Joseph A Altsheler – Civil War 02 – Guns Of Shiloh. Chapter 4, 5, 6

Joseph A Altsheler – Civil War 02 – Guns Of Shiloh. Chapter 4, 5, 6


The three halted their horses and stood for a minute or two on the very crest of the pass. The fierce wind out of the northwest blew directly in their faces and both riders and horses alike were covered with snow. But Dick felt a wonderful thrill as he gazed upon the vast white wilderness. East and west, north and south he saw the driving snow and the lofty peaks and ridges showing through it, white themselves. The towns below and the cabins that snuggled in the coves were completely hidden. They could see no sign of human life on slope or in valley.

“Looks as wild as the Rockies,” said the sergeant tersely.

“But you won’t find any Injuns here to ambush you,” said Red Blaze, “though I don’t make any guarantee against bushwhackers and guerillas, who’ll change sides as often as two or three times a day, if it will suit their convenience. They could hide in the woods along the road an’ pick us off as easy as I’d shoot a squirrel out of a tree. They’d like to have our arms an’ our big coats. I tell you what, friends, a mighty civil war like ours gives a tremenjeous opportunity to bad men. They’re all comin’ to the top. Every rascal in the mountains an’ in the lowlands, too, I guess, is out lookin’ for plunder an’ wuss.”

“You’re right, Red Blaze,” said the sergeant with emphasis, “an’ it won’t be stopped until the generals on both sides begin to hang an’ shoot the plunderers an’ murderers.”

“But they can’t ketch ’em all,” said Red Blaze. “A Yankee general with a hundred thousand men will be out lookin’ for what? Not for a gang of robbers, not by a jugful. He’ll be lookin’ for a rebel general with another hundred thousand men, an’ the rebel general with a hundred thousand men will be lookin’ for that Yankee general with his hundred thousand. So there you are, an’ while they’re lookin’ for each other an’ then fightin’ each other to a standstill, the robbers will be plunderin’ an’ murderin’. But don’t you worry about bein’ ambushed. I was jest tellin’ you what might happen, but wouldn’t happen. We kin go down hill fast now, and we’ll soon be in Hubbard, which is the other side of all that fallin’ snow.”

The road down the mountain was also better than the one by which they had ascended, and as the horses with their calked shoes were swift of foot they made rapid progress. As they descended, the wind lowered fast and there was much less snow. Red Blaze said it was probably not snowing in the valley at all.

“See that shinin’ in the sun,” he said. “That’s the tin coverin’ on the steeple of the new church in Hubbard. The sun strikes squar’ly on it, an’ now I know I’m right ’bout it not snowin’ down thar. Wait ’til we turn ‘roun’ this big rock. Yes, thar’s Hubbard, layin’ out in the valley without a drop of snow on her. It looks good, don’t it, friends, with the smoke comin’ out of the chimneys. That little red house over thar is the railroad an’ telegraph station, an’ we’ll go straight for it, ’cause we ain’t got no time to waste.”

They emerged into the valley and rode rapidly for the station. Farmers on the outskirts and villagers looked wonderingly at them, but they did not pause to answer questions. They galloped their tired mounts straight for the little red building, which was the station. Dick sprang first from his horse, and leaving it to stand at the door, ran inside. A telegraph instrument was clicking mournfully in the corner. A hot stove was in another corner, and sitting near it was a lad of about Dick’s age, clad in mountain jeans, and lounging in an old cane-bottomed chair. But Dick’s quick glance saw that the boy was bright of face and keen of eye. He promptly drew out his papers and said:

“I’m an aide from the Northern regiment of Colonel Newcomb at Townsville. Here are duplicate dispatches, one set for the President of the United States and the other for the Secretary of War. They tell of a successful fight that we had last night with Southern troops, presumably the cavalrymen of Turner Ashby. I wish you to send them at once.”

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