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[Illustration: "The Next Moment Was a Blank"]




CHASING AN IRON HORSE
Or
A Boy's Adventures in the Civil War

By
EDWARD ROBINS

Author of "With Washington in Braddock's Campaign,"
"A Boy in Early Virginia," etc.

[Illustration: QUI NON PROFICIT DEFICIT]

PHILADELPHIA
GEORGE W. JACOBS & CO.
PUBLISHERS




Copyright, 1902,
By GEORGE W. JACOBS & Co.

Published August, 1902.




Preface

The locomotive chase in Georgia, which forms what may be called the
background of this story, was an actual occurrence of the great Civil War.
But I wish to emphasize the fact that the following pages belong to the
realm of fiction. Some of the incidents, and the character of Andrews, are
historic, whilst other incidents and characters are imaginary. The reader
who would like to procure an account of the chase as it really happened
should consult the narrative of the Reverend William Pittenger. Mr.
Pittenger took part in the expedition organized by Andrews, and his record
of it is a graphic contribution to the annals of the conflict between
North and South.

Edward Robins.




CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE
I. HAZARDOUS PLANS 7
II. NEARING THE GOAL 27
III. MINGLING WITH THE ENEMY 56
IV. PLOT AND PLOTTERS 95
V. ON THE RAIL 121
VI. AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE 156
VII. ENERGETIC PURSUIT 188
VIII. TWO WEARY WANDERERS 206
IX. IN GREATEST PERIL 232
X. FINAL TRIALS 263




ILLUSTRATIONS

"The Next Moment was a blank" Frontispiece
The Major merely changed the position of his legs 82
Fuller was steaming to the northward with "The Yonah" 192
None too soon had he executed this manoeuvre 214
Watson placed his hand over the man's mouth 270




CHASING AN IRON HORSE

CHAPTER I

HAZARDOUS PLANS


The lightning flashes, the mutterings of thunder, like the low growls of
some angry animal, and the shrieking of the wind through swaying branches,
gave a weird, uncanny effect to a scene which was being enacted, on a
certain April night of the year 1862, in a secluded piece of woodland a
mile or more east of the village of Shelbyville, Tennessee. In the centre
of a small clearing hemmed in by trees stood a tall, full-bearded man of
distinguished bearing. Around him were grouped twenty sturdy fellows who
listened intently, despite the stir of the elements, to something that he
was saying in a low, serious tone of voice. None of them, strangely
enough, wore a uniform, although they were all loyal Union soldiers
belonging to the division of troops commanded by General O. M. Mitchell,
then encamped on the banks of Duck River, only a couple of miles away. For
the country was now engaged in the life-and-death struggle of the Civil
War, when Northerner fought against Southerner - sometimes brother against
brother - and no one could predict whether the result would be a divided or
a reunited nation.

"My friends," the speaker was solemnly saying, as a new flash from the
darkened heavens lit up the landscape for a second, and showed how
resolute were the lines of his face; "my friends, if you go into this
scheme with me, you are taking your lives into your hands. It's only fair
that I should impress this upon you, and give any and all of you a chance
to drop out."

There was a quick, sharp clap of thunder, which was not loud enough,
however, to drown the earnest protest of every listener. "We're not
cowards, Andrews!" "We'll stick to you through thick and thin!" "Nobody's
going to draw back!" These were among the fervent answers which greeted
the leader addressed as Andrews. The latter was evidently pleased, though
by no means surprised. He was dealing with brave men, and he knew his
audience.

"All the better, boys," he went on, with a complacent ring in his soft but
penetrating voice. "You see, this is the situation. The Confederates are
concentrating at Corinth, Mississippi, and Generals Grant and Buell are
advancing by different routes against them. Now, our own General Mitchell
finds himself in a position to press into East Tennessee as far as
possible, and he hopes soon to seize Chattanooga, after he has taken
Huntsville, Alabama. But to do this he must cut off Chattanooga from all
railroad communication to the south and east, and therefore all aid. In
other words, we men are to enter the enemy's country in disguise, capture
a train on the Georgia State railroad, steam off with it, and burn the
bridges leading in the direction of Chattanooga, on the northern end of
the road. It is one of the most daring ideas ever conceived, and its
execution will be full of difficulties. If we fail we shall be hanged as
spies! If we succeed, there will be promotion and glory for all of us, and
our names will go down into history."

