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As Promised - Brother Against Brother A Civil War Novel - Chapter 1

Chapter 1 © 2018 Steven D. Shepard

“Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent.” William Shakespeare

It was 6:00 AM on the banks of the Red River. Captain Douglas Ivey walked out onto the front porch of his mother's home at Lake and Spring Street in Shreveport, Louisiana with his first cup of coffee. The way things had been going lately, it was just about the only time of day when he got any peace and quiet anymore. The sun would not be up for another hour or so, but he could already make out the rust colored river water flowing down the east side of the city. The rust color matched the raw dirt city road in front of the house. Shreveport was still quiet for now, but he could hear some of the neighbors banging, coughing and stirring trying to get up and get their day started. It was too early for any traffic on the wood built Texas Avenue bridge that loomed close by. It was March. March in Louisiana is fickle, cold and usually wet. But this Winter had been dry with drought. The river flooding never occurred like it did in most years. This morning was cool and clear with dew covering grass already turning green and lush, even without the rain. Crowded evergreens stood en mass, tall and silhouetted in the morning light just appearing over the eastern horizon. These towering guardians dominated the landscape in all directions including the Ivey property. It was too early in the year for the mosquitoes to be out, so sitting on the porch was an opportunity not to be wasted. Ivey slowly and carefully sat down in a cane bottom chair that permanently occupied the front porch. So his coffee wouldn't spill. As his breath turned to fog he had to get back up, go inside and put his jacket on to take the morning air. It had been a hard Winter. Dry, but the coldest one Ivey could remember. The season made all the worse by the war of northern aggression, dire conditions in Louisiana and personal losses he almost couldn't take. Ever since the fall of New Orleans there had been one disaster after another for his Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi. The Army and what militia they could muster, had been in nearly continuous retreat from New Orleans to Alexandria. Baton Rouge had fell in a bloody battle. This loss forced state government to move the capitol to Shreveport. Now Ivey felt sure things were going to have to change, or Shreveport was going to fall also. That change was coming.

Winter had been hard in more ways than one. In January, Ivey's mother passed away. They were never close, but she was his mom. In fact, he couldn't remember the last time the woman had even touched him. She was loud and harsh as a young woman. But as the years wore her down, she changed and mellowed. Doug was the last one to stick by her near the end, and she almost became friendly. Doug Ivey loved his mother despite her many faults. He and his wife had tried to support her as best they could near the end of her life. The woman was so hard headed and mean it was a tough job most of the time. To make matters worse, as she laying passing on her death bed she confessed to Doug that the man he thought was his father for thirty years, in fact was not. His mom told him she had married Bob Ivey cause she was already pregnant and she didn't know how she was going to take care of herself and a child. His real father was long gone and she was so ill she said she couldn't remember the man's name. It may or may not have been the truth. Regardless, Mother Clara Ivey, the tough old bird she was, passed away when she wanted to.

With his mother's death, Doug Ivey felt like an orphan. It was only natural. His fake father Robert had been gone for years now. Robert Ivey would probably never know the southern wife he abandoned was dead. He never was too concerned about the boys. When the war started, the cotton business started drying up and getting dangerous. As Confederate money became worthless, cotton became southern gold. The cotton business became treacherous. The Confederacy shipped this white gold southwest through Texas into Mexico in exchange for arms and weapons. When the cotton started showing its value, the invading Yankee army stole every bale they could get their hands on. And shipped it to their mills in the northeast. Being a carpetbagging Yankee cotton trader became a very dangerous trade for a fearful man like Robert Ivey. So he high-tailed it back to Ohio where he was from. Doug's younger brother Dean left not long after that. Dean Ivey was Bob's son, the youngest and his mama's favorite. But he had his father's bad temper. Dean was not pursuing his dad when he left, but he took his father's political opinions with him. Like his dad, he agreed the South was out of line and had no right to start a rebellion. After the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, Doug and Dean argued about the rebellion. They fought over it too. They would have killed one another if Dean had not grown disgusted with the entire conflict and just walked away. As far as Doug knew, he was in the Yankee army somewhere. But he always was a “Damn Yankee”. That's what Doug would call him too when he wanted to make him mad. Which wasn't hard. Doug thought about trying to contact Dean to let him know their mama was dead. But he really didn't even know where to start. Dean never bothered to stay in touch after he left. That was OK, mostly.

