Edward P's Corner The Civil War Years - One Writer's Reboot

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Re: Edward P's Corner The Civil War Years - One Writer's Reboot

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:15 pm

The Civil War Years - One Writer's Reboot
Written by Edward P
Chapter 11

Northern armies had broken from their winter camps and were preparing for spring campaigns of major offences. An offensive by the Union forces to raise the Federal flag over a part of Texas called the Red River Campaign was underway and an influx of Confederate prisoners started to grow after a decrease during winter. Union prisons such as Rock Island, Camp Douglas and Elmira were also welcoming more arrivals. The Confederates had a substantial number of victories such as Okolona, Dalton, Paducah, Mansfield and Pleasant Grove with Confederate prisons including Andersonville, Belle Isle, Camps Ford and Libby receiving their Union prisoners of war.

Guards and resident inmates alike observed the new arrival of prisoners. A particular new one arrived at Alton separate from the groups of others that caught Captain Coe’s attention. He was fresh compared to the battle worn appearance of others and Coe noticed he had northern style clothing on. After studying him for a time, Coe approached at an opportune occasion in the prison yard.

“I note you did not arrive with any of a group of soldiers.”

The man did not respond, just stood there and looked at Coe.

"Well, we have all types here,” Coe continued, “court-marshaled Union insubordinates, civilian criminals, each in these separate buildings; even have some women which are in a portioned off room in the cellar of the main building. And we have spies.”

The man had a minor reaction and Coe was more assured his suspicions were correct.

“Just between you and I,” Coe continued, I’ve done some intelligence gathering myself, in the northeast.”

“Is that so,” the man replied in a guarded tone.

“About two years ago. Then I joined my company. I’m here as a soldiering prisoner of war, not as a spy.”

“Good matter for you,” the man returned, “they hang spies.”

“I’ve known of a few that got away before they met that fate.”

Coe dismissed himself satisfied with his introduction to the new and different prisoner and left the man hopefully to ponder the exchange. Over the course of a week, while he did his normal fraternizing with the other prisoners about the compound, Coe kept an eye on the man. The man had been watching Coe as well, trying to determine how genuine he was.

The Confederate Coe approached the man again hoping to continue their previous encounter.

“Let me drop a name to you,” he offered, “Hines, Captain Thomas Hines.”

“Hines, hmm, Hines, I seem to recall a Captain Hines with Morgan’s Raiders,” the man responded in deflection.

“That is his official unit.” Coe rejoined, “At times he's away doing tradecraft.”

One had to be careful who one divulged information to, but the captain appeared every inch the southern, Confederate loyalist. Coe’s remark about getting away before meeting a certain fate played in the man’s mind yet he had a strong sense of duty. If he could make use of his incarceration here, he would do so. After a moment’s pause, the man spoke.

“Here’s a name for you,” he offered. “Longuemare,”

“Longuemare, If that’s Emile Longuemare, he’s a real firebrand,” returned Coe. His response was enough assurance and the man carefully offered some of what he knew.

“Yes, I know Captain Hines, been working with him myself. I think my new circumstances will work nicely in a part of his mission.”

“Oh?” Coe’s voice rose a little in response.

“Captain Longuemare presented a plan to President Davis, the objective being to assist some Northwest states toward secession. Captain Hines was selected as the military leader of that effort. He has a letter from Secretary of War Seddon authorizing… empowering him for considerable actions. One such undertaking is to free our boys from the prisons up here; help distract and deplete the Yankee’s resources while other actions get underway.”

Coe hung on every word the man spoke. He was hungry for more but that was all the man would divulge of the entirety of Longuemare’s plan.

“I understand you are well regarded; the men here look up to you,” the man returned. “If you’re still a Confederate and haven’t taken their oath, we could use you,” the man now prodding for a reaction.

“I have not, sir. I would not, I could not take such an oath.” Coe retorted emphatically.

“Good to hear. Name’s Campbell. Now, do you know of any guards who are questioning their loyalty to the Federals?”

