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The Troll Bridge

Just want to tell anyone reading this that my latest story, “The Troll Bridge”, is now finished.  The cover has been designed and printed, and I am waiting for the finished proof.

This is a story about mysticism, spirits, and the hint for instant wealth and the price that can take on those who are willing to take shortcuts.  It takes place in 1930’s west Texas, and it involves four teenage friends and a lost treasure from the Confederacy.   Look for it soon on this website or order it from Amazon!

the-troll-bridge-cover

New Story Completed

Sometimes I feel like I’m talking to myself here, so it is with pride I tell myself that I finished my latest story, “Troll Bridge”, and I will have it ready to deliver as soon as I can design a cover.  I want to try CreateSpace’s cover design service for this one because I have a specific look that I want for it.  

I am putting the opening for the other stories up here, a little at a time, to see if anyone finds them interesting.  I get some comments, but from the wording they are all spam so I don’t count them as a true response.  

It’s kind of like being the last man on earth, so I do this to create the illusions someone is out there.

 

More later.

COMMON THREADS

 

COMMON THREADS

BY

LARRY AUERBACH

For my father, who encouraged me to read; for my teacher, Mrs. Jackson, who encouraged me to write; and most of all for my wife, Chari, who has been my biggest supporter ever since we met. Behind every successful man there is a woman, and I am lucky she is mine.

Character Background:   Albert Meek

Albert Meek is anything but meek. He is a former Union officer who found himself out of a career after the War ended, because there was no need for his specialty—weapons. Albert was good with a gun, any kind of gun, pistol or rifle, and he knew how to take care of them and how to get the most results from them. He could field strip and reassemble any weapon faster than any man in the Army. He liked guns—his father was a gunsmith—and he knew how to use one. It made Albert feel very important during the War, and very frustrated and useless when the War ended. There was no more need for his abilities, and he was used to having the respect and admiration of others. He was also used to having the money that went along with his rank and prestige.

After the War ended, he moved around from town to town, hiring out his skill as a marksman to work as a deputy sheriff and part-time bounty hunter. Albert was a man with a very strong sense of honor, and he was offered money many times to be a hired killer, but that was something he did not believe in. He believed in loyalty to his men, to his country, and to his flag. And he believed that they owed him that same loyalty. When he was discharged after the War instead of being given the promotion he felt he was owed, Albert believed that his country had failed to honor their duty to him.

When he was approached by Marshal Markston for this special mission, he saw this as his opportunity to get the rewards he had been denied. Albert also had one other trait that had helped him rise to the top of his career, and that was his ability to plan ahead and to know how to bluff his opponent into making a mistake that he could capitalize on. Albert’s grandfather had taught him the game of chess as boy, and always told him that life was just a chess game with the stakes of a lifetime. Albert knew that this game was one he would win, because he was a better planner than his opponents, and had more to gain by winning. He just hadn’t planned for someone else to take a hand in his game, or on there being another player who had more to lose than Albert had to win.

Character Background: Thaddeus Morton

Thaddeus Morton was a career soldier. He was born into a very loyal Union family and grew up hearing stories of his grandfather, who had fought with George Washington at Valley Forge. Thaddeus had en-listed at the very start of the War when President Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers. He had served faithfully and without complaint for three years and through many battles, until his life took a sudden and tragic turn. After a very intense five hour battle, followed by a two-hour-long march with-out anything to eat but a handful of corn and beans and hardtack, he had been assigned guard duty on the picket line. He had very little rest and, predictably, he fell asleep during guard duty.

The lieutenant who found him asleep was new to the unit, coming in after the battle and the forced march. The officer was a “by the book” soldier, who refused to listen to anything Thaddeus or his sergeant had to say, and pressed for a court martial. The prescribed punishment for falling asleep on duty in a war was the firing squad, so Thaddeus thought his career and life were over. It was Thaddeus’s extremely good fortune that the current Commander-in-Chief was the most compassionate man to ever hold the office, and one who looked for every reason to vacate a death sentence. President Lincoln looked at Thaddeus’s record and his actions of the previous three days, and commuted the sentence to an honorable discharge for reasons of health. His military career was over, but he was alive. Because the President had spared his life and family’s reputation, he knew he owed Mr. Lincoln his life.

After the assassination of his leader on April 14, 1865, Thaddeus felt he owed it to Mr. Lincoln to carry on his policies and as soon as he heard about Marshal Markston and his assignment, he went looking for and pleaded with him for a chance to be included in this dangerous assignment in order to redeem his honor and pay a debt to the man who saved his life. But, as Thaddeus will learn, there are always strings attached to every golden opportunity, and some of these will be harder for Thaddeus to pull away from than he may expect.

Character Background:  Jason McCoy

Jason had never owned slaves before the War, always relying on his own two hands and his own strong back to make his way in the world. That is how he ended up in the Union Army, as a paid substitute for a wealthy man who didn’t want to serve. He did this for many wealthy men, in fact, making a good living at it, until he had the misfortune to join a regiment where the captain recognized him as a bounty jumper during an engagement. He deserted the South during the heat of the battle, after shoot-ing the captain in the melee, and joined the Confederate Army, where no one knew him. Jason changed his name and became a soldier in the Southern Army for the rest of the War.

