The Coming Storm
We went to several other towns up the Valley, collecting five more soldiers as we did, although they were all enlisted. They all had different reasons why they weren’t with their unit, but none, I thought, was as good as mine. Most had just gotten tired of the war and of military life and left. I noticed that Reynolds was short almost to the point of rudeness with these other men. I suppose my reason for being absent disposed him to treat me more favorably, or maybe his treatment of them was because they were enlisted. I couldn’t tell which one it was.
We stopped for the night about ten miles from Front Royal when it became too dark to travel safely. Someone made a campfire, mostly for the light it gave since we had the usual meal of hardtack and dried pork. I had not missed that part of army life at all. It was worse than before since I had had Laurel’s cooking in the past few days. I tried to think of what I did miss about army life, and concluded it was some of my fellow soldiers, and certainly the ones on the baseball team, wherever they might be right then, and, of course, Adolphus. Thinking of these friends made me think of my family, and I hoped that John Green was able to tell Laurel what had happened. I would have to write her soon, although I did not know when that would be.
I sat next to one of the soldiers who was part of the group that caught me. He seemed to be a good young fellow, with blond hair and blue eyes. “What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Abner Putnam. I’m from upstate New York. Where are you from?”
I knew nothing about that area beyond a few large cities. I certainly didn’t know the names of towns, but I took a chance and said, “Attica.” I figured I couldn’t go wrong with a classical name that I heard about from Alphonso. I assumed it was a place name, but Abner gave no sign that it wasn’t.
“I haven’t heard of that,” he told me. “It must be really small.”
“It’s so small I have to mark it with a rock so I can find it again.”
We both laughed at that. “So your wife was kidnapped and you took her back?”
“Where was she kidnapped from?”
I would have to change my story somewhat to make sure no one could find out too much about me. “From our home, about twenty miles from the town where you found me.”
He stared at the fire. “It must have been difficult having her taken from you like that.”
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. We’ve only been married a couple of years.
“I see. That made it even harder. And where did you catch up with her?”
I thought that was so far away it wouldn’t matter if I told the truth. “It was in Chattanooga.”
“Did you have to shoot some people to get her back?”
I nodded. “I’m not sure how many. Four or five, I think. They were down inside a ship and I couldn’t see very well. But I got her back, and my son, too.
“You have a son?”
“Yes. He’s two.”
“That must have made it harder having him with your wife. I’m sorry you had to go through all that. You’ll have to tell me more about it.”
“I will. We’ll have plenty of time. Say, do you know where we’re going?”
“I don’t exactly know, but I heard we were going to try to get ahead of Lee’s army and make them fight us at a place that will be to our advantage.”
“I wonder where that will be?”
“I believe not even the generals know that. Say, it’s about time to turn in. We’ll talk in the morning.”
“Good night, Abner. Thank you for talking to me even though you know very little about me.”
“You have an honest face, and I feel as if I can trust you.”
“I feel the same way about you.”
We joined the others in lying down under a star-filled cloudless sky. As I had so many times before, my thoughts turned to Laurel and little Caleb, although now I had Andrew and Hiram and, I thought, now Clinton to think about as well. They had become a part of my family as surely as Laurel and Caleb were. And it was with these thoughts that I fell asleep.