smoke on the evening breeze that had kept him riding after sunset.
âWhoever you are, you best speak up. Iâm short on patience.â
What to say?
Ty tried a few responses in his head before he remembered Boone Jordanâs instructions. âMy name is Ty Mattson. Iâm Owen Mattsonâs son. Heâs assigned to General Morganâs staff. Iâm here to join him and fight the Yankees.â
The hidden sentry snorted and laughed deep in the belly. âBy damned, thatâs a new one, huh, Frank? What do you think we should do with him?â
Frank stepped from the trees. âForget that he donât know the password, Harvey. He isnât dressed like no Yankee spy. Heâs outfitted like you and those hotheaded Texas braggarts in Ganoâs Brigade. Any which ways, we donât want to chance upsetting Captain Mattson. Letâs escort him to Lieutenant Shannon.â
âIâll take that pistol, Mr. Ty Mattson,â Harvey said.
Ty chanced angering the sentries. âIâd prefer to keep it. Father trained me never to hand over my weapon, no matter the circumstance,â he lied. âHeâd have my hide.â
âBrassy young sprout, isnât he?â Harvey said.
âYep, but that clinches it for me,â Frank said. âThatâs what Captain Mattson preaches when he drills us. Step down, Mr. Ty Mattson. You can bring your horse. You donât mind, weâll amble along behind you. Walsh and Parsons, you stay put. Harvey and I will risk a tongue-lashing for not disarming him. If youâve lied to us, sprout, this-here rifle barrel of mine is going to raise a tall knot behind your ear. Youâll hear bells for a coonâs age. You first, Mr. Ty Mattson.â
When they reached the fringe of Morganâs camp, the sentry named Frank took the lead. They wound through countless fires, their passage attracting little attention.
Ty studied each mess as they went by. Unlike the spanking blue-belly uniforms with shiny brass buttons he had observed in Elizabethtown, the most common uniform for General Morganâs troopers was a nondescript grimy gray. Here and there, an occasional mess was outfitted in spotless white linen, showing much wear, or blue homespun.
He saw troopers in ankle-length dusters, frock coats favored by gentlemen, and short jackets. A greater number had no coat whatsoever. Wide-brimmed hats, like his own, slouch hats worn by farmers and field hands, a few derbies, even a stovepipe hat, like that worn by President Lincoln in a newspaper picture, comprised the headgear of the dining companies. Weaponry of different calibers and loads ranged from pistols and rifled muskets to shotguns. Though they were mounted cavalry, few troopers possessed swords.
Whatever similarities these troopers shared with the motley irregulars heâd encountered were negated by the cohesion of the messes and their adherence to a higher authority. He was in the midst of an organized army with a shared allegiance to a particular flag, not an undisciplined cadre of thieves and murderers.
Beautifully proportioned Thoroughbreds and saddle horses of different breeds grazed in the Garnettsville meadows, with a few grass-fed work animals wide as barn doors. Ty grinned. Obviously, Morganâs fast-moving riders couldnât always be choosy. If you could saddle it, you best ride it or risk being left behind.
The ages of the supposedly seasoned cavalrymen fascinated Ty the most. While officers tended to be older, into their late twenties and thirties, the bulk of the troopers werenât much older than he was. A few actually appeared younger. Learning that, he felt a little less out of place. Heâd been afraid he would be the youngest pup in a pack of old wolves.
The smell of roasting meat and pole bread had Tyâs stomach growling. Heâd polished off the cold chicken and hardtack biscuits provided by Boone Jordan that morning, devouring a