Chapter III- By Draft
In the morning the soldiers were up early and on their way. The rebels’ location was about thirty miles due west of there and they could reach it by nightfall if they marched at a fast pace, provided the rebels didn’t run. Lucas had no doubts Jakin could keep up, but he did wonder in what condition Jakin would be by nightfall. He need not have worried although. The wound was a mere scratch to Jakin but his bandage was soaked with blood by the time they made camp. The rebels had flown of course, retreating southwards along the River Ryn. They received the news at around noon, when Captain Richard Wilson reported to Garfield. Garfield directed the course south west and quickened the pace. It was impossible to even catch the rebel infantry; much less the light and elusive rebel cavalry. The rebels had withdrawn to the town of Acacia which was twenty miles from the place Garfield’s men had stopped for the night. Chasing them would be useless, but nevertheless, the chase began again on the morrow, with different parties branching off from the main body to try and surround the rebel troops.
At about noon the second day a scout from Wilson’s company which had left as a scouting party came in and reported to Garfield that the rebels were cut off in a valley at the foot of Cedar Hill. ?? The Captain halted the troops for a moment while he withdrew with his two lieutenant captain into a grove of tries at the head of Garfield’s force. Jakin and Lucas waited patiently outside under the blazing summer heat. After awhile, Lucas said, “What’s taking them so long?”
Jakin plucked a piece of grass up and began chewing on the end. “They are stuck. They have two options. They don’t know whether to try and attack the rebels or to besiege them in the valley and wait for reinforcements from Willow. If we attack without surrounding them, they’ll slip through our fingers like sand. If we besiege them and wait for reinforcements, they might make a surprise attack and flee in the panic of midnight.”
“What’s the third?”
“Well I doubt the third has occurred to them. They should surround the rebels completely with light infantry and then charge them with their heavy cavalry. Then they’ll be trapped.”
Lucas thought for a moment and then said, “Yes, and then the heavy infantry could follow the cavalry in and the baggage train could also provide a blockade manned by pike-men.”
“My thoughts exactly, well, except for the baggage train. I had thought of pike men but not of putting them behind the baggage. It should still work although either way.”
Lucas clapped Jakin on the back. “They should make you a captain. Then the war would be over in no time.”
“It’s not a war yet. We haven’t even met on the field of battle yet. I would never take a commission anyway.”
“I couldn’t ever take a commission. It’s against my principles.”
“How?” asked Lucas, quite puzzled.
“As a soldier Lucas,” Jakin began explaining in a patient voice, “and much more so as a draft, I am commanded to fight, kill and destroy on the battle-field. As an officer I would hold responsibility for the lives of not only my own men, but the enemy troops. No longer am I the ordered, but the one giving orders. I would be accountable for every patrol or scout I sent out, for every skirmish party, for every order to battle and for every decision I make. That responsibility is too great an honor and too great a burden for me to bear. My conscience is uneasy as it is.”
Lucas thought for a moment. He could not understand this speech of Jakin’s, (for indeed it was a speech for Jakin who excelled at one word answers or orders.) For four years he had seen Jakin slaughter men on the battle-field with pike, sword, pistol and bayonet, yet when this subject of being an officer arose, Jakin shrunk back into a defensive shell and began talking of principles and morals the like of which Lucas had never heard. So my friend does have some principle, he thought to himself. Lucas had lived with Jakin during the past years with some difficulty for Jakin had always exhibited the utmost zeal in war. Now Lucas was encouraged by this sign of conscience and principle in Jakin’s speech.
“This is all very strange,” Lucas said with a winkled brow. “Forgive me, but I never thought you really had much of a conscience. I always knew you would prefer not being in the army, but I never guessed that you had any qualms over killing men in battle.”
“You do me an injustice Lucas. You have established a false opinion of me and cut me down. I had thought that you understood me and my principles, but it appears you do not or at least did not until just now.”
Lucas was a bit ashamed of his previous words for he held Jakin in such a high position in not only his mind but in his heart that he felt Jakin was right when he accused him of doing an injustice to his character.
“I did not realize the depth of your character. But I guess it is hard when one is as reclusive and defensive as you.” he felt a strong urge to say this. Jakin had been so reclusive in the past years Lucas had known him that it had not been very possible to break Jakin’s defensive outer shell. But he still said it with great respect, his eyes on the ground and his voice quiet.
Jakin nodded, “Of course. That is how I survive. If I spoke my thoughts more often I would be killed for treason.” He paused and added with a gentler and quieter tone, “I do not like war, Lucas. I fight only because I was drafted and a strong watch is kept on me at all times. I was I have felt their eyes, Lucas. I know they are watching me. Many times I have considered escaping, but I am always watched. I would light out for the hills at the first opportunity, they could never find me, but for some reason they watch me. Not just Parson, but the captains, the lieutenants; different people in the army from high position to low. Their eyes are on me Lucas. At all times.”
