Wednesday, April 18, 2012

T. E. Story #28

As the door to the Commandant of the Topographical Engineers Corps Office closed behind me, I heaved a great sigh of relief.  That task was finished, and I thanked my lucky stars for my records , reports, and the detailed manner in which they had been put together.  It seems that after the failure of two activities under the cognizance of the Topogs, (lighthouse and a dam collapse on the Tennessee River) the Congress was looking for a scape-goat and the transfer of myself from the middle of a project was a prime way to get what they needed.  Apparently this was a surprise to Col. Abert as well as to myself, and no less than three congressmen ( one Senator and two Representatives) sat in on what was originally to be a fairly straightforward exit report from a Congressional Project for the good of the service.  The three Congressmen went through my notes and reports line by line looking for problems.  Apparently Captain Lewis has had some trouble with his crew already, and he has asked permission to increase the time limit authorized for the diversion piers due to a loss of nearly half his river crew and a strike in the rock quarry.  My junior Lt. was there and his statement would lead one to believe that I walked on water, which everyone here knows is not true.  Capt. Lewis has been relieved of this project and after the Lt.'s glowing statement about me, I could hardly say no, when asked if the Lt. could take over the project.  I had previously recommended him for a brevet rank of first Lt. and when the Congressmen saw that together with what had been done in the weeks before I was called to Washington City (they had inspected the site) they were quite pleased.  One thing that they-mentioned more than once was how the logs were stacked and separated by type of tree.  Apppledgedarently the crew boss was quite impressed with your knowledge, and passed that on as well.

The final round was a set of congratulations all around, a promise that my name will remain on the Congressional Contract List, and if the war doesn't come, or when it is over, whatever is to happen, I will be retained on the river clearance list of project managers.  This I was very glad to hear.  Apparently, Col. Abert was worried over these people moving into this exit discussion, because after the Congressmen left, he shook my hand and thanked me most sincerely, and over three fingers of whiskey pledged that I would always be one of the top Engineers under his command.

He also wanted to know about our new project, and I gave him the copies of your new rank Warrant and Commission, which he has approved and sent to Congress.  He assured me that approval is a mere rubber stamp approval.  In case you have heard that assurance somewhere before, I can be quite sure that when Col. Abert says it, it is so!  I discussed briefly with him our ideas up to this point and he is in agreement.  Since this project is a Congressman's original Idea, they are willing to throw a little money at it, so I should like to provide a reasonable sum as a Bonus for your friends on the farm.  Your work sounds great and I can hardly wait to see the place,  The wagon sounds great and the young man, Josh sounds like a perfect asst. to have around as well a nice young man.  I can hardly believe that anyone could be so depraved as to do what you have indicated to a small child.  Can we take him on as a Corporal?  I like that idea best.  In that way he is protected should anything happen and he is captured in a war situation.  If you aren't wearing a uniform you are a spy and that is a hanging offense?

I have spoken with Col. Abert also about our first trip into the South, and he has suggested of the three selections that I had made to map the road from Washington City through Alexandria, Dumphies to Fredericksburg, VA.  Apparently the last map of that area was drawn during the Rev War, and it is a sure thing that much has changed along the way.  Col. Abert is strongly convinced that this is one of the two routes that would be undertaken in an assault on Washington City in an attempt to shorten any conflict that the South may attempt.

I could not agree more about the art of blending in.  I will have to scare up a portfolio and fill it with some paintings and maps in order to play the part that you have developed for me.  That and some civilian art supplies as well.  I will make an additional suggestion as to what we will be doing in the area.  Add to the advertisement on the wagon that I am a traveling Scribe, specializing in writing all kinds of letters as needed ranging from business letters to love letters.  I think that in the countryside of the South that might be a specialty that people would like to see coming, and it would serve also to explain more than one visit to an area if need be.  Normally, my task as a map maker will be to record what I see in a notebook designed for map makers as well as rough sketches.  Now normally I would have with me, depending on how far afield that I intend to go, a squad or even a large detachment of mounted troops, however, that is a task that you will have to undertake, so we will spend a few days gearing you up to recognizing the elements of the terrain, and items of importance as we move along.  Most of our work will be along road-ways, and listing any and all improvements, so we will not be using much more the men ink, ruler, and compass for this task.  Anything to within 3 degrees is an understood standard for mapping as you go.  The first trip or so we will go slow and you will copy in your notebook as I do.  After that you will ride ahead, and pursue offshoot roads for a mile or so to see where they go.  You should be able to measure your milage based on your horse's steps at a walk, cantor, and gallop.  Also the height of the horse to measure the depth of water at fords and streams.  Practice also estimating distance, 100, 200, and 300 yards and rough estimates of road inclines, and declines for the artillery and heavy wagons, and where they need to know that they will need extra drawing or braking power to negotiate the roads.

During this first week of preparation I am sure that I can take some time to learn the sign language for the young man.  In regard to my weapons, I have a Colts .36 Navy which I carry in a shoulder holster, and a Sheriff's Model .36 five shot with a shoulder holster as well which I sometimes use it as a boot gun.  Probably a used pair f corduroy trousers and a plaid shirt would be best, with a vest to match the color of the shirt and pants.  A good pair of boots, and the clothes should be a little large for both of us so we can wear uniforms under them.  It will be warm, but I would rather be warm all over than have a rope burn around my neck!  I am hearing some pretty tough stories about the lands South of the Long Bridge!

The last item on the list is the man in black that I wrote about previously.  Keep an eye out as you move around town and tell your friends as well.  I asked Col. Abert about it and it first he seemed upset about it and then later passed it off as a probable "tail" attached by the Congressmen to keep an eye on me.  The problem with that story is that Col. Abert is a very slick operator but he doesn't lie well to his men, and the other point was that I didn't get the idea that the Congressmen were really all that bright.  They were really after Abert and not me!  I hope that I am wrong, but just in case----!!!

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