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- THE RED ACORN - 1/49 -


The Red Acorn

by John McElroy

Preface

The name given this story is that made glorious by the valor and achievements of the splendid First Division of the Fourteenth Army Corps, the cognizance of which was a crimson acorn, worn on the breasts of its gallant soldiers, and borne upon their battle flags. There are few gatherings of men into which one can go to-day without finding some one wearing, as his most cherished ornament, a red acorn, frequently wrought in gold and studded with precious stones, and which tells that its wearer is a veteran of Mill Springs, Perryville, Shiloh, Corinth, Stone River, Chickamauga, Mission Ridge, Atlanta, Jonesville, March to the Sea, and Bentonville.

The Fourteenth Corps was the heart of the grand old Army of the Cumberland--an army that never new defeat. Its nucleus was a few scattered regiments in Eastern Kentucky, in 1861, which had the good fortune to be commanded by Gen. George H. Thomas. With them he won the first real victory that blessed our arms. It grew as he grew, and under his superb leadership it was shaped and welded and tempered into one of the mightiest military weapons the world ever saw. With it Thomas wrung victory from defeat on the bloody fields of Stone River and Chickamauga; with it he dealt the final crushing blow of the Atlanta campaign, and with it defeat was again turned to victory at Bentonville.

The characters introduced into the story all belonged to or co-operated with the First Division of the Fourteenth Corps. The Corps' badge was the Acorn. As was the custom in the army, the divisions in each Corps were distinguished by the color of the badges--the First's being red, the Second's white, and the Third's blue. There was a time when this explanation was hardly necessary, but now eighteen years have elapsed since the Acorn flags fluttered victoriously over the last field of battle, and a generation has grown up to which they are but a tradition. J. M.

Contents.

Chapter I.--A Declaration, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 9 Chapter II.--First Shots, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 18 Chapter III.--A Race, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 28 Chapter IV.--Disgrace, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 38 Chapter V.--The Lint-Scraping and Bandage-making Union, - - - 52 Chapter VI.--The Awakening, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 62 Chapter VII.--Pomp and Circumstance of Glorious War, - - - - 71 Chapter VIII.--The Tedium of Camp, - - - - - - - - - - - - - 85 Chapter IX.--On the March, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 92 Chapter X.--The Mountaineer's Revenge, - - - - - - - - - - - 112 Chapter XI.--Through the Mountain and the Night, - - - - - - 126 Chapter XII.--Aunt Debby Brill, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 141 Chapter XIII.--An Apple Jack Raid, - - - - - - - - - - - - - 160 Chapter XIV.--In the Hospital, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 175 Chapter XV.--Making Acquaintance with Duty, - - - - - - - - - 184 Chapter XVI.--The Ambuscade, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 204 Chapter XVII.--Alspaugh on a Bed of Pain, - - - - - - - - - - 230 Chapter XVIII.--Secret Service, - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 252 Chapter XIX.--The Battle of Stone River, - - - - - - - - - - 279

Chapter I. A Declaration.

O, what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days; Then Heaven tries the Earth if it be in tune, And over it softly her warm ear lays." --Lowell.

Of all human teachers they were the grandest who gave us the New Testament, and made it a textbook for Man in every age. Transcendent benefactors of the race, they opened in it a never-failing well-spring of the sweet waters of Consolation and Hope, which have flowed over, fertilized, and made blossom as a rose the twenty-century wide desert of the ills of human existence.

But they were not poets, as most of the authors of the Old Testament were.

They were too much in earnest in their great work of carrying the glad evangel of Redemption to all the earth--they so burned with eagerness to pour their joyful tidings into every ear, that they recked little of the FORM in which the saving intelligence was conveyed.

Had they been poets would they have conceived Heaven as a place with foundations of jasper, sapphires and emeralds, gates of pearl, and streets of burnished gold that shone like glass? Never.

That showed them to be practical men, of a Semitic cast of mind, who addressed hearers that agreed with them in regarding gold and precious stones as the finest things of which the heart could dream.

Had they been such lovers of God's handiwork in Nature as the Greek religious teachers--who were also poets--they would have painted us a Heaven vaulted by the breath of opening flowers, and made musical by the sweet songs of birds in the first rapture of finding their young mates.

In other words they would have given us a picture of earth on a perfect June day.

On the afternoon of such a day as this Rachel Bond sat beneath an apple-tree at the crest of a moderate hill, and looked dreamily away to where, beyond the village of Sardis at the foot of the hill, the Miami River marked the beautiful valley like a silver ribbon carelessly flung upon a web of green velvet. Rather she seemed to be looking there, for the light that usually shown outward in those luminous eyes was turned inward. The little volume of poems had dropped unheeded from the white hand. It had done its office: the passion of its lines had keyed her thoughts to a harmony that suffused her whole being, until all seemed as naturally a part of the glorious day as the fleecy clouds in the sapphire sky, the cheerful hum of the bees, and the apple-blossoms' luxurious scent.

Her love--and, quite as much, her girlish ambition--had been crowned with violets and bays some weeks before, when the fever-heat of patriotism seemed to bring another passion in Harry Glen's bosom to the eruptive point, and there came the long-waited-for avowal of his love, which was made on the evening before his company departed to respond to the call for troops which followed the fall of Fort Sumter.

Does it seem harsh to say that she had sought to bring about this DENOUEMENT? Rather, it seems that her efforts were commendable. She was a young woman of marriageable age. She believed her her mission in life was marriage to some man who would make her a good husband, and whom she would in turn love, honor, and strive to make happy. Harry Glen's family was the equal of her's in social station, and a little above it in wealth. to this he added educational and personal advantages that made him the most desirable match in Sardis. Starting with the premises given above, her first conclusion was the natural one that she should marry the best man available, and the next that that man was Harry Glen.

Her efforts had been bounded by the strictest code of maidenly ethics, and so artistically developed that the only persons who penetrated their skillful veiling, and detected her as a "designing creature," were two or three maiden friends, whose maneuvers toward the same objective were brought to naught by her success.

It must be admitted that refining causists may find room for censure in this making Ambition the advance guard to spy out the ground that Love is to occupy. But, after all, is there not a great deal of mistake about the way that true love begins? If we had the data before us we should be pained by the enlightenment that, in the vast majority of cases the regard of young people for each other is fixed in the first instance by motives that will bear quite as little scrutiny as Miss Rachel Bond's.

We can afford to be careless how the germ of love is planted. The main thing is how it is watered and tended, and brought to a lasting and beautiful growth. Rachel's ambition gratified, there had been a steady rise toward flood in the tide of her affections. She was not long in growing to love Harry with all the intensity of a really ardent nature.

After the meeting at which Harry had signed the recruiting roll, he had taken her home up the long, sloping hill, through moonlight as soft, as inspiring, as glorifying as that which had melted even the frosty Goddess of Maidenhood, so that she stooped from her heavenly unapproachableness, and kissed the handsome Endymion as he slept.

Though little and that commonplace was said as they walked, subtle womanly instinct prepared Rachel's mind for what was coming, and her grasp upon Harry's arm assumed a new feeling that hurried him on to the crisis.

They stopped beneath the old apple-tree, at the crest of the hill, and in front of the house. Its gnarled and twisted limbs had been but freshly clothed in a suit of fragrant green leaves.

The ruddy bonfires, lighted for the war-meeting, still burned in the village below. The hum of supplementary speeches to the excited crowds that still lingered about came to their ears, mingled with cheers from throat rapidly growing hoarse, and the throb and wail


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