Counting Horses

Lubliner

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A Short Story creation "Counting Horses" is fiction, based on the following facts. All Rights Reserved.
Lubliner.


Feb 6, 1865 Affair at Corn’s Farm, Franklin County, Tenn.
Headquarters in the field, report of Capt. William H. Lewis.

Sir:

I have the honor to report the capture of 3 horses, saddles and bridles, 3 gum blankets, 2 pair of saddle-bags filled with clothes, 1 revolver, 1 Mississippi rifle, besides the killing of John Raigan at Jack Corn’s Farm in Franklin County, 12 miles from Hillsborough, by Lieutenant Haines, of Company K, 42nd​ Missouri Infantry Volunteers. At 12 p. m. last night I received information of Perdham and two of his men at Corn’s. The Lieutenant with three of my men and three of the Hillsborough Home Guards went in pursuit. At Strickland’s he dismounted and proceeded to Corn’s house. The account of the family stubbornly opposing his sleeping in the house, Perdham went to the barn and all three went to sleep. The Lieutenant, in approaching the barn, frightened Perdham’s horses, which aroused Perdham and Stearns, who dashed off barefooted and without coats or hats, and made their escape, but Raigan was shot before he got out of his nest.

[Page 35 of the Official Records; Volume 49, Series 1, Part 1.]
 
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Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
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Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
I guess maybe to a boy of fourteen it was a big thing, an adult thing full of responsibility. It was that night in February, the first Sunday of the month when I speak of, when my Ma and Pa told me to carry a message into the Yankee encampment, that it was most urgent. I could be held and condemned to hang if untruthful; that I would be shot through and left for dead if any rebels caught me without excuse. This big thing I had to do, and I couldn’t choose what to do; but instead I had to obey, or my Ma and Pa could be killed too.

Not an easy thing to do the more one thinks of it; be a messenger that must pronounce doom to the least favored among us all. That is what it was, and that was the task given me to accomplish, and I did it. It made my Pa proud of me and I would hear him discuss it sometimes with Ma in front of my younger brother and sister. Ma would always reply, “Well, the boy had to do what he had to do,” and then she would turn silent, just like the other two.

I hadn’t been fourteen for even a month when my account all takes place. No sooner had I had my birthday it seems, when the Yanks then started really moving into our neighborhoods and occupying key locations as though they meant to stay forever. Every crossroad had its picket posted and nobody could do much of anything without being seen. Forget hiding from them; no sooner you find a place of seclusion and two Yanks join you out of thin air, it seemed.

Of course night was a different matter and had a way for darkness to even up the score. Instead of being free to disappear into the still of the night, and settle those differences that divided us all, we were told on February 1, per posted account from the Union Officials of a census. It seems the Yanks were going to make all decisions for us, whether we voted yea or nay on it, for any male fourteen and older was now required to submit his name and age and place of residence to their brass rule. They could call on us at anytime.

Who can’t appreciate the memory of having that ability to hide; to just up and disappear as soon as the tramp of a foot was heard, or the neighing of a strange horse? One month I could melt into the forest and field anytime day or night, and then, ‘whammoh’, I must stand at bayonets’ end and answer ‘to the best of my recollection’ what I may or may not have seen or heard. All this at fourteen came on me as of a sudden without previous foreknowledge, because of General Milroy!

Four or five of our neighboring counties received the decree with us in Franklin, and I saw the document with my Pa right after it was posted in Hillsborough. It was signed as the order of General Milroy at the bottom of it, and it addressed all our communities to the south and east of Nashville; Tullahoma, Manchester, Franklin, Spring Hill, Nolensville.... Pa just stood there real silent for a minute and I could tell he was thinking something real deep inside. Then he spat on the ground, and said, “Well my boy, it looks like these Yankee fellows want to meet you all of a sudden.”

I had to get Pa to read it all aloud to me because the war had taken over our lives and turned our education into real situations. I hadn’t yet mastered the art of the alphabet but I could shoe a horse and tell you how long it had been since last done, and how many miles it had come. So Pa finished reading that document to me, and ended it, “....By order of General Milroy, February 1, 1865.” Then he stood there silent as a prayer, and eventually spat down at the earth.

