The bluecoats were swarming onto the field, firing their guns into the ranks of fleeing Johnny Rebs. The Confederate general knew the battle was lost. Hell, he had known it was lost long before it began. There was no way barefoot farmers wielding antique flintlocks could hold out against the Spencer rifles of the Union armies.
He and the boy watched as the Union soldiers began to loot the corpses of the fallen Confederate fighters. Several times, he watched the blood-crazed scavengers beat the wounded rebels into submission before searching their bodies for what little they could carry off.
He realized that the Union soldiers were no better than the buzzards he had seen hover over battlefields for four years now. The South was beaten, and he and the boy would soon be prisoners.
He looked down at his young batboy. The kid who called himself Langton was still in his teens, and had served him well since the start of the war between the States.
Langton never complained, never despaired, even as defeat became inevitable. The general knew that time had run out for himself, but the youngster still had a chance to get away.
“Run son, this is your last chance. Get away while you can, they won't chase after a kid. I'll cover you until you're out of sight. Go!”
“No sir. I'm not going to run.”
“Goddammit, kid! Go home!”
“I have no home, sir. You're all I've got, and I won't leave you.”
The general saw it was useless to argue any further. It was too late anyway.
“Well looky here, I got meself a real general. Imagine that.”
The voice belonged to a lumpy, unkempt individual holding a revolver pointed at the general's midsection. A scraggly beard hung from his red face, which was scarred and blotched from years of rotgut whiskey.
A livid scar ran from cheek to chin. Runnels of spittle colored with chewing tobacco ran down his beard and splotched the blue uniform covering his bloated belly.
The soldier sized up the general, and noted the gun-belt with ceremonial pearl-handled revolvers in the holsters hanging on the general's hips.
“Let's see what you got, Reb. No sudden moves, or I'll open you up for the buzzards. Let's start with those pretty little pea-shooters. Just take off your belt and hand it over nice and gentle-like.”
The general stood his ground, a look of contempt clouding his stern features. Then he moved his right hand closer to his holster.
“Sorry, fellow, I can't let you have these. You're gonna have to earn them just like I did.”
In the moment before the general made his move, the young bat-boy dove for the bandit's gun. The gun fired as the kid slammed into the bandit from the side, spoiling his aim and sending the bullet flying wide.
The general's hand flew up from his holster full of gun, but there was no shot. The bandit's big arm went around the kid's neck, holding him in front for a shield. An unhealthy leer spread across the grizzled face.
“Okay general, no more games. Toss over the guns now or you won't like what I do to your little boy here.” He tightened his grip on Langton's neck, grinned as the boy fought for his breath.
“All right. Let the boy go and you can have the guns.” He dropped his gun, reached down and pulled the holster with the pearl-handled guns from his waist. As he held it out, about to toss them over, a voice rang out.
“Beale! What's going on here? Let go of the kid!” The officer was seated on his horse, with one hand on the reins and another holding his gun.
“Captain Dineen, sir, I've apprehended this general and his batboy. They wouldn't surrender without a fight.”
Dineen surveyed the scene, then looked over to the general, who still had his gun-belt in his hand before him. “Is that what happened, General?”
The general said nothing, just held the pearl-handled pistols out for the captain to see. The scene spoke for itself.
“Get back in the ranks, Beale! If I catch you molesting another prisoner, I'll shoot you myself. Is that clear?”
The man named Beale scowled. He released his grip on the boy, and gave the general one last withering glare before shuffling off. Dineen watched, waited till Beale was out of earshot before addressing the general.
“I apologize for my soldier's behavior, General. He's a disgrace to the Union Army.”
“That's all right, Captain, I've met quite a few like him in my army as well.”
Dineen turned to the boy. “Are you all right, son?”
Langton looked up, then over to the general. The general gave a slight nod.
“Yeah, I'm okay, sir – Captain Dineen.”
Dineen nodded, then turned his attention back to the general. “I'm afraid you will have to hand over your guns, sir.”
The general stepped over to the captain. Holding his head high, he passed the guns up to the seated figure.
“I'll do what I can to get them back to you. In the meantime, you'll have to join the other prisoners, both of you. This way, please.”
Langton and the general began their march to Danville.