Allegheny Road is a frank, intense story of two men and two women whose lives converge on a plantation in the Shenandoah Valley of 1860’s Virginia.
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Civil War Novel Allegheny Road
Civil War Novel Allegheny Road
My novel Allegheny Road, the story of four strong characters who cross paths on the plantation called Allegheny Road, in 1860’s, was written to appeal to adults of both genders. In the story, Scott Patton and George Lynn, common enemies, are in love with the same women, Ashley Lynn, George’s estranged wife, and slave Millie Turner. Scott will risk his life to free the women from George’s iron grip, even if it means losing them both.
Scott Patton is a college professor from Cincinnati whose wife and father have been murdered by a man named Sommervell; after the murder, Sommervell has taken refuge in the newly formed Confederacy and Scott will set out to track him down. Along with his wife and father, Scott had worked with the Underground Rail Road, and the night after they are killed, he discovers two slaves, a mother and daughter, hiding in his cellar, waiting to be transferred to the next safe house.
In spite of the grief and horror at the losses he has suffered, Scott has no choice but to move the two escapees along or risk their being recovered and sent back into the South. The woman, Thelma, tells him that her husband, Josiah Ward, in helping his family to flee, gave up his own chance to escape and remains on a plantation in Virginia. Deeply affected by the father’s sacrifice, Scott vows to find and bring Ward to join his family, after he settles with Sommervell.
This dual mission into Virginia is the only thing Scott Patton lives for now. To carry it out, he sees the need to join the Union army; as a West Point graduate in combat engineering, he is made an officer under General McClellan, who is planning to invade Virginia.
Over the coming months, after accompanying McClellan within shelling distance of Richmond in early 1862, Scott convinces the general to dispatch him into the rebel capital on a spy mission to determine the true strength of the enemy’s defensive works.
Scott uses the assignment as cover for his own search, querying the Pinkerton spies in Richmond about Sommervell, and also about Underground Railroad stations in the Shenandoah Valley, from which he might rescue Joisah Ward. Unhappily, Scott learns that Sommervell is beyond his reach while the war continues; with that part of his mission on hold, Scott does find the name of a plantation in the valley where a stop on the Underground Railroad exists, a position from which he can make his attempt to rescue Josiah Ward. The plantation is called Allegheny Road.
In all the time since the murders, Scott has suffered constantly over the loss of his wife and his father. Along the way, as part of his mission, he has met women who have possessed information he needs, women who would comfort him if he let them, women for whom he could have felt attraction if he were carefree. Instead, thinking only of his wife, he has walked away from each of them, without looking back.
At Allegheny Road, however, something changes for him. There, he meets two more women, Ashley Lynn and Millie Turner, who are so kind, so decent, that being in their presence transforms his life.
Ashley is the wife of the plantation owner, George Lynn, who is away fighting with Stonewall Jackson in the war. Millie Turner is a slave who grew up as George Lynn’s personal servant but later became his secret lover, until his family forced him to marry Ashley, the girl from the plantation next door.
Ashley and Millie are both estranged from George Lynn now, and although the rift was mostly his fault, the pain of losing the love of both women drove George away from Allegheny Road, to join the war. While his absence frees up Ashley and Millie to carry on their noble and dangerous work with the Underground Railroad, it has also left the plantation in some difficulties.
This is the situation which Scott Patterson unknowingly enters at Allegheny road. There, under the influence of the two women’s caring natures, Scott finds the healing he never anticipated. By the time he has successfully purchased Josiah Ward’s freedom, Scott has become emotionally torn between Ashley and Millie; but knowing he can have neither in his life, he faces a level of anguish at leaving Allegheny Road that is nearly as debilitating as what he suffered in losing his wife.
Almost unable to face the parting, Scott tarries at Allegheny Road longer than he should, so long that he is still there when George Lynn unexpectedly arrives on furlough from the war....
The clash between George Lynn and Scott Patton exposes all the passions and issues among the four characters on Allegheny Road, which can only be resolved when the two men meet again in conflict near the end of the war.
Scott Patton’s Life
Two blocks shy of the courthouse, the way ahead became impassable. Hordes of people filled the street, marching back and forth in angry outcry over something that was not immediately self-evident. The driver stood to see farther ahead and seemed not to like what he saw. He spat into the street, cursed, then turned around to address his passenger.
“Sir, I’m afraid you’ll have to hoof it the rest of the way from here. There’s still a police roadblock up ahead, and this mob makes it impossible just to reach anywhere near the courthouse. Sorry, but this is the best I can do for you.”
Scott rose from his seat and leaned forward, over the driver’s shoulder, taking in the view from the higher vantage point.
“When did this start? You must’ve been in and out of town several times today. How long has it been like this?”
“Couple of hours, Sir.”
“Over what? What’s the unrest about?”