Of course I recognized the point being made. When the Yanks had moved in and started staying put, they soon realized most all our horses and crops for the coming winter and spring had been given to the rebels. I still say ‘Why not?’ because it was for sure all our own territory and we were near all confederates; at least until put to the end-point of the bayonet, we were. The Yanks didn’t care much for that at all, and instead of condemning the whole southern population as being rebels, they devised this new way for us to ‘correct our sympathies’.

Now the decree that was issued pronounced all active confederates and their aidors and abettors to be guilty of horse thieving, murder, robbery and every other indecent crime one could bear wink at. So this General Milroy from somewhere up north, who Pa says must be a pretty important General, declared any rebels caught as being good as dead, and any helping them, likewise. For a boy of fourteen, that was a hard nugget to bite into. I could tell my Pa was concerned when he took me by the scruff and made me march beside him into the nearest department headquarters.

Now, as a fourteen year old I had to become known by that brass rule, where not five days before I was unknown like my younger brother and sister still were. I thought about that when I heard my Pa talking after it all. The younger ones would never understand, no matter what Ma or Pa could say at the table, what I did; and Ma was right: “I guess the boy just had to do what he had to do.” Yet all this ‘having to do’ stuff just didn’t seem right to me, and I had to question Pa about it.

See, the rest of that decree stated that as soon as any rebel showed himself anywhere in any of our neighborhoods, we were to high-tail to the nearest Company Headquarters’ with such information as we had, and then form up among ourselves as a home guard so as to fight it out with our own people. We were to quell our own rebellion this way, as the Yanks were to witness and decide for us, and report. We had no choice at all anymore in these matters, not even the depth of a grave. This was not a good omen for a boy of fourteen to be cast in under. I had my favorites, and I told Pa so, and let him know General Milroy wasn’t one of them.

Pa looked at me real stern then, and said the old times were at an end, and we all needed to change our ways, like it or not; “I don’t like it, son, but ain’t no good choice in the matter either way. They mean their word to do it, no excuse. Let’s you and me try to get along with it, else we will just end up fertilizer for next year’s crops.” And that was the final word on that discussion until afterward, because Ma agreed with Pa.

What all this meant to us wasn’t fully apparent right then in the beginning, or at least to me it wasn’t. Maybe Pa knew some more and was keeping it a secret? Maybe that decree said more than he read to me outloud, but I knew I had lost my ability to hide, and Pa was making sure I stayed close by the farm. Of course there is always work to be done on a farm, and I was given plenty of responsibility already, mainly because the war had taken away so much.

Wood gets chopped, water wells get redone, and all kinds of bustle takes place to make ready for any new event that might suddenly occur. The youngest two were now made the errand runners, in case we needed to ‘borrey’ from our neighbors, or just return a favor for past deeds already fulfilled. So I couldn’t venture astray at all out of the earshot of any beckoning call either Ma or Pa could holler from the porch or barn. My mind was kept busy too, so all those daydreams and ‘what-if’s?’ were left alone by the sweeping broom at the front door.

It wasn’t but a few days after our sign-up on Tuesday that a small group of Yankees rode up on horseback; probably Friday. Instead of dodging on out of sight, I came up close to find out what the visit was about. Pa was standing there. They were ‘just visiting’ down the road a farther piece and asked if any unexpected bullet or ambush by confederates awaited them. Pa just looked at ‘em for a minute as though he was counting over how many horses were there in front of him, and if one or two more might be hidden somewhere else, and says to them, “Men, it’s a cold day today, and not the first hint of any sun, and things looking likely to rain. Did you invite any?”

They most likely got satisfied after speaking a bit to themselves, and my Pa and me still standing there counting their horses, when they said old man Strickland, our neighbor hadn’t seen anything. Pa sort of nodded and spoke first more to me than the Yanks, “He’s near blind anyway.” Then he said, “Ya’ll be gone, now. Me and Jeremy here have work to get done. No one but my family is holed up here with our one mule and the rooster’s crew. That means they are somewhere else. Besides, we already ate the pig and I haven’t been up the road.” So they reined off their mounts and left.

Pa hadn’t lied or fudged the truth much at all. We still had some of the pig left, and all this meant something big to me. We both stood and watched them disappear on down the road. I hadn’t said a word, but waited for Pa, and we both returned to doing our chores and keeping warm. Though he seemed to lay it all to rest, I could tell Pa knew he would see them back again. That stayed on my mind almost all day, and being close to sundown when we were getting ready to sit for supper, we heard their horses cantor on past back toward Hillsborough.
 
