SS novice field agent
Posted - 12/12/2007 : 17:12:42
| Regular disclaimer on ownership of the characters applies.
The Night of the Travelers
Rome, Italy, 1859
The tall, young man bowed to his appreciative audience, a broad grin lighting his
handsome features. He left the stage arm raised, acknowledging their applause. And still
the crowd continued clapping and cheering.
"One more bow, Artemus," urged his friend Marcus Willard pushing him back toward the
"All right, but just one more," Artemus Gordon beamed, slipped between the curtains and
bowed to the audience quickly, and then ducked backstage.
The theater manager, Signore Abbruzzi, was there to congratulate him and the rest of the
troupe on their superb performance of Taming of the Shrew.
"Eccelente, signorine e signori," he told them applauding the company. "Excellent
performance ladies and gentlemen. I hope you will return to my theater soon. Your
performances are always delightful and profitable," he smiled appreciatively.
The leader of their company, The Shakespearean Acting Group, Charles Markland, shook
hands with the manager, "We will indeed, Signore Abbruzzi. This was a most successful
run for us as well."
After more congratulations all around, champagne flowed freely and the actors toasted
each other on their final performance of their engagement in Rome.
Artemus had played the male lead, Petrucchio, captivating the audience each night. His
friend Marcus had played his servant Tranio and a lovely brunette, Sylvia Kase had
played his Kate. Charles Markland came to Artemus, hand outstretched, a broad smile on
"Fine work, as usual, Artemus," he said shaking hands with his lead player, vigorously.
"Thank you Charles, but we mustn't forget Sylvia, and Marcus" Artemus acknowledged
looking around for his friends. Spotting them across the room, he waved them over
"Sylvia, a marvelous performance," Markland told the pretty, dark haired, young woman.
"Thank you, Charles," she smiled sweetly, then turned and clinked gl*sses with Artemus.
"And Marcus, well done as usual," he complimented his second star.
"Thank you, Charles. I always enjoy this play," Marcus beamed, coming to stand behind
The three friends enjoyed their success and stayed until the party ended only a short hour
later. It broke up as all the actors, tired after their late night performance, needed to
change and pack. They were leaving for Bern, Germany in the morning and there was a
lot to do before they could rest. Sets had to be broken down, and wagons loaded before
they could get started the next leg of their tour.
In his dressing room, Artemus answered a knock at the door. It was Mr. Abbruzzi.
"A letter for you, Artemus," he said handing over an envelope. As was his usual, Mr.
Abbruzzi pronounced his name as though it were Ar-tee-moose, rolling the r richly, and
Artemus smiled as he accepted the letter.
"Thank you," Artemus answered reading the address on the front and recognizing his
mother's fine script. "From my mother," he told the manager waving the envelope with a
"I will leave you to your letter, then," Mr. Abbruzzi smiled back, "I look forward to your
next performance here," he told Artemus, closing the door behind him.
Artemus slit the envelope open and began to read the short letter from home. His eyes
widened and he let out a yelp of delight. Although he was with a renowned company of
actors, a place had become available in the company his mother and father were with.
"They've asked if you would consider joining the company," his mother wrote.
The best acting company of the time, was offering him a job! Artemus reread the letter
twice just to be sure he'd not misunderstood, then folded the letter back into its envelope.
Artemus clutched the letter like it was a treasure, staring off at a distant spot. Home and a
chance to perform with his parents in their company. It was everything he could have
hoped for. Excited and happy, he hummed softly to himself as he grabbed a sheet of
paper and composed his response. He addressed an envelope and sealed his letter inside,
then went to find Mr. Abbruzzi.
"Can you mail this for me, right away?" he asked pressing the envelope into the
"But of course, Artemus. Everything is alright, I hope?" he asked with a note of concern.
"Securo, si. Most *ssuredly, yes. Everything is just perfect," Artemus *ssured him with a
beaming smile. "Have you seen Charles?"
"He is outside, supervising the loading of your wagons," Mr. Abbruzzi answered
returning Artemus' broad grin, knowing that the young actor had received good news
"Grazzie, tanto," Artemus thanked the manager and went to break the news to Markland.
"Charles," he addressed his employer as he picked up a piece of scenery and helped load
it into the nearest wagon, "I have some news from home."
"Everything alright with your parents?" Charles turned toward him. He relaxed when he
saw Arte’s happy countenance.
"Oh, yes," he answered, then the smile dropped from his face, "This is difficult for me to
tell you, but I've been offered a spot with the Shakespearean Company of America,"
Artemus stated quickly then turning to hand up another backboard.
Charles' face fell at the news. "You're accepting, of course," he replied flatly taking
Artemus by the arm stopping his loading and turning him so they were face to face.
Artemus nodded solemnly, "Yes, I am. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, Charles," he
began, "I plan to book p*ssage on the first available ship. I hope you understand."
"I do, Artemus, and I'm happy for you. Selfishly, though, I hate to lose the best actor in
my troupe. I hope you understand that," Charles said putting on a smile and shaking his
lost talent's hand.
"Thank you, Charles. I've been very happy with you and learned a lot being with the
company. But I'm looking forward to this. I haven't been home in years," Artemus
answered breaking into a smile again.
"I'll tell the others, if you'd like," Markland offered kindly.
"I'll speak to Marcus and Sylvia, before I leave, but please tell the others how much I've
enjoyed our *ssociation. Working with such professionals has really helped me hone my
craft. I'll be taking the next train to Naples and book p*ssage from there," Artemus told
him. They regarded each other for a moment longer, then Artemus shook Markland's
hand again and turned away.
Charles had known Artemus all of his life. Isak and Sara Gordon had been with ‘The
Markland Shakespearean Group many years ago. Markland had seen the young actors
grow as their talent and experience increased. And he remembered the happy time when,
as friends as well as employees, the Gordons had shared the news of the expected birth of
a child to the couple. Working around Sara’s pregnancy had been a challenge, but by
taking smaller roles where her growing belly could be hidden from the audience, had
allowed her to remain with the company until the birth of her son. Markland thought
back over those years. The company had been touring across America at that time. The
Gordon’s had left his employ 10 years later when Markland decided to take his touring
Company to Europe, choosing instead to remain in the United States joining the
up and coming Shakespearean Company of America. He had understood. It was a
chance to set down roots, since the Shakespearean Company of America toured mostly
up and down the East Coast. The Gordon’s had purchased a home approximately 20
miles outside of Washington, and asked Sara’s maiden sister to live with them and care
for their growing boy while they were out of town. The Gordon’s had kept in touch with
Charles over the years and when their son had finished his schooling, Charles had been
more than willing to give the young man a spot with his company. Artemus had been
a gifted talent from the start and quickly moved to the head of the line as Markland’s lead
in most productions. The ensuing nine years had been enjoyable, profitable years for
Charles’ company. He could not help feel some regret as he watched the retreating back
of the young man he’d come to think of as the son he himself had never had.
Artemus found his friend Marcus Willard with Sylvia Kase, just bringing their bags from
their respective dressing rooms.
"We have news, Artemus," Marcus said excitedly to his friend.
"So do I,” Artemus smiled. “You first," he replied graciously.
"Sylvia has agreed to marry me," Marcus announced slipping his arm around Sylvia's
"That's wonderful!" Artemus cried taking his friend's hand and giving it a hearty shake,
"I'm so happy for you both," he went on, turning and giving Sylvia a warm, friendly hug.
"When?" he asked.
"As soon as we get to Bern. There's that simply darling chapel in the town, you know the
one," Sylvia answered smiling ear to ear.
"I remember it. What a perfect place to be married," Artemus agreed.
"You'll be my best man, of course," Marcus said matter of factly. It was a given that his
best friend would stand up for him on such an important occasion.
Artemus' smile left him. "I'm afraid I can't, Marcus," he said truly disappointed.
"Why ever not?" Marcus asked surprised at the refusal.
"Well, that's my news," Artemus continued, "I'm leaving for home tonight."
"Is something wrong?" Sylvia asked placing a concerned hand on his arm.
"Not at all, I've been offered a job with the Shakespearean Company of America. I can't
turn it down," Artemus said, a little less enthusiastic than he'd been before.
"But that's wonderful news!" Marcus brightened, "Imagine being with such a prestigious
company! Artemus, congratulations!" He took his friend’s hand and grasped it warmly
Artemus felt the swell of happiness rising in him again, "I'm really delighted," he told his
friends, "About your marriage as well as my own news. I'm only sorry I won't be there for
you both," he told them sincerely.
"Completely understandable, friend. Just do our little troupe proud," Marcus answered
equally sincerely. "Write to us, let us know how you are."
