Monday, April 23, 2012

T.E. Story #63

As Josh and I drove slowly South we took the main road closest to the coast.  This gave me a chance to review the previous events in my mind and the instructions given to those of this mission who are scouting for us and riding the off-roads for more information from Oxen Run, through Oxen Hill out to a distance of five miles, and down to Broad Creek.  Then my assurance to Hezzie that our target in two more days was the ferry across the Potomac.  Now all that I have to do is get to each of them a map of the peninsula from Swan Creek to the ferry.  Beyond the ferry, of course, is the real South down to Fredericksburg and North as far as Alexandria.  We will follow what is mentioned on the various maps as "Telegraph Road," from Fredericksburg to Alexandria. Within a mile or so from Broad Creek is a right-handed turnoff.  The road is definitely secondary and at the turn it is dirt and turf, a double line of tracks leading off to the West, overgrown with brush in spots.  There is a signpost there which lists the Eytes and Edelen farms and one other which has been obliterated.  "JJ" should see what is there and investigate to see if the road goes farther down the riverbank.  The fields to the right and left of the road have cattle grazing and on both sides of the road are split rail fences.  The next road to the right is to the E. A. Kiren farm, the building whose top is just visible from the road.  Probably the barn from its height and bulk..  To the right, the cattle grazing fields continue, as does the split rail fence.  However to the left the rail fence turns sharply East and the land along the road is second growth leafed timber.  We travel another two miles and come to another right handed turn-off with a brightly painted sign "T. Thorn."  I instruct Josh to pull into the drive and follow it at a slow walk.  Within a half mile it becomes obvious that this is a large farm / ranch for cattle.  There are two barns and several out-buildings and the main house is shaded by several trees and sits back from the drive about 100 yards.  The drive on both sides is lined with a rubble stone wall.  In the driveway to the house is a man with a scythe.  He looks to be engaged in trimming the high grass and weeds along the interior and exterior of the stone wall.  He waves at us and steps into the driveway, and Josh brings the rig to a stop.  The man asks if he can help us in any way and I rely, "We just took the wrong turn I guess, sorry for any inconvenience we have caused." "Think nothing of it, " the older man said," We like to see new people every now and again."  He stepped back and looked at the sign on the wagon.  "That's a nice sign you've got there.  Are you in the market for a little business?" "We are always looking for a little business, " I replied, " but we have promised some earlier people that we would be in Swan Creek within an hour or so, and they will be waiting.  I understand that is not too far from here." "Nah, just a hop and a skip down the road from the end of this drive, and you come to Tinker's Creek.  Then within a mile or so is Piscatawney Creek and then you are in the village of Piscatawney. just off the bridge.  I would imagine that you will get more business there than at Swan Creek."  The old man leaned on his scythe and spit a stream of tobacco juice in the ditch. "I can't disagree with that," I said.  "Maybe we will take you up on the tip.  I am still learning the territory around these parts, we began this business along the western bank of the Potomac." "Yeah" responded the old man, "Things is a tad different over here, and that's a fact that even a Yankee can't dispute. "  He laughed at his own joke.  "Iffen I can pry the lady of the house away from her knitten,' and the old horse ain't too cranky, maybe we'll see you in Swan Creek," the man grinned widely again. "Or in Piscatawney," I said, and motioned for Josh to move ahead.  I waved goodbye and the old man raised his hand as well.  We got to the end of the driveway, and back onto the main road.  The fields on both sides of the road now gave way to second growth timber with a mixture of pines among the leafed trees.  The road descended at a steady rate of about 1 to 2 degrees to a bottom land which was swampy and brushy with the smell of swamp cabbage in the still air.  Then we reached a ford with a very small creek, however the piles of dead brush along the sides of the creek gave witness that in rainy weather this creek could be a real problem to get across.  The road had degraded from macadam surface to a dirt road, and there were several wheel tracks where other wagons had gotten into the creek.  Josh drove through the water and out onto the other side which was gravel.  The creek was about ten yards wide at this point, with a gravel / mud bottom, and a current of about 2-3 mph.  I would have to rate this ford at a !. (infantry) or a 2. (Cavalry).  Obviously this was Swan Creek!  No wonder the man had grinned at my mention of it as a meeting place.  I left a note pinned to the tree in clear view of the road that the Sign Painter will go on to Piscatawney with the date and time The road ascended the hill out of the swamp, and the forest replaced the swamp growth as the wagon climbed out of the small valley. The rate of ascension was approx. 2 to 3 degrees, as we crested the hill through the trees we could see another larger creek below us and the road began to descend again.  The road here was steeper than before, near the 4 degree mark and I would recommend extra teams for artillery and freight wagons at this spot.  Within another mile we got to what was marked on a well-worn sign as Tinker's Creek.  There was a bridge here, but it was clear that it was built only for local traffic.  I would rate the bridge as  a 2. (cavalry) at most, as the bridge was constructed of local small logs and spiked together roughly.  The log joints were poorly cut reducing the bridges strength and there was no ground support for the stringers.  Also the stringers were fastened in the middle of the bridge with no side supports.  The builder's apparently were not well-experienced and I was glad to get across the bridge without a problem.  I would strongly recommend that this bridge be rebuilt. The creek had approx. the same width and speed as the former creek that we had crossed. Just prior to the bridge, had been two turnoff roads to the left which "JJ" should ride.  The first road also led right to the West and is marked on my map as going out to Fort Washington and a steamer landing there.  My map shows a mill on Tinker's Creek about four miles North of the bridge.  The lush lowland forest continues on both sides of the road all the way to the Piscatawney Creek Bridge.  Just before the bridge is a road leading off to the left toward the Northeast with a fairly new sign indicating that there is a blacksmith shop on this road.  This is something for "JJ" to ferret out.  I should like to know the type of mill, the extent of the blacksmith shop and the size of the landing at Fort Washington.  As we cross the bridge we can see the village of Piscatawney laid out before us.  Piscatawney Creek is about 30 yards wide here, and the color of the water is a deep green, indicating deep water under the bridge.  The water appears to be effected by ocean tides with a maximum tidal rise of some two feet. The bridge is well constructed out of large timbers with a number of supports in the creek supporting the bridge center.  The stringer beams are heavy timbers well well fastened and well matched.  I would give this bridge a 4. (freight wagons).

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