"You tend to your own business and I'll tend to mine. Go away from here, and don't say anything to make him madder, you wasp-waisted errand boy,"
said Si savagely, as he thrust himself in between the Aid and Shorty.
"I've got enough to do to take care of him. Go off, if you don't want him to mash you."
Little Pete had an idea. He wriggled in between, snatched the glasses, and made off with them.
The Brigade Provost-Marshal rode up and sternly demanded what the disturbance was about. Shorty began a hot harrangue against young staff officers generally, and this particular offender, but Si got his arm across his mouth and muffled his speech. The Provost listened to the Aid's bitter indictment against both Si and Shorty.
"Put both those men under arrest," he said to the Orderly-Sergeant, "and make a list of the witnesses. I'll court-martial them at the first halting place."
CHAPTER XX. SHORTY IS ARRAIGNED BEFORE THE COURT-MARTIAL.
TO REST, refit after the sharp fighting and marching, and to wait for the slightly wounded and other convalescents to come up, the brigade went into camp on the banks of the Oostenaula River, near Calhoun, Ga., and about 20 miles south of Dalton, which had been the objective at the opening of the campaign.
And while the men were washing and mending their clothes, it was decided to put the discipline of the brigade, which had suffered similarly by the rough campaign, through a somewhat like process of furnishing and renovation.
A court-martial was ordered, "to try such cases as may be brought before it."
The court convened with all the form and ceremony prescribed by the Army Regulations for tribunals which pass judgment upon the pay, honor and lives of officers and men.
The officers detailed for the court sent back to the baggage wagons, and got their wrinkled dress-suits out of the valises, they buttoned these to their throats, donned their swords, sashes and white gloves, and gathered stiffly and solemnly about a long, rough table, which had been put up under the spreading limbs of giant oaks. Guards pacing at a little distance kept all the curious and inquisitive out of earshot. The camp gossips, full of interest as to the fate of those who were to be tried, could see an aggravating pantomime acted out, but hear no word.
A squad of offenders of various degrees of turpitude ranging from absence without leave to sleeping on post, were huddled together under the Provost Guard, while Si and Shorty, being non-commissioned officers, were allowed to remain with their company, to be produced by Capt.
McGillicuddy when wanted. They kept themselves rigidly apart from the rest of the company, repelling the freely-offered sympathy of their comrades. Si was most deeply concerned about Shorty, who was so desperate over his fall from grace, that he regretted that he had not killed the young Aid, while he was at him, so as to have relieved his comrades of him, and made his own condemnation and execution sure.
"Old Maj. Truax, of the 1st Oshkosh, is President of the court," said the Orderly-Sergeant, as the company was anxiously canvassing the boys'
"Gosh, that settles it," groaned Jerry Wilkinson; "that old bull o' the woods 'd rather shoot a man than not. He's always lookin' around for some excuse for sculping a man, and the less he has the savager he is."
"I don't believe it," said the Orderly, "I've watched old Truax, when he's been roaring around, and I always found that he was after somebody that deserved it. Men of that kind are pretty certain to be very soft on good soldiers, like Si and Shorty, and I think he's all right. The boys of the 1st Oshkosh all swear by him, and you can trust a man's own regiment to know him surer than anybody else. And then there's Capts.
Suter and Harris, of the Maumee Muskrats."
"Terrible strict," muttered Jerry despairingly.
"Lieuts. Newton and Bonesteel, of the Kankakees," continued the Orderly.
"Good men--promoted from the ranks, and remember that they once carried a gun themselves."
"Lieut. McJimsey, of the staff."
"A wasp-waisted West Pointer, raw from school; thinks he's learned all there's to know about war out of a book on triggernometry. Has no more feelin' for a private soljer than I have for a mule. Calls 'em 'my men,'
"And as he's only a Second Lieutenant he'll have the first vote," sighed the Orderly. "And Lieut. Bowersox is to be the Judge-Advocate. He'll have to do the prosecuting. I know he hates the job. He thinks the world and all of Si and Shorty, but he's the kind of a man to do his duty without fear, favor or affection. And all of us 'll have to testify.
Dumb Shorty's fool soul! Why didn't he get up his ruction somewhere where the boys couldn't see him, and know nothing about it! I've no patience with him or Si."
Lieut. Steigermeyer, the complainant, stalked by in solemn dignity.
"Can't I shoot that dod-blasted Aid, and save Shorty, and take it all on myself?" blubbered little Pete, who had been in tears ever since he had seen the grave assemblage of officers in full dress.
[Illustration: SHORTY BEFORE THE COURT-MARTIAL. 256]
"Shut up, you little fool," said the Orderly savagely. In the selfishness of his sorrow it made him angry to see anybody else show more grief than his.
