Shamus Ghillie U.S. Secret Service In Medicine Hat
Click on image to enlarge.
by David Walks-As-Bear
Category: Historical Fiction/Suspense/Thriller
Description: After the Civil War, the country was growing and growing quickly. By 1868, the nation had left infancy and was now toddling, fast and furiously, into Manifest Destiny. Barring the American Indian, the West was wide open for this wobbling stroll. But, just as you must guard against potential troubles for a new walker, this emerging nation needed to shield against inherent dangers caused by rapid growth. Issues such as national sovereignty, boundaries, settlers, and indigenous populations had to be handled with kid gloves so as not to sully the hands of the nation. The country needed a special kind of man to facilitate these hazards, and facilitate them... in a covert manner. This is a tale about such a man, the woman he saves, the youth he inspires and the Indian and soldier... that he is. Shamus Ghillie is a half-Choctaw--half-Irish former elite Confederate soldier, who is, likewise, a man of the wild and untamed west. He's imbued with rare, and unusual, skills as a hunter of both animals and...men. It is this man, and his unique talents, that President Grant wants to secretly enlist to deal with trouble along the boundary of the newly formed nation of Canada, just north of the Montana Territory. But, men like Ghillie don't come easily, and, if they come at all... they don't come cheap. Shamus distrusts government--any government--but the money's good, and he has a kid sister to consider. Still, truth be told... he would've taken on this task to gain justice for the Blackfeet--free of charge--had they not offered the fee. So, he becomes the nation's first unofficial, yet official, spy with the U.S. Secret Service. Thus begins an adventurous story that encapsulates a part of the nation's early expansion westward and the people--white, red and blue-coated, alike--who made American history.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: November 2009
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [262 KB]
Reading time: 170-238 min.
"Talented author David Walks-As-Bear has crafted a tale of the old west with a cast of interesting and fun characters who give the reader a look at the rough and tumble reality of that time. There is excitement, suspense and danger with a dash of romance blended into the mix for flavor. This tale is recommended for any reader who enjoys the old west without stereotyped characters set in the rugged realism of the frontier. I'm sure you'll enjoy it as I did." Anne K. Edwards, mysteryfiction.net
"The story moves fast and is told in a very easy to read style. David Walks-As-Bear slips in a number of lesser-known historical facts, such as the Indian story of the Canadian town of Seven Persons. There are also a number of real people too, including President Grant and Wild Bill Hickok -- the latter is in the book only briefly and reveals a bit about Ghillie's past. All through the book the reader begins to believe they know who Ghillie is, but right at the end David Walks-As-Bear slips in a twist making the reader begin to wonder all over again, and hopefully makes the reader want to read the next book in the series to learn more about Shamus Ghillie and the horse he rides? I for one will be eagerly waiting for the next book." Western Fiction Review
"I truly enjoyed this story, one that kept me glued to the pages of the book from beginning to end. The author does an exceptional job of bringing Shamus to life in the mind's eye. I liked Shamus, his integrity was to be admired and I liked the wisdom of life that the author gave to him. This is a wonderful read. It flows smoothly, has a main character that is truly a hero in so many ways, and evil ones that you love to hate. It has action and depth and tells a story that perhaps is fiction but certainly has elements of reality threaded within its very core. Very well done, as usual a winner for David-Walks-As-Bear. Recommended." Shirley Johnson/Senior Reviewer, MidWest Book Review
Near the Civil War's End, April, 1865.
The horses stirred up a dust cloud that was haunch-high as they walked steadily down the road. The advance guard of Union soldiers was just approaching the crossroads of Appomattox Court House when a courier came beating up to several officers in front. The rider reined his horse in hard, its eyes bulbous as the bit jammed back into its mouth, hooves chewing up chunks of sod and grass which were flung outward as the sweat laden flanks of the animal quivered and the bay lunged to a stop. The messenger in the saddle raised his right hand in salute, nearly knocking his blue Kepi cap from his head. Then he addressed a colonel in the group.
"Sir, a dispatch sent over from the Rebs for General Grant. Lieutenant Ferguson said to tell you that it's from General Lee."