“I ‘spect it’s over them abolitionists caught running the Railroad yesterday. All the talk was of transferring them out of town today, and then big trouble of some sort. Some want them lynched, some want them free, and it’s been like this the last two trips I’ve made in and out.
“Hard to say what it’ll come to. But there it is, isn’t it?”
“Transferred, you say? No, they weren’t supposed to take them anywhere until after the trial,” Scott said. “That’s why I’m here, to see them first. I’ve got to get in there! Here, keep it all.”
Scott tossed the driver a gold coin far in excess of the fare and jumped down from the hack, hauling his bag out of the footwell and wading into the crowd, which had pressed itself into a dense mass up against a makeshift barrier at the southwestern corner of the courthouse square, which also housed the jail.
Moving in, Scott could see through gaps in the crowd that police stood at irregular intervals, eyed darkly by the masses. Mutterings rippled through the mob, to the general effect that the “coppers” were implicated and ought to be arresting each other, but the cause of this anger was unclear.
“What’s going on, what’s this all about?” Scott asked of those around him.
“Couple of people got shot, right out from under the cops’ noses. They let the killers get clear away and now they’re trying to make a clean face of it, like they’re doing their duty investigating or something. Corrupt bastards.”
One of the officers patrolling the line caught the man’s words and reached for his pistol but Scott took that opportunity to barge in, diverting the cop’s attention from the agitator. The policeman grabbed Scott by the collar before he could slip under the rope.
“Just what do you think you’re doing, Mister?”
“I have business in the jail, I need to get through. I’m here to see two defendants. I have a right to get in there. Do your duty, Sir, let me in.”
“It’s impossible, man, it’s all locked down, all tied up as the scene of a crime. No one in or out until it’s been dealt with. But no worry, whoever you’re here to see ain’t going anywhere meantime.”
“How much longer? Just let me go in and see two prisoners, it has nothing to do with your crime.”
“Maybe it does. The two deceased were prisoners. That’s the thing of it, so unless you’re next of kin—”
“Prisoners, deceased. Wait a minute. What are their names?”
“What is yours, Sir?”
“Oh lord help us....”
A cold hand throttled Scott around the heart. “No!”
Scott threw himself forward again and the beefy officer bore him to the ground, drawing his gun, holding it butt-first, ready to brain Scott if he didn’t submit.
“You be good, boy. Understand? Be calm. Now get up, I’ll take you inside if you behave.”
“Yes, let’s go.”
The officer helped Scott rise and pulled the rope out of the way, gesturing the crowd aside with his firearm. He walked Scott down along the high rock wall that surrounded the limestone-faced jail, to the front entrance on Sycamore.
Scott could barely breathe now, and as he caught sight of two canvas covered mounds lying in the street, his legs weakened and he started to wobble. The only thing that kept him up was an odd sense of unreality, that this couldn’t be true, that it was a mistake and he would find Susannah and his father safe in a cell on the inside.
“He seems to know them,” his escort told a detective standing by the bodies making notes on a pad.
“Yeah? So what’s your name?” he asked Scott. Hearing the answer, he muttered to himself and jotted something else down.
“Well, Sir, I’m afraid I must inform you—”
“No!” Now Scott’s legs did fail him and he sank to his knees, and the world turned gray around him. The detective bent over him, touching his shoulder.
“Be brave, now, Sir. You’d better come with me.” He offered Scott a hand up and led him through the gate into the jail offices, on the way bellowing for the chaplain, who rushed out and took up a position on Scott’s other side.
“Come this way and sit down, son,” the chaplain told him. The two men guided Scott to a bench seat and he held hard to both their hands, still not yet believing the enormity of what had befallen him.
“Both of them?” he said.
“Yes, they were apparently targeted specifically,” the detective told him.
“How? With police all around, how?”
“We can’t talk about that now, it’s being investigated.”
“You just let somebody walk up and kill them?”
“Well, you see, it wasn’t quite that way,” the policeman answered. “But you’re in no condition to speak of this now.”
As if from the depths of a great well, Scott heard his voice asking who had committed the heinous deed.
South of Lexington, Virginia
Millie Turner’s Life
The little girl was only three years old, but she knew something terrible was going on. Everywhere except in the Turner family’s little hut, the world seemed filled with noise and confusion. The word “uprising” did not mean anything to her yet, but she heard that her daddy had somehow become involved in one.
All through the day, while she and her mother remained inside, people ran past in all directions outside, their feet pounding this way and that beyond the door. Later, men on horses rode up and pointed guns at Millie and her mother, but hurried away when shots were fired somewhere nearby.
Through all the tumult, the child’s mother held her close, crouched the whole time in a corner of the room; twice more, white men they did not know opened the door and peered inside, saying nothing, looking very menacing and angry.
The worst thing of all, however, was when daddy never came home from the fields.
