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The Cruel War is Over, a Galvanized Yankee Western Fiction Story
This is a continuation of my series about the "Galvanized Yankee. You should be able to enjoy the story as is, or read the previous episodes.
Maybe its fate or something that made me a soldier. My name’s Jacob Brown and I don’t remember exactly deciding that I wanted to wear a uniform and carry a gun. But the tensions between my part of the country, which was the South or and the North broke into a shooting war. My friends and I weren’t really political and didn’t often discuss issues like the right and wrong of the two sides. We didn’t own slaves or any amount of property to defend. We worked on farms or in town. In our spare time we talked about girls, horses, and what we do when we grow up. Some of us never got much older.
You know how it is when you’re 17 or 18 years old. Uniforms and guns look glamorous. You don’t think about causes, you just want to be part of things. I remember, it was I nice warm day that we, my buddies and I, were just siting about, talking and joking. Then Jim or Sam said, “Let’s go over to the recruiting station.” So we went and before we knew it we were soldiers. We left with an armload of uniforms, which didn’t fit all too good, and orders to report for training.
After training and a couple of battles I lost track of my buddies. Some were killed and others transferred to other units. I think it was my third action that the bluecoats captured us and we were sent to Rock Island prison in Illinois. The Rock Island prison was one of the worst in either army. It was a cold place, with very bad conditions. A lot of prisoners died of disease and those that didn’t die had a miserable existence. I don’t think many of us turned down the offer from President Lincoln to leave that place on the condition that we join the Union Army to fight on the western frontier. We did not have to fight against our Southern brothers so we became known as Galvanized Yankees.”
The rest of the war I served near Fort Dodge. We guarded and escorted coaches and wagons moving through. When the telegraphs came through we had to protect the lines which the Indians cut down every chance they got. After General Lee surrendered they didn’t need us anymore, the regular army would take over. For those who wanted it, there might be a chance of reenlistment; but it might be time to move on. Soldiering ain’t all that bad and it’s about all I know, but I might have to find something else to do. And then there’s Mary. I’ve become right fond of Mary
Some time ago, Mary came to the way station on a stage heading back east. She had gone to Dodge City to be married—a mail order bride. Sadly, her man was killed and she didn’t want to stay there. While she was at the station there was a raid on the station. She helped the rest of us by supplying sandwiches and coffee. She handled a gun pretty well, too. I guess she decided to stay partly because she had fought for it.
She decided to stay awhile and help run a cafe. I was glad she stayed.
A NEW LIFE
“Will you be going back home now?” she asked.
“Don’t think so... I expect things to be unpleasant back there. Who knows what they’ll think of a southerner turned Yankee. Lots of folks had their property destroyed. They might not be too friendly. Besides with nowhere to go I suspect all sort of them will head this way, from gentry to former slaves.”
“It would be a pleasure to have you stick around here,” she said.
It sure made me happy to hear it. I think I was a bit in love with Mary from the beginning, but with her man being killed it wasn’t an easy subject to bring up. “I would like to stay where you are, Mary. I was thinking of going to Montana and join the gold rush. Would you come there if I could get a stake?”
I found that I could put off the decision to go gold huntin'. I didn’t even have to go looking for a job. The manager of the stagecoach company came to me and asked me if I wanted a job.
“Shure ‘nuff,” I said. What do you want me to do?”
“We need another driver. Since you have spent so much time in the army escorting and guarding the coaches you’ll know how to handle yourself if there are any problems. The job is yours if you want it.”
I would be away a lot, but I’d still be able to see Mary on occasion. It seemed that I would be working with another old friend, Sam Dirkens signed on to ride shotgun. Sam I think is part Kiowa and possibly a gunfighter. He was also fighting on our side in the raid on the station. He was hard to read, but I think I could count on him if need be.
Sam and I checked over the coach, wheel hubs, hitches and such to avoid any breakdowns. We got our instructions to make a run to Dodge City. Not too surprising, since there wasn’t much else around. I stopped in to see Mary and pick up some sandwiches for the trip. A couple of passengers settled into the coach.
“Do we have any valuables to guard, Sam?”
“You don’t know... don’t you check on what we carry?”
“Don’t want to know,” he said. “If you have valuables it affects the way you act. If someone tries to rob us, you’re less likely to give them a hint that there is something worthwhile to steal.”
Sam hopped up beside me and I got the horses moving. We got to Dodge without any problems. I let the passengers out by the hotel and wished them a nice stay. They smiled pleasantly and thanked me. Sam, in the meantime, went to the bank and came back with the Marshall and two bank guards. Sam led them to the boot of the Coach and they took out a heavy box which they carried to the bank. He signaled me to come into the bank. “Give the manager that envelope I gave you earlier... The manager took it, read the contents and signed a piece of paper. Here’s your receipt, young man, and I thank you for getting the shipment here safely.”
“So we did have valuables, Sam?”
“Don’t know. I didn’t ask.”
I stared at him, puzzled.
“But you must know what we brought here and had to bring it to the bank.”
“Know where it goes, not what it is.”
I told Sam that I would meet him later, that I had something to do. Then I went to talk to the Marshall. What I wanted to do was find out what happened to Mary’s intended husband. The marshal only told me that he was more or less a stranger in town. There was a robbery at one of the stores and he appeared to recognize one of the men. They shot him down. I decided to see what more I could find and went over to the newspaper office and found that he might have been an agent for one of the express companies. I said I would be back later. When I left I was followed by a couple of men. They spread out so that if one called me out the other could get me from another angle. I could take one but I don’t know about two.
“Drop down, Jacob.” It was Sam.
I fell to the ground, grabbed my gun and shot. Sam shot the other one.”
They obviously belonged to a gang that shot Mary’s man, but who were they. I asked the marshal to keep me informed if he found out anything.
When we got back I stopped at the Café to see Mary and have a sandwich and coffee. “Anything happening in Dodge?” she asked.
I smiled and told her, “Nothing to talk about right now."