Read Kill Dusty Fog Online

Authors: J. T. Edson

Tags: #Western

Kill Dusty Fog

Kill Dusty Fog
JT Edson

KILL DUSTY FOG

Springing away from the half-turned gun, the sergeant chief-of-piece rushed at Dusty and lashed out with his short artillery sword. Down flickered the small Texan’s Haiman sabre, catching and deflecting the Yankee’s blade. Then Dusty lunged, driving his point into the man’s chest and dragging it free as the horse carried him by. A revolver crashed from the left, its bullet fanning the air by Dusty’s face. Almost of its own volition, his bone-handled Army Colt lined and barked an answer. Hit between the eyes, the battery commander let his smoking revolver drop and followed it to the ground.

Dusty did not know that he was ruining the third plan made by General Trumpeter to conquer Arkansas. In doing so, he roused the hatred of a vicious, vindictive man who would use any means to take revenge.

 

KILL DUSTY FOG!

At the head of the hard-riding, harder-fighting Company ‘C’ of the Texas Light Cavalry, a young Confederate States’ Army captain played havoc with the Yankees in Arkansas.

He struck when least expected, with the raging fury of a Texas twister, and left destruction as great as any whirlwind in his wake. Fearing for his rank and position, General Trumpeter, commanding the Union’s Army of Arkansas, issued an order. The officers responsible for carrying it out knew that doing so would be anything but easy.

The order said: ‘No matter how it is done, capture or KILL Dusty Fog !’

KILL DUSTY FOG!

A CORGI BOOK 552 09345 9

First publication in Great Britain

PRINTING HISTORY

Corgi Edition published 1970

Corgi Edition reissued 1973

Corgi Edition reprinted 1978

Copyright © 1970 by J. T. Edson

This book is set in 9-10 pt. Plantin

Corgi Books are published by Transworld

Publishers Ltd.,

Century House 61-63 Uxbridge Road, Ealing,

London W5 5SA

Made and printed in Great Britain by

Cox & Wyman Ltd.,

London, Reading and Fakenham

As the world is divided into two parts,

Great Britain and its colonies, I dedicate

this book to Mike Frarok of Chicago,

the Colonial Gentleman.

CHAPTER ONE

THIS’S REAL HELPFUL OF THE YANKEES

THE attack came suddenly, unexpectedly and with devastating effectiveness. Certainly the idea that it might happen had never entered 1st Lieutenant Savos’ head as he rode along the narrow woodland trail leading to Little Rock, followed by the two lumbering 10-inch siege mortar-wagons and their caisson which formed his platoon.

Earlier that morning his platoon, last in the battery’s line of march, had been forced to halt when the near rear wheel of the leading mortar-wagon showed signs of slipping from its axle. On being informed of the mishap, the battery’s commanding officer bad ordered that Savos’ men must correct the fault themselves and follow as quickly as possible. Due to a delay in the arrival of a courier, there had been little enough time for the battery to assemble, load their heavy mortars and march to Little Rock where they were ordered to be present for inspection by the newly arrived General Horace Trumpeter.

So Savos and his men had been compelled to deal with the matter unaided. He suspected that his two ‘chief-of-piece’ sergeants had conspired to delay the work, ensuring that they would arrive too late to join the ranks of artillery, infantry, cavalry and shiny-butts from the various non-combatant Departments, which even at that moment would be forming up on the open ground at the edge of the town. Neither sergeant had troubled to hide his objections to being uprooted from their comfortable camp as part of the garrison at Hot Springs just to welcome General Trumpeter. He was the latest in a line of Generals sent to lead the Union’s Army of Arkansas to ascendancy over the Rebs who held the land south and west of the Ouachita. Or to try; for the predominantly Texas regiments of Ole Devil Hardin, commanding general of the Confederate States’ Army of Arkansas, showed a marked, strenuous reluctance to being ascended.

