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Warriors Never Sleep

Amidst the echoing cries of fallen comrades, one man’s journey from the shadows of war to the light of redemption will unveil the true measure of valour…

In the heart of the Civil War, Lieutenant Dave Evert fights to survive, hunted by Union soldiers. Lost and wounded, he seeks sanctuary in a farm, only to discover a deadly betrayal lurking in its shadows.

Escaping into a desolate battlefield, Dave encounters a mysterious stranger—a Union soldier with secrets of his own. Bound by shared loss, they forge an unlikely alliance as they journey to Kansas, seeking redemption and sanctuary.

But danger follows close behind, as they confront cattle rustlers and a sinister rancher bent on destruction…

As tensions escalate and loyalties are tested, Dave must confront the demons of his past and fight to protect those he holds dear.

Can one man’s courage illuminate the path to salvation, or will the shadows of the past consume them both?

Written by:

Western Historical Adventure Author

4.5/5

4.5/5 (106 ratings)

Prologue

Farmville, Virginia – April 6, 1865

 

The rain hammered the battlefield, a relentless assault that turned the earth into a quagmire. More than water fell—Union artillery unleashed chaos, engulfing the lines in a muddy cloud of horror.

“Hold!” Lieutenant David Clyde Evert, of the 5th Texas Regiment, forced his men into position. Clad in worn butternut grays and with a hat weighed down by rain, he sighted his Enfield rifle downfield, water droplets clinging to the iron sights. He swept away long strands of wet golden hair from his eyes, and through rain-speckled sights, he watched blue-clad figures lining up their horses for another charge.

“Hold!” Dave raised his hand against the deafening rain.

“Davey,” said Sergeant Samuel Evert, Dave’s youngest—and last—brother. “They’re coming back!”

“I see ’em.” Dave checked his percussion cap, ensuring it was still dry.

“We should retreat.”

“General Anderson said we hold here, and that’s what we’re doing.” He grabbed his brother and shoved him down to one knee. “Ready!” he called to the rest of his men.

A dozen rifles raised in unison, their bayonets slicing through the downpour. Dave’s men crouched low, shoulders tight. Fingers flexed on waiting triggers. Sam looked up at him, his soft blue eyes out of place on the harsh field of battle. Water dripped from his long sandy hair, like tears mourning what was to come.

A moment before the crush, time slowed. Rain hung in the air, hooves suspended, rusty blades and worn barrels moved at a crawl. Dave could see every emotion on the faces of onrushing men and beasts, a mixture of fear and rapture, rage and pity.

“Fire!”

Gunfire erupted. Charging blues swung sabers, horses fell squealing from gunshot, and carnage spread as cavalry crashed into them like a wave of hellfire. Union mounts reared, their breath visible in the cold, as Confederate men tried to flee. The Union boys swung down with their M1860 light cavalry sabers, curved blades finding Confederate backs—barely covered by old coats and tattered uniforms, barely enough to protect from the cold, let alone steel.

Men reloaded as quickly as they could. The smell of gunpowder was so thick it was nearly choking. Sam fumbled with his Enfield, almost dropping the ramrod as his cold wet fingers tried to seat the ball on the powder at the base of the barrel.

“Fire!” Dave called again. Another crack of guns exploded, but fewer than before. Two more bluebellies fell, their horses stumbled, and another was trampled.

The men of the Texas Fifth fought with courage, but the sheer momentum of the cavalry charge was too much for them. Horses wheeled around the Confederates as the men mounted atop them shot and swung down like vengeance incarnate. Union blades slashed through their ranks. The mud became a graveyard, swallowing the screams and pleas of the living and dead alike.

Dave let out a Rebel yell as he used his rifle to fend off a saber before throwing it aside. Pulling out his revolver, he shot down a charging officer, and looked over just as his brother fell not five paces from him.

“Sam!” Dave reached out and pulled him up from the sucking swamp beneath their feet.

“I’m fine. I only tripped, is all.” His brother came up coughing mud, but Dave’s split-second examination showed him no visible wounds.