There was a murmur of encouragement from the men, as one said: "We must
succeed, if only to save our necks." The next moment the barking of a dog
could be heard above the whistling of the wind.

"Be careful," cried Andrews, warningly; "some one may be listening."

Hardly had he spoken before two figures bounded from the encircling trees
into the open space wherein stood the startled conspirators. While flashes
of lightning played through the branches, and gave fitful illumination to
the scene, the men saw revealed a lad of about fifteen or sixteen years of
age, flushed and breathless, and at his heels a tiny Yorkshire terrier,
bright of face, and with an inquiring glance that seemed to say: "What is
all this fuss about?" As the animal danced around the boy it was evident
that the latter was by no means frightened, or even surprised, by the
strangeness of this meeting in the forest. His regular, handsome features
and intelligent, sparkling gray eyes denoted excitement rather than fear.
He sprang forward, and, pulling a letter from an inner pocket of his blue
jacket, made straight for Andrews.

"Why, if it isn't George Knight," muttered one soldier, "and his chum,
Waggie."

The dog, hearing his own name, came up and fawned upon the man who had
spoken, while the boy thrust into the hands of the leader the letter which
he had so carefully guarded.

"This is from General Mitchell," explained young Knight. "He said it was
most urgent - and I was to fetch it to you as soon as possible."

Andrews opened the letter, as he replied kindly to the lad: "You look out
of breath, George. Did you have a hard time reaching here?"

"As Waggie and I were hurrying up the Shelbyville road in the darkness,"
returned George Knight, "we ran into a company of Confederate guerrillas.
They paid us the compliment of firing at us - and we had to run for our
lives. But we gave the fellows the slip."

Thereupon Waggie gave a growl. Andrews, who was about to read the letter
from General Mitchell, assumed a listening attitude. So did every one
else. Out on the highroad, not a hundred yards away, could be heard the
tramping of horses. Involuntarily the men put their hands towards the
pockets which contained their revolvers.

"The guerrillas!" muttered the boy, as Andrews gave him a questioning
look.

"How many are there of them?" asked the leader.

"Hard to tell in the dark," answered George. "I think there were a dozen
or so."

"Oh, if that's all, let's give 'em a scare, boys!" laughed Andrews.
Suiting the action to his words, he pulled out a pistol from his hip
pocket, and fired it in the direction of the highroad. His companions,
nothing loath, quickly followed his example. George and his canine chum
looked on expectantly, as if regretting that neither of them possessed a
weapon. Now there came the clatter of hoofs, like a stampede, and the
guerrillas seemed to be engaged in a wild scramble to get away. They were
an intrepid party, without doubt, but the sudden volley from the
mysterious and darkened recesses of the woods (which might come, for all
the Southerners knew, from a whole regiment of troops) demoralized them.
In another instant they were scampering off, and the sound of the horses
on the road was soon lost in the distance.

Andrews replaced his revolver, with a little chuckle of amusement.

"They are a daring lot to venture so near our army," he said. Then he
began to read the letter, with the aid of a dark lantern provided by one
of his companions.

While he is engaged in this occupation let us ask two questions. Who is
Andrews, and who is George Knight? James Andrews, though a Virginian by
birth, has lived in the mountains of Kentucky for many years, and is now a
spy of the Union army, in the employ of General Buell. The war is only
fairly begun, but already more than once has the spy courted death by
penetrating into the lines of the Confederacy, in the guise of a merchant,
and bringing back to the Northern forces much valuable information. He is
a man of fine education and polished manners, despite his life in the
wilds, and is tall, aristocratic-looking, and full of a quiet courage
which, in his own dangerous profession, answers far better than the
greatest impetuosity. He has plenty of daring, but it is a daring tempered
with prudence. Although he has masqueraded among the enemy at times when
the slightest slip of the tongue might have betrayed him, he has thus far
returned to the Union lines in safety. How long, some of his friends ask
anxiously, will he be able to continue in so perilous an enterprise? Yet
here he is, planning, with the consent of General Mitchell, a scheme
bolder than anything yet dreamed of in the annals of the war.

