February 1, 1862, pages 70 (1) 71 (3)
Youve lived too long at the North, Maurice! You
ought never to have left Old Kentucky!"
"Well, perhaps so. I might then have been a fellow of
about six feet three (I should have grown at least five inches taller, of course), with my
hair very badly in want of cutting, my teeth dyed of a good permanent yellow with tobacco,
my pants thrust in my boot-tops, and my homespun suit rather out at elbows. I should be a
crack shot at turkeys, deer, or possum, and count it a disgrace not to bring down a
squirrel as dead as a hammer with the wind of my bullet. I should loaf about all day
talking horse, with a whip under my arm and a half dozen dogs at my heels, or fighting
cocks at Joness tavern. At night I should chew myself sleepy by a wood fire, dream
about euchre, and wake up crying out Ill go it alone! as you did
only last evening.
The young man whose personal appearance and
characteristics were thus described eyed his half-brother with an expression indicative of
resentment at his raillery and incapacity to answer it in kind.
"You kin talk right peart, you kin, Maurice!" he
said; "ony I wouldnt wake snakes, if I were you. It dont take much
to raise a fight out here, you know."
Maurice Byrne laughed. "I dont want a fight
with you, Dan," he said; "youll get enough of that, if youre
going to volunteer, which I should be sorry to see."
"Well I am, then, and Andy too; the games made
up, and theres no backing down about it!"
"Dont take the boy, Dan, whatever you do
yourself. His father would rather see him dead than fighting against the Union; besides,
hes too young."
"He kin knock the head off a turkey at a hundred
yards, and I reckon thats further than any of Linclns
nigger-stealin abolishioners ll like to come within sight of a Kentuck
"Dan! Dan! Why will you talk such nonsense!
The abolitionist, as you call them, havent set foot on our soil, though we, under
the treacherous pretext of neutrality, are organizing a State Guard which, as
every body knows, is Secesh to the backbone. Dont you see that invasion is
threatened only from the other side?"
"The Tennessee men are our friends, and fightin
for Southern rights. You cant rub that out, no way you kin fix it! And me and Andy
are bound to join them!"
"Im sorry to hear it. What would you say to me
if I were to join the Union men?"
"But you wont?" And Dan Byrne looked
equally surprised, puzzled, and indignant.
"I dont know. If I acted on my convictions, I
should. I was captain of a company in Illinois, and theyd be glad to get me back
again, Ive no doubt. Only I wouldnt like to have to fight against Kentuckians
"Or to leave Harry!" added his half-brother,
knowingly. The name, we may remark, notwithstanding its masculinity, designated a girl of
eighteen, cousin to the speakers; nor was it used as an abbreviation. It accordance with a
practice not at all uncommon half a century ago, nor yet extinct among the rougher
denizens of Kentucky and Tennessee, it had been bestowed in jocular defiance of the
trammels of custom, as were not unfrequently those of women upon infants of the opposite
Maurice took the remark in good part. "Well,
yes," said he; "you dont object to that, Dan, do you?"
"No! I wish youd jes marry the gal, and
settle down among us, as you might do for all I kin see to prevent it; for shes as
good a Union woman as any out of jail, let the next come from where she will."
"Thats so, Dan Byrne; and shes not
ashamed of it either!" And the person alluded to unexpectedly looked forth from the
window on to the wooden piazza, the scene of the preceding dialogue. She was a brilliant
brunette, with magnificent black hair and eyes, ripe scarlet lips, and a face whose bold,
symmetrical beauty of feature and ruddy health seemed in part to justify her masculine
appellation. Not too neatly dressed, with her fell of tangled curls put back behind her
ears; her bare, brown, handsome arms crossed on the window-sill, and a half-resentful
blush upon her cheeks at what she had overheard, she stood regarding the cousin who had
spoken of her with friendly defiance.
He laughed, and affectionately tried to twitch her by the
ear. "Im right, Harry, aint I?" he said; "youd stop me
and Andy going if you couldwouldnt you?"
"Father would, if he were her," she answered,
"I have been trying to persuade Dan not to take
him," put in Maurice, in whose cheek an answering flush of emotion had welcomed
Harrys appearance. "The lad is altogether too young for it. Think of
uncles anger and distress if he comes to any mischief."