* * *

A group of nuns called the Daughters of Charity, from St. Louis, had arrived at the prison. Seeing the facilities were overused during the epidemic impelled them to demand an actual hospital be built within the walls of the campus. There had been makeshift accommodations but nothing adequate. Better medical supplies and permission to conduct burial services for the men were also demanded. Sister Joan, assisting the order, again had McCain with rifle hunting along the banks of the river for extra provisions for the labor force that would be part of the endeavor. This allowed a time of respite for him, an opportunity to refocus his discouragement. Walking along the river, as he had done before, he now concentrated on the terrain, looking for rabbit and other game abundant this time of year. Further down, by the prison, two soldiers carried a wood coffin box to the boat then headed over to the island. The smallpox virus was not as menacing as in previous months, though it was still present and there were other maladies that could bring the demise of a frail and debilitated prisoner. McCain thought of Bristol and him on that duty. After bagging a rabbit and a turkey McCain saw the two soldiers coming back from the island. They came from a different side than he and Ted normally took. Carrying the box up to the prison, the two were weary as the coffin still seemed a burden. McCain remembered how spent he and Ted could get from such an assignment, especially from the digging. The morning was fruitful for McCain, having also gotten a pheasant, a squirrel and another turkey. Returning to the prison, he found one of the Daughters of Charity and gave her the bounty.

Back in his cell Coe pondered his new partnership with Campbell. Their plan, still in its development stages would take time and patience to see it to fruition. One particular aspect he concentrated on, looking for a solution. Considerable time passed; his mind wondered as did his eyes. Then his glance focused on the markings on the wall, the tic marks noting the passing days of the calendar and an idea was born. He got up from his bunk, went over to the wall and made a small change that he hoped would have significant outcome.

Longer days were stretching over the prison. The dankness of the winter months gave way to heat and humidity. Stale air settled about the compound, an occasional breeze might come in the evening and summer was officially a month away. Confederate Joshua Coe lay idle in his cell as did most of the other prisoners. All were silent. Then before the unseen sun had arched the penitentiary to cast its light through the small windows, Coe decided, with much bravado, to make an announcement.

“Gentlemen, today is May twentieth. On this day three years ago, our great Confederate nation officially declared the City of Richmond, in the great Commonwealth of Virginia, our capital.” The men didn’t care much about it, but Coe seemed to be attempting to focus them on their great cause and the countless others committed to it. It was a trivial piece of information he called out and it was incorrect.

* * *

McCain took a different way from his typical sentinel route and went by the old washroom. He had done so on occasion, the story of the prisoner escape by tunneling from this area was always in the back of his mind. The area seemed as it was the last time he passed through, but in stepping past some items his foot hit a firm, solid object. He looked down and under some empty canvas bags and other matter and saw a wooden coffin box, one of several used in transporting dead or severely sick men. He was puzzled why it would be here. Did some lazy guards decide to just stash it here instead of putting it with the others? But putting this here seemed to be more trouble. He stooped over it, and clearing debris away lifted the lid. There was a blanket and underneath, hidden, were rifles. It was a cache of Henry Repeater rifles and among with them detached bayonets. He estimated there were about fifteen of each, a blade for each barrel. The surprised sergeant lower the lid, put items back as they were, and went to report his find to the provost marshal. Subsequently, both the provost and the sergeant went to report this to the commander.

“Commander, I didn’t think much of it at the time but I’m sure this is the same box I saw two guards bring back from the island one morning. I watched them struggle up the bank with it,” McCain offered.

The provost completed the scenario “So the rifles are staged somewhere on the island, probably at night, then brought here.” It seemed unnecessary after he spoke.

“Yes,” came the commander’s short affirmation, then he paused in thought. “There’s no overt military action this far northwest. There are men of the Confederate persuasion that can potentially be organized into Confederate units; Copperheads. The intelligence is that Illinois has thirty thousand of such, the largest of the northern states. I’m sure this is a Copperhead undertaking, obviously to execute a breakout. Have either of you noticed anything suspicious?”

“I have seen one particular prisoner, Joshua Coe, conversing with…Campbell, fairly new. Rumor is Campbell’s a spy.” McCain seemed to have one eye on Coe much of the time and the captain’s association with the odd new prisoner only heightened his interest. He had no reservation on reporting such in this exchange of information.

