Tag Archives: Ulysses S. Grant

Visiting Shiloh National Battlefield

Scattered throughout Shiloh National Cemetery are plaques with portions of the poem:  Bivouac of the Dead by Theodore O’Hara.  Here is the opening stanza:

The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last Tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame’s eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

It is a most appropriate ode to not only the cemetery at Shiloh, but the entire battlefield.  I spent last weekend visiting Shiloh and going over the battlefield.  Over the next month I will be posting video clips from my visit there, but the first clip is at the cemetery:

The battle of Shiloh is the climactic scene of Duty, Honor, Country a Novel of West Point & the Civil War.  In fact, somewhere in the land that became the cemetery, on the first night of the battle, Ulysses S. Grant sat under an oak tree in the rain, contemplating whether to withdraw after horrendous losses that day, or fight on the next day.  Also, somewhere on that land, was a wood cabin where surgeons plied their bloody trade and a scene in that cabin changes the course of history.

At its conclusion, Shiloh produced more casualties in two days than all previous American Wars combined.  Walking over this hallowed ground was humbling.  I walked the entire length of the Sunken Road (which really isn’t sunken) that as the front edge of the Hornet’s Nest, where Union troops repelled eleven Confederate assaults.  Until 62 cannon were lined hub to hub, producing the greatest artillery barrage ever seen on the continent and the Union line was broken.

I walked around tiny Bloody Pond, just behind the sunken road, where casualties from both sides crawled, desperate for water on a hot April day.  I stood at the spot where General Albert Sidney Johnston was shot, still the highest ranking American officer ever to be killed in combat.

All of this is quite strange for a place called Shiloh, which means ‘place of peace’.

How Did Stonewall Jackson get his nickname?

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

There are two versions of this story.  The popular one, and the following, which isn’t as popular.  Regardless, there is no doubt Jackson holding the line saved the Confederate army at First Bull Run and led to their ultimate victory there.

*****

“Get in a line, men, in a line,” Seneca yelled, not quite sure of the proper order to achieve what he desired.

The rest of the 33rd was deploying, moving forward among retreating soldiers, some of whom started in fear, seeing the blue uniforms in their midst.  For a moment all was turmoil, but then a colonel stood up in his stirrups, his shockingly blue eyes aglow.

“Virginians.  Advance!”

The men gave a shout that made the hair on the back of Seneca’s neck curl.  Before he knew it, he was screaming the same inarticulate yell and pressing forward.  They crested Henry House Hill in time to see a line of blue with a smattering of gray crest Matthews Hill, not quite a mile distant.  The low ground in between was cluttered with retreating Confederate troops.

Union artillery suddenly began belching canister from Matthews Hill and wide, bloody swaths were cut in the men in the valley.

The blue-eyed Colonel rode along the crest of Henry Hill, now ordering the men to form and hold a line, to take the defensive and be prepared to face an attack.  Seneca dismounted, handing the reins to one of his men.  He saw a lieutenant in blue running by, a Virginian and grabbed him by the arm.

“Who is that?” Seneca demanded.  “Why’s he ordering us to stop?”

“That’s Colonel Jackson, sir.  Brigade commander.”

Seneca looked to his right and saw a Confederate unit flowing down the hill in the assault, another officer in the lead.  “And who is that?”

“General Bee, sir.”

Seneca glanced once more at Jackson, weighed Colonel against General, the glory of the assault against that of the defense, then ordered his men to follow.  He charged downhill, following Bee’s advance as fast as he could.

The General rose up in his saddle and looked over his shoulder, waving his sword.  He saw that most of the Virginians were not following.  “There stands Jackson like a stone wall,” he cried out.

*****

Since General Bee died, no one quite knows why he called out what he did.  But as they say in Liberty Valance:  When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

Grant Becomes A General

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

“What of McClellan?” Lincoln finally asked.

When Rumble hesitated, Lincoln’s voice became harsher.  “Why do you think are here, Sergeant Major?  I asked General Delafield to tell me of the West Pointers, since he’s been superintendent three times, more than any other.  He informed me that the man who could tell me the most was the Master of the Horse.  Who had once been a cadet and then taught riding to class after class of cadets.  Who went to the Mexican War and wrote many notebooks full of information that no one reads.

