Imágenes de páginas

in dismay. It was the far-off bugle blast of a loco motive whistle sounding from the direction from which they had come.

The Confederates, then, were on their track! They had failed to distance pursuit! The delay at Kingston had given their enemies the needed time! Nervous with alarm, they worked like giants. The rail yielded slightly. It bent. A few minutes more and it would be torn from its fastenings. A few minutes! Not a minute could be spared for this vital work. For just then the whistle shrieked again, now close at hand, the rattle of wheels could be heard in the distance, and round a curve behind them came a locomotive speeding up the road with what seemed frantic haste, and filled with armed men, who shouted in triumph at sight of the dismayed fugitives. It was too late to finish their work. Nothing remained to the raiders but to spring to their engine and cars and fly for life.

We have seen the beginnings of this pursuit. We must now go back to trace the doings of the forlornhope of pursuers, Fuller and his companion. After their adventure with the broken rail, that brace of worthies pushed on in their hand-car till the station of Etowah was reached. Here, by good fortune for them, an engine stood with steam up, ready for the road. Fuller viewed it with eyes of hope. The game, he felt, was in his hands. For he knew, what the raiders had not known, that the road in advance would be blocked that day with special trains, and on a one-tracked road special trains are an impassable obstacle.

There were soldiers at Etowah. Fuller's story of the daring trick of the Yankees gave him plenty of volunteers. He filled the locomotive and its cab with eager allies, and drove on at the greatest speed of which his engine was capable, hoping to overtake the fugitives at Kingston. He reached that place; they were not there. Hurried questions taught him that they were barely gone, with very few minutes the start. Away he went again, sending his alarm whistle far down the road in his front.

The race was now one for life or death. Andrews and his men well knew what would be their fate if they were caught. They dared not stop and fight; their only arms were revolvers, and they were outnumbered by their armed foes. Their only hope lay in flight. Away they went; on came their shouting pursuers. Over the track thundered both locomotives at frightful speed. The partly-raised rail proved no obstacle to the pursuers. Thoy were over it with a jolt and a jump, and away on the smooth track ahead.

If the fugitives could have halted long enough to tear up a rail or burn a bridge all might have been well; but that would take more minutes than they had to spare. A shrewd idea came into Andrews's fertile mind. The three box-cars behind him were a useless load. One of them might be usefully spared. The rear car of the train was uncoupled and left behind, with the hope that the pursuers might unwittingly dash into it and be wrecked. On they went, leaving a car standing on the track.

Fortunately for the Confederates, they saw the obstruction in time to prepare for it. Their engine was slowed up, and the car caught and pushed before it. Andrews tried the device a second time, another car being dropped. It was picked up by Fuller in the same manner as before. On reaching a siding at Resaca station, the Confederate engineer switched off these supernumerary cars, and pushed ahead again relieved of his load.

Not far beyond was a bridge which the raiders bad intended to destroy. It could not be done. The pursuit was too sharp. They dashed on over its creaking planks, having time for nothing but heaulong flight. The race was a remarkably even one, the engines proving to be closely matched in speed. Fuller, despite all his efforts, failed to overtake the fugitives, but he was resolved to push them so sharply that they would have no time to damage track or bridges, or take on wood or water. In the latter necessity Andrews got the better of him. His men knocked out the end of the one box-car they had left, and dropped the ties with which it was loaded one by one upon the track, delaying the pursuers sufficiently to enable them to take on some fresh fuel.

Onward again went the chase, mile after mile, over a rough track, at a frightful speed, the people along the route looking on with wondering eyes. It seemed marvellous that the engines could cling to those unevenly-laid rails. The escape of the pursuers, was, indeed, almost miraculous, for Andrews found time to stop just beyond a curve and lay a loose rail on the track, and Fuller's engine ran upon

this at full speed. There came a terrific jolt; the engine seemed to leap into the air ; but by a marvellous chance it lighted again on the rails and ran on unharmed. Had it missed the track not a man on it would have lived to tell the tale.

The position of the fugitives was now desperate. Some of them wished to leave the engine, reverse its valves, and send it back at full speed to meet the foe. Others suggested that they should face the enemy and fight for their lives. Andrews was not ready to accept either of these plans. He decided to go on and do the work for which they had set out, if possible. He knew the road. There was a covered bridge a few miles ahead. If they could burn this all would be well. He determined to try.

There was one box-car left. That might serve his purpose. He had his men pile wood on its floor, and light this with coals from the engine. In a minute it was burning. The draught made by the rushing train soon blew the fire into a roaring flame. By the time the bridge was reached the whole car was in a fierce blaze.

Andrews slowed up and uncoupled this blazing car on the bridge. He stopped the engine just beyond, and he and his companions watched it hopefully. The flames curled fiercely upward. Dense smoke poured out at each end of the covered bridge. Success seemed to be at length in their hands. But the flames failed to do their work. The roof of the bridge had been soaked by recent rains and resisted the blazing heat. The roaring flames were uselessly licking the wet timbers when the pursuing engine came dashing up. Fuller did not hesitate for a min. ute. He had the heart of a soldier in the frame of a conductor. Into the blinding smoke his engine was daringly driven, and in a minute it had caught the blazing car and was pushing it forward. A minute more and it rolled into the open air, and the bridge was saved. Its timbers had stubbornly refused to burn.

This ended the hopes of the fugitives. They had exhausted their means of checking pursuit. Their wood had been all consumed in this fruitless effort; their steam was rapidly going down; they had played their last card and lost the game. The men sprang from the slowed-up engine. The engineer reversed its valves and followed them. Into the fields they rushed and ran in all directions, their only hope being now in their own powers of flight. As they sped away the engines met, but without damage. The steam in the stolen engine had so fallen that it was incapable of doing harm. The other engine had been stopped, and the pursuers were springing agilely to the ground, and hurrying into the fields in hot chase.

Pursuit through field and forest was as keen and unrelenting as it had been over iron rails. The Union lines were not far distant, yet not a man of the fugitives succeeded in reaching them. The alarm spread with great rapidity; the whole surrounding country was up in pursuit; and before that day ended several of the daring raiders were prisoners in Confederate hands. The others buried themselves in woods and swamps, lived on roots and berries, and ventured

« AnteriorContinuar »