Monthly Archives: July 2019

Diamond Resolution

Chapter 35


July, 1865

The next day, we had our usual evening meal with all of us present. “With all of us here,” I said, “the cabin is getting crowded.”

I noticed that Hiram looked troubled at this, but I continued on.

“I think we should build on to the back for bedrooms for Adolphus and Andrew.” They had been sleeping on pallets in front of the fireplace.

Adolphus nodded in what I took to be assent.

“Please, Caleb, what about us?” Hiram was plaintive, and I understood his troubled look earlier.

“Don’t worry—we’re not going to send you away.”

“That’s what I thought when you said it was too crowded here.”

“I apologize for giving you that impression. You are part of this family and always will be.”

“That’s good to hear,” Clinton told us. “We didn’t know how you regarded us.”

“Have no fear,” I said. “We’ll take the pump porch to make room for you.”

“That’s wonderful,” Hiram answered.

“No, it’s you boys who are wonderful.” Laurel spoke thoughtfully. She looked around. “All of you are wonderful, and we are so blessed that you are all here.”

We sat a while longer, talking and laughing and then drifting off one by one to go to sleep. I was the last one left, and I took myself to engage in a practice I had gotten into since my return from the war. I went out and sat on a large stump in our front yard and faced the forest, waiting for the moon to rise. At first it was a glow behind distant limbs, then throwing a sliver of itself past the tree line, then growing to its full round and silvery form. I found this calming, and as I sat there, I thought of all I had been through in the past several years. First there was joining up and all the excitement, then being captured, learning to play baseball and being drawn into a spying scheme, my several escapes, slogging through months of fighting and the end of the war. I had met many find people, some of whom are no longer with us. I lifted my cup of apple cider to them in a toast, thinking, here’s to you, my friends. You have made my life beautiful and I am grateful for your presence in my life. And thank you, God, for all you have given me. Amen.




October 1, 2018—March 30, 2019

Manassas, Virginia

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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 34


July, 1865

I had just returned home from hunting with the two rabbits I had shot. I wanted to bag a deer, but they are harder to find, so I had to settled for what I had. As I stood in the doorway, I saw a black carriage roll up. It looked much like one Eleanor used, although I knew, of course that it couldn’t be her. My curiosity was aroused. Who could it be?

I quickly put the rabbits in a little shed we had built and smoothed back my hair as best I could. I was lucky I didn’t dress the rabbits after I shot them, because that would not have failed to smear blood on my clothes.

I went over to the carriage and arrived there as the carriage driver put some small steps under the door and then opened it. A distinguished-looking man dressed all in black with a black top hat came down the steps, looking around. I stepped forward. “Good afternoon, sir. Welcome to our home. I trust you had a good journey.” I felt fortunate that Adolphus had instructed me in a proper welcome.

He extended his hand. “I am Cornelius Barnham, counselor at law, and I am here on a special mission to make delivery of something I am certain will make you glad.”

“I’m Caleb Dillard, and I’m pleased to meet you.”

Barnham nodded. “I know you are are. Your name came up in Mrs. Perry’s will, and that is tied in with the purpose of my visit.”

I nodded. “Before we get to business, may I offer you anything to eat or drink?” I surmised that he would not partake of our rough food, but Laurel and Clinton had discovered a spring not too far from the house. It gave us some of the best-tasting water I have ever had.

“I don’t suppose you have any whiskey.”

“No, sir, we don’t. We’re too poor to afford it and too honest to make it ourselves.”

He laughed. “Well put, sir. Perhaps you have it in you to become a lawyer.” I thought that an odd thing to say since he had just met me, but took his as a polite response.

“I’ll have some water, then.”

“Very good.” I turned to Andrew, who had come out to see what was going on. I turned to him. “Please fetch a new bucket from the spring. And hurry.”

I turned back to Mr. Barnham. “This will take a little while. Would you like to come in and sit down.”

“Yes, please. It was a long ride from Georgetown.”

We went into the house to find Laurel, Hiram, Clinton and little Caleb sitting around the table. They all stood except for Laurel. I introduced each of them in turn, and was pleased that the boys knew the proper way to meet someone. Laurel, of course, knew what to do.

She rose and offered her hand. Mr. Barnham kissed it and said, “Enchanted to meet you, Madame Dillard.”

“And I am pleased to make your acquaintance. Will you have a seat?” She motioned to Clinton, who gave Barnham his seat.

“Thank you, young man. I appreciate your kindness.”

“Think nothing of it, sir.”

Barnham looked around. “Is this everyone in the household?” he asked.

Laurel spoke up. “Other than Andrew, who has gone for water, there’s another one of us, a former seminary student and soldier named Adolphus Custis. He has gone to town on business.”

“Ah. I am sorry to have met him. I believe I knew his father, who is lately deceased.”

“That’s right,” I said, wondering that he knew Adolphus’ father.

“Anyhow, I believe you can relay the contents of our conversation. This, sir—” he handed me a long envelope—“is for you.”

I took it from him and asked, “May I open it now?”

“It is yours, so you may do as you wish.”

With all eyes on me, I tore open the envelope and took out a single long piece of paper. I looked at it and gasped. Then, looking at Barnham, I said, “Surely there has been a mistake.”

“There is no mistake. This is a portion of Mrs. Perry’s estate generously given to you by her brother because of Mrs. Perry’s state.”

“But it’s for $50,000.”

“Indeed it is. But Mrs. Perry was an extremely wealthy woman, thanks to her husband’s work. If she were here, she would not miss this amount.”

“Will you thank her brother for his generosity, then?”

“I would be shirking my duty if I did not.” Just then Andrew came in with the bucket. He set it down next to the pump. Laurel got to her feet and went over to the bucket and pour a glass for each of us. Clinton helped her and Andrew bring it to the table.

Barnham raised his glass. “Here’s to you in your new-found wealth!”

The rest of us raised our glasses and then drank.

“And here’s to John Duncan in his generosity and to you, sir, for your effort.”

Once again we raised our glasses and drank. I noticed Barnham finished his glad quickly. He looked at Laurel and said, “May I have some more?”

“You certainly may.”

She went over and filled Barnham’s glass and took it to him. He stood to receive it and bowed. “My hearty thanks, Madame. I have had the finest wines, but this slakes my thirst like nothing I have ever drunk.”

Laurel blushed. “Thank you, sir. It is only water.”

“But water of the first rate. You could sell this.”

“Thanks to John Duncan, we won’t have to!” I exclaimed.

We all laughed at this, and after we had all finished our water, Barnham stood up, and we with him, with Laurel’s exception.

“I fear I must be going. And I must tell you, my reception here was far better than I had expected.”

“We were pleased to meet you,” I said, “and wish you a safe and comfortable journey back.”

“Your wish for safety I do appreciate, but I am doubtful of the comfort I shall have. Good-bye, now.”

We all went outside to see him off, and saw Adolphus coming toward us. I went to meet him.

“Adolphus, you will not believe what happened!”