“So?  What of McClellan?  He won our first battle at Philippi.  Thus he now has command on the other side of the Appalachians.  And he sent General Scott a strategic plan to win the war.  Very industrious and showing of initiative, don’t you think?”

“You seem to have your mind made up about him, sir,” Rumble said.

“I have not,” Lincoln snapped.  He sighed.  “I’m sorry.  Let me explain.  There’s a call to abolish West Point.  So many graduates have gone over to the other side, there is a very legitimate question as to why we should continue funding the institution.  But as we used to say back in Illinois, that cow has already left the barn.  We’re stuck with the officers we have and I need to know about them.  So.  McClellan.”

“McClellan is a very good organizer, sir,” Rumble said.  “But he’s not daring.  And he will flinch at the critical moment, when a general needs to press on.  He’s not a finisher and this war will need a finisher.”

Lincoln smiled.  “That wasn’t so hard, was it?”  He didn’t wait for an answer.  “From all the West Pointers you’ve seen, as cadets and as officers, who is the best ‘finisher’ as you call it?”

“Ulysses S. Grant, sir.”

“I like the name Ulysses.  Very martial.”  Lincoln frowned.  “Ulyssess Grant?  That strikes a bell.”  He began sifting through a pile of papers on his desk.

Rumble plunged on.  “He’s solid and steady, sir, and if there’s one thing he will do, it’s get where he’s going.  I fought with him in Mexico.”

“Ah!” Lincoln said, pulling out a sheet.  “Here’s his name.  Recommendations for promotion to General from each state.  He’s very far down.  The war might indeed be over before his name bubbles up high enough.  Curious.”

Lincoln reached out and grabbed a pen.  He scratched through some names, then wrote a note next to Grant’s name.  “Well, he’ll be a general within the month.”

Colonel Grant’s Marching Orders to the 21st Illinois

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

18 June 1861

Springfield, MO

21st Illinois Regiment

The undersigned, having been duly appointed Colonel of the 7th Congressional District Regt of Illinois Volunteers by order of Govr. Richard Yates, hereby assumes command.

In accepting this command, your Commander will require the cooperation of all the commissioned and non-commissioned Officers in instructing the command, and in maintaining discipline, and hopes to receive also the hearty support of every enlisted man.

Colonel Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding 21st Illinois

 12 July 1861

Quincy, MO

21st Illinois Regiment

The Colonel commanding this Regiment deems it his duty at this period in the march to return his thanks to the Officers and Men composing the command on their general Obedience and Military discipline.  Having for a period of years been accustomed to strict military duties and discipline he deems it not inappropriate at this time to make a most favorable comparison of this command with that of veteran troops in point of Soldierly bearing, general good order, and cheerful execution of commands.

Colonel Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding 21st Illinois

These two orders sum up Grant’s leadership style.



Mark Twain’s First & Last Combat in the Civil War vs US Grant

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

14 July 1861, Florida, Missouri

“Florida contained but one hundred people when I was born here twenty-six years ago and I increased the town’s population by one percent.  This is more than many of the best men in history could have done for a town.”

The speaker held an old smoothbore musket in sweaty hands, and he licked his upper lip nervously, a bushy black mustache adorning the space between mouth and nose.

“Now ya get the chance to defend your town from the Yankees, Sam,” the man next to him said.

Both men were dressed in civilian clothes, dirty from weeks spent foraging and traveling to and fro across Missouri following the orders of confused and amateur officers.  How they’d ended up here was pure chance, the vagaries of war.  It was early morning, and the dew had yet to be burned away by the mid-July heat.  It was the most comfortable time of the day and would soon be gone.

“I did leave when I was four, though, so I have no particular fondness for the place,” Samuel Clemens noted.

“Aint much to it,” his friend agreed as they took in the muddy lane that ran through the small cluster of cabins.  The two guards held a position just south of the hamlet where the road peaked a knoll, so they could see in both directions.  “Why the devil does this Union Colonel want this place?”

“Probably same reason we’re standing here,” Clemens said.  “Someone told him to.”

Behind the two pickets, in a trampled cornfield, a cluster of makeshift shelters and men rolled in blankets constituted the small unit sent to defend Florida, Missouri from the Union incursion.  It consisted of Clemens’ own group, the self-named Marions Rangers, and other bands of men that could not quite be called a company of light infantry, although they would agree on the light:  light on weapons, light on food and light on discipline.