He hauled the younger man to his feet as a bugle sounded over the pattering of rain and gunfire. The signal for retreat!

“Go!” Dave ordered. “I’ll catch up.”

“Davey, what about—”

“That’s an order, sergeant.” Dave raised his pistol and shot out the mount of another blue-coated rider. “I’ll catch up. I promise.” He added the last part with a small smile, and Sam smiled back despite himself.

His brother looked reluctant, but ran off all the same. The infantry lines were crumbling around him, and Dave could see their supply wagons burning in the distance. He couldn’t help but see the flames and think that he was standing at the gates of Lucifer’s own domain.

Men were running, turning their backs on the Union soldiers who were cutting them down as they tried to flee or beg for mercy. The battlefield felt like a hungry animal breathing in life and expelling death. It hungered for more, and each scream, each gunshot, each corpse fed it till it was bloated. And yet it kept devouring.

A horse stumbled and crashed nearby. Its rider was thrown clear, but not far. The Yank came back to his feet and sighted Dave. No words were expressed between them. There was no need. They were in the jaws of the hellbeast of battle, and both men drew weapons. Dave fired first, but his pistol jammed, packed so full of mud and water that the chamber finally refused to turn.

The Yank raised his own revolver, but Dave didn’t give him the chance. With a savage roar he crashed into the man, dragging him to the ground. The two fought like animals, clawing and punching at one another. They rolled around in the mud, blue and gray both turning to brown.

Dave swung hard with his right fist, but the Union boy upended him, punching down and driving the wind from his gut. The Confederate rolled him over and returned the favor with two shots of his own before the man’s legs clamped down around him. Spitting blood, the blue rolled them again till he was on top, hands clawing at Dave’s throat.

Dave grasped around him, desperately. His hands closed on heavy rock. He swung it with everything he had. It broke over the man’s head, leaving an ugly red gash, and a sickening gurgling sound came from the man’s slackened face. The Yank fell, face down in the muck.

Getting to his feet, Dave dropped the bloody stone, wondering how different he was from any primitive savage. Wondering how different any of them were from the time when war was nothing but sticks and stones.

The drumming of hooves chased away his musings. The sound was the only warning he got. Turning quickly he found a riderless horse already on top of him. Beast collided with man, and everything went black.

Chapter One

Farmville, Virginia – April 6, 1865

Later that afternoon

 

Dave’s consciousness clawed its way back from the abyss, a slow ascent from the depths of oblivion. The world came into focus in muted shades of gray and red. The rain had stopped, but the acrid, metallic smell of blood hung thick in the air.

With a groan of effort he pulled himself into a sitting position. Everything ached, but his leg in particular felt as if it were bathed in the devil’s flames. It hurt to walk—and breathe—but at least he remained intact.

The first thing Dave saw was his hat. He put it back on his head with care. His straight, tow-colored hair was long and unkempt after weeks on the field. It nearly covered his ears, but that was life in Lee’s Miserables, as the boy had started calling the army—a joke on the popular novel, Les Misérables. He scratched at his yellow beard, which was looking similarly unkempt. He hadn’t trimmed it since they evacuated Petersburg, six days prior.

With another groan and a worrying crack of something inside him, he found his feet. The battle had moved on, but the field was painted in the macabre colors of the wounded and dead. They lay strewn like discarded puppets. Some lay in agony; others in silence, their life ebbing away. Dave’s gaze traced the lines of them all. Their uniforms, once vibrant, were now soaked and stained. The air was thick with the last breaths of the dying.

Scattered belongings cluttered the field. Broken rifles, shredded boots, and torn fragments of uniforms littered the ground, the remnants of a conflict that no longer seemed to have any real meaning to him.

Tearing off a few strips of uniform from men who no longer needed them, breaking scraps from a splintered wagon, he fashioned himself a splint. His leg wasn’t moving properly, and it hurt like the dickens to put weight on it. While he was at it, he also tied a few strips around his waist to put pressure on the bruising that he feared was a broken rib.