‘Can’t we make any better speed than this, Sergeant Cragg?’ Savos asked petulantly, looking back as he started to ride beneath the spreading branches of a large old white oak that grew at the side of the trail.

‘We can,’ Cragg answered, not leaving his place by the near lead horse. ‘It’s the hosses ‘n’ wagon’s slow us dow—’

Before the reply ended, the sergeant saw something which drove it out of his mind. Unfortunately, his realization of the sight’s implications came a shade too late.

A shape launched itself from amongst the thick foliage of the white oak. Hurling down from the lowest branch, it caught Savos by the shoulders and dragged him from his saddle.

With a feeling of shock, Cragg realized that, although bareheaded, the attacker from the oak tree wore the uniform of a Confederate cavalry officer. There were other significant factors which might have occurred to him, given time; but, even as the realization came, he found himself with troubles of his own. Something hissed through the air. Coming from among the bushes at the side of the trail, the running noose of a rope fell over his head and tightened about his shoulders. Feeling himself being hauled from his horse, he let out a startled yell. He forgot about his officer’s predicament and gave his attention to saving himself. Even as he kicked his feet free from the stirrup irons and concentrated on attempting to hit the ground standing up, he saw that he could expect little immediate assistance from his companions.

Unlike members of ‘field’ artillery batteries, the siege-mortar crews did not ride on the team horses or wagons. Instead, with the exception of the officer and chiefs-of-piece, they marched alongside the heavy draught horses which pulled their weapons. Dressed for the review, they had their short artillery swords slung on their belts. The swords proved to be woefully inadequate.

Men clad in uniforms of cadet-grey, tight-legged breeches with yellow cavalry stripes down the outer seams and knee-high riding boots, appeared on either side of the trail. Some rose from among the bushes, or dropped off over-hanging branches, while others sprang from behind tree trunks.

Unnoticed by the Yankee artillery-men, a rope slanted upwards from the lower limbs of a chestnut tree into those of the big old oak opposite. Leaves rustled where the rope disappeared at its lower end. Gripping it, a tall, wide-shouldered young 1st lieutenant swung out of the foliage. Hatless, he had a thatch of rumpled, fiery hair and a cheery, pugnaciously handsome face. Around his waist, hanging lower than the usual military pattern, was a weapon belt carrying two walnut handled 186o Army Colts butt-forward in open-topped holsters. Not that he attempted to draw the revolvers. His open legs wrapped around the torso of the open-mouthed, staring second chief-of-piece and the force of his arrival bore the other from his saddle. Dumping the sergeant to the ground, the Rebel lieutenant dropped to land astride him. Around lashed the officer’s fist, colliding hard against the noncom’s jaw. Going limp, the victim slid limply to his assailant’s feet.

Bursting on to the trail without allowing the rope between them to slacken, Cragg’s captor proved to be a gangling Confedcrate sergeant major with a prominent adam’s apple and a worried, care-worn face. Despite his melancholy appearance, the sergeant major acted with speed and efficiency. Under the propulsion of his hands, the hard-plaited Manila rope seemed to take life. Two coils rolled forward, dropping one after the other over Cragg’s shoulders and further pinioning his arms. Wild with anger, but unable to free himself, he attempted a kick at the approaching Rebel. Down stabbed the miserable Rebel’s left hand. Deftly he caught Cragg’s rising foot. With a jerk and twist, the sergeant major tumbled the Yankee face down. Before the chief-of-piece could recover his breath, his captor had secured his ankles and completed the job by drawing and lashing his wrists together.

More by luck than riding skill, Savos managed to quit his saddle and land on his feet. Spitting out startled oaths, he thrust his assailant away. In a quick glance around, he learned the full extent of the danger. None of his men carried firearms and all looked to be proving too slow at drawing their swords. Their attackers, on the other hand, held Army Colts, although apparently contenting themselves with taking prisoners, for there was no shooting. From studying the situation, Savos jerked his head around and stared at the figure whose dramatic appearance had sparked off the assault.

