Monthly Archives: May 2018

“Diamond Courage,” Part 44


Chapter 44



We ran for as long as we could, and then walked. After four hours, I again heard the sound of a horse and people, but I also could tell they were by a large river. That could mean bad news for us.

We crept closer to the river, and, hidden from them, I saw the Home Guard, Laurel and Caleb standing beside the river, apparently waiting for something, probably a boat to take them somewhere else. I had to do something before the boat arrived and they left.

Pistol in hand, I crept closer to the shore. I would have to have a clean shot to take out the guard and not harm Laurel or Caleb. I kept coming closer when I heard the whistle of a steam boat, a small one, and saw it coming. It was about a hundred yards out when I decided to make my move. I had a good shot and raised the gun. Just before I pulled the trigger, Andrew came up. “Caleb!” he started.

I tried to motion to him that I had to concentrate, but I couldn’t. “Look what I found.” I turned to see and lost my shot.

“What is it?” I sighed.

“There was some money in the lining of my coat. I had forgotten all about it.”

“That’s good. Now let me see if I can get another shot.” I turned back to the river, but the guard and my family were on the boat, headed out to the center. I had lost my shot, and at least for the time being, my family.

I came out to the shoreline and stood there, watching them go. Just before they went out of sight around a bend, Laurel saw me and raised her hand to her heart. She stood there a moment and then she was gone.

I knew she couldn’t hear me, but I called, “Good-bye for now, my love. I’ll find you and bring you home. And that is a promise.” With that I turned back to the forest and walked into it.



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“Diamond Courage,” Part 43


Chapter 43

Swept Away


I heard a drumming sound coming from far away as I came to my senses. What is that? I thought I am no longer in the army, so there shouldn’t be any drummers around. I raised my head, and saw that I was lying on a little patch of sand beside the raging river. I looked around, and saw Andrew lying still, face down, on an adjoining patch. I staggered to my feet, noticing that I had numerous cuts and bruises, no doubt resulting from all the debris that had rolled over me in the river. The rain had let up some, and  I made my way over to Andrew and turned him over. I thanked God that he was breathing, and, as I watched, his eyes fluttered and he tried to sit up.

“Stay still,” I told him. “Don’t try to sit up.”

“Where are we? What happened?”

“The bridge collapsed with us on it when a huge tree came down the river and hit it. We’re lucky to be alive.”

“Something else happened…can’t…remember…” With that, he collapsed on the sand and lay there. I hope he was not seriously injured, although I was beginning to think that was the case. Then I remembered seeing Laurel, and anxiously cast my eyes upstream. I saw no sign of her, and wondered what had happened. We were not more than a stone’s throw from each other…and now this happened. We would have to find out some way across the river, although I suspected that the destroyed bridge was the only one for miles.

Just then Laurel rode into view on the opposite bank. “Caleb! My love! Are you hurt?”

“Just some scratches and bruises. I don’t know how bad off Andrew is. He came to and then collapsed again.”

“What shall we do?”

“I think the bridge we tried to cross is the only one for miles, so we can’t go down to it. We don’t know where it is or how long that would take. We’ll have to try to put something across that we can climb on to get to the other side. I’ll have to tend to Andrew first, though, to see if he’ll be able to help.”

“All right. I’ll stay right here.”

“How’s little Caleb?”

“He’s fine overall, but he’s upset by all that has happened. I know he want to see you.”

Just then Caleb woke up from where he had been napping sitting in front of Laurel. “Look!” she said. “It’s Daddy!”

I saw him reach out his hands and call, “Daddy!” Such a sight had a telling effect on my heart. I had missed him and Laurel so much, and now, with some effort and luck, we would be together again.

“I’ll look to Andrew. Stay where you are.”

“Don’t worry. I never want to be apart from you again.”

I went over to Andrew to find he was coming to again. I shook his shoulder. “Andrew! Wake up! Laurel’s across the river and I need your help to get to her. Come on, Andrew!”

His eyelids fluttered and once again he tried to sit up, only to fall back. “Andrew! You can do it!”

This time he was able to sit up. “What’s going on? What happened?” He must have hit his head to be so confused.

“We were cast into the river when the bridge collapsed and came ashore here. I need your help to put a tree or something else across so we can reach Laurel and Caleb, who are on the other side.”

He looked puzzled. “What are they doing here?”

“We’ve been trying to catch up with them, and there they are! Look! Look across the river and you’ll see them!”

Andrew focused with great difficulty. “Oh, yes, I see them!” He waved, and Laurel waved back. He turned to me. “How will we get over there?”

“We’ll have to find a tree and put it across. It has to be fallen since I don’t have anything to cut one down.”

“Well…all right.” He got to his feet with difficulty and stood there, swaying. “I feel dizzy,” he said, and fell over. I went to him. He had fainted. He wouldn’t be any help to me for a while.

I turned to the river. “Andrew has fainted!” I shouted to Laurel. “I can’t do anything without him. We’ll have to wait.”

“I know you’ll be able to get over to me. I’ll sit here and wait.”

“Why did you come this way?” I asked her.

“This is where we talked about coming when we first started out. After I got free of that horrid man and was in the home, I looked for ways to be able to come here. One night, I just left, taking Caleb with me. Where were you?”

“You know I was not with you, but it would take too long to have to shout it. I’ll tell you more when I join you on that bank. I have missed you so much.”

“And I you.” With that, I sat down to await Andrew’s recovery. Laurel and Caleb lay in the grass on the other side and apparently fell asleep. They had had a wearying journey, I was sure.

I lay down myself and had not been settled for fifteen minutes when I heard some disturbance from across the river. I jumped to my feet and saw four men in uniform take Laurel and Caleb, put them on their horse, and ride off at a great rate. They must be part of the Home Guard, I thought. I despaired of knowing where they were taking her and my soul cried out since I would not be able to follow them for a while. I sat on the ground, dejected.

I sat that way for an hour, when Andrew began stirring. He sat up and seemed more clear headed. “Are you ready to find that tree?” he asked.

I waved my hand. “There is no hurry. The Home Guard has taken Laurel and Caleb and ridden off with them.”

He groaned. “We have the worst luck.”

“So it would seem. But we need to figure out a way across and go after them. Come on, let’s go!”

We started down the river, and Andrew said, “What will we do for food or supplies? It all fell into the river.”

“We must pray that something will turn up.”

We had not gone very far when we came to a bend in the river. As we came around it, I saw a tree had fallen in such a way that we could cross. “See?” I said to Andrew. “Our first prayer has been answered.

We crossed carefully, not wanting to experience the river again. When we got to the other side, I said, “We must strike a diagonal course to where we believe they are. We will run into more obstacles that way, but it will be faster.”

“I am for that,” Andrew answered, and we set out into the underbrush. It was indeed more difficult as we encountered various thickets and brambles. Two hours later, scratched and bleeding, we came upon the trail.

“We must run from here on out,” I said, “as far as we can.”

We started running, and made stronger by all our walking, ran for about an hour before we came to a small settlement. We went into the tiny store. The shopkeeper looked up. “You folks look like you got into a fight with a  porcupine!”

“No,” I told him, “we went off the trail to see if we could catch up with my wife. She was taken by the Home Guard. They were on horses.”