“Is it good news or bad?”

“Excellent news, as you shall hear.”

“Humph! Tell me!”

“A lawyer for the estate of John Duncan was here to present us with a check for $50,000.”

“Are you sure?”

I pulled out the check. “Here it is!”

He took it and examined it. “It looks good. If it is good, we can start that school we talked about.”

“That we will. Come in and let’s have a drink to celebrate!”

“You know you have nothing but water.”

“Mr. Barnham the lawyer said it was the best water he had ever tasted. He also said we could sell it if we were so inclined.”

“I’m not ready to get into the water business, but I will toast our success. Let’s go in.”

And so we went in and drank to our good fortune.



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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 33

Moving On

June, 1865

I leaned on my hoe to rest for a moment. Our crops were coming in, and so were the weeds. But I relished this toil after all I had been through. I looked around to see Adolphus and Andrew doing the same thing. I had to smile at the prospect of Adolphus doing manual labor probably for the first time in his life, but he went at it with determination. Hiram scooped the weeds into a basket and dumped them in the woods where they would be eaten by animals. He did this remarkably well, considering he only had one arm. And Clinton had joined us shortly after we came home in April. He had been separated from us in the battles since February. It goes without saying that we were glad to see him. He had gone to town for supplies, but I expected him back shortly.

As I was thinking about that happy month, I was reminded of the sadness we felt with the news of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Although he led the other side, I still thought him to be an honorable and honest man who did his duty. I also thought of that day I met him on the ball field close to the White House. He was generous and kind to a rebel prisoner, and I had not forgotten that.

We were shocked, as were many others, at the idea of an actor shooting him during a play. Ford’s Theater was not far from our ball fields, and although I never went there, I knew where it was. Subsequent reports in the papers of the progress of his funeral train and burial gave us pause. He was one of the last of the soldiers to die in that destructive, divisive war. I had little hope of healing those wounds with that I had read about Andrew Johnson. But that world of politics and division lay far from our little home, and we had plenty to attend to.

Laurel came to the edge of the garden. “It’s time to eat, boys! Come on and get it!

We did not need second invitation but lay down our hoes and basket and made our way to house where Laurel had laid out a spread worthy of a small wedding. “You’ve fixed so much!” I exclaimed.

She gave me a hug. “You’re worked so much!”

“Don’t you get tired of fixing so much food?”

“I’m so happy we’re together that I scarcely notice.”

“I’m happy about that too,” I said, and kissed her.

We all went in and sat at the table when Clinton came in with the supplies. “Clinton!” called Andrew. “You’re just in time to eat, as usual. You’ll do anything to avoid work!”

Clinton wiped his brow. “If walking to town in this humidity and then walking back carrying several bags isn’t work, I have no idea what is.”

“Aw, Clint, I was just joshing you.”

Clinton smiled. “I know. I know what you’re like.” He put his bags down and sat at the table. Laurel looked around. “Whose turn is it to say grace? Hiram? I believe it’s you.”

I knew Hiram felt that he was not as eloquent as Adolphus or as plain-spoken as Andrew. He also had no particular religious belief, so he had a number of reasons he disliked praying. Nonetheless, he bowed his head and we followed.

“Lord, you know I don’t believe in you, but I can’t help who I am. I didn’t have no parents and didn’t go to church. I’m not even sure who I’m talking to, but these good people know You, and I’ll take that for a guarantee. I thank you for having them take me in, for keeping me safe during the war, and for making sure I had a nice home with people who love me and plenty of good meals like this. This is me, Hiram, saying this to you. Amen.”

Andrew and Clinton looked at each other when Hiram’s prayer was done and burst into laughter. Hiram hung his head.

“Boys, that was very rude. You apologize to Hiram.”

Andrew blushed. “M’am, we wasn’t laughing at him. It just struck us as funny that he says he doesn’t like to pray and then he goes and lasts as long at it as Alphonso.”

“You didn’t upset me by laughing,” Hiram said. “I knew why you did it.”

Laurel looked around at them. “I’m glad I understand, but you boys forgot something.”

All three of them blushed this time. “I think Hiram prayed pretty good,” said Andrew. “He didn’t leave nothin’ out.”

“You just did it again. “It’s ‘nothing,’ not ‘nothin’. And you said, ‘I think Hiram prayed pretty good,’ when I’m sure you meant, ‘Hiram prayed very well’.”

“Oh,” said Andrew.

She turned to Hiram. “And you said, ‘I didn’t have no parents’ when you know you should have said, ‘I didn’t have any parents.’”

“That’s my excuse,” Hiram said. “I didn’t have no parents to teach me right!”

“There you go—” Laurel started to call him down but smiled instead. “Of course you didn’t dear boy, and I should remember that. Still, it’s important to speak correctly. I know you will try.”

“Yes’m,” they mumbled, but I remembered how poorly I spoke and wrote at the beginning of the war and how patiently Adolphus taught me better.

We started eating, and once again I was struck how fortunate I was to have such a loving family and, now that the conflict was ended, such a wonderful life.



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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 32

Devoutly to Be Wished

April, 1865

I found that although we were moving as quickly as we could, it wasn’t enough for my sensibilities. It is an odd thing how time stretches out when we are awaiting some event we have wished for, and how it shrinks when that day comes, or we are with the person we have been waiting to see. It seemed to me that we were scarcely moving although I knew this was not the case. Adolphus must have sensed my mood because he said, “I know this long journey seems longer to you than it does to the rest of us.”

“I was just having the same thought,” I said. “It seems like we will never get there.”

“You know we will, eventually.”

“Yes, but I feel that with my head. My heart says otherwise.”

“Let us press on with renewed vigor, then.”

This we did, although we seemed to pass through the towns in slow procession. We camped out for the night and slept soundly because of our exertions. Thus fortified, we increased our pace and reached the Winchester area about noon.

“It won’t be long now!” I called.

“Indeed!” Adolphus answered. “I am anxious to meet Laurel and see where you live.”

“So am I,” I said in a tone that made the others laugh.

We followed the way that I was so familiar with, first as a street, then a lane and then a wide path and finally a narrow one. It was hard to keep from running, but I wanted to stay with my fellows. Finally, when we came to the slight rise beyond which my cabin lay, I could restrain myself no longer, and broke into a dead run for my family.

I saw Laurel bending over in the garden hoeing weeds while little Caleb, who was much bigger than when I saw him last, picked out errant bits of greenery.

“Laurel!” I shouted. “Laurel, I’m home! I have come back to you!”

I saw her straighten and shield her eyes from the sun, and then it was her turn to break into a run. We covered the distance in short order, and then we were in each other’s arms, kissing, holding tight, and murmuring words I do not recall except they were full of passion and love. We held this posture long enough for the others to catch up to us, but they stayed a distance back, respecting our privacy as much as they were able.

