A Stranger on My Land by Sandra Merville Hart Carrie and her little brother, Jay, find a wounded soldier on their land after a battle which later became known as "The Battle Above the Clouds." Adam, a Union soldier, has been shot twice in the arm. Though Carrie is reluctant to take Adam to their cave where her family hides their livestock from both armies, she cannot turn her back on him. But her Aunt Lavinia, bitter over what Yankees have done to their land, urges Carrie to allow Adam to die. Carrie refuses, but cannot remove the bullets. Adam's friendship with Jay softens her heart toward him. It's not long until his gratitude and teasing manner spark a friendship between the young couple. Even though Carrie's father fights for the Confederacy in far-off Virginia, her feelings for the handsome young soldier begin to blossom into love. When Adam's condition worsens, Carrie knows a Union surgeon is needed to save his life. How can she accomplish this and keep her family's hiding place a secret?
Lookout Mountain, Outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee,
Wednesday, November 25, 1863
As the sound of a hundred firing muskets echoed across the valley, Carrie Bishop stepped out of the darkness of the cave that had sheltered her family for over two months. Peering left and right before replacing the branches that obscured the mouth of the small cave, she felt grateful for the wispy fog. It should help to mask her movements from any watchful eyes in the valley. Leaving the safety of the shrubs and one tall oak tree that further hid the entrance, she exhaled with relief to find no sign of the soldiers on Lookout Mountain. A noisy battle had taken place here yesterday.
Leaves rustled behind her. “Can I come out there with you, Carrie?”
Turning swiftly at her little brother’s loud whisper, she motioned him back inside. “No, Jay. I told you to wait for me.”
“Aw, come on, Carrie. I don’t want to stay with Aunt Lavinia.” Her nine-year-old brother raised his eyebrows imploringly.
Carrie sighed. They’d both been stuck inside too much lately, and their bedridden aunt’s bitter complaining didn’t make returning to the cave such a pleasant prospect. “Let me look around first. I’ll be right back.”
Keeping her slim frame below the top of the bushes to hide from any curious eyes in the valley or across it on Missionary Ridge, she crept about twenty feet away from the cave, her eyes darting in every direction without finding any sign of the blue-clad soldiers that had so terrified her during their approach yesterday.
The Confederate Army had been on the mountain for a couple of months, causing no end of trouble for her. When the family’s only horse had disappeared, Carrie had vowed the soldiers wouldn’t get the cows and chickens, too. They moved the livestock inside the cave with them. They’d managed to keep all the animals safe so far.
Yesterday afternoon, it seemed that most of Lookout Mountain had been crawling with soldiers, Confederates and Union alike. Jay had wanted to sneak outside the relative safety of their temporary home to see the battle, but Carrie couldn’t allow it. She lived in constant fear that the hidden opening to their cave would be discovered by soldiers from either side. After the Southern Army stole her horse, it created a hardship for her family. She hadn’t felt good about them since that day. As for the Northern Army, they were the reason her papa had to leave home and fight for General Lee’s Confederate
Army in far-off Virginia. She had a stomach full of both armies, with little tolerance left for either.
Aunt Lavinia’s bitterness exceeded her own, only she blamed Abe Lincoln’s Union Army as the source of all her woes, including her poor health.
The big battle fought on the mountain yesterday had frightened her more than anything else that happened since the beginning of the war. Much of it seemed to come from the direction of the Cravens' house. Part of the fighting between the Confederate Army and the Yankee soldiers took place not far from her family’s cabin, empty now of all food and as many possessions as they could carry. She’d heard stories of hungry soldiers taking food from families. Not knowing how long the war would last, she had none to spare. If any soldier found their hiding place, there would be no way to conceal their food. And her family would starve without it.
She and Jay had spent most of yesterday near the mouth of the cave, listening to cannon blasts and musket fire. They could peer through the carefully placed branches that obscured the entrance to the cave, but dense fog had covered the mountain. Since Carrie's home was about a third of the way up the mountain, most of yesterday’s fighting took place above them. At times, the shouts had been far too close for comfort, though the men had been too far away to distinguish any words. That’s when Carrie prayed the hardest. She asked God to hide them and keep them safe. So far He’d done that. No one had found them.
Higher up the mountain, the battle had continued until late into the night when the musket fire finally decreased. Until the shooting died down, Aunt Lavinia had fretted aloud they’d all be killed. After Aunt Lavinia quieted down in her bed across the room, Carrie had fallen into a troubled sleep. Worry awakened her several times. The battle hadn’t seemed too close but was their cabin still standing? Property could easily be destroyed during intense fighting. Would they have a home to return to once the armies left?