Colonel Lucien Roberts returned the salute hastily and then snatched the packet from the courier and turned his mount smartly. He put spurs to the animal and galloped back to another string of mounted officers to the rear. Halting in front of a bearded man in a disheveled Union uniform, he saluted smartly, the huge peacock feather stuck in his cavalry hat flopping to and fro. He held out the leather sack as the group came to a stop before him. "This has just arrived, General. I believe that it is General Lee's reply."
The bearded man looked at the excited officers on horseback all around him. Then, he stuck the stub of a cigar into his mouth and nodded at the colonel; his eyes pained, he spoke around the stoggie. "Well, let's hear what our gray friend has to say. Open it up and read it to us, Lucien."
The Colonel opened the pouch and withdrew the folded paper as the small group waited. He broke a wax seal, unfolded the paper, cleared his throat and read aloud:
April 9th, 1865.
I received your note of this morning on the picket-line, whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army. I now ask an interview, in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday, for that purpose.
R.E. Lee, General.
The colonel looked up, his face crinkled in amazement. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, his head killing him, couldn't help but smile as he looked at the astounded faces of the men around him. He withdrew the stogie and said, "Well, Gentlemen... it looks as if we are about to accept the formal surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia."
Whoops and hollers erupted from the assembled group as the men's excited voices filled the air. Several of them wheeled their mounts and ran off to tell others. Grant, his head pounding with the ache, looked about him. He'd had the damnable headache all day, and he needed a drink. He told his staff that they would take an hour or so break while he formulated a response. He spied a small stand of willows around a pond across the way. So, he then told his aide to have a chair, small table, quill, ink, and paper brought up there right away. Then he angled his horse that way.
Shortly, his orderly had the items set up beneath the overhanging willow branches. Still suffering his headache, Grant waited until everyone had left him alone--they all knew he wanted total solitude whenever he wrote correspondence. The only man in attendance was his orderly, and Grant didn't fret over him. He was always near. The bearded officer walked to his horse and took a flask from the saddlebag. Stepping behind the animal's flanks, and out of sight, he took a long pull of the whiskey, gulping the fiery dark liquid down. His eyes watering, he put the flask away and went to the table. He sat down and picked up the quill. He thought a moment and then he quickly scribed the following reply to his enemy, General Robert E. Lee:
April 9th, 1865.
General R. E. Lee Commanding C. S. Army:
Your note of this date is but this moment (11:50 A.M.) received, in consequence of my having passed from the Richmond and Lynchburg road to the Farmville and Lynchburg road. I am at this writing about four miles west of Walker's Church, and will push forward to the front for the purpose of meeting you. Notice sent to me on this road where you wish the interview to take place will meet me.
U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General.
After rereading the note, he gave it to his orderly, who began fanning the paper and blowing the ink dry. When dried, Grant took the parchment from him and told the sergeant to have Lieutenant Gages summoned. He would send this officer to Lee with his reply. The orderly started to turn and then stopped and looked back at Grant, his eyes questioning.
"Sir...beg'n the Genrl's pardon...but hellfire sir...I just have'ta ask. Is it right...what they're a say'n? Has the Rebs give up?"
Grant let a smile escape from the corner of his mouth, the whiskey already working its magic and easing his pain-soaked brain. He nodded. "It appears so, Sergeant. It does appear so. This message is about a meeting we're to have to accept General Lee's surrender."
The lean enlisted man let out a whoop and slapped his thigh. Then, grinning like a possum, he turned and ran pell-mell to get the messenger. Grant began folding the paper when, suddenly, he stopped. The hair on the back of his neck was standing at attention, just as he had once braced at attention at West Point. He looked at the tall grass around the willows and then over to the closest men to him. The soldiers were all a good eighty yards off. He didn't motion to them; instead, he let his gaze go over his surroundings. Heavy grass and water plants mixed in with the willows totally obscured the ground around him. It was warm, and yet, a chill quivered down his back. The General swallowed, fear wedged tightly in his chest. That's because he'd heard it. As surely as hell had fire and stone...he'd heard it. In a distinctively Southern drawl, he'd heard the hushed words... "Well, shit!"
Grant looked down at the pistol on his belt but didn't dare reach for it. With his heart thumping wildly in his chest, he raised his eyes and spoke to the masses of cattails and reeds before him. "Whoever you are...if you're going to shoot me...at least do me the honor of showing me your face first."