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Lubliner

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
All those peaceful moments anyone could find were spent waiting for bad news. We could feel it in our bones, in our beings; like a hollow bucket hidden from our sight that could be tripped over at any step. Even Jimmie and Janey, my little brother and sister became wary of it, that feeling of certain surprise. Ma just explained it simply to us like so; “The Lord is serving us with his other hand is all,” and when questioned ‘why?’;...”Don’t go questioning Him about that, nor me. Just pray he sees fit to serve us again with the other hand.”

So all Saturday we spent working doubly hard knowing the Sabbath would be the only refuge come whatever may. I was quiet all day considering my new circumstance and would glance over at Pa ever so often, wondering if I would get called. We finished the chores without a Yankee incident and Saturday night was spent with a single light on, us gathered in our great-room in front of the fire, all being quiet. First Jimmie, then Janey, and then me got bedded down, and Ma and Pa finally by and by turned in for sleep.

Sunday came forth drab and dreary, but breakfast was soon served, and we all bowed our heads, me praying some mischievous relief would interrupt our tensions. That feeling of tension isn’t fun to a fourteen year old!

By mid-morning we were all done with the necessary business of eating and cleaning up, and then Pa made us sit back down at the table for a Bible Lesson. Ma found some excuse to busy herself at the pantry and counter while Pa read aloud about loving our enemies, and treating neighbors like unto ourselves, and giving someone your coat if asked for your jacket, and fulfill all that is required of you to do. Then Jimmie asked, “Does all those funny you’s include Janey too?” And Pa looked at Jimmie and I saw the smile disappear as his bit of mischief fled from the room, and Ma sort of stiffened as it brushed by her. Janey looked at Jimmie and giggled, but Pa interrupted, and said, “Oh I suppose so.” So Janey shut up.

Well that mischief missed the bucket anyway, and things got pretty quiet after that as Pa finished off by reading the Ten Commandments of Moses, and me counting.... I could count at least to a hundred but things got complicated after that. I hadn’t ever seen a hundred of anything but nails, and maybe fence-posts, and never saw a reason to prove it. So Pa finished at number ten as I checked each one off by my fingers and thumbs, then nodding approval and whispering ‘amen’ with the others.

As we got up Pa told us all not to disappear anywhere and stay close by in case he needed us. Nobody was allowed out of our own sight and we were told to be cautious of any and all comers going by. “Tell me if you see anything that needs looking into. If it catches your attention enough to look twice, then by God, it’s interesting enough for me. Okay!” Suddenly Jimmie scurried away after his mischief, and I told Pa I would be out in the barn fixing some old rabbit traps for the coming season.

Of course suppertime came as quick as the sun sets at that time of year, and it was fully dark by the time we arose again from the table. Of course we had another fire going in the great-room and all us were gathered there waiting for the pleasant day to end, for Monday the sixth of February would steal in and bring with it all our troubles once again. I was putting off the end as long as I could by staring into the fire, and thinking nothing.

All of a sudden Pa heard some horse noises and then I did too. Ma took note and turned to Jimmie and Janey, hushing them and with a swoop, shooed them up the stairs, just as Pa and me arose and headed for the kitchen door. There came a knocking at our back entrance there and as Pa moved on to the door I grabbed my squirrel rifle and quickly passed him and hid behind the door as he opened it. The outer edges of the light fell out into the yard passing our back porch, and silhouetted one man standing in front while two others on horseback held his horse still. Pa looks out beyond the man in front of him and sees the other two, and then looks back at the one in front of him, scrutinizing him real close, and suddenly says, “By God, is that you John Ragan?”
 
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Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
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Chattanooga, Tennessee
As kids growing up before the war, John Ragan to us was the man with the scarecrows. Of course others had scarecrows, but his were the first we had witnessed, and therefore we always referred to him particularly as ‘the man with the scarecrows’. He was standing there on the back porch in front of my Pa, and was explaining how he and his two buddies were in need of a safe spot for the night. Pa was in no good spirit about it either.