"He kin take care of himself; and if he cant,
Ill take care of him," said the intended volunteer, doggedly; "and he will
"Cant you stop him? I have tried my
best, and the boy really seems bent on it," appealed Maurice to Harry, who, twisting
one of her long tangled curls very much as an impatient or meditative man might his
mustache, looked from one to the other, in sympathy with Maurice and anger at Dan, blended
with apprehension for her younger brother. "Both had better remain at home, I am
sure; and Id give every thing I have in the world to keep them there. At least let
us save the boy, who will join this infernal rebelliondont scowl, Dan, for it is
a rebellion, and nothing else, as sure as you livewithout a thought of the
"That for consequences!" cried Dan Byrne,
with an emphatic expectoration of tobacco-juice.
"You want Andy killed, then?" inquired Harry,
with exasperated affection.
"Id rather be killed myself, and you know
"I dont! If you cared for him, as you say,
youd never tempt him away from usfor its all your doing! Father
is against it, and Maurice is against if, and I am against it; yet, because
hes a boy, and knows no better, and has got his head full of nonsense about Southern
rights, and Yankees, and invasion, and Heaven knows whatas all the boys around here
haveyoull take him with you!"
"Listen to me once more, Dan," interposed
Maurice, checking a choleric reply on the part of his cousin; "you are going to take
up arms against your country in entire misconception of the state of thing. If it comes to
a fight herewhich God forbid!it wont be with Yankees, but Kentuckians
against Kentuckians. Our State has voted herself neutral, because there was then no
alternative between that and secession. We had traitors for rulers, and loyal men could
only temporize to gain time. But Kentucky is for the Union at heart; Im sure
of it. Wasnt I up at Louisville only a week ago, and dont I know whats
brewing there? Here, on the borders, secesh is rampant enough, but it dont
amount to any thing compared with the love for and loyalty to the Union which Harry
ClayGod bless him!taught us long ago. I wish we had all learned the
"I dont believe it!" shouted Dan Byrne,
enraged at the statement, and at what he considered merely as his lack of argumentative
ability to confute it; "we blong to the South, dont we! And when
shes in for a fightfor her rights by___! For her rights!!haint we
to be count in? Or are we to stan roun shivering in our boots like a lot of
corn-shucking souled Yankees? You are bound to get me mad, Maurice, so you are, though I
cautioned you not to!"
"Ira furor brevis est!" quoted his
cousin, who had "taught school" in Illinois among other miscellaneous
employments, at which the irascible Dan sniffed and spat; "let there be peace between
us; and if you are determined to go, dont take Andy."
"You kin both talk with him if you like; I hant
persuaded him!" And the tall volunteerhe was a fine, though rough-looking
fellow of three-and-twenty, Maurices junior by five yearstook his rifle from
its corner behind the door, whistled to his dogs, and departed, his homely-attired but
manly figure soon disappearing among the luxuriant summer foliage of the wild Kentucky
woodland which surrounded the house. Maurice watched it until he was out of sight, and
then turned to Harry, who, quitting her post at the window, emerged on the piazza. Tall in
stature, like her race, her proportions were yet so exquisitely symmetrical, even in their
dress of blue homespun, that she could not appear otherwise than strikingly handsome, and
might have sat for a model for Spensers Britomart of Tassos Clorinda. I have
said that her arms were bare and brown: if her feet were also, their beauty and that of
her ankles made their nudity a matter of congratulation to the masculine spectator. The
only looker-on at present, however, had his eyes bent on her face, in which frank regard
for him and concern for her brother were equally manifest.
"Harry, dear," Maurice said, taking her hand,
"I cant tell you how this persistence of Dans pains me; I dont
wonder at his opinions, recollecting what I was before I left home, only because I aspired
to better the rough fortune into which our family has decayed, and to win her whom I loved
almost as a boywhom I find increased in beauty, yet possessing the same brave,
earnest nature as ever. Loving her as I do, I would fain save her brother from this
miserable rebellion if I can not rescue my own. Is there no way to effect it?"
"If father were at home he would soon stop
Andys going. They both know that. I am afraid Dan will hurry him off before
"And I too. But you know what took him away at such a
"He didnt tell me, though I have my suspicions.
You know, Maurice, of course?"