"I promise," Artemus *ssured them. The friends hugged briefly, then Artemus went to
finish his own packing.
Three weeks and I'll be home, he thought as he flung his things into his suitcases. He
had never been as excited as he was now. He'd been touring Europe for 9 years and it had
been a heady experience, but to go home, see his family again, tour with them, that
pleased him to no end. He would miss his friends and coworkers here, some he'd known
all his life. The young actor paused. Charles Markland, he thought. He knew his parents
had been in his employ when Artemus was a child and that had played a part in
Markland's taking him on as a young man of 23. He would truly miss the older man who
had been like a father to him these past years. Artemus picked up his bags and left for the
train station with a final glance at the theater he'd performed in so many times in the last
Berks, County, The Oley Valley, PA, 1859
The handsome, young teenager stood in his kitchen with his father. His father was not
pleased at the news he'd just received from his younger son, James.
"Jimmy, I can't believe you went behind my back and put in that application," Robert
West said angrily. "We discussed it and came to a decision months ago about this."
"We came to a decision, dad," Jim answered as calmly as he could, though inside he was
shaking with tension and a bit of apprehension, "It just wasn't the same decision. This is
what I want, what I've always wanted. It's my life, shouldn't I be the one to decide what to
do with it?" he tried to reason.
"You are 17, hardly old enough to know what you want for the rest of your life," Robert
"Dad, you and mom married when you were 18. That's worked out pretty well, I'd say.
Why is this different?" Jim asked, his green eyes flashing his anger though his tone did
not reflect it.
"What about the business? It was going to be 'West and Sons'," his father replied leaving
his anger aside and regarding his young son with wise green eyes.
"That's Frank's interest, not mine. It can be 'West and Son', I don't want to farm and work
in your store the rest of my life. It's," Jim hesitated and looked at the floor biting off the
rest of his sentence.
"It's what, son?" Robert urged him to complete his thought placing an encouraging hand
on his shoulder.
"It's boring, Dad," Jim finished softly looking back at his father. He saw the hurt in his
father’s soft green eyes and regretted having caused it. But he had to do what he wanted
with his life. "Not to you, or Frank, or maybe half the population around here," Jim
hurried to explain, waving an encomp*ssing arm at the surrounding scenery outside the
windows, "but to me, it is. I'm sorry I defied you, dad, but I applied to the Military
Academy and I've been accepted," Jim pulled out his letter of acceptance and
handed it to his father. "And I'm going," he added firmly, hoping to close the discussion.
Robert West read the letter, which, in addition to granting his son a place in the academy,
lauded the young man's academia. His heart filled with pride as he reread the letter, then
looked at his son. Handsome and strong with a will of iron, he thought, and a man of
conviction. No, not a man yet, but well on his way. "Your mother is going to have a few
choice words on the matter, you know," Robert told his son.
Realizing his father had accepted his decision, Jim's face lit up with a broad smile. With
a twinkle in his eye, he said, "It's Mom. You can smooth it over for me, right?"
"It's Mom," his father repeated though he sounded like he dreaded the prospect. Then he
too brightened. "If you are man enough to apply to the Academy,” he began, slapping the
acceptance letter into his son’s hand, “be accepted and attend, then I think you're man
enough to handle your mother on your own," Robert flashed the identical smile his son
had and patted him on the arm. "Good luck, my boy," he said leaving the kitchen.
Jim stood there a moment, lips pursed, brow furrowed, pondering what he'd say to his
mother. His older brother, Frank, came in and saw his brother in deep concentration.
"Hey, little brother, what's wrong?" Frank asked pumping water and washing dirt and
dust from the field off his hands and arms.
"I'm going to attend the Military Academy," Jim stated flatly not really paying attention.
"But that's a good thing, Jimmy. It's what you've always wanted," Frank was excited and
happy for his brother, "So what's the problem? Is it Dad?"
"No, I've got Dad convinced. It's Mom," Jim answered, coming around and tossing a
towel to his older brother.
"Dad can handle her," Frank smiled drying off. He twisted the towel and flicked it at his
Jim dodged left avoiding the sting. "He can, but he won't. Said if I was man enough for
the Academy then I could handle Mom myself. I just don't know how to tell her, Frank.
You know how she feels about having her 'boys' at home," Jim shook his head but had to
smile. The love of his family had been ever present all his life and he cherished them
"Just tell her the truth, Jim," Frank suggested. "And don't beat around the bush about it."
Jim looked up in surprise. His older brother had called him Jim instead of Jimmy. Frank
always called him Jimmy, everyone did.
"I figure Jimmy isn't really what an officer in the army should be called," Frank grinned
reading his sibling's expression perfectly.
"Thanks, Frank," Jim grinned back. He extended his hand and Frank took it. But instead
of shaking it, he pulled Jim in and wrapped his arm around his brother’s neck, holding
him head down and knuckled him on the top of the head. "Cut it out!" Jim cried good-
naturedly and broke his brother's grasp easily.
"Mom's in the parlor," Frank said with a smile, leaning against the sink and twisting the
"Time to beard the lion, I guess," Jim sighed and went to tell his mother his news. He felt
the sting of the towel on his backside and jumped as he left the kitchen.
Maggie West was knitting and glanced up when her younger son sat on the ottoman in
front of her.
"What did you do?" she asked knowingly, seeing the serious expression on his face.
"Nothing bad, Mom," Jim answered immediately. He flashed her a smile. "How do you
know I did anything?" he asked. It amazed him how his mother always knew when he’d
"I know that look. I get it every time you have to tell me something that I'm not going to
like. Like when you broke your grandmother's serving dish. So, what is it?" she smiled
back at him.
"Mom, I'm going to the Military Academy. I leave next week," Jim said, his words
pouring out in a rush.
His mother laughed. "No seriously, Jimmy, tell me what you've done?" she asked not
"That's it, Mom. I'm going to the Academy," his face and tone was serious.
Maggie laid aside her knitting. "I thought it was decided you were not going to apply. Are
you telling me you did anyway?" she asked sternly.
"Yes, Mom. I've been accepted. Dad read the acceptance letter," Jim told her.
"Robert, you knew about this?" Maggie asked, incredulous, turning toward her husband.
"Only for the last 5 minutes, dear," Robert answered casually not glancing away from the
paper he was reading.
Maggie looked from her son to her husband and back again. "Well I won't have it," she
cried. "What about the business, Robert? You're too young, Jimmy," she tried to reason
with both at the same time.
"Dad supports my decision, Mom. I'd like your support, too," Jim took his mother's hands
Her eyes filled with tears. "I don't want you to do this, Jimmy. Family is what's
"I know that, and you all are important to me. But, this is what I've always wanted, you
know it is. Try to understand," he cajoled, "It's quite an honor to be accepted to the
As her tears spilled, Maggie West put on a smile before replying, "I guess you've grown
Jim knew she'd accepted the decision and he now smiled, looking forward to the
beginning of his career.
Washington, DC, April, 1861
Artemus sat in a chair in his parent's dressing room, backstage at Ford's Theater. He
leaned forward, forearms on knees, his face serious, eyes downcast.
"But you don't have to do this," Sara Gordon told her son with a worried expression and
an equally worried tone.
"No, I do have to do this, Mother," Artemus stated flatly.
"But you're not a soldier, Son," Isak Gordon agreed with his wife.
"I'll learn, Dad, just like everybody else," Artemus answered sitting back and regarding
his parents soberly. "I can't just sit aside while our country is at war. It's the right thing to
"You've already made your decision, then," Isak said softly.
"Yes. I've enlisted and join my company the day after tomorrow," Artemus answered in
the same soft tone.
"So soon? Where will you be?" Sara asked sounding close to tears.
"I don't know yet. I'll write you when I can," Artemus offered placing a comforting hand
over his mother’s. He hated that this was causing his parent’s pain and worry, but he
knew he had no other choice. It was the right thing to do.
"If you'd only married Suzanna, you wouldn't be doing this," his mother chided quietly.
Artemus sat upright in the chair, exasperated, drawing his hand back from his mother’s
quickly. "I'm so anxious to go over this for the nine hundredth time, Mother," Artemus
retorted s*ssily, "I don't love Suzanna. And even if I did and had married her, I'd still be
going. It's the right thing to do," he repeated in an irritated voice.
Artemus loved his parents very much, but at 34, they often treated him like he was still a
child and it frustrated him. And lately he'd been feeling restless, pursuing interests other
than acting. That was still his chosen profession, but all his other interests seemed to be
crowding him, pushing him toward...what? He didn't know and couldn't make his parents
understand the yearning he often felt for something more.
