BRANDED

A Destiny Which Made Us Brothers — episode #35

It was the middle of the night. Jason was sleeping soundly in his bed. Unbeknownst to him, three soldiers were outside his door. Without a sound, they snuck into the room and walked up to his bed. “McCord?” one of the solders called.  McCord didn’t stir. He reached out and grabbed Jason’s shoulder. “McCord!” Jason naturally was defensive since these men had just awakened him from a sound sleep. He immediately went into action and started fighting the three shoulders
 
Grabbing one of them, he shoved him up against the wall. “Alright, for too many years now!” he said between clinched teeth. “I’m sick of being set up!” The solder tried to stop him. “I may have to take it from civilians, but NOT from the army! Not anymore I don’t!” The soldier assured him they weren’t there to roust him. They had orders. “Orders?” Jason questioned. “Who’s orders?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

“Well then what orders?”

The soldier pulled a letter from his pocket. “At exactly three AM on May 16, 1873, to be delivered by hand to the hand of Jason McCord.” The soldier flung the letter and pouch toward Jason. Jason told him he’d carried out his orders and to get out!

After the men left, Jason opened the letter and read.

On the Eve of any battle, there is a destiny that makes some men enemies and some men brothers. And so ten years ago tonight, destiny made a choice.
 
The words made Jason remember. He went back in time – back to May 16, 1863 to a house he rushed into. His gun was drawn on a man with his back to him. “Alright, hold it!” Jason ordered. He told the man to come out of the dark.

“You’re just in time,” the man declared as he came forward so Jason could see him.
 
“General Grant,” Jason muttered in surprise.
 
“In time to have a drink with me, Lieutenant!”

They were alone. General Grant closed the door while Jason announced the time was 3:10. Jason explained to Grant that he had gotten separated from his company. He needed to get back because there was a rumor they would attack in the mor…Jason stopped there as Grant stared at him. “There is, huh? Well in every war, there are as many rumors as there are rifle shots.” Jason apologized then asked Grant if he was hit. Should he help him get back to headquarters.

“I fell from my horse,” Grant explained. “The rumor is I was drunk. The truth is I haven’t slept in three days.” Jason assured him he believed it. Grant admitted that he hadn’t had a drink since many dead men ago. Grant assumed Jason was a West Point graduate from the top of his class. He was almost right. Grant was feeling sorry for himself. He felt like a failure. Jason kindly reminded him of all the victories he had won. “They weren’t failures. They were victories.” Jason convinced Grant that he was the reason they won at Shiloh.

“What’s your name?” Grant questioned. He told him he was Jason McCord of the tenth Indiana. “Any relation to Josh McCord?”

Jason smiled. “My grandfather, Sir.”

“Oh…We served together during the Mexican campaign. Fine officer. How is he?”

Jason smiled. “Well sir, he’s uh…a little too old and too tired for this one.”

“I know how he feels,” Grant said as he held up a bottle of whisky. “They call this pain killer. Well, if ever there was a man in pain…” Jason thought his leg was bothering him. “No, not my leg…and not that fever from Panama, nor the ague or this headache…this thundering headache…the pounding boots of a thousand ghostly battalions battering at this brain…The men I sent to die…the men I will…those like you. Do you know what it’s like to bury four thousand men in one grave? I do.”

“General, someone has to give those orders. There’s no one we’d rather follow.”

“McCord, all my life I’ve been a failure.” He named the army, farming, real estate. “When the war broke out, I was a clerk at my father’s store. Not exactly like those dashing rebel generals.”

“You’re the only one who’s made those rebel generals run, sir,” Jason reminded him.

Grant named some of those rebel generals. “Each one a success…brilliant…Better than my own Generals. What do they think of me?”

Jason stepped toward him. “They’d run for you through hell-fire, General.” But Grant wondered how long he could keep the Generals’ respect.
 
“How long before I fail again? I’ve got a feeling, McCord.”

“You’re tired, sir!” Jason declared.

“Tired, yes. Vicksburg…I’ve got a feeling Vicksburg will be my biggest failure, and I’ll take the lives of tens of thousands of men down with me. Do you know what it’ll cost to take Vicksburg?”

“I know what it’ll cost if we don’t,” Jason answered.
 
“Yes of course, you’re right. Take Vicksburg and we take back the Mississippi and split the Confederacy. Without it the war goes on for years.”

“And during those years a lot of soldiers die. Soldiers on both sides.”

My words made Grant mad. “I can hit Pemberton where he least expects it!” Grant declared this as he slammed the bottle down on the table. He took a piece of paper from his coat, telling me he had a plan. If the plan failed, it would be a death warrant. “One common grave for the armies of Tennessee and Ohio.”

Suddenly, the door opened and a man rushed in pointing a gun at us. The man called us Yankees. The man declared Jason a prisoner of war, then demanded Grant to turn around…except he didn’t know it was Grant. Boy, were they shocked when they discovered who it was. “Well now…Lieutenant Lawrence, just look what you have bagged here!”

The Lieutenant stared at Grant. “Sir, are you…?”

“That’s right,” Grant answered. “I’m a prisoner of war.” One of the soldiers was really having a good time with this, which didn’t make the Lieutenant very happy. The Lieutenant apologized for the men’s behavior.
 
