On a bright November morning in
1863, the Commanding Officers of Companies D and H, 62nd Regiment,
Georgia Cavalry ride through dense woods along a narrow trail
paralleling the southern shore of the Roanoke River.
morning sun filtering through the treetops creates a kaleidoscope of
light and shadow, perfect camouflage for the pair as they press hard
for Hamilton. The War is in its second year and there are neither
birds nor squirrels nor rabbits to announce their coming. Brittle oak
leaves crackle and spin overhead egged on by a persistent breeze.
Underfoot, a damp carpet of newly fallen leaves muffles the steady
beat of their horses' hooves.
big black thoroughbreds have carried them from neighboring plantations
in south Georgia to the woody swamps and rich farmlands of eastern
Captains Duval are lean, black-eyed Georgia boys in dress down
uniforms on man's oldest mission—a woman.
Major had approved their request for leave and designated their
mission "Recon." They had twelve hours to find Suzanne
and Andrew were first cousins closer than most kin. Their mothers were
sisters who married brothers and the lads grew up on adjoining
plantations across the road from their grandparents.
neighbors for two generations, the Duvals and the Bennettes were
secretly dismayed by their children's determination to wed. Having
known all four from birth, each felt their own deserved better.
it became obvious the children's choice was matrimony or the brambly
bushes, the disappointed parents gamely raised their glasses, toasted
the goodness they had wrought, and quickly reached consensus on their
of royal grants enhanced by year's of successful farming and wise
investments, the Duvals and the Bennettes owned thousands of acres of
land on both sides of the Dubee, a red clay road running straight as a
parsons forefinger between the two small towns of Friendly and Dashed.
A common boundary equidistant from both towns divided the plantations.
soon as the deeds were drawn up, the families gathered in the
Bennette's formal dining room for an auspicious presentation of
Bennette ham, lamb, poached fish and the famous Bennette trifle, a
recipe passed down with their original land grant.
with tradition, coffee was served at the table.
evening had been light and pleasant. Relieved by the tenor of the
table, the young couples were unsuspecting when both fathers rose in
unison and presented them with slim vellum scrolls secured with royal
purple satin ribbons.
their names on deeds to family property across the Dubee, the future
bridegrooms were hard put to be grateful. The law office in New
Orleans would have to wait.
girls were ecstatic. "Oh, Mumsy, we're going to be here
come of age that spring, the foursome had received considerable trust
monies from their grandparents and much to the dismay of their Atlanta
architect, amid glorious magnolias and ancient oaks, they built
identical two-story, red brick plantation houses catty-corner across
from their parents'. Thomas's mother effected the only architectural
change. She topped her columns with Ionic capitals "instead of
those gussy Corinthians."
father-in-law, Yancy Duval, a strong individualist and lifelong
admirer of the great Khans, exploded more than once over his sons'
dissolution of their decision making rights.
he raged one Sunday morning, slapping his thigh so hard the bay mare
all but bolted on the way home from church, "how did we raise two
boys, lawyers yet, whose reply to every wifely whim, is, 'Whatever
pleases you, Darlin'."
in love, Dear."
were we ..."
of course we are, but we didn't build a pair of damn bookends."
we didn't. But then, there were only two of us. Tim and Sissie married
the following year. remember?"
Sissie had the good sense to want her own house, not a copy of
if she hadn't?"
of called brother Billings out."
Darlin', don't be silly."
Duval bided his time. When Tommy and Andy turned five, he bought them
black ponies, miniature standards, and toughened them up in the best
Mongol tradition. The first thing they mastered was riding hours at a
time standing in their stirrups.
by their grandfather long before they were ten, they'd ridden out of
the Great Kahn's grasslands, carrying his standard southeast across
the Gobi into Kaifeng and Zongdu. Picked their way west across the
Altai Mountains. Ridden the Silk Road into Samarkand and Boukara.
Bathed in the sparkling blue waters of the Caspian Sea. Battled up
into the Ukraine and jubilantly ridden home again.
traced his campaigns on the map in Poppa Duval's den. Fingered them on
the old Italian globe beside his desk. And when a grown-up said,
"But he was so cruel," the boys proudly quoted Duval Kahn,
"Everything we know about him was written by his enemies."
fifteen, they'd mastered the Great Kahn's strategies and developed a
few of their own. With opposing legions of three-inch soldiers mounted
on painted iron horses, they tested their battle plans on a plank
table twelve feet long covered with sandy deserts, green felt fields,
iridescent mica water and movable paper-mâché mountains.
with a new strategy, they'd mount up with Duval Kahn and take to the
woods to prove their point.
were superb horseman, skilled archers and crack shots. They believed
in God, family, country, accountability and Duval Kahn.
wisely abrogated responsibility for their social graces. Their adoring
mothers drilled them in etiquette and dance. Their proud fathers
introduced them to their tailor, their private club in Atlanta,
political meetings in Alabama and their first bordello in New Orleans
took it all in stride. Often Andy was not amused.
twenty, they enlisted in the Army of the Confederacy and were
commissioned second lieutenants assigned to Company D, 62nd Georgia
Calvary Regiment. A month later, they were promoted to first
lieutenants. Two years later they were captains and CO's of Companies
D and H.
