It’s 1862, and as far as Harrison Raines is concerned, the Civil War is finished. Since the First Battle of Bull Run, he has served the Union Army as a spy, crisscrossing the war-torn country and witnessing more death, misery, and carnage than any man should. Although he’s a Virginian, he loathes slavery, and is proud to have served Abraham Lincoln. But Raines has had enough killing, and wishes only to retire to a tranquil patch of land. He acquires a plot in the hills of western Virginia and settles down to the life of the gentleman farmer—but Raines’s days will not remain quiet for long.
When a local parson known to have Union sympathies is killed, Raines fears his new neighbors may come after him next. To secure a peaceful retirement, he will have to stare down death one more time . . .
“Abundant historical detail and myriad plot twists.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Colorful characters, an authentic picture of war's brutality, an intriguingly perplexing plot, and a likable, larger-than-life hero make this addition to the Harrison Raines series a top pick for Civil War buffs and fans of historical mysteries.” —Booklist
The Antietam Assassins is the sixth book in the Harrison Raines Civil War Mysteries, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A Harrison Raines Civil War Mystery
By Michael Kilian
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 2005 Michael Kilian
All rights reserved.
It was August of 1862, and Harrison Raines had decided that, for him, the war between the states was over. He had spent much of his Federal service in the West and was now heading straight for home as fast as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad could take him, his spirits uplifted by the familiarity and beauty of the Appalachian Mountains they were now at long last passing through after endless miles of flat, hot plains.
He had grown up on a plantation on the James River down in the Tidewater region of Virginia and had lived as a young man in Richmond and Washington City. But home now was a horse farm he had inherited from his mother on the Potomac River near Shepherdstown in Virginia's mountainous western counties and he was more than content to have it so.
The railroad train he and his companions were riding was bound for Baltimore and Washington, but it stopped near Shepherdstown beforehand. They had just come through the hot springs town of Spa, where George Washington had frequently taken the waters, and would be at Shepherdstown within two hours — Confederate raiders permitting.
Not yet thirty, Harry was a fellow of agreeable countenance. He wore his sandy hair long and sported a cavalier's moustache, though women tended to find him more amiable than dashing. Near of sight, he was too vain to wear his spectacles in their company. Skilled with horses, like his hero, General Washington, he was also an excellent shot — when he was wearing his eyeglasses and could see his target. Before the war, Harry had supported himself for a time as a horse trader and gambler. He would settle now just to be a simple farmer. He hoped never to raise a firearm against a fellow human being again.
Shepherdstown had long been divided on the question of slavery but most of the mountain counties were opposed to it and in favor of Abraham Lincoln and union. This was one of the more compelling reasons he now considered the farm home.
Harry despised slavery, though he was the son of a wealthy planter who now commanded a Rebel cavalry regiment in General James Longstreet's corps. He had broken with his father over the issue. His belief that Lincoln was unreservedly committed to abolition had prompted Harry to serve the Union cause — not in uniform, but as an army "scout" in the employ of the famous detective Allan Pinkerton, now Lincoln's chief spymaster.
In his year and four months of service, Harry had survived the battles of Bull Run and Ball's Bluff, undertaken an espionage mission to Richmond, and been involved in bloody engagements in New Mexico, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
He'd been wounded, several times jailed, and barely escaped a hangman's noose. He'd killed people — among them, inadvertently, a woman. He had had enough.
There were several thousand dollars in his saddle bags that he was obliged to return to Mister Pinkerton. Along with that sum, he would submit his resignation.
He was traveling home with two improbable companions &mash; a half-breed Canadian Metis Indian who was wanted for murder in British Columbia, and a beautiful but maimed Louisiana-born actress who was likely a Confederate spy but made a point of working for both sides.
He had encountered the Metis in the New Mexico desert, when the half-breed — who went by the name Jacques Tantou — had saved his life by killing three Apache renegades hot after taking it. A scout for the Union Army as well, Tantou had decided to decamp with Harry when word of the Canadian murder warrant with his name on it reached the Federal command in Santa Fe.
Long-haired, the Metis still dressed as though in the West — yellow leather jacket, homespun shirt, Mexican belt, cavalry trooper's trousers, soft brown leather boots, and wide-brimmed hat. He carried a Bowie knife, a .44 caliber dragoon pistol, and a long Buffalo rifle, which he'd placed under the seat.
Tantou did not like trains — they occasioned the only sign of fear Harry had ever noted in the man. Taller even than Harry's six feet, he sat very stiffly in the seat opposite Harry, flinching at every lurch of the passenger car or belch of spark-laden smoke from the locomotive blowing by the open window.
Seated next to Harry, using his shoulder for a pillow as she attempted sleep, Louise Devereux was still recovering from two wounds she had suffered when caught in the midst of fighting at Corinth, Mississippi, that spring. She had had a finger shot off and had taken a round through the side that had nearly killed her, as wounds of that seriousness had killed so many men in uniform.