“I heard someone go by on horses about an hour ago.”

“That would have been them. Say, could I arrange to have some things on credit. We fell into the river and all my money was lost.”

“You are having a bad time of it, all right. I will let you have some credit with the expectation that you will pay me back in a week.”

“I would be most grateful,” I said, although I did not know if I could pay him back in a week. We gathered what we needed, including a pack and a gun and some ammunition, and set out once again.

“Do you think we can catch them?” Andrew asked.

I shook my head. “Not while they are on their horses, but they will have to rest. That is our best hope and will be our best opportunity.”

We walked for three hours on the path, and then I heard the nickering of horses. I motioned for Andrew to be quiet. “That may be them. Let’s take to the underbrush and see if it is indeed.”

We went back into the underbrush and moved silently. When the sounds grew louder, we dropped to our stomachs and crawled along until we could see it was Laurel and the Home Guard.

“What do we do now?” Andrew whispered.

“If I can get close enough, I will shoot them.”

“Can you get all three before one of them returns fire?”

“I’ll find that out when I try it.” For someone who was sick of the killing in the war, I had done a lot of it in the past few months. I pushed these thoughts out of my head and crept closer to the clearing where they stood.

As I came to the point I would shot from, Laurel, who was facing me, saw me coming up. I put a finger to my lips, but her eyes opened wide and her hand flew to her mouth. The Guards turned around. “What are you looking at? Is someone there?” With that, I fired and dropped the first Guard. The other two ran in different directions, one grabbing Laurel and forcing her to go with him. I was able to shoot the other one, but the third Guard got Laurel and Caleb on his horse, and they galloped off.

Andrew and I ran into the clearing to see the condition of the Guards. “This one’s dead,” he said.

I check the other man. “So is this one. We’ll have to follow as fast as we can,” I said, and we took off running. I knew we could not keep up with a horse at full gallop, but we would come upon them somehow. We would have to

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“Diamond Courage,” Part 42


Chapter 42

Deep Hollows


“Caleb!” Andrew called. “Over here! I think this is a pass!”

We were deep in the mountains that ran along the North Carolina-Tennessee border, and after struggling up one too many mountains, we decided to look for passes, even if that would take longer. We might even have been in North Carolina at that point—there was no way to tell, and we hadn’t seen anyone for two days at a small settlement where the general store owner told us that someone who sounded like they might have been Laurel and Caleb had been through three days earlier. I was frustrated that we did not seem to be catching up with them, and so we pushed even harder, traveling from the earliest first light and keeping on until it was absolutely too dark to see. I cursed myself for not buying a lantern when I had the opportunity. We tried burning tree limbs, but they didn’t last long and we spent still more time trying to find another one that w could burn.

I followed the sound of Andrew’s voice and looked up to where he stood. “Come on!” he shouted. “This is it!” I struggled up a rise and saw that, yes, a pass lay before us. It made sense to me that Laurel would have had to pass the same way, and I had renewed hope we would see her and little Caleb soon.

For the next several hours, we followed the pass until it divided. We stopped there to talk about which way we should go.

“I favor the one to the right,” Andrew said. “That one leads south, and it would take her to a warmer area.”

“I must disagree with you,” I told him. “With the exertion and warmth generated by walking, she would wish for a colder zone.”

“We do not know that she is walking. From the speed of her travel, she must be riding a horse.”

I thought for a while. “You make a good point. South it is, then.”

We turned and followed the pass south, which also led downward, making it easier on ourselves. After a couple of hours, the pass opened into a beautiful valley surrounded by some of the highest mountains we had seen. We stopped again. “I have a feeling that she is somewhere in this valley,” I said.

“I agree,” Andrew returned. “The question, of course, is where?”

“There are only certain ways she can go with a horse. We will have to look for trails and other signs.”

“And so we shall. I’ll lead on!”

We went on our way, and after about an hour, it began to rain so heavily I could hardly see the trail in front of me. “We’d best stop and get under some kind of shelter,” I told Andrew. “This is really bad.”

We got under a huge pine tree. “Do you think it will stop soon?” Andrew asked.

“We have no way of telling. Let’s wait and see if it at least lets up.”

After about half an hour, the rain slackened, and we continued following the trail. We crested a rise and saw a river with a rickety old bridge across it. The water came just under the bridge, and it was running rough from all the rain. “We’d better get across before the water gets any higher,” I said, and we started across. As we did, I thought I heard someone calling my name. It was hard to tell because of the pounding of the rain on everything around. I stopped, and Andrew nearly ran into me.

“Did you hear something?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Only the rain.”

“I thought I heard someone call my name.”

“No. I heard nothing except what I have told you.”

Just then the rain slackened, and I heard it again, sounding as if it were very distant, but that might have been the effect of the rain. I looked toward what I was hearing, and there, across the river, was Laurel! She was astride a horse, holding Caleb in front of her. I never saw a more wonderful sight in my life. Apparently she had just crossed the bridge, and I do not see how it held. It was growing weaker by the minute, so I shouted to Laurel, “Stay where you are! The bridge won’t hold you again! Andrew and I will come to you!”

The rain increased again, and I could not hear what she said, but she gestured that we should come across. I waved, and said to Andrew, “Are you ready?”

He smiled. “This is why we have traveled so far and endured so many hardships. Yes, I am ready! You cannot keep me from it!”

We started across, and I felt the bridge swaying and heard it cracking. “Quick!” I shouted. “Hurry!” After we had gone no more than about ten feet, I heard a tremendous roaring sound upstream, followed by Laurel’s scream. I looked in the direction of the sound and saw that a huge tree had fallen into the river and was speeding toward us. “Andrew—” I started to tell him to hold on, but the tree hit us about then. I saw Andrew fly through the air as the bridge collapsed with him. I followed, and then there was only blackness.






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“Diamond Courage,” Part 41

  Chapter 41

Circling Back


We made our voyage to Cuba, and Ramsey had the leg irons taken off before we reached the port. I think he saw that if I left the ship, I would have nowhere to go, being unfamiliar with Havana and no way to return to Shreveport except on his ship. We delivered bales of cotton and took on large crates which I assumed contained firearms from England. This process took most of a day, and then the crew, including me, had liberty the next day until the dinner hour, after which we would start on our way back.

Most of the crew, except for the few necessary to provide security for our cargo, went ashore to do what sailors do when they are in port: drink, fight, and involve themselves in what could be dangerous or shady activities. For that reason, I stayed on board even though I could have gone with them.

I sat on a rail looking over the harbor, which had all manner of ships, including some small fishing boats.  The fishermen were setting out to make their day’s catch, and snatches of Spanish floated up to me. On the whole, the day was pleasant with a clear blue sky and a light breeze. As I sat there musing about what had happened to me, I felt someone come up. It was Captain Ramsey. He sat beside me and started a conversation. “You said you would tell me more of your story when we had the opportunity. I assume now is as good a time as any.”

“It is.”

He took off his cap and studied my face. “Begin at the beginning, then.”

“I became an orphan from the age of sixteen, and I married my wife Laurel shortly before I joined the 8th Virginia Infantry Regiment at the beginning of the war. As I told you, I saw action for about ten minutes before I was captured at Fairfax Station in Northern Virginia. We were sent to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington.”