“This ain’t the blessed Inn and you all ain’t with the Christ. Who all you got there with you John?”

So ‘scarecrow man’ turns and points first to Perdham, and then toward Stearns, explaining how they had been chased earlier that day, on Sunday of all the days for the Yanks to be out chasing them, and Pa just stands there shaking his head at his story.

“Why come here? You live six miles down the road. I can’t have you here. Those Yanks come and cut down all the trees so they ain’t got a branch to hang us on, and I don’t want to go learning their remedy for it, once we are caught. You all need to get gone, real quick!”

Pa was getting hot, and the confederate horses were noting it by getting uneasy in their shoes and breathing steam. Old man ‘scarecrow John’ was sounding like a man about to get whipped, but Pa and them couldn’t take to any settlement, so he finally tells them to take their horses and hide out in the barn, just so as to be done with it all.

“I am going to shut this door, and I don’t want to see you here again when I reopen it, you hear? Nor do I know which way you went once I look out here again. That is for your safety too. You know the consequence if you make any sound or show yourselves here again. Now begone...,” and Pa shut the door, looked down at me standing there with my rifle, and he ruffled my head of hair. That was his sign to me that everything was alright . He did that with all of us, excepting Ma; he would just gently pat her fanny and she would generally cheer up.

I put my rifle away and Pa followed me back to the fireplace and as he sat down I could see he was listening for any sounds coming from outside, but all that could be heard was Ma coming softly back down the stairs alone. I could tell she was uneasy about the visitors when she entered and Pa reached out and gently patted her fanny as she walked by him, just to settle her fears, but it wasn’t so easy this time with her, and I wasn’t sure then what all Pa would resort to. But he just told her to sit down and remain quiet; that he was thinking.

Finally after some minutes, me just staring into the fire and thinking nothing, hearing nothing but the popping sounds the logs make, and wanting nothing more, Pa speaks up.

“Jeremiah...”, he almost never used my proper name unless it was real important, “...I need you to run an errand for your Mother and me.” I hadn’t been off our property since the trip to Hillsborough five days before, and of course my eyes brightened up. I felt like a dog let off its chain, and Pa noticed it.

“I can’t give you a written message on paper to deliver, in case our own people catch you. If they do, you need to tell them our young ones are both down with sickness and you’re off to fetch a doctor.” I nodded at that as some dark thoughts passed through my mind, and visions of being waylaid stole into my brain. This was all interrupted by Pa speaking to me again.

“Therefore I am going to tell you what all you are to say when you reach your destination, and you must remember it, and repeat it, just as I have spoken it to you.” At this I sort of swallowed hard and asked Pa not to make it too difficult, and Ma nodded, and said, “Now Jack, don’t give our boy something harder than he can do, if he has to do it.” Pa agreed to that and promised us both he would keep it easy, which settled some of the fears.

down in my belly, and I sat there half hoping he would reach over and ruffle through my hair again, but he didn’t do it.

“I need you to go down the road and find the Yankee outpost with all their soldiers, out toward Hillsborough. I imagine if you head in that general direction after ten tonight one of their pickets will catch you, and I need you to be brave and be caught by them without fight or flight. They will ask you what you are about, and why you are out there, and you must make sure they are the Yanks and not confederates dressed up to look like them. Don’t tell them anything until you are sure. Then once you know, ask them to lead you to their Captain because you have important news. Tell them you signed that Home Guard decree just this past Tuesday, and you are obeying specific orders. That should get you in to their encampment, and that should be all you need tell the pickets, okay?”

Of course in my mind I had already escaped from our own people and had now come into contact with those Yankee vedettes, and had told them all they needed to know, and was being led into their encampment on one of their horses, as an important visitor and a guest of ‘distinction and honor’. But of course I was nowhere at all but sitting there in front of that warm fire looking up at my Ma and Pa, as he told me all I was to do and say. I kept nodding ever so often and tried not to show the amount of excitement building up in me, as it had hatched out of all that fear earlier, and by now was chasing the last vestige of dread from my soul.

“I can’t allow you to take your rifle or knife as a defense. You must plead your case as innocent when caught, and be truthful that you are on a mission of peace, and salvation. Otherwise they may not believe you, and you must convince them it is so. And that is regardless of whether you are caught by the Yanks or the confederates!”