This was followed by dead silence except for the wind's rustle through the willow branches. Then, from somewhere in front of Grant, came more words. "Well, I'll do it, General, but I ain't all that handsome in the face. So, don't you go a get'n scared of my homely looks and a screaming out loud now...hear? Like as not, that'll get us both dead real quick."
With that, an apparition such as Grant had never laid eyes on arose from the grasses, reeds and cattails. A gasp escaped from the Union Army officer as he beheld the thing before him. It was as if the very swamp had come alive. It was a man, draped in a massive, multi-layered, fringed and bedraggled costume of some sort with different colors stringing here and there like some abused saloon mop. Pieces of the very grasses and reeds where he stood were attached to his body and sprouting every which way. Grant swallowed as he looked at the heavy barrel of the Navy Colt pointed at him no more than ten feet away; he'd be a dead man if he tried anything.
The general allowed his breathing to slow down as he studied the apparition. From a few feet further away, it would not even be visible. The thing...no...it was a man--not a thing--stood stark still. As such, it was hard to tell he was even there. Amazing, thought Grant. And whoever it was, he was a big man. It appeared to be a white man, too, but his face was covered in black dried mud and the only easily recognizable features were the man's eyes and his teeth.
Grant cleared his throat and asked, "So, are you a spy then, sent here to dispatch me?"
"Dispatch?" The stringy man chuckled. "Lordy, Lordy but you officers do use some fancy words, don't'cha? Nope, I wasn't sent here to give you no dispatch--I came directly here to blow your gizzard out. And I would'a done it too, when ya'all got to them crossroads down yonder."
He watched as the man slid an evil-looking knife into its sheath, even while the pistol in the other hand remained steady on him. A shiver moved through him as he realized that the blade would probably have cut his throat had he not had the verbal exchange with his orderly. Grant glanced at the crossroads of Appomattox Court House. Then, the stringy man's words again drew his attention.
"Yessir, I had a 1859 Sharps with Freund Brothers sights all set up over yonder, on a little knob, that away a piece. I was good to go 'til ya'all stopped and you came over here." The stringy man grinned. "Ya kind'a spoiled my little surprise, General." His expression turned jokingly quizzical. "Now don't'chu feel bad about that, atall?"
Grant raised his eyebrows and mildly angled a finger at the pistol pointed at him. "Well, it would seem that your plan, although improvised, might still work for you. I assume that you are a spy for the Confederacy?"
Grant watched the easy smile again before that man answered. "I ain't no spy. I'm a lead cavalry scout, and a sergeant major in the Confederate States Army or...leastways..." his eyes turned speculative, "I have been. And about plans, well, I reckon we'll see about that." The stringy man motioned to Grant with the pistol. "Is it true then? Is Robert E. Lee a fix'n to surrender to you?"
Grant allowed himself a slight nod. "Yes. I was about to meet with him to discuss how it will all be accomplished."
The sinewy man let his eyes shift to the ground. He shook his head slightly and muttered, "Well, shit!"
Grant nodded again. "Yes, I believe that you've said that already. But tell me, Sergeant Major, don't you know that you can be shot as a spy if you're captured and out of uniform? If you shoot me, you'll surely be captured. And wearing that...whatever it is...get-up, you'll hang as a spy."
The stringy man chuckled out loud. "Hang? Oh, hell yeah, I will...no matter what...if'n I get caught," the muddy face cracked a knowing smile, "but I ain't so sure as that I'll get caught. As to the other you said, well, hellfire General, you Blue Bellies don't play by the rules no-how. Sam Davis was in full Confederate Army uniform when you Yankees caught him behind your lines, and you hung him anyway... just because he wouldn't tell ya'all what you wanted to hear. So, I know you'll do the same to me--just goes without say'n--no matter what." The apparition winked. "But if I do blow you out've your boots, I'm figure'n I have a fair chance that your Yankees won't find me; yessir, I surely do."