Finally we broke apart and took each other by the hand. Little Caleb had reached us by then, and I swept him up with one arm and held him there. We stood there holding that pose for several minutes, happy beyond words to be together at last. Finally I motioned my comrades over, and they came up. Andrew and Hiram deferred to Adolphus since he was the eldest of them, and so he stepped over to us. He took Laurel by the hand, bowed and kissed her hand. “I have been looking forward to meeting I have been looking forward to meeting you for so long,” he said. “Caleb has made clear that you are a woman of quality and virtue, and that he loves you like no other.”

Laurel blushed at this. “I am so pleased to make your acquaintance,” she said. “Caleb has likewise described in in letters your many fine qualities and how you have been the best of friends to him. Welcome to our home.”

Since Hiram and Andrew knew Laurel, they each gave her a hug, but said nothing. It was clear from the look in their eyes that they shared in their particulars the thoughts and feelings that we had heard to that point.

Laurel broke the silence. “It’s time for lunch, and I bet you all are hungry. I have a side of beef we’ve been eating off. How does that sound?”

“Anything but pork sounds beyond belief,” Andrew offered, and we all laughed.

“Yes,” Laurel said. “Caleb has informed me of your cuisine in the army. Let’s to the house, then!”

We followed  her and went inside. Little Caleb went over to Hiram. “Where’s your arm?” he asked.

“Someone took it.”

“That was a mean thing to do. If I had three arms, I’d give you one.”

“And I’d take it gladly.”

We watched this scene play out with emotion and also with thankfulness that we had raised so sensitive a child. Actually, it was Laurel who had done the raising, and it was to her credit that little Caleb had turned out as he had.

“All of you, sit and relax while I prepare what I have, ”Laurel said. “There are also some dried beans I can boil up, and also some dried apples. If you had come along later, I would have fresh food for you, but that is not possible.”

I went over and put my arms around her. “It will taste like a feast fit for a king because we will be eating it in a house filled with love.”

As Laurel busied herself with the meal and little Caleb helped her, the three of us sat in chairs and, tired from our journey, soon fell asleep. It was nice to do so without having to listen for a duty call or the sound of bugles. We were home, and peace lay across the land like a benediction.

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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 31


April, 1865

We topped a rise, and there it was, the town of Glasgow. We paused a moment before we started down to it.

“Looks peaceful to me,” Andrew said.

“We’ll still approach it carefully,” Adolphus answered. “You can’t tell much by just looking.”

It occurred to me that we were acting as if the war were still on, and maybe that was warranted and maybe it wasn’t. It didn’t  hurt us any to be careful.

We made our way down the slope to the main street. “Still is quiet,” Andrew said. “I don’t like it.”

“Could be everyone is napping. It is just after lunchtime,”  Adolphus said, but I noticed he was looking around the same way he did during the war when we were sent out to scout.

We made our way about halfway down the street before we came upon a general store. It had fallen into somewhat a state of disrepair, but from what we had seen, that wasn’t unusual.

“Do you think anyone’s here?” Andrew asked.

“Let’s go in and see,” Adolphus responded.

“Tell you what,” Andrew said. “Whoever wants to can go in, and I’ll stay out here.” He pulled out a large Colt revolver I didn’t know he had. “You have in a trouble, just yell and I’ll take care of it with this— ” he brandished the Colt.

Oh, Lord, I thought. All we need is for Andrew to shoot some innocent shopkeeper. “You be careful with that thing,” I said.

Andrew sighted along the barrel of the Colt. “Don’t worry—I’ve had plenty of experience with one of these.”

“I’ll stay out here with you,” Hiram said. I was glad to hear that. Hiram was a sensible lad.

We went into the store and couldn’t see for a moment as our eyes adjusted to the light. Anyone who would have wanted to shoot us just had the perfect opportunity, I thought. Seems like it’s all right in here.

When we could see, we noticed an older man standing at the counter, but we also saw there wasn’t much left on the shelf. “Howdy, strangers. You need supplies?”

“We surely do,” Adolphus said. “We hope you have enough of what you want.”

“Now that depends on what you want.”

“We need food and supplies for three days. Can you do that for us?”

The man nodded. “Just barely. There’s not much left because I’m getting out of the business and going back North. I know things aren’t going to be pleasant around here for a long, long time. Say, where you folks headed?”

“Just west of Winchester. That’s home for this fellow here.” Adolphus nodded toward me.

“All right. My name’s Currant. Help yourself to what’s left, and I’ll give you a good price. I just want to get rid of it as soon as possible and get out of there. I’ve had it.”

“I’ll go tell the boys,” I said to Adolphus.

Currant looked concerned. “By ‘boys’ do you mean a gang or ‘boys’ in the sense of a young man?”

I laughed. “Don’t worry. One of them is 18 and the other is 14 and only has one arm. They’re not much of a threat to you.” Except for the gun one of them is holding, I thought. I’ll have to take care of that before we come back in.

I went outside, again not being able to see for a few moments. Andrew had the gun trained on me, but I didn’t take that personally since he would have done that for anyone who walked through the door. “Andrew!” I said. “Put that thing down! There’s only one older guy, and he poses no threat to us.”

Andrew hesitated. “Come on,” I said. “Put it away before I take it away.”

I could tell Andrew was debating, but he finally slid the Colt into a coat pocket.

“Good. Now leave it there until after we’re finished here.”

I couldn’t blame Andrew too much. We were all literally gun shy after what we’d been through.

We went back into the store to find Adolphus taking cans off shelves and putting them into a bag he had apparently gotten from the shopkeeper. He turned around and looked at us. “Good! Help me with this!”

We all fell to and soon had everything we needed. We were lucky, I thought. It could have been much worse.

We put our bags on one of the counters, and Currant pulled out each can and item and wrote the price on a scrap of paper with a pencil. He then added the numbers, sticking out his tongue while he did so. I wonder why people do that, I thought. It must help them concentrate, or so many people wouldn’t do it.

He finished adding up our bill and said, “That comes to seven dollars and eighty-five cents.” He was right. I hadn’t had to buy anything for years, but I could tell that was an excellent price. Currant must have seen how I looked, because he said, “Told you I’d give you a good price. With what you’ve bought, there’s not enough to keep the store open, so I’m leaving for Pennsylvania tomorrow.”

“We thank you,” I said. “It’s too bad you can’t leave now. You could travel with us.”

“Can’t do it. There’s some business I have to take care of.”

“That’s too bad. Well, be safe on your way north.”

“I will. And if things get unsafe, I have this.” He reached underneath the counter and took out a Colt identical to Andrew’s.

“All right. You be careful with that.”

“It’s the miscreants who’ll have to be careful. Not that I’ll have that much money on me.Now, about that payment…”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. I turned to Andrew. “Pay the man.”

Before I knew it, Andrew had dumped our entire store of gold dollars on the counter. My heart jumped into my throat. I had told him never to do that in public. You just couldn’t tell who was watching and what their intentions were. But the cat, or rather the coins, were out of the bag and there wasn’t anything we could do about it.