She had to go and find out. Hopefully no one would notice her while fighting continued across the valley.
A finger tapped on her shoulder. She jumped and stifled a scream. “Jay! You scared me to death.”
“Sorry, Carrie.” Jay’s green eyes held an apology. “I thought you heard me behind you.”
She put her hands on her hips. “Now, why would I hear you behind me when I asked you to wait?”
Cannons blasted across the valley, reverberating in her ears. The blasts added to the sound of hundreds of muskets.
Blond hair fell across Jay’s forehead as the heavy artillery claimed his attention. “Those cannons are going off down toward the Tennessee River. Looks like the Yankees are attacking Missionary Ridge. I heard them cheering this morning up on the mountain
and down in the valley, too. I’ll bet that means the northerners won yesterday.”
Hundreds of blue-jacketed Union soldiers ran across Lookout Valley toward the rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge, guarded by the Confederate Army. “I reckon the fighting’s moved over there. It’s been going on for hours.”
“I’ve been listening to it, too.” Jay stared across the valley as smoke from the ridge showed the Confederates firing on Union soldiers from the rifle pit. “You think that means the soldiers will be leaving Lookout Mountain?”
Carrie focused troubled eyes, so like her brother’s, on the battle, wishing she could protect him from further bad news. “There’s no telling the plans of these armies. There was a heap of fighting yesterday. Looks like the northerners won. That probably means the Yankees will be here a while longer.”
Confederate soldiers in gray or butternut leaped from the rifle pits. As the Northern Army overran the rifle pit, the southerners climbed the steep grade of Missionary Ridge to join up with other Confederate soldiers. Once they began to arrive on top, the soldiers on the ridge shot down toward the Union soldiers who had no place to hide in the rifle pits. Mesmerized, Carrie and Jay watched as hundreds of Union soldiers climbed the steep sides of Missionary Ridge while Confederate soldiers shot at them. Carrie’s stomach twisted in knots as one man dropped his rifle before tumbling backward. Had she watched a man lose his life? Her heart plummeted at the possibility.
“Come on. While they're busy across the valley, let's see if our cabin's still standing.” She tucked a few wisps of blonde hair behind her ears that had escaped from her customary style, a single braid that almost reached her waist.
Leading the way up the path, she attempted to stay behind the brush as much as possible, knowing movement on the mountain could attract someone’s attention. Last night’s rain clung to some of the branches, wetting her plain brown cloak as she brushed against the foliage. She shivered in the cold breeze as they skirted around boulders.
It wasn’t long before signs of the recent deluge of soldiers passing through became apparent. A few hundred yards beyond their property, trampled underbrush and young trees bent over at the base showed the hurry with which soldiers climbed the often steep grade. Part of the battle must have been fought less than a mile from her home.
When they were within a hundred yards of the cabin, she heard a faint cry.
“Did you hear something?” Unable to pinpoint the source, her eyes darted from side to side.
“Nothing but a thousand musket shots—and those cannons rocking the whole valley.” Jay’s eyes remained riveted on the fighting.
“Help! Help me, please.” A man’s raspy cry came from further up the mountain.
“Someone’s hurt!” Jay scrambled up the slope toward the voice.
“Careful, Jay! It could be a Yankee.” With the sure-footed steps of those accustomed to steep climbs, Carrie followed him closely.
“Hey, Mister! Could you say something again? We can’t find you.” Jay didn’t seem at all frightened as he searched the leaf-covered ground beneath the trees.
“I’m here. To your right.” The voice sounded closer.
The siblings followed the raspy voice and stopped at the side of a seriously wounded soldier. Mud covered the young soldier’s bloodstained coat. A knapsack and uncorked canteen lay at his side. A rubber blanket covered half his tall frame.
“Do you have any water?” Brown hair fell across his forehead, almost touching one blue eye.
Carrie knelt beside him grudgingly. “Jay, go fetch some water.”
His eyes filled with excitement, Jay picked up the empty canteen and the cork lying beside it before running toward the well outside the cabin.
She stared at the man’s guarded face, wondering if she could trust him. “Which side do you fight for? I can’t tell what color your coat is underneath all that mud.”
Intense blue eyes searched hers warily. “Would you help me if I said I’m a Union soldier?”
She’d suspected as much. Jumping to her feet, she turned her back on him. Southern cannons had never threatened her life the way Northern shells had, chasing them into hiding.
“My wounds finally stopped bleeding, but I won’t last out here in this cold too long. Last night’s rain gave me a good soaking.” His voice, hoarse with thirst, pleaded with her.