“Why would they watch you?”
Jakin was silent for a moment and then said quietly, “Even if I knew I wouldn’t tell you.” For Jakin had developed a theory as to the reason why he was watched. An accurate theory, but one that did not yet have all the evidence required to make it complete.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
But Jakin was not able to reply for the captains came out of the grove and announced their intentions to drive the rebels out of the valley and over the ridge to the town of Quince where, if all went well and a messenger got through, reinforcements from Willow would be waiting. Jakin shook his head and shouldered his pack muttering, “They should have surrounded them.”
Lucas smiled at his grumbling against the captain’s incompetence and followed Jakin.
The rest of the day was spent in a rapid march circling back eastwards to drive the rebels towards Willow. The forests and greenery of eastern Glasgow had slowly risen into grassy, sloping hills crisscrossed into a maze of interweaving dirt roads traveled by farmers and merchant bands on their way to the capitol. When the army was seen approaching the merchants stepped grudgingly off the road. As in most countries governed by tyranny, the army was not well liked, but it was feared and that fear demanded respect.
When Garfield reached a merchant band he signaled to Parson and others to inspect the merchant’s goods. In every instance something was found ‘wrong’ with the merchandise and their goods which would be profitable for the army were confiscated and the merchants fined. Jakin set his teeth and Lucas realized that this was one of those occasions he had spoken of where it was best for him that he did not talk.
When the army proceeded along its way, the baggage horses bore an extra load and extra coins jingled in the pockets of certain favored officers. Jakin was disgusted.
They continued on though, with the sun beating down on them and dust signaling to anyone atop the hills that an army of some size was traversing the plains. Jakin held the officers in all the more contempt for this. They should have walked in the grass and proceeded in a single column to hide their numbers. For a while they marched in silence, sweat dripping down their backs and necks and drenching their clothes. After some time Jakin felt a growing sense of uneasiness. He moved along the marching lines at a fast walk which broke into a run towards the officers leading the battalion. He ran to the front and held the bridle of Garfield’s horse. “Sir, we’re walking into a trap.”
Garfield was indignant at Jakin’s lack of respect and pulling back on the reins, attempted to rear his horse. But Jakin held onto the reins and the horse would not move. Garfield kicked it with his spurs but under Jakin’s firm hand the horse only snorted and kicked up its back heels. Garfield was not unseated, but he stopped kicking the horse. “What do you mean?” he asked sharply.
Jakin saluted and replied, “The small canyon we’re entering is lined with rebels sir.”
“Impossible. I was assured they would run.”
Jakin gave a scornful smile. “They didn’t. Their numbers are easily as large as ours and the canyon affords adequate protection for taking on a force twice their number. As a captain you should be very well aware of that.”
The lieutenant captain raised his pistol and struck Jakin on the head with it. Garfield reproved him harshly. Blood ran down the side of Jakin’s head but he was indifferent.
“It would be best if you either skirted the canyon or proceeded with great caution.”
A smile flickered at the corners of Garfield’s mouth. “What’s your name and rank?”
“Jakin, Private.” Jakin saluted and clicked his heels. He knew how to behave in the presence of officers although often his indignation prevented him.
“How long have you been in the army?”
“I was a draft,” said Jakin. “War was not my first choice.”
“But you are proud to serve your country nonetheless.”
“Sir, time is wasting,” said the lieutenant, saving Jakin from an uncomfortable position wherein his principle would force him to say ‘no’ to the Captain’s last statement.
“I agree with your lieutenant.”
The captain gave a shocked expression at their audacity to speak to him in such a way, but he knew they were right. “What would you have us do, young Private Jakin? Since you seem to know so much. ”
“I would have surrounded the canyon with the light infantry, thereby cutting off their escape over the ridge. Then I would have formed up two wings of heavy infantry to follow in the heavy cavalry in a charge into the valley. None of the enemy would escape. Or at least very few if the attack was carried out properly. But it may be too late now.”
“How can you be sure the rebels are even there?”
Jakin realized that he could never convince the captain the he had ‘felt’ their presence and the minute signs he had seen along the way which confirmed his theory could not be accepted by a man of logic. For the signs that will convince one who believes do not always convince those who trust their reason over their heart.
“You will have to send a scout to ascertain that fact. But if the scout is seen the battle is lost. I will go if you order me.”
The captain although for a moment and then asked, “Are you so sure you will not be seen?”
Jakin gave a slight scoffing smile, “There is no guarantee of that, but most of the men in my company will affirm that I am the most suited for the job.”
“A little proud are we not?”
