Hope you enjoy my books... they all follow a ficticious family of Scarburgs through various adventures. The P.H.O.T.O. begins the series but each book can be read seperately.
Here is a recent review from Barnes & Nobles about THE P.H.O.T.O.:
"Great first book by
new author. Well dev-
eloped plot with act-
ion packed adventure.
A little more military
detail than I am fami-
liar with but the de-
tails give the reader a vivid picture of what is
happening. This is an up and coming author whose
craft continues to improve in his following novels.
He has an unusual style that is a breath of fresh air
from all the authors who use the same style in book
(P.S. from Larry: Honestly, I did not write this. I
really do not know who did, but would like to thank
them for the nice review.)
"THE P.H.O.T.O. - THE SEARCH" is a fast paced action packed adventure of a teenage boy time-traveling to unravel his g-grandfather's family secret, THE P.H.O.T.O. The reader sees war in the jungles of Southeast Asia through the eyes of a Medal of Honor recipient who, like his g-grandson, is also searching for the meaning of THE P.H.O.T.O. but he must engage not only this worlds's enemies but foes from another world also.
If you are interested in one of my books they can be read for free by going to the publisher www.smashwords.com. Just type LARRY HUNT in the search box and the three books 1)'THE P.H.O.T.O - The Search'; 2) 'THE P.H.O.T.O. - The Saga Continues' and 3) '21 December 2012 - The Calendar Beckons' will be made available for immediate download for you to read (and now 4) 'Justification for Killing').
Also, Barnes & Noble - just type LARRY HUNT in the search box and the books can be read for free.
Currently I am working on book number four which is titled "JUST FOR KILLING". It should be finished around Christmas 2011 (I was a little premature on this date... it is now June and the book IS finished, but I am still editing. Maybe Christmas 2012!! Update: August 2012, still editing!!
Still working on book number four which is now titled "JUSTIFICATION FOR KILLING". It should be finished around Christmas 2011. February update: this book is now finished and can be ordered at the websites mentioned above.
NOTE OF INTEREST: I recently began book number four (November 2013). I have about five chapters written already - the book is about the Scarburg's also, but two or three generation earlier - the name of the book is 'Spake Like A Dragon' and centers around the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War.
For a flavor of the books the following is the first few pages of book number one to give you a hint of my writing style:
'THE P.H.O.T.O - The Search'
POLEI KLENG, REPUBLIC OF SOUTH VIETNAM
1900 (7 pm) hrs Thursday 7 September 1967
“Sarge!! Sarge!! Yelled the Lieutenant (LT), "Incoming!!! Incoming!! Get the men under cover!!”
Master Sergeant (MSG) Robert Edward Scarburg, Sr., was the focus of the LT's excitable outburst. Scarburg a career soldier, a lifer as they say, with 26 years military service. A Special Forces trained medic with a 91B4S assigned specialty code. He had recently been released from the 75th Field Hospital at Pleiku, Vietnam, and assigned to this hellhole in the jungle with the unpronounceable name - Polei Kleng (nicknamed Pole Cat). Pole Cat was a Ranger camp close to the Cambodia/Laos border. The Americans occupied Pole Cat in the early ‘60s under U.S. Command and Control Central, as part of the II Corp area under MacVee (MACV, ‘Military Assistance Command, Vietnam). Now the Viet Cong (VC) had decided they wanted Polei Kleng. The Americans didn’t want to give it to them
“Roger that LT!! INCOMING!!” (Artillery shells) Sergeant Scarburg yelled in his strong authoritative military voice. A voice that always demanded immediate attention.
“Get you’re asses in them ‘fraid holes NOW!!
As his last words echoed across the compound, he dived, head first, over a stack of sand bags into a hole that he was about to share with three inches of muddy, murky, who knows what was in there, water. At least most of his vital parts were now below ground as the first mortar shells began exploding. Erupting into an ear-splitting blast throwing a hell of a lot of rocks, dirt and shrapnel in every direction. A hint of sulfur hung heavy in the hot muggy night air.
The odor of gunpowder was nothing new to Sergeant Scarburg – he had encountered it many times before. Different times, different places, different wars but the stench was never different. Gunpowder, blood and death mixed together always elicit that nauseous effect on the nose. It is the same regardless of what country you happen to have the misfortune to be in, and regardless of what nationality deliverers it.
Grabbing his green beret and pulling it close to his head seemed to give him the misplaced assurance this piece of thin wool cloth offered some kind of protection from the screaming rocket and mortar shells that were falling all around him. Holding his beret tightly he mumbled to himself, between prayers, “why the hell, sorry God I meant ‘heck’, do I keep doing this? How many times do I find myself lying in a hole in some god-awful place with mortar and rocket debris falling all over me? At least this time it’s ON me and not IN me. And why, someone please tell me - why do these friggin’ holes always include this stinking muddy water? Can’t I ever pick a dry one”?
The detonations shook the ground next to him. He’d seen and survived much much worse, but at this very moment, he couldn’t exactly remember when. Sarge didn’t think the Viet Cong were using the big 120 mm (millimeter) Russian jobs, this sounded and felt similar to its little brother the 81/82 mm mortars; however, he knew if either of them centered you in their crosshairs you was fixin’ to have a bad friggin’ day.
As soon as the shelling slowed up a bit Sergeant Scarburg pulled his head from the slimy mud and dank water. Staring him directly in his face - the letters FTA (F**k The Army) and a peace symbol - both hand drawn on a sand bag with a black felt-tip marker.
A momentary thought popped into his head – ‘I wish the s.o.b. who wrote those had a "peace" of 'Charlie's' (Viet Cong - Victor Charlie) last mortar shell stuck up their ass.’
It was only a fleeting reactionary thought - he certainly didn't mean it.Sarge thought all these young troopers were just a bunch of whooshes anyway, but with all his gruff and growl he still wanted to see them get back home to their mothers, wives and girlfriends alive. Not in one of the Army's damn rubber body bags.
He hated those black rubber zip-up ghoulish things. They looked like someone had cut up a bunch of automobile inner tubes, glued them together and sewed two rubber handles on each side. He hated the sight of them! He hated their smell! Oh! How especially, he loathed their rubber powdery essence.Sarge thought, 'It is one of those scents you want to forget but know you never will.'
* * * * *
The shelling, though not as intense as before, continued. Scarburg, through all the commotion, did not realize he had been sharing his foxhole with a young smooth-faced Specialist 4th Class (Spec 4) Ranger tabbed paratrooper “grunt”.
His nametag read DAVIS, but the DAVIS was barely legible above his right jungle fatigue shirt pocket.
Its black, mud smeared, letters could hardly be identified on the cloth’s muddy white background. The gold color of the black lettered U.S. ARMY label over his left pocket was almost obliterated underneath all that dank mud of the ‘Nam.
Davis shakily managed to gain his composure and pulling himself up onto his muddy, sloshing wet jungle boots muttered to MSG Scarburg, “Sir, thanks for letting me share your hole with you.
”“Don’t call me Sir son, I work for a living, now get the hell out of my hole and secure your position.” As he carefully eyeballed the young soldier, Sarge thought, ‘Hell, these kids they are sending us now are nothing but cannon fodder!!
’“Yes Sir… I mean… yes Sergeant,” Spec 4 Davis frighteningly yelled as he jumped out of the muddy hole. Scampering side-to-side Davis dodging the mortar shells still being lobbed into the compound, remembered the old saying, ‘Never, I mean never jump in a foxhole with anyone braver than you are!’
After watching Davis disappear into the smoke and haze Sarge shifted his eyes down into his and the young trooper’s recent refuge of safety and there propped against the side of the foxhole stood the soldier’s M-16 rifle. ‘When in the hell will they ever learn? He’s goin’ to get his ass shot off!’ thought Sarge.
Sarge grabbed his M-5 medics aid-bag and started running toward the Commo (communications) bunker. At first glance it appeared to have taken the brunt of the rocket and mortar barrage. Blue and black smoke was pouring from every opening.
He grabbed the first ARVN (Army of the Republic of Viet Nam) trooper he met - “How bad”? Sarge asked. “Boo coo (many) hurt and wounded bac si!” the soldier replied as he continued running toward the break in the concertina wire (razor wire) which surrounded the compound.
‘I never thought the VC would have gotten this far inside the wire’, Sarge pondered to himself, thinking of defensive remedies that had to be implemented immediately.
It was ingrained in him: Special Forces first, medic second.
He was “Sarge” or simply “Doc” to his Special Forces buddies… some of the ARVN used the same titles but most called him Bac Si, which closely translated to “Doc” or “Medic.” His
really, really close buds simply call him Big “S”. “Big ‘S’? “Big ‘S’? At first blush you would think this is an easy play on his name “Robert Scarburg, Sr”, right…. you would be dead wrong!! Nothing
could be farther from the truth. Only his “closest” (and he decides who the closest are) friends use the name Big 'S'. Most people’s nicknames are given to them for some rhyme or reason, this one is
no different…. but there is a story behind this moniker, a really… really... interesting story… more later...
BATTLE OF POLEI KLENG CONTINUES
Thursday 7 September 1967 Republic of Vietnam
When the LT yelled, Sergeant Scarburg was in the middle of a live or death firefight with the NVA at the jungle surrounded U.S. Army Ranger base called Polei Kleng or Pole Cat, west of the Province of Kontum.
That piece of worthless Vietnam real estate was his duty assignment stated in the official U.S. Army Orders contained in the manila envelope given to him upon his release from the 75th Field Hospital at Pleiku, South Vietnam – he had been ordered to Polei Kleng and was to assemble, train and prepare team ODA-113 to execute OPS-35 plan ‘Photo Search’
He was glad to be back with his “guys” but he missed his nurse Chief Nurse Major Margaret O’Sullivan at the 75th, maybe someday he’ll get back to Pleiku and drop in on ‘Sully’. No… no… she was a short-timer, she has probable hit her DEROS (Date Expected Return from Overseas), meaning she was probable stateside and not in country any longer. ‘Oh well’, thought Sarge, ‘she was a good trooper!’
* * * * *
No time to reminisce over the past - no time to lie in a hospital bed - he was back in the real war.
He heard the moans and groans of the wounded and dying. Hollering orders to no one in particular Sarge said, “Get those poles back under that aid tent canvas. Set it back up, grab cots from those hootches, get blankets, get another squad with the fifty (.50 caliber machine gun) over on the right flank, get more ammo up to the perimeter!!” Right now he had double duty. The company’s first shirt (First Sergeant) was wounded and out of action and Sarge the next ranking NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) in the Special Forces camp and the only medic - had to rapidly respond to both responsibilities at once. He entered, what had once been the Commo bunker. It was almost impossible to tell the wounded from the few that were unscathed. The bunker had taken a direct hit. Blood, body parts and that awful death's smell were everywhere and everyone seemed to be shouting, “Doc...!” “Doc...!” “Over here…!” “Help me please!” “Medic!” “Medic!” “Oh God I don’t want to die!”
Soldiers with severed arms or legs barely attached with mere scraps of bone and tendons lay bloody and dying everywhere. Gapping, sucking chest wounds or severe head injuries greeted him as he looked to the others that were still alive.
Sarge thought, ‘Calm down…work on the ones that can be saved….save all those you can!’
“Hey!” Sarge screamed, “someone get on the horn (telephone) and get HQ (Headquarters)… tell them we need at least two... no three Med-Evacs (Medical Evacuation helicopters) out here ASAP (As Soon As Possible)!! Tell’em we need more medics too!” One of the walking-wounded radio operators found a working phone and radioed in Sarge’s request. In the meantime the aid tent had been put back upon its support poles; wounded bloody bodies were filling the cots as fast as they were being set up in and around the tent.
Sarge, exhausted, wouldn’t stop but he felt he had helped all the wounded he could as the only medic. His mind keep telling him to keep going but his body was about to quit on him. As he was about to collapse he heard that familiar, “Whomp… whomp… whomp” sound of a Huey med-evac helicopter arriving. As fast as one ‘copter landed the medics jumped off, the wounded speedily replaced them and the med-evac, blowing dirt and debris everywhere, lifted back into the air.
The sun long since had dropped from the sky when Sarge finished sewing up, bandaging and body bagging the last of the dead and wounded. He walked out of the aid tent and sucked in a lung full of the night’s moist humid air. The smell of gunpowder was still floating on a slight breeze, but, ‘God Almighty,’ thought Sarge, ‘can’t I ever get to a place where the damn odor of gunpowder, blood and guts don’t ruin the rottin’ jungle’s stinkin’ aroma of the night air?
’With this lament, he shucked his pack of Winstons® from the lower leg grenade pocket of his jungle fatigues, shook a cigarette out, flipped open the top of his trusty ol’ Zippo® with its ‘De Oppressor Liber’ (to free the oppressed) Special Forces insignia on its side and touched its hot flame to the unfiltered end and fired up. Looking at the insignia before snapping the lid shut on the lighter he turned and gazed out across the mangled compound of death and destruction and wondered, ‘who in the hell are the oppressed we’re supposed to be freeing?’
He breathed in deeply, let all the air out then inhaled the longest drag on his cancer stick his lungs could hold. Holding the smoke in as long as possible to get the full effect of the nicotine he slowly exhaled, watching the faint blue smoke drift slowly out into the warm, wet, smoke-filled darkness. He figured he might, at least, cover up the nauseous smell of death with the pungent cigarette scent – and for the moment allowing his mind to fog up, to dim his memory and help ease the pain of this horrific, seemingly never ending bloody night.
The time was 0415 hrs (4:15 am). Sarge had been at it for over nine hours. He was exhausted. Sleep, he needed sleep - the sun was less than two hours from turning this dark bleak night into light again so sleep even if just for a couple of hours would be wonderful.