"Maintain a respectful tone with your mother, young man," his father told him sternly,
And at 34, they still had the power to reduce him to childlike repentance. Artemus
signed. "I'm sorry. Both of you,” he apologized sheepishly. “But please try to
understand," Artemus implored.
"We're just taken by surprise, son. And we'll worry about you," Isak told him. "War is a
terrible business. It is death and destruction and we don't want that for you."
"I don't want it either, but the President needs as many able bodied men as possible if the
country is to be rid of slavery and oppression and unite as a nation," Artemus answered
holding his father's gaze. He rose. "I have a number of things to take care of before I
"Is there anything we can help you with," Isak offered, sadly resigning himself to his son's
"I won't be able to sell my house before I leave, Dad. Can you take care of that for me?"
"Of course, but you'll need a home when you return," his father answered.
Artemus did not reply to his father's statement. Instead he asked another favor, "I'm going
to have a will drawn. I'd like you to keep it for me," he spoke softly but placed his hand
on his father’s arm letting him know how serious he was.
Isak could not answer. He could not think about losing his son, but realized his son had
thought about the very real possibility of his not returning. Isak nodded quickly, unable to
speak around the lump of emotion that choked him.
"I'll come by later," he told them. He leaned down and kissed his mother's cheek and left.
"Oh, Isak," Sara took her husband's hand and wept softly.
"Don't worry, dearest. We should be proud of our son. He is a man of conviction," Isak
soothed his wife even as he dreaded the choice his son had made.
The company of the First Man*ssas, in the Union Army of the Potomac, under the lead of
Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell, engaged the Confederate Army at Bull Run, Virginia.
The battlefield all around him rang with gunshots and cannon fire. The smoke was so
dense, Artemus could barely see where the enemy was. Huddled with several other men
in a trench, he gazed at the faces of the others with him and wondered if his own showed
the same fear he saw in the eyes and faces of those around him. They weren’t men, these
were boys, their entire lives still ahead of them. That is if they survived.
“Artemus,” asked the quivering voice of Thomas Trent, “think we’ll get out of this?”
The 18 year old, red head leaned his back against the side of the trench and turned his
fear filled eyes to Artemus.
“We just have to follow our commander, Tom,” Artemus tried to encourage the
youngster. “Now come on, let’s go,” he said with more confidence in his tone than he
actually felt, and raised himself above the rim of the trench and followed the rest of his
company into the thick of the battle.
Firing as they charged forward, bullets whizzing past, it was clear to Artemus that the
Union outnumbered the Confederate troops. He took a moment to hope this would mean
a victory. But that hope died as he saw man after man felled by Reb bullets. And still the
commanders ordered them to charge forward until night began to fall. The sounds of
battle finally ceased as neither side dared to continue in the dark. Artemus regrouped
with his company. Sitting around the small campfire, Tom Trent joined him.
“We lost Mitch, Seth, and Joe,” Tom said sitting next to Artemus and offering him a cup
filled with weak coffee.
Artemus looked at the offered cup. “Don’t you want it?” he asked without
acknowledging their lost comrades.
“Don’t like coffee much, but I thought you might,” Tom answered offering a smile that
looked more like a grimace. “They were with us in the trench this morning, remember?”
he asked as he continued the thread of his opening conversation.
Artemus nodded, “I remember,” he sighed sadly. He sipped the hot brew letting it burn
it’s way down his throat.
“Just need to follow our commander, isn’t that what you said?” Tom asked forlornly.
“They’re fools,” Artemus muttered, surprising himself as much as Tom that he’d spoken
“What do you mean?” Tom asked anxiously glancing around to see if anyone else had
heard. When Artemus did not answer him, Tom nudged him with an elbow. “Artemus,
what do you mean?” he asked again.
“Nothing. Forget I said anything,” Artemus replied not looking at the anxious face of the
boy next to him.
“No, I won’t forget it. You think the higher ups did something wrong, don’t you?” it was
more a statement than a question. Again, Artemus did not answer him. “Come on.
Answer me,” Tom urged.
Artemus stood suddenly. “I think they are over confident. We outnumber the Grays
almost 2 to 1. Why are we still here? Why didn’t we overrun them?” Artemus spat out
angrily. He tossed the remains of the coffee at the fire. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to take it
out on you, Tom. Please, just forget I spoke,” Artemus said regaining his composure. He
started to walk away but stopped when Tom called to him.
“Where are you going?” Tom asked.
“I need to think. Don’t worry, I won’t do anything foolish,” Artemus offered the boy a
But ‘something foolish’ is exactly what Artemus Gordon did that night. After walking
around the camp and thinking over the events of the day and what he had observed, he
went to his Captain.
“What is it, Gordon?” Captain Devlin asked.
“Sir, I wondered if I could speak to you for a moment,” Artemus asked, standing at
attention in the doorway of the Captain’s tent.
“At ease, private, and take a seat,” Capt. Devlin motioned to a seat at the small table in
the center of the tent. “What’s on your mind?”
“Sir, it seemed to me we outnumbered the Rebs, yet we were unable to defeat them
today,” Artemus began carefully, “I’ve been thinking about it and wondered if maybe a
different tact, maybe taking an alternate position to approach the enemy from, would be
Capt. Devlin’s eyes went dark as he rose from his seat. Artemus immediately rose as
“Private, your duty is not to think. Your duty is to follow orders. Do you honestly think
you know better than your commanding officers?” Devlin shouted furiously.
“No, sir. I,” Artemus began but was cut off by the Captain’s angry dismissal.
“Silence! I should write you up for insubordination, Gordon, but I will put this down to
the difficult day we all just endured. Now return to your tent and don’t ever dare to
question your superiors again. Dismissed!” ordered Capt. Devlin.
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir,” Artemus executed a brief salute and left the tent completely
The next morning, the battle began anew with no change to the plan of the previous day.
Late in the afternoon, Artemus tripped over something on the battlefield and went
sprawling onto the hard packed ground. It was a body, and when he turned the downed
Union soldier over, the sky blue eyes of Tom Trent stared sightlessly at the sky. A gaping
hole in the boy’s chest showed Artemus what had ended the boy’s life. Turning away
quickly, the actor turned soldier retched, sickened at the senseless death.
The Union Armies were forced to retreat back into Washington, having suffered
a sound defeat by the Confederates. Among the soldiers trudging along, disheartened,
was Private Artemus Gordon. This first taste of war left him sick at heart. The sight of
men dead on the battlefield was something he'd never imagined or been prepared for.
The reprimanded he’d received, forcing him into silently following orders, and fighting
side by side with young men, barely more than boys, stung more than he cared to admit.
The forces depleted, Capt. Devlin needed leaders. He looked over his remaining soldiers,
searching for the right man to take on the responsibility. One month later, Artemus
Gordon made Sergeant.
The Union Army of the Potomac's command was given to Gen. George McClellan and
battles and skirmishes continued through the winter 1861.
Military Academy, May 1861
“Well, West,” Colonel Marshall Merkel said to the young officer in training, “I see you
will be spending another summer with us instead of returning home for a few months of
“Yes, sir. I’d like to take the courses offered in the summer months,” Jim answered
“You did that last summer as well, did you not?” the colonel asked peering at the serious,
intelligent, young man before him.
“Yes, sir,” Jim answered simply.
“At this rate, you’ll be graduating next summer. Very industrious, Congratulations,” Col.
Merkel replied. “Tell me, are you in a hurry to join the fighting?”
“Not as a choice, sir,” Jim stated diplomatically, “but it is what my training is all about
isn’t it? To help defend our country?”
“It is indeed,” the Colonel allowed. “Don’t you miss your family, though?”
“Very much, sir. But the way I figure it, the sooner the war is over, the sooner I’ll be able
to spend some time with them,” Jim replied hoping his answer did not sound
Col. Merkel smiled. “Carry on, West,” he dismissed the eager student.
Col. Merkel looked over the young soldiers lined up before him.
"I have an announcement," he told them. "We need volunteers to join the fighting. Any of
the upper cl*ssmen who will take on active duty and set aside your studies until the
unpleasantness is settled, will start out with the rank of Lieutenant," he told the young
serious faced students. "The rest of you will have to earn your ranks the old fashioned
way. Submit your names in writing to me by tomorrow evening. That's all. You're
dismissed," he said and strode away. He hated knowing that he'd just asked these men, no
not men, boys, to voluntarily give their lives when they were still students. But it was
necessary. The Union needed as many men as possible. The war was dragging on and the
Union Armies were not doing well.