"I do. He went to procure arms that we may be able to
defend ourselves against traitors when the evil day comes. He is as loyal as he is brave,
and swears that the dear old flag he fought under at New Orleans shall be hoisted over
this house never to be hauled down by rebel hands while he lives to protect it. In that
resolution I am with him heart and soul, failing to persuade him to remove to a place of
safety. Only on his and your account do I linger here, otherwise I should be doing a
mans duty in defense of the Union now."
"Never let that prevent you. If I were a man Id
shoulder a musket beside you!"
Three months have proved the correctness of Maurice
Byrnes judgment, and the Kentucky border, subjected to all the horrors and miseries
of a devastating civil war by invasion from the South, seems again deserving of its
ancient ominous title, "the dark and bloody ground." I resume my story toward
the close of the latter part of September, when the wild woods of that wild part of the
State are in all their autumnal glory, and when the hot noontide sun shines down in
unclouded splendor on their leafy loveliness, lighting up the "fall fashions" of
the hamadryadstheir purples, reds, oranges, yellows, their necklaces of ruby sumach
berrieslike a veritable fairy orchard. A pity that mens evil passions should
be there to desecrate it!
There is no more wind than cloud stirring in the bright
blue sky, otherwise the flag surmounting the time-stained homestead of old Jasper Byrne
would not hang so straight and heavily as it does. Every day since the State election in
August (when Kentucky, with its "State Guard" in full operation, its power in
the hands of traitors, with rebellious Virginia, Tennessee, and the worst part of Missouri
inclosing her borders, yet chose, deliberately and unconditionally, to adhere to and share
the fate of the Union), every day, at sunrise, has the flag been hoisted by a hand that
once pulled a deadly trigger on a certain memorable Eighth of January, to be lowered only
at sunset. It is the only flag of its kind within a score of miles on the soil of
Kentucky; there are bastard, hostile ones all around, yet up to the present time it has
flouted and defied them.
To this house, then, at noontide, on an autumn day, comes
riding through the woods, over the stony road, the gaunt, wasted, cadaverous figure of a
young man on a sorry hack of a horse, which has evidently traveled far, fared miserably,
and been used unscrupulously. But miserable as is the aspect of the animal, that of its
rider far exceeds it in wretchedness. Clad in a tattered, semi-military costume, stained
with mire and dust, with an empty coat-sleeve pinned to his breast, a blood-stained rag
binding his brow, surmounted by a torn hat, haggard, hollow-eyed, emaciated, unshorn,
unshaven, faint with wounds and exhausted with hunger and lack of sleep, so returned Dan
Byrne to the family homestead.
Its appearance is unlike the careless, open-doored,
open-windowed aspect familiar to him, and at once suggestive of the insecurity of the
times and the resolution of its owner. Two or three trees in front have been cut down,
probably as a precaution against their affording shelter to enemies; the door is shut, and
the windows of the upper and lower stories are defended with strong planks, nailed
perpendicularly, with interstices of the width of a rifle-barrel between them. Except a
couple of dogs, sleeping under the sunny piazza, nothing living is visible. These,
awakened by the arrival, come frisking about the horses heels barking a clamorous
The rider dismounts, hesitates, and adds his voice to the
din. Not, however, until he has beaten repeatedly upon the door is any reply vouch-safed.
Then a footstep approaches from within, and a stern voice questions him as to this name
"Its me, uncle! Your nephew, Dan Byrne."
A surprised ejaculation from a woman follows, and an
indistinctly-heard colloquy. And again the stern voice addresses him, this time in deeper
tones than before:
"Go your ways, young man! You were my nephew,
and are a rebel! What have you done with my son?"
"Open, uncle, and I will tell you." And the
applicant covered his face with his one hand, shuddered all over, and leaned against the
door-post as if to preserve himself from fainting. The dogs, meanwhile, caper and whine
around him, some of them scratching at the portal as though seconding the wretched young
mans request for admission.
Another whispered dialogue occursthe womans
voice being heard in supplicationa heavy wooden bar is removed, and the door opens.
A tall, resolute-featured man of seventy-five, with iron-gray hair, appears on the
threshold, and behind him the handsome, anxious countenance of Harry Byrne.
