Sunday, December 20, 2020

Cadwallader, Chapter 2

By T.K. Hugh, WMD Author
Editor's Note: Greetings, all you big burly Cowpokes and lovely Cowgirls! The following is a fictional, yet realistic story of the Old West, one that most of you should relate to. Dust in your boots, the cyclic motion of the horse beneath you, the smell of tonight's campfire, and the heat of the sun in a hot New Mexico desert. This will be a weekly, long-running story in a special department within the magazine. We welcome all comments regarding this new endeavor in our weekly lineup!  To give Chapter 1 a read:

--Carrie Aulenbacher, WMD Managing Editor  

“Come on Ben”, I said to myself, “Just another mile”. I tried to shake out from under the fog of memory that had distracted me from my predicament for a few moments.

My vision was swimming something terrible by this time, but I thought I could just make out a small stand of grulla cactus in the distance. I figured that if I could make it that far, I might actually have a chance to make it out of the desert alive. There was supposed to be water in those plants. Not actually water, but if you cut into the bottom of a young grulla, there was this greenish yellow pulp that would release its moisture if you held it in your mouth and sucked real hard. The idea of any kind of fluid running down my throat seemed like a dream.

So I kept it up and staggered on across the rocks, kicking up little clouds of dust every time I took a step. I couldn’t seem to make my boots completely leave the ground. I felt like I had bags of flour tied around my ankles. I would fall, slowly pull myself to my feet, and walk on a few hundred more feet only to fall again. I could no longer stay in the shadow of the rocks if I hoped to make it to the cactus, so the sun had its way with me, baking not only my body but my mind.

I drifted off again….


I could feel the excitement growing in my stomach when I topped the tree lined ridge just above home. I had been gone for four long years in the War. It was a nasty business and I was glad to be coming into country that hadn’t been ruined by the War. There really wasn’t much around home but the mines, and with most of the miners off fighting, the hills of Alabama didn’t have any strategic use for the Confederacy or the Union.

I had traveled all the way to Milledgeville, Georgia on horseback to enlist in the Confederate Army within a few weeks of the news of succession making it to Birmingham. An influx of wealthy British investors in the coal and coke mines had renamed it after the English industrial city just before the start of the war.

My father had not been pleased with my decision to enlist for the Confederate Army. Of course, that wasn’t anything unusual. We had never been close for as long as I could recall. It might have had something to do with my mother dying, but I think it had more to do with the fact that I was more like him that he wanted me to be.

Over the years I had moved from a rough and tumble child to a young man with a liking for the wild side of life. By the time I was seventeen, I could drink the harsh homebrew whiskey made by the Irish and German laborers that worked in the mines and then work beside them the next day as I had inherited my father’s size and strength.

It was not an uncommon thing I did, enlisting and all. There were quite a few miners who had drawn their pay in the weeks after the War started and traipsed off to fight for one side or the other. I had never had any truck with slave owners as I grew up. Some mine superintendents would make deals with plantation owners as far away as Fenix City for slaves to work the mines when there were no crops left in the fields. The slaves would get fed, and their owners would get a small weekly wage. However, my father would not allow this sort of arrangement in the mines where he was in charge. I guess it came from his boyhood in Cardiff, which was an exit point for slave trade after Witherspoons Crusade shut down most English ports to the activity.

Thing was, I grew up free in those coal heavy hills and came to love the life I led as a youth. There was a great deal of regional pride and I just didn’t like the idea of the politicians in Washington telling anyone what they could or couldn’t do in their own state. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that there was a huge hole in my reasoning.

By that time, unfortunately, I was committed to the fight.

It was while I was a member of the Georgia “Crackers” transport regiment that people started calling me Ben. All of my life up until then I was Mabyn. Or just Cadwallader. It had been a couple of months since I had mustered in and everyone was excited about the possibility of our first encounter with the enemy. They said they were excited, but it was mostly fear. Anyone who says they are excited about the possibility of being shot is either a liar or just plain crazy. Although there were more than a few Irish and Welsh in the War on both sides, people still had a habit of turning any unfamiliar name into a more easily remembered one. So Mabyn became Ben, but mostly they called me Cadwallader.