And what of George Knight? He is an active, healthy-minded drummer boy
belonging to one of the Ohio regiments in General Mitchell's division. His
mother had died in his infancy. At the outbreak of the war, a year before
the opening of our story, he was living in Cincinnati with his father. The
latter suddenly gave up a prosperous law practice to go to the help of the
North, secured a commission as a captain of volunteers, went to the front,
and was either captured or killed by the Confederates. Since the preceding
Christmas nothing had been heard of him. George, with an aching heart,
stayed at home with an uncle, and chafed grievously as he saw company
after company of militia pass through his native town on the way to the
South. Where was his father? This he asked himself twenty times a day. And
must he, the son, stand idly by whilst thousands of the flower of the land
were rushing forward to fight on one side or the other in the great
conflict? "I must enlist!" George had cried, more than once. "Pshaw!"
replied his uncle; "you are too young - a mere child." But one fine day
George Knight had himself enrolled as a drummer boy in a regiment then
being recruited in Cincinnati, and, as his uncle had a large family of his
own, with no very strong affection to spare for his nephew, there was not
as much objection as might have been expected. So the lad went to the war.
He had now become a particular _protégé_ of General Mitchell, who had
taken him into his own service as an assistant secretary - a position in
which George had already shown much natural cleverness.

After reading the letter just brought to him, Andrews tears it into a
hundred little pieces which he scatters to the winds.

"What's the matter?" ask several of the men, as they crowd around him.

"Hurry's the matter," laughs the leader, as unconcernedly as if he were
speaking of nothing more dangerous than a picnic. "The General tells me we
must start at once, if we want to accomplish anything. To-morrow [Tuesday]
morning he takes his army straight south to Huntsville. If he captures the
town by Friday, as he expects to do, he can move eastwards, to
Chattanooga. So we will do our bridge-burning and our train-stealing on
Friday, before the railroad is obstructed with trains bringing Confederate
reinforcements to the latter city."

Even in the darkness one could detect the gleam in the eyes of the men as
they saw before them, with pleasure rather than fear, the risky part they
were to play in the drama of warfare. The eyes of George sparkled,
likewise.

"If I could only go with them," he thought. What was camp life compared to
the delight of such an adventure? Waggie gave a bark. Even he seemed to
scent something interesting.

"You soldiers," continued Andrews, "must break into detachments, make your
way eastward into the Cumberland Mountains, and then southward, well into
the Confederate lines. There you can take the cars, and by next Thursday
night you must all meet me down at Marietta, Georgia. The next morning
according to a plan which you will learn at Marietta, (which is on the
Georgia State Railroad) we will put our little ruse into effect - and may
providence smile on it."

"But what will the men pretend to be while on their way down to Marietta?"
asked George, who could scarce contain either his curiosity or his
enthusiasm.

"Look here, my boy," said Andrews, in a quick though not in an unkindly
way. "I don't know that you should be hearing all this."

Had the scene been less dark one might have seen the flush on the boy's
face.

"I didn't think I was playing eavesdropper," he retorted.

Andrews put his right hand on George's shoulder. "Come," he said, in a
spirit of friendliness; "I didn't exactly mean that. I know you're to be
trusted, from what General Mitchell has said of you. But you must keep a
tight rein on your tongue, and not say a syllable, even in camp, of this
expedition. There's no reason why the whole army should be discussing
it - until the thing's done. Then you can talk about it as much as you
want."

George no longer felt offended. "You can depend on me," he said manfully.
"I won't even tell the General."

At this there was a peal of laughter from the men, which seemed to be
answered, the next instant, by a blinding fork of lightning, and then a
fresh outburst of thunder. Andrews lifted up his hand warningly. He was
very grave, as befitted a man on the verge of a mighty responsibility.

"Not so loud," he protested. "You boys must impersonate Kentuckians who
are trying to get down south to join the Confederate army. A great many
fellows have gone from Kentucky to throw in their lot with the
Confederacy, and if you are prudent you will have no trouble in making
people believe you. If any of you fall under suspicion on the way, and are
arrested, you can enlist in the Confederate army, and then escape from it
at the first opportunity. The Southerners are glad to get all the recruits
they can, suspicious or otherwise. But I hope you will all reach Marietta
in safety. Pray be careful of one thing. If you meet me as we are
traveling, don't recognize me unless you are sure no one is watching us.
At Marietta we will contrive to meet in the hotel near the railroad
station, where I will tell you all that is to be done the next morning."

