Tom of the Raiders

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 5 days ago
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CHAPTER ONE

WITH THE SECOND OHIO

As he rounded the last bend of the road, Tom saw the white tents of the Union army stretched out before him. He forgot how tired he was after his long walk, and pressed forward eagerly, almost running. The soldiers who were sauntering along the road eyed him curiously.

"Hey, you! You can't go by here without a pass!" The Sentry's rifle, with its long gleaming bayonet, snapped into a menacing attitude.

Tom stopped abruptly, caught his breath, and asked: "Is this the Second
Ohio?"

"Maybe," answered the Sentry coldly. "What do you want to know for?"

"I've come to see my cousin—Herbert Brewster, of Company B."

The Sentry's position relaxed. He brought his rifle to the ground, leaned upon it, and gazed at the young man who stood before him. "Well now!" he said. "He'll certainly be glad to see you! We don't get many visitors down this way. What's your name?"

"Tom Burns."

"Going to enlist?"

"Yes. How'd you guess it?"

"Oh, I dunno. I just thought so. You're pretty young, ain't you?"

"Eighteen," answered Tom. "I'm old enough to fight." He looked past the Sentry, down at the even rows of tents which formed the company streets of the Second Ohio. His heart beat faster at the thought that he would be part of it after today. A soldier in the Union army!

"I'll send a messenger with you down to Company B," said the Sentry. "You'll have to get the Captain's permission before you can see your cousin."

It was early in April, 1862. The troops under the command of General O. M. Mitchel were encamped between Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, after a march from Nashville through a steady drizzle of rain. It had been a dreary, tedious march, made worse by long detours to avoid burnt bridges, detours over roads where the heavy wagons of the army sank hub-deep in the glue-like mud. It had been a fight against the rain and mud every inch of the way. And now, except for the details of bridge repairing, the troops were resting, drying their water-soaked knapsacks, and gathering strength for the march southward. Rumors of Chattanooga were in the air, and the camp was buzzing with talk of "Mitchel's plan of campaign." Groups of soldiers stood about exchanging views on what would happen next, speculating upon the points where they would come into contact with the rebs: others were playing games, or lying upon blankets spread before their tents, sleeping, reading and writing letters. The rows of tents gave a suggestion of military orderliness to the scene, but it was a suggestion only, for the tents and their guy ropes were strung with blankets and clothing put out to dry.

Although it was not quite what he had expected to see, the camp was wonderful and thrilling to Tom Burns. He had expected more military pomp and precision; not simply hundreds of men, half-clothed and weather-worn, loitering and shifting between rows of tents. Even the tents were patched and dirty. But if the scene did not compare with the picture he had in his imagination—of officers mounted upon spirited horses, buglers sounding calls, companies standing at attention—there was a spirit of action and excitement in the air which made him rejoice....