Hush.”  Clemens turned his head, listening.  “Riders coming.”  He tapped his partner on the shoulder.  “Best get the Colonel.”

*****

As a side note:  The Union force approaching Floriday, Missouri, was the 21st Illinois commanded by Colonel U.S. Grant.  It was Grant’s first time leading troops into combat.  Years after the war, destitute from a ponzi scheme and dying, Grant finally acceded to Twain’s request to publish his memoirs.  It became the #1 bestselling nonfiction book of the 19th Century and insured Grant’s family future.

Abraham Lincoln in Command

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

“General Delafield,” Lincoln said.  “It was good of you to hold the reins at the Academy after that fool Beauregard displayed his southern tendencies.”

“I am always glad to serve my country, sir,” Delafield said.

“Would that all military men felt the same way,” Lincoln murmured, more to himself than the others.

“Sir,” Delafield said, “if I might introduce—“

“Sergeant Major Rumble,” Lincoln said.  Surprisingly, Lincoln stood and leaned over the desk, extending his hand.  Rumble scrambled to his feet and met the President’s firm hand.

Lincoln held the grip for a second.  “I can always tell a lot about a man from his shake.”

Then the President sat back down, put his feet up on the desk while leaning so far back in his chair, that even Stanton started, expecting to see the President fall over backwards.  Their concern was for naught as Lincoln laced his fingers behind his head and began speaking, as if to the ceiling.

“I was in the military for a little while during the Black Hawk War,” Lincoln said.  “One of the proudest moments of my life was when the men in my company elected me captain.  Of course, they did not do so out of any sense that I had the genius of a Mars.  I could wrestle well, which they somehow seemed to believe lent itself to leadership.”

Lincoln was gazing at some spot on the ceiling.  Rumble was tempted to look up, but he kept his eyes on the President as he continued.

“One time we were on the march and we came upon a split rail fence.  There was a narrow gate in the fence, but I fear I could not remember the proper commands to go from the march formation to the appropriate movement to get us through the gate in a military manner.  So I simply called a halt, ordered the men to fall out for a few minutes and reform on the other side of the fence in formation.  It worked.”  Lincoln dropped his feet off the desk with a heavy thud and sat up straight.  “However, no one was firing at us at the time.  I suppose that would have made my maneuver disastrous.”

Lincoln sighed and for a moment he looked old, very old, the lines in his face falling into each other and the dark pockets under his eyes telling of restless nights.

“General McDowell will move on Richmond soon.  And many say that hopefully this war will be over soon.  Are you a hopeful man, Sergeant Major Rumble?”

“In this instance, I am not, sir,” Rumble replied.

“Really?  A rarity in this city.”  Lincoln looked past Stanton, out the window.  “They stopped building Washington’s monument in ’54 when the pockets of the people donating were empty.  Congress was going to appropriate the money to finish it, but then the states got to haggling.  Alabama wanted the monument to have stone from every state and once that can of worms was opened Washington’s tower was doomed to gather dust.” Lincoln fell silent for a moment.  “And then there’s the capitol dome.  Also incomplete.  I can finish one or the other, but not both, which seems to be the theme of this war.”

Sam Houston on the Civil War

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

8 June 1861, Mississippi River

“He killed the Matlock brothers with a two shot derringer,” St. George said.

“So he’s a good shot and don’t waste bullets,” Sally Skull acknowledged.

The steamer fought against the Mississippi, paddle wheels churning muddy water.  To the right, the lights of Vicksburg glittered on a bluff overlooking a sharp bend in the mighty river.  Skull and St. George sat on crates up top of the boat, just behind the pilot house, left alone by the rest of the passengers out of tacit acceptance this was the boat owner’s private area.

“He more than that,” St. George said.  “He—“

“I know who Nathan Bedford Forrest is,” Skull cut him off.  “You think I was born yesterday?  He one of the biggest men on the river and worth over a million Yankee dollars.  I know he’s mean as a rattlesnake and cold as a blizzard.  I know he owns this boat we riding on.  I wouldn’t be here for this meeting if I didn’t know who I be meeting.”  She took a swig from the whiskey bottle on the shipping crate that served as a table between them.  “The thing you got to remember, St. George, is that he smart.  Wicked smart.  He started with nothing, now he one of the richest men on the river.  And he didn’t get it cause his pappy gave it to him.”

St. George bristled.  “What you saying?”