“That rumor is correct,” confirmed the commander.

“We can go against a couple hundred men. We have the fortification,” noted the provost, “and some new repeaters to use,” he added.

“Leave the emptied box there though, as if it were undisturbed,” the commander instructed. “And watch that area more closely.”

“Yes sir. And I’ll post extra sentry overlooking all sides, especially the river.”

“We can only hope all the bayonets are there with the rifles they go to. We do not want any unknown ones about,” the commander warned.

“They all match up in numbers sir,” McCain was looking to offer some assurance over this situation. He had a similar feeling as when in Colonel Harrison’s quarters planning the raid. This had the same aura of mystery; pieces of information, something not completely known but the probability was there. McCain wanted to be involved in this matter. He wanted to get Coe and stop the breakout from happening.

“Are there any more of the boxes missing?” the commander queried.

“No sir, I don’t believe so, but I’ll make sure,” the chief guard returned.

The appearance of the cache of rifles troubled the commander. But if the plot they suspected could be thwarted it could help his men and their perceived remote involvement with the war. Many wished they were younger and able to engage the rebels more fully on the battlefield. Upon ending the meeting the attitude of all was resolve; learn all you can to defeat the plan and strike a blow to the plotters behind it. Be ready when the time comes.

McCain returned to his duties and his rifle and presented the appearance of routine functions all the while taking further notice of anything potentially related to a planned breakout. A few days after the meeting in the commander’s office, the sergeant was walking on the bottom tier of the main prison ready to exit the building. He heard a familiar voice from the second level.

“Today is June twelfth, my mama’s birthday,” Coe yelled out to the void. “Happy birthday mama. I hope I will celebrate with you next year.”

McCain made a mental note of the announcement and continued on.

Cautiously over time the guards were screened unknowingly to determine each ones loyalty. No others knew about the potential plan of a prison break or of an attack from Copperheads, but the Union loyal soldiers, which all but two were, would follow orders. The two turncoats had a price, which was paid to them for their service. Monies were wired to their families from a Copperhead faction in their home state. This made it all seem alright to them.

The days were hot and humid. For the commander, and a few others under his charge, being in the still, stale air and waiting for the arrival of a summer storm seemed a perfect atmosphere for the silence and waiting for something to happen; the encounter with assaulting Copperheads and potentially released prisoners. The remaining guards and the prisoners continued on as usual.
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Re: Edward P's Corner The Civil War Years - One Writer's Reboot

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:16 pm

The Civil War Years - One Writer's Reboot
Written by Edward P
Chapter 12

After two full weeks into summer as twilight was ending another hot and humid day Coe lay in his cell. The rebel started to whistle; the fairly new yet familiar tune of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”. Some of the others nearby reacted and sang along to themselves. After a while the boom of an explosion was heard in the distance and Coe anticipated events he hoped would happen that night. A short time later more bursts and booms could be faintly heard.

Coe played about every part over recent time to get to tonight, starting with jester, making odd random announcements concerning miscellaneous events. And now he was methodical in using this song. He believed the words and especially the cadence of the rhythm would stir the men. Coe sang a little, some more men joining in. The din in the distance grew louder and more frequent. Singular explosions, rapid rata-tats, a volley of bursts could be heard from the direction of the city. When he felt he had piqued their interest and had the prisoners where he needed them, he made an announcement.

“Do you hear that artillery?” That’s our brothers out there. They’re going to capture the city”

The men were stirred, but one suggested “I think that might be fourth of July celebration.”

But Coe was quick to cut him off. “It’s no fourth of July celebration. The fourth was yesterday and we heard their little ruckus. They can’t talk about and celebrate Independence Day while they deny the South theirs. Besides, I know anything explosive the Yankees have to put to their effort of aggression.”

Coe looked directly at the closest guard while saying all this, trying to agitate him while he stimulated his fellow prisoners. The noise in the cell block grew louder. Coe was pleased with the situation thus far. His oratory drew the brief attention of the other guards who watched in amusement, McCain was among them.

“I’ve been marking my days real careful all year,” said another prisoner. Today is July 5rd. There was a little bit of ruckus yesterday, but not like this. This looks like a surprise attack.”

