Amazon bestselling e-book sequel.
Here is the start to the sequel to my Amazon bestseller - www.amazon.com/dp/B007CJKK84.
The guns of the war were silent, and an uneasy truce lay between the former enemies. Fort Harborough had become nothing more than a prison camp for Confederate soldiers unwilling to accede to the new Union. Among the prisoners were Captain Clem Mount, and some of his guerrilla troops. These men had for the last year of the war, ravaged supply lines and attacked troop columns.
The soldiers of the Confederacy still looked down on their Union captors, and they may be "white trash," but these plantation overseers had worked for families with money. They regarded themselves as better than the northern troops, and in some ways they were. The South had better horsemen, but the horses from the states of the north were hardier; a quarter-horse is useful for showing off, but in battle, you need a workhorse, speed doesn't matter when you have guns to pull.
The prisoners walked into the old fort, their chains chafing on bloodied wrists and ankles. Men who had been force marched for weeks stood still as they looked at their surroundings. Clem looked at the wooden structures and thought "This is what the new Union is about, dragging up these desolate forts in a desperate attempt to keep us under control. We'll see about that." Though his mouth was dry, he spat to clear his parched throat. "Sergeant, we've been on the march for days, can my men sit down please, and have water?"
Ben Dawkins was a good fighter, he'd seen plenty of action, both before and during the war. "I'll go and find the officer in charge, and he can decide."
Clem glanced at the old wooden buildings and replied, "Don't you know who he is?"
Ben wiped his sweaty brow, and said, "No. I was told to bring you here, and report to the officer in charge, other than that I'm in the dark as much as you." The sergeant turned from the column before he'd gone more than three steps, the door opened, and an officer appeared, "Sergeant Ben Dawkins, reporting from Fort Hilger, sir. Prisoners are accounted for, sir," Dawkins said with a salute.
The officer replied, "Thank you, Sergeant. I see our guests are tired and thirsty, and they can have a rest and some water. We've got a big day ahead tomorrow."
Clem couldn't believe what he'd heard. He looked up at the officer standing on the porch, " Well, as I live and breathe, Jonas Dawson. I know why I'm here. What did you do wrong to get this hell hole of a posting?"
Jonas glanced at the column of prisoners, and replied, "Clem Mount, I never thought I'd see the day we had you in chains."
Clem winced and said, "You wouldn't have if my horse hadn't gone lame on me. I tried to walk to our camps, but your men caught up long before I had a chance."
Jonas gave a tired smile and replied, "I kept telling you, our horses were better than yours, but you never believed me. I guess that's changed."
Clem wiped his forehead with his sweat-soaked hat, and continued, "Back to my question, what did you do wrong to get this posting?"
Jonas blinked in the midday sun and answered with a sigh, "Maybe I'll tell you one day, Clem. Once this job is over."
A voice from the column called out," Begging the sirs' pardon, what is the job?"
Clem smiled, and looked at Jonas, then enquired, "Are you gonna tell us, Jonas?"
The officer wiped his face with a dirty handkerchief and replied, "Our job is to rebuild Fort Karnak. The fort was burned to the ground last month, and the army needs that position to maintain control of our flank from attack."
Jack Mason wiped his dirty face and blinked in the midday sun. He thought for a while, and the said, "What you mean is you want us to rebuild your fort. Have you any idea what we'll be up against out there?"
Jonas turned and said, "I don't like this any more than any of you, but I've got my orders, and I've got to follow them."
Clem slipped his battered cap down, to protect his eyes, then continued. "About your orders. You're from the North, and we've been fighting in this area and know what's out there. If the Indians don't get you, the desert will. That place is hell on Earth, and you're sending these men out there."
The sweat made Jonas blink as he commented, "As a Southern gentleman I would have thought you would have respected the chain of command, Clem. Apparently, the control of your men has changed your view."
Clem spat into the dirt at his feet, barely missing his boots, the looked his former friend in the face."Look here, Jonas, I've had my run-ins with officers, but I've never sent my men into a battle we hadn't a chance of surviving. What you're proposing is nothing short of a suicide mission, and for what?"
Jack Mason said with a snarl in his voice, "They want us to build the fort, in case the Indians take it in their heads to attack again, sir. We're nothing more than target practice, and if we die who cares?"
Jonas didn't reply to the statement. He didn't need to answer, Clem and the others knew what Jack said was true. Terry Mabey, a guide, and friend of the Indians looked at Jonas and said "If that's right, all I can say is we must have ticked someone off bad. Where we're heading is known among the scouts as Hells' Mouth."
Trooper Carter, not long out of training, asked, "Why's that Mr. Mabey?"
The old scout ran his fingers, over the grime of his face and commented, "You'll find out soon enough trooper, fast enough." The ragged clothes he wore had seen better days, but he was one of the best scouts in the wilderness; capable of living off what he caught for months, some people said if the frontiersman didn't need to report to the fort once a month, he wouldn't come into the town.
