An Unoficial Patriot

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An Unofficial Patriot by Helen H. Gardener

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Launching GitHub Desktop Go back. Launching Xcode Launching Visual Studio He dropped the curious weapon he had in his hand, and ran to the back room. The only rope there was the support of the old-fashioned bed. He hastily unwound it and fastened it to the bed-post nearest the window. He wanted to make the drop as short as possible, lest the splash of the water attract the men from the front of the house. He smiled when he climbed into the boat and found the oars safely in its bottom.

In an instant he was pulling gently, softly, slowly out into the stream. He could almost hear the beating of his own heart Then in the moonlight a shot rang out on the clear air, and a sharp crack, as the ball struck the side of the boat, told him that he was discovered. No need for caution now! Need only for haste and strength! He pulled with all his young vigor — with the stroke of an accustomed hand. The sky was livid with the flames from his burning office — the dream and hope of his first manhood was melting before his eyes. God damn'em! He could see numbers of men running about now, shouting, swearing, vainly trying to check the flames.

Some one yelled, "Shoot again, he's in that skiff! The would-be assassins were covering retreat. He decided that it would not be safe to pull back to the Missouri side just then. He would land on the Kansas shore. Morning found him near a small village. He landed and made his way directly to the newspaper office. It was one of his own exchanges, and a free-soil paper like his. He told his story, and the editor made a lurid article out of it and called for his townsmen to gather in a public meeting.

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He issued an extra, and Beverly was the hero of the hour. Rough frontiersmen — some of whom had seen his paper — looked at the slender stripling and volunteered to cross the river and "clean out the town. They were bent upon making him a leader. The war fever was in the frontier blood. He began his speech in a passion of personal feeling, but ended in an appeal for volunteers, "not to fight my battle, not to avenge my wrong, not to repair my loss, but to fight this great battle for liberty and freedom in the great northwest! It seems we will have to fight for the freedom of speech and press, as well as for free soil!

I will be frank: I had not intended to enlist in this war. I had hoped to do more good by argument than I could hope to do by arms. I had hoped to see the end of it at the end of the three months for which the President called for troops; but I do not stand on that ground any longer. Yesterday, as you all know, there was issued a new call for five hundred thousand more men! I want, now, to be one of the first of those, and I shall enlist for three years or for ten years or as long as this war lasts; and I don't want to come out of it alive if I have got to come out into a country where free speech is throttled and a free press burned up!

I shall enlist, I tell you, and since I had to fly to Kansas for protection, I hope that Kansas will enroll me as her son, and if it may be, as her very first volunteer! The idea took the fancy of his listeners. If enough of you will enlist here and now, I'll go with you as private or as captain. I'll take the lead and the responsibility, or I'll follow any better qualified man you may name, and we'll go up to the capital and offer ourselves as the first Kansas volunteers for this war!

Almost before he had spoken the words cheer after cheer rent the air. Men signified their willingness to enlist, and before night on the first day he had spent on Kansas soil he found himself marching toward the capital at the head of one hundred determined, rough, strong, fearless frontiersmen to ask for a commission as their captain, and for arms and ammunition for his men. They could not imagine at home why Beverley should be in a Kansas company, but when the Gazette came that night with an account of the burning of the obscure newspaper-office out in Missouri, they understood, and Katherine felt faint and sick when she realized that two of her boys had gone to fight against her people.

She knew that her own brothers and nephews would all be on the other side, and that Griffith's were there too. Griffith had gone with Roy's company to Camp Morton and had sorrowfully consented to his enlistment; but if war there must be and if his son must go, Griffith felt that he was on the right side.

He held back, himself, from the idea that fighting was necessary, even yet.

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At the very worst, it would all be over very soon, he thought, and he hoped and believed that a few demonstrations of determination on the part of the Government would undoubtedly settle the matter without any real or serious fighting. He was unalterably opposed to a division of the Union, and he believed that the South would see its mistake on that question and reconsider it. But as State after State seceded, his perplexity deepened. He and Katherine had all these years kept up a fond and constant correspondence with the old home friends and kinsmen, several of whom, from time to time, had visited them.

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All these had felt that Griffith had made a grievous mistake in following the course he had taken, but until now no real bitterness had resulted. Now, all letters ceased. They had heard, somehow, in the old home, that Griffith's sons had enlisted in the Union army — to fight against them! That was more than they could bear. Even before the line of communication was finally closed against letters, theirs had ceased to come — and Katherine understood.

Many a night she sobbed herself to sleep. How terrible! Why should they fight over it?

Why don't they let the slave states go, if they want to, and be one government, and the others be free states and another government — as Canada and we are, or as Mexico and we? Griffith had tried to explain the difficulties and the inevitable clashing of interests that would be forever resulting — the constant and eternal clashing.

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He pointed out that no country would allow itself to be divided. He read to her long arguments in support of the maintenance of the Union; but she said:. You never do that way with your children, Griffith, you know you don't. You never did try to conquer one of them and force him to think your way. You always felt that way about freeing the slaves, too. You said you did not judge for other people — only for yourself. And when you saw how terribly hard it was to do it, and that most people could not do as you did even if they wanted to — you always said that you did not blame them in the least.

I know all that; but governments are very different. Some one has got to decide for others. If they didn't, everything would go to smash in very short order. I suppose I am a good deal of a coward. I can't bear to judge for other people. But I do believe in maintaining this government at any and all cost — but I'd leave slavery alone in the South. I wouldn't let it spread.

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That is Lincoln's policy now. He said so in his message — his inaugural. If it will stay where it is, he says he won't disturb it — and that suits me; but if it will not — ". He said that this fight had all along been really to extend and not to retain slavery, and when that was lost then the South proposed to smash the Union. That's exactly what he said; but, 'We'll rally round the flag, boys, we'll rally once again,'" he sang, and banged the door behind him. That night Howard disappeared. He had ran away, sworn that he was eighteen years old and enlisted under another name, as a gunner in a battery!

It was ten days before a trace of him was found.

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