Authors: J. T. Edson
THE REBEL SPY
Somebody had a smart idea to end the Civil War. Flood the Southern States with counterfeit money and destroy their already weakened economy. Unfortunately one of the first consignments of bad money fell into the hands of a man who understood its meaning.
General Ole Devil Hardin knew the forging plant must be destroyed; but it was situated in New Orleans, far inside Union-controlled territory. Only an expert could reach the plant; one who knew the South and how to survive in enemy country without being detected. The expert Ole Devil sent was a slim, beautiful woman. Although the Yankees knew her name, they could not place her face. So Belle Boyd went with Dusty Fog on the dangerous mission. That was her job, her way of life.
They called her the Rebel Spy.
Dusty Fog was a fighting man. He could draw, shoot and kill in half a second. He was a leader — a captain whom his men would follow into the hell a battle and beyond.
But Dusty was used to honest fighting — man-to-man combat or the manoeuvrings and strategy of regimental war. He knew nothing of the double life, the treachery, the skulduggery of a secret agent, until Ole Devil Hardin gave him the assignment of going to New Orleans on a vital mission — in company with the Rebel Spy . . .
THE REBEL SPY
A CORGI BOOK 552 07840 9
First publication in Great Britain
Corgi edition published 1968
Corgi edition reprinted 1968
Corgi edition reprinted 1971
Corgi edition reprinted 1974
Copyright © Transworld Publishers Ltd., 1968
This book is set in 9/10 pt. Plantin
Corgi Books are published by Transworld Publishers Ltd.,
Cavendish House, 57-59 Uxbridge Road,
Ealing, London, W.5.
Made and printed in Great Britain by
Hunt Barnard Printing Ltd., Aylesbury, Bucks.
For Roy Toon, The Demon P.H.G.
While Captain Wormold, 5th Illinois Cavalry, did not profess to be a nervous man, he decided that he would feel a whole heap happier on completion of his present assignment. Not only did he have to take three wagons and a Rocker ambulance loaded with supplies across Arkansas to the Indian Nation outposts, but the real high brass saddled him with that damned runty civilian and gave all kinds of orders regarding his safety.
Any Union Army officer looked on supply-escort duty with misgivings. The rebels might be meeting with defeats back East and the tide of the War apparently turning in favour of the Union, but in Arkansas the Southerners gave no sign of following the general trend. From the time General Ole Devil Hardin assumed command over the Confederate States’ Army of Arkansas, he not only halted the Yankee advance across the Bear State but inflicted defeats and held the Union Army on the verge of retreat. Given more men, arms, equipment, Ole Devil might even have pushed the enemy back, but the South could supply no further aid. So he held his position on the western banks of the Ouachita River and forced the Yankees to expend efforts that could be better used in breaking down resistance in the main Southern States.
The Northern States used their industrial superiority to produce new weapons and means of waging war. Already their blockade of the South threatened the Confederate’s existence. New Orleans and much of the lower Mississippi lay in Yankee hands. While European countries might be willing to trade supplies for Southern cotton, the U.S. Navy held down the shipments to a minimum.
Despite all his difficulties, Ole Devil Hardin held on in Arkansas. Just a shade bitterly, Wormold realised that the North helped make Ole Devil’s success possible. Wanting to strike down the heart of the South, the Federal Government concentrated its main efforts on the eastern battle-fronts. Little could be spared to allow the Union soldiers in Arkansas regain their ascendancy over the rebels. Supplies came, but a tendency developed to withdraw seasoned troops to go East and replace them with raw, inexperienced men. Matched against the battle-tried veterans of the Confederate Army, who fought in conditions ideally suited to their ways, the superior numbers of the North achieved nothing.
More than that, it seemed the rebels relied on the Union Army to supply them with the specialised needs of an army in the field. Being Texas-born, the majority of Ole Devil’s command were past-masters in the Napoleonic art of making war support war. Trained almost from birth by war against Indians, they turned the redskins’ tactics to their advantage and, using the methods of their enemies, drew their needs from the unwilling hands of the Yankees.
A supply convoy like the one under Wormold’s protection carried many items which the rebels would only be too pleased to acquire. Which accounted for why a full troop rode as its escort. While Wormold’s troop fell some thirty short of the desired one hundred men complement, they carried Sharps carbines—the best general-issue arm at that time available—and, he believed, could put up a respectable defence against the normal run of rebel raiding force.
Of course other men had felt the same way; only to return in shame with a tale of soldiers killed and badly-needed supplies swept off to further the Southern cause.
Wormold felt again the bitterness at a fate which put him on the Arkansas battlefront when most of his West Point class-mates served in the East, with its attendant chances of distinction and acclaim. There would be little credit given at the successful conclusion of the escort duty, unless he should also bring off a victorious defence against raiding rebels. Even then the news would rate only a couple of columns on the inside pages of the important Eastern newspapers; and not even that should more important news be available.