He nodded. He knew about half of what I had told him.

“While I was there, the Union chaplain told us about baseball, and we formed a team. We were dreadful at first, but soon improved so that we were able to defeat some of the better Union teams and even a couple of professional ones.”

Ramsey looked thoughtful. “I have heard of this game, but never actually witnessed it. You will have to tell me more at a later time.”

“I will do that. I was in prison for several months when I was recruited to acts as a spy by a wealthy war widow who owned factories which supplied uniforms for the North. She had secret sympathies for the South, and devised a plan whereby I would pass as her brother, a Union soldier whom I resembled greatly, and thereby gain information about Union plans.”

“You do not seem to be the sort to spy.”
“In truth, I am not.”

“Why did you do it, then, other than it released you from prison?”

“That is a good question. The widow, whose name is Eleanor, threatened my family, which was back at my home.”

“I see. But you somehow got away from spying.”

“Yes. Through various escapes and subterfuges, I was able to return home and take my family first to the west and then south. It was on that leg of our journey that Laurel and my son were taken, as I believe, to Shreveport, where I have been trying to find them. It was at this point I was taken to the ship, and you know the rest from here.”

“Yes. And you truly believe that your wife and son are in Shreveport?”

“I am convinced, and I need only to return to the church to see what information the minister’s wife has gained, if any. I pray that my Laurel and little Caleb are there, so that we might be reunited.”

“We will be back within ten days. You will have another three-day leave to look for your wife. But I must warn you, if you are not back when the leave is up, I will not be so lenient.”

“I understand.” I did not tell the captain that if I found Laurel and Caleb, we would continue on our journey and suffer whatever consequences we might. I have said that I cannot live without Laurel, and being without her for those months was difficult enough.

We finished our business in Cuba and set sail for Shreveport. One evening, I went out on deck and looked in the direction that I took was leading us to Louisiana. I raised my eyes and quietly said, “I’m coming for you, Laurel. You may count on me.”


As I left for my leave in Shreveport, I was met at the dock by Andrew. I was surprised to see him. “Andrew! It is good to see you, but I thought you would be at the hotel.”

“I would be, but I have something I must tell you which is not good news.”

My heart sank. “Is it related to Laurel and Caleb?”

“I fear that it is. No one told her that you were here looking for her, and she left suddenly without a word to anyone, taking Caleb with her. No one knows where she is gone.”

I sank to my knees. “This is horrible. How could such a thing happen?”

“I only know as much as I have told you. I don’t know what we will do now.”

“We will continue looking for her, of course. My best guess is that she would try to go toward the Tennessee mountains, believing that I would be there. We talked of going there to get away from the war.”

“I see. Is that where you were headed when I met you?”

“Initially, yes. We found we could not get far enough south at the time to then make our way to Tennessee, so we went further west. Grant has driven to the south, so the way is now clear for us to make our way eastward. Laurel might have been aware of this opening and decided to go where we had talked about.”

“I see. When do you want to leave?”

“As soon as possible.”

“What about the navy?”

“What of it? Nothing is more important to me than finding Laurel. I will risk all to be with her again.”

We went back to the hotel, packed our items and checked out. Then it was back to walking, eastward this time, to the place where I hoped I would find my love.



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“Diamond Courage,” Part 40


Chapter 40



The next morning, we arose, and made our way to the church, only to be told that the minister’s wife was no better, and that we should try again the next day. We repaired back to our room, where I fell into a brown study. Andrew did his best to cheer me.

“Let’s go walking. We may uncover something.”

“I did that yesterday, to no avail.”

“That was yesterday. Today is a new day.”

He finally managed to convince me that my mood would not improve if I stayed in the room dwelling on my loss, so after we had lunch, we went once again into the streets. After an unfruitful hour, I said to him, “You may continue if you wish. For my part, I am going to return to the hotel.”

“I will keep looking,” he said, “and I hope I shall return with good news.”

I left him, walking the distance of ten blocks we were from the hotel. As usual, the streeets were jammed with all kinds of people headed in every direction. I stopped to rest for a moment, and a man dressed in a uniform I did not recognize accosted me. “Are you Caleb Dillard?” he asked, looking at a piece of paper in his hand.

“I am he.”

“I am Lieutenant Marlow of the Provost Office. I require you to return with me to the Laurel.  You did not return by the end of your leave, and I was sent to find you and bring you back. Where is your uniform?”

“I had business that required I not wear it.”

“I cannot conceive what business that would be, but no matter. You shall have another uniform, but you must face the captain’s justice.”

“I must stay here!”

He took me by the arm. “You will come with me,” he said, and since he was bigger and, I could tell, stronger than I, I went with him.

“Let me at least tell my friend what has happened to me.”

“I must have you back to the captain as soon as possible, with no delays.”

I could see that arguing with him was fruitless, so I kept silent as we made our way to the ship. We arrived soon enough and went on board. Seaman Donovan stood at the top of the gangplank. “Here’s the one we were looking for,” Marlow said. “He’s all yours.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. We’ll take care of him, if you know what I mean.”

Both Marlow and Donovan laughed at this, but I failed to see the humor in it. Marlow turned to go down the gangplank, while Donovan took me by the arm. “It’s the brig for you, Dillard,” he said. “The captain will deal with you later.”

He took me down below decks, and thrust me into a small cabin, put me in shackles, and left me in the dark. He didn’t say how long I would be there, or what my punishment might be. Not being able to look for Laurel was punishment enough, I thought.

As I sat there in the dark, I thought about all that had happened since the war started. I felt that I had survived for a purpose, and that purpose was to be a good husband to Laurel and a good father to Caleb. If that was my purpose, why was I apart from them? I occupied myself with these thoughts and with tears until, exhausted, I fell asleep.


I cannot say how long I slept, or was in a collapsed state, but I could no longer see daylight through the bars in my door. It must be evening or later, I thought. It occurred to me that I was hungry and wondered when I might be fed. As if in answer to this thought, I heard a key turning in the door, which opened to reveal a seaman holding out a tin plate and cup to me. I tried to reach it, but couldn’t. “You’ll have to bring that closer,” I said. “I can’t reach it.”

He sneered. “We couldn’t reach you, so you try to reach this.” The plate and cup were just out of reach of my grasping hand. “Please—,” I started to ask him again to move it closer when the door slammed and was locked. I could barely see my food, and wondered what I would do. I wouldn’t starve overnight, but the pangs of hunger were becoming worse. I thought, and finally decided to see if I could move one of my legs, shackled as they were, enough to move the plate over. I stretched and strained and although the manacles cut into my legs, I was able to slide the plate over so I could grasp it with my hands. I was less successful with the cup, spilling about half of it as it jerked along the rough flooring, but I had my food! I didn’t care what it was as long as it was edible, and although it seemed half rotten, it felt good to have something in my stomach. I might become sick from eating it, but I was no longer hungry.

I finished what had been brought to me and lay back, contemplating the empty hours in darkness. I knew the captain would have to see me at some point, and prayed that would be sooner rather than later so I would know what would happen to me, although as late as it must have been, I would probably have to wait until the morrow to know anything.