62nd Regiment, with seven Georgia companies and three North Carolina
companies, fought at New Bern and Windsor. By the fall of 1863, the
62nd was part of a force responsible for containing the enemy north
and south of the Chowan River in eastern North Carolina.
much to their surprise, the Captains Duval received a formal wedding
invitation from a former classmate at the Academy, Boots Rindell, now
commanding officer of a Union unit stationed south of Plymouth, North
Carolina. The wedding was to take place in the country near
Duvals could hardly refuse.
Major concurred. "Bring back the latest local information and as
much bride's cake as you can manage."
the appointed day, Thomas and Andrew rode south from Windsor with
their respective companies. The weather was glorious. The men, glad
for a break from camp, were in a festive mood. Weddings meant food. Or
used to, anyway. And pretty new faces.
twelve miles passed without incident. When they reached the Artless
plantation, Thomas and Andrew threw out a picket line, dusted of their
hats, settled their swords and walked into the house, resplendent in
full dress uniform.
bride's family was struck dumb. The harpist lost her place. The old
minister shuffled toward them fumbling for his handkerchief. Suffice
to say the groom had neglected to mention his invitation.
rallied at once, genuinely glad to see the young Confederate officers.
The Buffaloes could afford no less. Buffaloes were Southerners
sympathetic to the Union.
ceremony was short. The garden reception proved most pleasant.
on, Thomas rescued Andrew from two serious matrons who had once spent
a week in Friendly and knew they had met his parents. If not his
parents, his aunt and uncle. Or his grandparents. Charming people.
owe you, Tom," Andy said, out of the corner of his mouth, as they
moved away from the ladies, "Let's get something to drink."
may have mine, sir."
stopped and looked down into the flushed face of a small boy standing
by his side. "Thank you," he said, taking the proffered
not real punch. You might not like it either. Not even the right
too a sip. "You're right. Not real punch."
took a bigger sip. The juice and Cruzan rum slid down his throat like
oil on ice. Pays to have friends with resources. Especially in
Andy Duval," he said, putting out his hand. "Let's go find
some real punch."
Harry Ballington," Harry said, shaking his hand, "And I'd
like that very much."
had drifted off a step or two and was introducing himself to a cluster
of admiring young ladies.
took Andrew's hand and they started back toward the house. It was a
handsome old Federal, built, Andy guessed, with ballast brick.
across the lawn, Harry broke away, calling, "Uncle Bruce, Uncle
Bruce. Come meet my new friend."
Andrew walked toward the tall, gray-haired man who greeted Harry by
tossing him up in the air.
were going to get some punch, Uncle Bruce."
let's go then," Bruce said, putting Harry down.
moment later, Harry was off again, running toward the house.
Suz! Auntie Suz!"
recognized Auntie Suz.
held the bride's bouquet through the ceremony. During the lengthy
prayer on faithfulness and fertility, he'd studied the back of her
long, pale blue silk dress. Figured her waist to be about four hands.
Counted sixty little pearl buttons running from her hips up under her
shining ash blonde hair. He'd caught a glimpse of her profile in the
recessional. she was stunning.
Gatler?" he asked softly.
Andrew, Harry's Aunt Suzanne. His mother and Suzanne were twins.
Florence died a few days after Harry was born. His father is serving
with the 1st North Carolina. Until he returns, Harry is living with
Suzanne and his grandparents, Gretz and Emily Lambersen. Their
plantation, Rivicello, is on the Roanoke not far from mine.
nodded, his eyes following Suzanne's slow progress across the lawn as
she stopped to greet old friends. Watching Harry fend off kissy old
ladies, he couldn't help but smile. He remembered those days.
a lucky little fellow, Andrew. Comparatively speaking, that is."
sir, he is. Comparatively speaking, of course."
up, Thomas saw Suzanne step out on to the gallery and scan the hundred
or so guests socializing on the lawn. Looking for someone.
Hopefully not her husband. Admired her carriage as she walked down
the long front steps. Could not believe his good fortune when she
smiled, waved and headed for Andy and company.
pardon of the young ladies mesmerized by his admiring eyes and
debonair manner, Thomas hurried off, edging up to Andy just as Suzanne
Bruce, she stepped back to acknowledge his introductions to the young
clear blue eyes met Andy's head on. She surprised him with her firm
handshake. When she smiled and said, "I'm very glad to meet you,
Captain," he knew she meant it.
toward Thomas, she grinned as he executed a deep, sweeping bow, the
brim of his soft gray hat grazing the ground at the feet.
kingdom for a two by four, Andy thought, watching Thomas slip into
his most successful and charming persona, the Young Cavalier.
splintered two by four applied to your courtly rear, dear Cuz, to
launch you head first into yon lily-covered fishpond.
Kahn's warning came to mind. He could hear the old man's deep voice,
"Beware of unleashing old desert curses with unseemly
were twelve, and curious, of course. "I don't know how the curse
manifests," his grandfather had said solemnly, "but believe
me, gentlemen, you'll know." He'd cleared his throat and added,
"Or so I've been told."
Andy, can we get our drink?"
yes. Excuse us, Bruce."
be right here, Andy," the older man answered, with a nod toward
Thomas, "keeping an eye on Sir Walter."