An Unwelcome Return
I stood on the parapet with Alphonso and although he was ten yards away from me, I could barely see him in the gloom. We were standing watch in the pre-dawn hours, thinking it likely there would be an attack at dawn. Alphonso’s voice came to me.
“Caleb! Can you see anything?”
“In truth, I cannot. But I can hear the jingle of horses’ reins and the muttering of men. Very many men. I believe the attack is imminent.
“I have heard the same things, and I agree with you about an attack. Are you prepared?”
“As prepared as I can ever be. So now we wait.”
“May God be with us.”
The attack came ten minutes later as the sun rose in our eyes, making it difficult to know the strength of the enemy. As the noise of their coming increased, a cloud hid the sun, and we both gasped at the number of troops coming toward us. I shot two of them, asking God to forgive me.
“We cannot hold against such a horde,” Alphonso said. “Should we retire?”
I had not finished my sentence when the first Union troops poured over our walls. We had no time to defend ourselves, and soon found we were being conducted at bayonet point toward the enemy lines. Here I am, a captive again, I thought. I am heartily sick of being held in thrall, first at the Old Capitol prison, then to Eleanor a number of times and, of course, to the Navy.
We and our captors, two soldiers who could not have been more than 16, made our way behind their lines and marched about half a mile to a corral where we joined our fellows. I was glad it wasn’t raining, for there was no shelter to be seen. A captain and two corporals sat at a table to process us. I thought that any army had a process with attendant paperwork. We got into a long line, and I thought, from what I can see here, this is not going well for us.
After a considerable wait, during which time we heard the sounds of fighting growing fainter and fainter, it was my turn at the table. The lessening noises to the west meant that the Yankees were being successful. I knew the plan was to mount a counterattack after we were attacked, but I could not hear any indication of that. Grant was going to push us to Lynchburg, and there was little we could do about it.
“Name?” rasped the corporal, looking unhappy at having been assigned this duty.
“What kind of name is that?”
“Well, my first name came from the Bible, and ‘Dillard’ is my family name.”
The corporal’s face twisted in an ugly grimace. “Did you think I didn’t know that? Do you think I’m stupid?”
“No, I was just answering your question.”
“More answers like that will see my boot applied to your rear end! I don’t like smartasses, and especially the Sesech variety! What’s your outfit?”
“Oh, well, we’re fighting in your state. Too bad for you.”
“Yeah, too bad.”
“I told you to watch your mouth.”
“Get out of here! We’ll hold you until we decide where to keep you.”
“I’ve already stayed in one of your prisons.”
“Well, aren’t you the lucky one?”
I said nothing, but moved over to the fence to wait for Adolphus to finish. He was soon done, and came over to me.
“Charming lot, aren’t they? I thought I was going to be run through with a bayonet for my simple answers to their questions.”
“Yeah, I had the same thing. Anyhow, I guess we wait to see what happens.”
“I can tell you one thing—there won’t be a counterattack.”
“I wonder what will happen to poor Andrew.”
“Nothing good, I’m thinking. This is bad enough for us, and we’re healthy, I can’t imagine what all this moving will do to him.”
“If they move him.”
“I grasp your meaning, sir.”
We stood there and watched other prisoners being checked in for a while.
“I guess they’ll move us when they’re good and ready,” I told Adolphus.
“Of that you may be certain—wait! What’s that?”
I had no time to reply. There was a flash and a roar, and I felt myself flying through the air to a face-first landing in the mud. Then I knew nothing.