When the War ended, and he came home, he came home to nothing. With the passage of time, Jason worked for others until he could scrape a few pennies together. He found a good woman, MaryAnn Harding, and they were married and started a family in the new world of the conquered South. They had a little farm, where they raised just enough to keep themselves fed. But then there was a drought, and things fell apart very quickly for Jason and his wife. Jason had to cope with a farm gone to ruin, and a wife who was expecting another child, and two hungry children he was responsible for.

Jason saw the arrival of the U.S. Marshal as an opportunity to get back on his feet and put the War be-hind him at last. He had a home now, and people who depended on him, and he wanted to take care of them the best he could. He knew how to soldier, and this wasn’t much different so far as he could tell. What he didn’t expect was to run into someone from his past, who knew his history and what happen-ed in his last fight for the North. What he also forgot was that whenever there is turmoil, sometimes small things get lost in the confusion, but when the dust settles, those issues will resurface.

Very soon, all of these people and secrets will meet, and in cutting the cords of time, someone else’s strings will start to pull Jason’s chickens back home to roost.

Character Background:  Jake Hartwell

Jake Hartwell has few skills, other than being good with a gun and willing to use it. He has few friends, because most people who know him don’t trust him. One of his few friends is Albert Meek; they have learned to rely on each other for their mutual safety and success, and they shared many a dangerous assignment during the War and several since then. Jake was only wounded one time, by a Confederate officer who said he was surrendering and then threw hot ashes in Jake’s face when handed a plate of food at the camp. The Confederate soldier got away, but Jake believes they will meet up again someday for a rematch to avenge his humiliation.

Both Jake and Albert were career soldiers who were asked to join the Marshal service for this dangerous job because of their excellent combat records in the army. Albert is the thinker of the two, and Jake trusts in him completely, as long as Jake is getting closer to what he wants. What both of them want is the same thing—the gold that is to be sent to Pinetar.

When their carefully-laid plan for stealing the gold goes awry because of the unforeseen involvement of a stranger, leading to an unexpected change of heart in Albert, Jake decides to end their partnership on a positive note—for him. Because Jake isn’t a thinker, but a man of action who loves a good fight, he often acts without thinking about the possible consequences of his actions. This will lead him into conflict with some other men of action, who are thinking about taking what Jake considers to be his gold, and Jake will have to make some hard choices about his future.

Jake will also have to stand up to Albert, his long-time friend, if he wants to get away with the gold, which he knows will not be easy to do. Compounding Jake’s dilemma, he will have the opportunity for his rematch with that Confederate officer, which will create a conflict for Jake’s plans for the gold. All of these issues and much more will come into clearer focus for Jake when he arrives in Pinetar.

Character Background:    Clayton “Cat” Devereau

Clayton “Cat” Devereau is a slender and wiry man, deceptive in his appearance to the unwary. He seemed to slowly glide along in his path, never hurried, but always where he needed to be when he needed to be there. He looked to be about twenty-five, with curly, sandy hair and clear blue eyes. He appeared to be very shy and innocent, but he had the knowledge of how to work people that only comes from experience. He had a smile that could be warm and friendly toward children and animals, but it was cold as ice, and never seeming to reach his eyes when he looked at someone he didn’t like or trust.

Those who knew Clayton said he was very cat-like in his movements, and that could sneak up on his own shadow if he wanted. The ladies said he was as gentle as a kitten, while the men said he would often smile like he knew something they didn’t, just like a cat. His enemies cursed that he had nine lives like a cat—and what no one alive knew was that Clayton also liked to torment his prey, just like a cat would. He had a great deal of strength in his arms, but his real weapons were his lightning-fast hands and feet. No one knew where Clayton called home and he didn’t say; no one felt very comfortable asking Clayton any questions. They assumed from his accent it was New Orleans, but they could not have been further from the truth.

Clayton followed Jake Hartwell everywhere, so people assumed they were good friends, but not even Jake knew why Clayton had attached himself to him one Sunday afternoon. Clayton had a line on Jake that no one knew or suspected, and for reasons no one could have imagined. Only Clayton knew the reason he kept Jake in his sight, and why he kept feeding him the line that he was. When the time was right, Clayton intended to be the only one pulling Jake into his net. Clayton intended to do his best to keep Jake alive and in one piece, no matter where he went and what he had to do, until he was ready for him. Like a fisherman, Clayton did not intend to let this one get away. He would follow him to Hell, if need be, or right down to Pinetar, whichever came first.

Character Background:  Joshua Markham

Joshua Markham was not his real name, he didn’t know what his real name was, other than “Tobey” and he didn’t like that name. That was a slave name, and he was no slave anymore. The man who helped him escape into the North after finding the scared boy of ten half-drowned in the river, his name was Markham, and he gave the boy his name. Joshua was the name the boy always called his father, the man who raised him until he was hung for helping to save a pregnant Black woman from the White man who tried to kill her.