"What are you writing, Jim," Allan Beckwith asked his friend and roommate.
"I'm submitting my name for active duty," Jim answered putting the pen into the inkwell
and blotting the paper.
"You're kidding! Jim, that's tantamount to suicide," Allan cried. Though he was the same
age as Jim, he was a year behind.
"Why? We've been training for three years. I'm ready. And this is what all our training has
been about; serving our country when needed. We're needed now, and I'm going," Jim
stated resolutely. Even though he had taken the extra courses over the past two summers,
he was not officially considered an upper cl*ssman even though his course work this past
semester put him in stead to graduate in May.
"The Union will end all this secession business without our help, Jim. Besides, let the
South keep their slaves. It's not like it's anything new, you know," Allan argued. “And,”
he added as icing on the cake, “you’re set to graduate in a few months.”
Jim turned toward his friend, frowning. "Let them keep their slaves? How can you say
that? Those are men and women and children, not cattle, Allan. It's wrong and we should
be doing everything we can to help stop it," Jim *sserted. “Don’t you understand how this
war is tearing our country apart? How can we be a ‘nation’ if we continue to pit brother
against brother,” he continued seriously. Seeing the chastised look on Allen’s face, Jim
softened his tone and smiled. “And I’ll still graduate, I’ve enough credits and training,”
Jim said confidently. He folded his submission and left his friend to stare after him in
When Col. Merkel called for the volunteers a few days later, he faced a large group of
students. Most of them were 1st and 2nd years, only a few were uppercl*ssmen. He
called out names, dividing them into two columns. One was to be *ssigned to the Eastern
Frontier, the other to the Western Frontier. Jim West was with the group *ssigned to the
Western Frontier as was his friend Allan Beckwith.
"Allan, I'm surprised to see you here. What changed your mind?" Jim asked his friend.
"I thought about what you said and I agree with you. Besides, you won't last a day without
me," Allan joked.
"West," the commander called to Jim.
Jim snapped to attention, "Yes, sir," he saluted.
"At ease, West. I have some news for you," the commander began as Jim relaxed to at
ease. "You have excelled at your studies and training and the Academy is very pleased
with your progress. Because of that, and because you have completed all the studies
required, you will be starting with the rank of Lieutenant. Congratulations," he concluded
and pinned the insignia on Jim.
"Thank you, sir," Jim answered with more than a hint of pride in his voice. “Does this
mean I’ve graduated?” he asked.
"You have, indeed. Get your gear in order. You'll be joining the Union Army of the
Tennessee. Report to me for further orders at 0600, Lieutenant West," the commander
saluted. He turned and headed to his office. In his opinion, West had graduated a fine
officer. He was saddened to think he may have just sent the young man to his demise.
"Congratulations, Lieutenant! Jim, you are the luckiest man I know," Allan said shaking
Jim knew luck had nothing to do with it, but shook his friend’s hand and accepted his
remark modestly and graciously.
“Thanks, Allan,” he grinned at his friend, “Think you can follow my orders?” he teased.
“Yes, sir,” Allan snapped off a smart salute and the two young men shared a moment of
The small company of men, led by Lt. James West, left the next morning to join the
Army of the Tennessee who were fighting in the Western Frontier. They reached the
army by early February joining up with them in the middle of a skirmish in Kansas.
“Allan,” Jim ordered his friend, “follow that line of men,” he pointed toward a line of
Union soldiers fully engaged. “I’ve got to find the commanding officer and let him know
we’re here,” he finished, receiving a nod from Allan. Jim made his way through the
whizzing bullets and finally espied an officer on horseback. He approached swiftly,
pulling his orders from his inside pocket.
“Sir,” he spoke confidently as the Major dismounted. Jim saluted, held it until the Major
snapped off a brief salute in return, then handed his orders over.
“Lt. West, I’m Major Hanshaw. Where are your men?” Hanshaw asked looking around.
“Engaged, sir,” Jim replied, “I wanted to make you aware of our arrival.”
“You left your company, Lieutenant?” Maj. Hanshaw sounded angry, “Didn’t they teach
you anything at the Academy?” he fumed, “Get back to your company until this is over.
Then report to my tent,” Maj. Hanshaw snapped his dismissal of the young man before
“Yes, sir,” Jim saluted quickly and hurried off to rejoin his company. He felt his cheeks
burn with embarr*ssment at the chastisement he’d received, though thinking on it, he had
to be honest with himself. He knew he’d blundered.
Back with his company, Jim put the moment to the back of his mind and issued orders to
his men on where to position themselves. The battle continued until early evening. The
order for retreat came down through the ranks and reached Jim, who led his troops away
to the campsite a safe distance from the battle line.
The Union had suffered a defeat. Jim felt defeated in more ways than one. First he’d left
his men in order to find the commanding officer and felt shamed he’d not thought his
actions through more thoroughly. Worse than that, Allan Beckwith died on the field after
engaging a rebel soldier in hand-to-hand combat. It was the first time Jim had seen
anyone killed and the bloody m*ss that had once been his friend was pressed, forever,
into his memory. The other men looked to him for leadership.
Jim addressed his company. “Get something to eat and try to get some rest. I’ll be back
after I speak to Maj. Hanshaw,” he told them then reported to the Major’s tent.
“Lt. West,” Maj. Hanshaw returned Jim’s salute, “have a seat,” he waved toward an
empty chair opposite where he was seated. “This was quite a defeat for us, Lt.,” Hanshaw
spoke in a low tone. “I spoke harshly to you earlier. Do you know why?”
“Yes, sir,” Jim replied, “I should never have left my company, sir. They were fully
engaged and I should have stayed with them to lead them, sir,” he answered contritely.
“True, Lt. I’ve just had the opportunity to look over the papers you brought with you. I
did not realize you came directly from the Academy to here. This was your first battle?”
Maj. Hanshaw asked.
“Yes, sir,” Jim admitted.
“Well, I remember being young and inexperienced,” Hanshaw gave Jim a small smile,
“and it wasn’t in a time of war. How did your men do today?”
“They fought hard and well, sir,” Jim answered honestly. The memory of Allan
Beckwith’s lifeless body tried to intrude into his thoughts.
“Did you loose many?” Maj. Hanshaw saw the slightly pale pallor on the young
Lieutenant’s face and suspected he’d lost a friend or two..
“Not too many, sir,” Jim’s voice was low and soft as he struggled to maintain control of
Maj. Hanshaw saw the inner struggle in the changing expression that crossed West’s
face, so he did not press further.
“You will take your company and continue on to the base camp just outside of
Mississippi. You’re to attach to Maj. Gen. Grant’s outfit. See that your men rest up
tonight. You’ll leave at dawn,” Maj. Hanshaw told Jim. He gave Jim verbal directions to
the camp before dismissing him.
As Jim was exiting the Major’s tent, he was stopped by the Major’s voice. “Lt. West, I
want to give you a word of advice. Gen. Grant is a hardened military man. He will say
things in anger that he’ll never remember saying later. If you are fortunate enough to
meet the Old Man, don’t take anything he says in anger personally. If you’re worth half
of what your commanding officer at the Academy says, you’ll be a fine officer.
Dismissed, son,” Maj. Hanshaw said with a sincere smile for Jim.
“Thank you sir,” Jim answered and went to rejoin his company.
Jim slept fitfully that night, his dreams haunted by the scenes of the battle, more blood
than he’d ever imagined, the nearly unrecognizable body of his friend. In the morning,
Jim called his company together, explained they were continuing on and hid his
tumultuous feelings. He donned a stony expression as he led them on to their base camp.
Maj. Gen. Ulysses Grant was in charge of the Army of the Tennessee and the chief
strategist in the Western offensive. Confederate Generals Johnston and P.T.
Beauregard hoped to drive Grant and his Army away from the Tennessee River and stop
Grant's imminent attack on Mississippi before reinforcements from the Army of the Ohio
The Confederates launched a surprise attack at Shiloh. It was the one time in his military
career that Grant was taken by surprise. Disorganized and skirmishing blindly, it was
hard to tell who was on what side. The Union Army was losing.
Lt. James West boldly went to Gen. Grant’s command tent.“Gen. Grant, sir,” Jim saluted and waited for the General to acknowledge him.
Grant returned the salute and gruffly addressed the young lieutenant. “What do you want?” he barked.
“Sir, if I may speak freely,” Jim asked.
Grant glanced at the handsome, young man before him. He saw confidence and poise in
his stance, intelligence in his emerald eyes. Something in the young man struck the
“What’s your name, son,” Grant asked softening his tone.
“Lt. James West, sir,” Jim replied.