Walking across the compound, stepping over pieces of spent shrapnel, making his way around artillery shell holes and avoiding smoking pieces of canvas and wood to get to his hooch; he had to get to his JD (Jack Daniel’s Whiskey®).
"No...! Damn it, no...!" Sarge said out loud. Sitting directly in front of his green canvas tent was a burning hulk of a M151 U.S. Army Jeep. Through the smoke and fire of the jeep he could still see the fire consuming the mounted 106 mm recoilless rifle.
"God No! Not my hootch! I've got to have me some JD!" He approached the burning jeep and cautiously walking around it, discovered luck was with him. His hooch was perfectly intact.
In a destroyed hootch several meters away a battery-powered radio could still be heard playing a country drinking song on Armed Forces Vietnam radio. The lyrics fell heavy on Sarge’s heart as he approached the entrance to his ‘house’. The cowboy singer was strumming and wailing a mournful tune about dying if he didn’t get some corn whiskey - Sarge knew exactly what he meant.
One verse mentions a tree falling on the singer but Sarge was in no danger of having a tree fall on him, not one was left standing after the recent heavy barrage, but he needed that drink - a big drink - NO he needed the whole bottle - whiskey and more whiskey. Entering his hootch he could barely hear the last refrain, “Corn whiskey, corn whiskey, corn whiskey I cry.” He figured a lot of Tennessee’s finest was the only mechanism he had readily available to ease, even for a little while, the memory of that last thing he observed as he zipped up the final black body bag with that powdery rubber smell.
If he lives to be a hundred years old the vision of this last patient he couldn’t save will always be imprinted upon his subconscious – “Damn that rubber smell!!” he yelled out loud. “The hell with it all!” he yelled out loud again while taking another drag on his cigarette and kicking a one-five-five (155 mm) shell casing so hard he hopped around on one foot thinking he might have broken a toe.
The last image he witnessed zipping up the body bag on that long dreadful night, were those black blood smeared letters barely legible above the right fatigue pocket. The nametag was a trooper he knew but for a few brief minutes but his name would be imprinted on Sarge’s mind forever: DAVIS
"THE P.H.O.T.O - The SAGA CONTINUES" takes place after the discovery of THE P.H.O.T.O. Sergeant Robert (Big 'S') Scarburg Sr. and his son Captain Robert (Little 'S') Scarburg Jr., both from the 5th Special Forces, must escape with their valuable find. Where do they go from deep within the jungle of Cambodia. How do they avoid the Russians, the aliens and their own countrymen who all desire to have the secrets of THE P.H.O.T.O for themselves.
The following is a few lines from Larry's "THE PHOTO - THE SAGA CONTINUES"
To set the scene Master Sergeant Scarburg and his Special Forces A-Team have found the 'secret' of 'THE PHOTO' and are hoping to be rescued from the jungles of Cambodia; however, the 'rescue' comes in the form of a Russian fighter plane sent by their Russian colonel nemesis:
Sarge yelled, “Cover, find cover, now!!!!”
The plane was not a passenger floatplane it was a single engine, aluminum skinned Russian military fighter plane. As the plane streaked by, tree level height, above the smoking fire, Sarge could clearly see a large 5-pointed red star painted just under and to the rear of the lone pilot’s cockpit. A large number ‘21’ painted in black was between the star and the blue and red striped tail assembly and the engine nose cap was a bright red. ‘Nope,’ thought Sarge, ‘that definitely ain’t no float plane!’
As the plane roared out of sight Little ‘S’ yelled to Sarge, “Where the hell do you suggest we find cover? There's nothing left to hide behind. What about the boat?”
“Good question," Sarge replied.
He recognized this aircraft was a Russian LA-9, nicknamed the ‘Fritz’, and he was also aware it sported 4, that’s spelled F-O-U-R, 23mm cannons!!
‘Cover...! Cover…! There ain’t no place to find cover from those four sinister death-administering monsters!’ he realized. Those cannons fired small fragmentation hand grenade type shells almost an inch in diameter and 2 of those guns on each wing could shoot a bunch of those metal death dealers real quick.
Their ‘yacht’ was no hiding place – those cannon shells would cut through the ‘Minnow’ like a hot knife through butter.
‘Hide...? Hide...? Where in the hell CAN we hide?’ he said to himself. ‘We will have to be in a hole to hide from those cannons!’ Then a thought hit him – hole – the well!
After the explosion at the well that killed Teach and the Scout there was a considerable hole left where that tremendous ground-shaking explosion vaporized the two of them.
It was still right where it had always been, in the courtyard. Sarge could hear the ‘Fritz’ making its large looping turn off to the northeast getting ready to begin its southwestern course to position its cross hairs on their little party huddled on the riverbank. This time the river wasn’t an option, it was totally exposed to the Russian as he began his northeast to southwest attack run.
* * * * *
Sarge yelled, “No, not the boat – go jump into the well!”
Spook yelled to Little ‘S’, “What did Sarge tell us to do... ? Go to hell?”
“No,” said ‘Tinker, “Not go to hell... go to the WELL!!”
Everyone, except Spook knew immediately what Sarge meant – go jump into the hole where the well used to be – cover, they needed cover and they needed it before that screaming banshee came over the treetops again.
As Tinker, Little ‘S’ and Sarge did their best imitation of a ‘cannonball’ into that foul smelling hole they fully realized that body parts of poor ol’ Teach and the Scout were scattered through out the dirt; however, eagerly and without hesitation they buried their faces and bodies into the side of their protective enclosure and not a second too soon.
Spook strangely just stood on the edge of the pit, paralyzed, watching the winged deliverer of death approach from across the river heading headlong toward their earthen hiding place. The bloodcurdling roar of the flying beast was approaching at a hair-raising rate.
Big ‘S’ yelled, Spook! You s.o.b. - get you’re ass in this hole, NOW!!”
Spook stood hypnotized, frozen, and unable to move.
The LA-9 began unleashing its wing mounted murderous 23 mm cannon fire. Starting at the river’s edge the shells began walking their way across the courtyard rapidly approaching the fully exposed Spook, standing like he was invincible to the death-dealing pieces of explosive lead marching directly toward him.
Sarge had no time to holler a second time, he jumped from his place of safety and seized Spook as he were a rag-doll and literally threw him into the well with Tinker and Little 'S'; however, as he performed this heroic deed a piece of hot shrapnel went tearing into his left shoulder.
“Hell,” Sarge screamed falling into the hole, “I’ve been hit!!
That s.o.b. shot me with a hot poker.” The hard piece of steel, glowing red hot from its recent discharge, sunk deep into Sarge’s shoulder muscle causing him intense excruciating pain. Sarge fell face down, unconscious, into the rank dirt with his feet inclined up the northeast slope, blood and sweat ran like a stream into his eyes, nose and mouth. He had to be turned over immediately or drown in his own blood! Tinker and Little ‘S’, realizing Big ‘S’ was shot pulled themselves away from their protective dirt wall, jerked his ruck’ off and flipped him over. At first they thought he suffered a head wound – blood was gushing everywhere, but quickly they saw the blood was pouring from a gaping hole in his shoulder.
“Sarge! Sarge! I’m sorry… so sorry… I don’t know what came over me… I froze… I couldn’t move… I’m sorry,” whimpered Spook.
Tinker before deciding to become a scientist had worked part-time in a local free medical clinic. She knew exactly what to do – she tore a sleeve from her white coveralls and using her thumb and forefinger dug the still hot piece of metal from the hole in the shoulder of Big ‘S’ then used that sleeve as a compress to stop the bleeding. Tearing off the other sleeve she tied it around his shoulder to maintain pressure on the wound to minimize his blood loss. While Tinker was attending to Sarge’s injury he regained consciousness and Fritz's cannon shell explosions continued to rain dirt, rocks, body parts and debris down on them but Teach and the Scout’s grave mercifully saved them… this time… but it was not over…
As ‘Fritz’ made his pass from the northeast heading toward the southwest-pulling Sarge to cover they all hugged the northeast side of the well crater. Now they could hear the ominous fiend off in the southwest sky banking his plane sharply to turn once again to make another deadly pass to totally annihilate them. After scrambling from the northeast side to the southwest side they once again buried themselves into the crater wall’s cool but odorous blood soaked soil.
‘Fritz’, this time, was taking a different approach – he made his turn but continued to climb higher, higher and still higher. They could hear the powerful 14 cylinder radial engine begin to moan as its rate of assent steepened then suddenly the moan turned to a roar then to a screaming howl as the LA-9 Russian fighter turned from its steep upward climb and began its headlong plunge back toward the earth and its human prey in the hole. They were cornered… cornered in their smoking, stinky, foul hole like rats, with nowhere to run. Death, for what was left of Sarge’s team, seemed only seconds away.
Faster and faster the four tons of deadly metal hurled earthward – beginning at such a great height, when it rolled over and began its dive, allowed for such a tremendous gain in speed that the pilot was totally caught by surprise.
He pulled once on the trigger of the cannons and they fired a brief burst of shells but suddenly stopped – this was at the exact moment the Russian pilot realized he was in deep do-do (Russian for shit).
He knew that his nose-down descent had increased his aircraft to such an extraordinary air speed it was impossible to pull out of his diving attack.
Sarge, lying on his back in the bottom of Teach’s grave stared skyward. Watching the ‘Fritz’ plunge towards him he did not envision the young Russian pilot’s hands struggling with his controls - pulling back on the yoke with all his might-his body pressed hard into his seat by centrifugal force-sweating and swearing at the same time, but to no avail – the pilot could not do the impossible – he sat pushed back into his seat by that unseen forceful hand as he stared with horror the ground racing faster and faster up to meet his soon to be coffin.
If he were a God-fearing man maybe he was uttering a quick final prayer as he crashed headlong into the ground at close to 900 mph. The aircraft erupting into a huge fiery mushroom cloud of blue/black smoke causing debris to rain down in all directions.
Slowly and deliberately all the mud covered, ghost-like specters arose from their grave-like hiding place and looked toward the wreckage. Now, finally, they were fully aware that the danger was over and they were safe. Little ‘S’ said out loud what the others had been praying and thinking, “Thank you God!!”
They could not get too close to the burning wreckage of the once million dollar monster, the fire was too intense; however, a portion of the pilots flight helmet was still visible through the remains of the cockpit. The pilot’s goggles were up on his helmet and his open, lifeless blue eyes seemed to be staring directly into Sarge’s soul.
Tears began to form in the corner his begrimed eyes as Sarge weakly stood gazing at the funeral pyre. He knew too well some Russian mother, at that very moment perhaps, was praying too but for the safe return of her young son. Her son who now lay dead in the burning wreckage; she would never again see his beautiful deep blue eyes or the glistening blond wavy hair she loved so much. Worse of all she wouldn’t even know the final resting place of her beloved son
Sarge looked back toward the river and yelled at the top of his lungs, “You s.o.b., you can’t even do the job yourself... ! You have to send this kid… this beautiful young lad with his wonderful life all before him, to die this day for you, huh? You’re a coward Colonel Nikita Ergorov; you’re a damn coward!!! If you were here right now I’d choke you to death with my one good arm.”.
"21 DECEMBER 2012 - THE CALENDAR BECKONS" The Scarburg family continues their adventures that began in the original exploits of The P.H.O.T.O - The Search and the follow-on The P.H.O.T.O. - The Saga Continues. Now they must use information gleaned to unravel the mystery of the date - 21 December 2012 and its effect on mankind.
In the continuing escapades of the Scarburg family you can read the beginning of "21 December - The Calendar Beckons":
Mayday...! Mayday...!” yelled Captain Knight into his headset microphone. “Mayday! Continental flight 1425 one-hour thirty out of Mexico City.
Mayday...! Mayday...! We have just experienced a large on-board explosion.
”Captain Hugo Knight, Jr., better known as ‘Huey’, a tall man, a couple inches over six feet, lean and muscular and weighing, as the English say, 13 stones (182 lbs).
Mary, his wife of all these years had resigned herself to feeding him until she, as she would say ‘put some meat on his skinny bones’. But alas her efforts haven’t worked. She had at least moved him from his old middleweight fighting class up to light heavyweight; however, Captain Knight, by his nature, couldn’t remain inactive and his metabolism was stuck on ‘high’- she had about given up on the heavyweight class.
His grey hair was almost gone and its number farther reduced by his daily head shave. Leaving his ‘noggin’ resembling a billiard ball. “Chrome Dome” as some of the crew affectionately referred to him. When he wasn't around, naturally. He was a southern boy, born and bred and educated at the United States Air Force Academy. Well known to be one of our countries finest military institutes of higher learning.
He may have the credentials of an educated military man - and he was - but he never could quite shake the Alabama dialect - nor did he want to. His heart and soul were still in ‘The Heart of Dixie’.
His physical appearance aside no better pilot could have been at the airliner’s controls this fateful day.
This particular excursion was to be Captain Knight’s very last flight - culminating upon his round trip return to his home base in the U.S.
He reasoned with all his years flying - first with the Air Force then the Air Force Reserves and later called back to active duty. After his active duty stint he continued his military service in the Reserves and all these years when not in a blue Air Force uniform he wore the uniform of a couple of civilian airlines. Now Mary said it was the time for him to hang up his parachute. Called back to active duty he flew the ‘Warthog’, or A-10 Thunderbolt also known as the ‘flying gun’ or ‘tankbuster’, while supporting ground operations in Operation Desert Storm back in ’91. Bammer, his military call sign, was shot down by a SAM- SA9 (Surface to Air Missile) in February of that year, ejected and captured. Remained a POW (Prisoner of War) by the Iraqi’s until rescued by a team of U.S. Special Forces sent in to extract him. After his military career he logged the remainder of his years with Continental Airlines©. Those years had passed by swiftly. Most of this time he and Mary had spent more time apart than together. Now in their golden years, they both reasoned they might have some time just for themselves.