Grant nodded. The man was quite possibly correct. In a get-up such as that, any searching soldiers would have to almost step on him to make a discovery. He'd also heard of the instance concerning the Reb, Samuel Davis. He tried to explain. "Private Davis' hanging was an unfortunate event, and I was not there to stop it. It should never have happened. I... I can assure you that my command will not view you the same...should you decide to lay down your arms. You have my word...my word of honor." Grant gently splayed out his hands in plea. "What I'm saying is, why forfeit your life when your army is surrendering?"
The image nodded slightly. "Yep, reckon I been ponder'n the same thing." The mud-caked face looked reflective. "Thing is, I promised a good friend of mine, just before he died, that I'd hunt down and kill three men--a man name of Colonel Westaff, General Sherman, and," the stringy man's smiling eyes came up to Grant's, "you, General."
Grant was taken aback. Colonel Peter Westaff had recently been found with his throat cut, apparently while he slept on his own cot. It had happened in his tent, within the camp, surrounded by his own men. Therefore, the killer was assumed to be someone in the Union forces--possibly some man with a grudge or vendetta against Westaff. He was not well liked; even his officers disliked him. They were still investigating the murder. As he looked at the stringy apparition, Grant wondered, could this man have done it? If so, then this man was a phantom. To his knowledge, Will Sherman was alive and well, albeit, perhaps...not for long. Egad! For this Reb to have made it to this close to him was a military feat beyond measure. Although he was sure he was about to meet his Maker, Grant was impressed beyond gauge. His brows arched questioningly, and he asked, "How did you get past the men on the flanks today? That couldn't have been an easy task."
Grant meant the mounted troopers who spread out and rode the flanks on either side of his officer's procession as protection from the sides. Not even a squirrel went unobserved between the column and the flankers, let alone a full-grown man.
The stringy shoulders shrugged. "A man can't see what he don't know is there, General. I was there, but they weren't looking for the likes of me--that's all." The stringy head inclined toward the mounted soldiers over on the road. "Looks like your boys are start'n to fret over you a bit."
Grant followed his gaze. His officers were all looking this way and one of them had a telescope to his eye. Any one of them might come here at any moment, and that would surely cinch his fate. U.S. Grant turned back to the stringy man. "Yes, well this can't go on forever, Sergeant Major. This man whom you promised...he wouldn't expect you to carry out the commitment when the fight was over--would he?
Another chuckle emitted from the man. "Yeah, well, you'd have to know JEB, I reckon. I made him that promise while I held his hand. He was bleeding-out right there at the Yellow Tavern by Richmond. That was near about a year ago, and right after that, I took a minnie ball and it busted my arm bone--laid me up for a long spell. So, I was just get'n started here."
Grant's mind raced. Was he talking about General J.E.B. Stewart, Lee's best cavalry general? The man was dead, killed at Richmond after he and his men had decimated General Sherman's troops in the fight there. Good God, all mighty! Grant needed to move this on and try to save himself if it was in the cards to do so. He angled his head. "Well, Sergeant Major, my men will be coming up here any moment. It appears to be decision time. I have given you my word of honor that you will not be hanged. If I'm to die here and now, then so be it. Otherwise, I have a surrender to accept. So, what is it to be?"
The stringy man appraised the Union officer before him. He sure didn't look like an army general. Grant was maybe forty years old or so. He had slightly stooped shoulders and was average height. His hair and full beard were dark brown. He wore a regular single-breasted blouse, of dark-blue flannel, unbuttoned in front, with a white shirt and a waistcoat. He wasn't carrying a sword or saber, and he only had a pair of shoulder-straps to designate his rank. He wore just an ordinary pair of top-boots with no spurs. His trousers were tucked inside the boots and portions of his clothes were spattered with mud. Heck, Ghillie could even see remnants of breakfast egg on the man's linen shirt. Danged if he didn't look just like a regular Yankee private. What Ghillie had heard of the man appeared to be true--he didn't seem like your normal uppity-ways officer.
Finally, the mud-covered face smiled in decision and the man spoke. "I expect that you're right. JEB wouldn't want me to go on with this as long as old Westaff ain't drawing breath no more." The apparition winked. "And I made sure of that--first thing. He didn't like that man because he had a habit of shooting our men while they was surrendering."
