Welcome and Unwelcome
We knew the Confederates would counterattack, so we began our preparations to meet them. I was cleaning my rifle when I looked up to see a carriage coming along down the road. It was clearly not an army vehicle, and I wondered what civilian would come here so close to danger.
A sentry stopped the carriage and, after a brief conversation, gestured in my direction. As it drew nearer, I recognized the carriage as Eleanor’s, and wondered what she would want of me. I have been sending her what little information I could gather, so I surmised she was not displeased with me.
The black vehicle stopped not too far from where I stood, and the driver got down and came over to me. “Mrs. Perry requests your presence with her in the cabin of her conveyance.”
Of course, I went over. She probably would have had me shot if I did not comply. I opened the door and climbed in, but could see little because of the dimness of the interior. I knew she was there, though.
She spoke first. “Caleb, you disappoint me.”
“Why? I have sent you reports.”
“Reports with little information and many inaccuracies.”
“I am doing the best I can. A common soldier is not privy to many military secrets.”
“That is why I have come. What would you say to joining the War Department, where you could hear many things?”
I was silent. I had a thousand questions, but I said, “I do not think that is a plan. It is one thing to be around ordinary soldiers and hear what I can: it is another to be part of the highest levels of planning. They will not trust someone such as I or find out who I truly am.”
She laughed. “That will be your mission, to maintain the subterfuge and gather some truly useful information. Gather your belongings. You are coming with me.”
She laughed again. “You are not considering the power I hold because of my wealth. How do you supposed I made the arrangements for you to walk among the councils of the mighty?”
“I’m sure I don’t want to know.”
“I shall tell you anyhow. It was not only by virtue of my wealth that I have made it possible for you to be privy to many secrets. I’m sure you can fill in that blank.”
You are indeed an evil woman, I thought. I cannot begin to fathom how evil you are.
Reluctantly, I gathered my belongings. Joel came over. “Are you going somewhere?” he asked.
“Yes, I am for Washington and the War Department.”
“Who has summoned you?”
“I regret I cannot say.”
He reflected on this momentarily. “Since it is such a great secret, I must surmise that it is President Lincoln who calls you.”
If only it were Lincoln, I thought. “You may surmise as you wish. I may say no more.” I put out my hand. “It was my good fortune to fight with you.”
He looked puzzled. We were nowhere each other on the field of battle since I was in hiding, but he took my hand anyhow. “Take care for your safety. You are a fine fellow.”
“How might my safety be threatened in the capital? It is strongly fortified, and I have no care for that.”
“There are other threats in that city that have nothing to do with guns and bullets.”
You know much about my situation, I thought, but I can say nothing of it, so I said, “Farewell, my friend. May we meet again soon.”
“That is my wish as well. Good-bye.”
He walked away, and I felt badly that I could not reveal my true identity and purpose. Such deception was hard on me, but I felt I must endure it for the sake of my family. I walked back to the carriage and climbed in.
“Make yourself comfortable. We have a long journey ahead of us.”
I know, I thought. I walked every step of it.
Still exhausted from being in the battle, I soon fell asleep. I was soon awakened by the stopping of the carriage. “What is wrong? Why are we stopping?”
Eleanor smiled her thin smile and said, “Do you really think I want to take a day and a half to return to Washington? We are stopped at Beaverdam Depot where we will take the train. That will take about three hours.”
I looked out and saw a locomotive with a coach and box car attached. “We will ride in my private coach, of course, while the carriage, horse and coachman will pass the journey in the box car.”
“You must have some influence to use the railroad during war time.”
She smiled again. “You have no inkling of the extent of my ability to accomplish what I wish to.”
I’m not sure I want to know what else you’re capable of, I thought.
“It is time for us to board the train. I am anxious to be back in Washington.”
I climbed down from the carriage first, and started to make my way to the coach. Eleanor put her head out. “Is it not customary for a gentleman to assist a lady from her carriage?”
I turned back. I would have done it right away were there a lady in the carriage, I thought, but it does not hold a lady. I helped her down, and noted how tightly she held my hand. She went to embrace me, but I stiffened. She drew back.
“Do you not wish for me to embrace you, after all I have done for you? You would probably be dead by now were it not for me.”
I reluctantly gave her a stiff embrace, and as we pulled apart, she kissed me passionately. I tore myself away. “I may not do such things! I am a married man!”
“But your wife is far away.”
“That makes no difference.”
“We will have more time in the coach to disport ourselves.”
“I will do no such thing. Leave me here.”
Her face was a mask of fury. “If you stay, I will see that you are put on the lines where there is greatest danger. Surely you would not survive that. So, it is your choice: go with me and live, or stay here and die.”
I considered hard, and finally decided to go with her, since I wished to see Laurel and little Caleb again. “Very well, I will go, but I will do nothing to compromise my principles.”
She smiled archly. “We shall see about that.”
With that, we go onto the coach. The engineer put the train into motion, and we were off.