Chapter Twelve: Militia
At Jacksboro, Micah and Ramon joined a dozen men gathered in front of the general store. They tied their horses and stood in a queue in front of a table, behind which sat a man with quill and paper. He had the confident, tired look of an experienced Ranger or cavalryman, wearing his brace of pistols high on his waist. His skin was tan and hard, his eyes blue, and his long hair dark with gray streaks. His lips moved as he read the lines he wrote. Behind him, sprawled on the ground were two Tonkawas, dressed in civilian clothes, but wrapped in blankets.
When Micah reached the table, the man laid down his quill. He looked first at Micah’s boots, then his eyes took in his clothes, and finally focused on the silver star pinned on the front of Micah’s hat. The Texas accouterment had been fashioned from a silver Mexican coin.
“I’m Captain Howard. I’ll be the commander of this unit. Name.”
“Do you have your own horse and weapons?”
“Both in working order?”
“As good as they ever worked.”
“You ever fought Indians before?”
“Not personally, but my daddy was a Ranger, so I reckon it’s in my blood.”
“I reckon that qualifies you. You have boots instead of brogans, and since they are in good shape, you must have been cavalry or mounted infantry.”
“I was both at one time or another. Depending on what Taylor and Captain Allison had in mind that particular day.”
“I have met General Taylor. I was with the Texas 22nd Cavalry. I know your captain too. Captain Allison is a fine leader, even if he does have a fondness for the liquor.”
“Yes, sir, he is a good commander. As far as his fondness for liquor, that’s a fact. We shared a drink now and then. He gave a couple of us furlough so we could check on our families.”
“If you’re on furlough, why do you want to join the militia?”
“It’s cause of all that money I know Texas is going to pay me for risking my life joining up with this experienced Injun-killing militia. I ain’t gonna be paid in Confederate money, am I?”
One of the men in the line snickered.
Captain Howard covered his grin with his hand. “No, if it were in Confederate money, I’ve got enough of that worthless paper at home to pay the whole unit myself. No, the great state of Texas says it will pay you men in gold coin upon our return. I trust that will be acceptable.”
“Good. Maybe I can use some of that Texas gold to replace the stock the Comanches stole from my folks’ place.”
He held up a sheet of paper and ran a scarred finger down a list of names. “Evans. Yes, I see the occupants of your father’s home was a victim of the recent depredations. I am truly sorry for your loss. I didn’t know your father personally, but I have heard of him. He seems to be held in high esteem by the residents here.”
“How come you’re just getting around to going after them?”
“The war has been difficult, Mr. Evans. We needed the time to equip the
unit and find enough able men to have an effective expedition.”
Micah hooked a thumb over his shoulder at Ramon. “I see you got these Tonkawas, but Chavez here is the best tracker in the county. He’ll lead you right to them. He was a Ranger too, down in South Texas. He and my father rode together with Juan Seguin.”
“Good. We can always use a good tracker. Welcome to the unit, Micah Williams. Mr. Chavez, I’ll take your information next.”
After all had mustered, the captain called for them to line up. The fourteen militiamen moved into an uneven line. They carried a wide assortment of long arms—a couple of flintlocks, some shotguns, hunting rifles, and a few Enfields and Springfields. However, all carried revolvers.
Captain Howard studied them a minute and then said, “Some of you are experienced soldiers. Some of you have served in Ranger regiments before, so you know that this work is dangerous, and though I intend on finding these raiders, there is no guarantee that we will do so, but you will all be paid upon our return whether we engage the enemy or not. Our mission is important. This land, our stock, our families do not belong to the Comanches and they must learn this lesson. I intend to give the savages hard instruction. We will leave first thing in the morning. You men raise your right hand for your oath.”
All of the Minutemen raised their hands, except for Jacob Matthews. His empty right shirtsleeve hung limply down his side. He had lost the arm after a skirmish with the Yankees along the Red River in Louisiana and then was discharged. He bragged that when the cannon shrapnel had taken the arm off cleanly at the shoulder, the men in his unit had seen it sail by and the hand slap their Lieutenant on the face.
Jacob shrugged when the Captain looked at him. “I ain’t got a right arm to raise, Captain. It ain’t going to hurt my ability to kill Comanches though. I can shoot my pistol with my left hand better than most men with a right hand.”
“I believe you. Have the man next to you raise your sleeve. That’ll be close enough.”