Little did he know this ‘swan song flight’ was truly going to be his ‘very’ last flight.'The best laid plans of mice and men…' hummm....
* * * * * *
Captain Knight, yelling at his co-pilot James Harold Doolittle IV above the deafening roar of the air screaming past the hole in the fuselage,
“Jim, I’ve got’er. Get back there and give me a quick assessment of the situation.”Jim, the young 29-year-old co-pilot was following in the footsteps of his famous Great-Grandfather General James Harold “Jimmy” Doolittle, hoping some of his forefather’s luster would rub off on him.
General (then Lt. Colonel) Doolittle led the famous Doolittle Bombing Raid of sixteen B-25B Mitchell bombers on Tokyo in April 1942 during World War II. All 16 planes were lost along with the lives of eleven crewmen. Lt. Colonel Doolittle was later awarded the Medal of Honor for that heroic mission.
The modern day Jimmy Doolittle IV could envision personal accolades that might approach those of his famous relative. And as a bonus, Doolittle senior lived to the ripe old age of 97. Jimmy thought, ‘I’ve got those 97 year old genes too.
’Jim Junior might be a good flier, maybe even as good as his great-grandfather, but he must get extremely lucky if he lived to see his 30th birthday, much less his 97th.
Speaking of famous forefathers Captain Hugo Knight, Jr’s father Hugo Sr was a military hero also. He was killed in action in Southeast Asia in 1967. For his acts of heroism he was awarded, among other medals, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Silver Star and posthumously the Purple Heart. He was recommended for the Medal of Honor but the recommendation was denied due to the lack of the required personal confirmation of his heroic actions by a U.S. military commissioned officer.
At the moment Captain Knight had no knowledge that he had a forty + year-old connection to some of the SCAR passengers currently on his flight to Mexico. Strange, yes, but that’s not his only connection. What! Who else could be on the plane? Maybe they weren’t on the plane but Captain Knight’s life had somehow intertwined with theirs? Were they connected to SCAR? Seems likely!
After fumbling to un-buckle his seat belt Jim leaped to his feet, extended his hand and grabbed the cold handle of the cockpit door – almost afraid to turn the steel latch that he had done so many times before. Instinctively he envisioned that he did not want to see what was on the other side of the hard metal structure separating the passenger section from the safety of his cockpit, but as First Officer he must put fear aside, duty came first.
Swinging the steel cockpit door open he was unprepared for the macabre scene confronting him – from the open door he should have been able to see a lavatory on his right (the port side of the plane), next would be the huge entrance/exit door, then a storage closet for passenger carry-on, followed by Row 1 through 4 of the 1st Class section.
Behind Row 4 another lavatory and the economy class of seats began at Row 9. The lavatory occupied what should have been Row 5, 6, 7 and 8. At least that was the appearance of
the cabin layout the last time James Doolittle closed the cockpit door and settled into his right hand co-pilot’s seat when the flight first originated. Now all he could see from Row 3 to Row 9
was a gigantic gapping hole with a panoramic view of huge fluffy cumulus clouds floating gently above the wide blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico miles below… the entire bulkhead wall was gone…
along with seats 4A and B, the lavatory and seats 9A, B, C, 10A, B and C. The plane was so filled with smoke and flying debris he could see no farther into the passenger section. Further hampering
his line of sight were the dozens of yellow oxygen masks that that had fallen from their emergency perches to enable the passengers to obtain a fresh breath of air. At the moment hysteria ruled the
day - no one thought about the masks.The noise in the cabin was deafening. The roaring sound was so loud Jim ‘could not hear himself think’. The ear-splitting noise was literally painful to his ears.
At least the howling wind rushing past the exposed hole blanketed the terrified screams of the panicked passengers. At first the co-pilot pondered whether the plane might actually break in two.
‘There isn’t much metal holding this ol’ ‘Queen of the Skies’ together’, he thought. Without taking another step the first-officer turned instantly to relay the horrific news to Captain Knight.The
air traffic controller at the International Airport in Mexico City responded, “Continental 1425 are you declaring an emergency?”“Hell...Mexico City what do you think Mayday...Mayday...means? Would
you say loosing half of my airplane in an explosion is an emergency? Damn right we’re declaring an emergency. I don’t know if I can keep her in the air long enough to reach your destination.” Captain
Knight said trying not to further bad-mouth the imbecilic Mexican air-traffic controller at the other end of the radio transmission.“It’s bad, real bad!” Jim yelled, with both hands cupped around
both sides of his mouth, as loud as he could to get the Captain to hear him.Back in the cabin Dr. Buddy Scarburg was struggling to get back upon his feet, which was being tremendously hampered by a
constant barrage of paper, books, luggage, and a menagerie of personal effects flying from the cabin interior out into the nothingness of the tranquil sky over the huge Gulf waters.Checking around he
saw a couple of other passengers and one flight attendant. They had all been caught directly in the path of the blast. They were shaken up, cut, burned and bloody but none of them appeared to have
been killed. His immediate attention was drawn to his older brother Forrest lying in a pool of blood on the cabin floor - motionless and barely breathing. Hot sticky blood was gushing from a
large mangled hole in his chest. In addition to Forrest’s critical situation Bud noticed two persons were missing - the mysterious thief with his metal briefcase and the cute blonde flight
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APPROXIMATELY THIRTEEN HOURS EARLIERThe rising sun was beginning to sneak a peek above the emerald green of the Atlantic far off toward the eastern horizon of the good ol’ US of A. The early morning beams of sunshine cast a glimmer of light on the big wide-body Boeing 757 Queen of the Skies whose captain was pushing the throttles forward to “FULL” for take-off.The two nose wheels and eight giant rubber Goodyear® tires hummed against the cool black tarmac until sufficient speed was attained to deify gravity and leave the safety of the ground. The dream of the Wright brothers was again being realized by this behemoth of metal, plastic and rubber - flight.United Airline’s© huge white and blue Flight 1085 began its journey lumbering down the runway of the old Washington International airport now the DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington National) – headed south to ATL (Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta, GA). For most passengers boarding 1085 in D.C. their final destination was to be Mexico City.The big jumbo jet, the first wide-body ever produced, rolled off the assembly line back in '69. It was expected to remain in service for only a few years, but was so reliable she still remained on duty and performed admirably. At least all on board this early morning flight said a silent prayer hoping this remained true.In all the years the Boeing© 757 has been flying the friendly skies of the world she had achieved a remarkably good safety record; now it’s giant high by-pass turbofan engine’s were changing from a high shrilled whine and beginning to take on a labored moan as the captain pulled back on the yoke increasing the nose into a steeper and steeper ascent. The giant was attempted to gain altitude and airspeed hoping to allow the Queen of the Skies to retain its good safety record.All the white knuckled passengers on their first flight were digging into the armrests with their fingernails and slightly lifting their feet in an unconscious attempt to help the pilot get this huge metal machine off the ground and into the cool morning air. The time: 6:10 am, Eastern Standard Time. Final destination: Mexico City via a pretty long wait for a connecting flight from Atlanta, GA.
* * * * * *
Before continuing their journey to the stifling heat of Mexico they had a long layover and a carrier transfer to another 757-200 - Continental© flight 1425 in Atlanta, GA. Total direct flying time 3 hours 30 minutes from Washington to Mexico City; however, the layover in Atlanta was practically all day. Their arrival in Mexico City would not be until early in the evening. In Atlanta, Continental’s home base, a new pilot Captain Hugo Knight, Jr. and co-pilot First Officer James H. Doolittle would take over the controls for the final leg to Mexico. Both were well rested and eager to began.From Mexico City the SCAR’s next portion of the trip would be by bus, to Tonina, a Mayan ruin just outside of Ocosingo, a couple of hours’ drive from San Cristóbal in the State of Chiapas, Mexico.Unfortunately Tonina wasn’t the end of the line – from there they had to arrange transportation to travel another 20 + miles to a farmer’s remote farm.The six passengers in Economy seated together in Row 9 seats A, B and C and Row 10 seats A, B and C were all members of S.C.A.R. (Studies Concerning Antiquated Records). SCAR is a Washington, DC research facility/think tank specializing in verifying, validating and “interpreting” ancient documents, records, carvings and anything printed or written.Today’s odyssey was to take the SCAR team to a remote farming community outside the small town of Tonina where it had been reported a farmer had unearthed a tall rectangular object with inscriptions, known to be ancient Mayan. At first researchers at SCAR thought it could just be another ancient Mayan column calendar.One other Mayan Long Count calendar column had been found in Quirigua, Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, in 1929. However, pictures obtained of the recent object verified it was indeed a Long Count calendar but it contained some very interesting features never before observed on Mayan glyphs (Mayan pictorial writings).
* * * ~~~ * * *
The Scarburgs are at it again... this time JFK ssurvived the assassination on his life, but the world is a much worse place for it. Now the SCAR team must return to Dallas and insure President Kennedy is actually killed, this time and Earth is put on a Parell Universe that is much better tht the Parellel Universe which evolved with the President living.
FLIGHT TO BANGKOK
American Airlines Flight 6073’s path of flight was directly over the North Pole heading toward the setting sun. Its blinding rays were directly in the pilot’s eyes - even the polarized sunglasses did not offer much protection. “How long before we make a course correction and turn south over Russia? I’ll be glad to get this blinding sun out of my eyes,” complained Captain Haskell Hunter, a veteran pilot of over twenty-eight years.The young co-pilot, Donald Walker, sitting in the right seat, turned to the old flier and remarked, “Captain, we have more to worry about than the sun in our eyes, just received an urgent weather alert - there is a large, weather system moving across Russia. It will move directly across our route as we fly south, and by the reports I’m getting, it’s a mean one! Oh! To answer your question Captain - course correction in twelve minutes, twenty seconds.”“Can we go around the storm?”“Afraid not Captain. I’ve just checked the International Flight Route Agreement. We are only allowed a deviation of fifty miles from our scheduled flight plan. This monster of a storm will swallow fifty miles and spit it back at us. What about going over?” “Negative, cloud tops are above six oh thousand (60,000) feet. We cannot get above four three thousand (43,000) safely as you know Donald.”“Yeah, right Captain, just thinking out loud trying to convince myself my numbers might be wrong. I guess we will just batten down the hatches, and fly through the beast the best we can.”It had been an hour or so since the Captain had announced their entrance into the Russian airspace on their way to the People’s Republic of China. All the passengers in First Class, Business and Economy, were settled back watching movies, reading, snacking or sleeping. Their world was warm, peaceful and quiet - up front in the cockpit a totally different scenario was beginning to play out.
Around 8:00 P.M. the storm had totally blanketed the Chek Lap Chuk airport in Hong Kong. A growing backlog of planes circling above waiting to land had continued to increase. A couple of planes, both from Cathay Pacific also, had made requests for emergency landings, as they began to run dangerously low on fuel. A number of other aircraft from different carriers were being diverted from Hong Kong to airports on the Chinese mainland and to the island of Taiwan, northeast of Hong Kong.At that moment in the skies above Russia the same beast of a blizzard was taking a tremendous toil on the “Triple Seven” as the Boeing 777 Flight 6073 was called. It was being tossed from side to side like a rag doll. One moment the plane was flying level, the next it was yawing at a forty or forty-five degree angle. The passengers were hysterical. Someone yelled, “We are going to die!” Another and another could be heard praying out loud... “Our Father, Which Art in Heaven...” A couple more had their rosary beads in their hands. As soon as the Captain could gain control and steady the aircraft another blast of turbulence would cause the plane to drop hundreds of feet. The aircraft then caught an updraft and just as swiftly ascended a couple of hundred feet. The passengers were scared; they weren’t the only ones. Captain Hunter and Co-pilot Walker were sweating bullets too.Without warning, if the turbulence, thunder, lightning and snow weren’t enough, the computerized female voice of the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) cockpit alarm began blaring out an emergency ‘Traffic Advisory’: “Warning! Warning! Execute evasive maneuver immediately! Warning! Warning!” Sam Lin and Si Lei’s Cathay Pacific’s Fight 6073 was on a direct head-on collision course with an Airbus A330 in-route from Hong Kong to New York.Captain Hunter immediately switched on his landing lights, hoping the on-rushing pilot would be able to see his Boeing 777. Both Captain Hunter and Mr. Walker peered intently through the snow-covered, windshield searching for the source of the TCAS warning. The co-pilot scanned the radar screen. “There he is! There... there...” pointing with his finger at the display as though that would enable Captain Hunter to see the on rushing plane. Captain Hunter was scared; he brow was wet, and a bead of sweat had formed at the tip of his nose. Yes, he was scared, not so much for his own safety, but he had three hundred and fifty three soles on his Boeing’s manifest and there were, at least, another three hundred plus on the Airbus. Combined, the count was over six hundred fifty passengers and crew, hurling toward each other on a deadly collision course in the skies over Russia. No one had ever survived a crash between two jumbo jets at their altitude, and at their speed. He knew the result was going to be an instant, painful death to all the passengers and crew on both planes. The planes were now less than five miles from each other, and the distance between them was closing, and closing fast. The distance between the two blips on the radar screen was getting closer and closer to each other as well.For some unknown reason, the oncoming Airbus’s TCAS alarm was not working properly, or there was something terribly wrong with its crew. Possibly they had taken a direct lightening strike. The reason was unimportant at this very moment. What was important – a head on collision was imminent. Both airliners, the American Airline Flight 6073 and the Airbus, feature electronic or digital instrument displays known in the industry as ‘glass-cockpits’. These cockpits take the form of large LCD screens, not the old style dials and gauges. The earlier traditional cockpits relied on mechanical gauges for information. No such gauges on these modern cockpits, they look more like something from a video game. Flight information is displayed as needed; however, Captain Hunter knew over fifty blackout incidents had occurred in the Airbus with glass-cockpits since the Airbus fleet came on line. A serious glass-cockpit blackout can cause the loss of half of a plane’s Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitor (ECAM) system. The ECAM monitors the aircrafts functions and relays them to the pilot, it will also display failure messages. In certain cases, the pilot is instructed as to corrective procedures, which must be taken to correct the problem. It affects all displays as well as all radio, transponder, TCAS, and altitude indicators.Was losing ECAM bad? Bad was not a serious enough word to describe this life or death situation! A jet airliner, hurling through the air at over four hundred mph, the results can be catastrophic. At this speed, the two planes were closing the distance between each other at the rate of a mile every five seconds. Captain Hunter realized a head-on collision was to occur within seconds, and he and his co-pilot were going to be the first on the scene. That was an extremely unsettling thought.Switching on the ‘Fasten Seat Belts’ sign Captain Hunter grabbed the intercom and yelled... yes yelled. He knew the manual said to remain calm, but whoever wrote the book had never been in the cockpit of a three hundred ton missile flying over half the speed of sound, and aimed directly at another missile of equal size and speed, “Prepare for collision!! Prepare for collision!!” He yelled loudly. In the passenger compartment, flight attendants, recognizing the tone of the Captain’s voice, literally dropped trays of food and drinks, and began running up and down the aisle instructing the passengers in the proper crash positions before impact.Needless to say, the Kim brothers were now wide-awake. “Sam Lin! Did the Captain say collision?” Frighteningly yelled Si Lei.Without answering Sam Lin was grabbing their winter coats from the overhead storage bin. “Put this on immediately, fasten your safety belt tightly, put your pillow in your lap and bend over and put your head on the pillow. Do it now!!” Back in the cockpit Captain Hunter could see the oncoming Airbus in the flashes of lightening and blowing snow. He pushed hard on the yoke and right rudder causing the giant aircraft to begin a dive and a roll to the right, but Captain Hunter had been flying too many years - he knew a collision was inevitable - the plane was just too large to avoid crashing head-on into the oncoming Airbus. The moment of impact was just a couple of seconds away. Without turning to look at his co-pilot, Captain Hunter realized the inevitable. Turning toward his co-pilot he softly said with a degree of finality in his voice, “It’s been an honor flying with you Donald! May God be with you!”The words had just barely left his lips when an object appeared off his three o’clock. It was heading toward them at an incredible speed. The Captain later estimated it had to have been traveling in excess of three thousand miles per hour. It passed directly between the Captain’s Boeing 777-300 Cathay Pacific flight and the oncoming Airbus. Captain Hunter got a glimpse of it, but it was so fast a mere blink of the eye and he would have missed seeing the object altogether. The Captain could see the object was glowing as if it were hot. The surface appeared shiny. The craft was round and saucer shaped. He estimated it must have been at least one hundred feet in diameter. “Donnie, did you see that? Was it a UFO?” There was no response. The co-pilot was sitting in his seat with a death grip on the yoke, a blank stare on his ashen face. “Don! Don!”He muttered an answer. So softly Captain Hunter barely could understand, “Uh-huh... Uh-huh... Yes I did...Yes I did...Yes...”“Don! Don snap out of it!”