The storekeeper’s eyes lit up. I don’t know if anyone else noticed that, but it was clear to me he was calculating something, and it wasn’t the value of the coins.

“That’s quite a pile of gold you have there, mister. You’d best be careful, carrying that much. There are some rough people who would gladly relieve you of it.”

“We will be, and we have this—” I pulled out my Colt—“and others like it to make sure we keep what is ours. We were soldiers until last week, so we know what we’re doing.”

He didn’t seem to be affected by my declarations, so I was surer than ever he would be up to no good, and soon. “The folks I spoke of have bigger weapons than that. So, as I said, be careful.”

The only thing we’ll be careful of is watching for your friends, I thought. “With that, well be on our way. Thank you for the goods and for the warning.”

We stepped outside into the sunshine and what proved to be a beautiful day. I turned to Alphonso and Andrew. “I think the shopkeeper is out to steal our gold. Be on the lookout for anything suspicious.

“I was thinking the same thing,” Alphonso said.

“I’m sorry I forgot what you told me about showing the gold,” Andrew murmured.

“Well, it’s done, and there’s not much we can do about it. We can do something about robbers with these—” I pulled out my Colt. “Andrew, do you still have yours?”

He took his out. “Yes. It’s right here.”

“And I have mine,” Alphonso added.

“Let’s go, then.”

We walked along the road going uphill for about half an hour, reaching the crest and starting down the other side.

“It’s a relief to be going downhill,” Andrew allowed.

“Yes, it is,” Alphonso, “but what’s coming up would be an ideal place for an ambush. He pointed to a thick stand of trees next to the road about halfway down the hill.

“Should we go around that?” Andrew asked.

“It will take more time and we’d have to fight our way through the underbrush.”

I stood for a while and then said, “Let’s stay on the road. I want to see Laurel as soon as possible.”

“It will only add 20 minutes to our journey to go off the road.” Alphonso looked determined. “It would surely be worth our time.”

“We can’t ever be sure that there is anyone there. Yes, we’ll go straight through.”

I could tell Alphonso was not pleased with my decision, but he stuck with the group and we started down the hill, slowing down as we came near the trees. As we came closer to them, six rough-looking men stepped from within the trees holding pistols on us.

I should have had us draw our weapons, I thought, but it’s too late now.

“Hands up!” one of the men cried. “And don’t make a move for your guns or we’ll blow your heads off. We’ve done that before and we won’t hesitate to do it again.

They came up to us and took our guns. Then the one who seemed to be the leader called, “Let us have the gold.”

“We don’t have any gold!”

“I have it on the authority of a certain person that you do. Hand it over!”

“Give it to him, Andrew,” I said.


“No ‘buts’ about it. Do as I say! Do you want us all to die?”

Andrew took the bag from his coat and dropped it in front of the leader.

“Pick it up and give it to me. I’m not stooping for you.”

Andrew slowly picked the bag up and handed it to the man. He passed it to another ruffian and then turned back to Andrew. “I don’t like your attitude. Here’s a little something to help you change it.” He fired his pistol, striking Andrew in the arm. I quickly saw that he had only grazed him. I had seen many such wounds inflicted before.

Andrew fell to the ground, holding his arm. To his credit, he made no sound. I wonder what would have happened had he screamed, but then decided I didn’t want to think about it.

The thieves stared at him for a moment, and then turned to me. “Give us your guns.”

“But we need them for protection from animals.”

“Are you calling us animals?”

“Not at all. I mean things like boars, bears and snakes. I was attacked once by a boar not far from here.”

Another one of the groups spoke up. “Aw, Ned, let them keep their weapons. It can’t hurt anything.”

Ned turned on him. “Except maybe us.”

“They don’t have the gall for it.”

Ned looked hard at us. Then his shoulders slumped. “Go ahead,” he said. “Keep ‘em. But if we come upon you and you try to use them, we’ll kill you for sure.”

“All right.” I said. “Thank you.”

“First time a man thanked me for anything after robbing him. But whatever suits you.”

With that, they disappeared into the underbrush. We watched them go, and then tended to Andrew’s wound, which was not serious. I thanked God that we had picked up some bandages at the store for just such an emergency.

As we wrapped his arm, Andrew said, “What will we do without money?”

“We don’t really need more,” I said. “We’re close enough to my house that we’ll have the supplies we need. Don’t worry.”

“And I have some coins hidden in one of my boots,” Adolphus said. “I’ve kept them there most of the war.”

“I didn’t know that,” Andrew said.

“Exactly why I didn’t say anything about them. I was the only one who needed to know about them, so I told no one. Until now.”

“I am right glad that you have them,” I said. “Does your arm feel all right?” I asked Andrew.

“Yes. It still stings a little, but I’m all right.”

“Let’s go, then,” Adolphus said. “I know someone who’s eager to be home.”

In spite of our recent trial, we laughed at this and resumed our way with as light hearts as we could muster.











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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 30

Towards Home

April, 1865

We were far enough west that we could walk up the Valley to Winchester and then home. Andrew, Hiram and I had been this way before, and I wondered if some of the people we had met then would still be there, if they were alive. With war, I could not tell, but knew we would be able to find out as we passed through each town.

Adolphus walked beside me for a while. “I know you have been this way before, and I am eager to meet the people and see the places you have spoken of.”

“Yes, we will do that, but seeing those we met might not be possible, war being what it is.”

“I will pray that they are still there and doing well.”

“Are you used to so much walking?”

“That is an odd question to ask a soldier. In the past four years I have walked more than I have in my life before the war. So, yes, going this far will not be difficult for me at all.”

“I am pleased to hear that.”

We walked in silence for a while, and then Adolphus asked, “Have you thought more about the school we talked about?”

“Yes, and I have my mind set on it. We shall have to let Laurel know our plans, of course, but I know her well enough to be sure that she will be all in favor of it and even an enthusiastic support of what we plan to do.”

“You know her best.”

“I suppose I do, and I am most eager to see her again. Is there anyone you would wish to communicate with?”

“As I told you, there is no one, but our group has become my family, so I feel little pain at my loss.”

So, gathered together, we set off for the west, knowing that soon we would turn north to follow the Valley. We were not that far from Lynchburg, and so we made our way there, thinking that we could buy what we needed from the same story that I had gone to with Hiram, Andrew, Laurel and little Caleb.

We came to the city and followed the street that should have led to the store, but when we go there, we saw that the store had been burned, by who knows who. An old man was sitting on a log in front of what had been the store.

“Howdy,” he said as we walked up.

“Hello,” I answered. “What happened to the store?”

“Can’t you see? It got all burnt up.”

“I meant, who did it?”

“That isn’t what you asked.”

“I just did.”

“It was some local vigilantes. Said they didn’t want it to fall into Yankee hands.” He chuckled. “They got fooled.”

“Do you know a place where we can resupply?”

“Not for 30 miles. You go up the Valley to a little town. You’ll know it when you get there. There ain’t nothing else around it for miles.”

