Southern Beauty - By Julie Lucia

Chapter 1

January 1861

ay attention McPherson, we’re being summoned,” A sharp voice broke Lieutenant David McPherson’s daydream of his family who had seemed to be right in front of him.

David had been gazing into the clear waters of the pond that lay next to his regiment’s camp. A slim handsome man with broad shoulders stared back at him with a grin. His sandy blonde hair and thick eyebrows hid in the shadows of the pond’s waters. He threw a rock to shatter what once was his own reflection. The rock slowly sank into the marsh below. David had received many honors for his heroics since he joined the army. Although he loved the life of a soldier, he was ready to return to his family.

David adjusted his uniform and made his way toward camp. He faintly heard the commander of his unit speaking as he approached. General George Meade stood in front of his tent and gathered the men around to discuss his plans to prevent further conflicts between the states.

“It is settled then, Lieutenant, you ride out immediately,” said Meade. David had been still reminiscing; family gatherings around the fireplace, his mother’s delicious shepherd’s pie he could almost taste, his sister’s lovely singing voice that accompanied him at the piano, and his father’s nightly readings of the newest novels that had come from the city. A smile crept upon his face as he imagined the day he would return, “two weeks,” he whispered to himself with a sigh.

“From the look of that smile, you must be pleased with my choice,” said Meade.

“Sir?” David now realizing the General was talking directly to him.

“Anyone else care to join him on this quest?” asked Meade.

“We will,” a heavyset man with a full beard and a tall self-assured man with a mustache came out of the silent crowd of young soldiers. They were friends of David’s. Master Sergeant Jacob Evans and Sergeant Preston Myers gladly accepted to once again ride alongside their long time comrade-in-arms.

Jacob was a quiet man with a soft-spoken voice and a kind face. His dark black hair and beard had been turning gray, showing his many years. Jacob was married to Emma and loved her dearly. He only had three more months until his enlistment was up, and he looked forward to meeting his newborn son, Daniel.

Preston, a tall, heavily muscled, confident man intimidated everyone with whom he came in contact. To him, women were on the earth only for men’s pleasures. Though the women didn’t trust him, neither did the men. People who knew him wondered whose side he would fight. When they would ask him, he simply would say, “My side.”

Although, very different men, David loved them both and considered them brothers he never had. Their friendship was made the day their lives intersected in Harrisburg when they each enlisted and were assigned to the same unit. The three were inseparable.

“Men, this is a serious situation. We need that map and if possible, I want his strategic battle plans too,” Meade explained to the men. “This mission comes from the highest level; don’t disappoint me.”

“Yes, sir,” said the men in unison.

“A Lieutenant Colonel from Virginia is gaining popularity among the Southern military brass,” Meade explained.

Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee’s loyalties were wavering due to family obligations in Virginia. This was known even by the newly elected President, Abraham Lincoln, therefore it was vital that before Virginia seceded something had to be done. The plan was to elect General Meade’s elite team to ride to South Carolina undetected by the newly formed Confederate Regulation Army and retrieve strategic military plans including a map of the North and South created by balloonist John Steiner. This was imperative for he had the only accurate map that could lead the Union into the path of victory. The map was given as a gift to Lee and was supposedly on him at all times. He currently resided at one of his family’s plantations in Charleston, where he was secretly visiting with the newly appointed General of the Confederate Army. Unbeknownst to Lee, there was a mole reporting his every move since South Carolina seceded in December.

David being the only Lieutenant among the men was elected to lead the mission.

“He is a well respected hero of the Army, and a dear friend of mine whom I met at West Point. Treat him with respect if you need to capture him. Understood?” General Meade explained with sadness in his voice and a frown upon his face.