PREPARE TO CRASH! PREPARE TO CRASH!
At that precise moment, a tremendous turbulence struck the Boeing 777. It was like running into the backwash of a hundred jet engines. The Captain could not maintain control of the plane - it immediately began to roll over... once... twice... on the third roll he began to get control and slowly leveled the plane, but the airliner was descending, descending fast. So fast he could not pull the yoke back to slow down the plunging aircraft. “Donald! Donald!”Snapping back to his senses, the co-pilot answered, “Yes! Yes! I’m here Captain. I’m here!”“Help me Donald, we’re going down, I can’t hold her any longer. Prepare to crash! Prepare to crash!” As they dropped down through the storm, the unmerciful blizzard was not abating. If anything, the snow intensified. Captain Hunter was watching the altimeter - 19000 feet - 18000 - 17000 - 16000 - 15000 - 14000 - 13000...“Landing gear? Landing gear Captain?” the co-pilot yelled. Without waiting for the Captain to answer Mr. Walker flipped the landing gear switch. At the same time, he was practically standing up pulling back on the yoke as hard as he could pull. His effort combined with the same effort exhibited by the Captain was beginning to take effect - the descent was beginning to slow. He now could see the ground - everything was white - white in every direction, 1200 feet - 1100 feet... Without realizing the wheels were already down and locked the Captain yelled, “Roger Mr. Walker let the landing gear down. I can see ahead, it seems fairly flat.”At five hundred feet, the planes landing lights were brightly illuminating the glistening white snow to their front, but Captain Hunter barely could see ahead. It was a blinding snowstorm. When he got an open glimpse the terrain seemed flat, suddenly the plane’s wheels touched, and it began to slide for what seemed like an eternity. The snow had cushioned the landing. The wheels, packed with snow, were not turning they were sliding. On and on they slid, Captain Hunter could see nothing out the front windshield, but a thick blanket of snow, he kept thinking any moment they would crash into some unseen obstacle which would cause the 777 to erupt into a fiery fireball. The fate of the airplane was out of the Captain’s hand, all he could do was hang onto the yoke and pray. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the plane stopped moving.There were no fires. The plane seemed to be intact.Of all the foolish things Walker said to Captain Hunter, “I couldn’t have done better myself.” Both the engines were still running - why? How is this possible, Captain Hunter thought? Reaching for the throttle controls, he cut the power to the two-turbofan engines. Their tremendous roar began to decline to a decreasing whine and then finally they were silent - no sound could be heard notwithstanding the screams emanating from the passenger compartment. The engines may have been quite, but the raging, howling blizzard heard through the planes metal walls was not silent. Before switching off the landing lights Captain Hunter, looking out the front, could see nothing but swirling, blowing snow. The snow wasn’t falling straight down it was being blown horizontally. Another time, another place this scene might actually be beautiful, he thought, but they were on the ground, where? Where he did not know. He only knew they were alive. Donald, white as the snow, which enveloped them muttered, “Well... well... uh... uh... any landing you can walk away from is a good landing, right... right Captain?” “Get the passengers off Donald! Get them off now!”Donald grabbed the cold steel handle to the door separating the cockpit from the passenger compartment - he did not know what to expect. Opening the door wider, he saw a mass of confusion in the dim glow. Once the engines were shut off the interior lights were operating off batteries. Panic and fear were running rampant among the passengers. Ladies were screaming, babies were crying, and mumblings of prayers could be heard throughout the compartment. After two complete, three hundred sixty degree rolls, the cabin was a mess of objects - debris from the galley, personal belongings from the overhead bins, items from under the seats, and from their recesses over each passenger seat all the small, yellow, plastic nosepieces had descended to provide oxygen. Now they were all dangling, swinging and swaying by their clear plastic tubing, giving an eerie appearance to the whole interior. In the semi-darkness, Mr. Walker shuddered, for a moment he thought they resembled hundreds of spiders - big, yellow spiders suspended from their webs on thin ropes of clear, plastic tubing. Taking a further look at the oxygen mask Donald thought to himself, ‘a shot of oxygen might do ME some good about now too.’ As the co-pilot continued his slow walk down the aisle, he continually tried to calm the passengers, “Everything is okay, we are okay, please everyone settle down. Get back into your seats and bundle up.” His actions exhibited a calming effect on the passengers who now were beginning to quieten down and respond to his commands.The flight attendants had begun moving to the emergency hatches. Those hatches were equipped with the large inflatable escape slides. They were getting ready to open the doors in an effort to get the passengers out. This was by the manual – Standard Emergency Procedures.Seeing this Walker yelled, “Hold on! Hold on, there are no fires, the engines are not running, we have not broken apart. Let’s give this some thought before opening those exterior hatches. It has to be minus forty or fifty below out there. I need to speak to the Captain about this. Until I get back, please, please DON’T open those hatches!”Returning to the cockpit, Walker watched the Captain shut down the final components of the aircraft before he could speak. The Captain turned to his co-pilot, “Is everyone getting off okay?”“That’s what I came to talk to you about Captain - the plane is okay - there are no fires, and I do not believe we are in any immediate danger. I think we should stay on the airplane and not deplane the passengers. It’s got to be close to minus fifty degrees out there. We do not know where we are or which direction to travel. I think most of these people will freeze to death before we are rescued. I suggest we just stay put. What do you think?”The Captain shut his eyes contemplating their current situation, after a couple of seconds he spoke, “Good advice Don... leave them on the plane. That is the better of the two evils. We can’t survive out there, you’re right. Good... that’s good. Tell the flight attendants to have everyone bundle up - put on as much clothing as they can, and when the sun comes up maybe we’ll be able to assess our situation better.” A few of the passengers had scrapes, cuts and bruises from the rollovers, but luckily a couple of doctors were onboard as passengers, and they immediately began first-aid treatment. Approaching one of the doctors Walker asked if any of the passengers seemed critical. The doctor replied, the worst cases were nothing more than a couple of cuts and scrapes, which they handled with the aircraft’s first-aid kit, and a couple with mild concussions. But, surprisingly, everyone was in reasonable decent shape. No one had any broken bones. This was good news. Turning from the doctor he informed the flight attendants of the Captain’s decision to keep the passengers on board.Standing at the intercom station, Walker spoke, “Attention everyone! Attention! I am Co-pilot Donald Walker. Captain Haskell Hunter is still in the cockpit assessing our situation.”At the mention of Captain Hunter and Donald Walker’s name the passengers all broke out with enthusiastic applause in appreciation for their handling of the plane. Especially since they were now on the ground, alive.“Thank you, thank you very much. I’m sure Captain Hunter would appreciate your show of appreciation, but right now I need to fill you in on our situation. To begin with we almost had a catastrophic encounter with another passenger airliner. To avoid a head-on collision Captain Hunter had to take emergency evasive maneuvers, which I’m sorry to say you had to suffer through; however, we are on the ground... the bad news is we do not know exactly where we are, but the good news is we ARE on the ground, and still in one piece.”Another round of spontaneous applause broke out.Trying to raise the passengers spirits he offered a bit of humor, “Well, we may not know precisely where we are, but I assure all of you we are not lost... we know we are somewhere in Russia.” That brought a slight under the breath chuckling and more applause by the passengers.“Seriously though, we should be able to better evaluate our situation when morning comes. Until then, Captain Hunter wants you all to bundle up the best you can. It’s going to get cold in here, and without the engines, we have no way to provide heat. Try to eat and drink as much of the food in, or lying around the galley. In a couple of hours, it will be frozen solid and of no use. The Captain and I will be in the cockpit, so if we can be of service, please let us know. We have a couple of doctors on this flight. They have been considerate to offer their services, and we appreciate their help. If you need their assistance they said they would be more than willing to attend to your medical needs. Until morning try to stay warm and I will talk to you if we have any further news.” Replacing the microphone on its cradle he turned and re-joined Captain Hunter in the cockpit.Needless to say, they were in a quandary. Captain Hunter turned on the auxiliary power, which only supplied battery power to the ‘glass cockpit’ when the engines were not operating, and checked all the instruments on the front panel. He then checked the fuel gauge and saw they still had about half of their initial fuel load. He reasoned, could they restart the engines if the cold became unbearable. He also thought, what if we are here for days, maybe weeks. What will we do for food? Speaking to Walker, who had returned to the cockpit, the captain ordered, “Donald return to the galley section and find the emergency kit. We will need to go outside and set off one of the flares if we hear the approach of an airplane. We may not be able to get our bird back into the sky, but possibly another aircraft such as a helicopter could rescue us. Meanwhile, I’ll try to get an SOS out. I know the radio is not working, but I’ll see if I can find out what’s wrong with it; regardless, we can’t give up.”
Captain Hunter had finally drifted off for a few hours of much needed sleep - the interior of the aircraft was extremely cold, but fortunately the airline had provided plenty of pillows and blankets for all the passengers, so there were more than enough to keep everyone bundled up during the long, cold night.The following day came and went without incident, everyone stayed wrapped up and made the most of the available items they could salvage. Most had placed containers of edible food and bottles of water inside their garments. The heat from their bodies kept the items from freezing; therefore, no one was being deprived of food or water – yet. Food was not as plentiful, but the water was more than adequate to supply their needs. The restroom facilities were another matter. Sometimes necessity IS the mother of all inventions. One of the passengers, an electrician, unhooked the heater in one restroom from the planes’ normal power source and redirected it to the emergency, battery-powered circuit. It did not perform at peak efficiency but was warm enough to allow passengers to ‘attend to business’. When not being used for ‘official business’ individuals took turns inside the tiny room warming themselves. It might not have been a dainty sight, but it allowed for a few minutes of warmth – there were no complaints.No news of rescue today!! No sounds of a rescue plane had been heard either. The temperature outside was still in the forty to fifty degrees below zero range, so trying to walk to find civilization and help was out of the question. The life of anyone leaving the confines of this downed aircraft would be measured in minutes, surely not as long as an hour. The extreme low temperature was just too brutal. The morning of their third day, a bright light suddenly awakened Captain Hunter! His first thought was fire, but it was not fire but snow! Blowing, drifting snow had totally covered the cockpit windows. The brightness was... was... it was the sun’s rays penetrating the blanket of snow lighting up the interior of the cockpit.“Donald! Donald! Wake up. The sun is shining. And listen, the wind is beginning to diminish its howling. Come on let’s get outside and see if we can determine where we are?”“Huh? Huh, what’d you say? What time is it?” Were the co-pilots muffled responses from underneath the blanket and coat he had used to cover his head. Removing his wraps he was amazed. “Is it Captain? It is! It’s really sunlight! You’re right, we need to get out and see where we are.”“You are correct Don, but how? How are we to get outside? We can’t use the doors to get out; opening those exits would let the forty below air on the outside come inside. My side window is useless it is frozen tightly shut. The emergency batteries are providing power to our communication system, I could not reach anyone, see if you can try to contact the International Airport at Hong Kong again. While you are working on that I will try to figure out how we can get outside.” “Captain, as you know, the radio frequencies are on a digital display. The display is not on the emergency battery circuit, so I cannot view it!“Right you are Donald, okay, use the manual setting and adjust to the 135.37 MHz frequency.”Setting the radio’s frequency Don squeezed his headset microphone and tried the radio one more time before he and the Captain tried to get outside, “Cathay Pacific 6073 declaring an emergency... come in Chek Lap Chuc... Mayday... Mayday... Cathay 6073 calling Hong Kong... Cathay 6073 calling anyone... anyone reading this station! Respond, please!” Sorry Captain, I’m not being received, or I might not be broadcasting. It appears we are... but I have no idea.”“Thanks, you can try again later.