“Thank you for that information.”

“You needed it and I gave it to you. It’s as simple as that. Say, why’d you boys quit? Why didn’t you get into the woods and continue the battle from there?”

“General Lee asked us not to.”

The old man spat on the ground. “Lee! He’s the reason we lost this war!”

“How can you say that? He was a fine general.”

“If he was so fine, why are you here and not off fighting some place?”

“In any case, he’s a fine man. Losing can’t take that away from him.”

“Maybe so, but a different general could have done better.”

I didn’t want to argue any more with him, so I tipped my cap and said, “Thank you for the information. How do you sustain yourself?”

“Oh, I have my ways.” He said this in such a way that I didn’t want to know any more about the subject. And so we pressed on.

Adolphus walked beside me. “Pleasant character, wasn’t he?”

“Oh, he didn’t bother me. He’s been through a lot and it looked like he didn’t have a lot of people he could talk to, if any. It’s remarkable he can still get along by himself.”

“That’s true. I hope he’ll be all right.”

“So do I.”

We walked along in silence for a while, and then Adolphus said, “How will we get supplied?”

“The old man said there’s a store about thirty miles away. We have provisions enough to tide us over until we can get there.”

“Yes. We should be there early tomorrow. I hope it’s still standing and that there’s something left.”

“Yes, but didn’t Jackson ravage the Valley?”

“He did, but that was years ago. They should have had time to recover.”

“I will pray that they have.”

We walked on in silence. I am praying for the same thing, I thought. May it all be so.



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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 29

Down a Long Slope

April, 1865

And so the war continued, with daily carnage displayed against a bright and beautiful landscape. There were times I thought I could not stand the difference any longer and should leave, but I realized that leaving fewer of us behind would be dangerous . And so, I stayed with my comrades. As I have said before, I was fighting for them more than for a cause or principle. I would add to this that I also fought for my family. As Adolphus would say, that much was axiomatic.

Finally we were beaten back nearly to Appomattox Court House. Both armies stopped to rest near there, and both considered what to do next. There were rumors of a large meeting with Lee and his generals present, and word was they were discussing a surrender. Some men wept at these stories while others cheered, but all of us considered that what we were hearing were rumors only, and possibly not near the truth. All we could do was wait and see what happened next.

A day I shall remember for as long as I lived dawned bright and clear. I was standing on the ramparts so I observed this celestial phenomenon first hand. Adolphus joined me. “The captain’s being called to a big meeting of all officers his grade and above. I think this might be it.”

“I certainly hope so. I take it we’ll find out when he gets back?”

“Yes. That would be the ticket.”

We stood there silently in the quiet. “One thing for sure, the Federals aren’t making any noise.”

“That’s another good sign.”

We were out for about an hour when we heard a murmur from behind our lines. We could not leave our posts, but Andrew came along to join us. “It’s official,” he said. “The captain said Lee will surrender this afternoon, and that’s straight from his mouth. The man don’t lie.”

For some reason, Adolphus and I took off our hats, as if we were standing on the street when a funeral came by. In a sense, we had just heard about the death of the Confederacy, so what we did seemed entirely appropriate. Much later on, we learned there were some at the meeting who wanted to fade into the woods to the west of us and conduct guerrilla operations for as long as they could, but Lee would have none of that. I for one, and many others, were glad for his words.

Our relief came along an hour later, although I do not know why. With the news, we knew there would be no attacks, but old habits die hard, I suppose. We camp back to our camp and sat on our blankets. Andrew came along again and said, “Come on and hurry you! Lee’s going to go by not too far from here.”

We went about a quarter mile back and found the rest of the army lining the dirt road leading to the court house. We waited half an hour and then Lee came along. Men pressed up to him, touching his horse and calling out to him, “We’ll never forget you, General. We’re beat but not defeated.”

I don’t know what that meant, but as he went by, Lee looked right at me and touched the brim of his hat. His face was clouded with sorrow, but he kept control of his emotions. How he did so I do not know. I gave him my best salute and watched as he continued to ride along the road, swarmed by troops. At last he went around a curve and so was lost to our sight.

Adolphus, Andrew, Hiram (who had joined us) and I stood still for a moment and then, with sighs, turned back to our camp. “Well, that’s that,” I said. “What now?”

“We wait to hear the terms of surrender. I pray that Grant will be generous.”

“As do I.”

We walked back to our campsite and lay down to try to sleep, but it proved elusive under the circumstances. After about an hour, the captain came by and wearily climbed off his horse. We all gathered round. “It’s official,” he said. “We’re beat. We’re constrained to surrender our arms, return home, and agree not to take up arms against the United States again. Grant’s allowing of us who own our own horses to keep them so that we can tend our farms and plant our crops.” He smiled. “I don’t think most of you own horses, so that provision won’t apply, but you can go home. You do so with my thanks for your service and admiration of your courage. As you go, I pray that God will watch over you, both now and evermore.”

At these words, some of us wept while others simply stared at the captain. Finally, Adolphus roused himself and shouted, “Three cheers for the captain! Hip, hip!”

“Hooray!” we responded.

“Hip, hip!”

“Hooray! from the collective voices.

“Hip, hip!”


And with that it was really, finally over. All around me I saw troops shaking hands and putting their arms around each other’s shoulders. Along with Adolphus, Hiram and Andrew, I gathered my supplies, and we set out on our long walk home. This time we needed no permission, and we walked without fear of arrest. This had been a long time coming, and I found it hard to believe it.



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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 28

More’s the Matter

April, 1865

“Tell me again what Lee said.” Adolphus leaned back in the chair he had gotten from somewhere while I was gone. I would have to find out how he came about it.

“In so many words, he believes that the war will not last much longer, but he is troubled by what might happen afterwards.”

Adolphus nodded. “He could be tried for treason and, if found guilty, would be hanged, along with some others.”

“That seems extreme,” I offered.

“It is, but it is what the law requires. We should pray that his life be spared.

“That we can do. Do you think Lincoln might offer him a pardon if he is sentenced?”

Adolphus thought for a moment. “It is difficult to say. Lincoln has seen contention with the members of his own part, and there are those who are thirsty for the enemy’s blood, even symbolically.”

“I suppose we shall see what happens.”

“Yes, with this and many other things.”

We each withdrew into our own thoughts for a few minutes and then I said, “Was there any action while I was away?”

Adolphus shook his head. “No, none, and that worries me in a different way. I fear they are planning something much like the tunneling campaign. But, as we have said so many times, we shall see.”

“Yes, we will.”

That afternoon I stood guard duty and heard nothing the whole time I was there. I came back, had something to eat (and found myself wishing I had some of the water Lee had given me) and then sat around the fire, looking into its depths. I found myself wondering if Laurel was doing the same thing at this time. It would have been cold enough to have had a fire where she was, and I wondered further if she were thinking of me. She said so in her letters though, so it must be so. Every day I thanked God for a beautiful and faithful wife. Sometimes during my service I had been there when other poor soldiers opened letters from their wives saying that they could no longer be married to them and that they were leaving. The poor wretches were so broken and upset I feared for their sanity if not their lives, and no one could console them. Indeed, some of them did take their own lives, and that was harder to bear than their being killed on the battlefield.