Joshua, then called Tobey, threw a rock at the man and spooked his horse, knocking the man to the ground. Just before they pulled his father up into the air, he heard his father call out for him to run away and save himself. Afraid for his own life, Tobey ran for his life until he couldn’t take another step. He ran like the devil was after him—which it was, in the form of the man on his horse. He heard the bullets singing around his head, and he ran for the river and jumped in, swimming for his life now.

When the War came, Joshua enlisted as soon as he was old enough and spent the last three years of the War in Union blue, fighting for his freedom, remembering his father with every shot.

He was ready to be discharged to go home and settle some old scores. When he heard of this oppor-tunity, he decided to stay in the Army and allow the Army to help him settle his old hurts, as he had helped the Army to win their fight. He knew he wouldn’t be recognized there, as he was only ten when he left, and didn’t know if his father’s killers were still there, but he was going to right one last wrong if he could. He had no way of knowing that righting one wrong would only tie him to the making of an-other wrong, or that so many different lives would be tied up together with his string. He had no way of knowing that certain other rotting strings would be the key to cutting all the strings free of each other at last.

All the different threads, of so many different lives, held together by the common glue of a place called Pinetar.

Character Background:  Walter Brookshire

Walter was a self-made man. He came from a very poor beginning, with a father who was barely able to write his own name and a mother who believed her role was to do whatever her husband told her to do without complaint. Walter’s father barely kept his family fed or clothed, but he always found the money for his drink. Walter watched his father drink and gamble all their money away over his child-hood, and he saw his father taken advantage of constantly by the bankers and fast-talking swindlers who lured his father into one get rich quick scheme after another.

Walter learned that the trick to being successful is to find the greediest man in town, and show him the way to take advantage of someone else. Walter learned the key to wealth is owning property in the path of progress, and now it was his turn to be the one owning the property in the path.

He knew of the financial investment to be made in the small hamlet of Pinetar, riding the wave of en-franchisement of the former slaves, and he had a plan to own it all. But first he needed to have someone else take the blame for the problems he was going to create while he was setting up his move.

The rich banker in town was the obvious choice, as he owned most of the town already and held the mortgages on the rest of it. Walter planned to use this banker, as the bankers of the past had used his father, to take over the entire town and run his kingdom from there. All he had to do was allow the chaos caused by the new society of unforgiving Rebels to create enough havoc that the Army would come in and set up martial law. With his contacts in the Army and the government, Walter would get himself named as the man to sort out the ownership of all the land deeds and mortgages. When the railroads began running again, he would own all the right-of–way in the entire state and his fortune would be made forever.

He held the string to his future in his hands—but he couldn’t control the threads of destiny.

Character Background:  Jedediah Edward Taft

Jedediah is not a banker, as his father Wesley is. Jedediah is a merchant, and believes that only by working together as a community will everyone survive. For Jedediah, the community is a group of people, regardless of color, working together for the betterment of everyone. He did not serve in the War, as he did not believe in slavery and thought it was morally wrong to own another human being. There were many arguments with his father over this issue, as his father was of the generation that believed in the superiority of the White race.

Jedediah spoke out against racism and the Klan, and he often had to deal with the results of having an unpopular opinion. He had to endure taunts from the town ruffians, and bullying by the town’s most virulent rebel and a known member of the dreaded and feared Klu Klux Klan, Landon Blair Wentworth II. When Jedediah started giving the Black community credit at his store, the attacks on him and his store only increased. When Wentworth started a fight in Jedediah’s store and began to draw his gun, only the intervention by one of the U.S. Marshal’s deputies saved his life. This was the motivation for Jedediah to join with them to try and put an end to the Klan’s control of his town.

When the new schoolteacher came to town, to begin teaching former slaves to read and write in order to prepare them for citizenship, Jedediah found himself strongly attracted to her, and began to examine his own beliefs about equality and what freedom meant if he was not willing to fight for it.

This new awareness started the final round in the War between those who wanted anarchy to restore their past and those who wanted to build a future in the town. It would also bring up a secret from the past and lead to the end of dreams for some, and the start of new dreams for others. Jedediah would have to choose between right and wrong, and lives would depend upon his eventual choice and his ability to stand up to the faces of evil. He had to tie his dreams to a star, or to an anchor, and hope that he could cut himself free in time, if he needed to, before those same cords cut off his circulation.

Character Background:  Landon Blair Wentworth II

Landon was one of the wealthy landowners before the War, but the War took everything away. Landon was raised on the concept of his superiority over others because of his station and color, and the loss of the War turned his world inside out. He lost his family, he lost his land, and he lost his power and status in the town. He misses the loss of his power most of all.

He is not a forgiving person, because he was raised without mercy by a very cold and unforgiving father. His father, lost in the War, did not believe in anything but winning, and in owning the best of every-thing, regardless of how much it cost. He also believed that might makes right, and that the power he had as the wealthiest landowner in the area gave him the right to make the rules for everyone, and he was raising Landon to believe the same way about his place in society and his right to walk over others to get what he wanted—and his son was very eager to learn.