“Just what I’m saying,” Skull said, earning a confused furrow in the middle of St. George’s forehead.  She handed the bottle to the overseer.  “Listen.  This war that’s here now.  It aint gonna be short, it aint gonna be easy, and your people, they aint gonna win.”

“What do you mean my ‘people’?”

“The south” Skull said.  “I was down in San Anton when Texas voted to secede.  I—“

“Why was you there?” St. George interrupted.

“Always deals to be made,” Skull said.  “Especially to armies.  Some Confederate big-wigs went to the old Alamo and got the Federal commander to surrender the arsenal, hand over ten thousand rifled muskets.”

“That’s good,” St. George said, eyes always on the immediate.

“Let me finish,” Skull said.  “There was another Fed officer there, Robert Lee, a Virginian.  I heard of him from the Mex War and he the one that trapped old John Brown.  And I could tell he was surprised things was happening so fast.  Heard him talking to another officer, saying the secces was fools.  When they paroled him, he went back to Virginia, back to the Union.  Struck me as a sensible man.  And Sam Houston, the governor, let me tell you, he fought a lot of battles and he a smart man too and he was against seceding.”

“Why?” St. George asked.

In response, Skull reached into one of the many pockets on her dress and retrieved a folded newspaper article.  “Here what Ole Sam said and the damn fools still out-voted him to secede:  ‘Let me tell you what is coming.  After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives you may win southern independence, but I doubt it.  The north is determined to preserve this union.  They are not a fiery impulsive people as you are for they live in colder climates.  But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche and what I fear is that they will overwhelm the South with ignoble defeat.’

“’Ignoble’?”  St. George spit.  “I don’t know what that mean, but it sound bad and he damn wrong.  Any southerner worth ten Yankees.”

“Houston’s right,” Skull said.  “And that’s why I’m here.  Your tit at Palatine is going to run dry.”

“We can grow cotton forever,” St. George argued.

The steamer rounded the bend and Vicksburg was behind them.  The sound of revelry from whiskey, gambling and other dark arts echoed up from the main deck.

Ulysses S. Grant on Traitors & Patriots

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

Galena, IL

April 21st 1861

To Jesse Root Grant from U.S. Grant

Dear Father,

We are now in the midst of trying times when every one must be for or against his country, and show his colors too, by his very act.  Having been educated for such an emergency, at the expense of the Government, I feel that it has upon me superior claims, such claims as no ordinary motives of self-interest can surmount.  I do not wish to act hastily or unadvisedly in the matter, and, as there are more than enough to respond to the first call of the President, I have not yet offered myself.  I have promised and am giving all the assistance I can in organizing the Company whose services have been accepted from this place.  I have promised further to go with them to the state Capital and if I can be of service to the Governor in organizing his state troops, to do so.

Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have but one sentiment now.  That is we have a Government, and laws and a flag and they must all be sustained.  There are but two parties now, Traitor & Patriots and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter and, I trust, the stronger party.

Write soon.

Yours Truly

U.S. Grant

The Routine of Beast Barracks at West Point: 1860

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

Like cattle to the slaughter, the small herd of new cadets was escorted with many a scream and promise of a dire future to a tent on the edge of the encampment.  They were hustled into line, and sent in, one by one.

Ben was third.  The adjutant seemed bored with the ritual, seated behind a field desk in the tent and looking at a piece of paper.  Ben came to a halt three paces in front of the desk and waited.

“Name, new cadet?”

“Ben Agrippa Rumble.”

The adjutant responded automatically.  “That’s New Cadet Rumble, got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

The adjutant finally looked up.  “We all know you and we know about you, Mister Rumble.  Most of us have, shall we say, shared some libation with you at Benny Havens.  We all know your father.  But none of that matters now.  Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good.  Then.”  The adjutant got to his feet and began issuing orders.  “Come to attention when addressing an upperclassman.  Heels together.  Toes out.  Hands by your side, palms out fingers closed, little fingers on the seams of your trousers, head up, chin in, shoulders thrown back, chest out, belly in, eyes straight ahead.  Stay like that and don’t move.”

The instructions came like bullets, Ben contorting his body to comply.

The adjutant looked past Rumble as another upperclassman entered.  On cue the side flaps on the tent were loosened and dropped, darkening the interior.  The only light came from a single candle flickering on the field desk.  The adjutant left, leaving Rumble alone with the unidentified cadet behind him.