I lay in my cabin for a long time, wishing to fall sleep, but not having that happen for what must have been hours. Finally, mercifully, I drifted into sleep and slept dreamlessly and well from exhaustion, I am sure.

I was awakened by the sound of a key in the lock to the door of my cabin. The same seaman who brought me my food the night before pushed a tin plate toward me, and then a tin cup filled with some liquid. This time he put it near enough that I could reach it easily. “Thank you for putting that so I could reach it this time,” I told him.

“I want you to be able to eat so the captain won’t have to punish a starving man.”

“Do you know when the captain will see me?”

“Do I look like him? When he’s good and ready, that’s when. You’ll just have to wait!” With that, he slammed the door and locked it. I could hear him as he walked away, cursing at deserters and miscreants.

I ate the pork and hardtack that constituted my breakfast and drank the brackish water in the tin cup. I then lay down again to await what might happen next. Judging from its motion, the ship must be on the high seas, and moving fast. That was certainly an asset for a blockade runner.

A couple of hours later, I sat up and, stiff from not moving, tried to stretch my limbs as best I could. While I was doing this, I heard the key in the lock again, and the door opened to reveal Seaman Donovan, who was more civil than the seaman who brought my me meals. “The captain will see you now,” he said. “I’ll take your manacles off now, and I would advise you not to try to escape by jumping overboard. Even if you’re a strong swimmer, we’re miles from land, and these waters are filled with sharks.”

“Since you put it that way, I won’t try,” I told him. “You will have no trouble with me.”

He conducted me to the captain’s cabin, which I knew the whereabouts from my time on the ship earlier. I ducked my head to go through the hatch, and came upon Captain Ramsey sitting at his desk, signing some papers. He looked up when he had finished and said, “Ah, Seaman Dillard. You’ve given us quite a chase. What were you doing?”

“Looking for my wife and son.”

“Did you succeed?”

“If I had, I wouldn’t be here.”

“Precisely. You know that I am able to punish you however I wish. The captain is the absolute authority aboard his ship.”

I dropped my head. “I am aware of that, sir.”

“What have you to say for yourself?”

I stood up straight. “I’d do the exact same thing, except I would find my family.”

I heard Donovan take in a sharp breath, but Ramsey smiled. “If my family were missing, I would do as you have done. Nonetheless, my estimation of that does not matter. You have violated a naval regulation, and must be punished.”

“I understand, sir. I await whatever punishment you give me.”

“I could have you put into prison when we return to Shreveport.”

“I’ve been in prison already, sir. I know about that.”

“Really? Did you lead a life of crime before the war?”

“No, sir. I was captured in an action at Fairfax Station in the northern part of Virginia and sent to the Old Capitol Prison in Washington, D.C. It’s not too far from the White House.”

Ramsey looked pensive. “I see. I did not know that you served in the army. How did you come to be here?”

“It is a long story and one I shall tell you some time, but the long and short of it is that I was trying to keep my family safe.”

“So you brought them to Shreveport.”

“If they are there, and I believe they are, someone brought them there.”

“And who would that someone be?”

“I believe it was a man named Garrett. Somehow my family got away from him, and I believe they might be in a home for desperate women in Shreveport.”

Ramsey’s expression softened. “That is remarkable, but I still must punish you. In light of all you have suffered, your punishment is to wear leg irons during the day for the remainder of the voyage. I will have them remove so you can sleep and so that others around you can as well. Do you have any questions?”

“No, sir. That is a most generous sentence.”

Ramsey sighed. “It would be different if I had more men, but, as you know, I don’t. Serve out your sentence, and you’ll have three days once again to look for your family. I wish you well with that. You’re dismissed.”

I saluted him, as I had been taught to do so long ago. He returned my salute, and went back to the work on his desk. Donovan went with me back to the brig to put the leg irons back on. “I have never heard of such a thing happening. The captain is known for his swift and just punishments, but he did none of that with you. You are a lucky man.”

“That I am, and I wish some of that luck would extend to finding my family.”

“Now that I’ve heard more of your story, I hope it does as well.”

Back in the brig, Donovan put the leg irons back on, and took me to my first work assignment, which was coiling ropes and putting them in their storage area. I did not mind this task since I was out in the sunshine and open air. And so we continued on our course for Cuba

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“Diamond Courage,” Part 39


Chapter 39



I spent a restless night, and got out of bed to sit in a chair where I would not disturb Andrew and think about what might happen. I hoped the minister’s wife would agree to help us, and that Laurel would be there, of course. The hours crept by as I watched the first appearance of daylight, and I waited anxiously for Andrew to awaken.

He finally awoke two hours later, around eight o’clock. “We’re to have an answer to our dilemma this morning,” I told him. “I would count it a favor if we could eat quickly and then go to the church.”

He sat on the edge of the bed. “I need to bathe, and then I’ll get dressed and we can be on our way.”

“Why did you not bathe last night?” I wanted no delay in finding out if Laurel were in the house.

“I was mightily wearied from our exertions, and fell asleep with my clothes on.”

“You do not have them on now.”

“I slept for a while, and then awoke to fnd that I was as I have said. I changed into my night shirt and went back to sleep.”

“Well, try to bathe as fast as you can.”

While Andrew prepared himself to meet the world, I sat in the chair where I had spent part of the night and fretted. I wanted to find out what the minister’s wife said, and as soon as possible.

After what seemed an inordinately long time, Andrew emerged, fully dressed and ready to meet the day. We went downstairs and had breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant. I was aware that, as a young man who was still growing, Andrew had a prodigious appetite, but he ate enough breakfast for two large men, thereby delaying us further. It was nearly 9:30 when we finished and made our way over to the church.

“You seem unusually agitated this morning,” Andrew remarked.

“I wish to see Laurel, if that is possible.” I did not mention my anxiety about his causing us delay because he had been a good companion and helpful to me at several turns. And he was shot for my sake, so I felt I owed him some measure of civility.”

We came to the church and went in to be greeted by the same young man who was there the day before. “We’re here to see Reverend Hale,” I said.

He smiled. “He is expecting you. Please go in. I believe you know the way.”

We went through the door and down the hall to Hale’s office and found him busy writing something. The door to the office was open, so I knocked on the door post. He looked up.

“We are sorry to disturb you,” I said.

“I was just working on my sermon for Sunday.

“Ah, Mr. Dillard and Andrew. I regret that I do not know your last name, Andrew.”

“It’s Coggins.”

“In that case, please come in and sit down, Mr. Dillard and Mr. Coggins.”

We sat in the same two chairs that we sat in the day before.

“I take it you are here for word as to whether my wife is willing to fulfill your request or not.”

“That we are,” I said, “and we are most anxious to receive that news.”

He frowned, and I feared bad news. “I regret  to tell you that although my wife is in favor of granting your request, she is at the present time is indisposed and so cannot leave her bedroom for the foreseeable future.”

“I am sorry to hear she is not well and will offer prayers for healing.” Hale nodded in approval. “Do you know how long she might be so?”

He sighed. “She could be well tomorrow, or it might take a week. I have no way of telling.”

“Could you accomplish my wish?”

“I could try, but I don’t know if they will let me in.”