"We have no money for the journey," interposed a young volunteer. "Uncle
Sam doesn't pay us privates very large salaries, you know, Mr. Andrews."

Andrews produced a large wallet from the inner pocket of his overcoat. It
was fairly bulging with paper money.

"I've seen to that," he explained. "Here's a whole wad of Confederate
currency which will pay your expenses through the Southern lines." And
with that he began to deal out the bills to the men, who hastily stowed
away the money in their own pockets.

"Now, boys," went on the leader, "I want you to divide yourselves into
parties of three or four, so that you may travel in separate groups, and
thus avoid the suspicion which might be aroused if you all went in a body.
And remember! One party must have nothing to do with another."

Thereupon, in the gloomy woods, the future spies formed themselves, as
their inclinations directed, into six parties or detachments, four
containing three men each, and two containing four. Andrews was to proceed
southward alone, without an escort. Poor George Knight and Waggie appeared
to be left out in the cold. George was burning to join the expedition.
Even the rain which suddenly began to fall could not quench his ardor.

"Mr. Andrews," he said, coming up close to the leader, and speaking in a
whisper, "can't I go to Marietta, too?"

Andrews peered at the boy in admiring surprise. "By Jove," he answered,
"you're not afraid of danger, even if you are little more than a child.
It's bad enough for grown men to risk their lives - and bad enough for me
to drag them into such a position, - without getting a plucky boy into the
scrape also. No! Don't ask me to do that."

"But I won't be in any more danger in the South than I am here," pleaded
George. "If I stay here I may be shot in battle, while if I go to Marietta
I - - "

"If you go to Marietta, and are found out, you may be hanged as a spy,"
interrupted Andrews. "I'd rather see you shot than strung up with a
rope."

"The Confederates would never hang me if I am little more than a child, as
you call me," urged the lad.

Andrews was evidently impressed by George's persistence, but he hastened
to say: "Anyway, I have no authority to send you off on this chase. You
are a member of General Mitchell's military household, and he alone could
give you the permission."

"Then promise me that if I get his permission you will let me go."

The spy hesitated. He could just discern the earnest, pleading expression
in the upturned face of the boy, upon which the rain-drops were pouring
almost unnoticed.

"Well," he said, at last, "I am going back to camp now, and I start out
before daylight. If you can induce the General to let you accompany us
before that time I'll make no objection."

George gave a little exclamation of delight. "Come," he said, snapping his
fingers at Waggie, "let us see what we can do to talk the old General into
it."

The rain was now coming down in torrents, while the sharp, almost
deafening cracks of thunder sounded as if the whole artillery of the Union
army were engaged in practice. Soon all the conspirators were hurrying
back to camp. Andrews was the very last to leave the woods where he had
divulged his plans.

"Heaven forgive me," he mused, half sadly, "if I am leading these boys
into a death trap." But as a sudden flash of lightning illuminated the wet
landscape, as with the brightness of day, there came into the leader's
strong face a look of calm resolution. "It's worth all the danger," he
added.

* * * * *

An hour later George Knight came running into the tent which Andrews
occupied in the camp on Duck River. The leader was enveloped in a woolen
overcoat, and on his well-shaped head was a slouch hat of the kind
generally worn by Southerners. By the dim, sickly light of the candle
which sputtered on a camp stool it could be seen that he had been writing,
for pen, ink and a sealed letter were spread out upon the top of a
leathern army trunk.

"Well," cried Andrews, picking up the candle from its tin socket and
flashing it in the radiant face of the boy. "Ah! No need to ask you! I see
by your dancing eyes that you have wheedled old Mitchell into allowing you
to do a foolish thing."

The smile on the lad's face vanished. "Don't you want me to go along with
you?" he asked, in an injured tone.

