the colonel, and report that the enemy is moving forward.”

No sooner had the man offered the barest of salutes and moved away from the front lines than the woods opposite exploded with noise. Darcy’s screams of warning were unnecessary as men ducked from the incoming cannon fire. Darcy lay at the bottom of the trench like the others, keeping his head as low as possible. On an impulse, the twenty-year-old officer pulled out the pocket watch his father had given him for his birthday two years before.

Ten o’clock exactly.

The cannonballs began to fall behind the lines towards Vicksburg itself. Darcy knew what that was about even before the cries of the enemy reached his ears. He pulled out his sword and stood in a low crouch.

“To the line, boys, to the line! The enemy is upon us! Give ’em hell!”

The bedraggled Texans, in various uniforms of Confederate gray, rushed to the ramparts, muskets in hand, screaming the Rebel Yell that had terrified more than one Union solider since Bull Run. Just in time, too, as the first of the men in blue were mere yards away. Darcy’s view of the attackers disappeared behind a cloud of smoke as the muskets fired in a volley. The smoke cleared to show a score of figures in dirty blue scattered on the bare ground before the earthworks, but there were a hundred more advancing. The first line of defenders fell back to reload as the second line took their places.

“Fire at will!” Darcy yelled as he drew his Colt revolver. “Fire at will!”

Time lost all meaning as Darcy fired into the advancing horde again and again. The Texans knew that their position, straddling a rail line, was a key point in the defense of Vicksburg, and they fought desperately against the Union soldiers, who were just as desperate to take it. The din was deafening as gunfire, explosions, and screams blended into an unearthly sound.

Darcy had ducked down to reload his pistol for the third time when he noted that the noise had abated a bit. Creeping up, he saw through the smoke and haze that the Yankees were pulling back in good order. He ordered his men to cease firing and conserve their precious ammunition as he glanced at his watch again.

Ten fifteen.

Darcy and his company had been relieved about midday as fresh troops took up their position in the lunette[1]. They were resting as well as they could, with the occasional cannonball falling throughout the afternoon, when they were approached by a group of officers on horseback. The commander of the legion, Colonel Waul, spoke to them.

“Men, we’ve got some Yankees that have broken through at the redoubt. They’re a stubborn bunch, an’ I need some volunteers to help clear the vermin out. Are you with me?”

Darcy looked at his men. “Sir, how many do you need?”

“A score will do, Captain. We muster down the lane here.” With that, the party rode off. Darcy rose to his feet and looked around. A good two dozen men volunteered, and soon the detail moved off to the rendezvous point. They joined up with others and the plan was formed. By late afternoon, the force moved into position near the railroad redoubt.

Darcy could see men in blue hiding in the trenches or behind shelter. He knew this assault would be costly.

A shout went up, and the Texans charged. Darcy ran before his men, the Colt in his right hand and a sword in his left. The men to either side fired their muskets on the run and continued the charge, bayonets gleaming in the afternoon light. The enemy returned fire from their positions, but even as men fell around him, Darcy knew it was too little, too late. They were almost upon them. The Union soldiers began to fall back in some disorder. Darcy bared his teeth as he smelled the impending victory…

There was a mighty explosion, and Darcy experienced a feeling of flying before the world crashed into his face.

Will Darcy knew nothing, except that he hurt. Hurt all over. Hurt bad.

After a while, he was able to discern something besides the ever-present pain: a low murmuring in the background of his darkness. It took a moment before he realized that it was the sound of men groaning and crying. Darcy opened his eyes to behold a dark, uneven ceiling, lit by the light of lanterns.

He suddenly realized that he could only see out of one eye. In a panic, he raised a hand to his face and tried to sit up. A wave of agony crashed into him, and he could not prevent crying out as he fell back.

Darcy heard voices close by. “Doc—Doc—this one’s wakin’ up.” A moment later a face came into his limited field of vision.

“Captain, how are you feeling?”

Like I’m about to die! his mind screamed. He peered closely at the man. About Darcy’s own age, the young man had a broad, flushed face and light-colored hair. It was a face that usually would be happy, he considered. That it wasn’t was a cause for concern.

“H… hurt,” was all Darcy could manage.

“I should think you do,” the unknown man said in a soft Georgia accent with a hint of a smile. The break in the man’s serious mien was comforting.

Darcy waved a hand before his face. “E… eye?”

“Rest easy,” the man said. “Your eyes are undamaged. You have a serious injury to your forehead, and the bandage must cover one eye. You’re in a hospital, Captain, in a cave to protect y’all from the incoming artillery… Don’t sit up!” he cried as Darcy moved. “Do you want to lose that leg?”

His patient lay still in fear.

The man grew grim. “Good thing you were insensible when your men brought you in. I had to do a bit of digging to get all the shrapnel out. You’ve lost quite a bit of blood, Captain. We must keep your leg still and clean, or the gangrene may set in. Do you understand?”

Darcy managed a nod, which only hurt like blazes. He determined he was speaking to a surgeon, as he could now make out the dried blood all over the man’s apron.

“Good,” the doctor grinned in return. “I must see to my other patients, but I shall stop by later. Rest, sir, and you’ll be up and walking again.”

As the doctor began to turn, Darcy fought to speak. “Th… thanks. D… Darcy.”

The doctor turned in surprise. “I beg your pardon?”

Darcy gestured again. “D… Darcy.”

“Ah,” the man breathed in realization. “Captain Darcy, is it?”

Darcy nodded.

He smiled. “Charles Bingley, at your service.”

Meryton, Ohio—June 20

“Beth! Beth, come back!”

The thirteen-year-old girl disregarded her mother’s voice as she ran out the back door. Almost blinded by her tears, she managed to reach the large chestnut tree next to the barn without running into anything. The girl threw herself against the trunk, her body shuddering in sobs.

It was there her older sister found her, kneeling by the tree. Wordlessly, the blond girl gathered her sister into her arms, their hair blowing in the breeze.

“Beth—oh, Beth!” she tried to console the child.

“H… he can’t be dead!” Beth Bennet sobbed. “Samuel can’t be dead! He can’t be, Jane!”

“Beth…” Jane began.

“He promised to come back. You… you heard him. He promised!”

Jane bit her lip as she continued to stroke Beth’s curly brown hair, her own tears quietly streaming down her face. She could hear her mother and other sisters wailing in the house, an uproar that began a half-hour before as her father read the words of that hated telegram:

“We regret to inform you that…”

“Beth—oh, Beth!” was all Jane could manage. Her own distress was great. Samuel Bennet, the eldest of the Bennet children and the only son, proud corporal in the Ohio infantry, gone to save the Union as part of the mighty Army of the Potomac, had died of influenza in Maryland. Samuel was beloved by all of his family, but Beth was

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