For the next two hours Pa sat in front of me, and after telling me all I was to repeat, he made me say it back to him again and again, until I made no mistakes, and knew every word as my own. Both Ma and Pa would then try and stop me to ask a question, to see if I could answer them, and before the two hours were up, I could start anywhere in that story and repeat it either forward or backward. I could see Ma and Pa were satisfied and started looking more proud, as it neared time for me to go.

So about ten that evening, on a cold February night with me not being more than a month past fourteen, I pulled on my boots over an extra pair of socks and bundled up in my coat, scarf and hat, and walked to the front door so as to begin my important mission. We stood there for a moment as a solemn prayer was delivered for my safety from Pa. The next moment I was out our front door, across our front yard, through the gate and headed up the road toward Hillsborough, and running silently through my mind was the memory of Pa’s words, over and over, like the footsteps that fell on the ground beneath me, as I hustled off to be captured by one side or the other.
 
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Lubliner

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
Things just don’t happen in real life as you might expect them to. I know they didn’t with me on this occasion. I had maybe gone two miles up the road, and was making pretty good time without seeing or hearing anything but the wind and my own breath, when I suddenly had a bayonet at my belly and heard ‘Halt!’. In a blink I had one in my back just to prove I was stuck, and I raised my hand and declared “I am a friend.”

Well those two men were joined by another and he was inspecting me up and down to see if I was armed. After a bit of searching through my clothing they relaxed and asked me what Pa had said they would ask. I asked them who they were, and they said ‘Forty-second Missouri Infantry’. I could tell they were real Yanks by the sound of their language, so satisfied, I told them just as I had been told to do by my Pa.

They sounded satisfied but they weren’t in for being too friendly because the third one pulls out a piece of linen cloth and wraps it around my head so I can’t see, and then the other two spin me around until I almost lose my balance, and their helping arms, one on each side of me holding me firm, and keeping me upright, set a forward pace that I had to stumble over. All I got to say was “Easy Yanks!”

So there I got trundled off into the darkness not knowing where anything was nor could I hear anything to pinpoint it, as being recognizable. I was captured for sure, and hadn’t thought of it until now as being so disagreeable, but it was, and no step comes easy when you don’t know where the next foot will fall. All this blindfolded leadership went on for maybe three-quarters’ to an hour, and my arms were getting sore and my toes were getting stubbed and turning numb.

After that treatment I finally got ushered into what I figured was a tent, and when the linen blindfold was taken off, I stood there blinking in lantern light with some officer sitting at a small table, inside a tent. He was watching me as he dismissed his picket that brought me in, and that confused me at first. The picket saluted and left us alone in the lantern light.

“My boys treat you okay?” I nodded, and he continued. “Well I sure don’t want to aggravate any locals here that have sworn the oath. You have sworn, haven’t you?” Again I nodded, and was beginning to feel a bit easier about my predicament.

“Yes sir. I signed up last Tuesday with my Pa. I am Jeremy Corn and Pa is Jack Corn. He signed up with me at the same time. He sent me here because of that oath, what we were sworn to do, and he said I must do it, and that is why I am here.”

“I understand you Jeremy. I am Captain Lewis of the Forty-second Missouri Infantry, and you came to the right people, I can tell you that now. We are here to help all you locals get rid of the scourge of insurrection that is such a curse upon you, and us. I understand you have some information.”

By then he had pulled out some list of names and was running his finger down it, until I guess he saw my name, so he put a check mark beside it, and wrote something too. I asked him what he wrote right then, and he said he had marked the date and time right there beside my name, and was now ready to hear what I had to tell him. So I stood there and repeated to him how these three men had come to the house and were causing Pa trouble. The Captain asked how to spell those names, and I had to tell him, “Just the way they sound I suppose.” I finished by telling him how they had gone out to the barn and set themselves up for the night, and the warning Pa had given them.

Captain Lewis took notes of all I spoke and soon he called in another officer. They spoke in front of me about what they were all to do, and soon someone outside was sent by horseback into Hillsborough to roust up a few guards from there. This was going to take some bit of time, so I was offered a stool and and a cup of hot coffee, and ordered to sit and be still until all was ready. When I had the chance I asked Captain Lewis who the other officer was, and he replied “Lieutenant Haines of Company K. He is going to lead this small scout back to your farm with you as the guide. You all will have a few of the locals along with you so nobody gets lost.”