When the War ended, Landon found that he had lost everything about his way of life, except his views on life and the people under him. He carried a world of hate and anger in his heart for those who took away his world, the Blacks who rose up against their proper station and the hated Yankees who aided them in their rebellion. When the opportunity arose for him to put things right, and restore the natural order of things—as he saw them—he did not hesitate to do what he needed to do in order to reclaim his rightful place in the world, regardless of who was hurt in the process. He joined a new organization whose expressed purpose was to restore the old order, through the use of violence, hate, fear and intimidation.

While Landon saw this as a golden opportunity for him to drive out those he considered inferior, what Landon didn’t count on was that others might feel the same way about him, and see him as a tool for meeting their own ends, regardless of how much this might cost him. When Landon tied himself to the use of violence and hate, he failed to take into consideration that the cord might tie two ways.

Character Background:  Shelby Howard

Shelby was born at the end of what would be known as the pre-War South. She never knew who her mother was, or where she came from. All she knew about her past was that she was dropped off at a church by a Black woman who everyone assumed was her slave. She was found in a basket, wrapped in a blanket, with a corncob doll that someone had lovingly placed in the basket with her on the church steps. The Negro woman had been found a short distance away. There was no note or any indication of any kind to explain where she came from.

She was adopted and raised by a loving family in the North, who named her Shelby and gave her a home and stability in her life. They sent her to school and raised her to believe in equality for everyone. In keeping with the social order of the time in the North, Shelby was expected to become a dressmaker or shop owner—but, because of her education and appreciation of the cost of the War, as well as the teachings she was exposed to about the cause of the War, she took the opportunity to become a teacher. When the chance came to return to the area she had come from, as a teacher, she was only too happy to have the chance to give something back to the area and the people.

What she had no way to know was that she was coming not just as a healing force, but as the spark for a reckoning and cleansing of the town of Pinetar of an old secret and the resolution of an old murder. She would start the sequence of events that would lead to closing the book on one buried hate crime, and the prevention of another. Shelby would bring a long-sought healing for one man, atonement for another, and justice for yet another. Along the way, Shelby would find her own future while she walked unknowingly in the steps of her past. One man would die to save her life, and one would die while trying to take her life. Shelby would do all of this without ever knowing of her role in these events, or how the thread of her life was intertwined with the threads of theirs.

Character Background:  Dr. Mordecai Hunter

Dr. Mordecai Hunter was a typical Southern, small town doctor, in that he knew all the town secrets and all the gossip. He knew who had a secret drug problem, and who was a closet drinker. He treated the men for their problems caused by careless sexual conquests of their neighbor’s wives, and the common sexual dalliances with the comely slaves on their plantations. He knew about the unrecorded births and the mysterious broken arms and bruises of the townspeople. He helped them come into the world, and he eased their passage out of it. He was the soul of the town, and kept the towns secrets as inviolate as any priest would. But even though he knew all these things, sometimes he would wonder how they all fit together in the town.

Dr. Hunter knew about Adelle Taft’s long illness, and her relationship with her husband. He knew Adelle was of the old school, so their physical behavior was never discussed, but he knew her illness prevented her from being able to fulfill her expected marital duties. He also knew about the banker’s secret love life with his mulatto house slave, to satisfy his own sexual needs. What Dr. Hunter never told anyone was that he knew Adelle knew about it, too.

If it had only been a physical relationship, she would not have objected, as it was a common practice of the time. But her husband had been careless and fathered a child—in their bedroom—and this she could not forgive. She had learned this when she overheard the house slaves talking in the kitchen one day. She told her husband to take care of the problem, so he did—he thought. When the banker’s solution involved murder, he started a chain of events that would take twenty years to play out and involve the good doctor.

The good doctor has scruples, and when he was unknowingly drawn into this drama, he never knew he would someday be witness to the final act of the play as well. He also never expected that he would be the one to pull all the threads together into a whole cloth to cover all of them in sackcloth and ashes.

Character Background:   Wesley Evans Taft

Wesley Evans Taft raised his son to believe in the superiority of the White man over the Black man, a teaching his son resisted fol-lowing, to Wesley’s great disappointment. With the coming of the Great War, Wesley was further disappointed by his son’s refusal to join the local unit and march off to combat and glory. With the collapse of the Confederacy, his disappointment was lessened by the fact his son was still alive and in one piece, while this caused some envy and resentment from the parents and widows of those whose partners and children did not return whole or alive.

Wesley was the town banker and he held all the mortgage notes in town, forcing everyone to sing his tune. He was the town’s leading citizen prior to the War and now that the War is over, he is the only one with any money. Unfortunately, it is all in Confederate bonds. He needs the town to survive if he is to rebuild his fortune, and he has just the plan as to how to do that.