I was just shy of 17 years old, so they handed me just about every dirty or difficult task that came along. That was until the first Sergeant found out that I could handle a hammer and anvil as good as their regular blacksmith. One of my jobs while growing up was as a ferrier for the mules and horses used in the mines. Since the hard pulling they did was rough on shoes, I stayed busy.

Eventually I became a second camp smithy. I stayed in that position for almost a year until the Battle of Dahlonega where they learned that I had skills with more important tools.

We were in the middle of being overrun. We had hunkered down as best we could behind the large granite boulders and fallen pine trees at the bottom of Gold City Mountain. The union had some wonder kid officer from up in Ohio sitting pretty on his horse about 300 yards away on a rocky knob giving orders. They must have been some pretty good orders too, because everywhere we turned there was someone wearing blue shooting at us.

So, not being real partial to being run through with one of those long bayonets, I grabbed me up a rifle, took a bead on him and shot him out of the saddle. That seemed to take the wind out of the charge and we were able to high tail it out of there without losing too many more men. From that time until Lee’s surrender I was a sharpshooter with every regiment I served with. Seemed I had the knack for shooting straight and killing without thinking about it too much. It was a war, and they were trying to kill me. I didn’t see much need in losing sleep over it.


I clearly remember the day as I was working my way down an all too familiar hillside where we had pulled up. I noticed that the old cabin and stockyard area was run down something awful. This just wasn’t like my father. If nothing else, Aneurin Cadwallader was a meticulous and precise man, especially when it came to his own land.

“Hello the house”, I called out. To ride up to a house uninvited in the post war south was to risk a belly full of buckshot.

“Hello yourself,” came a quiet drawl from a small side window. “Stay where you are and tell me what you’re doin’ on my land. By the way”, continued the voice, “I’ve got a Spencer .56 caliber pointed at your chest.”

I eased my hand away from my rifle boot and pushed my hat back real easy. I wanted to make sure that whoever was talking knew I was friendly. One of those old Spencers could put a hole in you a kid could fly a kite through.

“Well that’s kind of funny”, I said, “considering I was born and raised here. I roamed in these mountains for the first years of my life until I went off to join the war. Just how, would you be telling me, did this come to be your place?”

“Well now,” said the voice, “that would make you Mr. Cadwalladers son.” I saw the door crack open a little wider and a grizzled old Negro man stepped out on the porch. I also noticed that the big Spencer was still firmly trained on the middle of my chest. Suddenly, he inhaled sharply, and lowered the gun. “Light and sit if you want.” he said as he sank himself into one of several old cane rockers that lined the porch.

I got off my horse and tied him to a small dogwood tree where he began to nibble at the grass. I slowly pulled myself up the steps and sat so that I could see the old man and keep an eye on that Spencer.

“So, where’s my father?” I asked.

“Dead,” the old man told me. “Almost 2 years now. A group of raiders came through. Probably from Missouri. Thought that all these mines was gold mines. When they realized that we was mining coal, they herded all of the white men folk into the number two shaft and caved it in with dynamite.”

He turned and spat a stream of chewing tobacco onto the ground. “I been here every since. Didn’t seem to be no harm.”

“Stay,” I told him. Suddenly, I had no desire to remain either here or in the South for that matter. I quickly left the rocker and headed back to my horse. I had spent a lot of campfire time listening to men talk up the western lands during the War and it seemed to be as good a place as any to start my life over. So I began to ride.

Cadwallader Menu

Stay tune for Chapter 3, next week! --Carrie Aulenbacher

About the Author

T.K is a US Navy veteran and an engineer with over 30 years experience. 
He is a weapons enthusiast, and a student of the Old West. A man out of his time, he feels as if he should have been born a hundred years earlier. 

Both sides of his family arrived in America several generations before the Revolution. 

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