Should he fail to bring off the assignment due to enemy action, it would be remembered against him beyond all proportion to recognition for success. So Wormold determined to take no chances. All day he kept his best men—a relative term when so few veterans were available to stiffen the ranks of green recruits—out on the flanks, ahead and to the rear, and receive no reports of sighting the enemy. By pushing the wagons hard, he hoped to have passed beyond the area in which the rebel cavalry concentrated their main efforts.
When night came, he set up camp on the shores of a small lake. While he might have hoped for more open land around him, he realised that such would not be available even should he push on after watering the horses. A career soldier, Wormold knew his business and went about it in the dying light of day. Holding half his command as a grand guard by the wagons, he split the remainder into four picket sections and sent each group out some five hundred yards on the major points of the compass. Nor did they form the sole defence. Each picket placed out an arc of three vedettes, mounted sentries, between three and four hundred yards beyond them. Finally two mounted men rode a beat between each picket and the grand guard. Wormold would have a tired command the following morning, but felt the means justified the end as another day’s hard travel ought to see them in safe territory.
Setting up the pickets and establishing the vedettes took time, and called for the efforts of Wormold, the first and second lieutenants, first sergeant, five sergeants and three corporals. Standing by the fire built for him, Wormold glanced at his watch and found the time to be almost ten o’clock. Cooking pots bubbled on section fires and steam rose, wafting the tempting aroma of coffee, from the muckets, as the troopers called the small 3-pint capacity kettles issued to them. Although the carbines had been piled by the men, they stood close enough to hand should an alarm be raised by one of the circle of watching sentries.
Satisfied that he had taken every precaution to safeguard the convoy, Wormold decided to join his two subordinate officers as they sat chatting to the small, dapper civilian who perched, as always, on the wooden box which formed his most prominent item of luggage. Wondering what might be in the carefully locked and watched-over box, Wormold became aware of a man walking from the darkness towards him. While he realised that something was wrong, his mind refused to accept the obvious answer given by his eyes.
Man might not be the correct term for the newcomer, for he looked to be in his late ‘teens. Although not more than five foot six in height, his shoulders had a width that hinted at strength and he tapered down to a slim waist. His uniform differed in a number of respects from that worn by the 5th Illinois Cavalry. Not his boots, or tight-legged riding breeches, at first glance, for they conformed to regulations, even to the cavalry-yellow stripe down the pants legs. First major difference was his weapon belt. It hung a shade lower than usually seen, two matched white-handled Colt 1860 Army revolvers butt forward in holsters that not only lacked a top but left half the cylinder and all the trigger-guard exposed while being built to the contours of the guns. That started the differences. The tunic carried them even further. Ending at his waist, it lacked the skirt ‘hanging half—way between hip and knee’, had a double row of buttons and stand-up collar which bore on either side triple three-inch long, half-inch wide gold braid bars; these served instead of decorated epaulettes as a means of knowing the wearer’s rank. Instead of a cravat, the newcomer had a tight-rolled scarlet silk scarf which trailed its ends down over his tunic. Shoved back on his head, a white Davis campaign hat showed curly, dusty blond hair and a tanned, handsome young face with lines of strength and determination etched on it. The hat carried a different insignia to the United States shield inside a half wreath and bearing a bugle with the letter ‘M’ in its handle ring, being, like the Texas coat of arms, a five-pointed star in a circle.
Despite a growing tendency to standardise uniforms and equipment within the Union Army, some regiments still retained their individual style of dress. A few continued to wear sleeve decorations, but not that double braid ‘chicken-guts’ adorning the small newcomer’s arms. And no Federal outfit wore uniforms coloured cadet-grey.
Still Wormold could not credit his eyes with seeing correctly, even though everything he saw told him the other did not belong to any Yankee regiment.
“Howdy, Captain,” greeted the small newcomer, his voice a pleasant Texas drawl. “That coffee sure smells good.”
“Coff—!” began Wormold, all coherent thought struck from him by the sight of a captain in the Texas Light Cavalry calmly strolling into a Union Camp.
From their lack of reaction to the sight, his men failed to realise their danger. Wormold let out a low hiss and reached towards his holstered revolver. The small Texan’s left hand made a sight-defying flip across to and drew the right side Army Colt, thumbing back the hammer and sliding the forefinger on to the trigger as, not before, the barrel cleared leather and slanted towards Wormold. In a bare three-quarters of a second Wormold found himself looking into the levelled muzzle of a cocked revolver. The Yankee captain’s hand had not even reached the flap of his holster.
“Your camp’s surrounded, Captain,” warned the Texan. “I don’t want to kill your men, so tell them to surrender.”