“I get a horse don’t I?” Now I didn’t want to sound whiny so I spoke it quickly, like I was excited, but I had felt a cold flush come over me when I heard what the Captain said. I had already delivered my message as Pa had asked me, and I hadn’t planned on any return excursion such as this, nor had I volunteered to lead it. I guess maybe I hadn’t thought all these things through like I should have, but to me, once my message was delivered, I just figured I would return as I had set out to come.

Of course Captain Lewis saw things differently. “You will be on horseback for sure. Lieutenant Haines will discuss with you later what you will be required to do.”

No sense in me making any easy time up over this thing now, I thought to myself. I was in it real deep and it wasn’t going to be easy climbing back out of it when all of it was done. Suddenly my stomach felt all hollow inside and I wanted to get up and run out, but I knew it wasn’t to be so. Some soldier’s bayonet would find me way too soon and go popping me wide open if I tried it, so I sat there quiet and kept the empty feeling inside me almost as a comfort.

I must have sat there on that stool for near to an hour and a half as the Captain entertained himself by writing and reading, and sometimes issuing an order by calling out to the picket at the tent entrance. Finally I started noticing some commotion out there and it wasn’t long before I was being crowded in on, and made to stand once again, as three other men entered with the Lieutenant in tow. Now I felt small and unimportant standing there crowded to the back with all these bigger men, but I still was too well aware of my own importance that I could just up and disappear. So I listened.

Soon the five of us left Captain Lewis sitting there alone in his tent, as we were ushered out into the darkness. It had to now be at least two in the morning, and though dark, I could see a thick frost covering everything, except for three soldiers on horseback standing there steaming, and they were holding onto five more horses with empty saddles. It was a moment before my eyes could adjust to all that was around me, but as soon as they had, I saw a particular horse and saddle and laid claim to it before the others could. Nobody protested, so I climbed up into the saddle, feeling good to be on a horse again, and soon the others had all done the same.

All eight of us were then made to spread out, two by two with Lieutenant Haines and me in the lead, and three of the Hillsborough Guards and three of the Forty-second Missouri Infantry, mounted and following us. Two by two, we headed slowly back toward the farm where I was born Jeremy Corn just over fourteen years before.
 
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Lubliner

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Chattanooga, Tennessee
These events that followed as the night ended and dawn broke will stay with me, I suppose, forever and ever. I can’t even recollect to going back to a time before that morning without seeing this affair unfold before me. I had to talk to Pa about it in a confident heart to heart talk because I was learning to figure my memories, and trying to make things add up so they could all make sense. He was shoveling dirt at the time.

I told Pa about how unfriendly Lieutenant Haines was, and although my support to him had been necessary, I didn’t feel it had been well-placed. Pa would nod as I spoke, and not say much at all, but would instead let me finish sorting out all my thoughts and memories. I could tell he at first was grieved by what I had had to do, and what I witnessed then at fourteen, but he just kept shoveling dirt, quietly.

Our group of eight riders had come back through their outer picket defense, and after some more time, we pulled off into a nearby stand of timber there on the Strickland’s farm. The lieutenant had us all dismount and ordered two guards and one regular soldier to stay put and hold the horses. He made sure the other five of us understood all that was to happen, so we set out and crossed the road and went into the nearby field of my Pa’s, the five of us moving quietly, and making off toward the barn at the far end.

I was staying close to Lieutenant Haines, like I was supposed to do, but all I wanted was to protest. Why was I needed then? I felt I had done my part as they could all find their way just fine from where we stood, but he would have nothing of it. Our barn was situated almost a half mile away, on the other side of the property, and we had a pretty good amount of old ruts and furrows to cross. The house I was born in stood there nearer to us and the road like a vacant sentry with no sign of life. I couldn’t help but look over that way and wonder what all my Ma and Pa were doing and thinking at that time.

We slowly made our way by crossing the field somewhat north of the barn all the way to back fencing and timberline that marked our boundary. This ran on south down behind the barn and then it turned eastward and ran up that way, marking a boundary for the adjoining field. The chicken coop stood about halfway between the barn and the house, with the wood shed attached there to it. Our old mule was tethered there so he could get some refuge in bad weather; besides, Pa said all that stink should stay put in that one place.