Coe spoke out again to the others and focused again on the guard close by as he underscored what that inmate had said. The prisoners were stirred more, even to being incited. “He’s right,” said another, “I believe him. We’ve been waiting for this day.”

McCain realized what the wily Confederate was doing and hurriedly left to report the situation to the provost. Shortly, the other guards returned to their previous activities. The guard close by Coe becoming annoyed by him and the commotion he caused decided to approach the rebel to rough him up and make an example of him. He opened the cell door and walk in, musket held across both hands looking as intimidating as he could. Coe backed away in a false gesture of submission then quickly reached out and grabbed the musket with one hand pulling the guard closer in and pointed the blade of a bayonet at his throat with the other hand. As the stunned guard stood there hoping his life would be spared Coe grabbed his keys and motioned him to the ground. The Confederate captain and his cell mates tied the guard up with his belt. The plan was coming along. His tossed the keys to one cell mate instructing him to free all the prisoners and handed the other a red folded cloth of good size and weight telling him to do the flagpole, then Coe ran out into the night.

McCain and the provost marshal were now again before the commander.

“Coe has the other prisoners worked up and I know what he’s doing,” McCain announced.

“Go on.”

“He has them confused and convinced that the noise from the city is artillery; that the Confederates are here for battle and to liberate them.”

“The Independence Day noise?” the commander was incredulous with the idea.

“They think that was yesterday,” McCain explained, “that today is the fifth and this is a surprise attack. Another prisoner, I’m believe apart from Coe’s planning, spoke his confirmation of the date being the fifth. I understand how being confined, one can lose track of time.”

“My God, it’s a leap year,” the commander blurted out in an epiphany. “They didn’t account for leap day, February twenty-ninth.”

“I’m sure Coe is aware,” McCain surmised, “he’s counting on the others not realizing it.”

“The next question is what’s going on outside these walls, outside the city?” interjected the provost. “Is there a surprise assault? Did the copperheads decide to attack while the city is distracted by the celebration?”

“Round up all the guards,” ordered the commander to the provost. “Select fourteen adequate men, along with yourself, report back here.”

Coe arrived in the old wash room looking to get the Henry rifles and distribute them. When he discovered they were gone he hoped that Campbell moved them to another area as a precaution. He had too much invested in the scheme to think otherwise. Campbell would be joining the released mob shortly. Coe looked around to see if the rifles were nearby, then he left.

McCain helped the provost round up the other guards. He left the selection of the fourteen up to the chief. Acting on high alert, all the guards were soon active.

“These are all loaded and ready to go,” the commander spoke to those present in his quarters as he passed out the repeater rifles. He gave a little demonstration on the function of the weapon then explained briefly with caution the situation as it was known. “We’re not sure what to expect, if anything. We don’t want any random shooting. Be cautious, but be effective.”

Stepping out of the commander’s quarter onto the compound yard, the provost yelled up to the guards on the wall.

“Do you men see anything unusual from there?”

“Aside from the fireworks, no!”

As the chief guard and those in his charge approached the cell block the prisoners had spilled out into the compound. The guards quickly surrounded those they could, herding them back inside to their cells; the rest they would have to round up. McCain looked for Coe in particular and did not see him.

“The captain bravely faced that guard who wanted to beat him,” spoke a prisoner in a defiant tone. “Coe got the best of him and went off with a purpose.”

McCain and several other guards carefully went about the compound, inspecting all shadows and corners. Then seeing the stable door ajar McCain cautiously entered.

Another bayonet, another rifle; and Coe would take both for himself McCain thought as he stood quietly inside the two story structure. On his left was the feed room which included a ladder made of rough lumber fastened to the front facing wall. The ladder led up to the hay and bedding storage overhead, a typical layout in these parts as that material helped insulate the stalls below. In the middle of the hay and bedding storage was a hay chute. Beyond the feed room were three 12 foot x 12 foot stalls. On his right was the tack room and next to that a 12 foot x 36 foot working alley.