Clara Ivey didn't miss Robert when he left. All they did was fuss and fight which she was used to. She was the oldest in her family and grew up with five younger brothers. It seemed like all she did all her life was take care of boys and men,and she was tired of'em. She had to diaper, feed and wash them when her mom got too sick and too worn out to do it anymore. That was a awful. When her father got after her, she married Robert just to get out of the house and the hell away from being mishandled. She never really loved Robert but she didn't figure out what a worthless carpet bagger he really was until after they had been together for a while. Their marriage gained another boy and continued her life of labor and men. It became a life filled with too much to do and not enough time or energy to do it. When her baby boy Dean got mad and left, something inside her just broke. The flu was going round this Winter and it got her. When the flu turned into pneumonia, she broke out with the fever and sweat, stopped taking care of herself and just let go. Doug and his wife did what they could for her but she was leaving and there was nothing they could do to stop her. She drifted away one night while she slept alone. Doug found her the next day laying cold and stiff as a stone. And Clara's war was over.

Doug got his mother's home for all his trouble but that wasn't much consolation. He hadn't yet decided what he was going to do with the place. Sometimes he would come down to mom's house and stay the night there when he and his wife Betty weren't getting along. Like they rarely got along anymore. He took his mama's loss hard, but kept that inside. Staying at her house gave him some comfort he didn't even understand. He tried to come to tears for her, but he just couldn't. He had cried so much in the last three years the tears just were not there anymore. To make matters worse, he couldn't afford a proper funeral for her. So all he could do was dig a grave in the back lot and bury her on the property. Her headstone was going to have to wait. He did carve her name and dates into a set of plank boards and set them at the head of her grave. He hoped she'd understand. There were too many other pressing duties and matters to attend to now and his coffee was growing cold.

Doug Ivey had little choice about joining the Confederate Army. At thirty he was of prime age and would have been drafted in any case Under orders from the Confederate Congress and Louisiana Governor Henry Watkins Allen, all men between the ages of seventeen to fifty-five had to report and serve. Doug wasn't eager to report or serve. He knew the South was at a serious disadvantage in the rebellion. He was judged to have military experience. Years earlier both Doug and Dean Ivey had attended the Louisiana State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy in Pineville cause their father Bob made them. They had studied under William Tecumseh Sherman. He remembered Sherman telling them that, “War is hell!” and he was right. Even back then, Sherman knew more about conducting war than just about any general in the Union Army. Their Pa had sent the boys away to military school mostly to get rid of them and get'em out of his hair. They both hated it. When their mutual cadet friend Buck Hartley dropped out and went home they almost joined him. But Doug convinced Dean to stick it out with him. Mostly because he didn't want to be alone. The results were both boys graduated with honors, but neither had any desire or plans to go into military service. When Doug got home he couldn't wait to begin to farming and ranching. There was a little blonde headed gal from Ruston he wanted marry. To his credit, hat's exactly what he did.

But there were many men in Louisiana who did refuse Governor Allen's call to service. Many of them bugged out and headed west to Texas or became Louisiana deserters and Jayhawkers. Running the roads as a thieving Jayhawker, each and every one of them ran the risk of getting shot by Yankees or hunted down by their own army, family and neighbors and hung. Ivey's military commission managed to get him Captain's bars because he had military training. He didn't do any better as an officer, because he didn't have any friends in high places like some. Also, having a Yankee father and a brother who betrayed the South didn't exactly enhance his stock with the Confederate Army. Even so, Ivey got mustered into the Army of the Trans-Mississippi on staff and under Major General Richard Taylor. As a quartermaster. He was lucky. This supply position kept him shuffling materials and paper and from being transferred east where the slaughter raged. It was probably the most boring job in the world that kept him out of harm's way. Even as the war dragged on, most of Louisiana and Texas remained exempt from the kind of bloody battles that went on east of the Mississippi River. Many times Ivey had wished he had gone into battle just to get away from the boring bureaucratic operations in Shreveport. But at the end of the day, he knew and was thankful for his luck and the fact he had yet had to fire a shot in anger.