”The time was 8:04 A.M. local, Thursday morning.
(Early Adventures of the Scarburg Family)
Larry Edward Hunt
THE FIRST DAY
Morning comes early this summer day in the month of July 1863; the sun first appears yellow, then bright orange, now it is a brilliant, fiery ball in the eastern sky. The cool air of the night is beginning to be replaced by the hot, dry air of this tranquil mid-summer morning. High, white, fluffy cumulus clouds float gently across the azure, blue sky.
The lines of gray-clad, rag-tag assortment of uniformed, Southern soldiers, mostly barefoot, trudge along as quietly as possible through the sparse hardwood trees of southeast Pennsylvania. Southern cavalrymen mounted on tired, war-weary horses lumber in front of the haggard Confederate infantry.
Sergeant Robert Steven Scarburg of E Company, 48th Alabama Infantry, is part of the advancing rebel army this beautiful morning. As he walks along, he thinks of home, and especially his beautiful wife Malinda left with his other children on their farm in Alabama.
Suddenly his reverie is broken. Luke, marching on his right turns his head and asks, “Father, do you believe a battle is near?”
“Yes son, I think before the sun has set today we will have ‘seen the elephant.’”
“Are you afraid Father?” His other son Matthew asks from the opposite side, “About the upcoming battle, I mean, when we ‘see the elephant?’ I have to admit Father, I am. I wish I were as brave as you when you fought those redskins in Florida.”
It was true Robert is not new to battle. He had, many years earlier, been a participant to the blood, guts and cruelty of the unbearable horror of man’s inhumanity to each other known simply as – War!
Robert did not want to admit it, but he too is scared. He fears for his life and the lives of his two eldest sons, Luke and Matthew, both of who are with him in this confederate infantry company. All three men joined up in the spring of 1862 in Guntersville, a small Tennessee River town in northern Alabama. Their enlistment was a little over a year ago.
Malinda had pleaded with them, she even begged them not to enlist, but Matthew was dead set on enlisting. He had convinced Luke to go along too, and Robert could not let his sons venture into the War of Southern Independence alone. As an old ex-soldier himself he believed he could best oversee his son’s lives as soldiers, and he promised Malinda he would keep the boys safe.
* * * * *
Many years before enlisting to fight for the Confederacy, Robert Scarburg had enlisted in another army, the United States Army. He had joined Captain Long’s Company, 5th Battalion, 1st Brigade of the South Carolina Mounted Volunteers in the fall of 1837. At twenty-three years of age he had ridden out of the Carolinas along with other young, wet-behind-the-ear, dirt farmers. They had ‘jined up’ with Colonel Zachary Taylor to go south and fight the Seminole Indians in what became known as the Second Seminole Indian War.
The Indian War began with young, Southern boys; Southern boys full of spit and vinegar thinking they could ‘whoop’ those ‘Injuns’ in less than a month. They were eager to fight. They believed they would put them redskins in their proper place. They ‘wuz’ Americans fightin’ heathens. At nineteen, immortality shields young men like a suit of armor. They think the specter of death will elude them. However, this day, twenty-six years later, Sergeant Scarburg is not thinking about those illustrious days of many years ago, his only thought today is to make sure he did not break his promise to Malinda. His two sons must survive ‘seeing the elephant’ of this current War.
His boys looked up to him, they believed he knew what he was doing – he was, in fact, a veteran. For over twenty-five years, men came to Robert’s house on Sunday afternoons and all would boast of their exploits in the Indian Wars. As the years pasted the stories became more and more embellished. Their exploits and deeds became more heroic. As young lads Luke and Matthew sat around the porch and listened to the men’s war stories. They idolized their father – there wasn’t anything in this man’s army he didn’t know about, or so they thought. Today they listened to the sergeants and officers of their Confederate company, but when the showdown came they were going to follow their father – he was the real veteran.
Now at age forty-nine Sergeant Scarburg, the old man of this Rebel infantry company is embroiled in yet another clash of arms. It too began with the thought that these Southern boys could ‘whoop’ those invading damn Yankees. This war is different, they are not fighting Indians, in some cases it is fathers against sons, brothers against brothers, or family against family, but the boastings of the youth are still the same. They believe they can put the Yankees on the run in less than a month. In fact, they believe one Southern boy is equal to ten of those sorry Yanks. Some Southern boys were even afraid the war might end before they had a chance to get into the fight and kill them a blue-belly or two.
These young men walking through the woods this summer day are no longer boys with the idle thoughts of their youth. They have grown up fast. These are men, regardless of their age, men fighting for the Confederate States of America.
Sergeant Scarburg turns to answer Matthew’s question, “Yes, I am fearful my son, fearful for the two of you,” he says looking at Matt, “but we should not be afraid of dying, death will catch up to us all eventually. Today lets hope that if death’s scythe seeks us out its blow will be quick and merciful. Fear not boys, we have on the cloak of invincibility; nothing is going to harm us. Let us just do our duty.”
GENERAL THOMAS ‘STONEWALL’ JACKSON
The battle will be the first actual fight in which Matthew has participated. Upon his enlistment he had been assigned to the staff of General “Stonewall” Jackson.
General Jackson had made a special request to have Robert appointed as his aide, but Robert tactfully declined his request stating his promise to Malinda to take care of their sons. Robert knew a staff position with General Jackson would be safer than the toils and hardships of the common foot soldier; therefore, Robert recommended his younger son Matthew to serve in his stead.
Robert realized Matthew was no fighter; he was the scholar of the family. When Matt was not at work on the farm, he could be found with his face buried in a book. Luke, on the other hand, was usually, in the forests, the sights of his old musket marking the spot on the whitetails body where his bullet would strike. Luke seldom ventured away from the house on one of his deer-hunting trips that he did not return with fresh meat. Robert’s two boys could not have been so different, Luke the rough outdoorsman and Matthew the soft-spoken scholar. Luke is quick to anger and just as quick to fight; Matt is soft-spoken and more adept at talking himself out of a tenuous situation. Matthew was at the South Carolina College when the Confederate government sent out a call for eighteen thousand volunteers. The entire student body of the College voted to leave school to enlist. Matthew returned home to Alabama determined to honor his commitment to his classmates.
Luke resembles his grandfather; tall, lean and rugged with dark brown hair down to his shoulders; a haphazard grown of beard covers his face, which gives him the coarse look of a rough, western mountain man. He is more at home in a deerskin jacket than a thirty-dollar suit from Atlanta. Matt’s appearance, on the other hand, must have come from his mother’s side of the family. He is of medium height, slightly on the portly side, hated beards and could not tolerate mustaches. His blond hair was probably the reason; it was thin and fine, as blond hair tends to be. Such hair, as everyone knows, does not make for a generous beard.
It was no mere coincidence that General Jackson requested Robert for assignment to his staff. As soon as the General was informed of Robert’s enlistment Jackson puts the wheels of the Confederate war machine into motion to have Robert assigned to his staff. It is easy to understand why - General Thomas Jackson and Robert Steven Scarburg were first cousins!
As a young boy Thomas Jackson, or TJ as he was called back then, after losing both of his parents was sent to Scarburg Mill to live with his uncle Thomas Scarburg. Thomas was Robert’s father. TJ’s mother was Thomas’s sister and Robert’s aunt.
Although TJ was a few years younger than Robert, they grew up together playing in and around the Mill on Mink Creek. TJ was forever playing on the stonewall dam built across the creek to catch the water for the enormous water wheel. His uncle Thomas was constantly admonishing young TJ to stay off the stonewall dam warning, “I believe you like that stonewall dam more than life itself Thomas Jackson! Someday “Stonewall” Jackson you are going to find yourself swept up into the blades of that water wheel!” From that day forward they abandoned the nickname “TJ”; he was now “Stonewall.”
A few months before today’s approaching battle Stonewall was shot and wounded, albeit a mistake, by his own men at the Battle of Chancellorsville; however, he died a couple of days later. After his Commander’s death Matthew requested re-assignment to a line company, preferably E Company of the 48th Alabama.
Matthew’s request for line duty was granted. Now he was about to participate in his first battle or ‘see the elephant’ for the first time, alongside his father Robert and brother Luke.
Another smell, a pleasant aroma, the scent of ripened corn joins the odors of sweat from the horses, un-bathed men, and manure. This pleasant, tantalizing smell reaches the noses of the hungry Confederate soldiers as they approach the edge of the trees. Just beyond the oak, elm and hickory they find a sun-dried patch of farmland covered in tall stalks of Yankee corn. Field corn as the Southern boys call it.
The soft, sweet, roasting ears of spring have already changed into the ears of hard, dry corn of summer. Corn the farmer, whose field is on the outskirts of this small Pennsylvania village, will use to feed his livestock and family during the coming winter. A portion of this corn is to be ground at the local gristmill into cornmeal. Presently, however, the soldiers of the South do not care how hard the corn has become. Many of them are breaking the ears from their stalks, quickly removing the shucks and hurriedly stripping the hard kernels from the corncobs with their teeth. The Confederates are famished they have not had much to eat in days. Sergeant Scarburg, Luke and Matthew join their fellow soldiers in the ‘feast’ that many do not realize is possibly their last meal on earth.
This Regiment of the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General Robert E. Lee, is not expecting any resistance; they are, after all, only looking for shoes. Most of the Rebel infantry walks barefoot, their shoes long ago worn into tattered scraps of leather. The commanders have heard shoes may be available at this small crossroads place whose name hardly anyone knows. Although few know the town’s name, the battle that will take place here over the next three days will forever burn upon the pages of history. This action at the junction of ten roads will become the high water mark of the Confederate States of America. It is arguably an avoidable mistake from which the South will never fully recover.
The date, as recorded in General Lee’s Daily Log is Wednesday, the First of July in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Sixty Three.
Despite orders to the contrary by General Lee, Maj. Gen. Henry Heth, the commander of the Confederate’s Third Corps, orders his troops to attack the Union forces defending the northern side of town. The Union forces open fire – the bullets whizz over Robert and the heads of his two boys and plow through the dried stalks of corn.
Sergeant Scarburg stops, shoulders his musket, and despite being unable to see the enemy fires forward into the forest of cornstalks. Matthew and Luke, following their father’s lead, do the same. Occasionally they hear screams of agony as a bullet finds its mark in someone’s body – is it the enemy? Or have they fired into their own troops? No one will ever know, most never see the target of their blind shooting. By the time the rebels emerge from the cornfield the Union troops have retreated back into town. The Confederates pursue and continue firing at anything that moves. Street to street fighting pushes the Yankees south of town where they establish defensive positions on a small hill known locally as Cemetery Ridge. Here the Union soldiers, under the recently appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, General George Meade, make their stand.
Realizing the potential strength of the Yankee defensive position, General Lee orders Lt. General Richard Ewell to attack and seize the hill ‘if practicable’ before the entire Union army can concentrate their forces there. New to command Ewell hesitates, he thinks it not ‘practicable.’
Sergeant Scarburg’s E Company, along with most of the First Corps, only slightly engages the Yanks during the first day’s fight. Most of that first day 1st Corps spends making a grueling forced march south with the intent of attacking General Meade’s left flank. Company E’s position in the line of attack is between two slight hills named Little and Big Round Top.
THE SECOND DAY
During the first-day’s skirmish, Sergeant Scarburg and his men did not see much of the actual fighting. They did see; however, the horses lathered up with white, foamy, sweat, galloping by their marching columns, horses pulling the heavy caissons and Napoleon cannons creating clouds and clouds of choking dust. They could constantly hear the roar of the fighting, the rebel yells, the cannons firing, and the officers issuing orders, but most of the battle is out of their immediate view. A large part of the day has been spent marching to get into position for their actual fight. They do not realize it, but they are about to become a small part of this enormous blood bath.
On this second day of the fight the battle begins early in the morning. A slight haze of fog covers the ground as Company ‘E’ advances toward the enemy through an area later to become infamously known as the Devils Den. The entire area between the Union army and the Confederates is a wide stretch of ground strewn with boulders the size of small wagons, some even bigger. Interspersed between the boulders is waist high wild grass that offers no protection what so ever. The Southerners will have to crawl and pull themselves over and around these natural rock obstacles constantly exposing their bodies to the deadly rain of lead from the Yankee mini-balls. Their objective is a small hill, named, appropriately Little Round Top.
Up and down the long Confederate line, officers issue the order, ‘Column Forward, Guide Center,’ youthful drummers furiously beat ‘Advance.’ Buglers can be heard repeating the same ‘Advance’ call on their bugles. The Confederate guides un-furl the Stars and Bars flags, which begin fluttering in the gentle summer breeze. The young boys carrying these flags proudly thrust out their breast and begin the advancement toward the enemy. The drummers continue the rhythmic beat on the drum signaling the troops to advance. The remainder of the thousands of rebel soldiers follows closely on their heels.