McCain carefully climbed the ladder part way then paused as his eyes scanned the upper level. After proceeding on he grabbed a sack of feed and tossed it across the way hoping it might simulate in sound his body and perhaps draw fire. On no reaction McCain decided Coe was not up there. The area had no advantage but for hiding and McCain knew Coe’s ultimate purpose was not to hide.

After easing back down the ladder the sergeant quickly stepped across to the tack room and took a leather horse collar off the wall. A training collar for younger horses, McCain donned it like a sash. It seemed this and a prayer was about the only protection he had. He then walked, torso slightly twisted, with his collar covered right side forward, his left shoulder arched back, moving further into the stables.
Coe was in the last stall on the right side which also had a horse, as did the preceding stall. He was observing all this time, but between the noise from outside and the darkened stables, his surveillance was limited. Coe could see the figure advancing and before stall partitions, rack and manger obscured his line of sight he fired off a shot. The bullet grazed the leather collar then hit a post. The two horses became spooked. McCain quickly took cover in the first stall.

Outside, sentry fires were fueled up and torches passed out. A torch bearing guard opened the stable door further and looked the inside for anyone. The horses became further agitated. As the guard peered in another one spoke from a distance.

“Pete, over here,” and on that summons the torch bearer left.

The brief illumination was enough that the two opponents saw each other and neither McCain nor Coe had a clear shot at each other.

“I see you Coe,” announced McCain.

“Sergeant Luke, I was hoping it was your company in here,” Coe returned. “It’s a different situation now. We have repeater rifles in our possession, similar to what you have. By this revolt you will see us take over this prison.”

“I found the cache of rifles in the old wash room; we’re using them now,” McCain retorted. “The other prisoners are being rounded up; there’s no place to go. Give yourself up.”

"Unfortunate, but those are not all our cards. That is also artillery you hear out there. And I have one rifle here; it’s very special Sergeant Luke, you’d like it; holds sixteen rounds. I can get a lot of guards, starting with you.”

Coe fired another round at McCain, but missed. The horses reacted stomping agitatedly about causing Coe to yield or risk injury. During that commotion, McCain bound over the wood partition of the stall into the middle one and pushed himself low against the edge of the stone quarried manger there; the leather collar now off. The noise outside increased in reaction to the gunshot and another torchbearer came to the open door. Coe leaned out past a post and fired a shot, hitting the guard. McCain knelt up to return fire but the Spencer malfunctioned on him. The wounded guard was dragged out of harm’s way and a squad of other guards entered the stables holding up in the feed and tack rooms.

“Careful with any shooting fellas, Sergeant McCain here.”

One of the guards went up the ladder and positioned himself at the hay chute. There was no view of Coe below but he stayed there hoping the rebel would move into sight. Coe heard the sound from the guard above and saw his gun barrel protruding from the chute. The rebel rose up briefly to shoot at the upper level occupant. Lurching upward holding the collar in his hand extended behind him, McCain pulled his arm forward as he swiftly threw the collar at Coe. The rebel had seen McCain’s movement by his peripheral view and adjusted the Henry rifle to shoot at McCain. But his response was too late. The collar came at Coe and his ducking the object caused him to miss his shot. The collar hit Coe in the chest. Immediately the sergeant was over the partition taking on the Rebel captain hand to hand. Coe saw McCain coming over in time to shift his rifle and strike the sergeant with the stock. McCain reeled under the horse but came up determined. But Coe was already there striking his opponent. Raising his left arm and shoulder in defense McCain’s right fist found its way to Coe’s chest and then his face. The rebel reeled some but before he could counter was overtaken by other guards. McCain took a moment to gather himself, then went back over to the middle stall to get his rifle. It was not where he thought it would be. He saw it under the horse, at the opposite side. Perhaps the collar caught it or he bumped it during his movements. The Spencer was damaged. The stock was broken; its integrity had been compromised by the fight during the raid. The handle and the breech were bent from the horse trampling on it. McCain carefully went down and got it as one of the guards spoke.

“Here’s your rifle, McCain.”

Confused and not sure what the guard was talking about, as McCain got back up to see, he was handed Coe’s Henry repeater rifle. It had a big loop lever, much like McCain’s Spencer. Stopping the two guards who were taking him out, the rebel turned back and looked at McCain.