I sat for a while enjoying the fire and distressed at times by other thoughts. Adolphus came up and sat with me for a while. I noticed he did not have his chair.

“What happened to your chair?”

“A sergeant took it. Said the captain needed it, but I know our captain, and if he knew the origin of the furniture, he would have it returned to me. So I imagine there is a sergeant who sits comfortably tonight.”

“Yes. It is unfortunate we have such men, but he is not the worst.”

“Well I know. I do not see how such men live with themselves.”

We sat a while longer, and then Adolphus said, “I observe on your face a pensive look. Is anything the matter?”

I shook my head. “No, I was musing on what a good and faithful wife I have and how she is not like others who abandon their husbands by means of a letter. I think that is one of the cruelest acts known to man, but I thank God I do not have to endure it.”

Adolphus nodded. “You are indeed fortunate. Laurel reminds me of the woman in the Bible, of whom it is said in the Book of Proverbs, ‘Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.’  It says much more, but you see the matter in it. Do you know that passage?”

“I have not your learning in such matters, so I regret that I do not, save for what you have just told me.”

“We shall have to work on that.”

“I would be in favor of such a move.”

“What would you think of starting a school when all this is over?”

“I think you could. I have not the education.”

“Laurel and I could teach you. You learn quickly, so it will take no time to learn what you need to know.”

“Hmmm. I believe I can do that.”

“It’s settled then. We’ll make it our first order of business.”

“But how will that work? You would have to leave your home and stay with us to fulfill our plans.”

“I don’t consider Richmond my home any more. There is too much destruction, and probably my home is gone, and I have such distant relatives left that they are not like relatives to me. So, upon your invitation, I will join you at your home.”

“What you have said is a foregone conclusion. By the grace of God, we will both make our way north when this war ends.”

“Amen,” said Adolphus. “May it be so.”

We sat and talked a while more until dusk settled on the landscape. “We’d best to bed,” Adolphus told me. “We both have early guard duty.”

“Indeed we do. I’m with you.”

We lay down on our blankets and soon were settling toward sleep. This has been quite a day, I thought. It’s not often that a corporal gets to be the commander of his army. With those thoughts, I became lost in sleep.

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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 27

A Fortuitous Meeting

April, 1865

We arose with the dawn, and hearing nothing from the other side, set about readying ourselves for the coming day. We had eaten breakfast and just about finished our preparations when I saw our captain riding toward us. We saluted and he returned it. “Any of you men had any experience riding a horse?”

“No, sir,” replied Alphonso. “We mostly used carriages.”

“We were too poor to have a horse,” Andrew said.

“I’ve never ridden a horse,” I said, “but my parents had a mule, and I rode that sometimes, but never very far. The stubborn thing would stop after about half and mile and refuse to go any further.”

The captain rolled his eyes. “I’m fresh out of orderlies who are about other duties and need someone to take a message to headquarters.”

“I thought you were at headquarters.” Andrew looked puzzled.

“Saints deliver us,” the captain moaned. “Not our headquarters—big headquarters where the generals are. I need the dispatch given to General Lee, and, Dillard, since you have at least some experience with an equine, you’re elected. Here—” he handed me an envelope. Give this personally to the General. He doesn’t need to reply. The information you give him will be all he needs.

He looked serious. “It goes without saying the you will not open or otherwise tamper with the message. The contents are for General Lee’s eyes only. If, God forbid, you are captured, you will eat the message, including the envelope. If the enemy sees this message, our bad situation will get much, much worse. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Take my horse. I’ll find another one somehow. And good luck, solider. Report back to me when you return. I’ll be waiting for you.”

“Yes, sir,” I said again. I too the envelope and, when our captain had dismounted, I climbed into the saddle.

“Being up there befits you,” Adolphus said. “Do you know how to steer?”

“Well, with the mule, I kicked it in the side I wanted to go.”

“Don’t try that with this animal or you’ll end up on the ground.”

“Get going!” the captain shouted, leaving the question about how I was to control the horse up in the air.

I took a guess and pushed on its sides with my feet. The animal sprang forward, and, guessing again, I pulled on one of the reins and the horse turned in that direction. So far, so good, I thought, but I had a ways to go.

Headquarters was about three miles in the rear, so I urged the horse to a trot. I had forgotten to ask his name, but that didn’t seem to make any difference. The day was warm and fair, and I have to confess that I had thoughts of making a right-hand turn and going all the way home where I would stay with Laurel and little Caleb forever. Of course, I did no such thing, but only entertained myself with thoughts of escape and loved ones.

I reached my destination quickly and easily found the tent where General Lee had to be. It was the largest one there, and I made my way up to it. Two sentries stood at the entrance. “Halt!” one cried. “Dismount and state your business!” They both had their rifles trained on me, and I guess that they couldn’t be too careful.“Corporal Caleb Dillard with the Eighth Virginia with an important message for General Lee.” I held up the envelope.

The larger sentry came toward me. “Give it to me. I’ll see that he gets it.”

I shook my head. “I am under strict orders to deliver it into General Lee’s hands personally.”

“Give it to me,” the man insisted.

“Not a chance.”

“We can take it from you.”

“You’ll have to.”

As we stood there glaring at each other, I heard a soft voice. “What seems to be the difficulty here, gentlemen?”

I turned to see that General Lee had come out and was standing behind us. He looked smaller than I thought he would, and very, very tired.

“General Lee, I am under orders to deliver this envelope to you personally.”

He smiled. “And I would wager my sentries don’t want you to do that. They were just doing what I told them to, but won’t you join me inside the tent for a moment?”

I couldn’t speak for a moment but I did nod once. The sentries stood back, giving me an ugly look. I tried not to smile so as not to antagonize them.

The General held the fly open and motioned for me to go in. This is something, I thought. A general showing me in.

I went in and saw about ten ranking officers standing around. They eyed me curiously, but General Lee escorted me to a large table where he indicated that I should sit in a chair near the head. I took my seat, as did he. “Would you like something to drink?” he asked. “All I have to offer is water.”

“Water would be fine, General,” I said. “Thank you.”

An orderly heard what the General had said and brought over a pitcher of water and two glasses on a tray. He poured both glasses full. As I took it from him, I thought, I bet this is spring water. My first taste told me it was.

After I drank, I offered the envelope to the General. He took it and bowed slightly. “Thank you. I have been waiting for this.”

“You are welcome, sir. And thank you for the water. It’s much better than what we have to drink.”

Lee opened the envelope and read quickly down the page. He frowned when he had finished and indicated that one of the colonels should come over. He conferred with the officer for a moment, and then the colonel took the letter and went off.

“I’m sure you understand why I cannot share the contents of the letter with you.”

