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   Chapter 3 No.3

Two Little Confederates By Thomas Nelson Page Characters: 11045

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


In course of time they saw a great deal of "the army,"-which meant the Confederates. The idea that the Yankees could ever get to Oakland never entered any one's head. It was understood that the army lay between Oakland and them, and surely they could never get by the innumerable soldiers who were always passing up one road or the other, and who, day after day and night after night, were coming to be fed, and were rapidly eating up everything that had been left on the place. By the end of the first year they had been coming so long that they made scarcely any difference; but the first time a regiment camped in the neighborhood it created great excitement.

It became known one night that a cavalry regiment, in which were several of their cousins, was encamped at Honeyman's Bridge, and the boys' mother determined to send a supply of provisions for the camp next morning; so several sheep were killed, the smoke-house was opened, and all night long the great fires in the kitchen and wash-house glowed; and even then there was not room, so that a big fire was kindled in the back yard, beside which saddles of mutton were roasted in the tin kitchens. Everybody was "rushing."

The boys were told that they might go to see the soldiers, and as they had to get off long before daylight, they went to bed early, and left all "the other boys"-that is, Peter and Cole and other colored children-squatting about the fires and trying to help the cooks to pile on wood.

It was hard to leave the exciting scene.

They were very sleepy the next morning; indeed, they seemed scarcely to have fallen asleep when Lucy Ann shook them; but they jumped up without the usual application of cold water in their faces, which Lucy Ann so delighted to make; and in a little while they were out in the yard, where Balla was standing holding three horses,-their mother's riding-horse; another with a side-saddle for their Cousin Belle, whose brother was in the regiment; and one for himself,-and Peter and Cole were holding the carriage-horses for the boys, and several other men were holding mules.

Great hampers covered with white napkins were on the porch, and the savory smell decided the boys not to eat their breakfast, but to wait and take their share with the soldiers.

The roads were so bad that the carriage could not go; and as the boys' mother wished to get the provisions to the soldiers before they broke camp, they had to set out at once. In a few minutes they were all in the saddle, the boys and their mother and Cousin Belle in front, and Balla and the other servants following close behind, each holding before him a hamper, which looked queer and shadowy as they rode on in the darkness.

The sky, which was filled with stars when they set out, grew white as they splashed along mile after mile through the mud. Then the road became clearer; they could see into the woods, and the sky changed to a rich pink, like the color of peach-blossoms. Their horses were covered with mud up to the saddle-skirts. They turned into a lane only half a mile from the bridge, and, suddenly, a bugle rang out down in the wooded bottom below them, and the boys hardly could be kept from putting their horses to a run, so fearful were they that the soldiers were leaving, and that they should not see them. Their mother, however, told them that this was probably the reveille, or "rising-bell," of the soldiers. She rode on at a good sharp canter, and the boys were diverting themselves over a discussion as to who would act the part of Lucy Ann in waking the regiment of soldiers, when they turned a curve, and at the end of the road, a few hundred yards ahead, stood several horsemen.

"There they are," exclaimed both boys.

"No, that is a picket," said their mother; "gallop on, Frank, and tell them we are bringing breakfast for the regiment."

Frank dashed ahead, and soon they saw a soldier ride forward to meet him, and, after a few words, return with him to his comrades. Then, while they were still a hundred yards distant, they saw Frank, who had received some directions, start off again toward the bridge, at a hard gallop. The picket had told him to go straight on down the hill, and he would find the camp just the other side of the bridge. He accordingly rode on, feeling very important at being allowed to go alone to the camp on such a mission.

As he reached a turn in the road, just above the river, the whole regiment lay swarming below him among the large trees on the bank of the little stream. The horses were picketed to bushes and stakes, in long rows, the saddles lying on the ground, not far off; and hundreds of men were moving about, some in full uniform and others without coat or vest. A half-dozen wagons with sheets on them stood on one side among the trees, near which several fires were smoking, with men around them.

As Frank clattered up to the bridge, a soldier with a gun on his arm, who had been standing by the railing, walked out to the middle of the bridge.

"Halt! Where are you going in such a hurry, my young man?" he said.

"I wish to see the colonel," said Frank, repeating as nearly as he could the words the picket had told him.

"What do you want with him?"

Frank was tempted not to tell him; but he was so impatient to deliver his message before the others should arrive, that he told him what he had come for.

"There he is," said the sentinel, pointing to a place among the trees where stood at least five hundred men.