“I told you I had a special one, Sergeant Luke. I understand it’s a prototype. The minute I saw it among the other rifles, I had to have it.”

Outside, Coe came to face Campbell who was also being escorted by other guards.

“Where’re your hopeless Copperheads?” Coe demanded.

“You were supposed to see that the Confederate flag was on that flagpole,” countered Campbell.

Coe’s plan to separate in the minds of the prisoners the idea or hope of a Confederate onslaught from Independence Day celebration noises was to focus them solely on the attack and incite the men to revolt. Campbell felt they needed the Confederate flag to be present on the penitentiary mast to stimulate the Copperheads, whether they were presently active in an assault or not. They had a history of planning but nothing coming to fruition.

Campbell’s association with Captain Hines provided him, and by extension Coe, every reason to expect northern residents that supported the Confederate cause, commonly called Copperheads, would participate in a revolt. Hines actively worked with Copperhead organizations in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. All working in concert, a plan consisted of Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois falling to revolution:

Guns would be supplied by the Toronto operation that Captain Hines was part of.
State heads would be murdered.
Confederate prisoners in northern camps would revolt.

Earlier it had been decided, and Hines told in late June Dr. William A. Bowles, leader of the Knights of the Golden Circle, the Copperhead organization in Indiana, the date of the revolt had been set for July 4, 1864. Unknown to Campbell, who was imprisoned, a Union spy named Felix Stidger had infiltrated the Indiana Knights organization, reporting on the conspiracy and other matters of interest to General Henry Carrington who was in charge on Union intelligence operations in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Thus the plan was thwarted.

Since the rifles were contraband, the commander of the prison had them gathered up and kept in the main arsenal. An investigation was to be conducted to see about the initial ownership and transfer of the Henrys. The events of July 4 stayed with the prisoners for a time. Many were convinced their freedom and a significant victory for the Confederacy could have happened that night. Later that month, while at labor in the stone quarry, forty-six prisoners decided to try another insurgence. Acting at a given signal, prisoners overpowered those on watch and seized several of the muskets before the guards could act. But the enfeebled condition of the unhealthy prisoners allowed the guards to recover quickly. Seven prisoners were killed and five were wounded. All but two of the Confederate prisoners were swiftly recaptured.

McCain’s part in capturing the renegade Confederate Joshua Coe was bittersweet. He relished defeating the rebel captain but his rifle was sacrificed in the process. Investigation into a Copperhead revolt and discovering those events never got underway made only defeat of a singular man more unpalatable. The rifle had helped McCain in standing; it even gave him a bit of prestige. Among the guards now the sergeant felt he was just another man sharing the duties. He found it odd and uncomfortable carrying one of the standard issue muskets.
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Re: Edward P's Corner The Civil War Years - One Writer's Reboot

Post by cowgirl » Fri Apr 28, 2017 7:16 pm

The Civil War Years - One Writer's Reboot
Written by Edward P
Chapter 13


There were no new cases of smallpox reported by the latter part of summer and the pest house on the island was subsequently closed down. Almost a year had passed since the battle of Chickamauga, the siege of Chattanooga, and the raid for explosives at the old railroad construction shed. After four months of engaging the enemy General Sherman had finally captured Atlanta. The general’s next endeavor would take him and his men further south to Savannah. He proposed a march to there, right through the heart of the south, its cities and towns, among its women and children. The idea was to put fear into those that lived in the enemy’s homeland. While he waited for approval of this march, preparations went underway.

