Occupy Savannah Sequel to Coffee Bluff, страница 1
By Willard White
Copyright 2014 Willard White
The characters, organizations and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Occupy Savannah/Willard White - 1st ed.
This book is dedicated to Diane, who is very patient and keeps an open mind.
December 27th, 1864:
"Where'd you get the Confederate dollars?" the barber asked.
"Believe it or not, there's a regular market down in the camp. You can trade anything for anything," I said, "There is an exchange rate for U.S. dollars to confederate dollars, and since I don't expect to live long enough to need U. S. dollars, I traded. If I survive, I'll get my next pay in Charleston."
"I see," he said noncommittally and commenced stropping his razor on a strap attached to the wall.
I eyed his face carefully for signs of success. I didn't just come into town for a bath, a haircut and a shave. Savannah was full of spies and my mission was to convince the Johnnies that Sherman's next objectives were Augusta and Charleston. We had concluded that a barber shop on Broughton Street was the very best place to start a rumor - a rumor that would reach the top of the Confederate military command.
I'd already had my warm bath in a copper tub and my first haircut in at least two months. It had only been a week since we'd marched into town and I wasn't entirely confident that this barber wouldn't just slice my throat with the razor he was so carefully sharpening.
"You wouldn't cut my throat with that thing, would you?" I asked.
He had no sense of humor; at least not where Yanks were concerned. Without smiling he said, "And if I did? What would you do?"
I discovered my own sense of humor had departed. After what I had been through the last six weeks, getting into a fight with a barber in Savannah seemed a silly thing to do. A gentleman came into the shop and opened his mouth to speak to the barber, then he noticed my blue uniform pants sticking out from under my striped bib. He closed his mouth and took a seat in a chair along the wall to wait his turn for a haircut and watched us closely. "I would really prefer to just get a nice comfortable shave," I said, "but I suppose the first thing that would happen is that I would shoot you at least once with this revolver I'm now holding under this apron." I pulled the hammer back and the Griswold made my point with a loud click.
The barber was discomfited by the prospect of immediate and very personal violence. He took a step back and held up his hands. "You don't have to do that."
"Another thing you might want to think about," I continued, "I'm an infantry officer; I have a Company of 103 warriors who have just marched 300 miles in 27 days and they're camped just below the train station. You should know that they will certainly march one more mile to wreck your little shop and put a torch to it if anything should happen to me." This wasn't entirely true, my company had been taken from me when I fell at Kennesaw Mountain, but I expect they would cheerfully raze and burn one more building for their old commander.
"I think you've made your point. Now will you please let the hammer down on that thing so I can get on with your shave? I have a customer waiting."
I made a show of letting the hammer down slowly and sliding the pistol into its holster.
The barber turned my chair toward his front windows and let me sit while he trimmed my beard down with scissors. The scene outside was remarkably calm and ordinary considering what had been happening over the last week. Uncle Billy had instructed his generals to rotate units with passes into town like a ship's Captain would regulate shore leave. The result was only a few Union troops out on the street and they were remarkably well behaved. Freight wagons and carriages passed by regularly, and pedestrians strolled unhurriedly on the boardwalks as if there was to war at all. After nearly four years of marching and fighting, and after what I had seen at Andersonville, it seemed like we'd all died and gone to heaven.
My good fortune was only too temporary, I knew, but it was complete. I had drawn my back pay, been issued new boots and uniform, been promoted to Captain, and I would be clean and well groomed for the first time in recent memory. I was dry and warm and my belly was full.
The barber had applied his foamy mixture and had, with extreme care, removed the right half of my beard with his razor when I saw it; a magnificent horse, at least 17 hands tall, drawing a half ton freight wagon up the street. The driver of the wagon sat to one side, which was unusual, when the wagon drew abreast the barber shop I could read the hand painted sign on the side board: Frank's Saloon and Liquors. The driver of the wagon wore bottle green pants and had his left leg propped up on the footboard, it was the very same Chester Baker who had only last week offered to kill me for my boots. I felt a surge of good will and excitement which surprised me.
"Chet!" I shouted. The barber stepped back and his waiting customer got hastily to his feet. I jumped out of the chair and, leaving my cane behind, limped out into the street.
"Chester Baker!" I called and the wagon stopped. Chester looked around with some difficulty because of his peg-leg. He couldn't miss me, I was still wearing the barber's apron and stumping down the boardwalk with my own frozen leg, using store fronts for support.
Chester's left hand went to the butt of the revolver he carried and he glanced up and down the street as if he were looking for reinforcements.
"Chester, it's me, Luke," I gasped. "Don't you remember me?"
He studied me for perhaps a full minute before his eyes began to relax. "Would you be the spy I was going to kill and float down the river?"
"You don't look like you're doing too well, Mr. - what did you say your name was?"
"It's Luke," I said. "Luke MacGilvry." I moved forward so Chester could see me without twisting around in his seat.
"Ah, yes. I don't believe you were using that name two weeks ago."
I shook my head. The barber had come out onto the boardwalk and was regarding us with his hands on his hips.
"Hello Chester," he called.
"James," Chester replied. "How's business?"
The barber shrugged.
"Go ahead with your next customer," I said to him, "I'll get back in line in a few minutes." The barber stared at me for fifteen seconds then withdrew. I hobbled into the street and leaned against the wagon's front wheel. "It's good to see you again, Chester."
Chester reciprocated by nodding his head.
An idea bloomed in my head like a shell burst. I had thought about Chester a lot recently and concluded that he was not just a bartender in a saloon in a backwater port. At the very least Chester had connections with the Confederate military commanders; I strongly suspected that he was a spy.
"I'm glad I caught you because I want to do you a favor," I said.
Chester's eyes crinkled. "You want to do me a favor?"
"I want to give you something."
"Is that so?" He turned toward me a bit and his peg-leg slid along the top of the footboard. "
I grabbed the rim of the wagon wheel with both hands, wedged my left boot in the spokes, and pulled, the boot came off. I carefully put my socked foot down in the street, inserted my right foot, gritted my teeth and pulled. I managed to pull my foot out of the boot without passing out from the pain.
"What are you doing?" Chester asked.
"Just watch," I said. I picked up the left boot with my left hand and pulled my Derringer from my pocket with my right.
"Whoa there, Luke. What are you doing?" Cheste
I ignored him, turned away, and inserting the pistol into the boot, aimed the boot at the ground and fired the upper barrel, moved the pistol an inch or so and fired the bottom barrel.
The noise generated quite a bit of activity along the boardwalks. When I looked up the street was nearly clear of pedestrians. Those citizens who hadn't disappeared into stores or between buildings were frozen in fear.
"There," I said holding up the boot and the empty Derringer. "These are 25 caliber holes, twenty-five one-hundredths of an inch. You'll need two quarter-inch lag bolts to attach it to your wooden leg."
"You're crazy, Luke!"
"As a matter of fact, Chester, if you dare venture down into our camp, the quartermaster has a wagon wheel builder who can carve you a new, ahh, spoke, with a bigger end to better fit the boot."
"Crazy as hell!" he muttered. But he accepted the boots as I handed them up.
Chester began to laugh then. He did seem to enjoy irony.
When he recovered, Chester looked down at me narrowly for a few seconds. "You know you look slightly ridiculous in the