General Sid - Cover

General Sid

Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac

Chapter 7

Sid sat on his horse, watching the distant farmhouse from a tree covered hill that was behind the house. The farmhouse had been one of the largest of the houses in the area. Next to the farmhouse were a barn and a couple of outbuildings. One of the outbuildings was obviously a smoke house for curing meat. The darkened walls spoke of years’ worth of preserving meat. Another building looked to be a timber mill. Next to it was a building that looked as if it was used to cure the cut lumber.

Standing beside him was a scout who went by the name of Sneak. The scout had been watching the house since early the previous day. Gesturing at the house, he said, “There are over a hundred slaves and ten overseers. The family running the show has a man, a woman, and three kids.”

“Can we pull the slaves out during the night?”

“No. They are still building a shelter for them. Since they aren’t locked up in a building, the slaves are chained up at night in back of the house. That wouldn’t be so bad except they watched over by dogs. If we try to sneak in there, the dogs will start barking,” the scout answered.

Sid had watched slaves as they were forced to take care of the crops of all of the adjacent pieces of property. While most homesteads had one or two acres of land, the slavers had joined all of the homesteads along the one side of the road to get a place of almost a hundred acres. They were working the slaves hard using the whip on occasion to motivate them to work harder. He wanted to make sure that the overseers paid for their cruelty. He asked, “What about the overseers?”

“They are sleeping in one of the outbuildings.”

“How many doors are in the outbuilding?”

“One very large door,” answered the scout. Anticipating the next question, he said, “No windows. I’d say that it was once used for curing and storing lumber.”

Looking over at the scout, Sid said, “You are the scout they call Sneak?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good job, Sneak,” Sid said, “Get some rest. We’ll move into position a half an hour before sunrise.”

“Thanks, Sir,” Sneak replied. Without making a sound, Sneak disappeared back into the woods.

Sid made a gesture and three of his veteran leaders rode up beside him. Sid pointed to the farm spread out below them and said, “That long building down there is where the overseers are sleeping. We’ll get into position in the orchard using false dawn. I’ll give the command and two of our units will ride in hard and storm the long building. The third will take out the house.”

“Which of us do you want leading the charge on the house?” asked one of the men.

“Which of you wants the job?”

The three men looked at each other. They had seen how the overseers treated the slaves and wanted the chance to have their pound of flesh. One of them sighed and said, “I’ll lead them.”

“Good,” Sid said. He looked at the three men and said, “I want as many of them alive as possible.”

The men agreed and, once dismissed, went to talk to their men. Each man had ten men under their command. Sid trusted them to take care of the specific details on how to attack the buildings. Connor rode over and said, “Our first raid.”

“Two raids at once,” Sid corrected. Masterson was at the other farm organizing the attack on it. Like Sid, Masterson didn’t like the charge in and attack approach, but there wasn’t much that could be done without raising an alarm.

“The men are ready,” Connor said. He had left them once the veterans had returned to their men.

“We’re too slow,” Sid said. He wasn’t happy that they were using so many men on this raid. He had envisioned smaller groups moving in and liberating the slaves.

“It is our first raid. Let our men get a little experience under their belts. They’ll know what to expect on the next raid and we won’t need so many men,” Connor said.

“You’re right,” Sid said. Shaking his head, he said, “I wonder how long it will be before we get enough experience that our men are able to liberate five or six farms a day.”

“Ambitious, aren’t you?” Connor said with a grin.

“I’m sure that if you were a slave, you’d think I wasn’t ambitious enough,” Sid said.

Connor looked at Sid for a long moment and then said, “Lighten up, Sid. I know you feel responsible for these men, but if you take things too seriously you’ll drive yourself crazy. You need a heavy hand with Masterson; not with me or Peterson.”

“I’m not criticizing you; I’m criticizing myself. We’ve been marching for almost four weeks and this is our first engagement. Even though I knew that it would take us some time to get to this point, I can’t help but feel bad that it took us this much time,” Sid replied keeping his eyes on the farmstead below.