Sweat, mixed with dust and dirt, drip from the tip of Sergeant Scarburg’s nose. He swings his musket from his shoulder and goes into a shuffling run toward the large rock formations to his front. He along with thousands of other rebel soldiers commences the infamous ‘rebel yell’ - a yell hard to explain. To fully understand this yell it has to be personally experienced. To thousands of Yankee defenders, the yell is blood curdling. Years later this spine-tingling scream will haunt the northern veteran most nights as they try to drift off to sleep.
As the boys in grey run toward the blue-clad Union Army, bullets begin to whiz by their heads. The sulfur smell of gunpowder hangs heavy in the air. The blue-black smoke becomes so thick the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac defending Little Round Top are becoming more and more obscure. A young boy screams as a bullet passes through his body – blood spews wildly as he collapses into a heap upon the ground. Another soldier disappears into a red mist of blood as a cannon ball hits him squarely in the chest. Mercifully the grey clad boy dies instantly; he has no time to emit a scream. Dismissing these horrors from his mind, Sergeant Scarburg begins to run faster toward the enemy. He has to reach one of those large boulders. All he, and hundreds of other soldiers can think about is the safety of the rocks.
Leaning against the cold, hard stone’s surface, he presses his face against the coolness of the rock, sighs, and inhales a deep breath of smoke-filled air. He pulls his ragged, grey, forage cap from his head and using it as a handkerchief, wipes his face. He can hear the officers imploring the men to advance – leave their place of safety and once again face the onslaught of Yankee bullets. The boys! Where are my boys? He hates himself – for a brief few moments he thought only of his safety and forgot about Luke and Matthew. He squints his eyes trying to look through the smoke for his boys, but can see nothing.
Sergeant Scarburg is beginning to muster up the courage to resume his assault once more when he hears shouts of the enemy advancing toward his position – all his instincts are telling him to withdraw – no never! To retreat is unthinkable, but who are these outnumbered, defiant Yankee defenders who dare attack his Confederate comrades rather than turn tail and run?
High upon Little Round Top the Union men of the 20th Maine under the command of Lt. Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, are quickly running out of ammunition. As a last resort, Chamberlain orders his men to fix bayonets and ‘Charge’, unknowingly down the hill directly into Sergeant Scarburg’s place of safety.
No longer able to ignore the screams and cries Sergeant Scarburg jumps from his hiding spot. He moves around a large rock, and immediately comes face to face with a blue-bellied Yankee from Chamberlain’s company bearing a long Springfield rifle with a shiny, razor sharp, steel bayonet attached to its business end. Sergeant Scarburg did not have time to react; the bayonet is already at his breast. Time seems to stand still; he wants to raise his weapon, but cannot; the Yankee steel starts to penetrate his tread-bare shirt. He can feel the sharp, cold metal penetrating his skin. Strange, he always had thought it would hurt, but he does not feel any pain.
With a fast thrust and quick withdrawal of the blade it is over – Sergeant Scarburg falls to the ground. ‘Am I dead? Surely I must be,’ but he can still hear the musket fire, and the whine of the cannonballs as they fly overhead. He can smell the acrid smell of the gunpowder.
‘Why am I unable to move,’ he thinks? ‘My boys! Luke, Matthew, I promised Malinda...’ He can feel something warm and sticky trickling down his chest and wetting the front of his shirt? Surely it is not blood he feels no pain. It must be water from his canteen. ‘Why is the world moving so slowly?’ He thinks.
“Father! Father! How badly are you hurt?” Luke asks, pulling his father back against the shelter of a huge boulder.
Sergeant Scarburg looks at the young man. His eyes blurred he could not quite make out his features.
“Matthew! Matthew is this you my son?”
“No, Father, it’s me Luke. Your son Luke.”
“Luke? Luke!” Robert whispers, “bend down, I need to tell you something. Please son, it is imperative. I have something to say that was told to me by my father and I need to pass it on before I die.”
“Hush Father, conserve your strength, you’re not going to die!” Looking at the bloody hole in his father’s chest made by the bayonet, Luke thinks otherwise. “Hold this handkerchief tightly against the wound Father.” Trying to bolster his father’s spirit he continues, “do not worry Father it is only a scratch, lie still I will get help.”
Struggling to speak, “Wait Luke! Please! Luke closer, come closer.” Whatever he has to say is crucial. Luke realizes it too, bends down and places his ear close to his father’s mouth. The noise from the on-going battle is deafening. Luke is near enough to feel his father’s breath on his cheek.
Barely able to hear his father’s whispers, he remarks, “Father? Father? I do not understand! Bible? Bible? I don’t have a Bible!”
The words have no sooner left Luke’s lips as a lead, mini-ball ricochets off the boulder above his head raining lead and rock fragments into Luke’ face and forehead. Blood gushes into his eyes. For a second, Luke thinks the bullet has found its mark, but a swipe with his hand indicates it is only a superficial scalp laceration.
“Luke! Where are you? Luke!” Someone screams from the direction of the field of tall grass.
Even though he only can see a few yards into the thick, blue smoke, Luke recognizes the voice. It is the frightened voice of his younger brother Matthew.
“Here Matt! I’m here with Father he seems to be hurt badly. I think he wants a Bible, do you have one Matthew?”
Matt shakes his head then asks, “Is Father dying? Are you okay?”
“Yes, I think so. Stay with him Matt; I’ll try to find some help.”
“No, Luke don’t leave...!”
Luke grabs his musket, rounds the boulder, and dodging bullets runs into the thick smoke.
About seven hundred miles southwest of the hot battle taking place in Pennsylvania it is also sweltering on this Thursday the 2nd of July on the Scarburg farm in Alabama. Mattie Ann and Elizabeth, Sergeant Steven’s two youngest daughters are playing under the large tulip poplar at the edge of the yard. They are startled by a hoarse, screaming kee-eeeee-arr sound from a large bird circling overhead. Looking up they see nothing, the bird flew behind the branches of the tree where they are sitting. Scared and trembling Mattie Ann drops her corn shuck doll to the ground, as both girls run toward the safety of the house.
“Mama! Mama, there is some kind of big bird screeching at us out yonder in the yard,” she says slamming the screen door behind her. “What is it Mama?”
“Hush child, hush don’t tell me! I don’t want to hear you say it!”
“What? Say what Mama?”
“Hawk! That... that was a red-tailed hawk!”
“But Mama, it acted like it was screaming at me and Elizabeth!”
“It probably was Mattie Ann. Sit down baby, and I will explain. Old Granny Scarburg was living with us right before she died. It was then she told me the tale of the hawks.”
Mattie Ann sat at the kitchen table, wide-eyed as she listens to her mother tell Granny Scarburg’s story of the hawk.
“Granny was a full-blood Cherokee Indian, named Running Doe. She got the story from her mother I suppose. Granny wanted to make sure she had passed it on before she died.”
“Passed on what Mama?”
“She said the hawk is a messenger from God or as Granny said the Great Spirit. She said He sends warning to us through the spirit of the red-tail hawk. The hawk is His messenger! Hawks warn of enemies, or foretell of tragedy. Seeing or dreaming about a hawk can be seen as a warning of danger too.”
“Mama, what did the hawk say that me and Lizzie saw?”
“No baby girl, they don’t say anything. Once you hear the hawk’s screeching it is a warning that something is going to happen. You must watch carefully to see the direction the hawk flies. Danger or death will lie in that direction.”
“What was my hawk’s warning?”
“Baby girl, I don’t know. Go back and watch if he is trying to talk to you he will come back. Watch which way he flies as he leaves, the direction will tell you.”
Later while playing Mattie Ann is startled again by the shrill cry: kee-eeeee-arr. She looks up her hawk is back. Around and around the beautiful red-tailed bird soars screeching its mournful cry, Lizzie is scared and starts to cry. Mattie Ann stands watching, mesmerized by the flapping of the hawk’s wings and the hypnotic sound it constantly emits; finally, it flies off and does not return.
She runs back into the house.
“Mama! Mama, it flew off. What does that mean?”
“Which way? Which way did it fly?”
“North! North Mama, it flew off toward the north.”
Malinda grabs the tail of her beautifully embroidered apron her mother had given her when she married Robert, places it to her eyes as the tears begin to flow.
“Mama! What’s the matter, why are you crying? What did the hawk mean?”
“North my baby north is the direction of your father and the boys.”
The Yankee’s bayonet hole in Roberts’s chest hurts. It hurts something awful. Sweat runs down his face in beads. The sweat drips into his eyes, but he does not have the strength to wipe it away. He lays his head against the stone boulder – it is cool, it feels good on his face. The damp smell of moss and rotten wood envelops his nostrils. The scent reminds him of the caves behind his house overlooking Hog Creek canyon on his farm in Alabama.
He is alone, bleeding to death, abandoned by his sons Luke and Matthew. He wishes he did not have to die forsaken; although, hundreds of his fellow soldiers are suffering and dying within earshot he still feels neglected and forgotten.
He drifts in and out of consciousness. When awake, he is living a nightmare, a terrifying nightmare; the battle, a terrible battle is still raging in all its fury. When unconscious, which is a blessing, his mind lets him dream of home and his family. Especially Malinda, he can almost feel the soft blonde curls, which cascade down around her shoulders. He can smell the soft scent of the lilac water on the nape of her neck. ‘Please,’ he thinks, ‘let this dream continue.’
It seems as though it has been a million years since he and Malinda Ingram married. Robert’s mind drifts to thoughts of his father Thomas and his grandparents John and Celia Scarburg, the ones he called Pappy John and Mama Celia. As the oldest son, and following the custom of primogeniture, Robert inherited his father’s property. Now he is beginning to think he is going to inherit something else - a shallow unmarked grave like all the thousands of other lifeless men on this death strewn field of battle.
Pappy John’s farm as they referred to it, was slightly over ten sections of rich South Carolina bottomland, bordering on Rayburn’s Branch of the Saluda River. Ten sections of land may not sound like much, but in that region of the Carolinas six thousand four hundred acres was a tad more than a farm. Pappy John had saved up a tidy sum of money when he and Mama Celia left their home in Virginia to become pioneers in the un-settled frontier of South Carolina.
The first few years he spent building Celia the beautiful Scarlett Plantation. To be officially called a plantation, a farm must have as a minimum, three slaves. John and Celia had never owned slaves nor indentured servants. Calling Scarlett a plantation was in the name only, they never referred to it as a Plantation it was simply – Scarlett.
It had been ten years after their marriage before Scarlett was finished. It had also been rumored, before the completion of the house, that Celia suffered a miscarriage, and the infant girl died, perhaps they named this unborn child Scarlett? However, there had never been a girl child in the Scarburg family named Scarlett, as far as anyone knew.
Pappy’s wife Celia could trace her ancestors back to the beginning of the United States; in fact, one of her grandfathers was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Within Celia’s family was a story, never proven, that her grandfather had two wives, the first died quite young. Family tradition says she was a sister to George Washington. Records of this union were destroyed during the Revolution, and her name was never known, was she Scarlett? No one ever knew the answer for sure. The name Scarlett was a mystery known only to John and Celia.
Another grandfather of Robert’s wife Malinda, Jacob Damascus Ingram, although not a landowner like the Scarburgs, had amassed a sizeable amount of money too. Jacob and his wife Margaret moved from Virginia with Jacob’s father and Margaret’s parents. They all settled on the western side of Mink Creek, another tributary of the Saluda River, in the early 1760s, a mere mile and one-half east of Scarlett. It did not take very long after arrival in this back-woods country for the Scarburgs and Ingrams to become close friends. Robert Scarburg and Malinda Ingram would grow up together, fall in love and later marry.
In 1769, with the comforts of life having been established John began working on two of his life’s dreams. First he wanted to build and operate a gristmill. Next he had a vision to construct the first Masonic Lodge in that part of South Carolina. Mink Creek was the perfect place for such a mill. The creek might only be a creek, as it was officially described, but the water was clean, cold and ran full and deep both summer and winter. To many they would call it a river, but it was here also that he decided to build and pursue his second dream. Being a fervent Master Mason of the Masonic Order of Free and Accepted Masons he also began work on the first Masonic Hall in that part of South Carolina. The lodge would become known as Masonic Lodge Number One.
Year’s later Masonic members would be proud as they remembered a group of Masons. These Masons, dressed as Mohawk Indians, left the meeting Lodge at the Green Dragon tavern in Boston and proceeded to the docks. Whooping and hollering they unceremoniously dumped the British tea into the water of the harbor. Patriots up and down the thirteen colonies still refer to this act as the Boston Tea Party. Paul Revere, John Hancock and Sam Adams were all honored members of this Boston Masonic Lodge.
Between Masonic Lodge Number One and Scarburg Mill, and at the urging and kind benevolence of Jacob Ingram the local Quaker Friends in the community constructed a beautiful Meetinghouse, which they called the House of the Lord. It was painted a brilliant white. Adorned with stained glass windows, sitting atop was the bell tower, with its two golden toned bells. Over the bell tower was a magnificent steeple topped with a large, six-foot cross; it seemed to reach into the heavens. Its construction was a few years before their fight with England. At a that time when most everyone still owed allegiance to the King; on meeting day the bells chimed all to attend the services; however, the break with King George III in the War of Independence silenced the bells, they were never to ring again.
Their Lodge was not given an official name – it was known simply as ‘The King’s Masonic House Number One.’ On the day of the monthly meetings throughout the surrounding community Masonic members would say, “Come brethren get ready, it’s time to go to The King’s House.” Thus on Thursday night once a month Freemasons from across the area would meet at old Number One. The Mason would assemble for the performance of their ritualistic conferment of the Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason degrees. The conferment of these degrees was to initiate new members. Even after the Revolutionary War it was still referred to as The King’s Masonic House.
Not only was the mill a place for the locals to get their corn and wheat ground into cornmeal and flour, it became a favorite meeting place known simply as Scarburg Mill. John’s gristmill thrived. In fact, a small community sprang up around the Mill including a tavern, the Masonic lodge and the House of the Lord. As time passed, the settlement itself became known as Scarlett Town and later simply as Scarlettsville.