Frank looked, expec

ting to recognize the colonel by his noble bearing, or splendid uniform, or some striking marks.

"Where?" he asked, in doubt; for while a number of the men were in uniform, he knew these to be privates.

"There," said the sentry, pointing; "by that stump, near the yellow horse-blanket."

Frank looked again. The only man he could fix upon by the description was a young fellow, washing his face in a tin basin, and he felt that this could not be the colonel; but he did not like to appear dull, so he thanked the man and rode on, thinking he would go to the point indicated, and ask some one else to show him the officer.

He felt quite grand as he rode in among the men, who, he thought, would recognize his importance and treat him accordingly; but, as he passed on, instead of paying him the respect he had expected, they began to guy him with all sorts of questions.

"Hullo, bud, going to jine the cavalry?" asked one. "Which is oldest; you or your horse?" inquired another.

"How's pa-and ma?" "Does your mother know you're out?" asked others. One soldier walked up, and putting his hand on the bridle, proceeded affably to ask him after his health, and that of every member of his family. At first Frank did not understand that they were making fun of him, but it dawned on him when the man asked him solemnly:

"Are there any Yankees around, that you were running away so fast just now?"

"No; if there were I'd never have found you here," said Frank, shortly, in reply; which at once turned the tide in his favor and diverted the ridicule from himself to his teaser, who was seized by some of his comrades and carried off with much laughter and slapping on the back.

"I wish to see Colonel Marshall," said Frank, pushing his way through the group that surrounded him, and riding up to the man who was still occupied at the basin on the stump.

"All right, sir, I'm the man," said the individual, cheerily looking up with his face dripping and rosy from its recent scrubbing.

"You the colonel!" exclaimed Frank, suspicious that he was again being ridiculed, and thinking it impossible that this slim, rosy-faced youngster, who was scarcely stouter than Hugh, and who was washing in a tin basin, could be the commander of all these soldierly-looking men, many of whom were old enough to be his father.

"Yes, I'm the lieutenant-colonel. I'm in command," said the gentleman, smiling at him over the towel.

Something made Frank understand that this was really the officer, and he gave his message, which was received with many expressions of thanks.

"Won't you get down? Here, Campbell, take this horse, will you?" he called to a soldier, as Frank sprang from his horse. The orderly stepped forward and took the bridle.

"Now, come with me," said the colonel, leading the way. "We must get ready to receive your mother. There are some ladies coming-and breakfast," he called to a group who were engaged in the same occupation he had just ended, and whom Frank knew by instinct to be officers.

The information seemed to electrify the little knot addressed; for they began to rush around, and in a few moments they all were in their uniforms, and surrounding the colonel, who, having brushed his hair with the aid of a little glass hung on a bush, had hurried into his coat and was buckling on his sword and giving orders in a way which at once satisfied Frank that he was every inch a colonel.

"Now let us go and receive your mother," said he to the boy. As he strode through the camp with his coat tightly buttoned, his soft hat set jauntily on the side of his head, his plumes sweeping over its side, and his sword clattering at his spurred heel, he presented a very different appearance from that which he had made a little before, with his head in a tin basin, and his face covered with lather. In fact, Colonel Marshall was already a noted officer, and before the end of the war he attained still higher rank and reputation.

The colonel met the rest of the party at the bridge, and introduced himself and several officers who soon joined him. The negroes were directed to take the provisions over to the other side of the stream into the camp, and in a little while the whole regiment were enjoying the breakfast. The boys and their mother had at the colonel's request joined his mess, in which was one of their cousins, the brother of their cousin Belle.

The gentlemen could eat scarcely anything, they were so busy attending to the wants of the ladies. The colonel, particularly, waited on their cousin Belle all the time.

As soon as they had finished the colonel left them, and a bugle blew. In a minute all was bustle. Officers were giving orders; horses were saddled and brought out; and by what seemed magic to the boys, the men, who just before were scattered about among the trees laughing and eating, were standing by their horses all in proper order. The colonel and the officers came and said good-bye.

Again the bugle blew. Every man was in his saddle. A few words by the colonel, followed by other words from the captains, and the column started, turning across the bridge, the feet of the horses thundering on the planks. Then the regiment wound up the hill at a walk, the men singing snatches of a dozen songs of which "The Bonnie Blue Flag," "Lorena," and "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia Shore," were the chief ones.

It seemed to the boys that to be a soldier was the noblest thing on earth; and that this regiment could do anything.

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