“Are there any other women in your congregation who would be willing to help me?”

He shook his head. “They have doubts about the kind of women who come to the home, so they want no part of it.”

“So we must wait on your wife.”

“It would seem so, although I will try to gain entrance this afternoon.”

“About what time?”

He consulted a small black leather bound book on his desk. “I fear that I should not be able to try until about three this afternoon. I’m sorry, but I have important appointments until then.”

“We shall count on you, then, and return to witness your attempt.”

He looked doubtful. “I think that after what happened to you, you had best stay away from the home, or at least out of sight.”

“We shall wait in the hotel. It is not very far.”

“That sounds satisfactory. We shall see you then.”

We stood up and shook hands, and Andrew and I went back out the way we came. Once in the street, I asked, “What do you think Andrew?”

He thought a while and then said, “I think it all sounds doubtful. We will have to think of another way.”

“And what would that be?”

“I don’t know. I was hoping you would have some ideas.”

“As, I have none, either. We must pray that God will open a path.”

“I was of the mind that the minister’s wife was that path.”

“God has many paths, Andrew. We must pray that He will reveal another.”


We walked back to the hotel and went up to our room. “I am exhausted,” Andrew said. “I must rest.” He went in the bedroom and lay down.

I did not like this wish for so much rest on Andrew’s part. A young man like him should be vigorous and full of energy. I wondered if something were wrong for him. I prayed there wasn’t but I had a feeling I would know in the next few days.

“I am going out to walk in the city,” I called to Andrew, who was not yet asleep.

“That might be helpful to you. Just beware of saloons.”

“Have no fear of that. Once such encounter was more than enough.”

I went down into the streets and spent a restless morning going to and fro, searching the faces I met as if that would give me a clue as to where Laurel was. Of course, I had no luck with this activity, and returned to the hotel, once again uncertain as to what the morrow would bring.



Chapter 40

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“Diamond Courage,” Part 38


Chapter 38



In the morning, I would not have known that the month had changed had not Andrew awakened before me and brought up a newspaper. In it I found news of Grant’s campaign, and was grateful once again to Huck for telling us not to go to New Orleans.

“I was talking to someone downstairs about what we were trying to do, and he suggested that we try places where women are kept.”

“That sounds serious. What are some of those places?”

“Houses of ill repute—“

My face flushed as I grew angry. “Laurel would NEVER do anything like that! We’d be wasting our time to make such a search.”

“I’m only making a suggestion. We don’t have to act on it.”

“All right. I apologize. What are some of the other places?”

“There are rescue houses, this fellow said, who take in women who are in difficult circumstances. The other places are hospitals and churches,” he added.

“Let’s start with them,” I said.

We visited most of the hospitals and churches we thought it likely that Laurel might be, but to no avail. We stopped for lunch at a tavern which looked better than the one I had gone into before I ended up on the ship.

“Do you not fear that the provost marshall will be looking for you?” Andrew asked.

“I have three days before that would happen, and I am determined to find Laurel before that time is up.”

“I hope for both our sakes that you are right.”

We visited the other places we thought Laurel might be that afternoon, but found no sign of her. Weary and dejected, we went back to the hotel. I went up to the room while Andrew stayed and talked to the desk clerk for a while.

I had barely settled myself for a nap before Andrew came in a state of great excitement. “I was speaking with the desk clerk, as perhaps you knew, and he told me of a new home for desperate women that opened this week not two blocks from here.”

“Let’s go see if Laurel is here!” My heart was pounding so violently I almost fancied that Andrew could hear it. We sprinted down the steps and into the street, running among the people out at the time to an address two blocks away, as Andrew had said.

We rushed up the six steps to the door and pulled on a cord hanging nearby. A bell tolled somewhere in the building. A moment later, an elderly woman opened the door. “Yes? May I help you?”

“M’am,” I began breathlessly, “My wife was taken from me about a month ago, and I believe she might be here.”

“What is her name?”

“Laurel Dillard.”

“And you are?”

“Caleb Dillard.” I chafed at these few questions. I had to know if Laurel were there or not!

“One moment,” the woman murmured and closed the door.

I hopped on one foot and then the other out of sheer impatience. Why could she not let us in? Why did she not know who was staying there? I had to know, and the sooner the better.

The door opened again to reveal a dignified-looking man. “You are Mr. Dillard?”

“Yes, of course,” I answered. Who else would I be?

“And you believe your wife might be here?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

“Do you have some form of identification?”

My heart sank. My identification was with my discarded naval uniform. “No, sir. You’ll have to believe me. Go get Laurel if she’s here, and she will tell you who I am.”

He shook his head. “I cannot do that without proper identification. I am sorry.” With that he closed and locked the door.

I looked at Andrew with amazement. “Wha—who—why,” I began. I could not complete my sentence.

“I do not believe what I just saw.”

“Nor do I. I have a feeling that she is here, and we cannot get in to find out for certain.”

Andrew sat on the porch. “We must think of something else.”

I joined him. “I don’t know what that would be.”

He put his hand on my shoulder. “We need more time. Something will come to us.”

“It had better happen soon. I cannot tolerate this state of affairs.”

A policeman turned the corner and came toward us. “Are you Caleb Dillard?” he asked me.

“Yes, I am.”

“You will come with me.”

I was amazed again. “Why? We are doing nothing illegal.”

“I received a report from Mr. Truman here that you were acting strangely and might be a threat to the women here.”

“A threat? I asked if my wife might be here. I posed no menace to anyone.”

“I require you to come with me.” He made a move to put his hand on my arm, and I lashed out at him.

“No! Leave me alone! I have done nothing!”

He jumped on me, and we wrestled our way down the steps to the porch and into the street. “Help!” the policeman cried. “Help me!”

A couple of burly workers ran over to us and took me by the arms. Andrew stood on the porch, shocked and unable to move.

“Now you’re in more trouble, assaulting me like that.” He spoked to the two men holding me. “Take him to the station. It’s right around the corner.”

As they dragged me away, I called to Andrew, “Keep trying to see if they will let you talk to Laurel!” The last I saw of my young friend, he was standing on the porch, still staring at us.

The two men, followed by the policeman, took me to the police station. We entered, and found ourselves in a large room with several other policemen and men I was sure were in the same state that I was. Another policeman sat at an enormous desk in the back of the room and looked up as we came in. “What do you have, Richard?”

“Tom, this one was acting strangely over at the home and when I put my hand on him to bring him in, he started fighting me. These gentlemen—” he indicated the two had helped him bring me in whom I would say were no gentlemen at all after the way they handled me— “helped me bring him here.”

“All right,” said the man behind the desk. “I’ll take care of it.”

He and the men who brought me in went out into the street. “All right,” the man behind the desk said. “What is your name?”

“Caleb Dillard.”

“You have any proof of that?”

“No, and that’s what brought me here.”

He looked puzzled. I sighed. “I wanted to get into the rescue house and the man asked me for identification. I told him I didn’t have any, and he shut the door. I suppose he thought I was a threat to the women in the house, so he called a policeman, who brought me here.”

“I see. Did you actually threaten anyone?”

“No. I was upset, but there were no threats.”

“Do you have a witness to this event?”

