Drawing and Withdrawing
Sure enough, the Union forces attacked the next day, and pushed us back a mile or so. There we entrenched ourselves and waited for the next assault. At one point, Adolphus stood up and looked around.
“Adolpus!” I hissed. “There are snipers and you are making a perfect target out of yourself.”
With that, he knelt down, but continued looking around.
“What are you doing?”
He kept looking and then seemed to fix on something. “Ah! There it is!”
“There what is?”
He pointed to a large oak. “That tree. I remember seeing when we were on our way to try to visit Hiram. Yes! That’s it!”
Adolphus’s realization meant that we were near the site of the hospital where Hiram was taken. Why he felt it was important to know we were near I have no idea. Adolphus sometimes takes strange notions, and this was not the strangest of them by far.
“Why is this important to you?” I asked.
“We could see if the hospital is there, and Nurse Robbins.”
“Yes, and then?”
“We tell her about Hiram and how well he’s doing. I think she would want to know.”
“The hospital is most likely not there. You know that.”
“I do, but I believe it is worth a try. I’ll ask the captain for permission.”
“He probably won’t let you go. We are in the middle of battles, after all.”
“It won’t hurt to try.”
“I see you are resolved to do this thing. I will go with you!”
“Spoken like the good fellow you are!”
The captain came by all our positions every hour or so. Accompanied by the usual lieutenant, he leaned down from his horse and said, “Can you spare us some water? My orderly forgot it.”
The lieutenant heard this and bowed his head. If he does this sort of thing too often, I thought, he will have semi-permanent latrine duty.
“Certainly!” Adolphus smiled. “We have an extra canteen, and you’re welcome to it.”
“I thank you kindly.”
I stepped up to them and said, “I have a favor to ask, sir.”
“What is it, Dillard?”
“Sir, when we went to visit our drummer boy, it was in the hospital not too far from here. There we met a nurse, and we’d like to check on her to see how she’s doing.”
The captain pondered this request for a moment. “Does either of you have a romantic interest in this woman?”
“No, sir!” I exclaimed. “I’m married, and Adolphus, he—well, he doesn’t—that is—”
The captain laughed. “Just say it corporal. He doesn’t care for women. Lordie did you not consider that I have been in this army for a decade and heard all sorts of things, some of which I wish I hadn’t. But if a man’s a good soldier, he can wear a petticoat to fight in! Now, that would turn the heads of those bluebacks!”
“Yessir,” I mumbled, embarrassed that I had misread our commander.
“And, yes, go visit your whatever-she-is. But if you hear the sound of rifles over here, you high tail it back. Understood?”
Adolphus and I nodded and gathered what little we needed for our short journey.
We set out, and Adolphus said, “I think it best we follow the railroad tracks. We can see anyone coming much better that way.”
“Agreed.” And so we set off, not knowing what we would find