“Speak your mind, Lt. West, but I warn you, it better be good,” Gen. Grant regarded West
“Sir, I’ve scouted the area and I’d like to make a suggestion. I propose we fall back
toward Pittsburg Landing to the northeast,” Jim spoke calmly.
“Why?” Grant asked simply.
“Sir, it’s a position on a slightly sunken road. It will provide the critical time needed to
allow us to organize and stabilize our movements,” Jim suggested.
“Show me,” Grant replied spreading a map on the table in front of him.
Jim pointed out the suggested position and together, the General and the Lieutenant
argued the merits and potential disadvantages.
“Gen. Johnston was killed today and his second in command, Gen. Beauregard, has
ceased attacking further for this evening,” Jim told Gen. Grant. “With a new position,
Beauregard won’t know where we are when he wants to resume his attack in the
morning. It could buy us enough time for the reinforcements from the Army of the Ohio
Grant chewed on his cigar, considering the young man’s suggestion and finally agreed the
plan was sound.
“Have the troops take up the position, West,” Gen. Grant ordered. As Jim saluted and
turned to leave, Grant spoke again, “I like the way you think, West. If this works, I’ll
want to speak to you again.”
“Yes, sir,” Jim answered. He smiled to himself as he left the tent, heartened that the
General took his suggestion.
The Army of the Ohio arrived as predicted and Grant launched his counter planned
attack in the early morning from his new starting position.
The Confederates were forced to retreat, effectively ending their hopes of stopping
Grant's invasion into Mississippi. Gen. Grant called for Lt. West to come to his tent.
“As I said before,” Grant spoke to the young lieutenant, “I like the way you think. You
argued convincingly and your strategizing was sound. I’ve looked into your record, West,
and found you to be an industrious student who graduated early and at the top of the
cl*ss. Further, you led your company, engaged in battle, and even though you lost the
skirmish and your best friend, you made sure your troops arrived safely. I’d like to
reward that strategic thinking, intelligence and leadership by promoting you to Captain.
Its’ not to be considered a field promotion that will be taken away at the end of this
unpleasantness, you understand. This is a promotion of merit,” he explained.
Jim stood proudly as he accepted his promotion, “Thank you sir. I’ll do my best never to
let you down,” he beamed.
In September, Lee was able to lead his men across the Potomac River north into
Antietam. There, the Northern and Southern armies fought furiously, neither side
relenting or retreating. The casualties were heavy on both sides. Finally, Lee returned
with his decimated army to Virginia. The Union Army counted Antietam as a victory
and hoped it would be a turning point for them after so many defeats.
After the Union’s second unsuccessful encounter at Bull Run, Artemus Gordon was
transferred north to join a battalion at Gettysburg. He was glad to be away from Virginia.
With the number of wounded in the battle at Antietam, medics were sorely needed and
Artemus was ordered to *ssist Lt. Col. Henry Chandler in the surgery.
“Who are you?” demanded the short, gray-haired Col. Chandler. He was a man of about
50 years of age whose face was lined with years of hard work and tough decisions. His
tone was abrupt and brooked no argument.
“Sgt. Gordon, sir. I was told to report to you, sir,” Artemus answered holding his salute.
“Put your arm down, man, we don’t have time for such ceremony here,” Chandler said
turning to pick up a fairly clean set of instruments. He thrust them into Artemus’ hands.
“It’s about time they sent me another medic,” he groused.
“Sir, I’m not a medic,” Artemus offered cautiously.
“What did you say?” Col. Chandler thundered.
“Sir, I said, I’m not a medic,” Artemus repeated, a slightly nervous feeling washing over him.
Chandler eyed the young man before him. “Seen much bloodshed in battle?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” came the reply.
“Are you in good health?” Chandler fired off his next question.
“Yes, sir,” Artemus said, curious at the line of questioning.
“Then you’ll do. Go over there,” Col. Chandler pointed to a table where a bloodied
soldier lay moaning, “His leg needs to come off.”
Artemus paled. “I can’t do that,” he stammered without the proper address.
“Yes you can. Peters will help you. He’s not a medic either, but he’s seen it done enough
times. He’ll walk you through it,” Chandler told him. He noticed the sickened look on
Gordon’s face and spoke in a less abrupt tone. “That man’s dying. Whatever you do to
him probably won’t be the cause and may just save him,” he patted Artemus on the arm.
“Don’t worry, son, you’ll get used to it.” He walked away leaving Artemus standing
frozen in place.
“I’m Peters, Sgt. Gordon,” a young man in his 20’s said coming up to Artemus. “We’d
best get started.” He pulled Artemus by the arm over to the waiting, wounded, man.
Peters was as good as Lt. Col. Chandler’s *ssurance. He instructed Artemus on what
instruments to use and how to use them. When it was time to stitch the gaping wound,
Peters asked Chandler for *ssistance.
Chandler completed the operation, showing Artemus how to place the sutures properly
and what to look for to make sure there was nothing left to bleed before closing the skin
over the wound.
“The next one won’t be as bad,” Chandler told Artemus.
“Yes, sir. If you say so,” Artemus forced out the words as his stomach twisted at the
Artemus worked side by side with the other doctors and medics. He learned new skills,
listened intently as they instructed him in the varied surgeries needed to be
performed. The hours stretched into days, as more and more wounded soldiers were
placed before him. Artemus did not stop or even seem to feel the need for a break, so
focused was his concentration, until finally, when the patient before him was removed to
a cot, no one brought another to him. He looked around, confused.
Col. Chandler came to stand next to his newest recruit. “It’s over for now, son,” he
said wiping his hands on an already stained cloth, “You did well. Peters will show you
where you can clean up and get some rest.”
“This way, Sgt. Gordon,” Peters said appearing at Artemus’ side. He led Artemus from
the surgery tent into the early morning light.
They walked in silence a few yards when, finally, Artemus seemed to stir from his torpor.
He stopped, stepped into the nearby brush, and was violently sick.
“It’s ok, Sergeant,” Peters said placing a comforting hand on his back. “My first day, I
puked my guts out between each patient. I’m surprised you held out so long.”
Wiping his mouth, Artemus stood to face the young man. “What’s your name, son?”
With a look of surprise, Peters answered. “Peters, Sergeant. Don’t you remember?”
“Of course, I remember. I mean what’s your first name and your rank, for that matter?”
Artemus asked smiling crookedly at him.
“Oh. Well, I’m a Sgt. also. And the name’s Quincy Peters. Glad to meet you,” Peters
smiled back and extended his hand.
Artemus shook it warmly. “Artemus Gordon,” he introduced himself, “I want to thank
you for all your help,” Artemus paused with a slight grimace, “back there in the
“Think nothing of it. The higher ups are always pressing the likes of us into service
where we have no business being. I’m glad I could help. So, Sgt. Gordon, why are you
here?” Peters asked.
“Why am I here? I was transferred here,” Artemus shrugged as they continued to walk
toward a tent at the end of the neat row.
Peters laughed out loud. “I figured that, sir, I meant why are you in the army?”
“What’s the matter with you, Peters? Surely you know Sergeants aren’t addressed as
‘sir’? And I enlisted because it was necessary,” Artemus answered.
“Yeah, I know not to address a noncom as ‘sir’. I didn’t use it in respect to your rank, it
was in respect to your,” Peters reddened and did not continue.
“Out with it, boy,” Artemus growled good naturedly.
“Your age, sir,” Peters answered respectfully.
Now it was Artemus who laughed out loud and he realized just how long it had been
since he’d done that. It felt good. “I’m not that much older than you. What are you 25,
26?” he asked.
“I’ll be 20 next month,” Peters smiled up at him.
Artemus groaned. “Well, don’t call me sir. It makes me feel old,” he replied and quickly
added, “Which I’m not.”
“You’re 35,” Peters said knowingly. “I peeked at your records,” he explained.
Over the course of next few months, Artemus and young Peters became fast friends. As
their company moved west into West Virginia, with Sgt. Peter’s *ssistance, Artemus
helped save many injured men. Many more died than survived, however, and his father's
words rang in his head. 'It is death and destruction', and Artemus was in full realization
of that truth. In one particularly vicious battle, even the surgery was shelled with cannon
fire. Both Peters and Lt. Col. Chandler were mortally wounded. It left Artemus the
second most experienced medic. Gen. Burnside saw to it that he received a promotion to
Lieutenant for his diligent and exemplary work in the surgery and placed him second in
command after Capt. George Hargraves, the now senior doctor.