This whole time, the other men remained silent, so all the words spoken was when I was asked a question by the Lieutenant. I would only answer what I was supposed to, and a simple ‘I don’t know’ if he pricked any spot my Pa said nothing about. We were soon getting nearer to our positions as we crossed over and as the other three spread out behind us, the one Home Guard fell back and stopped. He didn’t go any further, and the Lieutenant with his two regular soldiers couldn’t coax him without a lot of noise, so we left him there to sneak on up toward the barn.

The morning would dawn on us soon and now all we could cover was the front and one side. It was getting so cold at that point I started to shiver, but I know fear had some influence on that too. We kept creeping closer and closer to the door and soon one of the others spread out toward one side and we halted closer to the door. It is amazing how in one single minute it can be black as pitch and then in an instant, a dull even light appears so shapes and forms start making sense. Then colors appear in another moment casting a different hue upon the face of the earth. All these brief moments are so brief they really can’t be reckoned with.

The Lieutenant was anxiously awaiting the dawn, and after seeing somewhat more before him, he signaled the other in closer. I think he was going to try to storm the barn door once the light came in, and as the morning sounds began to get sharper I got more scared.

I was telling my Pa about it then, later on, when he was shoveling dirt close up to the side of our barn. I had always wanted a horse of my own, especially with all the new adventures to come, and as I had seen those horses of Stearns, Perdham, and Ragan, I figured the Yanks shouldn’t learn of them, so I didn’t tell them. When Pa heard me say I left out the part of the message with the three horses, he stops digging and looks at me sort of funny. I had never seen that look before, and after a minute he just says, “You didn’t?”
“No Pa. I was hoping if they didn’t know about the horses, then maybe I could claim one later.”

Pa was still standing there, looking amazed, then said I ought to have known better that they would be found out. I answered that I hadn’t known all I would have to do while I was there in Captain Lewis’s tent. Later as it became more apparent that they were to be discovered, it got too late for me to mention. Of course Lieutenant Haines could be heard cursing the earth beneath him when those horses took note of our approach and caused enough commotion to give alarm. Suddenly the barn door cracked open and two gray figures could be seen scampering like wounded jack rabbits out of there and around toward the timber. As they disappeared the Lieutenant’s curses fell upon that cold patch of earth we stood upon, and he finally looks over at me.

“Oh hellfire!” says I real disgusted like. “There should still be one left in the barn.”

So Haines takes hold of his shotgun and with the other two soldiers he quickly steps up to the barn and thrusts open the door. I came up close to peer in, and there I saw the three horses, still bridled up, with all their equipment off in one corner, and close by there was the scarecrow man, splayed out and covered partially with straw, head thrown back and him breathing deep, and not ever knowing anything. Pa was listening to me then, too, but he was still shoveling, as I told him how I didn’t like Lieutenant Haines because he wasn’t very nice.

“Pa, he didn’t need to do that; just walk up and level his shotgun and pull the trigger. It blowed his whole face away and the top of his head too. And then he calls me over to ask me if I recognize him.”

Pa shoveled another batch of dirt out and I sort of gazed off toward the house up there close by the road. Pa finally saw fit to speak again, so he asked me if I was ready to listen.

“Jeremy, those men came in this morning and picked everything clean. They got three good horses with all the saddlery, extra clothing, and one Mississippi rifle and one revolver, and left us here to bury the dead body of John Ragan.”

I interjected, “They even took their boots, Pa! Perdham and Stearns have no coat either. What if they come back?”

Pa was now finished shoveling, and all we had left to do was drag the body over to the grave. I think he knew what I was thinking.

“Son, remember you shall not ever covet anything of your neighbor’s. Besides none of this was your fault. Those two men were counting on their horses to save them, and they were saved, but John Ragan, here, what’s left of him anyways, chose that jug of whiskey I had hidden out here in the barn. If there is a fault to be claimed it is his own. Lieutenant Haines has his own credit to account for with the good Lord, and it ain’t left at all to us; just this cold dead body.”