Once patched up as best he could manage, Dave moved over the ground, gazing at the bodies, searching for familiar faces and hoping that he didn’t find any. He did not see his brother among the corpses. After stumbling forward a few hundred paces he said a small prayer of thanks to whatever god had not yet turned away from the butchery of man. Sam had at least escaped destruction and damnation, for the moment.

From the looks of it, the battle had been a complete rout for the Rebels. The blues had overrun their positions along the river and destroyed the supply train at least as far as High Bridge. Dave didn’t give a lick about the gunpowder and hard tack that had been lost, but what he did care about was the fact that he was now in enemy territory. The Yanks now controlled the area, and if a lone man still wearing a Confederate officer’s uniform wanted to see the sunset, he knew that he had to find a way to get back to his men, back to his brother.

“Please,” came a weak cry. “Please… help me.”

Dave limped a dozen more paces, being careful not to step on the men strewn across his path. He had a thought to bury some of them, but that notion quickly faded. His leg was near busted and his sides burned fiercely. Not being able to afford the dead their last dignities was as much a pain as the hurt of his body.

The sound of moaning pulled Dave from his thoughts. Stopping in the sucking mud, his eyes fell on a man trapped under the burnt out frame of a Confederate supply wagon. He was pinned, like a bug beneath a boot.

“Please, help me,” said the man. He was clean-shaven with graying hair and young eyes. His uniform marked him as a Union cavalry officer, a second lieutenant. “I have a wife and a daughter.”

Dave crouched down, with some effort on his part, to examine the man and the trap pinning him down.

The man was short and a bit squat in the middle. Broken glasses hung from his nose, and a broken arm hung from his body. From what Dave could see, his trapped legs were near mangled from the weight of the cart. “Are you goin’ to kill me?” he asked.

Dave cast his eyes about and found a rifle. It was too wet to fire, but the bayonet on its muzzle looked sharp enough. He hefted it up and stood over the man. “I’ve heard tell that the only good Yank is a dead Yank.”

He’d said those words so many times over the past few years, sometimes in jest over a few glasses of whiskey and sometimes in the heat of battle. He’d meant it every time he said it, except for this time. Over four years of war had finally worn on him and the promised heroics of a soldier’s life now seemed more folktale than fact. Now, looking into the eyes of his dreaded enemies, all he saw were men, scared men doing their best to muddle through the war, same as him.

With a yell of effort, Dave wedged the rifle beneath the frame of the wagon and pushed upwards. It took more than a few moments of huffing and puffing, but he managed to use the gun like a wedge to lift the broken frame a hair’s width up, long enough for the man to crawl out.

Once he was clear, Dave let go and the wagon came crashing back down with a horrible rumble. Ash and soot scattered around them as its fire-blackened timbers cracked and broke. “Get,” he said to the Union officer.

The man barely heard the words before he took off at a stumbling run. He kept turning as if expecting a bullet to take him in the back. No shot ever came.

Dave simply watched as the blue stumbled hard back toward the Union lines. Idly, the Confederate lieutenant wondered if by freeing him he’d just consigned more of his own comrades to their graves. It was getting harder and harder to tell which were sins and which were mercies.

There was a sharp crack in the distance, like a foot on a twig. Dave whirled about, his injuries forgotten.

There was no one there, at least no one who wasn’t dead or soon to be dead. Still, he turned his gaze across the horizon, across the trees, the barricades, and the nearby Appomattox River. It felt like he was being watched, but maybe that was just his own guilt talking. Maybe the gathering eyes of the dead, some of which he’d put down himself, were finally gathering to gaze down on him with the judgment he deserved.

After a moment of searching he shook off the feeling and hobbled on, knowing that he had to start thinking about his own survival.

Richmond wasn’t too far, but last he heard the capital was being evacuated. Lynchburg would be the next best place, but he only had a vague knowledge of where it lay. Give Dave the open ranges of Texas and he could find his way every time, but the forest and swamps of Virginia were as alien to him as the surface of the moon.

He had to move, that was all he was certain of. So, he did.