Burnside led them into Virginia and traveled south, reaching Fredericksburg by
December. Launching repeated frontal *ssaults against the Confederate troops in Mary’s
Heights, proved an utter failure. In a poor position to engage, the *ssaults led to a near
m*ssacre of Union troops. Again, Artemus sought out his superiors and asked them to
advise against further *ssaults of this kind. They were well aware that the surgery was
swamped with injured and dying men and p*ssed the advice up the line to no avail. Their
losses numbered over 12,000 men. Shorthanded in the surgery, Artemus still anguished
over each man he lost, worried it was his lack of knowledge and skill that had
contributed to their deaths. However, his superior officers recognized his skill and
tenacity in performing his duties and put him up for another promotion. Artemus Gordon
President Lincoln was frustrated by the lack of leadership in the Eastern Frontier and
again made a change in leadership. Burnside was replaced by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker.
Reinforcements arrived and Hooker led his troops to Chancellorville. Artemus was
re*ssigned to intelligence as a result of his observations and advice given earlier. In this
position he secretly led small scouting parties into Confederate held positions. More
often than not, men were not available, and he went alone. Engagement of the enemy was
not the object, unless it was absolutely necessary. Instead the gathering of information on
the enemy’s numbers and fortifications was the mission. His intelligence estimates were
that the Union troops outnumbered the poorly supplied Confederates two to one. Even
with this information, Hooker lost the battle at Chancellorville, and was humiliated
further by being replaced himself, by Maj. Gen. George Meade as Lee invaded the north
once again, this time in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
It was clear to Artemus that the Eastern Frontier was scrambling for a foothold in their attempts to defeat Lee, and he devised new ways of infiltrating the Confederate armies. During one foray, he managed to pilfer a Confederate uniform. The owner had left it on a pile of rocks by a stream while he indulged himself in a much needed, swim and bath. Several times, Artemus boldly donned the uniform and entered enemy encampments. Keeping to the shadows around the fires, he listened to the men talk, eavesdropped by the officers’ tents, and gathered more and more useful intelligence.Meade factored this information into his plans, and engaged Lee's men in Gettysburg. Finally, the Union soundly succeeded in battle. The engagement had lasted over a month, ending in July, and was deemed the bloodiest battle of the war so far. Even so, it was the turning point the Union Army had been looking for. Lee retreated, giving up his attempt to take Washington by attacking from the north. Meade, though, also failed to stop Lee's
retreat, and once again, the great Bobby Lee and his men slipped back into Virginia.
President Lincoln was furious and now looked for leadership for the Union Armies in
another direction, the Western Frontier.
The Western Frontier, Summer, 1863
Integral in Grant's strategizing was the young Capt. James West. Grant came to value his
opinion and made him his aide-de-camp. He discussed with Capt. West. his
encroachment of Fort Henry and Fort Donnelson, A master tactician, Grant found his
match in his young aide. Taking on a number of his suggestions had helped earn the
victories at the forts and gain control of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers for the
“Vicksburg is Mississippi's fortress city,” Gen. Grant said to his aide. “I want to take it
and take it quickly.”
“Yes, sir,” Jim agreed, “With Vicksburg under our belts, we’ll control supply routes for
ourselves as well as for the Confederates. But they are well fortified. The Confederacy
has gathered every ounce of foodstuffs, plant or animal, and ammunition into the fort. It
may not be as quick as you might want, sir,” he mused aloud.
“I think if we can get close enough to bombard them, they’ll surrender,” Grant laid out
another map and pointed. “We have troops coming from the north and we’ll go in from
the west. That leaves only the docks. If we take them first, we’ll have access from that
side as well,” he explained.
In May of 1863, Grant positioned his Generals and attacked. The troops followed Grant’s
plan, but a month later, Vicksburg still held strong.
Grant regrouped with his aide de camp to strategize further.
“I wanted this over by now,” he stormed angrily. “We’ve got to strengthen our attacks.”
“Sir, if we divide the battalions into smaller companies, we could bombard them at night
as well as day. Half the troops manning the guns during the day and fresh troops taking
over at night,” Jim proposed.
Gen. Grant chewed his mustache thoughtfully. “You know, Jim that just might work. We
outnumber the Rebs and so far battles have ceased with nightfall. Without fresh troops,
they’ll be so worn and frazzled, they’ll have to surrender. I like it, my boy,” Grant smiled
and clapped Jim soundly on the back.
With a new strategy in place, the Union Army was relentless in their besiegement of the
city until, finally, the Confederates were forced to surrender. One day after the victory in
Gettysburg, and two days after Jim’s 21st birthday, Vicksburg fell into Union hands on
July 4th. Grant had gained control of the Mississippi River for the Union. With it came
control over shipments of supplies for the Confederate Army. It effectively divided the
Confederacy in two.
President Lincoln made Gen. Grant the Commander in Chief of all Union armies. Grant
understood the concept of total war. He knew the only road to success was to utterly
destroy the Confederate forces and economy. He devised a plan, to send his generals in
various directions. They would surround Richmond, destroy the agricultural base in
Atlanta and the Shenandoah Valley, and stop the railroad supply lines. Under this
coordinated attack strategy, the Confederates could be brought to their knees.
The tenacious Grant kept pressing Lee's troops, forcing them to fall back time and time
again. The Union suffered severe losses, in one case 66,000 men in 6 weeks, but still
Grant persisted. He went so far as to vow that he would not stop even if it took all
summer, and it was beginning to look like it would.
Grant came to realize he needed more intelligence on Confederate troop numbers,
positions and fortifications, if his plan was to succeed. Once again, he enlisted his
“I want you to find the best man for the job,” Gen. Grant said, after explaining what he
wanted to Jim. ”You have access to all records available on all the battles and
engagements. Find out who has an intelligence squad that has been valuable reporting
enemy information, then bring me your recommendations.”
Jim scoured the armies for the most successful forces. Then, charting which man had
been most successful in bringing in useful intelligence, he came to Gen. Grant with his
"What have you come up with, James," Gen. Grant asked in his gruff voice. He was
confident that his intelligent, analytical young aide would have a sound recommendation.
"One man in particular seems to excel in intelligence gathering, sir. Capt. Artemus
Gordon, formerly with Gen. Meade at Gettysburg and now serving under Gen. Sheridan,"
"I hear a 'but', James. What is it?" Grant asked reading his aide competently.
"Sir, the man is 37 years old. That's much older than the average soldier. I have some
reservations about enlisting the *ssistance of someone who may be past his prime," the
young captain reported.
"Do you realize Capt. Gordon is only 5 years my junior?" Grant asked suppressing a
Jim looked up in surprise. "No, sir, I did not. I certainly did not mean to suggest you were
past your prime. However, I believe you would agree that you are not the average soldier,
sir," Jim rallied.
"Nice recovery, James," Grant chuckled. "What's Gordon's record like?"
"It has been exemplary, by all accounts, General. He enlisted in April of 1861 and has
risen from private to captain. Served in surgery under McDowell where he made
lieutenant and he was then recruited to work in intelligence under Meade and Sheridan as
a captain," Jim informed his superior.
Gen. Grant chewed his on mustache, thinking before going on. "I want the best there is,
Capt. West, and if Capt. Gordon is the best in your opinion, get him here, right away.
And leave your reports on Sheridan as well. He may just be the man I need to succeed in
the Shenandoah," Gen. Grant added.
"Yes, sir," Jim saluted and left the tent. He sent a message to Gen. Sheridan requesting
Capt. Gordon to report to Gen. Grant, as soon as possible.
General Sheridan’s Quarters, Shenandoah Valley
“Gordon,” Gen. Sheridan began as Artemus stood at ease before him, “Gen. Grant
himself has requested your services in Virginia.”
“Gen. Grant, sir?” Artemus asked incredulous.
“It would seem that he’s heard of your work in intelligence. No doubt he knows about the
glowing reports that have been filed on your behalf by your commanding officers, myself
included,” Sheridan smiled briefly, “We can’t spare a horse, so you’ll have to travel on
foot. It seems you’re needed with some urgency, so I suggest you leave right away. Good
luck,” Gen. Sheridan dismissed him by handing him orders and telling him where Grant’s
camp was located.
“Yes, sir,” Artemus left the General’s tent in a state of shock. He could not imagine that
the great Gen. Grant had heard of, what Artemus considered, his meager contributions to
the war effort.
Artemus packed the Confederate uniform he’d acquired during his early forays, the
Confederate Colonel’s coat he’d recently taken from a wash line in a nearby
encampment, and added a few supplies of his own to his rucksack before heading south
toward Virginia. He hated Virginia and had hoped to never return to that state, but fate,
apparently, had other plans for him.