“Mama, what’s going to happen?”
“Don’t know, Sugar. Everybody all scared an’ confused. I do ‘spect Daddy’ll be back directly. We just have to be calm and quiet.”
Her mother caressed Millie’s hair, and wiped the sweat from her face, but the hours passed with more shooting in the night, and the sky outside took on an ominous glow of fire, up in the direction of the Big House, and the smell of burning wood and other things best not imagined filled the air. White men kept passing by, again stopping to nose around the hut, their faces visible only by the lurid glow from the fires.
The little girl and her mother spent a hopeless night, because Daddy never did return. Little by little, they both faced the unthinkable, they would never see Daddy again.
The white men came for the last time just before daylight, practically tearing the door off its hinges. Now, they no longer showed their faces but wore white gowns and pointed masks, and made “boo” sounds like ghosts, and spoke threatening words. Mama backed away from them as far as she could go, holding her baby tight, but the costumed men stomped right up to her, guns waving in her face.
“No, no, we didn’t do anything,” Mama said, keeping her voice calm, reassuringly caressing her child’s hair. But the men dragged them both out of the house, and tore the child away from Mama.
“No, my baby, please—”
“Shut up, nigger!” One of the men slapped Mama hard across the mouth, knocking her sprawling. The little girl was in their hands now, and she was no longer calm and quiet. Kicking hard and screaming, she tried to tear away and go back to Mama, but they hog-tied her hands and feet then wrapped a big burlap bag over her. Even when they shook her and hit at her, she still screamed and cried, stopping only when her strength gave out and she went limp.
Soon, she felt herself flying through the air, landing hard, so hard the breath was knocked out of her. Other bundles seemed to land around her, causing the ground, or whatever surface she lay on to shake. Men were talking and laughing, but in the distance, women were screaming and more shots were fired and the smoke-smell was stronger than ever, even inside the bag.
Suddenly the world began moving and the little girl realized she was lying in a conveyance of some sort, a wagon, probably.
Minute by minute, she felt herself being taken away from her old life, away from everything she knew. As difficult as that life may have been, at least it had been familiar, but now, so suddenly, she was without a family, and it seemed to her, without a life.
Lying as if dead, feeling as if dead, wishing she were dead, the girl bounced along with what she imagined must be other newly unfortunates like herself. After an hour or more of travel, someone pulled her down from the wagon, unwrapped her from the bag and carried her, still and un-struggling, to a hut not unlike her old home.
“This little thing is yours now, Molly,” the man who had unwrapped her told a woman seated in a rocking chair by a dim fire. “Her family was involved in an insurrection on the other side of Lexington, several people escaped, but she and her mama, and a few others were left behind. The massa took away all the babies and women who were left and split them up.
“Take care of her, they say she’s smart and might make a house girl, too. You’ll get extra food for having her.”
“Oh my, look at her. Isn’t she precious. How old do you reckon she is?” the woman named Molly asked.
“About three year or so, I guess,” the man said. “About the same age as Precious George in The House, maybe. And they didn’t give a name for her, either. Just wanted rid of her.”
“No name?” Molly asked.
“You know the white folks, they don’t care, long as she comes to some name when called. So I guess you can ask her and if she knows, then that’s her name. If not, you can name her what you please.”
“She’s sure quiet, isn’t she?”
“Now,” he said, chuckling. “But I guess she put up hell’s own ruction, before.”
“Good. Nobody ought to be taken away without a fight. I’ll teach her to remember that.”
Molly took the little girl out of the man’s arms.
“Sweet thing. And pretty. We’ll be fine,” the woman told him. “Thank you, Terrence, she’s just what I need to get over Ethel. Thank you, I mean it.”
“I know you do. I’ve been looking for something to help, and I’m sorry for this little one that it has to be this way, but I figure you both need each other. If’n I was a praying man, I’d pray she ends up a damn sight better off than her own mama.”
“I have a feeling it wouldn’t take much to do that. But God knows what’ll come of us all.”
“Yeah. Now I hafta go, you know how the Old Man is.”
“Oh yes, I know how he is. Don’t get yourself in any trouble, Terrence, you’re all we have to protect us.”
The man bent and kissed her hand then excused himself.
Now, the woman turned all her attention to her new daughter, quickly learning the little girl not only knew her own name but her age, and the name of her mother and father. Yes, she was a smart one.
Scrambling to find scraps of paper and a nub of a pencil, Molly wrote down everything the little girl could tell her.
When the time came, she would turn the information over to the little girl, now known to be Millie Turner, in hopes that she would maintain her own life history. It was something so few slaves had the chance to do; but then just how many things did slaves have a chance to do that white people could? Perhaps this little girl would at least be able to pick her husband one day.
That was about the only real freedom she could even dream of. But it was enough: for a slave, family was everything, and when that was taken away, little of life remained.