“Certainly, sir.”

He sat back in his chair. “How are you and your comrades getting along?”

“In truth, sir, we are growing weary of retreating and having to build new earthworks. And it seems to us that the end of the war is drawing near with bad consequences for us.”

He put on a melancholy look. “That is what I believe, although I have told no one, although I think that will become clear to everyone shortly. I am of the opinion that we cannot last much longer than a couple of weeks. Then we shall have to see what happens.”

He stood up, as did I. “Thank you again for delivering the message. And my God protect you and all the troops. I must be off on some business related to the letter.”

“You are welcome, sir.” I stood at attention and saluted. He did the same thing, even though he didn’t have to.

I went out of the tent, reclaimed my horse and rode off, headed for the front line. I took my time, enjoying the day and not being in anybody’s line of fire. The flowering trees and flowers seemed to welcome me as I went along, and I thought how I would share my little mission with my fellows. Surely they would be interested that Lee felt the war would not last much longer, and that would make them glad.

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Diamond Resolution

Chapter 26

A Letter to Laurel

April, 1865

April1, 1865

My dearest love and my wife,

I am writing this sitting in a ditch that we dug to better protect ourselves. I am well, as are Adolphus, Andrew and Hiram. They continue the same as we await another attack. It is inevitable, as, so it seems, our ultimate defeat. That is just a matter of time, and I will be glad to not have to fight any more and to return to you, my beloved, and to our son. I miss you both dearly, and long to be with you.

My plan is to hide this letter on my person when I have finished it.That way, if they worse happens and I am killed, I pray that someone will discover these thoughts and make sure that they are sent to you. Be assured that if I die, my last thoughts will be of the both of you. I assuredly will see you in Heaven, not out of any merit that I possess, but only through the suffering and death of our Savior Jesus Christ.

I had a vision in which I saw Heaven and the angels and our Lord himself. There was no fear in this, but rather a calm assurance that it is so. I was told that it was not my time to die yet and that I had many other things to do before that final sleep. I take this to mean that perhaps I will see you again, but no one knows the hours of his death. Such knowledge is vouchsafed to the Father , who lives and reigns forever.

I know that you believe and understand all this far better than I do, but I want to assure you of my belief, world without end, amen.

I know that you have the garden in, and pray there will be sufficient rain and that the sun will not bake the soil. I have a feeling that I will be there to help you with the harvest. This I join you in praying for most devoutly.

I suppose it is time now for me to rest so that I may assume my guard duty in a couple of hours. I think of you often and have a love for you so deep and strong I can scarcely believe it is mine. Be well, my dearest Laurel, and know that I am yours in live and in death.

I love you.

Your Caleb

I finished the letter and read it over once, finding that tears welled from my eyes as I looked over my tender thoughts. I wiped my eyes with my bandanna. Adolphus observed my actions and asked, “Have you written to Laurel?”

“Yes, indeed. How did you know?”

“There’s no mistaking the deep emotion that you were feeling. I trust that you commended all of us to her.”

“That I did, and right gladly, but now I believe I will lie down so as to be well-rested for my guard duty.”

“I will join you in that.”

We both lay down, but I found little sleep. Thoughts filled my head of all I had experienced in the past four years, of the people I had met and the places I had been. All these were numerous, and I thanked God, in the words of the favorite hymn of Laurel and me, that he had “brought me safe thus far.” And it will be by his grace that He will lead me home.

The time of my rest passed too quickly, and I found myself peering across the field beyond which lay our enemy. There had been no shooting the whole day, and I prayed that would continue, although I knew it could start at any time.

Almost as if someone had read my thoughts, firing started up to our right, and soon spread to the whole area in front of us. “Here they come!” I yelled. “Up! Up and to arms!”

All along the line, my fellow soldiers positioned themselves and started firing at an enemy they could not see for the woods spread before us. After a short while, soldiers in blue burst through the trees, firing as they came. We felled some of them, but more and more kept coming until we had no choice but to retreat again. We tried to fire as we did so, but to little effect.

As I ran, I saw that soldiers were also on both sides of us. They tightened the trap, and about 20 of us were captured. I have had captivity much too often, I thought, but that did not stop me from being taken again.

The bulk of the soldiers continued to press on, leaving ten or so to guard us. They marched us at rifle point to a meadow we had just passed through. There, they out us to work felling trees, which we then trimmed into poles. Some of us dug holes for what would become a palisade, while others took the poles and rammed them into the ground. We finished in short order and then we herded into the place of captivity we had just made. I thought having to do so was was adding insult to injury, but no one asked my opinion.

I soon found Adolphus and Andrew. “Here we all are again,” I said.

“Yes,” Adolphus. “This is all too familiar.”

“Do you think we might be able to escape?”

Adolphus looked around furtively to make sure no one could hear what he had to say. “I managed to hide one of the shovels in a shallow trench by yonder wall. If our captors are none too diligent in their manner, we can tunnel under the stockade and so make our way to freedom.”

“Do we not run the risk of being re-captured?” Andrew looked doubtful.

“We run a risk of all sorts of things just by being here. This risk is well worth the venture since we stand to gain so much.”

“I’m still not sure,” Andrew said.

“You don’t have to come with us,” I said. “We will leave you here and only hope we will see you again. So much could happen to you.”

“I will have to think on it.” Andrew looked down.

“Do so, and you will come to the correct conclusion.” Adolphus spoke with confidence.

We then found a place to sit along one of the walls, near to the hidden shovel. “This way we can keep an eye on it,” Adolphus explained. “And distract anyone who comes near.”

Sure enough, not ten minutes had elapsed when one of the guards decided to take a tour of the interior walls of the palisade. He poked his bayonet into the dirt at several places and, finding nothing, continued his progress. As he came toward us and our secret treasure, Adolphus whispered, “Andrew, I believe you will soon have another manifestation of a terrible intestinal disorder inside your body. Give it your best dramatic effort.”

“Should I act as if I have another tapeworm?”

Adolphus shook his head. “That maybe subject to proof. Your malady should have an unknown cause, incapable here of proof.”

Andrew nodded slightly and then suddenly fell to the ground and writhed in the dirt, moaning all the while. The guard looked at him. “What’s the matter here?”

Adolphus stepped up. “We don’t know, but some of our fellows manifested the same symptoms last night before the attack, and some among us said that it was highly contagious. I would stay away if I were you.”

I saw fear in the guard’s eyes. “I will stay away, but I’ll have to send for someone to remove him, and that won’t be until tomorrow morning.”

Tomorrow morning we’ll be gone if all goes well, I thought. Until then, we’ll have to bide our times and hope another guard, one who is more perceptive, doesn’t discover our shoulder.

We were given hardtack and brackish water for our evening meal. One fellow next to us said, “Don’t you have anything else? This had worms in it and the water is undrinkable.”

The soldier dealing out the food straightened up. “I’m so sorry that the banquet we had ordered for you has been delayed. Perhaps it will be here tomorrow.”