Already the occupants of the camp realised that something far out of the ordinary was taking place. Realisation did not bring reaction fast enough. By the time the Yankees shook themselves out of the shock caused by the small Texan’s appearance, they learned he did not come alone. Suddenly, rising out of the ground it seemed, grey-clad soldiers appeared holding lined guns. Wormold needed only one swift glance to know the futility of resistance. Long before his men could reach their piled carbines, or draw revolvers, Texas lead would tear into them. Nor did the casually competent manner in which the Texans handled their weapons lead him to believe that they lacked ability in the shooting line. There might be a chance if—
“We’d’ve been here sooner,” drawled the small Texan and killed Wormold’s hope stone dead. “But it took us time to nail down all your pickets and vedettes.” Then his voice took on a harder tone as his eyes, darting from point to point, saw something of importance. “Tell that green shavetail to sit fast before he dies a hero and gets a lot of men killed for no good reason.”
The warning came just in time. Already Wormold’s second lieutenant, showing more courage than good sense or judgement of the situation, tensed and sent his hand creeping towards his holster. If the shavetail drew, he would die and in doing so provoke an incident that might easily see Wormold’s entire troop wiped out.
No coward, Wormold was also not a fool. He must balance the lives of the majority of his men against the very slender chance of saving the convoy. There could be only one answer. Surrender, let the wagons be taken, but save his men to fight another day.
“Sit still, Mr. Benson!” he barked. “Get your hand away from that gun.”
“Now that’s a whole heap more comfy,” the small Texan remarked as Benson obeyed. “I’d be obliged, Captain, if you’d order your men to lie face down on the ground and with hands spread out.”
Sucking in a bitter breath, Wormold gave the required command and watched his men obey it. Maybe his troops lacked veterans, but the men recognised the danger well enough pot to resist the small Texan’s wishes.
“Pluck their stings, Cousin Red,” the Texan told his tall, wellbuilt, freckle-faced and pugnaciously handsome first lieutenant, a youngster no older than the rebel captain and with a thatch of fiery red hair showing under his campaign hat.
Clearly every detail had been arranged. Without waste of time, half-a-dozen men moved forward under the lieutenant’s command to collect the piled carbines and remove revolvers from Yankee holsters.
“Sharps linen cartridge breech-loaders, Cousin Dusty,” enthused the lieutenant. “These boys’re loaded for bear.”
While the linen-cartridge firing Sharps lacked the Henry or Spencer repeaters’ rate of fire, ammunition for them could be made in the South. So the Sharps found greater favour than the more advanced guns, which needed metal-case bullets, items only obtainable through the enemy and in short supply even there.
“We’ll requisition them then,” smiled the small Texan. “See them guarded, Red. Billy Jack, check what’s in the wagons.”
“Yo!” answered the tall, gangling, miserable-looking rebel sergeant major. “It’s about time the Yankees shipped out some decent guns for us.”
“I reckon I’d best have the officers’ guns while I’m at it,” remarked the lieutenant.
“It’d likely be best,” agreed the Texas captain.
While handing over his weapon belt, Wormold raked his captor from head to toe with disbelieving eyes. Having heard the small Texan’s first name, a thought sprang immediately to mind; yet Wormold wondered if it could be possible.
Could that small, almost insignificant appearing youngster—he would be no more than eighteen, and a young eighteen at that—be the man rated by many as among Dixie’s top three fighting cavalry commanders? Was it possible that he might be the rebel who, in Arkansas, stood even higher than Turner Ashby or John Singleton Mosby? The man who voluntarily went behind the Union lines to give evidence at the court-martial of a Yankee officer falsely accused of cowardice and while there killed a much-dislilked Federal general in a duel.* Or he whose raids over the Ouachita left havoc in their wake, while causing many a Yankee officer of great age and seniority to curse in impotent rage and wish he fought a more orthodox enemy.
Looking at the smart, disciplined efficiency of the Texans, Wormold concluded that he guessed right. By the worse kind of lousy luck, he had fallen foul of Dusty Fog. The smoothness with which the whole affair had been carried out showed a dash and flair few men could produce. Efficiency of that kind came only through excellent leadership. Not an imaginative man, Wormold could still almost picture the silent stalking which captured his vedettes and pickets before any of them might sound the alarm. That alone called for a degree of planning and organisation far beyond the normal run of officers.
“May I join you at supper after we’ve finished, Captain?” asked the small Texan. “My name is Fogg, Captain Dustine Edward Marsden Fog, at your service—up to a point.”
“I called it right!” Wormold screamed mentally. “He is Dusty Fog!” Then he stiffened into a brace. Hell’s fire; he would be eternally damned if he allowed that rebel kid to out-do him in courtesy, or allowed the other to see just how he felt about being captured. So he drew himself to a brace and saluted. “It’ll be my pleasure, Captain Fog. Wormold, Captain Rupert Ainsley Wormold.”