At Alton, the 10th Kansas Infantry had finished their assignment and its soldiers were sent back into the war effort. Replacement for the prison guard duty came chiefly from Alton’s own local citizens. Perhaps inspired by the 37th Iowa Graybeards, many of those local recruits were older men. The sight of, and working with older guards again made Lucas McCain all the more restless and anxious to conclude his assignment at Alton, like all the others had, and return to his regiment. Oatman, still in Chattanooga, was active in helping secure troops for Sherman’s roster. He hoped his work would help erase the blemish of the missing Spencer that happened under him. Thoughts of that episode still bothered him some and he did not loose any sleep over the knowledge that McCain was far away and could not cause any more problems for him. Meticulous at his work, Oatman was a schemer at times. Looking at a stack of mail at his desk caused him to glance over to a corner of his quarters where an old long rifle was leaning against the wall, protruding up behind boxes of supplies. He knew that McCain would have to return soon. In fact, he knew that McCain was overdue to return. It seems that with all the major movements of this war, having one man misplaced and overlooked was not surprising. And he never did mention McCain’s name especially around Colonel Stoddard. But since McCain should be returning then why not see about having him become part of Sherman’s assembly. McCain on his return would continue on to Atlanta, the stepping off point for the march. Oatman got to work on the process.

* * *

As another autumn was coming to Alton and the duties and responsibilities of a guard all too familiar, Lucas McCain sat at the desk and by the late morning light wrote a few lines of a letter. One of the older guards approached and notified the sergeant he was wanted in the commander’s office.

“Sergeant McCain, I have received papers that I am authorizing for you to be reassigned to your Indiana company.” the commander announced. “Congratulations McCain, you’re going back to your unit.”

“Thank you sir, thank you very much sir,” McCain replied with a bit of a stammer. The day had finally come but he was still surprised by the news.

“You’ll leave tomorrow on a steamer.”

“I see, sir, very well.”

“One more item sergeant,” the commander continued as he stood up and reached over by a file cabinet. “I know your stay was extended beyond what you thought it should be and you’ve had your own conflicts here. I think you should have this.” The commander picked up and handed the sergeant the Henry repeater rifle that Coe had during the attempted revolt; the prototype rifle with the large looped lever. McCain reached out and received it. He was grateful and humbled by the act.

“I don’t know what to say commander. Thank you very much. I’ll take very good care of it.”

“I know you will, sergeant.”

As McCain left the commander’s office the older guard who retrieved him was waiting outside.

“You’re finally leaving us McCain, aren’t ya?”

“Finally,” McCain returned, “along with this,” and with a feeling of renewal he held up the rifle.

“I’m sure you’ll get better use of that than anyone else here,” the old guard replied. “That rifle was passed around to a few of us. Fact is no one really cared much for it, especially that odd loop lever.”

McCain grimaced a little at the disclosure.

“Oh I suppose if we were young like yourself,” the guard continued, “on the cusp on these new developments, we’d probably take a better liking to some of that. Most of us are too set with what we know and use.”

McCain spent his last day at Alton getting packed and ready. He also was sure to see two special people. Dr. Halter was still attending ill prisoners and guards but the number of patients had dwindled significantly. Sister Joan in addition to the typical duties of the Charity ministry was active in helping oversee the construction of the hospital.

Departure day came with a crisp but soft breeze. McCain, laden with his duffle along with the new rifle left the prison walking down William Street to Broadway and down the docks busy with activity, and onto a two tiered steam transport. Once boarded, he unburdened himself and settled in for the trip back he had waited so long for. Many people were about but one in particular caught his eye; one of a pair of young women traveling together. They were poised yet light-hearted, obviously enjoying their excursion. His prime interest wore traveling clothes that were yellow; not bright yellow but a prairie yellow dress with appurtenances including a bonnet. She carried a basket of flowers, apparently a gift for someone they were going to visit. She reminded McCain of someone. She noticed him, but did not let on. Feeling herself being watched she turned her head slightly and looked passed the edge of her bonnet. Their eyes meet. Turning her head back, she looked at her friend. The two talked then giggled. As the boat left the dock McCain slouched in his seat and kept an eye on the young women as they walked about talking and investigating the vessel.

A short time later they walked by and closer to McCain. He felt encouraged and flirtatious. Seeing them approach, he made a slight tip of his cap.

“Ladies, he said acknowledging, “a fine day for travel.”

“Yes it is,” the other rejoined, “a very fine day for travel.”

“I’d be pleased to offer you ladies my seat, for one request.”

They were piqued by his statement. The friend continued the conversation.

“Oh, what would that be Sergeant …”

“McCain, Lucas McCain. I would just like to know your names.”

The response on their faces was gamely but they stood there paused.

“The boys back in my regiment will want to know.”