“Yes, my young friend Andrew, whom I left standing on the porch to the house.”

Tom called another policeman over and whispered something to him. I don’t know why he did that, since it was obvious to me that he was telling the other man to go bring Andrew back. He left, and in a few minutes returned with Andrew.

Tom pointed to me. “Do you know this man?”

“Of course. This is Caleb Dillard, and he saved my life.”

“That’s very nice, but did Mr. Dillard threaten anyone in any way at the rescue house?”

“No, sir. He did get upset when the man wouldn’t let him in, but there were no threats.”

“I see.” He consulted some papers on his desk and then looked up at me. “Mr. Dillard, I see no reason to hold you. You are free to go. Just stay away from the rescue house.”

“But, sir, my wife might be there.”

“Stay away anyhow. You’ll have to think of some other way to find out if she’s there.”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

Andrew and I went back into the street. “How do you plan to find out if Laurel is in the house?”

“Let me think. Oh, I have it! We can find some willing lady to go into the house and see if she’s there.”

“Who would this ‘willing lady’ you speak of  be?”

“We can ask at the hotel desk. Surely they would know of someone.”

We went back to the hotel and went to the front desk. “Yes, sir, what can I do for you?” the desk clerk asked.

“We wanted to know if you know of a woman of good reputation who might go to the rescue house for us and see if my wife is in there. They will not let me in.”

The clerk thought for a minute. “I know just the person. She is the wife of the minister of the church across the way, and she has a tender heart for women in distress.”

“How might we talk to her?”

“You will have to talk to her husband to gain his permission for what you wish. Go to the church I told you about and ask.”

“I thank you , sir.”

He smiled. “You are welcome.”

Andrew and I turned and made our way to the church the clerk spoke of. We went in, and found a young man sitting at a desk. “May I help you?” he asked.

“Yes, we would like to speak to the minister if he’s available,” I said.

“One moment. I will check.” He went out through a door and returned in a short time. “Yes, he will see you now. I’ll conduct you to his office.”

We followed him through the door and down a hall to the minister’s office. He went in and we followed. “Here are the two gentlemen who wish to see you,” he said.

The minister, an older man with graying hair, stood up. “Welcome. Please come in and have a seat. I am Reverend Hale.”

“I am Caleb Dillard,” I said, “and this young man is my friend Andrew.”

“Pleased to meet both of you.” When we were seated, he said, “What can I do for you?”

“We need your help in determining if my wife is in the home for desperate women across the way.”

He thought for a moment. “Yes, I’m familiar with them. They are doing the Lord’s work. Why is it your wife is there?”

“She was taken from me over a month ago and brought here. I have reason to believe she was ill-treated, so she escaped from her captor and ended up at the home.”

“I see. Do you have anyone who can corroborate your story?”

I nodded. “Yes, my friend Andrew here. His parents disappeared and he found us and has been with me most of the time ever since.”

Hale turned to Andrew. “Is what I have heard all true?”

“Yes, sir,” Andrew told him. “Caleb and Laurel are so attached to each other. And they love their son.”

“Oh, so there’s a child involved. Is he with your wife?”

“I haven’t been able to get into the home to see. I assume he is.”

“I have the picture now. What can I do to help?”

“We would like for your wife to go into the home and see if my wife is there. She will be able to do that easily, whereas I have failed to do so.”

Hale thought some about this. “Very well. I will ask her this evening when I get home from the church.” He stood, and we shook hands all around.

“Blessings on you for being willing to help me,” I said.

“I must be about the Lord’s work, and I think this is an example of that.”

“We are lodged at the hotel down the way. You may contact us there.”

“I have a better idea. Why don’t you come in tomorrow morning, say at nine o’clock. I will be here then.”

“We will. Thank you again.”

With that, we turned and left the church. “What shall we do now?” Andrew asked.

“Amuse ourselves as best we can,” I said, and I thought, the time until we see the minister will seem long, I am sure, but it can’t be helped.




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“Diamond Courage,” Part 37


Chapter 37



And so I became a sailor. We made our trip to Cuba and came back sooner than I expected. It was almost March, and I wondered if Laurel would still be in Shreveport, if that indeed was where she was. I certainly hoped so.

Ramsey said we would be in Shreveport for a week, but he gave all but a small skeleton crew three days off, with a strict admonishment to be back at 8:00 AM sharp or face disciplinary action. Actually, he didn’t say 8:00 AM but a number of bells I had to ask someone what they meant. Even being on the ship for weeks didn’t mean I understood the bell system. There was always someone telling me when I had the watch or when I needed to scrape the hull of rust so it could be re-painted. There was always something that needed to be done on a ship, and always someone to work with or to watch you work or to eat meals with or sleep in the same hold with. I think you get the idea. I had been alone a lot of my life, and it was hard to get used to being with people I wasn’t related to.

I left the ship about 8:00 that evening with the intention of never returning. I’m sure I would face punishment if I were caught, but I didn’t intend to be caught. I did intend to find Laurel.

As I walked through the streets, looking at every woman who came by, it occurred to me that I would probably need a place to stay. This time, though, I wouldn’t be sleeping wherever I could. We had been paid before we went on leave, and I had enough to do me for a while. I gave up looking for Laurel for that evening, and walked along looking for a good place to stay. I stood in front of one hotel, trying to decide if it would be a good place to stay. Suddenly, I heard someone call my name. I didn’t know who that could be since I thought I didn’t know anyone. Because it was a man’s voice, I knew it wasn’t Laurel. I looked in the direction of the sound, and when the crowd parted, saw Andrew coming toward me!

He came up to me, and we embraced. I had a thousand questions for him. “What are you doing here? Why are you here? How did you get here? It’s so good to see you!”

He laughed and held up his hands. “One at a time, please.”

“Let’s sit over here,” I told him, and indicated a bench in front of the hotel. We sat down.

“I recovered from my wound and started walking. I thought you might be headed for Shreveport. That was the only place that made sense, and so I found you. Have you found Laurel?”

I shook my head. “I’m just back from Cuba.”


“Yes. Someone dragged me onto a ship headed there while I was unconscious. We’ve been gone for three weeks, but I’m back so I can keep looking for Laurel.”

“What kind of ship?”

“A blockade runner for the navy.”

“I see. I’ve been here a week, and I’ve been looking for Laurel, with no success.”

“This city is only so big. She has to be here somewhere.”

“I agree. Where are you staying?”

“I was going to take a room here.”

Andrew made a face. “You don’t want to stay anywhere near the river. I found somewhere that’s about ten block away. Let’s go there.”

“All right. Lead the way.”

As we walked toward the hotel, I found myself still looking for Laurel, and I knew I would not be able to go anywhere without looking for her and Caleb. We came to the hotel where Andrew had been staying. I could tell it was cleaner and nowhere near as shabby as the one I had been looking at. “Here we are,” Andrew said. “My room has two beds, so you can stay there.”

“I’ll pay.”

He looked at me with relief. “That’s good. I was just about to run out of money.”

“Well, I just got paid, so that works out well.”