“I do believe that you’ve grabbed hold of a heap more than even you can handle here,” Darcy declared to the Lieutenant.
 
The soldiers with the Lieutenant even offered to help him get the prisoners back to the camp. He could be the shiniest hero in the south! The men with Lieutenant Lawrence were deserters. Lawrence explained he was taking them back to trial. “Some trial!” one of the soldiers declared. “Me and my brother would’ve just been shot!”

“Any man that runs from battle deserves to be shot,” the Lieutenant explained hastily.

The men thought they had hope for their future now that the Lieutenant had captured General Grant. He would be more interested in him then the deserted soldiers, they figured. The men all knew how much of a asset Grant was. Lawrence was so excited, he could hardly stand it! He figured Grant was their ticket to peace. Then he surprised his two prisoners. “Gentlemen, will you give me your word that you won’t try to escape?”

“No,” Jason answered.

“Nor would I, sir, if I were you,” Lieutenant Lawrence said. The deserters laughed.

It appeared the soldier was in quite a position. His prisoners made fun of him, wondering if he’d trust them with guns, or if he’d risk losing the prize. The Lieutenant knew he couldn’t chance Jason and General Grant getting away. “Alright, get their guns.”

“General Grant, if I had you in my sights on the battlefield, I’d pull the trigger without any compunction. But you are a prisoner of war, sir. And I don’t wish any harm to you. I’m going to do everything I can to get you safely to Vicksburg.“

“I understand,” Grant answered. “You’re a good soldier, Lieutenant.”
 
Suddenly, Darcy turned the gun he was holding on Lawrence. He held the cocked gun right up to the Lieutenant’s temple. Jason decided to act fast. He went to punch Darcy, but Darcy held the gun up to him. “I’ll turn your belly to red,” he warned.

“There’s no one to give orders,” the other Darcy brother declared. “So I’ll promote myself and I’ll give orders to everybody! Ain’t that right, Brother?”

“That’s right, Brother Joe!”

“Order number one…Brother Jim, fetch me that bottle of corn that General’s drinking.”

“That’s a good order, Brother Joe!” Jim declared. Joe threw the bottle to Jim, and the two started drinking it.

“Next order…” Joe pointed the gun at the General. “General Grant…”

“Darcy…” Jason stepped forward. “I’ll give you my word. We won’t try to escape.”

“You’re too late, Yankee,” Joe declared. Then he announced they were going to kill the General.

“Darcy, NO!” Lawrence shouted.

“Yeah! And then you’re going to get it, Lieutenant. And then high-pockets. And me and my brother’s going to be the high-mucking heroes! Nobody’s ever gonna know we was legging it!” The Lieutenant begged Darcy not to do this by promising not to bring up the matter of his desertion. “Oh, indeed you will not, Lieutenant! Because you’ll be dead!”

“Alright, kill me,” Lawrence said then. “But take General Grant back to our lines.”

“He’s worth more to the Confederacy alive,” Jason tried to point out calmly.

“Not to me, he ain’t. Dead men don’t talk!” Darcy declared.
 
“You do this and both your souls will burn in hell!” Lawrence threatened then. But they weren’t concerned about the here-after. They were concerned about the here and now. Darcy cocked his gun and pointed it at the General.

Lieutenant Lawrence made a move, getting himself shot in the process. It was a struggle as Jason and Grant fought the men. Before his eyes closed, Lawrence was able to shoot one of his prisoners. Grant and Jason walked over and kneeled down beside the Lieutenant. “You alright sir?” Jason asked Grant.

“Yes, I believe so,” Grant answered. “Thanks to you…and him.”

Suddenly, they heard horses riding up. Jason hurried to peer out the window. “Grey or blue?” Grant asked.

“Blue, Sir,” Jason answered as he went to open the door. It was quite a group that busted into the house just then. Grant introduced them as Generals Wallace, McPherson, Sherman, and Sheridan. They wondered what happened
 
“Never mind. I thought my orders were that you four should never ride together.” They said they were looking for him – they had disobeyed orders. “Uh huh…Well, McCord here tells me that there’s a rumor we’re going to attack here this morning.”

“According to your orders, Sir. We are awaiting your word to hit Clinton.” Grant announced that he and Jason had made up some new plans. “Isn’t that so, McCord?”

Jason gave a brief laugh. “Yes sir.”

“We storm Champions Hill instead.” Grant started giving the Generals orders. While doing so, Jason picked up the mapped plans of Grants from the floor and handed it to him. “We never did have that drink together, did we?” Grant asked Jason.

“No sir.”

“Well, maybe someday in Heaven or Hell or somewhere in between. What time is it, McCord?”
“Three-thirty, sir.”

Then Grant was gone in the night.

Present time, back in Jason’s hotel room, sitting on the bed reading his letter.

And so, McCord, on the Eve of that battle, Destiny had chose to make us brothers. It’s been ten years now. About time we had that drink.

Jason took the flask from the clothed bag and took a drink.



In the White House, Grant took a drink as well. Then he broke the glass into the fireplace.
They would forever be bonded…


A Destiny Which Made Us Brothers
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*Thanks to Michelle Palmer for writing this episode!

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