They were flattered. “My name is Claire,” said the friend and this is Margaret. We are going to visit friends in Johnsonville,” she offered.

“Well Claire and Margaret, very nice to make your acquaintance. I’m returning to my regiment in Chattanooga.”

“Isn’t that where the Lightning Brigade is?” Margaret spoke to his delight and surprise.

“Oh, you’ve heard of us,” answered McCain.

By her facial reaction, she seemed impressed. That was enough for McCain. He gathered his gear and wishing them a pleasant visit excused himself and went to the upper deck. He was restless on returning to Tennessee and strangely a little melancholy leaving Alton.

“Not three miles from shore and back to your old self before getting back to your company”, he thought. But the subject coming from her was unexpected and he could not talk of what he had been doing this past year. “She was special and I wanted to be special to her, even in some obscure way if only for a moment. And they will be getting off in two stops so what was the harm,” he reasoned. As the boat made its way, McCain watched the activity of the river. He turned around to look at the view behind. The structure of the prison in the distance stood firm and large, rising up from a high bank off the river. Atop its large mast the flag fluttered in the wind. These colors were new, bright with no wear. He thought of Henry Crane and the terrible incident that lead to his death. His mind pondered in reviewing the past year. Campbell was hanged as a spy. They wanted to do the same with Coe but he appealed stating he was there as a prisoner of war soldier. His wounding of the guard was a matter of self-defense. The hanging was stayed for now but the matter would have further review. McCain was grateful for Coe in an odd way. The encounters with him were trying but they caused McCain to see some deficits within. He thought of the countless lives of young men that succumbed there and of his own experiences, and surviving. Now he looked upon the prison with reverence, like it was a cathedral. He hoped that the expectations Colonel Stoddard had for the sergeant were realized and more. He could not say how, what or where exactly he had come to be a better soldier, a better man, but he knew this past year had brought a significant change in him. While in this contemplative trance someone had approached him. They cleared their throat to get McCain’s attention; then spoke.

“Excuse me sir,”

“Yes.” McCain answered, back to his immediate surroundings. He looked to see a boy, medium height, but gangly, pubescent, not yet shaving but a face full of peach fuzz. All set with an earnest look.

“I see from your uniform you’re from Indiana,” the boy stated.

“That’s very sharp of you. Most people don’t care to notice.”

“And that is some rifle you have there,” the boy continued. “It’s one of those repeaters.”

McCain was amused by the youths interested in his weapon. “Yes, it is. It’s a Henry repeater that’s been modified a little.

“My grandpa’s been teaching me how to shoot a musket. “We use his old piece,” he added with an air of disappointment.

The boy reminded McCain of himself; it really was not that long ago he participated in the same ritual. “And he could be like me in six short years, if this awful war continues on,” he thought, “or who knows what will be then, with us moving into the nations and that cross-county railroad that’s being built.”

“That’s very nice,” McCain replied. “That’s how I first learned to shoot, from my grandpa and his old piece. You learn the basics well from your grandpa and someday when you handle a rifle like this, you’ll be that much better.”

“So how does that repeater handle?”

“I don’t really know,” McCain had to confess. “It’s new to my possession. But this is the second repeater I’ve owned. I used to have a Spencer.”

“Thunder, a Spencer too. Say sergeant, are you with Colonel Wilder’s Lightning Brigade?” his voice breaking by his excitement of the subject.

The topic this time did not catch the sergeant off guard. He anticipated it and did not want to misguide the youth. He wondered how he could speak to the boy’s interests and re-inforce the principles his grandpa was most likely teaching. He thought of some advice Dr. Halter had spoken. “First find the man in yourself if you will inspire manliness in others.”

“No son,” he replied, “I'm a sharpshooter for an infantry company, a sniper.”

*Thanks to Renewed Fan, his feedback was very valuable. He helped me get a better understanding of the military culture of the time and to take a second look at the timeline concerning what regiments were where and when.


Thanks Edward P for this great story!
We here at the ranch are looking forward to your next saga!
"Keep your 'sites' on The Rifleman"
"The Rifleman hits the 'Mark' every week on abc."
A cowgirl's work is never done.

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