A week later, Artemus was pleased with his progress. He’d crossed into Virginia and had,
so far, managed to avoid contact with enemy troops. He traveled 20 hours each day,
taking the four hours between midnight and predawn to sleep. His other stops were brief,
long enough to drink from his canteen or chew on a piece of jerky or hardtack while he
rested for a few minutes. If things continued, he expected to be in Gen. Grant’s camp in
Artemus awoke to the sounds of voices. He peered out from his hiding place in a hollow
tree and saw that a Confederate battalion had set up camp a few hundred yards away. As
quietly as possible, he extricated himself from his cramped quarters and moved deeper
into the trees. The smell of breakfast cooking wafted toward him and made his stomach
growl. It had been more than a week since he’d tasted anything resembling real food and
Artemus made a selfish decision. In the dark, he opened his rucksack and pulled out the
gray uniform stowed within. Changing quickly, and stopping only to take care of some
early morning business, he approached the Reb encampment. Strolling confidently
toward the cook fire, he was surprised to see the soldiers stop their work and turn to
salute him. Looking down, Artemus realized he’d mistakenly pulled out the Colonel’s
coat rather than a private’s uniform. Very smart, he chided himself, serves you right for
“Suh,” the soldiers snapped to attention before the approaching the Colonel.
“At ease, boys,” Artemus drawled in a perfect imitation of a Virginia accent.
“Where did you come from, Colonel?” one man asked in a surprised tone.
“Just taking an early stroll, son,” Artemus answered in his best commanding officer
“I don’t recognize you, suh,” said another man squinting at him in the dim light of the
“Col. Metcalfe, soldier, and am I to surmise that I have to explain myself to you?”
asked Artemus adding a note of anger to his voice.
“No, suh, o’ course not,” the soldier quickly answered, “I didn’t mean to question you,
“Is that food ready?” Artemus now asked, eying the frying eggs and ham.
Scooping an egg and a slice of ham onto a tin plate, the cook handed it to Artemus, “Of
course, suh. Sorry, suh.”
“Thank you,” Artemus said, truly grateful. He sat on a nearby crate and tucked into the
meal savoring every bite.
“Johnson!” a voice called from a nearby tent, “Is that breakfast ready?” A tall, bearded
and mustached, man in a General’s uniform approached the fire. He stopped when he
saw Artemus just finishing his plate. “Who is that?” he demanded.
“Col. Metcalf, General Lee,” the cook replied.
“We don’t have a Colonel Metcalf in our unit,” Gen. Lee roared as he drew his pistol.
Artemus dropped the tin plate, saluted saucily, “Thank you for your hospitality,” he threw
over his shoulder as he turned tail and ran as though the devil himself was in pursuit.
The sound of shouting voices, running feet, and whizzing bullets rang out as Artemus
melted into the dark woods. Peeling out of the Confederate uniform as he ran, Artemus
paused to take his rucksack from the hollow tree. He managed to don his own uniform
and climb a tall Virginia pine before the pursuers ran past. Hidden in the boughs of the
tree, he waited until they p*ssed again on their way back to camp, muttering and grousing
about the bold Yank that had eaten their food and gotten away.
A few days later, Artemus finally reached Gen. Grant’s camp.
Gen. Grant’s camp, Pre-dawn
Jim was p*ssing orders from Gen. Grant to the troops when a bone weary man trudged
into the camp. He wore a captain's insignia and strode up to Jim and handed him a sheet
of paper. Jim looked over the orders handed to him, sighed, and addressed the newcomer.
"Capt. Gordon, I'm Capt. West," he introduced himself. "You got here quicker than we
expected. How did you manage to cross through enemy lines so quickly?" he asked
curious and somewhat suspicious. This would not be the first spy caught trying to
infiltrate the army.
"Cunning, guile, deceit, and a measure of physical legerdemain," Capt. Gordon answered
with a self-satisfied grin which was met with a stony look from Capt. West.
I don't think this is going to work to our benefit, Jim thought eyeing Capt. Gordon up and
down, not responding to the flippant answer he'd received.
Gordon took a deep breath and let it out as a sigh. "Well, I believe Gen. Grant is waiting
for me?" he ventured.
"You will be more respectful when you meet the General, I *ssume," Jim replied folding
the orders and handing them back to Artemus.
Unable to resist tweaking the stoic, young captain before him, Artemus answered with a
cheeky grin, "Well as my Great Aunt Maude always used to say, 'Never *ssume. It makes
an *ss of u and me.'"
"I don't like your tone," Jim retorted seriously, growing irritated. Can this man ever be
serious? he wondered. And how in hell did this old man rise to the rank of captain with
that flippant attitude!
"You don't have to like it," Artemus countered with a shrug, "You just have to show me
to the General's quarters.".
"I'm his aide-de-camp," Jim started, intending to let this 'old man' know the lay of the
"Good," Artemus interrupted, "Then you'll know exactly where his quarters are, won't
you?" he quipped. He was tired, hungry, and in no mood to spar with this juvenile
‘general in training’.
Jim decided he did not like this man's attitude at all, did not like him at all, in fact, but
gave no outward sign. He showed Capt. Gordon to the General's tent. Grant would cut
him down to size in no time at all.
"Sir," Capt. West announced, "Capt. Gordon has arrived."
"That was quicker than expected," Gen. Grant said coming around the table to where he
had laid out battle plans.
Capt. Gordon saluted the General and handed over his orders. "Capt. Artemus Gordon,
reporting, sir," he said politely.
"At ease, Capt.," Grant answered and pointed with his cigar to a crate, "Take a seat."
Artemus relaxed and sat on the crate at the end of the table. Jim positioned himself
directly behind his back. He doesn't trust me, Artemus thought.
"You look tired, Gordon. How did you get here so quickly?" Grant asked curious.
Jim smiled inwardly. He was anxious to hear how Gordon would reply to the general and
was shocked to hear the same tart reply he'd received.
"As I told your aide-de-camp, sir, cunning, guile, deceit, and a measure of physical
legerdemain," Artemus answered confidently.
"I told you to be respectful when addressing the General," Jim snarled and roughly
shoved Artemus in the back knocking him off the crate.
Artemus stood and faced Jim. "I answered truthfully. If that sounds disrespectful to you,
that's your problem," he said calmly, though his dark brown eyes blazed. "And never,
ever, shove me again," he added in a low, menacing tone.
"Gentlemen," Gen. Grant interrupted, "That's enough. James, I know you have your
reservations about Capt. Gordon," he addressed his aide-de-camp and saw Gordon's
eyebrows shoot up in surprise, "but I want to talk to him alone. Would you excuse us,
"Yes, sir," Jim answered and left the tent. He dearly wished he'd been allowed to stay.
Suppose this was an imposter sent by the Confederates after intercepting the message
sent to Gen. Sheridan? He'd certainly arrived more quickly than anyone had expected.
Jim had already sent many a traitor and spy to prison and more were cropping up as time
went on. Jim mulled this over as he went about his duties around camp waiting for the
meeting to end.
Gen. Grant explained what he wanted of Capt. Gordon and Artemus confidently *ssured
the General he would deliver the intelligence requested. Gen. Grant took the time to get
to know the man seated before him and decided he liked him very much. He was witty
and charming, and borderline insubordinate, which only made Grant like him better. He
asked again how he'd managed to arrive so quickly and Artemus explained how he'd been
able to cross the enemy lines unimpeded by using disguises and on the fly lies.
"Tell me, honestly, did Gen. Sheridan utilize the information you gathered in his
successes in battle?" Grant asked.
"Yes, sir, he did. I don't mean to take credit, sir. Gen. Sheridan is an aggressive leader
and more than likely would have succeeded without any *ssistance. But I believe the
information was useful in his strategizing," Artemus answered honestly.
Grant lit a cigar and offered one to Capt. Gordon who gratefully accepted it. It was nearly
an hour before the General and Artemus came out of the tent, laughing like old friends.
Jim was incredulous. Grant was not an easy man and not given to taking an
unproven entity into his circle. Perhaps I've overlooked something in Gordon that the
General hasn't, Jim thought. But he doubted it.
"James," Grant now addressed him, "See that Capt. Gordon gets a meal and a place to
rest awhile before he's on his way," he said.
"Yes, sir," Jim replied and led Capt. Gordon to the mess tent. He decided to sit with him
while he ate. He intended to see for himself if he was a spy or worthy of the General’s
"The General seems to have taken a liking to you, Capt. Gordon," Jim said
Artemus swallowed, regarding the young man. "Yes, he did," he answered carefully.