The railroad is coming to Pinetar, and that means money—a lot of it. In addition, the federal govern-ment is going to be sinking a lot of money into Pinetar, helping to rebuild the lives of the former slaves by buying up land and giving it to them. As the local banker, he will be the repository for all that gold coming in and this money will help him re-claim the power he once had. As a merchant, his son is dedicated to helping the former slaves keep their property, putting him in direct conflict with his father over the future of  Pinetar and its new citizens.

Wesley holds all the mortgages on the property that the railroad is going to need, but with the govern-ment helping the poor, he may not be able to hold those mortgages long enough to sell them to the railroad without help from a new organization that wants to set things right—which means a return to the old ways of a two-class system with the white man on top.   As the banker, he keeps many secrets in his vaults and one of those is from his own past. Unfortunately, one of his old ways will be tied to his new future, and this string may unravel all of his plans and cut the strings to his purse.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The Civil War, also known as the War Between the States and the War of Northern Aggression, depending upon where you lived, to all intents and purposes ended on April 9, 1865, with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee, CSA, to General Ulysses S. Grant, USA. The Civil War was over, but the Uncivil War, also known at the Reconstruction Period, immediately began in its place on April 14, 1865, following the assassination of President Lincoln and the ascension of Vice President Andrew Johnson to the office of President of the United States of America.

“Reconstruction” is the era in United States history from 1863 to 1877, when the United States was focusing abolishing slavery, destroying all evidence of the Rebel Confederacy, establishing the rights of Freedmen (the new name given to the former slaves) , and rebuilding the power of the federal government and its courts. Reconstruction began in each state as soon as federal troops controlled most of the state.

On March 3, 1865, Congress established the Freedmen’s Bureau to help the newly-freed slaves transition from the condition of slave to citizen. The Bureau was charged with providing food, clothing, medical care, and fuel to poor and wanting former slaves and the many White refugees, as well as giving the former slaves advice on negotiating labor contracts. It was also responsible for helping them find new homes and it was charged with establishing schools for their education. The Bureau intended to serve as mediator and negotiator of new relations between Freedmen and their former masters.

The Bureau was also responsible for dispersing land according to General Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15. This order, issued on January 16, 1865, distributed some 400,000 acres of abandoned rice land on Georgia’s Sea Islands and on the coast of South Carolina to the former slaves. The land was divided into forty-acre plots, and the Army was later ordered to provide mules to those Freedmen to help with planting and harvesting their crops. This arrangement became known as “forty acres and a mule.”

However, the fears of the mostly-conservative planter elite and other leading White citizens were partly relieved by the actions of President Johnson, who turned his back on the plans of the late president and ordered that the confiscated or abandoned lands administered by the Freedman’s Bureau would not be redistributed to the Freedmen but be returned to pardoned owners.

Although resigned to the abolition of slavery, many former Confederates were not willing to accept the concept of equality with their former slaves, or that they now had a right to say “no” or get paid for their work. These resistant former Confederates were often referred to as “Un-reconstructed Rebels,” and they banded together to create a new social and political power structure to protect themselves from these changes and maintain the hold on the world they knew. Led by a former Confederate general who was known to be angry about the Lost Cause, they created a militant society to force the issue and intimidate the Freedmen into leaving their homes in the South.

This paramilitary organization was called the Klu Klux Klan. The Ku Klux Klan terrorized many Southern Republican governments, Black voters, and Black political leaders through acts of violence that included murder and torture. Many people who claimed to detest the Klan by day rode with them or supported them by night and protected their identities. It was organized in Pulaski, Tennessee, in May, 1866. A general organization of the local Klans was organized in April of 1867, in Nashville, Tennessee.

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the famous Confederate cavalry leader, was made Grand Wizard of the Empire and was assisted by ten Genii. Each state constituted a Realm under a Grand Dragon, with eight Hydras as a staff; several counties formed a Dominion, controlled by a Grand Titan and six Furies; a county was a Province, ruled by a Grand Giant and four Night Hawks; the local Den was governed by a Grand Cyclops, with two Night Hawks as aides. The individual members were called Ghouls.

Its use of strange disguises, silent parades, and midnight rides, its mysterious language and commands… all of these intimidation techniques were found to be most effective in playing upon fears and superstitions of the newly-freed and uneducated former slaves. The riders muffled their horses’ feet and covered the horses with white robes. They dressed in flowing white sheets, covered their faces with white masks, and often attached skulls at their saddle horns, and posed as spirits of the Confederate dead returned from the battlefields.

Although the Klan was often able to achieve its aims by terror alone, whippings and lynchings were also used, not only against Blacks but also against the so-called carpetbaggers and scalawags, which usually meant any Northerner who had money or tried to change things in a way those opposed to Reconstruction didn’t like. The primary purpose of the Klan was to restore White supremacy in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Klan resisted Reconstruction by intimidating Freedmen and White Republicans, members of the abolitionist movement. The increase in murders finally resulted in a backlash among Southern elites who viewed the Klan’s excesses as an excuse for federal troops to continue the hated occupation. During its first incarnation, from 1865 to 1870, the Klan included as many as 550,000 members.