Daily, men would come to trade horses and mules within the confines of the Mill’s expansive yard. Others would swap tobacco for jugs of homemade whiskey; still others would sometimes get into heated arguments over the plight of the budding colonies of America and the King of England. Some old timers would sit quietly on a wooden bench under the shade of a huge live oak tree and whittle on a piece of soft, cedar wood and reminisce of past adventures of their youth. These exploits were sometimes true, but mostly they were fanciful tales that brought smiles to their attentive listeners.
In the summer of 1775, a vicious thunderstorm, accompanied by strong winds and lightning blew in out of the west. A number of violent tornados struck the area one hurled its raging force upon Johnand Celia’s home of love. The tornado only destroyed the barn and a couple of out building; however, a bolt of lightning struck one of the lovely old red oaks in the front yard. The resulting fire consumed the beloved Scarlett’s main house, burning it to the ground. All that remained of John and Celia’s dream house was the four, red brick fireplaces, two on either side of the once stately home. The year ’75 could have been remembered as one of the most-dreadful years of John and Celia’s marriage. One bright spot had been the birth of their first son Thomas, a son who years later would become the father ofRobert Steven. A son and daughter had been born years earlier, but neither lived long after birth. They named the infants John Junior and Celia Jane. Six months earlier, John’s brother Charles had left to join the Patriot forces of General George Washington. The disturbing fact was no word had been heard from him since he departed.
One thousand seven hundred eighty-one, what a year! Scarlett has been rebuilt and is even more beautiful than it had been before the war. The Revolutionary War has been raging for over five years, but still more years remain before the newly formed United States of America can conclusively declare herself independent from the chains of King George III of Great Britain.
The British military in the Carolinas are beginning to realize the band of rabble calling themselves Patriots, are never going to stop fighting. The countryside of both North and South Carolina did indeed foster some settlers loyal to the King of England, but their numbers, now referred to as Loyalist, are becoming fewer and fewer.
What bothered the British the most is this low-class bunch of commoners, some even brazenly referring to themselves as ‘Americans,’ will not standup and fight like gentlemen. They hide in the trees and bushes and shoot at them like cowards. Also, bothersome to the leaders of the Kings Army: the scum called Patriots have a propensity to shoot the British officers from their horses first. To punish this band of low-life peasants, the British begin a new tactic.
In late March of this year, a week or so before Easter, a large group of British Redcoats captures the Whig governor of South Carolina, along with twenty of his staff. The British, under the command of Colonel David Wilcox, were transporting their group of prisoners to British General Horace Manly’s headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina. At Greenville the prisoners were to stand trial for ‘Treason Against the British Crown.’ Fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, their route would take them down the road past Scarburg Mill.
The British Colonel does not realize ‘B’ Company of the 3rd South Carolina Ranger Regiment is camped at Scarburg Mill. The Mill is a good place to stop and give rest to the saddle-weary cavalrymen. However, from upcountry South Carolina, word rapidly spreads to the Ranger commander, Captain John Coker, of the capture of the Governor and his staff. Captain Coker is also informed of the Governor’s impending arrival, along with his Redcoat captors, at Scarburg Mill within a day or so.
Captain Coker and his men have been escorting two large wagons from Dahlonega, Georgia to General Washington’s command at Philadelphia. The wagons are so heavy laden they each need to be pulled by a team of six mules. The wagon wheels cut a deep rut into the dirt as they traverse the sorry excuse for what are called roads of northern Georgia into South Carolina. The journey, thus far, is exhausting to both the mule teams and the cavalrymen whose mission it is to protect the valuable cargo they carry. Captain Coker and his men are enjoying a short reprieve from their past week’s vigilance of constant guard duty. They are enjoying the food, rest and ‘medicinal spirits’ from the tavern before resuming their journey northward; however, the cargo in the wagons is too important to leave un-guarded. Even during the night Captain Coker has his men walking guard around the wagons with muskets loaded and ready to fire.
Learning of the British advancement Captain Coker calls his Lieutenants together, the decision is made and a plan fashioned to ambush Colonel Wilcox as he approaches the Mill. They envision a surprise attack to catch the Tories off-guard. The cavalry believe they can inflict great damage upon the Redcoats and possibly free the Whig Governor and the rest of the hostages.
The Captain sends riders to the surrounding Patriot neighbors requesting they grab their muskets and assemble at the Mill to help fight the Redcoats. Jacob Ingram hears the beat of hooves on his long drive leading up to the big house at Ingram Hill – he runs from the barn knowing the rider is bearing important news. Jacob listens intently to every word as Captain Coker’s envoy tells of the impending fight. The dispatch rider had hardly disappeared from sight when Jacob grabs his musket mounts his fastest horse and quickly rides to join the Patriot side in their fight against the British.
On Friday the 13th of April 1781, Colonel Wilcox is dressed splendidly from head to toe. He wears a gold buttoned, red British coat with gold-fringed epaulettes, a white waistcoat, white lapels, and black boots that reach the knees of his white britches. His head is topped with a black, gold-trimmed, tricorne hat, which covers his stylish white, powdered wig. A wig tied neatly in the back with a black ribbon. Behind his white, high-stepping horse walk the despondent Governor and the rest of the Whig captives. Unknowingly, the pompous Colonel Wilcox is walking into a trap set by the Patriots and the men of the 3rd South Carolina Rangers.
As the Colonel orders his men across the Mill’s stonewall dam at Mink Creek, a volley of musket fire from the Patriot side cut a swath of death through the British ranks. A raging battle ensue that last all day and into the early hours of the eve. Although badly outmanned, the Patriots do not allow the Redcoats to cross the creek that day. Any attempt to storm the mill results in further loss to the King’s men. The advantage the Patriots command on the opposite side of Mink Creek is too great for a frontal assault by the British. Knowing a frontal assault is suicidal; the Redcoats have to have a better battle plan. Around midnight, Colonel Wilcox dispatches twenty-five men to ford Mink Creek a mile or so above Scarburg Mill.
The following morning at first light cloaked in a dense fog, Wilcox’s men having crossed the swift, cold, creek attack the flank of Captain Coker’s group of Patriots in and around the Mill. The maneuver allows the Redcoats to attack the Patriots from both the side and front. The Patriots hold their ground stubbornly until close to noon, Captain Coker, grossly outnumbered, and already suffering the loss of forty or fifty men, decides to order a strategic withdrawal. The British, however, did not leave the field of battle unscathed. They have roughly two hundred dead and wounded, but at the end of the day the honors of the victory will be theirs. Captain Coker gives the bugler orders to blow ‘Retreat’ and his troopers mount their horses and flee into the nearby woods. Jacob Ingram with blood flowing from a bullet hole through the calf of his right leg uses great effort manages to swing himself into his saddle and follow the Captain into the cover of the dense forest. At the time, Jacob thought little of his injury, but it is serious enough that it will cause him a slight limp for the rest of his life. It also furnishes him with innumerable tales of the Patriot’s heroic valor that he repeats many times, under the old oak tree, for years to come. As the years advance Jacob’s part in the battle seem to become more important. Some thought the limp was to embellish these war stories of which he so eloquently speaks. Whatever the reason the men relished hearing and re-hearing the exploits of the Patriot and British fight at Scarburg Mill.
Colonel Wilcox captures the remaining Patriot combatants along with the wounded Patriots that have not withdrawn with their commander. The British are now in command of Scarburg Mill. The two wagons that had been so closely guarded since leaving Georgia are nowhere to be seen. The two teams of mules are tied to a nearby tree, and some charred remnants of wood can be seen smoldering in a fire close-by. Identification of the pile of burnt wood is easy. The British can see it is the remains of wagons, since three of the wheels, which have not been totally consumed by the fire, are still ablaze. The valuables the wagons contain are nowhere to be seen either. Perhaps the fiery flames too have consumed them.
During the fighting of the first day and continually through the fierceness of the battle the next day, John, a non-combatant, administered first aid and comfort. John without regards to his safety helped both the British and the Patriots alike. He and his family provided the wounded with water and offered care and comfort, throughout the heat of the battle. Sheets and pillowcases were torn into strips and used as bandages for the wounded of both sides.
Later, witnesses would attest that John Scarburg, over the age of seventy, and afflicted with a severe debilitating case of arthritis in the joints of his knees, was constantly seen kneeling beside mortally wounded British Redcoats. His feeble, wrinkled, old hands gently holding on to the hands of the dying provided them comfort during their last few moments of life. Because of John, they did not meet their Maker alone. At times, he could be seen praying with a dying soldier, not worrying whether he was a Whig or a Tory, to Johnhe simply was a frightened, dying young man.
John Scarburg was not the only person who supplied first-aid and comfort to the soldiers who fought at the Scarburg Mill. His entire family joined him, including two of his sons, his daughters and his wife.
The following morning, the 15th of April, Easter Sunday, the creek is again covered in a dense fog as the British drummer boy plays “Assembly” to the remainder of the British soldiers. The fog gives the whole area around the Mill a strange macabre look. The Redcoats fall into formation, and watch in hushed silence as John Scarburg along with his two oldest sons, William and Isaac, are escorted by armed guards from the Mill. All three have their arms bound behind their backs. Neither of the three fired a shot during the entire battle, so it is a surprise that the British have them imprisoned.
Thomas, John’s youngest son, stands crying in the doorway of the mill. He clutches his mother’s apron as she tearfully watches her husband and two sons being marched from the Mill.
Colonel Wilcox has the three men led to the huge live oak tree. The old oak was usually, a place of laughter and tall tales expressed by many under its spreading limbs, but not today. The proceedings this day are somber. There is no gaiety to be found here.
The assembled soldiers, who had been standing at attention in a perfect military formation, slowly break ranks and begin to form a semi-circle around the men at the tree. Three ropes, tied with hangman’s nooses, are thrown over the largest limb closest to the ground. John, wearing a hat with a black ostrich feather along with his two hatless sons is ordered to step upon the bench. Their British guards place the nooses about their necks. The three men offer no resistance.
John directs a question to Colonel Wilcox. The assembled soldiers close to the bench hear the exchange. John requests a few words with his young son Thomas. Colonel Wilcox, an accomplished adversary, is not without compassion. He grants John’s request.
Motioning to one of his red-coated soldiers Thomas is brought to his father.
“My son, you have to be brave, you will now be the man of the family.” As his father talks, Thomas whimpers and sniffles trying hard not to cry. “Come close son, I have something to tell.”
Thomas walks forward, steps upon the bench beside his father and two brothers. John bents over placing his mouth close to Thomas’ ear, he speaks softly. Young Thomas nods his head and answers, “Yes, Father, I hear you, but I don’t understand. Is it the big Bible?”
“It is, but don’t worry my son, someday what I have told you will make sense to you. Promise me you will never forget. Keep this black ostrich plume to remember me by, and someday you will find it will benefit you in a way you cannot possibly understand now.”
For a moment, he hugs his father’s leg and refuses to let go. A redcoat steps forward and removes the small lad from the hangman’s bench.
John watches helplessly as Thomas, head bowed walks slowly back toward the Mill to his mother. He stops, turns and says in a voice loud enough for all to hear, “Yes, Father, I promise, I will remember. I won’t ever forget!”
A wet tear slowly fills the corner of the old man’s eye, and slowly rolls down his cheek, and drips upon the dirt where so many happy tales has been told. From this day forward, this pleasantness will forever be tarnished by this barbaric act, which is about to unfold.
The young drummer boy, not much older than young Thomas, hesitantly but obediently, began to beat his drum slowly, ‘Rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a-tat-tat’...
Addressing the prisoners, “Dost any request a last word?”
John looking upward toward the heavens says, “Resurrection Sunday, how fitting!”
The Colonel gives the signal, a couple of Redcoats kick the bench, and the three Ingram men are left dangling at the end of their ropes. A number of the soldiers turn their heads as the hanged men kick silently for a few moments. Soon the thrashing and struggling cease, the last breath of life extinguished, they hang there motionless - they are dead.
What is the purpose of the execution of these three men? Some say, the Colonel thinks they are Patriots who have engaged in the battle. Clearly, dozens of British soldiers watching the murder of these three innocent men can offer evidence to the contrary. Others say it is simply retaliation for the ambush that has taken place. Did the Colonel want this performance to serve as a lesson to the rebellious backwoodsman? If so, it only provides the frontiersmen with fresh resolve to defeat the Redcoats; regardless of Colonel Wilcox’s intent, three good, honorable men, swinging gently in the breeze, are now dead. The dense river fog briefly lifts, and a ray of sunlight illuminates the big old oak for only a brief moment. This amazing, heavenly display did not go without notice by the assembled British soldiers.
* * * * *
Robert lies against the stone boulder partially conscious. He thinks, dreams or sees a vision: ‘that is my family, little Thomas is my father and he stood on that wooden bench his ears receptive to the secret my grandfather told him, I...I... am a part of them.’ He resolves himself to the fact that he is dying, but life he realizes is nothing but a short journey with death as its final destination, a destination, which he is about to reach.
Even though, Robert’s family once embraced bravely the young United States of America. Robert along with his sons Luke and Matthew are now fighting against this very flag for which his forefathers fought, bled and died. How can this be? ‘This cannot be real,’ he thinks but quickly realizing how true it is as another Yankee bullet ricocheted off the rock against which he is leaning.
The Battle of Gettysburg is indeed very real this is not a dream.
DAY THREE OF THE BATTLE
The remaining members of ‘E’ Company, 48th Alabama Infantry have been moved from the vicinity of the Devil’s Den and Little Roundtop and re-assigned to Major General Joseph Pickett’s Division. General Pickett’s men assemble on a slightly wooded rise known as Seminary Ridge, approximately three-fourths of a mile east of the Union lines. The Union forces now control the high ground named Cemetery Ridge to their west. High ground with a small stonewall fronting the Rebels. In the early days of the Civil War, it was quickly learned that any fortifications, even a small stonewall, was almost impregnable to an attacking force of unprotected foes. So it was to be this day.