We laughed and went into the hotel. I had brought my civilian clothes with me, and quickly changed into them. Andrew and I ate at the restaurant in the hotel, and after resting a short while, we again set out on our search. After four hours, we had seen all kinds of people and covered most of the city, but had not seen Laurel and Caleb. “She must be somewhere where she can’t come out very often,” I told Andrew. “Where would that be?”

“It’s hard to tell. There are so many businesses and other places she might be. Those are going to take longer to investigate.”

“Well, I’ve had enough for one evening. Let’s go back to the hotel, sleep on it, and try again tomorrow. Something might occur to us as to her location after some rest.”

We went back to the hotel, and after talking for a while, we fell asleep. Not surprisingly, I dreamed of Laurel, and in my dream, she was buried in a hole in an alleyway. I could hear her, but try as I might, I could not find her. I awoke, frustrated and upset. It was a while before I could get to sleep again, but I thought, tomorrow is another opportunity. We might find her and Caleb then.



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“Diamond Courage,” Part 36



 Chapter 36



The next morning, the rising sun woke me, and I made bread and had some dried fruit I had found among Finn’s supplies. I considered that a good breakfast (I had certainly had much worse, especially in the army). And  so I started a long period of floating down the river, not seeing much other than steamboats passing going the other way, wildlife, and very few people. I wondered why this was so until I came to Memphis and went into the city. I came across and old fellow sitting on a bench.

“Say, can you tell me why I’m not seeing a lot of people on the river?”

“Yessir, that would be because General Grant is fixin’ to take Vicksburg. If you’re smart, you won’t go anywhere near that.”

“I see. Which way should I go?”

“If I was you, I would travel west, try to get on the Red River and get on down to Shreveport, if that is where your business would take you. There aren’t many other choices, though.”

“I’ll do that. Thank you, sir.” I didn’t go into detail about why I was on the river, but I figured that didn’t make any difference.

I would have to go overland to the Red, which meant I would have to leave the boat on the river after I had floated as far south as I felt safe, and then carry as much as I could from the boat. Then, when I reached the Red, I’d have to find a way to get down to Shreveport. I was certain that Garrett would be doing the same thing since Grant was blocking his way as well.

I got back on the Mississippi and went down it for about two more days, when I began to hear the sound of cannon not too far away. That was a sign to me that it was time to strike out for the Red River. I took as much as I could carry, and left Finn’s boat tied up to a tree. I thought how kind he had been to Andrew and me, and how it was my fault he was shot and died since he was trying to help me get Laurel back. I would always remember him.

It took me the better part of a week to walk to the Red River, and when I got there, I stood on the bank, surveying the scene and looking for a boat. I didn’t see one, which meant, at least for a while, I would have to walk and hope I would come on some way to use the river to get where I wanted to go.

I had walked for about two days when I came upon some lumber that had slipped off a barge and lodged itself in some trees along the shore. I thought I could use it to make another raft. I had taken some rope that Finn had on his boat, and so I set to work lashing the planks together, leaving one out to steer with.  I made quick work of my project and loaded my pack and other supplies on the raft. Then I got on myself, and with my plank, pushed out into the current, which was strong.

I was surprised to hear sounds of a city only three hours later, but of course glad to get off my raft, which is not the most elegant way to travel. I pulled it onshore under a bridge and left everything there except for my pistol. I didn’t know what I would find, but I hoped it would be Laurel.

I climbed up the bank, hoping to meet someone who might have seen my wife. I supposed that Garrett came down the river like me, and so I went to the docks. I had forgotten how crowded and noisy cities were, and how many different kinds of people were in them. Most looked hurried or even hostile, which did not surprise me because I knew the conditions there must be bad because of the war, even though they weren’t near enough to Grant’s army for him to make a difference.

I hailed the first fellow I came across, who had the look of a sailor. “I’m from another place and want to see if you’ve seen a woman—blond hair, short, should be traveling with a boy about the age of two.”

The man stopped, and I could immediately tell he had been drinking. A lot. “Can’t say as I have, but if you see a woman, I could use one. Bad.”

“Thank you anyhow.”

I went on, drawing neared and neared the dock. A navy captain came along, and I repeated my request. He thought for a moment and said, “Yes, I do recall seeing someone like that, a couple of days ago. They were with a rather desperate looking character.”

“That’s them! Do you know where they would have gone?”

“They couldn’t go downriver, so they must be somewhere in the city.”

“Thank you!”

“It’s a big city…”

“I’ll find them,” I said, and headed toward the main street in town. There I was once more assailed by the sound and smell of people in large groups. I looked up and down the street, to no avail. Exhausted by my efforts, I went into a saloon to get something to eat. I did not want alcohol, but hoped they had a good supply of water.

The interior was dimly lit, and some of the characters standing around throwing down drinks didn’t look too savory. I got my food and water and took it to a table. A man sitting at the bar looked over at me. “And what would you be wanting?”

I didn’t want to tell such a person what I wanted, so I said, “I’m looking to join up with the navy.”

He spat. “They call themselves sailors! I could show them a thing or two about that and about killing Yankees. I’ve done in plenty in my time! Why do you want to join that sorry bunch?”

I said nothing, but kept eating. The man stood up and came over. “I asked you a question. Why don’t you answer me?”

I didn’t look up, and he grabbed me by the collar and pulled me to my feet. “I’m talkin’ to you!”

I put down my fork. “I’m listening.”

“I’ll repeat it since you were too good to answer it earlier. Why do you want to join the navy?”

“I want to do my part.”

“That’s no reason.”

“It’s the only one I have.”

He drew back his fist and hit me square in the face. I fell over, and everything went black.


I came to, lying in a dark room, but the room seemed to be moving, pitching from side to side. Where am I? I wondered. I felt my nose. It wasn’t broken that I could tell, but it sure hurt a lot. I raised myself up on one elbow and looked around. From what I could see in the dim light, I was on some sort of ship, a large one judging by the size of the room I was in. I raised myself to my feet and looked for a way out. I saw an opening in the next part of the hull, and went toward that. The deck was above my head, and I couldn’t reach far enough to pull myself out. “Hey!” I shouted. “Help me out of here! Please help!”

About half a minute later, a face appeared. “Who are you?” it asked.

“I’m Caleb Dillard, and I don’t know how I got here. Please help me!”

The man reached down and got me by the wrist and pulled me up. I collapsed on the deck. “Thank you, mister.”

“All right. What were you doing down there?”

“Like I said, I don’t know how I got there. I was having a meal in a bar when this guy came over and didn’t like something I said. He hit me and knocked me out and I woke up in the hold. What short of ship is this?”

“We’re on the Laurel, a blockade runner. We’re on our way to Cuba to pick up some munitions.”

“I can’t go to Cuba! I have to try to find my wife!” It was not lost on me that the ship had the same name.

“We can’t turn back. And we’re short-handed. Do you have any sailing experience?”

“None at all. I was a farmer and a soldier.”

“Don’t worry. We’ll teach you how to be a sailor.”

“I can’t do that. I have to look for my wife!”

“No, sir, someone hit me in a saloon and knocked me out. I woke up on your ship, but I had no intention of doing that.”

“I see. I take it Donovan here has explained that you won’t come back to Shreveport until we’ve finished our business in Cuba and made the return trip.” He looked at me as if I were addled. “I told you we have to get to Cuba. You might as well resign yourself to that fact. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the captain. He likes to know who’s on his ship.”