The United States Marshal Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice and is the second oldest federal law enforcement agency (next to the Postal Inspection Service’s) in the United States. On September 24, 1789, President George Washington appointed the first thirteen U.S. Marshals following the passage of the first Judiciary Act. For over two hundred years now, U.S. Marshals and their Deputies have served as the instruments of civil authority used by all three branches of government.

On September 18, 1850, Congress approved the Fugitive Slave Law. The U.S. Marshals were required to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 by arresting fugitive slaves and returning them to their Southern masters. One of the more onerous jobs the Marshals were tasked with was the recovery of fugitive slaves, as required by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. They were also permitted to form a posse and to deputize any person in any community to aid in the recapture of fugitive slaves. Failure to cooperate with a Marshal resulted in a five thousand dollars fine and imprisonment, a stiff penalty for those days.

The OberlinWellington Rescue was a celebrated fugitive-slave case involving U.S. Marshals. James Batchelder was the second Marshal killed in the line of duty. Batchelder, along with others, was preventing the rescue of fugitive slave Anthony Burns in Boston in 1854. The Marshals were required to enforce the law, and any negligence in doing so exposed the Marshals and their deputies to severe financial penalties.

During the Civil War, U.S. Marshals confiscated property used to support the confederacy and helped root out Confederate spies. Some famous or otherwise note-worthy U.S. Marshals include:

To combat the rising violence throughout the South, Congress and Republican President Ulysses S. Grant passed the Force Act of 1871 to protect the right of citizens to vote, the right to hold office, and gave the president the power to use military force and make arrests. The law resulted in the declaration of martial law in nine South Carolina counties in October, 1871. Klansmen were rounded up, tried, and convicted under federal law. The Klan was substantially weakened in that state after this.

 

IN THE BEGINNING…

April 15, 1865, was a dark day for most of the country. There was panic, hysteria, a great mourning, and anger. The Great Emanci-pator was dead, killed by an assassin’s cowardly bullet to the back of his head, on the eve of his great celebration. Just that day, at the White House, he had asked the band to play “Dixie,” saying that now it be-longed to the country again. Now, with Lincoln dead, the country was in turmoil once more. The future of the slain President’s plan for Reconstruction, the healing of the country and the binding up of its wounds, was now in doubt.

It was common knowledge that the former Vice President, a known angry alcoholic, was not as charitable to the South as the late Lincoln had been, nor was he as likely to resist the demands of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton for serious retribution from the South. It was not a secret to anyone there had been rumors of assassination plots against the President’s life from the moment he took office, nor was it a secret the President was not as affected by those threats as were those close to him. But now he was gone and with him went the last chance the South had for any calm and peaceful reunification of its people and rebuilding of the land in a manner consistent with the late President’s words in his famous second inaugural speech “…with malice toward none and charity for all.”

There were many who were saddened by his death for personal reasons, such as family and friends, and many of his political friends. There were some who felt his loss on a very individual level, such as the former United States Army Private Thaddeus Morton. Some people were glad he was gone, because they saw him as the architect of the loss of their world and culture, and the way they were used to living. They blamed Lincoln and his bullies, criminals like Grant, and especially Sherman, for destroying the South they knew and loved. Some, like Landon Blair Wentworth II, saw his death as a good thing and hoped to take advantage of his passing and rebuild the South as it was in the good old days.

Some men, like financier and investor Walter Brookshire, or banker Wesley Evans Taft, simply saw an opportunity to make a killing of their own—financially, of course—on the upheaval and the Recon-struction programs being pushed down their throats by the victorious North. There were others, such as Marshal Martin Markston, Jedediah Edward Taft and Thaddeus Morton, who saw the loss of the President as a blow to the safety and salvation of their country. These were the men who believed in his ideals, and what they represented for the country, and for what the country could become, and were fiercely determined to not let his death be the end of those dreams.

And there were others who saw the death of the President as a foreboding sign of big trouble to come. The newly-freed slaves had lost their savior and protector.  Their grief was real and it was deep. They were determined to make the most of this freedom, and to learn what they could to honor the new door to independence that he had opened for them. But, unfortunately, there were also some who had no feelings about it either way; they just went along with whatever wind was blowing, as long as they could catch some of  the money floating about in the wind. Such men are always present in the aftermath of a disaster.

A piece of cloth is composed of many threads, some long and some short. But they are all secured together to form a whole garment. Sometimes, one may cause a tear in the fabric that has no impact on the garment, other than to allow wind, water, or soil to enter it, or to de-crease its effectiveness to protect the wearer from harm. Sometimes, however, such a tear leads to the beginning of the entire garment unraveling and falling apart. Such it was that day in late September, 1876, when an aging and grieving U.S. Marshal was summoned by his super-visor to stop what he was doing immediately and return to Washington for an important new assignment.

This assignment would cause many threads to tear and many fabrics to unravel. It would take all those individual threads of lives, both healthy and decayed by time and wear, then circumstance and fate would tie them together in a town called Pinetar. Some of the strands would be broken and some combined into new strands, but the cloth would never be the same again. In the great fabric of life, useful and strong threads of those lives would be gathered into one new garment, the old and rotten threads discarded in the dust.

