Garrett stood alone in the mist by the lazy muddy river. Without being able to see into the darkness, he could tell it was stained with the blood of enemy troops. Surprise ambush at the riverain had been the dead’s watery fate, and though the killing always sickened Garrett, he was not sorry for what he had managed to accomplish. It had taken him long bog-filled heat-infested days and he had lost plenty of his own men to the older enemy of the South, swamp fever. He begrudgingly felt a sense of pride toward the rag-tag group of confederate soldiers that had slipped consistently through his hands, all the while pulling him and his men deeper into the swamp, sniping and driving some of his own troops to a careless exhaustion that had cost them their lives. Now it was over. He could head back to the main force of Sherman’s troops. But he still had to negotiate his way out of the swamp before he lost all of his men. Running a sweaty hand through his dark brown hair, he took one last look at the discolored reflection of the full moon on the tainted river. Hell, that’s all he had needed, a full moon! His cavalry would be sniper bait for sure. God he hated war, but he especially despised this part of it. He hadn’t been able to comprehend fully just exactly what Sherman had in mind for future campaigns. He only knew what had been rumored that he and the men in his command might be ordered to do. It would be absolute war, and could without much further provocation, fall just short of murder. If Sherman was successful, he could save thousands of lives by shortening the war, but he would break the back of the South for decades to come. What good could all this destruction be in the final analysis to the land that he loved. Turning abruptly into the shadow of a cypress, he called to his first sergeant in a rough whisper.
“Cal, get that Seminole up here to me. I want out of this hell hole by first break of day!”
• • •
Major Pickering was waiting at the edge of the clearing with his young aid the following morning as Garrett emerged from the swamp. Pickering stood with his stocky bow-legs braced wide apart and his rough hands clenched behind his back. It was obvious he had been studying at length the sorry band of exhausted men who had spent the long mosquito infested night pulling themselves out of the muck. Then his searching eyes lit up as they found what they had been looking for and a broad toothy grin spread over his face. He pounded his young aid enthusiastically on the back.
“I’ll be damned if he hasn’t made it out of that steaming hell hole in record time and with his hide intact again! Slippery as a cotton mouth that kid! Always knew I was right about seeing he made Captain. Uh-huh, yes indeed! Well, wait till he hears I’m sending him to Charleston hardly before he can clean the muck from his boots! Captain Whitney, over here pronto!”
Garrett turned tired eyes to the sound of the familiar voice. Crusty old coot still worries about me, he thought smiling tiredly to himself. Wonder what the hell he’s got up his sleeve now. Dismounting he handed the reins to the waiting soldier just as Major Pickering’s booming voice bellowed at him again.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish