As the day of our distribution of goods was a stormy one, Richmond was called from the plantation to assist us. Under his assistance we were progressing fairly, interrupted occasionally by various causes of delay. Less than half the valuable articles were distributed, when our watches told us it was noon. Just as we were discussing the propriety of an adjournment for dinner, an announcement was made that banished all thoughts of the mid-day meal.
One of our boys had been permitted to visit Waterproof during the forenoon. He returned, somewhat breathless, and his first words dropped like a shell among the assembled negroes:
“The Rebels are in Waterproof.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw them there, and asked a lady what they were. She said they were Harrison’s Rebels.”
We told the negroes to go to their quarters. Richmond mounted his horse and rode off toward the plantation of which he had charge. In two minutes, there was not a negro in the yard, with the exception of the house-servants. Our goods were lying exposed. We threw some of the most valuable articles into an obscure closet.
At the first alarm we ordered our horses brought out. When the animals appeared we desisted from our work.
“The Rebels are coming down the road,” was the next bulletin from the front.
We sprang upon our horses and rode a hundred yards along the front of our “quarter-lot,” to a point where we could look up the road toward Waterproof. There they were, sure enough, thirty or more mounted men, advancing at a slow trot. They were about half a mile distant, and, had we been well mounted, there was no doubt of our easy escape.
“Now comes the race,” said Colburn. “Twenty miles to Natchez. A single heat, with animals to go at will.”
We turned our horses in the direction of Natchez.
“Stop,” said I, as we reached the house again. “They did not see us, and have not quickened their pace. Strategy, my boy, may assist us a little.”
Throwing my bridle into Colburn’s hand, I slid from my saddle and bounded into the dwelling. It was the work of a moment to bring out a jug and a glass tumbler, but I was delayed longer than I wished in finding the key of our closet. The jug contained five gallons of excellent whisky (so pronounced by my friends), and would have been a valuable prize in any portion of the Confederacy.
Placing the jug and tumbler side by side on the veranda, in full view from the road, I remounted, just as the Rebels reached the corner of our quarter-lot.
“We have pressing engagements in Natchez,” said Colburn.
“So we have,” I replied; “I had nearly forgotten them. Let us lose no time in meeting them.”
As we rode off, some of the foremost Rebels espied us and quickened their pace. When they reached the house they naturally looked toward it to ascertain if any person was there. They saw the jug, and were at once attracted. One man rode past the house, but the balance stopped. The minority of one was prudent, and returned after pursuing us less than fifty yards. The whisky which the jug contained was quickly absorbed. With only one tumbler it required some minutes to drain the jug. These minutes were valuable.