∙ ∙ ∙ ∙ ∙

 

My Trivia Contest

Well, I’m pretty darn disappointed!  Not one person tried to answer my questions or win the contest.   Good thing I don’t take this sort of thing personally.  Not sure why no one was interested, sure would like someone to tell me.

 

 

Trivia Contest for August

Okay, so here’s the rules for my Trivia contest.  I have 10 questions for you, and this first group is relatively easy.   Obviously some of you will be quick to go to the internet to look up the answers, but I hope some of you will know them from your reading.  Anyway, I will leave this up for a month, and whoever gets all 10 questions right gets a copy of one of my books.  Not a great prize, but this is a simple and small trivia contest.   You still get something for nothing, so it’s all good, right?  In order to get the book, you have to leave me your mailing address.

The book up for grabs this first month is “Common Threads”.  It is a western, set in Reconstruction era Alabama.  It was my first attempt at writing, so be tolerant of a few small technical details.  I have a fondness for this story, because it was my first.    So, here are the ten questions.  Good luck and have fun!

Larry

 

Trivia contest – August

 

01:  Who is Davis Tutt and why is he famous?  

02:  Ilion, New York was the home of what company? 

03:  “Garryowen” was the marching song for what unit of the US Army?  

04:  John Brown was arrested by what two future legends?  

05:  Who is Thomas Corbett and what is his claim to fame?  

06:  Who are Myra Belle Shirley, Robert Leroy Parker, Jane Canary, Harry Longabaugh, William H. Antrim, Elizabeth Bacon, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Samuel Langhorne Clemens?   

07:  Who is Heinrich Hartmann Wirz and why was he the only soldier hung for war crimes?  

08:   Who is Laura Keene, and what is her claim to fame?  

09:  What do David Herold, George Azterodt, Lewis Powell and Mary Surrat have in common?  

10:  This actor got his start serving as a ‘go-fer’ on the set of Tom Mix movies.  He would stand around listening to Tom Mix talking to an older man who was always hanging around, giving Tom ‘technical’ advice.  This actor copied much of his later screen personas from this old man.  Who were these two icons of the old west?  

 

 

Something NEW!

Hello readers!  I had to stop the “Today in History” because it took much time from my work and my writing, but I wanted to do something different, so I’m going to start a Trivia Contest.   I am gathering my information together and I will be starting in about two weeks.  The winner will get a signed copy of one of my books.  Hope this will be sufficient enticement for you to play along.   I am halfway finished with “Troll Bridge”, and when that is done, it will be on the table as well.  I’m still working out the rules, simple as they may be, and I expect to be ready to roll it out on the 1st of August.

 

Stay tuned to see what the questions are.  The focus will  be on the people, places and events of the United States from 1800 on, but mostly pre-1920.  Of course, some questions will be easy and some will be hard.  I am leaning towards awarding all winners for the month at this point.  Your response to this will determine how many I give away.

 

 

 

Update on “The Troll Bridge

 

Well, things are moving along here.  I just completed chapter 6, and things are heating up down below. There’s more than meets the eye with one of the crew and not all is what it seems.  It is building up to be a very exciting finish…Hopefully with some turns the reader won’t expect.  

I’ll keep giving updates as I get closer to the finish line.  Hope you will stay tuned for the big reveal when it is all done.  And to those of you who drop in for a look, many thanks.  Leave a comment if you would.

More later.

The Toll Bridge: New Story Update

Just to let you know, work is progressing on my new story.   I have just completed chapter 5, and things are starting to heat up for the crew.  The crew are four high school friends, Abbie Conway, Ronald Conrad, Duane McCathern, and Anthony Picano.   Inspired by an old legend, and fueled by a chance discovery,  they are on a treasure hunt in 1930’s southwest Texas.  It will be an interesting journey for them, and they will never be the same.

 

I hope to have this finished and ready to be read by the end of the year or sooner.  Stay tuned for further updates.

 

 

Update

June 9, 2016

 

Just a note to let anyone reading this know why the History column is not up to date.  I’m working on two new stories right now, so I really don’t have the time to work on that column.  I hope to get back to it at some point in the future, but for now, I am going to concentrate on my writing.  

 

Talk to you later as these stories reach their conclusion!

Today In Western History: Abilene Hires A New Marshal

June 04, 1870

Abilene, Kanasas, was a burgeoning Cowtown. The county itself, Dickinson County, had only come into existence in 1857.  A stage coach stop was built by Timothy Hershey that same year, and was Mud Creek began as a stage stop that same year and due to the landscape, it was given the unlikely name of Mud Creek.  In 1860, it was renamed Abilene, and the name was taken from a passage in the Bible (Luke 3:1), meaning “city of the plains”.

