"DEAR ORRY II"

RATING: [G]
SUMMARY: A view of Charles Main's life as an Army officer on the Texas frontier between the fall of 1857 and the winter of 1858, via a letter written to his cousin, Orry Main.
FEEDBACK: Be my guest. But please, be kind.
DISCLAIMER: Charles Main, Orry Main, Elkhannah Bent and all other characters related to the
"NORTH AND SOUTH Trilogy"belong to John Jakes, Wolper Productions, and Warner Brothers Television.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is a continuation of Charles Main's experiences in Texas, first started in the story,"Dear Orry"and continuing with"Dear Billy". The story is a combination of canon from the trilogies of both John Jakes' novels and the television adaptations.

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"DEAR ORRY II"

January 23, 1858
Camp Cooper, TX

Dear Orry,

I am fortunate to be alive to send this to you, for reasons I shall shortly describe. I know you will find it startling, but know that I am being truthful when I say I am now almost certain that my company commander wishes to see me come to harm because of fancied slights and incidents of insubordination which exist more in his own mind than in fact. Orry, I have somehow become mixed up with a damned lunatic, and since he is about your age and an Academy man, I hasten to ask whether perchance you know him. His name is Elkhanah Bent.

I realize I should have written about Captain Bent a lot sooner. I had mentioned him in a letter to Billy Hazard last summer. But my struggles with the captain and some of the men in my company has kept me occupied for the last six months. However, this latest event involving the rescue of stranded passengers from the Overland Stagecoach Line proved to be the last straw. Let me explain.

Conflict between myself and Captain Bent has been brewing ever since he took command of Company "K" nine months ago. I had been slightly aware of some deep emotion on his part toward me, when I first introduced myself to him. The more I got to know Captain Bent, the more I began to realize that he might not be completely sane. During mess, he would espoused his view on the future on military strategies and tactics and on the war that was bound to come. I swear Orry, the man seemed to revel in the anticipation of a new war. Captain Bent even tried to drag me into this unnatural love for warfare by inviting me to examine his copy of the French General Jomini's "Summary of the Art of War". I'm afraid there was something in the Captain's eyes that led me to reject his offer. Either Captain Bent has a slight preference for young men or he had another reason to invite him into confidence. But I excused myself on the grounds that I was coming down with the grippe. I also added that military theorizing was not very appealing to me.

Perhaps I had made a mistake in rejecting his offer. From that moment on, Captain Bent found fault with everything I did. The following day I had assisted an old Indian in pushing his cart out of the mud. The captain criticized me in front of the others because the Indian happened to be Katmuse, the leader of those Commanches on the reservation. This incident turned out to be the first among many times he criticized me in front of the entire company. Not long ago, he found fault with the girth for my mouth. When I dared to suggest he might be wrong, Captain Bent ordered me to saddle and unsaddle my horse . . . fifteen times. And he forced me do in front of one particular noncom who happened to dislike me at the time, Sergeant Breedlove.

It was not until this latest incident that led me to question Captain Bent's sanity. A few days ago, the company's first lieutenant, Lafe O'Dell woke me up in the middle of the night to inform me that the captain had ordered me to lead a detachment of troops to rescue any surviving passengers from a Butterfield stagecoach that was four hours overdue . . . during the middle of a snowstorm. Lafe . . . I mean, Lieutenant O'Dell had suggested I wait until the storm pass, but Bent insisted that I leave immediately. The detachment and myself left Camp Cooper around one in the morning. It took us at least seven to eight hours before we discovered the missing stagecoach. The storm had caused it to fall on one side and the surviving passengers were trying to stay warm by burning one of its doors. Sergeant Breedlove's roan had been injured during our journey and I had to shoot it. While we escorted the survivors back to Camp Cooper, I gave Breedlove a lift on my roan, Palm. Needless to say, Palm buckled under the weight of two men a half mile before we reached the post and I was forced to shoot him. The sergeant and I were forced to walk the rest of the way. According to the post doctor, I had come pretty close to losing three toes to frostbite.

What am I to do, Orry? I did consider writing a letter to the regiment's headquarters in San Antonio. But what can I say? My company commander is insane and might harbor a grudge against me? Who knows what the Army commander might do to me if I officially make such an accusation. Lafe has picked up a rumor that a few at regimental command were not pleased by Captain Bent's decision to send my detachment on the search for that stagecoach during a snowstorm. If this is true, I doubt much will come from any criticism on their parts . . . except for more harassment from the captain.

I hate to relay such disturbing news to you, Cousin. But since Captain Bent seemed to be around the same age as you and was a veteran of the war in Mexico, I wondered if you knew him. Other than my conflict with the captain, I am faring well. Please give my love to Aunt Clarissa, Brett and the others . . . even Ashton.

Sincerely,

Your Cousin Charles