"Dan!" "Harry!" "Uncle, hes
woundeddying!" With these and similar expressions of pity and sympathy the
sufferer is borne into the house, and the old man, after a wary glance outside, sets the
door open, permitting the sunlight to stream into the darkened passage between the two
main rooms of the ground-floor. Here, on a rough settle, the returned rebel volunteer
addresses his anxious listeners.
"Uncle," he says, "you kin take and shoot
me just as soon as youve hear what Ive got to tell. Youll never see Andy
againhes dead and buried!"
His cousin clasped her hands over her breast as if to
check the violent pulsations of her heart, and then hiding her face, wept aloud with all
her impulsive womans nature. Old Jasper Byrne grew deadly pale, turned aside, and,
with his head against the wall, strove to hide his emotion. There was a miserable pause,
broken only by the sobbing of Harry. At last her uncle spoke in a hoarse, constrained
voice, curiously interrupted by a sort of tremulous quaver, inexpressibly painful to
"Its better as it is," he said; ;"he
was my only boy and I loved him, God knows! But he turned traitor and fout agin his
countryand I named him arter Jackson, too! Ah! Im glad the old woman never
lived to see this day! Dan! Danl! the lads blood cries out aginst you!"
"God forgive me if Ive done wrong! I lost this
arm tryin to save him!"
"Tell us all about it. Harry, girl! Quit
criyin. Taint of no use. Twont bring back the dead or wipe
out shame from the living, else you might cry on, for theres a heavy score of it
come on our family. Let us hear the whole story.
It may be condensed into a paragraph. Young Andrew Byrne
had met his fate in one of the many bloody fratricidal skirmishes following the invasion
of Kentucky from the South, being bayoneted in a night-surprise on the part of the
loyalists. His cousin, wounded, mutilated, and a prisoner, had contrived to escape and to
rejoin the Tennessee regiment which both cousins had belonged to. It was now defeated,
dispersed, broken, retreating in scattering handfuls toward the border. Anticipating the
arrival of one of these, Dan had hurried on to tell his doleful story, to warn his uncle
of the coming danger, and to afford what protection might accrue from his presence.
"Theyll be hyar before sun-down, I
reckon," he concluded. "Uncle, if you dont want to risk the house being
burned over you head, youd better haul that flag down, if but for an hour or
The old soldier folded his arms, knitted his brows, and
smiled grimly. He was yet tremulous with suppressed grief at the tidings of his sons
death, but the prospect of immediate danger seemed to relieve him. "Ill see
them _____first!" said he, with energy sufficient to place his determination beyond
the reach of entreaty or argument. "Theyve took my boy; theyve got him
killed in the wickedest cause that ever man shouldered a rifle for; now let em come
and receive a fathers thanks. I wish Maurice was here now."
"I hearn tell of his joinin the
abolitionthe Federalists," Dan remarked. "Im glad we didnt
have to fight agin his regiment."
His uncle made no reply. He was pacing with long strides
up and down the passage, nervously, expectantly. Presently he paused, and addressed Harry:
"Gal," he said, "tell Pete to hitch up the
old mare and wagon, and do you clear out to BrodnaxsI reckon youll be
safe enough thar. And you may jist tell him"
But Harry, in her turn, folded her arms with a look of
resolution not inferior to that expressed in the countenance of her father.
"Im going to stop with you," she said,
"Youre better away; its no womans
work weve got on hand, and I cant be scared with the thought of what these
devils may do to you, supposin I arent able to beat em off, as I intend
tryin! Likely theyll burn the shanty down, as Dan says, and youve got
too many fair years of life before you, gal, to die like that. Go away! Take my blessing
and go away, where youll be out of danger!"
"I shall stop with you, father; I can load your rifle
for you, if I can do nothing else. Dont ask me to leave you now, for I wont
He looked into her eyes, read there her determination and
love stronger than death or the fear of it, bent over and kissed her, and abruptly turned
away. "Youre true grit, gal!" he murmured. "Now then, lets git
ready to receive em."
Sunset has come and gone, and darkness rests upon the wild
Kentucky woods, shrouding their autumnal glories until the birth of a new day. It is a
black, moonless night, threatening rain, and a strong wind has arisen, making melancholy
music among the boughs and branches of the forest, driving its foliage fiercely in one
direction, as if in emulation of the great wet-looking clouds which are moving rapidly and
continuously athwart the face of the heavens. No sound but that of the wind and the
occasional startled cry of an owl is audible, the more harmonious night-birds and forest
creatures have sought covert in anticipation of the coming storm. And within the house of
Jasper Byrne its inmates prepare to meet the scarcely less unreasonable and more harmful
tempest of mans passions.