“It takes some time to get used to the ebb and flow of a campaign. All campaigns start out slow. It takes time to get your army equipped and into position. Towards the middle of the campaign it heats up to where engagements come fast and furious. Near the end of fighting, the engagements slow down, but become much larger. Once the enemy has surrendered, you have the after engagements where holdouts have to be tracked down and eliminated,” Connor said.

“My uncle told me about that. He also said that the first steps are the most important steps.”

“You’ve made all the right steps so far,” Connor said. He was actually impressed with how Sid had run the campaign so far. He had laid a good foundation of trust between the leaders and the men who followed him. Camp discipline was as good as he’d ever seen on any campaign.

“Why do you say that?”

“You hired me as an adviser,” Connor said with a smile.

Sid laughed at the comment and said, “Let’s get back to camp. Sunset is approaching and it is too dark at night to risk traveling through the woods.”

The engagement in the morning was almost anti-climatic. The squads of men rode up to the outbuilding where the overseers were sleeping and after rushing into the building took them without a fight. The owner and his family were taken while still in their beds. Sid had watched the action from the hilltop at the suggestion of Connor rather than participate directly. There would be plenty of time for him to actively participate in raids, but it was important for the men to learn to operate independently.

Once the area was under their control, Sid mounted his horse and headed down the hill. Connor rode beside him with a large smile on his face. As they went, Connor asked, “What are you going to do with the captives?”

“I’ll make sure that justice is served,” Sid answered.

Connor frowned at the thought that Sid was going to turn the captives over to the former slaves. He didn’t want the campaign to start with a bloody execution of their captives. It would lead to greater resistance in the future and could spiral out of control. He looked over at Sid and said, “Don’t get carried away.”

“I won’t,” Sid answered looking over at Connor. He could see the concern on the other man’s face.

By the time they reached the farmhouse, the captives from both sites had been herded together in a small group in a cleared area in front of the house. The former slaves, over a hundred of them, were standing around. A small handful of them had looks of anger on their face. All that was keeping them from ripping their former taskmasters into tiny pieces was the presence of Sid’s men between the groups.

Sid dismounted and made his way to the house. He went inside and came out with a chair. Taking a seat, he pointed to freed slaves and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Sid Jones. I am the person in charge of this band of men. We have some important business to take care of before you can go on with your lives. So if you will bear with me, we will try to make this as painless as possible.”

Looking at the former slaves, he said, “I would like you to line up according to how long you were held as a slave. The individual who has been a slave the longest is to be first in line.”

It took five minutes for people to sort themselves out according to the criteria Sid had requested. Once that was done, Sid went to the first man and asked, “How long were you held as a slave?”

“Ten years,” replied the man in a flat voice. His eyes were dead and he answered without emotion. The years of slavery had beaten the spirit out of the man. His body bore scars testifying to years of physical abuse.

Sid nodded and went to the next man in line. He repeated his question and learned that man had been a slave for ten years as well. Going from one person to the next, he asked his question and received his answer. The shortest time spent as a slave was five years. The slaver society was smart, and wouldn’t allow new slaves to be held close to the outer boundaries of the area controlled by them. New slaves were more difficult to control. Someone was in control and that person was very smart.

“By the power vested in me through force of will and arms, I hereby declare you to be free men and women,” Sid shouted after taking a position in front of the gathered men and women.

While the former slaves tried to decide how they were supposed to react, Sid returned to his chair and studied the overseers. It was clear that none of them had ever spent time as a slave. Turning back to look at the former slaves, he said, “Would all those who want to join with us in fighting slavery please step forward.”

Nine men immediately stepped forward. After a slight delay a woman stepped forward as well. One of the men still in line looked over at the woman and then went over to stand beside her. Sid watched the situation unfold and nodded his head. It was more people than he had expected. Turning to Connor, he said, “Take them and integrate them into our forces.”

“Sure thing,” replied the older man. He gestured to the volunteers to follow him before walking off to the side of the house. The small band of eleven followed him at a pace common among slaves. They moved fast enough to avoid the whip, but slow enough to give voice to their unhappiness at being ordered around. His first task was to get them fed and clothed. His second task was to return their spirit to them.

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