Mabey looked across the yard and said, "I'm going to get a meal and wash, I suggest you get some rest; once we leave here, I doubt any of us will get any rest for many weeks- if at all."
The prisoners looked at Mabey as he walked away, and Clem said "He ain't wrong. Where we're going isn't called Hell's Mouth without reason; there are so many tales about the area it's hard which to believe and which to ignore. For myself, I believe them all."
Clem's remark wasn't said lightly, and Carter heard what he said as they crossed the yard to the canteen. The Confederates winced as the chains chafed on dry, raw skin and made the scars of the last week bleed again. The prisoners looked at the fort with sad eyes; some had served here before the Confederacy had fallen and they wept for their loss; others looked at the fort as their final sight of the remains of human life. Beyond this fort was Indian Territory, and nobody knew what to expect.
Clem hobbled over to where Mabey was sitting, and asked him, "How many of the Indian tales do you believe?"
Mabey finished his broth, and wiped his beard, then replied, "I am like you, I believe them all. Some I have only heard about, others I have witnessed for myself. All I can say is we are going to be watched like a hawk watches a hare from the moment we leave, make no mistake, once we leave we are on our own. If we get attacked, nobody will be sent to rescue us."
Clem pulled his hat back and wiped his brow, then passed a comment, "I do believe you're right. I know why my men and I are here, but what makes you come on this journey?"
Mabey smile and replied, "Me? Where else would I go? I was born here, and I'll die here. I have nothing to keep me in the fort, that's why I became a scout. Your friend must have done something awful to draw this detail though, for him it's a dead end no matter how the detail turns out."
Mason, the battle-hardened Sgt, laughed and said, "Begging the Captain's pardon, sir, but I don't think the plan is for us to return; you see if we do come back, we cause problems about keeping us. If we die, there is nobody to worry about us."
Clem turned to his Sgt, and replied, "Sgt, I know, also if the detail comes back the Union will have to explain why a renowned Capt was sent on such a journey. A detail that has little or no hope of returning, and one with no hope of promotion; this is the end for Capt Dawson, and he knows it. Enemy, or not, no man deserves to die out here alone, and that is what we are expected to do."
Trooper Carter said, "I can't believe the Union would send men to their death, sir."
Ben Dawkins had been listening, and like usually keeping tabs on what was happening, he added, "How long have you been in the Army, son?"
Carter replied,"I joined up as soon as I could, that was after the Siege of Petersburg."
Dawkins laughed, then commented, "You ain't even wet behind the ears, son. You don't know what anyone can do unless you were at Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, Chickamauga or Antietam. Anyway, it won't matter whose side you're on at the end of the war, now it's us against the unknown, and that is all."
Carter left the canteen to check on the horses, the ride ahead would be hard, and as much as he hated the prisoners, he loved animals. All the time, that name Hell's mouth, played on his mind.
He didn't have a chance to think what lay ahead, Capt Dawson came out, and called "Put the prisoners in the wagons, and mount up, we're on our way." Then he muttered May the Lord help us.
He didn't realize how loud he whispered, in passing, Mabey replied, "Amen to that, sir, cos there isn't anyone else who'll be there for us."
The wagonload of prisoners rolled out of the fort. As it did, the band started to play The Battle Hymn of Republic. Clem winked at his sergeant and called out, “Hey lads, I’m sure the Rebs can beat these measly Yanks at their game.” Taking the hint, the Feds broke into "Dixie."
Carter watched as the men sang in the contest, and he noted that Mabey wasn’t joining in. He reeled his horse in and turned to the guide, “Why aren’t you joining the signing Mr Mabey?” he asked.
Mabey didn’t take his eyes off the hills as he replied, “Trooper, it ain’t that I don’t support your cause. My cause is more important to me than either the Union or the Confederacy. While you lot are singing, someone’s gotta keep their eyes open. We don’t need to announce our departure, we’re being watched, and the singing makes my job that much harder.”
Carter reeled his horse and spurred the animal to the lead. He didn’t stop until he came to where Capt. Dawson was riding, then he said, “Begging your pardon, sir, how well do you know Mr Mabey?”
Dawson turned to face the young trooper and replied, “I’d stake my life on what he says. Nobody knows these hills better than him if anyone can get us to our destination it’s him.”
Mabey wasn’t the only one watching the hills, Jack Mason asked his officer, “Begging your pardon, Captain. I think you should ask our jailor if we can be unchained. The way I see it, it’ll be every man for himself before long, and he’ll need as many guns as he can get his hands on.”
Clem glanced at the range and replied, “Don’t worry, Sgt. Mason, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.”
Sheepishly, Mason saluted his respect, then replied, “I’m glad you do, sir, cos I’m sure me an’ the boys think he’d as soon as see us die out here as see us with a gun in our hands.”