The old soldier has sent away the two negroes forming part
of his household, bidding them secure their safety by flight, and in consequence obtained
an unexpected auxiliary in the neighbor to whose dwelling he had proposed sending his
daughter. Alarmed at the report of the slaves, Dave Brodnax comes to remonstrate with his
ancient comrade, hoping to dissuade him for his rash, perhaps suicidal intention, but
failing utterly, resolves, with characteristic Kentucky daring and hardihood, to remain
and share his fate. He brings confused rumors confirming Dan Byrnes representations.
A roving band of defeated Tennesseeans will, in all probability, pass by the homestead.
There remains only the hope that their haste may prove greater than their inclination for
mischief and desire for wreaking vengeance upon the isolated home of a known loyalist, or
that Dans services, wounds, and mutilation may purchase his uncles safety, of
which he himself is not too sanguine.
Slowly and heavily the night draws on, as, in an upper
room, the four inmates of the house wait and listen. Mattresses are placed between the
window, the fire-arms stand loaded and ready, and Harry, with a pale, resolute face, is
temporarily relieving Dan in the task of casting bullets. The two old soldiers converse
together earnestly. Dan, perturbed and expectant, walks to and fro, or seating himself,
assumes a calmness which any transient sound discomposes.
"If it comes to the worst we kin clear out down the
slope at the back of the house," says Brodnax; "for I reckon they wont
risk their necks in attacking us that side. Then theres the cave not two rods
off"alluding to one of those natural excavations, popularly known in Western
vernacular as "sink-holes," which undermine all this portion of
Kentucky"would hold a hundred of us easy."
"Ive thought of that, " Byrne rejoins,
"and theres a ladder handy to its mouth. But, mind, I intend to fight this
place just as long as I kin hold it."
"Sartain!" replied his comrade, who in ceasing
to combat the others resolution seemed to have adopted his readiness, if not his
eagerness, for the expected fight; "have you left the flag flying?"
"Its thar still. I wish there was a moon that
they could see it."
"Well, I dont care so much about that; if they
take if for the Stars and Bars its no matter. You wont open the
ball unless they begin it, I reckon?"
"No!" answered Jasper Byrne, relapsing into
silence, in which the party remained for perhaps ten minutes, listening to the stormy
music of the wind in the forest.
"Come to the door; we shall have plenty of time to
fix it and get back," suggests Brodnax. And the two men descend the stairs, unfasten
the door, and look out from the shelter of the little piazza into the night and the wild
Another pause, and a long one. Then through the blustering
and soughing of the wind, the dashing of the leaves, and now the patter of the angry rain,
a sound, at first faint and distant, rising and falling, a dull, hollow murmur. Anon only
the wind and rain. Then the murmur, increasing or lessening with the atmospheric tumult
and the windings of the road. Presently an unmistakable sound, resolving itself into the
scrambling, disorderly approach of a body of men.
"At last!" The two old soldiers draw back into
the hose, and are about to close and barricade the door when Dan Byrne stands before them.
"Let me go out, uncle!" he says; "I shall
be of more use there than within." His request is granted without a word, and in
another minute he stands outside with the door bolted and barred behind him.
The tramp grows louder and louder, the murmur swells into
voices; lights, torches, and musket-barrels flash through the wet foliage. In another
minute the approaching body, imperfectly seen in the darkness, emerges from the black
covert of the woods and comes toward the house. It may comprise between twenty and thirty
men, some of them wounded, half of them weaponless. Ragged dirty, shoeless, savage, weary,
and intoxicated, defeat is written in their demeanor and aspect.
Dan Byrne watches them narrowly. Espying his figure by the
lights they carry, some of them set up a shout, half-inquiry, half-menace. He advances and
confronts them, and is at once recognized by certain of the group.
"What now, boys?" he asks, as they crowd about
him with inquiries as to how he came there.