Harry had known Louise before the war when she was performing Shakespeare on stages in Washington, Baltimore, and, earlier, Richmond. She had occasionally been his lover, though that was perhaps an exaggerated term for a woman who had enjoyed the company of a wide variety of gentlemen, including generals in both armies and a number of Washington politicians.
Sleep eluded her. She opened her eyes and sat straighter. "How long before we're there?" she asked.
Harry looked to the window. The Baltimore and Ohio ran straight but, with the numerous loops and turns of the Potomac, crossed in and out of Maryland and Virginia several times. They were crossing the river again, near a long lake that reached to the approaches of Fort Frederick, Maryland. It had served as a fortress in the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars and now housed Confederate prisoners of war.
"Not long. A little more than an hour."
"I shall be so grateful to arrive. I hurt most everywhere."
He lifted her gloved hand and kissed it, only to have her pull it away. He had taken the hand missing the central digit — cotton wadded into the finger of the glove doing in its stead.
She said nothing, and closed her eyes again.
Tantou said something in French. Louise replied in the same tongue. They conversed briefly, back and forth — Harry's name spoken in the flow of foreign words. Like many a wealthy planter's son, Harry was ill-educated in some respects, and this was one of them. It irritated him a little that they could have these exchanges without including him. He realized he must be falling in love with Louise.
But that had happened before.
The train chuffed into Martinsburg in late afternoon. Amazed to find a trap for hire during a war that was devouring vehicles and horseflesh at a Biblical rate, he quickly secured it, helping Louise aboard. Tantou leapt onto the rear. The driver was a young man Harry only vaguely recognized — the son of German immigrants from across the river named Lemuel Krause.
"I'm Harry Raines," Harry said. "I own a horse farm in Shepherdstown, two miles up the river road. Do you know it?"
"Yessir." He was an inordinately handsome fellow, with hair as blond as Harry's sister.
"Well, that's where we're going."
Lemuel cracked the reins. "Yessir."
They proceeded the eight miles to Shepherdstown, then turned upriver, the horse plodding up the long hill.
"Is this trap always available at the depot?"
"Don't know, Mister Raines. It belongs to Mister Harding. I just work for him sometimes."
John Harding was probably the richest man in Shepherdstown.
"Were you waiting for someone?"
"Guess I was waiting for you."
Harry didn't quite fathom that, and said nothing. He put his arm around Louise, steadying her against what he knew would be a bumpy if not overlong ride.
"Is everything all right in town?" Harry asked.
"The war, Mister Raines."
As the trap turned up the lane that led to his farmhouse, Harry at once decided he would postpone his confrontation with Pinkerton in Washington, some seventy-five miles down the Potomac, and linger in this happiest of places a few days longer than he had intended. And then, after dealing with Pinkerton, he'd waste no time returning.
His actress friend's disposition toward his plans was hard to tell. There was no predicting anything about Louise Devereux, who'd been born an aristocrat much given to her own way. On the journey here from the West, she had repeatedly expressed an ardent desire to visit the Federal City again. But for all he knew, she might decamp to Richmond.
He yearned for her to take refuge here with him. She ought by now to have wearied of her dangerous wartime adventures. For the moment, he doubted she was up to a single evening of performing Shakespeare.
Harry was equally unsure about his friend Tantou, who was still worried about the warrant that had been issued for his arrest, now that it had gained currency in the Federal army. Harry seriously doubted any such document would ever reach the Eastern Theater of the war. In the odd event it did, Harry had dozens of places in which to hide the Metis, including most especially the Killiansburg Caves directly across the Potomac from his farm.
There were five Africans on Harry's place, all free. Four of them — a groom, two field hands, and his housekeeper, Estelle — were paid good wages. The fifth, named Caesar Augustus, was Harry's partner in his horse business. He had grown up on Harry's father's plantation as one of more than a hundred slaves held in bondage there. Because Caesar Augustus had been Harry's constant companion and best friend in childhood, Harry's father had made a present of him to Harry on his twenty-first birthday. Harry had promptly taken his friend to Richmond and filled out manumission papers, setting him free. Harry's rupture with his father had stemmed from that moment.
It had been many months since Harry had last seen Caesar Augustus and he looked forward to a reunion now. Estelle was by way of being the black man's common law wife and Harry presumed he'd been content to abide here with her.
Harry's house was large, and sat upon a rise high enough to catch whatever breeze came along the Potomac Valley and provide him with a view of a turn of the river from his long front porch. As the trap came up the lane, several people gathered on the porch; among them a little girl.
Her name was Evangeline. She was the daughter of Arabella Mills, a childhood sweetheart of Harry's in Richmond who had committed suicide in a moment of despairing madness, as much a victim of the war as any fallen soldier. Arabella's husband, an old rival of Harry's, had abandoned the girl in the belief that Evangeline had been illegitimately fathered by Caesar Augustus. The girl had a dusky hue, but blue eyes and copper-colored hair.
