I was sure that nothing else could surprise me on this mission, but I guess I was wrong. "What?? I said, “ You are asking a perfect stranger to join your militia organization? You know nothing about me and you are willing to potentially put your lives in my hands as your military engineer? That is a very strange request."
Everyone was quiet for a moment, and Charlie cleared his throat. "Wal, " he drawled, "We know a little bit about you, which is why we delayed your departure earlier today. The price for the work that the saddler has done for you, as well as the blacksmith has been taken care of. We felt that we needed to insure that we had the time to check up on you through our local people, and we think that we know you pretty good. We know that you served in the Mexican War and your brief service was applauded by Col. Lee in regard to your field map sketches. We know that you were very successful as a river clearance engineer. We also know about your recent success and your present activities. Added to that, we see that you have established yourself in a successful business to disguise your mission to avoid all contract proposals from people who might take undue advantage of our Virginia Communities with the advanced knowledge. After all, we have seen many such antics by local groups."
I froze in my seat, the pistol under my armpit suddenly feeling very insignificant. There were four men in the room and I was not absolutely positive that I would be allowed to get my pistol out and into action. Even more important, I have no desire to shoot any of the people who shared the room with me. It will be difficult to talk my way out of this situation, but it probably will be the only way I can or will be able to ease out of this problem if there is any way at all.
"In that case I guess I don't have any secrets from you people," I grinned as much as possible and waited for the other shoe to drop.
"Yes, sir," said Charlie, " We do know a bit about you, thanks to our resident Deputy Marshall. We know that you carried out a very complicated river clearance project on the Mississippi. But the real clincher was what we found out about how you have been advanced in the engineering and that is why we have asked you to join us. We believe that your advancement to being a Major in today's world of the military is very impressive, but the important thing is what you are doing now."
This last, kind of, threw me. He seemed to be very excited over this information which, if accurate, should be a much darker for me that it seemed. What was going on? "Well, it seems that you have me pretty well figured out. So, what do you think of my present duties?" I figured that it couldn't be much worse, so I might as well find out what was going on.
Charlie looked me and asked, "What's not to be impressed with? Anyone who gets sent into the South in order to determine a better way to improve our civil necessities is welcome in this small town." All the others nodded their heads and murmured in the positive. Charlie continued, " Some of our lads noticed the interest that you had in the old steam powered ferry. Then, it was your interest in bridges which have been mentioned by several people we have talked with. Then your interest in the roads have also been noticed. The Marshall told us that you are down here to provide a list of major improvements to our communication lines, roads, ferries, bridges, etc. Obviously, with your experience, you were the one to choose for this task, and the task badly needs to be done, as you well know. So we have decided that you are the person that we need for our unit."
I was stunned. The ideas that these people had, and which were supported by the Deputy Marshall, made sense in one way, and, of course, it was advantageous to them to believe what they had been told. Now the trick would be to convince these people that it was to their advantage for me to complete the mission before making any further commitments. Of course, these people do not apparently see the move towards war that seems so clear to the military authorities in the North. Hopefully, this information will not be obvious to these people, any time soon, also hopefully I can talk with these people in such as way as to neither commit myself to their desire or to make them angry.