"Weve been whipped by the Lincolnites, ___
em, and theyre after us!" is the cry, blended with demands for liquor and
refreshment, which the more unruly spirits are about to enforce by a rush toward the
house, when Dan raises his voice in vigorous remonstrance:
"Boys!" he cries, "you know me as your
comrade, and that I lost this arm in fighting for Southern Rights, and that I
wouldnt have cared if it had ben my life. Now, I ask you in return jes to keep
right straight on, without touchin this house. It belongs to my uncle, and hes
an old man, and I dont want him troubled. His only son got killed on our side in the
skrimmage up to Edmondsons, and he wants to be let alone."
There was a confused clamor of voices, some in approval,
some in dissent. Then a voice shouted, "Weve hear of him! Hes a d__d
Unionist and Yankee, and has got their ___ flag flying! Lets have it down,
boys!" A partial hurrah followed.
"I know you, Mat Green," said Dan Byrne,
bitterly, in the direction of the last speaker; "the biggest coward in the regiment!
Come here, and for all Ive got but on arm Ill whip you, and do it
Some of the Tennesseeans set up a laugh at this, and for a
moment the young Kentuckian thought he had prevailed. Only for a moment: in another he
found himself hustled to and for, half in drunken sport, half in earnest, and heard four
or five of the party, who had ascended the piazza, beating on the door and clamoring for
admission and speech with the inmates. Very soon, in reply, an upper window was raised
behind the planking, and the strong stern voice of old Jasper Byrne demanded the cause of
"Give us some whisky!" "Let us in!"
"Haul down that ___ ___ flag!" said the Kentuckian; "not one of ye shall
set foot over my threshold while I have power to prevent it, pack of rebels that ye
"Beat down the door!" "Set fire to the
house!" And the blows of musket-butts began to rain on the portal, mingled with
execrations and bloody threats. Dan Byrne meanwhile strove furiously with those about him;
but his struggles were useless, his voice unheard amidst the uproar.
"Hear me once more," his uncle shouted; and the
tumult slackened, the besiegers probably anticipating some capitulation involving
compliance with their demands. "You have murdered my boy, now clear out before I am
tempted to revenge his death upon ye!"
Almost as he spoke a pistol-shot was fired at him,
followed by the irregular explosion of half a dozen muskets in the same direction. The
sharp crack of a rifle answered thisanotherand two of the foremost of the
cluster in front fell to the ground, mortally wounded.
Then up rose a wild shout of rage and desire for
vengeance, scarcely uttered before two simultaneous and equally fatal discharges sent
their leaden messengers of death through the heart or brain of others; and scatter as
their comrades might, in temporary panic from that group which afforded so certain an aim
to the practiced marksmen within, yet a fifth and a sixth victim was added to the list
before they gained cover in which to gnash their teeth and concert measures of reprisal.
Even there, wherever the gleam of a torch or lantern indicated their presence, so sure did
a bullet follow the, not always unsuccessfully.
"We might drive em off," said Dave
Brodnax, grim with smoke and gunpowder, yet with the light of battle illuminating his
rough features, "if it werent for the villains below; theyll be up to
mischief before long, I reckon. Spose we go down and give em a shot or two by
way of a scare!"
Jasper Byrne assented. "Theyre creeping round
among the thickets, I know by their silence," said he, after a glance outward;
"we shall have em trying the door and windows directly. Whats that?"
He paused abruptly in his speech and listened as to a distant sound.
"Only the rain," suggested Brodnax, whose sense
of hearing was not so acute as that of his companions. The storm had increased and the
rain now descended in torrents.
"I wish that was all," answered Byrne;
"thats on our side, but I reckon those who are coming wont be so. Do you
hear any thing, girl?"
"I hear a sound in the distance, but can not
distinguish what it is," Harry replied. Steadfast and resolute as the two men, she
had kept her word in loading their rifles for them throughout the attack, not even
blenching when a chance bullet cut its way between the stout oak planks and through her
black fell of hairthe only shot which had penetrated the apartment.
"Its horses and men coming this way,"
pronounced her father; "we shall soon know what for. Harry, youre dressed and
ready, if we have to run for it? Now, Dave, down stairs with you, and lets at
em agin!" And, bearing the arms and ammunition, the three noiselessly descended
The sound of voices heard through the wind and rain on the
other side of the door at once confirmed Jasper Byrnes suspicions. The besiegers had
reinforced the party sheltered by the piazza, and while some explored the sides and rear
of the premises, in the hope of effecting an entrance, the majority were audibly engaged
in tearing up the adjacent rails and planking and piling it against the door, evidently
with the intention of setting it on fire, for without such appliances the dampened
wood-work had refused to ignite.
