Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Mellichampe: A Legend of the Santee >> Chapter XX: Sharp Passages at Arms >> Page 181

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Page 181

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription SHARP PASSAGES AT ARMS. 181
he hoped to make his way without interruption. But he was
not fated to do so, as we shall see anon.
Major Singleton, having a more extended line of country to
traverse, and a greater variety of duties to perform, started
from the swamp at dusk, and some time before the rest. Mar-
ion set forth by midnight ; and Captain Melton, after attend-
ing to some matters of minor importance, led off his little corps
an hour later. Our attention will .chiefly be given to this lat-
ter band, of which Ernest Mellichampe was the first-lieutenant,
and Jack Witherspoon the orderly. By the dawn they found
themselves at one of the lower crossing-places upon the river,
probably that at which it would be the aim of Barsfield to
cross ; but, as this was uncertain, it was not the policy of Mel-
ton to await him there. 'The position was by no means good,
and the ground too much broken for the free use of cavalry.
With the dawn, therefore, Melton moved his troop slowly
up the road, intending to place them in ambush behind a thick
wood which lay in their route, and which had been already
designated for this purpose. The road ran circuitously through
this wood, forming a defile, around which a proper disposition
of his force must have been successful, and must have resulted
in the destruction or capture of the entire force of the tories.
The spot was well known to the partisans, and had been de-
termined upon, even before the party left the river, as well
adapted, beyond any other along the road, for the contempla-
ted encounter. It lay but seven miles off, and one hour's quick
riding would have enabled them to reach and secure it. But
Melton pursued a regular, or rather a cautious gait, which,
under other circumstances, and at another time, would have
been proper enough. But now, when the object was the at-
tainment of a particular station, a forced movement became
essential, in most part, to their success ; certainly to that plan
of surprise which they had in view. 1Vlellichampe more than
once suggested this to his superior officer ; but the latter was
one of those persons who have solemn and inveterate habits,
from which they never depart. His horse had but one gait,
and to that he was accustomed. His rider had but a single
tune, and that was a dead march. The consequences of these