He went on reflectively, saying, "And I'm attached to Robert E. Lee's Army--that's a fact. So, with the fight'n done," the black eyes locked on Grant, "I reckon they ain't no sense in put'n you down now, neither." He shrugged again. "I ain't got no way to go but on your word, General. Reckon I'll take you at it then. But I ain't turn'n myself in to nobody. If the fight's over, then I'm headed back west. Ya'all can surrender your hearts out 'till Kingdom come without little 'ole me." He nodded his head at Grant. "Deal?"
Grant didn't have to ponder. He nodded firmly. "Very well. I'll pass the word that you're to be given unmolested free passage. But give me your name, in case you're captured."
The stringy man clucked his tongue and then repeated, "Un-mo-les-ted? Well, gracious me," he said and chuckled. "You officer boys do like say'n them fancy words--no matter what side you're on." Then the smile on the muddied face disappeared. "I ain't gonna be taken prisoner, General. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt as I've heard-tell that you're an honest man. But I wouldn't trust any of your Yankee brethren any further than I can spit. And General... I don't chew tobacco much; foller my meaning?" He lowered the pistol. "If it comes to that, you can put this on my grave marker: Name's Ghillie. Shamus Ghillie, Sergeant Major, Confederate Cavalry Corps."
Grant nodded again as he ran the name over in his mind. Shamus Ghillie. An Irish name isn't it? Then he looked back briefly to his officers on the roadway as he spoke. "You know, Sergeant Major, there's really no sense in you..." He stopped as his head swung back because the stringy man was gone, as if he were never there to begin with.
On the road, Colonel Lucien Roberts lowered the telescope from his eye and gently marveled as he looked at each of the mounted officers around him. "He's up there praying, gentlemen, probably saying words of thanks to our Creator. I can see him speaking words out loud and there is no one else in proximity to him." As the amazed officers all looked over to where General U.S. Grant stood, the Colonel shook his head in astonishment.
"Funny, but I have never taken the General to be an overly devout man. Not ever." * * * *
The President's Quarters,
Washington. June, 1868.
The three men were seated in comfortable chairs in the spacious den. President Ulysses S. Grant smoked a cigar and nursed a glass of chilled buttermilk. His stomach often rebelled against the vast amounts of liquor it received, and the curdled cream helped. His forehead was furrowed with concern. His vice president, Schuyler Colfax, was sitting forward and listening intently as the man across from him ran a hand through his thinning hair and spoke.
"Mr. Vice President, it's just not that simple, sir. It really isn't. We can't legally pursue him over the border now, and that's where he is. He primarily directs his raids against these poor settlers from Alberta. That's his routine," William P. Wood, Chief of the U.S. Secret Service said adamantly. "And he's very good at it. Why, if it hadn't been for those mountain men, Crimshaw and Ghillie, we would never have even known that he was in Canada. We would have been looking several hundred miles to the south. So, it's..."
Grant's head had snapped up. He removed the cigar from his mouth, leaned quickly forward, and set his glass on the side table. He interrupted Wood, his facial expression curious. "Will, did you just say that one of those trappers who reported this was named Ghillie?"
Wood looked down at his notes. "Uh, yes, sir. Well... actually... it appears that the man Reginald Crimshaw was the one who actually spoke with our man. The other one, this man, Ghillie, is just mentioned in the report." Wood flipped a page. "Yes, it seems that he wasn't very cooperative at all. But he had been with Crimshaw when the two of them came upon an Indian who told them about this Snake fellow trading with the Blackfeet village in question. It was somewhere in the Montana Territory." He looked up at the president to see if that was enough of an answer.
Grant had an expectant look on his countenance and his finger jerked underhand at the papers Wood held. "Does that report give Ghillie's first name?"
Wood, curious, pushed the spectacles farther up on his nose and then looked down again. After a moment, he nodded and looked up at the two presidents, his face an open question mark. "Yes, sir, it does. The man's first name is Shamus. Shamus Ghillie. It says here that he's some kind of a big game hunter. Primarily buffalo, I suspect."
Grant smiled expansively and tilted his head. "Oh, I wouldn't say that, Will." The president of the United States chuckled. "If he's who I think he is, then he surely hunts other things, too." Grant winked and held up his glass in toast. "Trust me on that one, hmm?" * * * *