Just as the inmates of the house stood listening to the
devilish intentions avowed within a few feet of them, the accents changed into surprise
and indignation, a sudden fall was heard, as of a man stricken to the ground, followed by
the kicking asunder of the materials of the intended bonfire, and Dan Byrnes voice,
"You shall kill me first! Com on, all of you, cowards
that you are, and see if I cant use this bowie to some effect, maimed as I am! Come
on, I say!"
A storm of invectives, of threats, and orders to stand
aside answered the challenge. "Not while I live!" the young Kentuckian rejoined,
in tones well-nigh as savage as those about him. His uncle looked anxiously, first into
the face of his old comrade, then at his daughter.
"Theyll butcher the lad in five minutes, the
blood-thirsty hounds! They will, I know, unless we help him. He brought it on us; but he
knew no better, and hes gwine to die for us. Dave! Dave! What shall I do? Think of
Harry, if they prove too many for us!"
"Open the door, father!" the girl replied;
"save Dan if you can! Were in Gods hands, and in Him lies our
safety!" And, intent on her cousins rescue, she rushed to the door and began
undoing its fastenings.
Jasper Byrne laid his hand on her arm. "Leave it to
us," said he. "Do you go up stairs. Wait and see what happens; and if the time
comes, and theres nothing left for it, mind my last word and flyyou
Snatching up a gun, the girl obeyed him without a word.
Then with bowie-knives between their teeth, and revolvers in hand, the two old soldiers
unshot the fastenings of the door.
They were just in time. The Tennesseeans, infuriated by
the opposition of their late comrade, had attacked and beaten him to his knee, in which
position he still defended himself desperately, having already slain one and wounded two
men. As the door openedwhich it did so suddenly as to be entirely unanticipated by
the besiegersa cry was raised to brain him, to trample him to death. Quick as the
utterance he was snatched from beneath the uplifted musket-butts and dragged into the
house by the strong arms of his uncle, while Brodnax attempted, but in vain, to close and
refasten the door. The lumber piled against it had fallen inward.
With yells of rage and exultation the Tennesseeans rushed
forward to improve their fancied opportunity. They were met by so deadly and rapid a
discharge of revolvers that seven of their number bit the dust, and the rest wavered and
might have recoiled but for those in the rear pressing on them. So on they came
tumultuously, thirsting for blood and howling like so many fiends. Then the portal and
passage became the scene of a conflict I want words to do justice to.
Steadfastly, sternly, and desperately, fighting inch by
inch, did the three Kentuckiansfor Dan Byrne soon sprang to his feet and repaid his
deliverance by as effectual use of sword and pistol as ever one-armed man
achievedcontest the ground, rendered slippery with the blood of the fallen. The
narrow passage was sulphurous with smoke, resonant with oath and death-shrieks, ghastly
with human suffering. Inch by inch the brave defenders of hearth and home are borne
backward, wounded but undaunted, to the foot of the staircase, from the upper portion of
which has more than once come sudden destruction to the enemy in the shape of a
musket-shot. The three are overmatched by numbers, and fight apparently with no hope but
that of selling their lives as dearly as possible
When a tumult arises without, the tramp of horses
feet , cries of alarm, a volley of musket-shots, and, clear above the storm which has
concealed the approach of the new-comers, a ringing cheer for the Union, blended with,
"Down with the seceshers!" who find themselves suddenly attacked in the rear by
the troop of loyal Kentuckians from which they had fled in defeat and disgrace only that
* * * * * * *
It were needless to protract our story by the relation of
the particulars of the conflict. It was short, sharp, and bloody, terminating in the
capture of the majority of the rebels, the dispersion and flight of the remainder. When
Captain Maurice Byrne returned from the pursuit, wiping his ensanguined sword upon his
horses mane, it was to congratulate those whom his timely arrival had rescued from
death, and to embrace her whom he loved dearer than life itself, and, in due time, to
receive at once the reward of his love and loyalty.