I followed him to the captain’s cabin. He knocked on the door and went in, apparently after hearing someone that I couldn’t hear. I followed him and found myself looking at a man in a naval uniform and sitting behind a large desk. The man who had pulled me out of the hold saluted. “Captaint Ramsey, I found this fellow in the hold. I don’t know how he got there, and he doesn’t either.”

Ramsey looked me over. “So you don’t know how you got here.”


“Yes, sir, he did.”

“What were you doing in Shreveport?”

“Looking for my wife and son. Someone took them, and I have good reason to believe that’s where they are.”

“Well, a pity that you won’t be able to look for them for a while. Donovan also explained that we need more crew?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What do you say to that?”

I smiled ruefully. “Under the circumstances, I’d say I have no choice.”

“You’re right. Any experience being a sailor?”

“None. I was a soldier, and before that, a farmer.”

“Which army?”


“Ah, good, although with our needs we’d take a Yankee. We’re have to keep an eye on him, though. We won’t have to do that with you, will we?”

“No, sir.”

“Good. Donovan here will outfit you and tell you what your duties will be. You’ll be an ordinary seaman, unless you do something extraordinary, in which case you’ll be promoted. Don’t count on it, though. I don’t expect much to happen on this trip. I should say I hope much doesn’t happen on this trip. You are dismissed.”

He saluted, and I reflexively returned his salute. Donovan took me below decks to a storage area where he pulled a uniform out and gave it to me. “Here. This looks like it’ll fit you. Put it on and I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping, and lets you sleep some, and then you’ll have your first lesson in being a seaman.”

He left me alone, and I put on the uniform. My head was spinning with all that had happened to me in the past day. Moment by moment I was becoming further and further away from Laurel, and I did not think that I would see her any time soon.

Donovan showed me where I would be sleeping. “I’ll let you turn in. With the day you’ve had, you need the sleep. I’ll wake you up when it’s time for your lesson.”

“Thank you,” I said.

He waved a hand. “Don’t thank me until you see what you’ll be doing. It’s not easy.”

He left and I lay down. Lulled by the motion of the vessel and exhausted by what had happened to me, I soon fell asleep.






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“Diamond Courage,” Part 35


Chapter 35

Deeper and Deeper


I wouldn’t have known that the month had changed had not Sean looked at an almanac and told me. “Yessir,” he said, “It’s February and we’re in for some cold weather.” It had been warmer than usual in January, and I wondered what we would do to keep warm. The skins weren’t much help in really cold weather.

He fixed breakfast and we ate. Andrew still have not stirred. I went over to him and felt his forehead. He was burning up. Sean came over and took one look at him. “The wound’s infected. He won’t be doing any traveling.”

“I have to find my wife.”

“You’ll do it without him, then.”

“Would you take care of him. I can pay you. I don’t have it with me, but I have some waiting upriver.”

Sean thought for a while and then said, “Well, OK. You’re in about as desperate a strait as a man can be in, so I’ll keep him. Try to hurry up and get back, though. Having to feed him will ruin me low pretty quick.”

“Thank you, Mr. Fitzpatrick.”

“I thought we settled that. It’s ‘Sean’ to you.”

“Thank you, Sean.”

I went over to where Andrew lay. I didn’t know if he could hear me or not, but I said, “Andrew, I’m going to look for Laurel and Caleb. Mr. Fitzpatrick here will take care of you until I get back, but don’t worry. I’ll come back for you and bring them with me. It’s been good having you on our trip, and I look forward to continuing it with you. Heal quickly, and try not to eat too much.”

He stirred as I spoke those last words, and I took that as a sign that somehow he heard and understood what I was saying. I turned and walked out the door to the boat, got in, and started rowing downriver again.  I wish I were as confident as I was when I spoke those words to Andrew. I was beginning to have the tiniest doubt that I would never find my family, and if that happened, I didn’t know what I would do.

It was a gray morning, and the weather matched my mood. And so I rowed on.


Two hours later, tired, cold and wet, I tied up at a dock that led to the main street of a small town. I not only wanted to get in out of the weather: I needed to buy some flour. I should say I needed to trade something for some flour, for as I have told you, I had no money. I stepped out onto the dock and stopped at the first business I came to, which just happened to be a general store. Maybe my luck was turning. I went in, and a woman about 40 years old greeted me. “Good afternoon, young fellow. What can I do for you?”

“I need some flour, but I’ll have to trade for it. I left my money upstream.”

She looked interested. “What do you have to trade?”

I pulled out my pocket knife. “This—”

She looked at it over her glasses. “Got anything else?”

“I got a whole rowboat of things. What would you be interested in?”

“Something I can sell. At a profit to myself, of course. Say, what are you doing on the river in a rowboat in weather like this?”

I hesitated, and then decided I could trust her. “I’m trying to find my wife and son. Some desperado took them, and headed south, so I’m trying to track him so I can bring them back.”

Her hand flew to her mouth. “How terrible! Look, a man in your circumstance doesn’t need to worry about paying for flour. How much do you want?”

Maybe my fortune had turned after all. “I could use about two pounds.”

She went over to a huge barrel and measured out the amount into a cloth bag. “Here you go,” she said, handing me the bag.

“Thank you m’am. I’ll find a way to pay for it when I come back through here.”

She fluttered her hands. “Don’t worry about that. A man’s family is the most important  thing he has, and if I can do something to help you find them, I consider it my Christian duty.”

“I’m much obliged. I’ll come by when I come back.”

“Well, I know you will. And go with God.”

“Good-bye, m’am.”

I went out the door and to my boat and jumped in, thinking that with the exception of the Garretts, who I did not consider to be like other people in the area, everyone I had met on the river was kind, from Huck to the lady I had just left. Without their help, I would not have been able to pursue Laurel, and who knows what I would have done without them. I would have lost her forever, and that was something I did not even want to think about.

The current was fast enough that I could drift and steer with one of the oars so I could catch up with Garrett, if he were still running by the river. I found myself wondering what lay in that direction, but whatever it was, I knew it would be a horrible situation for Laurel. I could tell that from what I had seen of the Garretts already. And so I drifted, glad to not have to row for a change, and watched the shores as I went by.


I drifted all day without seeing a soul and, as darkness fell, pulled over to the bank for the night. As I have mentioned before, there was no sense in traveling at night, even with a lantern. I would be risking too much if I did that.

I couldn’t see any sign of human habitation, so I tied the boat up and made my way to a stand of trees that looked like it would be a good place to camp for the night. I was able to carry what I would need for the night with one trip. I set up a blanket I found on the boat as a kind of tent, made a fire, and heated some pork, which tasted good, I was so hungry from my travels. I didn’t take the time to make flat bread with the flour I had gotten earlier in the day, but I would do that in the morning. Finn had some potatoes which I baked in the coals, so all in all, I had a good meal.

After I ate, I lay on my back on some pine boughs I found and looked at the moon and stars in the clear sky. I wondered if Laurel were looking at the same sky, and had a strong feeling that she was. “I’m coming for you, my love,” I whispered and, tired from the day, I closed my eyes and soon fell asleep.



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