“We have a problem with you, Mister Rumble,” the newcomer said.  “You’ve seen most of us imbibing in your grandfather’s tavern.  Which means you’ve seen most of us violating quite a few regulations.  Once you sign in to the Corps, you will be bound by the honor code.  Do you see the problem?”

“No, sir.”

“Duty requires you tell the truth about what you’ve seen.  You will be bound to that.  If you do not tell the truth, then you are dishonorable.  However, if you tell the truth, then many a fine cadet might have their futures destroyed.  We can’t allow that to happen.”

“It won’t, sir.”

“We can’t take that chance.  I think the sooner you leave the Corps, the better,” the anonymous cadet said.  “You can’t stay.  You’re a threat to too many.  And if you don’t tell the truth, the Vigilance Committee will come for you.  I very strongly suggest you do not sign the roll, and go back down to your grandfather’s tavern.  We are gentlemen here.”

Ben said nothing, feeling a line of sweat course its way down his back in the now-stuffy tent.  The seconds passed.

“Think hard on it,” the upperclassman advised.

When Rumble still said nothing, the upperclassman came so close, Rumble could feel his breath on his neck.  “Don’t push this.  It’s more than just about the tavern and the honor code.  This is a place for gentlemen.  We don’t want your kind here.  The lack of honor is in your blood.”

Ben wheeled.  “And what kind is that?  What do you mean by lack of honor?”

“Watch you tongue!”

“Watch yours!” Ben stepped closer, chest thumping against the upperclassman’s.  “Are you a man?  Willing to face me?”

The upperclassman laughed, even as he backed up.  “You can fight as many of us as you want.  It won’t change a thing.  It won’t change your blood.”

Then with a rustle of canvas he was gone.

The adjutant returned and took his place behind the desk.

“Well, Mister Rumble?”

Ben’s jaw was tight, his muscles vibrating.  “Yes, sir.”

“Do you wish to say something?”

“No, sir.”

The adjutant sighed and pointed at a piece of paper.  “Sign here, indicating you are on the active roster of cadets.”

Ben went to the table, quickly signed, and resumed the position.

“You will go to the quartermasters and be measured for uniform, the barber, the surgeon for exam, the armory to draw a weapon, and you will do all this within the next hour and report back here.”  The adjutant made a great show of checking his pocket watch and making a notation in the log.  “Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You will do all this at the double.  Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“You know the four answers you are allowed, don’t you New Cadet Rumble?”

“Yes, sir, no, sir, no excuse, sir and sir, I do not understand.”

“Use the last one sparingly. Go!”

Ben ran from the tent, almost crashing into an upperclass cadet who halted him and berated him for his unmilitary appearance for almost ten minutes, eating into his hour allotment and clearly trying to provoke him into action he would not be able to take back.  With every fiber of his being, Ben bore the insults and hazing.

The days passed in a blur for Ben.  Within a week he learned how to march, carry his musket and some basic maneuvers.  It seemed as if the drum rattled out the marching cadence all day long at the encampment.  The days were long with reveille at 5:00 am.  Then there was roll call to account for everyone.  Then ‘policing’ the tent city, removing anything that wasn’t supposed to there, and it seemed as if the upperclass went out of their way to place disgusting objects in the strangest places for the plebes to find.  And woe unto them if they did not find the objects.  Then drill from 5:30-6:30.  Then arrange their bedding, raise the walls of their tents so it was open to the air, and inspection, and prepare for morning parade.  They marched to the mess hall for breakfast.  Ben had eaten in the mess before so he was prepared for the terrible repast that awaited.

Right after breakfast, which was wolfed down as there was never enough time allowed to properly eat, the guard was mounted.  Then artillery drill from 9:00 to 10:00.  Then back to the tents to clean and polish gear, a never-ending task.  No matter how shiny a cadet made his brass, an upperclassman could always find fault with it.  The march to lunch at 1:00.  Then dancing from 3:00 to 4:00, because every cadet would be an officer and an officer was a gentleman, and a gentleman knew how to dance.  Then another police call.  Then Infantry drill from 5:30 to 6:45 followed by evening parade and inspection.  Then dinner.  Followed by final roll call at 9:30 and lights out at 9:45.