She turned to face him. In spite of the scruffy appearance of a few days’ growth of whiskers, he appeared to be a gentleman. His brown hair touched his shoulders, so his beard wasn’t all that needed cutting. Neither of these detracted from his looks. With only a blanket as protection from the elements, the handsome young man probably wouldn’t survive another night in this cold November weather.
He reached his left hand toward her imploringly. “Would you walk away and let me die because I fight for the North?”
Shame filled her. Thrusting away the terrifying memories of the August day when Union soldiers shot cannons into Chattanooga while the townspeople prayed at church for the Confederacy, she kneeled beside him. Mama would never have walked away from a person in need, no matter what they’d done. “You’ve been shot?”
He nodded. “My upper arm burns like fire.” At the sound of running footsteps, he touched his rifle.
She placed her hand over his. “It’s just my little brother, Jay.”
He kept his gaze riveted toward the sound until Jay bounded into sight.
“I found another canteen like this one about a month ago.” Jay pulled the cork out and gave the canteen to Carrie.
Her gaze strayed to the prone soldier. “Can you sit up?”
Determination lit his eyes. “If you get me started.”
She slid her arm under his shoulders and gently eased him to a sitting position. She brought the canteen to his lips. He drained it dry.
Carrie watched the soldier’s gaze shift to Missionary Ridge and turned curiously. Intense fighting took place on top of the ridge. The sound of a thousand muskets mingled with cannon blasts that reverberated through the valley. Carrie shivered at the sights and sounds of a war her father had never wanted. She looked back at the wounded soldier and found no signs of triumphant gloating.
The man put the cork on the canteen and slung the strap over his left shoulder. “I’m much obliged to both of you. My name’s Adam Hendricks, U. S. Army, Ninety-ninth Ohio regiment.” He grimaced in pain as his wounded arm shifted. “I prayed all day for God to save me.” He winked at Jay. “I wasn’t sure He could hear me over the gunfire.”
Jay’s jaw dropped as he stared at the soldier. “Mister, God can hear the smallest whisper. Why, you don’t even have to pray out loud for Him to know what you’re saying. Ain’t that right, Carrie?”
“That’s right, Jay.” She ruffled his blond hair, thankful for the reminder. Knowing what she had to do, her gaze returned to the soldier. “Mr. Hendricks, my name is Carrie Bishop. This is my brother, Jay. We can take you to shelter, but we won’t be able to carry you. It’s about half a mile away.”
“If I can lean on you, I’ll walk as far as I’m able.” With his good hand, he tried to push himself up but failed.
Carrie and Jay exchanged a look when they realized it would be a rough walk back to the cave for all of them. Carrie moved to the soldier's injured side. Putting her arm around his waist, she couldn’t prevent jarring his arm. He bit his lip but didn’t complain. With Jay supporting his left side, they lifted him to his feet. He was almost a foot taller than Carrie, but very thin. “I’m much obliged.” His legs shook for a moment, and he closed his eyes. “Jay, if you say one of those silent prayers for me, I think I can make it. And please call me Adam.”
“I will, Adam.”
Leaning on the siblings, he took a step. “You must be praying, Jay.”
“I am, but you gotta remember to thank Him for answering.”
He took another step. “Thank you, Lord.” His right arm hung uselessly at his side.
“Pardon me.” Carrie halted as his arm hit her back. “If you put your arm around my shoulder, it’d be easier to walk.” Her face flamed, realizing her words might sound flirtatious.
Color flooded his pale face. “Sounds like a good idea, but I can’t control my arm. It won’t listen to me right now. Would you mind?” He seemed as embarrassed as she felt. It somehow made her feel better. “Not at all.” She gently picked up his arm to rest on her shoulder.
Even though his lips clamped shut, a gasp escaped him.
“I’m sorry. Can you manage?” It occurred to her the bullet might have broken a bone.
He smiled at her. “Don’t you worry about it. I’ve been through worse than this and lived.”
At the spellbound look on Jay’s face, Adam’s teasing grin seemed to come with great effort as he winced in pain. “Well, maybe I’m stretching the truth a bit on that one, Jay.” His step faltered. “Looks like I’m going to need to concentrate on my walking for a few minutes.”
Sandra Merville Hart loves to find unusual facts in her historical research to use in her stories. She and her husband enjoy traveling to many of the sites in her books to explore the history. She serves as Assistant Editor for DevoKids.com where she contributes articles about history and holidays. She has written for several publications and websites including The Secret Place, Harpstring, Splickety Magazine, Pockets Magazine, Common Ground, Afictionado, and ChristianDevotions.us. Her inspirational Civil War novella, A Stranger on My Land, released on August 21, 2014.
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