied with a bit of a stammer. The day had finally come but he was still surprised by the news.

    “You’ll leave tomorrow on a steamer.”

    “I see, sir, very well.”

    “One more item sergeant,” the commander continued as he stood up and reached over by a file cabinet. “I know your stay was extended beyond what you thought it should be and you’ve had your own conflicts here. I think you should have this.” The commander picked up and handed the sergeant the Henry repeater rifle that Coe had during the attempted revolt; the prototype rifle with the large looped lever. McCain reached out and received it. He was grateful and humbled by the act.
 
    “I don’t know what to say commander. Thank you very much. I’ll take very good care of it.”

    “I know you will, sergeant.”

    As McCain left the commander’s office the older guard who retrieved him was waiting outside.

    “You’re finally leaving us McCain, aren’t ya?”

    “Finally,” McCain returned, “along with this,” and with a feeling of renewal he held up the rifle.

    “I’m sure you’ll get better use of that than anyone else here,” the old guard replied. “That rifle was passed around to a few of us. Fact is no one really cared much for it, especially that odd loop lever.”

    McCain grimaced a little at the disclosure.

    “Oh I suppose if we were young like yourself,” the guard continued, “on the cusp on these new developments, we’d probably take a better liking to some of that. Most of us are too set with what we know and use.”

    McCain spent his last day at Alton getting packed and ready. He also was sure to see two special people. Dr. Halter was still attending ill prisoners and guards but the number of patients had dwindled significantly. Sister Joan in addition to the typical duties of the Charity ministry was active in helping oversee the construction of the hospital.

    Departure day came with a crisp but soft breeze. McCain, laden with his duffle along with the new rifle left the prison walking down William Street to Broadway and down the docks busy with activity, and onto a two tiered steam transport. Once boarded, he unburdened himself and settled in for the trip back he had waited so long for. Many people were about but one in particular caught his eye; one of a pair of young women traveling together. They were poised yet light-hearted, obviously enjoying their excursion. His prime interest wore traveling clothes that were yellow; not bright yellow but a prairie yellow dress with appurtenances including a bonnet. She carried a basket of flowers, apparently a gift for someone they were going to visit. She reminded McCain of someone. She noticed him, but did not let on. Feeling herself being watched she turned her head slightly and looked passed the edge of her bonnet. Their eyes meet. Turning her head back, she looked at her friend. The two talked then giggled. As the boat left the dock McCain slouched in his seat and kept an eye on the young women as they walked about talking and investigating the vessel.

    A short time later they walked by and closer to McCain. He felt encouraged and flirtatious. Seeing them approach, he made a slight tip of his cap.

    “Ladies, he said acknowledging, “a fine day for travel.”

    “Yes it is,” the other rejoined, “a very fine day for travel.”

    “I’d be pleased to offer you ladies my seat, for one request.”

    His statement drew their interest. The friend continued the conversation.

    “Oh, what would that be Sergeant …”

    “McCain, Lucas McCain. I would just like to know your names.”

    The response on their faces was gamely but they stood there paused.

    “The boys back in my regiment will want to know.”

    They were flattered. “My name is Claire,” said the friend and this is Margaret. We are going to visit friends in Johnsonville,” she offered.

    “Well Claire and Margaret, very nice to make your acquaintance. I’m returning to my regiment in Chattanooga.”

    “Isn’t that where the Lightning Brigade is?” Margaret spoke to his delight and surprise.

    “Oh, you’ve heard of us,” answered McCain.

    By her facial reaction, she seemed impressed. That was enough for McCain. He gathered his gear and wishing them a pleasant visit excused himself and went to the upper deck. He was restless on returning to Tennessee and strangely a little melancholy leaving Alton.

    “Not three miles from shore and back to your old self before getting back to your company”, he thought. But the subject coming from her was unexpected and he could not talk of what he had been doing this past year. “She was special and I wanted to be special to her, even in some obscure way if only for a moment. And they will be getting off in two stops so what was the harm,” he reasoned. As the boat made its way, McCain watched the activity of the river. He turned around to look at the view behind. The structure of the prison in the distance stood firm and large, rising up from a high bank off the river. Atop its large mast the flag fluttered in the wind. These colors were new, bright with no wear. He thought of Henry Crane and the terrible incident that lead to his death. His mind pondered in reviewing the past year. Campbell was hanged as a spy. They wanted to do the same with Coe but he appealed stating he was there as a prisoner of war soldier. His wounding of the guard was a matter of self-defense. The hanging was stayed for now but the matter would have further review. McCain was grateful for Coe in an odd way. The encounters with him were trying but they caused McCain to see some deficits within. He thought of the countless lives of young men that succumbed there and of his own experiences, and surviving. Now he looked upon the prison with reverence, like it was a cathedral. He hoped that the expectations Colonel Stoddard had for the sergeant were realized and more. He could not say how, what or where exactly he had come to be a better soldier, a better man, but he knew this past year had brought a significant change in him. While in this contemplative trance someone had approached him. They cleared their throat to get McCain’s attention; then spoke.

    “Excuse me sir,”

    “Yes.” McCain answered, back to his immediate surroundings. He looked to see a boy, medium height, but gangly, pubescent, not yet shaving but a face full of peach fuzz. All set with an earnest look.

    “I see from your uniform you’re from Indiana,” the boy stated.

    “That’s very sharp of you. Most people don’t care to notice.”

    “And that is some rifle you have there,” the boy continued. “It’s one of those repeaters.”

    McCain was amused by the youths interested in his weapon. “Yes, it is. It’s a Henry repeater that’s been modified a little.

    “My grandpa’s been teaching me how to shoot a musket. “We use his old piece,” he added with an air of disappointment.

    The boy reminded McCain of himself; it really was not that long ago he participated in the same ritual. “And he could be like me in six short years, if this awful war continues on,” he thought, “or who knows what will be then, with us moving into the nations and that cross-county railroad that’s being built.”
 
    “That’s very nice,” McCain replied. “That’s how I first learned to shoot, from my grandpa and his old piece. You learn the basics well from your grandpa and someday when you handle a rifle like this, you’ll be that much better.”

    “So how does that repeater handle?”

    “I don’t really know,” McCain had to confess. “It’s new to my possession. But this is the second repeater I’ve owned. I used to have a Spencer.”

    “Thunder, a Spencer too. Say sergeant, are you with Colonel Wilder’s Lightning Brigade?” his voice breaking by his excitement of the subject.

    The topic this time did not catch the sergeant off guard. He anticipated it and did not want to misguide the youth. He wondered how he could speak to the boy’s interests and re-inforce the principles his grandpa was most likely teaching. He thought of some advice Dr. Halter had spoken. “First find the man in yourself if you will inspire manliness in others.”

    “No son,” he replied, “I'm a sharpshooter for an infantry company, a sniper.”
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Edward P


Last edited by Edward P on Wed Dec 23, 2015 5:15 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2015 6:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A VERY VERY INTERESTING AND WELL WRITTEN PIECE!! I just finished it.  Well done!

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