The Orderly, in stating Lieut. Bowersox's position, forgot, or was not aware of the fact, that while the Judge-Advocate represents the Government at a trial as the Prosecuting Attorney, he is also the counsel for the defense; a dual role which has important and frequently unexpected results.
After the members were duly seated according to rank, with Maj. Truax at the head of the table, Lieut. Bowersox read the order for holding the court, and called the names of the members. He then said:
"Gentlemen, the first case I shall present to your notice is one of exceeding gravity, affecting a member of my own regiment. As it is the most important case that you shall have to consider, I thought it best that it should be disposed of first. Sergeant, bring in Corp'l William L. Elliott, Co. Q, 200th Ind. Volunteer Infantry."
Shorty entered the court with an air of extreme depression in face and manner, instead of the usual confident self-assertion which seemed to flow from every look and motion. He stood with eyes fixed upon the ground.
"Prisoner," said Lieut. Bowersox, "this court has met to try you. Look around upon the members, and see if there is any one to whom you have objection. If so, state it."
Shorty glanced listlessly from the head of the table toward the foot.
There his eye rested on the Second Lieutenant for a minute, and then he muttered to himself, "No, he's no worse than the rest ought to be on me," and shook his head in answer to the Judge-Advocate's formal question.
"You will each of you rise, hold up your right hand and be sworn," said the Judge-Advocate, and they each pronounced after him the prolix and ponderous oath prescribed by the regulations:
"You, Maj. Benjamin Truax, do swear that you will well and truly try and determine, according to evidence, the matter now before you, between the United States of America and the prisoner to be tried, and that you will duly administer justice, according to the provisions of an act establishing rules and articles for the government of the armies of the United States, without partiality, favor or affection; and if any doubt shall arise, not explained by said articles, according to your understanding and the custom of war in such cases. And you do further swear, that you will not divulge the sentence of the court, until it shall be published by proper authority; neither will you disclose or discover the vote or opinion of any particular member of the court-martial, unless required to give evidence thereof, as a witness, by a court of justice in due course of law. So help you God."
The President then took the book and administered the same oath to the Judge-Advocate.
"I shall now read the charges and specifications," said the Judge-Advocate, "which are as follows, and he read with sonorous impressiveness:
CHARGE:--Insulting, Threatening, and Striking Superior Officer.
Specification I.--That Corp'l William L. Elliott, Co. Q, 200th Ind. Vol.
Inf., did strike and perform other physical violence upon Second Lieut.
Adolph Steigermeyer, of the Second Corps, U. S. Engr's, who was his superior officer, and in the performance of his duty, in violation of the 9th Article of War, and contrary to the discipline of the Armies of the United States. This on the march of the army from Dalton, Ga., to Calhoun, Ga., and on the 16th day of May, 1864.
Specification II.--That said Corp'l William I.. Elliott, Co. Q, 200th Ind. Vol. Inf., did threaten physical violence to the said Second Lieut, Adolph Steigermeyer, Second Corps, U. S. Engr's, his superior officer, and who was in the performance of his duty, contrary to the 9th Article of War, and the discipline of the Armies of the United States. This on the march of the army from Dalton, Ga., to Calhoun, Ga., and on the 16th day of May, 1864.
Specification III.--That said Corp'l William L. Elliott, Co. Q, 200th Ind. Vol. Inf., did insult with many opprobrious words, the said Adolph Steigermeyer, Second Corps, U. S. Engr's, his superior officer, in the presence of many enlisted men, in violation of the 6th Article of War and of the discipline of the Armies of the United States. This on the march of the army from Dalton, Ga., to Calhoun, Ga., and on the 16th day of May, 1864.
CHARGE:--Drunkenness on duty.
Specification I.--That said Corp'l William L. Elliott, Co. Q, 200th Ind.
Vol. Inf., being then on duty, and in command of a squad of men, was openly and noisily intoxicated and drunk, and incapable of performing said duty, in violation of the 45th Article of war, and the discipline of the Armies of the United States. This on the march of the army from Dalton, Ga., to Calhoun, Ga., and on the 16th day of May, 1864.
CHARGE 3.--Misappropriating Public Property.
Specification I.--That said Corp'l William L. Elliott, being charged with the duty of gathering up and accounting for the property captured from and abandoned by the enemy, did appropriate to himself, attempt to conceal, and refuse to deliver to his superior officer a portion thereof, to wit, one pair of field glasses, in violation of the 58th Article of War, and contrary to the discipline of the Armies of the United States. This on the march of the enemy from Dalton, Ga., to Calhoun, Ga., and on the 16th day of May, 1864.
"O, goodness gracious!" murmured little Pete Skidmore, almost fainting with terror, in the covert of oak leaves, just above the court's head, whither he had noiselessly climbed, to overhear everything. "He's a-goner, sure! They'll shoot him, sure as guns. Saltpeter won't save him. He's broke every Article o' War in the whole book. My, what will I do?"