Besides making soldiers, the strict regime forged a class of men that grew tight and developed bonds that would last a lifetime.  Cooperate and graduate was a maxim beat into each plebe from the first day at the Academy, but, strangely, Ben felt his classmates separating from him as each day passed, rather than bonding, no matter how hard he tried to be one of them.

Civil War Comes To West Point

From Duty, Honor, Country, a Novel of West Point & the Civil War

“Cadets!” Master of the Horse Rumble snapped as he took the familiar spot on the floor of the riding hall.  “Assemble, in-line, one rank.”

The cadets of the class of 1862 scrambled out of the stands and fell in to the left and right of Rumble.

When all were in place, Rumble issued his second order. “Cadet George Armstrong Custer, front and center.”

With a self-confident grin, Custer stepped out of the ranks and double-timed to a spot just in front of Rumble. Custer was just shy of six feet, broad shouldered and athletic.  He had blue eyes and golden hair that lay on his head in a tumble of curling locks.  The word circulating in Benny Havens was that Custer was quite the lady’s man off-post.  The word circulating in the Academy was that Custer was not quite the academic man, the Immortal in every section, overall ranking last in his class and lingering very close to being boarded out.  In some ways, Custer reminded Rumble of Cord, but there was a dark edge to Custer that disturbed Rumble.

“Double-time to the stables, Mister Custer, and bridle your horse.” Rumble made a show of looking at his pocket watch.  “You have three minutes.”

Custer dashed off.

“Cadets, at ease,” Rumble ordered.

An instant buzz of excited conversation filled the riding hall. War was in the air.  And not just war, but Civil War.  Many southern cadets had already left the Academy, the first as early as the previous November, when a South Carolinian had departed, in anticipation of his state’s secession.  He was followed by all the rest of the cadets from South Carolina, three Mississippians and two Alabamians.

The divide touched the highest ranks of the Academy as the Superintendent appointed back in January, G. T. Beauregard, had lasted only five days before being relieved for his southern sympathies after advising a southern cadet who sought consul on whether to resign: “Watch me; and when I jump, you jump.  What’s the use of jumping too soon?”  With his departure, old Delafield resumed the post for several months before a permanent replacement was appointed.  Delafield was still on post, awaiting his next assignment.

The overwhelming feeling in the press was that most of the Academy was pro-slavery. But that was only to those outside of the gray walls.  Rumble knew the cadets better than they knew themselves and it was more the fact that the southerners who remained were the loudest and most outspoken, airing their opinions freely and to anyone who would listen.  The northern cadets had some sympathy for the plight of their southern brethren, but that sympathy had not been put to the test.  There was a sullenness and brooding among the Northerners that few could interpret.

Behind Rumble, seated in the corner of the stands, writing in a leather journal, was Ben, now a young man of twenty. He’d grown with a spurt when he was sixteen, and was now two inches shy of six feet, but as slender as Grant had been as a cadet and Rumble feared his son would never fill out.  Ben had his mother’s face, soft, freckled and open.  His most distinguishing feature was his bright red hair.  He could be recognized all the way across the Plain from that alone.

This was his first trip back to West Point since Rumble had maneuvered his son’s dismissal from the Corps and his entry into college in Maine. The few days had not been enough to thaw the chill between the two and Rumble had little idea where his son’s feelings lay or what his thoughts were.  But he had kept his promise to Lidia and saved his son from four years of hell and that was enough for now.

Custer came galloping back into the riding hall with a flourish.  He urged the large horse toward the far end of the hall. Despite it’s size, the horse was no York, at least a hand smaller than the long-deceased legend of the riding hall,

“Cadets,” Rumble cried out.  “Attention!”

The line snapped to.  Rumble called out the names of two cadets to take the center position. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Delafield, his hair whiter than ever, had entered the hall.

“Gentlemen, hold in place, wings forward to observe,” Rumble commanded.

Using the two cadets as anchor, the lines on either side moved forward until all could see the two men in the center.

Custer reached the far end of the hall and waited.

Rumble turned to the line of cadets and raked his gaze left and right.  He remembered Matamoros and the Mexican line, the steel glinting in the sunlight.  He shivered and focused, once more grateful Ben did not wear the cadet gray.  “Mister Custer, you may—“

A plebe came running into the riding hall, uniform collar unbuttoned, face flush with excitement.  “It’s war!  Fort Sumter has been fired upon!”

Discipline vanished as the remaining southern cadets broke into cheers.