Five foot six at most in height, Savos’ attacker looked very young. More so when the triple three-inch-long, half-inch-wide gold bars on his stand-up collar and double braid yellow silk ‘chicken-guts’ up the outside of his tunic’s sleeves announced him to be a captain in the Confederate States Army. He had curly, dusty blond hair and was handsome, although not in an eye-catching manner. Savos read a strength and power in the young face that matched the width of the shoulders and slimwaisted development of his small frame. The tunic ended at waist level, without the ‘skirt extending half-way between hip and knee’ as required by the C.S.A.’s
Manual of Dress Regulations
. A tight-rolled, scarlet silk bandana replaced the black cravat of a formal uniform, its ends trailing over the tunic. While his trousers and boots conformed to Dress Regulations, he wore a non-issue gunbelt similar to that of the red-haired lieutenant. In its holsters carefully designed and cut to their fit, two bone-handled Army Colts pointed their butts to the front.

All that Savos saw as he spluttered another curse and started to bring up his fists. Clearly the Rebels did not intend to risk the sound of shots reaching Union ears. In which case, Savos figured that he stood a chance. Having boxed in his Eastern college, he expected no difficulty in felling his small attacker. With the captain in his hands, he could compel the other Rebels to surrender. Rumour had it that they showed more loyalty to their officers than did members of the Union Army, a thing he could turn to his advantage.

However Savos was given no opportunity to put his skill as a pugilist into use. Already the small Rebel was moving closer. Gliding forward, he struck at the lieutenant with lightning speed. The way in which he held his hand, with fingers extended together and thumb bent over the up-turned palm, looked amateurish to one trained in the noble art of pugilism. Yet he had no cause for complaint about the result of the blow. Referring to the impact against his solar plexus in later years, Savos would liken it to being kicked with the sharp hoof of a wounded bull wapiti, or running full-tilt into a sword’s blunted point. Such fanciful descriptions did not occur to him at the moment of receipt. With a strangled croak, he doubled over and fell back a couple of steps.

Following Savos up, the captain struck again. Still he did not clench his fist, but chopped the heel of his open hand against the side of the other’s neck. Once more the awkward method in no way impaired the efficiency of the attack. On the arrival of the blow, Savos collapsed in a limp pile on the trail.

Clearly the captain did not doubt that his methods would produce the desired effect, for he turned his attention to what was going on about him immediately after striking Savos the second time. A faint grin twisted at his lips as he watched the red haired lieutenant fell the sergeant and spring clear. Turning with his fists raised, the red head glared around as if hoping for a chance to use them. However such had been the speed and surprise of the attack that he found no takers. Already the Yankee artillerymen were standing with raised hands, looking into the muzzles of persuasive revolvers.

After studying the wagons, the captain looked along the trail. He saw that the horses of Savos and the two Yankee sergeants had been caught by the men positioned earlier for that duty. Satisfied that the horses could not give warning by running riderless across the rolling, open land beyond the woods, he turned back to his men. He walked across to where his mournful-featured sergeant major stood with an expression so worried that he and not the Yankees might have been captured.

‘Did any of them get away, Billy Jack?’ the captain asked, his voice a pleasant Texas drawl.

‘Nary a one,’ the sergeant major replied miserably.

‘All right your side, Cousin Red?’ the captain went on.

‘We got ‘em all, Cousin Dusty,’ the red headed lieutenant answered.

‘Have them hawg-tied,’ ordered the captain. ‘I’ll go make sure that Yankee luff’s* not hurt bad. It’s easy to hit just a mite too hard when you use the
tegatana
against the side of the neck.’