“No sir, I simply state the truth. No man has spent more time in the mountains of Carrock then I and no man has spent more time tracking animals and enemy troops through the plains, mountains and valleys than the one who stands before you.” This was not Jakin’s usual manner of speech but he knew that pride and confidence was the language of the mighty. (Although in Jakin’s mind the ones who were mighty were not the ones who held high positions. Mighty here refers to captains and the like who considered themselves as mighty.)
“Very well, you may go. Do you require a companion or a pistol?”
Jakin moved aside the grey army cloak tucked into his belt and revealed the brace of pistols. “As for a companion, I work better alone. I will be back in an hour.”
Although the captain knew that the valley was wide and the ridges difficult to surmount and travel along, he felt that that would not change the mind of the young man before him and he felt that the man was perfectly indifferent to that difficulty. “Go then, and return speedily.”
Jakin felt a thrill of excitement and longing rush through his body as he reached the edge of the steep wall of the canyon to the right of the entrance. This canyon wall went nearly straight up for about fifteen feet and then sloped slightly to decrease the angle of the climb as it ascended past straggly cedars and brush which struggled to maintain the survival of its roots foundation, placed so precariously in the loose dirt and gravel which made up the sloping sides. Jakin spat on his hands as he reached the wall, and placing his hands in two crevices in the rock, pulled himself up. His feet found a firm place to support his body and they came up also. His hand sought another jut of rock which would aid him in his climb and his feet walked vertically up the side as he pulled himself up by the strength of his arms. The work was hot and sweaty for he wore his grey cloak to better disguise his movements but as the time passed and the sweat poured down his back and neck he was less and less sure if it was worth it. At last he surmounted that first cliff and began crawling up the second one, grasping at roots and outcroppings as he progressed up its side. Once he was close to the top he crouched and moved along the outside of the ridge cautiously to avoid being seen by anyone on watch in the valley below. It would have taken a keen eye to spot him from the valley. His movements were jerky and stopped altogether after a few seconds, just like a squirrel or a rabbit trying to cross a field without attracting any attention from the dog lying half-asleep on the porch.
It is important before we go any further to explain how this valley was situated. On the provided map that was given you at the beginning of the book you will see the town of Willow, approximately 50 miles south-west of Kenneth. To the east of the town is a valley surrounded by sloping rocky hills, not of any considerable height, which sloped up and down and spread out in a haphazard fashion. These are the slopes which the army had passed to the north of the day before and were now retracing their steps, but instead of skirting them, they were now proceeding through the heart of them towards Willow. The valley or canyon so often referred to lay straight between them and Willow and it lay right at the heart of three overlapping mountains. Two ran nearly east-to-west and one ran north and south providing a barricade between the rebels and Willow.
Jakin traveled along the left hand, east-to-west ridge, crouching at some places, sprinting in others and leaping over steep and narrow cracks which provided a path for springs or creeks. The valley was not more than a mile wide and a mile long so it was not long before Jakin sighted the rebels. He pressed on however, urged by a wild thrill of adventure which caused him to approach the rebels in a manner which was unreasonably dangerous. The rebels appeared to making camp, and since Jakin still had thirty minutes to get back he stayed on and watched, scooting closer and closer to the officers’ tents. The guard around these was quite slack and Jakin could have run up and touched the tent without being noticed. He almost did just for the fun of it, but just as he was ready to spring for it, a man who appeared to be the rebel commander came out of the tent with a tall young girl by his side.
Jakin was surprised to see her there but even more surprised to see her with a gun slung on her shoulder. They walked away from the tent and the camp and Jakin followed. It was a rash deed at the very least but Jakin thought he could manage. The commander stopped behind one of the other tents and Jakin got a good look at them both from the cover of a group of horses standing tied beside each other. The horses reminded him of the one he used to have when he was up north in Carrock Range. He had left the horse in one of the mountain valleys and hoped to reunite himself with it once the war was over. He turned his attentions to the commander and his daughter though.
The commander was evidently her father, for their talk was very affectionate and he was certainly old enough. His hair was streaked with grey but his face showed a lightheartedness that Jakin was not accustomed to. He wore nearly the same uniform the Glasgowian commanders wore and the only real difference was the dark red badge he wore around one shoulder which indicated he was a rebel.
His daughter wore a light green dress with a dark red sash around the middle. Her hair was of a dark brown color and hung about her shoulders in wavy folds. Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a young commander who Jakin assumed was one of the two captains, Nathaniel Greene, or Richard Lindsey. At that moment the rebel general spoke, addressing the young man. “Captain Nathaniel, anything to report?”
“Horatio’s army is camped outside the canyon. His soldiers have not yet started making camp. By some strange stroke of luck they were dissuaded out of entering the canyon. We have a watch posted on them at this moment.”
“Hmm,” said the general doubtfully. “It’s too bad they didn’t enter the valley, but I guess it’s just as well. Perhaps there is another fate prepared for them.”