***

It was dark by the time he sighted the warm glow of lanterns in the window of the estate home. A sizable plot of land surrounded the small plantation house. Its fields of tobacco crops held more ashes than stalks, but that wasn’t surprising. Everything in the South was burned up these days, whether it were small fields of crops or big cities of people.

Dave shook his head. The damn war, the glorious cause, the noble rebellion or whatever sort of hogwash people wanted to call it, was a lie. He knew that now. It didn’t help anyone. It was nothing but pain and death. It was no longer about winning, but surviving.

Fixing his hat, Dave did his best to walk upright to the wide porch of the home. The Union might control the roads and the cities, but the people of Virginia were Rebels at heart. He’d debated abandoning his uniform, but he reasoned that it was more likely to get him the help he needed. At least that was what he told himself, since the evening was growing dark and his leg was feeling as burnt up as the tobacco stalks. He really had no choice.

He drew himself up and knocked on the door.

A stately man with a silver underbeard greeted him as calmly as if he’d arrived in the afternoon for a dinner party. He was in a fine tailored waistcoat, and his sharp nose stared down at the injured soldier, while his brown eyes examined Dave calculatingly. “Well, my boy, I suppose you’d best come in before you’re spotted.”

Inside, the plantation house was furnished in mahogany, accompanied by delicate lace doilies and heavy curtains. To Dave’s right was a parlor of rich finery, plush cushion chairs, and a silver mirror over a roaring hearth. To his left a drawing room with velvet upholstery and a rug of floral patterns. It was strange to see such luxury after all the years of war. Most of the South had fallen on hard times, but this place looked like a palace.

“James,” the bearded man called out, not looking at Dave, “we have a visitor.”

A house slave of middling years appeared. The man was bald on top with a long puff of graying, curly hair above each ear. “Let me help ya, sir.”

“I’m fine.” Dave jerked his arm away from him. “I can walk on my own.”

The slave stepped back, obviously wary of the jittery soldier. Dave tried to nod apologetically to the man, but it just came off as an odd twitch of his head.

Before coming to the South for the war, he’d never met many Black men. He had nothing against them or their plight, but he’d always been wary of new people in general. The war had only seemed to heighten that impulse in him.

“It’s all right, James,” said the older man. “I’m sure the lieutenant can find his own way.”

“Apologies, I’m just a bit jumpy is all.” Dave drummed his fingers against his holster, the repetitive sound calming his nerves a bit.

He followed the elderly Southerner into a back room. There he found a small cot, with bedding and bandages already set up. There was a clean wash bowl and even a small pot belly stove for warmth. There were also spots of blood and a surgeon’s hacksaw. Something inside him alerted, like a dog readying itself against danger. “I see I’m not your first visitor.”

“Far from it. My name is Dr. Tobias Witherspoon.” The man helped him down onto the cot. “I’m a physician, lieutenant. James and I’ve been tending to men such as yourself since this awful war came down on our heads.”

“Thank you, Doc,” said Dave. He eyed the tall slave standing behind the man. There was a tightness to the man’s lips that sent that bad feeling in Dave’s gut spinning like a top. “I appreciate the help. Out of curiosity, what happened to the last man who laid in this cot?”

“A boy, barely in his nineteenth year. He was shot through the shoulder, but thanks to James and me he recovered fully,” said Witherspoon.

“Is Mr. James a doctor too?”

Witherspoon laughed. “No need to call him Mr. He’s one of the smart ones, for sure, but he’s no doctor. Also, he’s as tame and well-mannered as they come. So no need to worry about that.”

“I wasn’t concerned, Doc.”

At that moment, Witherspoon looked more bird than man. His beak of a nose and long neck gave him the appearance of a giant stork, white-feathered and aloof. He gave the Black man a nod and James left the room without another word.

“He’ll fetch you something to eat. For now, get some rest and I’ll have a look at you once you’re feeling up to it.” With a small nod the doctor walked off and disappeared from the room. Dave watched him go. Did he dare trust this helpful doctor? Could he afford not to?

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    • Thank you, Gary, for your encouraging words! I’m happy to hear that you’re enjoying my stories. Rest assured, I’m committed to continuously improving and delivering even better adventures with each book.

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