The leader replaced the candle in the socket and then took one of George's
hands between his own strong palms. "George," he said cordially, "you're a
boy after my own heart, and I'd like nothing better than to have you for a
companion; but it's because I do like you that I'm sorry you are about to
run such a risk - and that's the truth. How did you contrive to persuade
the General?"

George seated himself on Andrews' bed, and laughed. "It was hard work at
first," he explained, "but after he had refused me twice I said to him:
'General, if you were a boy in my place, and had heard of this expedition,
what would you do?' 'By all the stars,' he said, 'I would run away to it
rather than miss it - and get shot afterwards as a deserter, I suppose.'
'Then don't put me under the temptation of running away,' said I. At this
the General laughed. Then he said: 'Well, tell Andrews you can go - and
that I'll never forgive him if he lets anything happen to you. After all,
the Confederates would never hang a child like you.'"

"So he too calls you a child!" laughed Andrews.

"Of course I'm not a child," cried George proudly, as he jumped from the
bed and stood up very straight, to make himself look as tall as possible;
"but the General may call me a six-weeks' old baby if he only lets me go
along with you."

"There is no time to waste," announced Andrews. "In the third tent from
mine, to the right, you will find Privates Macgreggor and Watson, of the
Second Ohio Volunteers. They have just offered to go with us, and I have
accepted them in addition to the rest. Go to them, ask them to get you a
suit of plain clothes, put it on instead of your uniform, and stick to
them closely from the moment you leave camp until you meet me, as I hope
you will, at Marietta. And be particularly careful to have nothing about
you which could in any way lead to your identification as a Union soldier
in case you should be arrested and searched."

"Hurrah!" said George, half under his breath.

"May we all be hurrahing this time next week," returned Andrews. "Here,
George, as you go out give this letter to the sentry outside, to be sent
off to-morrow in the camp mail." As he spoke he took the sealed note from
the army trunk, and handed it to the boy. "It is written to the young
woman I am engaged to marry," he explained, "and if we all get out of this
bridge-burning business with our heads on our shoulders you can come dance
at my wedding, and be my best man."

"I'd dance at twenty weddings for you," enthusiastically cried George, who
was beginning to have a great admiration for his new friend.

"You don't want me to be married twenty times, do you, my boy?" protested
Andrews, smiling.

"I would do a great deal to oblige you," retorted George. Then, after
warmly grasping his leader by the hand, he bounded out of the tent. The
night was black, and the rain was still descending in a veritable torrent,
but to the lad everything seemed clear and rosy. He only saw before him a
mighty adventure - and that, to his ardent, youthful spirit, made the whole
world appear charming.




CHAPTER II

NEARING THE GOAL


It was the Thursday afternoon succeeding the Monday night described in the
former chapter. On the north bank of the Tennessee River, not far from the
town of Jasper, three drenched figures might be discerned. They were
looking somewhat longingly in the direction of a white frame house not
fifty yards away from the stream, which, swollen by the recent storms, was
in a particularly turbulent mood. There was nothing very attractive about
the building save that it suggested shelter from the rain without, and
that the smoke curling up from its large chimney held forth vague hopes of
a palatable supper. Certainly there was little in the landscape itself to
tempt any one to remain outdoors. The three wanderers seemed to be of this
opinion, for they suddenly made a move towards the house. They were
roughly dressed, their clothes were soaking, and their high boots bore the
evidence of a long, muddy tramp across country.

"Well," grumbled one of them, a thick-set, middle-aged man, with a
good-humored expression and a four-days' growth of iron-gray beard on his
face; "why did I leave home and home cooking to enlist in the army and
then wander over the earth like this?"

"Mr. Watson!" exclaimed the person next to him, in a tone of boyish
surprise; "how can you talk like that? Why, _I_ am having the time of my
life."

The speaker was George Knight. There was mud on his face, and the natty
drummer boy in blue uniform had given place to a young fellow who
outwardly resembled an ordinary farm hand. But there could be no doubt,
from the light which shone in his bright eyes, that he was enjoying
himself to the full.

"Humph!" returned Watson. "When you get as old as I am, my boy, you won't
take such keen delight in walking through mire."

The boy laughed, and turned to the third member of the party. "Are you
tired, too, Macgreggor?" he asked.

Macgreggor, a compactly built, athletic young man of twenty-seven or


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