It didn’t take much thinking at all for me to fully understand what Pa was saying, and he never stopped saying it. Each time he spoke up about it, he just would get prouder and prouder, and I could see Jimmie and Janey sitting there with Ma, and knew they could never understand all I had to do that time. And sometimes Pa would look over at me when one of the younger ones would tell a half-truth, and exclaim with a wink at me, “You forgot your horses.”
 
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luinrina

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Nice! Short but gripping story you made out of that little report in the O.R. Did you research the Corn family or are the names made up? Love the little joke at the end about missing horses when telling half-truths. :giggle:

Three things I noticed:
For one, if you address someone by name, there should be a comma in front of it, like in these examples of yours:
“By God, is that you, John Ragan?”
Who all you got there with you, John?”

Shouldn't "Confederate" be capitalized? You capitalize "Yankee" after all.

And last, I suppose you mean "canter" here.
we heard their horses cantor on past back toward Hillsborough
 

lelliott19

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This is great Lubliner! What a fantastic idea! 👍
I had my favorites, and I told Pa so, and let him know General Milroy wasn’t one of them.
Great use of euphemism here to provide subtle humor!
My mind was kept busy too, so all those daydreams and ‘what-if’s?’ were left alone by the sweeping broom at the front door.
Love the use of personification and imagery here. I can just see the broom standing there - representing all the dreams on hold.

That's as far as Ive gotten now. Ill add more later.
 

Lubliner

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Nice! Short but gripping story you made out of that little report in the O.R. Did you research the Corn family or are the names made up? Love the little joke at the end about missing horses when telling half-truths. :giggle:

Three things I noticed:
For one, if you address someone by name, there should be a comma in front of it, like in these examples of yours:



Shouldn't "Confederate" be capitalized? You capitalize "Yankee" after all.

And last, I suppose you mean "canter" here.
Thank you, @luinrina for pointing out these points to my eye. Writing was a hard process of learning, and grammatical mistakes do jump to the eyes of the learned, creating a slight ripple in thought. Even more so with semantics, and unnecessary words, where the effect trammels the story or trips up the reader. Making dialogue was a mental process of individualism trying to present personalities that were consistent but different. The theme took hold of itself by the missing evidence in the initial report; such as my question, "How could this have happened." I cannot return to correct the errors that are, being the [edit] button vanishes after a day, but @lelliott19 caught my 'gun blanket' error early on, and I returned with the checked and double-checked 'gum blanket'. Glad you found favor to the story.
Research was in the Michigan State Archives for the General Order of Milroy on Feb. 1. The Corn family I could not discover. I would love to learn more, even if the facts are misrepresented here by me, and I must apologize for that. Creative License?
Lubliner.
 
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Lubliner

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Very gripping story! Really liked it!
I just climbed onto the web (5 p. m.) today and was struck by the number of responses I received. I had not capitalized on the idea of making any splash or waves, and had that worrisome thought the poor story would sink down and drown. You all, all of you, just saved my feelings from utter despair. Thanks for the comment.
Lubliner.
 

lelliott19

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The Corn family I could not discover. I would love to learn more,
Looks like the Corn Farm was at or near Estill Springs. There's a whole bunch of pre-CW Corns buried at an old family cemetery called Corn Cemetery GPS Coordinates: 35.2564011, -86.1074982
1572819396973.png


In addition, here's a link to a search of Corns buried in Franklin County TN who were born before 1860 and died after 1864.
Link Corn Search
 

Lubliner

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Looks like the Corn Farm was at or near Estill Springs. There's a whole bunch of pre-CW Corns buried at an old family cemetery called Corn Cemetery GPS Coordinates: 35.2564011, -86.1074982
View attachment 332492

In addition, here's a link to a search of Corns buried in Franklin County TN who were born before 1860 and died after 1864.
Link Corn Search
Jack Corn is very real and he is supposed to have lived on a farm out near Hillsborough. I would guess his proper name is 'Jacob Corn', and Jack would be common usage, but the 42nd Missouri Infantry made the report. It is not yet 2 months after the battle of Nashville.
I looked into the relevant war maps from the Official Atlas of the Civil War, and knew to figure about 12 miles south of Hillsborough by the Report. I found a farm owned by Reagan, and knew the encampment of headquarters was in the field. That was to create the timeline for midnight as a messenger then delivered the information. Pure conjecture on my part, but realistically the only explanation that made sense.
Lubliner.
 
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