Despite his concern, the captain found Savos groaning his way slowly to consciousness. Relieving the lieutenant of his revolver and sword — the officer alone wearing a firearm on his belt — the young Rebel stood back with an air of satisfaction. Hooves sounded and he turned to face a tall red-haired soldier who was approaching, leading three horses and carrying the company’s guidon. Spiking the end of the guidon’s pole into the ground, the soldier allowed the horses’ long, split-end reins to dangle free. Going to the big black stallion on the right of the trio, he took the white Jeff Davis campaign hat from where it hung by its storm strap on the low horned, double girthed saddle.

‘Figured you’d need this, Cap’n Dusty,’ the guidon carrier remarked, offering the hat to the small blond.

Shaking his head, fingering the side of his neck and groaning, Savos forced himself into a sitting position. Slowly the mists swirled away from before his eyes and he took in the scene around him. Not far away, the small captain stood donning the campaign hat. On its front was a silver badge formed of a five-pointed star in a circle. That meant he was a member of the Texas Light Cavalry. The saddles of the three exceptional fine horses, each carrying a sabre and coiled rope on opposing sides of its low horn, gave added confirmation of the regiment to which the Rebels belonged, the double girths being peculiar to the Lone Star State.

Looking next towards his halted mortar-wagons, Savos saw his men being disarmed or tied up hand and foot. As he swung angrily towards the captain, intending to protest about such treatment, a puff of wind fluttered the Rebel company’s guidon and drew his attention to it. The sight of the letter it carried momentarily drove all thoughts of objecting out of his head.

From studying the letter ‘C’ on the guidon, Savos jerked his head around and stared at the small captain. The man who commanded Company ‘C’ of the Texas Light Cavalry had a name well-known on the Arkansas battle-front. Yet could that short, almost insignificant-looking captain, not more than eighteen years of age and a young eighteen at that, be the famous Dusty Fog?

Over the past year, Captain Dusty Fog of the Texas Light Cavalry had become much mentioned by virtue of his excellence as a military raider. In fact, many men who had been matched against him ranked the leader of Company ‘C’ with those two other Dixie masters, Turner Ashby and John Singleton Mosby. The Texans fighting to retain the Toothpick State for the South held Dusty Fog in higher esteem than Ashby or even than the ‘Grey Ghost’, Mosby himself.

Nephew of Ole Devil Hardin, Dusty Fog was a native Texan. So the other sons of the Lone Star State accorded him pride of place. They boasted of his lightning fast draw and deadly revolver-shooting skill, or told tales about his uncanny ability at bare-hand fighting. There were few, however, who could have told from whom he had learned his peculiar, yet effective skills in the latter. The truth was that he had been taught the secrets — all but unknown in the Western Hemisphere at that time — of ju-jitsu and karate by Ole Devil Hardin’s Japanese servant, using them to back up his not inconsiderable strength and to off-set his lack of inches.

To the Union soldiers on the eastern side of the Ouachita River, Dusty Fog’s name had become synonymous with trouble, misery and disaster. At the head of the hard-riding, harder-fighting Company ‘C’, he played havoc with the Yankees in Arkansas. He struck when least expected, with the raging fury of a Texas twister and left destruction as great as any caused by a whirlwind in his wake. For all that, many Union soldiers regarded him with open, or grudging, admiration. He was recognized by the majority of them as a courageous, resourceful, yet chivalrous enemy.

Among his other exploits had been the destruction of a vitally important bridge over the Moshogen River. In a way that particular raid could be blamed for Savos’ present misfortune, Learning that a Yankee lieutenant was falsely accused of cowardice and desertion for his conduct during the attack on the bridge, Dusty Fog had offered to attend the officer’s court martial to give evidence. This had been arranged by Ole Devil Hardin, through the Union Army’s top brass. Although he had travelled under a flag of truce, Dusty was compelled on three occasions to defend his life; culminating with his killing General Buller in a duel which the other — who had personal reasons for wanting the lieutenant convicted — had forced upon him. Bullet’s death had created a vacancy in Arkansas which Trumpeter had filled and so, indirectly, had caused Savos to leave the safety of the Hot Springs’ defences and fall into the Rebels’ hands.

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