In 1867, Joseph G. McCoy purchased 250 acres of land north and east of Abilene, on which he built a hotel that he called the Drover’s 

Joseph G. McCoy, he built Abilene into a destination for the trail herds
Joseph G. McCoy, he built Abilene into a destination for the trail herds

Cottage.  He also put together a set of stockyards equipped for 2,000 head of cattle, and a stable for their horses. Why did he invest here?  Because he was a smart man.  In that same year the Kansas Pacific Railway (Union Pacific) had pushed westward through to Abilene. The Kansas Pacific put in a side-track switch at Abilene that enabled the cattle cars to be loaded and sent on to their destinations. The first twenty carloads left September 5, 1867, on their way to Chicago, Illinois, where McCoy was quite familiar with the market. The town grew quickly and became the very first “cow town” of the west.

McCoy encouraged Texas cattlemen to drive their herds to his stockyards.  From 1867 to 1871, the Chisholm Trail, a trail used by many cowmen to herd their cattle to market, ended in Abilene, and this convenient location brought in many travelers and very quickly turned Abilene one of the wildest towns in the west.   According to records, 35,000 head were sent on their way east in 1867 and this allowed Abilene to become the largest stockyards west of Kansas City, Kansas.  Another reliable resource declared that 440,200 head of cattle were shipped out of Abilene from 1867 to 1871. How-ever, in just four years, this total jumped to between 600,000 and 700,000 cows coming in to Abilene and other Kansas railheads, a 35-40% increase in traffic.   

This represented a tremendous boom in Abilene’s economy, but it came at a price. These cows didn’t come on their own, and that mean men were needed to move them.  After four to six months on the trail, with no liquor or women, when the men arrived and were paid off, they wanted to howl at the moon.  This allowed for a lot of opportunities for gamblers, pickpockets, saloons and painted ladies to make a killing as well.  And to prevent the other kind of killings, a strong and effective lawman was needed.

Town marshal Tom “Bear River” Smith was initially successful policing Abilene, often using only his bare hands. He survived two assassination 

Marshal Tom "Bear RIver" Smith. he tamed towns with his hands.
Marshal Tom “Bear River” Smith. he tamed towns with his hands.

attempts during his tenure. However, he was murdered and decapitated on November 2, 1870. Smith wounded one of his two attackers during the shootout preceding his death, and both suspects were given life in prison for the offense.  He was replaced by a man whose fierce reputation, as well as his unyielding style of law enforcement, was guaranteed to keep peace in town.  On June 4, 1870, the town father hired  James Butler Hickok, known far and wide as Wild Bill Hickok to be the new marshal.  Hickok’s time in the job was short.  One night while he was

James Butler "WIld Bill" Hickok, legendary lawman, shootist and gambler
James Butler “WIld Bill” Hickok, legendary lawman, shootist and gambler

 was standing off a crowd during a street brawl, a gambler named Phil Coe took two shots at Hickok, who returned fire, killing Coe.  

Phillip Houston Coe, gambler, gunfighter, and partner with Ben Thompson. He tried to shoot it out with Wild Bill Hickok and lost.
Phillip Houston Coe, gambler, gunfighter, and partner with Ben Thompson. He tried to shoot it out with Wild Bill Hickok and lost.

There had been bad blood between them for some time.   But Hickok then accidentally shot his friend and deputy, Mike Williams, who had come running up from behind in a desire to help his friend.  Running up be-hind Hickok was a smart move at any time, as Hickok was known to shoot to kill.  Hickok lost his job two months later in December.  It was the beginning of the end for Wild Bill, as his eyesight was already beginning to fail, possibly from an STD.  He never drew his pistol on another man for the rest of his life, which was only five years and four months.

It is reported that Hickok had a premonition that Deadwood would be his last camp, and expressed this belief to his friend Charlie Utter (also known as Colorado Charlie) and the others who were

Steve and Charley Utter (l to r) at the grave of Wild Bill Hickok
Steve and Charley Utter (l to r) at the grave of Wild Bill Hickok

traveling with them at the time. On August 2, 1876, Hickok was playing poker at Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon in Deadwood, in the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory. Hickok usually sat with his back to a wall. The only seat available when he joined the poker game that afternoon was a chair that put his back to a door. Twice he asked another player, Charles Rich, to change seats with him, and on both occasions Rich refused.  A former buffalo hunter, Jack McCall (better known as “Crooked Nose” or “Broken Nose” Jack), entered the saloon unnoticed by Hickok.

Jack "Crooked Nose", or "Broken Nose" McCall. He shot Wild Bill Hickik in the back of the head, and was later hanged for this killing.
Jack “Crooked Nose”, or “Broken Nose” McCall. He shot Wild Bill Hickik in the back of the head, and was later hanged for this killing.

McCall walked to within a few feet of Hickok, drew a pistol and shouted, “Damn you! Take that!” before firing at Hickok point blank.  McCall’s bullet hit Hickok in the back of the head, killing him instantly. The bullet emerged through Hickok’s right cheek, striking another player, Captain Massie, in the left wrist. The murder weapon was an 18 inch “Sharps Improved” revolver. 

Hickok was playing five card draw when he was shot, and was holding a pair of black aces and a pair of black eights. The final card had been discarded and its replacement had possibly yet to be dealt. The fifth card’s identity remains the subject of debate. 

 

 

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 Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com