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[140]

In his usual quiet way, he informed us that we had a pleasant task before us. There were twenty of the 8th Illinois Cavalry quartered in the courthouse, and to capture them and their horses was necessary to the success of our expedition. This could be done, he added, by stratagem, or storming the castle. We could choose either plan. The former seemed to carry a charm about it, and it was adopted without a dissenting voice Here the guerilla idea of war was carried out in its strictest sense. As quietly as possible we took up position in front of the courthouse, under a cedar tree. From this point we could see the guard around the horses walking his beat. Leaving the rest of the men, the Lieutenant and I walked directly to and captured him with perfect case. The prisoner was put in charge of George Smith. The rest of us walked briskly to the courthouse door, where Charlie Vest was left with orders to allow no one to pass out. Randolph, Haney, O'Bannon and Radciffe were ordered to remain with Vest until they heard the enemy stir, when they were to rush in with a flurry. ‘Wiltshire, follow me’ was the next command. Elbow to elbow, Bowie and I walked to the centre of the floor, when the former lighted a match and held it over his eyes, revealing the presence of twenty as brave men as were in the United States army, sleeping peacefully. Not a man stirred up to this moment. By the aid of this and another match, we found our way to the judge's stand. Here the stillness of the moment was broken by a big German springing to his feet and ramming his pistol against the lieutenant, exclaiming: ‘By dams, me shoots.’ As these words issued from his lips, I put my pistol against his ribs, saying, with a slight emphasis of profane adjectives: ‘Surrender, or I will bore you through.’ Finding such strong objections to his carrying his threat into execution, the Teuton fell back in bed, declaring, ‘by dams, me no shoots.’ At this juncture the ‘big four’ rushed in, making more noise than the whole of Mosby's Battalion would have done. Surrender! Surrender!! Surrender!!! came from the Confederates.

Believing that no small party would attack them, the Federals surrendered without making the slightest resistance. They were made to saddle and bridle nine of their horses for our use and that of the Governor. While this was being done, the Lieutenant was arranging a parole with the Federal officer, that required the prisoners to remain in the courthouse until sunrise the next morning. ‘Mount your horses, forward, trot, march.’ ordered our commanding officer. ‘We can make the “Big Walnut” by daybreak.’


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Charlie Vest (2)
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