Ivey's logistic supply work in Shreveport ranged from dull to impossible. Just processing the mounds of paperwork required to obtain the food, clothing, weapons and supplies needed on the front lines was becoming more than difficult each and every day. Confederate currency had become worthless. Vendors everywhere demanded Yankee greenbacks, gold coin or goods. But finding a reliable source supplier was harder than that. Even when they obtained required materials for the war, most all of it got railed or wagon hauled east to the troops on the battlefields. There never was enough. To make matters worse, the rails which started and ended east at Monroe were now one of the primary targets of the Union Army. Much to his regret, one of his wagon trains recently got jumped by Jayhawkers, attacked and robbed east of Ruston. Damned of it was, that train had a military escort. At home, the Army of the Trans-Mississippi and Western Louisiana operated on shoestrings that some of his men didn't even have. The few boys under his direct command at Ft. Turnbull were looking rail thin and as ragged as they truly were. It was hard to keep men in ranks you couldn't feed. Despite these hardships, they were actually doing better than most of their fellows soldiers across the Mississippi. Good men sent east to battle were having their blood spilled and their bodies were piling up in the field like loose cord wood on a daily basis. Most of the stories published in the Shreveport News these days were concerning casualties and losses. Each and every day some family was in mourning for a lost brother, father or son. Their tears fell like the rain that didn't come this year. Most of the women in town wore black.

When Ivey considered it, he figured that if the Mississippi remained open for the Confederacy there was still a chance they could make a showing of this war and actually run the Yankees bastards back home where they belonged. But when New Orleans fell in May of 1862 it was actually the beginning of the end. Now the Union controlled the Mississippi River and had effectively split the South and the Confederate nation in two. Since then, the Yankees had clawed, fought, twisted, wormed and warred their way north up the Mighty Mississippi, taking one river town after another. Baton Rouge fell in a bloody conflict in August of '62, There were serious losses on both sides. So in 1864 the Union Army of the Gulf turned its gaze northwest with envious eyes towards Texas.

General in Chief of the U.S. Army, Major General Henry Halleck and the Army were convinced that Texas was a real and present danger as a supply line through Shreveport and east for Confederate forces all across the South. Halleck badly wanted that supply line closed. He felt that if the supply line could be cut, it would make the war shorter or end it entirely. So slowly and surely Halleck drew his plans against the defending rebel garrison at Shreveport. As Captain Ivey sipped his morning coffee there was no way he could know that Halleck and the Union army had already dispatched a juggernaut of 30,000 army and naval forces out of New Orleans straight at him. The Red River Campaign had begun.

It was too early to think. He never was a morning person. It would take two cups of coffee just to get him moving. Cup number one was demanding his attention. As the sun peeked over the trees to the east and began to spread some light across the yard, Ivey could see black ants exit excited out of a hole in the ground. He knew them. They were old adversaries. They had been pests around the house for as long as he could remember. They used to get into the house and in the cupboards until he got some borax powder and spread it about the baseboards and all around the perimeter of the house. The ants didn't seem to like borax so now they tended to stay out in the yard. But this morning there was something different. Ivey could see what got the black ants so excited. Coming up from the river, a line of red ants was marching in a dogged single file. They were heading straight for the black ant mound. Ivey knew red ants weren't native to Shreveport. So the red ants must have washed down stream from Texas somewhere. Their pace was slow and steady. But it was determined and aimed. It was an invasion. As Ivey watched the aggressive red line with some amusement and interest he remembered watching the activity of ants when he was a young boy. But he had never seen this before. The line of red ants finally arrived and piled into the black ant mound. Then this clash of different races of insects became a violent collision of female warriors. One side attacking and one defending. Ivey watched in mild interest as the only other creature on planet Earth, other than man, went to war. Ivey turned back to his coffee and ignored the carnage. There wasn't much he could do about it.

So it was that with the Spring of 1864 just beginning, Captain Doug Ivey sat on his mama's front porch wishing he had some sugar for his coffee. He rubbed his sleepy eyes so he could watch the steam from his warm coffee swirl dreamlike into the cool morning air towards the low and sleepy Red River. After the second cup he was going to have to get moving. His boss, the only son of President Zachary Taylor didn't tolerate being late. As far as Lieutenant General Richard Taylor was concerned, personal losses were just a reason to do your duty and your job. Taylor would know. He had lost his home and plantation to the Yankees down in the Plaquemines. Then he lost two of his sons to the scarlet fever. Even after he evacuated them away to where he thought they would be safe. The Yankees burned his plantation to the ground. God had taken his children. So Dick Taylor was now a man on a mission of vengeance. He would not be impressed with the personal loss of soldiers or civilians. Especially the stumbling hoard of crying, injured and shattered non-combatants that were wandering into Shreveport this morning. Like they never had before.

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