The soldier who made the complaint said something to the server that I couldn’t hear, but the Yankee took the pot that the hardtack was in and hit the complainer in the head. He fell over, insensate.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Adolphus.

“You didn’t hear what he said to me.”

“Whatever it was, it didn’t warrant striking him with such force.”

The soldier came over to us. “I’ll strike all of you as hard as I can if you don’t be quiet.”

We said nothing more to him, and he went along his way.

“When do we make our attempt?” Andrew whispered when no one was near.

“There’s a new moon tonight which will give little light, so we should start digging with that appears. I have noted that our guards remain outside unless they come in for a purpose, and I do not think they will have much occasion to do so all night. That should give us plenty of time to accomplish our deed.”

Our guards did come in and pass out blankets. The one who struck our fellow came by. “See how well we treat you. Of course, if I had my way, I shoot everyone of you disloyal, reprehensible, traitorous vermin.”

“It is well that you have neither the sense not the aptitude to make those decisions, else we should have a hard time of it.” Adolphus favored the man with a defiant look. He came over and clipped Adolphus in the head and my friend fell over onto the grass.

I went over to him. “Have you no other way of controlling us?” I cried. We are enemies, yes, but once we were countrymen and will be again soon.”

“Animals are not my countrymen,” spat out the soldier, and went his way.

I raised Adolphus’ head. “Would you like a drink of water?”

He shook his head. “I would rather die of thirst than drink that foul stuff again.”

“Tomorrow, after our escape, we can drink the dew from the grass.” Andrew looked hopeful.

“That is a long time to wait,” I mused.

“Nonetheless, it is our best hope.”

A few minutes later, the guards came back in. “We require that you be quiet during the night. Whether you sleep or not is your business. Anyone attempting to escape will be shot without warning. If you do escape, you will be surrounded by our troops, so don’t try anything.”

We received these words in silence, and then for our part made as if we were preparing for sleep. The guards left us alone and, according to their own offices, would not disturb us as long as we kept quiet. We remained lying down for what must have an hour but which seemed an eternity as we listened for the sounds of anyone coming in. No one did, and Adolphus raised himself up on one elbow.

“I believe it is time to begin digging.”

“I agree,” I said, and the three of us crawled over to where our shovel lay buried. Fortunately, our fellow prisoners slept soundly and so took no notice of our activity. We excavated the shovel and, choosing a less populated section of the fence, began digging, as quietly as possible. Fortunately, the dirt was loose from the excavation done by the Federals, so they helped us in spite of themselves.

“We won’t need much,” Adolphus whispered as Andrew dug. “Just enough for us to squeeze out.”

“Indeed,” I replied. “For once I am glad that we eat so poorly. If we had eaten copious amounts of rich food, we would never be able to excavate a hole big enough in the time we have.”

We spoke no more until Andrew had dug a hole sufficiently large for us, and then he squeezed through. “It’s fine,” he whispered. “Come on out.”

Adolphus and I followed him, and found ourselves not ten yards from some dense woods.

“This will provide excellent cover,” Adolphus noted, and we slithered on our stomachs to the first of the trees. Once there, we stood up and, stepping carefully, made progress more deeply into the copse. We went in about thirty yards, and Adolphus said, “Let’s run!” So it was that we went as fast as coursers through the dim moonlight.

We ran hard until we had to pause to catch our breath and then, figuring we were far enough from the enclosure, stopped and rested with our hands on our knees.

“I believe we have gotten cleanly away,” Andrew said. “I hear no alarms or other noise.”

“I hear nothing myself,” Adolphus added. After a short rest, we resumed running.

After a short while, Adolphus called us to a halt. “If I remember correctly, we are about to approach our lines. We must proceed carefully because of the risk of being shot if we come upon them in haste.”

We made our way carefully through the underbrush until we came upon an area that had been trampled and that still had the smell of gunpowder in the air.

“I believe we are nearly there. Slowly, now.”

We inched along until Andrew called softly, “Stop. I hear voices.” Although he was only several years younger than I, his hearing was much better than mine.

We stopped, and Adolphus said, “If we are at the lines, we’d best hold up our hands as we walk forward. They’ll know someone is surrendering, and when we get close enough, they’ll see we’re on the same side. But we have to be careful.”

As Adolphus advised, we raised ours hands and walked slowly forward. We had gone about a hundred yards when a voice came: “Halt! What unit are you with?”

“The Eighth Virginia. We were captured last night and put in a stockade, but we escaped.”

“Advance and be recognized. And if you’re not who you say you are, I’ll blow your head off.”

We came forward slowly when another command came. “Halt. Let me get a look at you.” A few seconds elapsed, and then the speaker said, “What is the name of General Lee’s horse?”

“It’s Traveller,” Adolphus answered.

“Everyone knows that. What kind is horse is he?”

“He’s a grey American Saddlebred, about 16 hands tall.”

“Come forward. My offer to separate you from your head is still good.”

We crept forward until the voice came again. “Stop there. Let me look at you.” I could see the glint of moonlight off binoculars.” There was a few seconds’ wait, and then, “All right. You look all right to me. Come ahead and welcome.”

We went weak with relief but managed to walk the rest of the way to the ramparts and climb over it. There a rough-looking sergeant shook our hands. “It’s good to see you boys! You know we need every man we can get. And sorry I put you through all that—we just can’t be too careful.”

“We understand,” Adolphus said. “We’re glad to be here.”

“How’d you boys escape?”

“We found a shovel inside the stockade the Yankees built that had been left during construction. We buried it to hide it, and when the time was right, we dug a hole under the fence and went out that way.”

“And no one heard you?”

“We wouldn’t be standing here if they did.”

“Yes, excuse me. That was an ingenious way to get out.”

Adolphus shrugged. “We just made use of the tool we found and the opportunity that we had. Say, can we get something to eat? They didn’t feed us very well.”

“We have salt pork. You can have some of that.”

“Thank you. What about something to drink?”

“One of the boys discovered a spring, and we filled our canteens. You’re welcome to some of that.”

Spring water! I thought. That will taste like wine compared to the slop we had to drink last night. Then I smiled at myself for comparing the water to wine. I had never had a drop of alcohol, not even wine, so I had no idea what it tasted like. But I’ve heard from those who do imbibe that it is wonderful.

We went over and helped ourselves to the pork and water. “Even the pork tastes good,” Adolphus said.

“Adolphus, something is wrong with your taste mechanism,” I said. “It is the same as always. The water, though, is like the drink of the gods.”

“I was going to say it tasted like the finest wine to me.”

“I cannot contest you on that, for I take no alcohol.”

“You must try some sometime.”

“No need of that. I have the water.”

The sergeant came back to us. “Come with me. I’ll show you where you can get a little sleep.”

We followed him to an area in the back of the palisade. We lay down, and I do not know about the others, but I fell asleep and slept until the sun came up into my eyes. We were lucky again to have escaped, I think, but I wondered what lay ahead.




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