Luke spends most of the morning of the third day in the trees on Seminary Ridge. He is going man to man up and down the line of soldiers seeking information about his father and brother. These grey-clad young men digging and scratching at the earth with their bare hands and bayonets are not concerned with the events of yesterday, Thursday the 2nd of July. It is this day, Friday the 3rd, that worries them the most. Yesterday they were alive at the setting of the sun, sitting around their campfire with their messmates; today they figure they will be dead, and sitting at the right hand of the Father. The awareness of the specter of Death hovers over them like an evil fog.
The Rebs scratching at the earth with their hands are war-weary veterans that have ‘seen the elephant’ many times before. In their bones, they know another terrible engagement is at hand. They also know that many of them will not see another sunrise. Fearing this beautiful July Friday would be their last day on earth they are digging holes and hiding their last earthly treasures. Luke watches as one soldier slips a wedding ring from his finger, tears a scrap of cloth from his shirt, wraps it around the ring and gently cover it with dirt. Another folds a scrap of paper with a note to his wife and deposits it in his hole. He knows it will be of no use giving it to one of his friends for safekeeping; they probably will not be alive either. Another hides a tintype picture of his wife and two young children. The sadness of watching these feeble efforts by the men is almost unbearable.
As Luke walks among the brave, young heroes, he thinks, ‘might this be my last July morning too?’ He doesn’t spend time digging a hole; he has nothing of worth to put in it. The only thing he has of value is his grandfather Thomas’ pocket watch, but he cannot see himself burying it in the dirt of Pennsylvania, regardless of what happens, the watch will stay with him. His primary thoughts are of his father and brother Matthew. He had found a couple of stretcher-bearers and described the boulder Robert and Matthew were hiding behind. Did the men find them? Were they still alive? Before he has time to dwell on these questions, one hundred and sixty rebel cannons open fire on the Union line. The blast from their muzzles rises to a crescendo of noise that is deafening. Grandfather Thomas’ pocket watch shows that the time is one p.m.
The lines of sweaty, Confederate soldiers fall face down upon the hard, cool, earth. Many pray silently, others pray out loud. Most have their hands over their ears. They are desperately trying to shield their ears from the thunderous roar of the cannons. Added to this roar is the whine of the heinous balls of death that are being hurled over their heads toward the blue-clad Union line of soldiers, Union soldiers tightly hugging the earth behind the rock wall on Cemetery Ridge. The roar of the Confederate cannons is awe-inspiring, for the gray-clad warriors believe the Yankees cannot withstand such a horrendous hail of cannonballs. The Southern spirits are greatly uplifted; however, little did they know that the cannoneers had mistakenly elevated their shot to the point that most of the cannonballs sailed over the heads of the Yankees and fell harmlessly far behind the Union lines.
With their heads pushed into the dirt and leaves, most do not see the stately gentlemen slowly approaching from their right. As the cannonade stops and the air begins to clear – Luke sees THE man. Luke is standing so close to the gentleman and his large iron-grey horse he could reach out and touch them both if he so desired. He is within arms reach of his beloved commander – the leader of the Army of Northern Virginia, a man thought by his courageous followers to be almost Godlike.
Luke stumbles and almost falls. He grabs the back of the General’s saddle to steady himself. Realizing what he has just done he removes his grey forage cap, bows his head and apologizes profusely for touching his commander’s saddle.
“Here, here son, no apology necessary,” the General says, extending his hand to help Luke.
“Where are you from Lad?”
“Alabama Sir, I’m from Alabama. I belong to the 48th.”
“Ah, good state Alabama, fine fighting men,” he speaks but his thoughts are elsewhere. Reaching out again, the General shakes Luke’s hand, tips his hat and begins to ride away on his splendid grey horse. Looking back over his shoulder he speaks to Luke, “Good luck son, may God be with you this day.”
ROBERT E. LEE
The man in the saddle is the general in charge of the Army of Northern Virginia – Robert E. Lee, or Bobby Lee as his men affectionately call him. Mounted on Traveller his grey stallion.
Today General Lee is meeting with his 1st Corp commander Lieutenant General James Longstreet. He is preparing to give Longstreet his order to attack. In an earlier staff meeting, Longstreet had arduously objected to the plan to attack the center of General Meade’s line.
The rebel forces will assemble and begin their charge from the woods of Seminary Ridge. The charge will advance all the way to the Yankees on the opposing Cemetery Ridge across an open three-quarter mile expanse of grass. The Emmitsburg Road, bordered on both sides with a well-made split-level fence, bisects this long stretch of openness. General Longstreet knows a charge of one-fourth of a mile to a well-entrenched enemy is murderous, but to go another extra half mile will be a disaster. He politely, and in proper military fashion requests his commander, General Lee, to reconsider. Lee will not. Bobby Lee has confidence in his boys defeat is not in their nature. Prior to today, the General is correct; they never have been defeated in a battle. He knows the open field is risky, but not suicidal. He feels his men can and will do the impossible.
From his vantage point high up on Cemetery Ridge, Major General George Meade addresses his orderly, “My glass, please.” The captain quickly opens the telescope pouch and hands the spyglass to General Meade. It is now three o’clock; the cannonade had ceased from the rebel forces.
General Meade sits astride Old Baldy, his white-faced old war-horse. Soldiers are not the only ones that can be war heroes Old Baldy qualifies too. From the height of Old Baldy’s back General Meade, peering through the lenses of his field telescope could see clearly General Lee and Traveller. As General Meade watches the head of the Southern army ride across the front of his army, an army all primed and ready for a fight, he thinks he has never seen such a magnificent sight. Up and down the length of the rebel forces dozens upon dozens of the Star and Bars battle flags flutter in the slight breeze. A shiver goes up General Meade’s spine – the hairs on the back of his neck standup. He recalls a Bible verse:
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. (Rev 6:8)
General Lee, unaware he is being so closely watched by General Meade, continues down the line of Southern soldiers until he reaches General Longstreet.
Luke, who is following the General, hears every word spoken.
“Sir,” says General Lee returning the salute of General Longstreet. The Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, without waiting, issues his order, “Attack General, attack!”
General Longstreet still does not believe an attack on the center of the firmly entrenched Union Army can be successful. Reluctantly, without speaking, salutes, turns his horse and slowly rides away from General Lee.
Luke turns quickly and begins running through the line of rebel soldiers, “We’re attacking! We’re attacking!” he yells as he runs. The announcement comes as no surprise; most of the men simply take another chew of tobacco or fire up their pipes and await the inevitable. General Longstreet, as do his men, know attacking the Union defenses across that near mile of open space is going to be hopeless. The veterans have enough battle experience to have come to this conclusion also. They are not blind, but they will attack – they will follow orders, they know no other way to fight.
As he continues to run from one Confederate Company to another, Luke keeps inquiring about his father and brother Matthew. No one has seen either of them since the battle of yesterday.
“Luke! Luke!” A voice rings out from the rear of ‘B’ Company. Luke turns to the sound. Peering through the throng of soldiers, he spies an old friend from back home, Private Carl Saint. Carl, Robert, Luke and Matthew, all enlisted at the same time in 1862. Once they arrived in Nashville, Robert and Luke remained with ‘E’ Company of the 48th Alabama; however, Carl went to ‘B’ Company. At this time, Matthew was pulled from the Infantry and assigned to the staff of General “Stonewall’ Jackson.
Carl is trying his hardest to get Luke to hear him. At the edge of the woods, Napoleon cannons are being un-limbered and on the move. The men are all talking at once, horses whining, and officers bellowing orders. Over all this noise, Luke hears enough to begin pushing his way through the group of soldiers toward Carl; finally, they reach each other.
“Carl! Carl! It is good to see you after yesterday’s battle. I am so glad you survived.” Before giving Carl time to answer Luke continues, “Have you seen anything of my father? I left him badly injured yesterday, but I have no news of him. I left Brother Matthew with Father also, do you have any information of him?”
“A bit of news, Luke – yer brother Matt he be doin’ fine – I seed him a little while ago, back yonder in yer ‘E’ Company area.”
“That’s great news, Carl; I have not been back to my Company yet. I have been going up and down the line seeking word on Father and Matthew. What news of Father, Carl?”
“I seed him being bared away from the field on a blanket by two orderlies. I don’t know where they took him tho’.”
“Tell me Carl! Tell me I beg you, was he alive?”
“Luke, I can’t say yea or nay. I was only close enough to catch a glimpse of his face, and I’m sorrie, but I couldn’t tell ye if he be livin’ or not. All I knows is his eyes wuz shut.”
Returning to his Company’s assembly area, Luke searches for Matthew. His Company of two hundred and thirty men has been decimated by the previous day’s fight, finding his brother Matt is not difficult, only about half of his Company remains.
“Matthew!” Grabbing his brother by his shoulder – Matt turns.
“Luke, I thought you were surely dead, thank God you are alive.”
They continue to hug each other tightly. “I am so happy to see you Matt, tell me about Father, what happened to him? Is he alive?”
“I’m sorry Luke; I could not stay and find out. As I hid behind a boulder, the command was given for the Company to fall back and regroup for another assault on the Yanks. I could not remain any longer I had to follow my Captain’s order; however, just before I was leaving a Union hospital orderly arrived and began abating the flow of blood from Father’s wounds. I asked him his name; I will never forget it if I live to be a hundred, this Yankee boy’s name was Charles Babb. If and I mean IF, Father survived he saved his life. This Babb feller told me he would get some stretcher bearing to come get Father. After the battle, our Company force-marched from the area of Devil’s Den to this place we now occupy. I’m truly sorry Luke; I let you and Father down! I didn’t get a chance to look for him again.”
“Do not worry Matt, you did all that was possible. You certainly have nothing for which to be ashamed.”
Matthew tells Luke today’s rumor is the Rebels are to attack the Union forces occupying the far hill toward the west.
Luke confirmed the rumor of an impending attack, telling Matthew he heard it personally from General Lee. He told Matthew about the encounter with Bobby Lee and how he was so close he had overheard the conversation between General Lee and General Longstreet.
Unable to finish orders were being given: “Fall In! Line of Battle, Fall In,” yelled Company ‘E’s commanding officer Captain Leake. The Captain draws his sword from its scabbard; swings it wildly over his head as his flag bearer falls in line beside him. The Confederate soldier, hardly past his sixteenth birthday, tightly grips his tattered Stars and Bars - a torn and dirty flag bearing the scars of dozens of previous battles. Names of these battles ‘Cedar Run,’ ‘2nd Manassas’, ‘Fredericksburg’, and ‘Sharpsburg’ have been sewed on the red and blue pendant; although, ragged and shredded these names of dreadful places of Southern glory are still readable. Grabbing their muskets, the soldiers hurry into a line of battle preparing for the attack, an attack that will add the name ‘Gettysburg’ to their proud banners.
Luke stands beside Matthew. Matthew withdraws a black ostrich plume. “Mama said this black feather belonged to Pappy Scarburg. He wore it at the Battle of Scarburg Mill and gave it to Grandfather Thomas. I wear this in their honor,” he said sticking the feather into his cap.
He turns and looks to his left – as far as he can see are four lines of proud Southern soldiers with another four immediately behind them. Dozens upon dozens of Stars and Bars flutter in the breeze, turning to his right the same scene is repeated. Standing at the edge of the trees, he sees Traveller and his stately rider General Robert E. Lee. Lee is sitting his saddle as though watching a parade, his grey, bearded face emotionless. His eyes, once bright and alert are now dull and lifeless as they stare out on the field of the imminent battle. His eyes seemingly sense the death and destruction that is about to happen.
Luke, for the first time, turns his attention from his side of the field of battle to the enemy on the far side. He can see the Stars and Stripes flapping all along the Union line. He can also see the Union soldiers behind a low rock wall. It is the December ’62, Battle of Fredericksburg all over again – except this time the South will be the force attacking an imbedded enemy.
At Fredericksburg, the Confederate forces occupied the high ground behind a short stonewall. The Union attackers, under the command of General Ambrose Burnside, mounted a futile frontal assault on these entrenched, seasoned, veterans of General Stonewall Jackson. The Yankees were cut to shreds, suffering thirteen thousand three hundred casualties. Luke realizes the shoe is on the other foot now. The battle of Fredericksburg was like lambs being led to slaughter. Now Luke and thousands of his fellow Southerners were to be the lambs.
His eyes return to the red, white and blue colors of the Stars and Stripes waving on the far hillside. They are as tattered and war-worn as the Stars and Bars of his side. Glancing from left to right along the Union line, the multitude of American flags seems innumerable. For a brief second, his allegiance to the Confederacy is forgotten. He thinks of the dozens of times he has heard the tale of his great-grandfather fighting the British and how he had received a wound to his leg at the Battle of Scarburg Mill. He remembered how the British had hanged his other great-grandfather, Pappy Scarburg, during the Revolutionary War for simply being a humanitarian. And his great uncle Charles, who also fought on the American side, but was never heard from again. He thought of his grandfather Thomas, fighting with the Americans in the War of 1812. He remembered his own father Robert Steven enlisting in the United States Army with the twelfth president of the United States Zachary Taylor to fight the Seminole Indians. In fact, his family’s move to Alabama was due, in part to his father, a veteran of the Seminole Indian War, being awarded bounty land by an Act of the Congress of the United States. His whole family, for generations, had defended those same Stars and Stripes sacrificing everything, home, life and limb. Now he is being ordered to attack and defeat the very symbol his forefather’s fought and died so hard to defend — the American flag!
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Midas Burger, Inc
221 N Brindlee Mountain Pkwy
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