John Sloper
35th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry
August, 1863
Loudoun County, Virginia

Portion of a 1911 Virginia map by Rand McNally.

"This ain't the way it's s'posed to be." John had been using a twig to brush his teeth. Now he tossed it into the fire.

"Yeah? How's it s'posed to be?" Snoots asked.

"We were supposed to be protecting our homes, our friends, our neighbors. Driving Yanks out of our county. Not nursing a bunch of malcontents. These draftees. Worse than useless, they're likely to get us killed next time we come across some Yanks."

"If any of'em stay that long." Snoots was referring to the conscripted men who had disappeared, deserted, since their arrival.

The sergeant had been walking past and stopped to say, "Let's not have any defeatist talk. We are going to win this war. Take heart, boys." He walked on.

John said to Snoots, after the sergeant was gone: "Guess we just have to fight harder, despite the 'help' the draft gets us."

"All we gotta do is kill all the Yanks ourselves. Then everything will be all right." Snoots snorted at the absurdity of the situation.

"Well, 'least we ain't off in some other county, just takin' orders from generals who send you hither and yon."

Snoots: "Yeah, and they never tell you nothin' about what they really have in mind. You been to see your folks?"

"Yeah, Frank let me take a day. No Yanks in Arcola. My folks're gettin' by."

"Any word about Dan?"

John still didn't want to talk about his brother. He changed the subject, and not very smoothly. "What about Pete Johnson?" Johnson had been captured by the Federals at Chester Gap as the 35th entered its home county. "Y'suppose he'll get paroled?"

Snoots had tried, but wasn't really expecting to learn what was going on between John and his brother. Snoots had had his own brother conflict. A year earlier, in the previous fight in Waterford, against the hated bluecoat turncoat Loudoun Rangers, Snoots had come close to killing his own brother. But what was going on between John and his? "It was a year ago, you kept me from killing my brother at Waterford Church."

John grunted but had nothing else to say. Snoots went on, "Ain't it funny. A year ago we had a fight in Waterford, then we had another one in the same place almost exactly a year later."

John grunted. He didn't seem to appreciate the irony or coincidence or whatever it was. Snoots went on, "And a year ago, I had a row with my brother, and now a year later..."

John jumped in, "How about those Yanks at Waterford this time?"

Snoots gave up. "Yeah, they were brave fighters, weren't they. The way they fought back even though we surprised'em."

Ed Wright interjected, "Surprised? Not hardly, when Lige's gun went off when he tripped!"

"Who were they, is it known?"

"6th Michigan."

The Michigan Brigade had gotten a reputation for its flamboyant leader's bold tactics. "Heh! I'll bet that rascal Custer was real pleased with'em!"

"Yeah, not putting out pickets, leavin' themselves wide open like that."

"A shame so many of'em got away."

Snoots sighed. "After they killed Dick and John Grubb."

John's turn to sigh. "They were both damned good men."

"How's Tom takin' it?"

"'Bout how you'd expect. There used to be ten Grubbs in the battalion, and now they're getting killed off."

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© 2019 Tom Sloper. All rights reserved. May not be re-published without written permission of the author.