For his part, Caesar Augustus had protested to Harry that he was incapable of fathering children, and had argued that Harry himself might be a more likely candidate, for he had lain with Arabella before he had left Tidewater. As Caesar Augustus had rudely reminded him, Harry had a dark-skinned, part-Indian, witchy woman from the mountains among his great-grandmothers.
But Harry was of very fair coloration. His sister was blonde and had blue eyes, and very fair as well. Evangeline had the complexion of coffee and cream.
Harry had not pursued the matter further. He'd vowed to provide a home for the girl until she reached adulthood, and had left the question of her fatherhood a mystery.
She ran down the steps of his long front porch to greet him. He'd expected that, in his long absence, she would have forgotten him. He had not known her long. Perhaps it was just the excitement of their return.
He lifted her up, holding her at face level.
"Mister Raines, you have come home," she said.
"Yes, I have."
"Are you going away again?"
"Not any time soon. I'm going to stay right here where it's peaceful and quiet."
"There was shooting. Down by the river. I was afraid."
"Maybe that will now stop."
Louise observed him with some amusement as he lowered Evangeline to the ground.
Caesar Augustus came down the porch steps hesitantly. "You're a long time getting back, Marse Harry."
"No 'Marse,' please, Caesar Augustus. Never again, and especially not here."
"I have done something without asking you."
Harry looked about the pasture. "You sold some stock. Quite a few."
"Yes, Marse Harry."
"Well, we agreed you were to run the place as you thought the best."
Caesar Augustus shrugged. "The Federal army took 'em. They paid fair money. But they took 'em. Had some Rebels nosing around what was left but I told them your father was a friend of General Lee's, and that they'd best leave your holdings unmolested."
"You would seem to have been persuasive."
"I told them I was your slave. I do not like to do that, Marse Harry."
"I know that. I thank you."
Louise had preceded them all going inside. She might have been a duchess entering her castle.
Soldiery from both sides of the war had heavily foraged all over this Potomac River country in recent weeks but they managed to dine excellently that night nevertheless, with a meal prepared by Estelle that included fried chicken, roast pork, fish from the river, yams, sweet corn, and two bottles of Harry's best wine.
Afterwards, they sat in his parlor — all of them — the men drinking whiskey and smoking cigars while Louise played his spinet piano — as best she could given her infirmity. Her most serious injury still caused pain — and weakness — but she became quite animated by her effort and the music it produced.
Flush with whiskey, Harry became rapturous, especially when Louise played his favorite song, "Barbara Allen." He sat with Evangeline on his knee but his eyes fully upon Louise while she played, fixed on her dark hair, bare shoulders, and still incandescent beauty. He even put on his spectacles to enjoy her loveliness more fully.
She had become his Barbara Allen. Louise had the same wild, raven hair, fair skin, perfect features, flashing spirit, and slender grace of the girl he envisioned in the song. If life could be this way for the rest of his days he should count himself the luckiest man in America. He felt almost giddy in this new happiness — and the great freedom that would be his now that he had decided to part company with Pinkerton.
When Louise was finished, he set down Evangeline and went over to the actress, putting his arm around her shoulders and kissing the top of her head, a little intoxicated by the scent of her French perfume.
"I cannot tell you how much you have cheered my heart," he said.
She reached to touch his hand with her injured one, and then — to his stunned surprise — turned and pressed herself against him and burst into uncontrollable sobbing. It went on and on unendurably. He sat down on the bench beside her and held her tightly, but still her sobs and sorrow continued.
Harry looked to Caesar Augustus.
"It's the war, Marse Harry," the black man said. "She's not like you. She knows it ain't over. Not anywhere near."
Harry ignored this. When at last her misery showed signs of subsiding, he rose and fetched her a brandy. When she had drunk it, he escorted her to her bed chamber, then quickly returned.
"It will get better," he said, re-entering the parlor. "When she's recovered some, I'll take her on a picnic."
"I told you, Marse Harry," said Caesar Augustus. "There've been soldiers here."
"I'll go across the river into Maryland," Harry said. "I know a place. A beautiful place. A peaceful place."
"Up along Antietam Creek."CHAPTER 2
Harry had no buggy, trap, or carriage on the farm, but there was a serviceable wagon. It was not elegant nor very comfortable, but the distance was not far. He crossed the Potomac south of Shepherdstown at Packhorse Ford, and then proceeded the short two miles uphill on the Saw Mill Road and then down the following slope to Antietam Creek and his favored picnic place near an old stone bridge.
There were Union soldiers posted along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, but they let Harry and his pretty passenger pass without bother. The traffic between the two sides of the river was frequent, even in wartime.
Louise had finally recovered her spirits, but still appeared weak, the rigors of their long journey from the West lingering in their effect upon her. Swinging her down from the wagon, Harry took note of how disturbingly light she was, but was gladdened to see her smile again.
Excerpted from Antietam Assassins by Michael Kilian. Copyright © 2005 Michael Kilian. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.