Then, deciding to bury whatever ax there was between them, he said, "I know we got off
on the wrong foot, why don't we begin again," he offered and extended his hand,
"Artemus Gordon," he said pleasantly.
Jim took his hand and shook it. Firm grip, he noted. "James West," he answered and
smiled pleasantly back at Artemus.
"Well," Artemus chuckled, "you smiled and your face didn't crack off the front of your
skull," Artemus quipped giving him a broad grin.
"I smile when it's appropriate," Jim answered. "What *ssignment did the General give
you, Capt. Gordon?" he asked, knowing full well what Grant wanted.
"Artemus," Gordon corrected, "And I don't believe it's my place to answer that question,
as I'm sure you know, Capt. West." He eyed the young Captain as he took a sip of coffee.
"Jim," West told him, with a slight nod. He'd tested the man to see if he would breach
confidentiality and he'd p*ssed. "May I ask again, how you got here so quickly? And
please, don't give me the cunning, guile, deceit line, ok?"
"But it's true," Artemus smiled and then explained to Jim the same as he'd told Grant.
"And how is it you came up with the idea of disguises?" Jim asked pursing his lips,
"Well, Jim," Artemus used the name the young man had offered, "In my previous life,
I was an actor. Disguises were my stock in trade, so to speak."
"An actor," Jim stated with a hint of disdain and a lopsided grin, "Were you any good?"
"Young whelp," Artemus growled at him good naturedly, "I'll have you know, I was very
highly regarded in the theater. I had a long and very successful career."
Jim smiled, fully now. Long is right, he said to himself. "What led you to become a
soldier at the advanced age of 34?"
"That's right, keep hurling insults. Just remember, kid, paybacks are hell," Artemus joked.
He turned serious, "The injustice of slavery, the understanding that this nation
can be great but only if united, and the desire to do the right thing," Artemus answered,
finishing his breakfast. "What led you to be a soldier at so tender an age?" he asked
pointedly, wiping his mouth and placing his napkin on his plate.
"I'm 22. That's not that young," Jim protested defensively.
"Yes, but you would have been 19 when you enlisted and that is young," Artemus replied
regarding the serious young man with a grin.
"I went to the Military Academy and when the need arose, I requested active duty," Jim
explained, "for the same reasons as you, as it turns out." As he talked to Gordon, he
began to wonder if he’d misjudged him. He sort of grew on you once you got past his
unconventional humor. Or is it arrogance, Jim wondered. "Are you ready for some shut
eye, pops?" Jim teased.
"Pops!" Artemus cried sounding truly insulted.
"Consider it payback for calling me kid," Jim smiled and stood.
"Oh, this could turn into a very interesting match of wits," Artemus muttered, smiling
back as he followed the General's aide-de-camp to a tent for a couple hours of
much needed sleep.
Artemus and Jim had limited contact during the time Artemus was there. Artemus would
return from his ventures into enemy territory with reports on their numbers and
supplies and occasionally with information of what their planned movements were. His
pilfered uniforms had again allowed him to enter the camps and move about with relative
freedom. Jim was always impressed with the type and amount of information brought
back. Jim delivered Gordon’s reports to Gen. Grant and the two would then revise the
strategies they planned based on the new information. Often Artemus sat in on the
planning sessions and occasionally offered his opinion. Artemus found his impression of
Jim as an intelligent and competent officer to be correct. He found that his respect for
him had grown and he genuinely liked the young man. Jim’s feelings were a little cooler.
He appreciated Gordon’s obvious intelligence and courage, but found him trying at times,
having mistakenly decided his wit and self confidence were, in fact, arrogance.
Artemus, as promised, had delivered the information Grant had wanted. Grant now had
his coordinated attack in place. After two months, he sent Artemus back with orders for
Gen. Sheridan to take over the Shenandoah campaign.
Sheridan defeated Gen. Early and his Confederate forces in a series of battles that led to
the final destruction of the agricultural base in the Shenandoah. At the same time Gen.
Sherman took Atlanta and with intelligence sent to him by Grant, laid waste to over 20%
of Georgia's farms and presented Savannah to President Lincoln as a Christmas Present in
December of 1864
Followed by thousands of freed slaves, Sherman turned north, advancing on Virginia's
Confederate capitol, Richmond. Lee's army was beginning to fear a Union victory and
many men deserted. With his forces decimated, Lee lost a decisive battle at Five Forks
and was forced to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond. The Confederate capitol fell to the
Union XXV Corps, a force comprised of black soldiers, on April 1 of 1865. Many more
of Lee's men fled west and after another defeat at Saylor's Creek, Lee came to realize
further engagement of Union forces was tactically and logistically impossible. He
surrendered to Gen. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, April 9, 1865.
Gen. Grant, who hoped to bring the Confederacy back into the Union, showed his
respect to Gen. Lee, by allowing Lee to keep his military status and his horse, Traveler.
Many accepted the unprecedented move as a sign that the South was welcomed back into
the Union with dignity and respect. An equal number labeled Grant a ‘butcher’, never to
be trusted or forgiven.
Washington, DC, January, 1869
As the newly sworn in 18th President of the United States, Ulysses Grant had sent out
two messages a few weeks earlier. One was sent to Secret Service Agent James West.
Upon Grant’s recommendation, West had been employed in the Service for the last year
and a half. Grant had plans for the Service now that he was President and wanted his old
aide de camp by his side. He'd gone over West's record, impeccable as ever, but found
one slightly disturbing trend. James West was in danger of turning into a hot head. He
took his job seriously, but was prone to fisticuffs when his temper flared. President Grant
hoped to have the Secret Service be representative of the reconstruction and healing still
going on after the war. And he wanted James, who he believed to be the best agent in the
Service, to be the model for all others. James needs a bit of reining in, and a calming
influence perhaps, the President decided, and Grant thought he knew just the man to be
that influence. His second message had been sent to the man he had in mind.
Mr. Grant settled behind his desk preparing for his meeting with his good friend Col.
"Mr. President," his secretary entered quietly, "Col. Richmond has arrived."
"Show him in, please, Sallie. Any sign of the other two?" Mr. Grant asked.
"Not yet, sir," the secretary replied, "It's still early, though," she added politely.
Grant glanced at the clock on his mantle. "Yes, you're right, of course. Let me know
when they arrive, please, Sallie," he instructed.
"Yes, sir," the secretary answered ushering Col. Richmond in then silently closing the
door behind her exit.
"Douglas, good to see you," Mr. Grant greeted his friend with a hardy handshake.
"Mr. President, it's been a few years," Col. Richmond replied standing in front of his
Commander in Chief's desk.
"Relax, Douglas, and have a seat. I want to offer you a position in the government," Mr.
Grant announced getting right down to business.
"A position? What position, sir?" Col. Richmond asked intrigued. He crossed his legs
comfortably and waited.
"I want you to be the head of the Secret Service, Douglas. I want that agency moving in a
new direction and I think you can make it happen," the President explained.
"A new direction, sir?" the colonel asked.
"Yes. I have hand picked a number of agents. These agents will report to you and you
will report directly to me. I intend to use them to rid this nation of it's most nefarious
criminals, not just as mundane Treasury Dept. workers. What do you think?" Mr. Grant
"I'm honored you've asked me, sir, but why me? Aren't there people already in place who
are more qualified?" Col. Richmond reasoned.
"If I thought that, I would have asked them," the President stated simply, "Douglas, you
served under me during the war. I trust your judgment and abilities. With few exceptions,
the Service has become populated with unruly roustabouts, for lack of a better word.
You can whip them into shape, get things straightened out. Will you accept my offer?"
"Of course," Col. Richmond felt proud that his old General still thought so highly of him.
"Good. Thank you, Douglas. Now in a few minutes, I'm going to introduce you to two
men. One is already with the Service. His character is impeccable. He's a strong, agile,
young man who was my aide de camp during the recent unpleasantness. I trust him as I
trust you. But, I suspect he's dissatisfied with the *ssignments the Service now handles.
He's in danger of becoming a hot head and I won't have that. Not in the Service, and not
for this man. I believe his talents are being wasted as utilized now, but he will be perfect
for what I want the Secret Service to become," Mr. Grant explained.
"You're speaking of James West, of course," Col. Richmond remembered West well. He
also remembered how close he and Grant had been. It was hard to imagine Capt. West as
a hot head. The man he remembered had been calm, stoic, at all times.
The President's secretary opened the door. "Mr. West is here, sir," she announced.
"Splendid. Send him in," Mr. Grant answered. He came around to the front of the desk to
greet the new arrival. "James, my boy," he said, enthusiastically shaking Jim's hand,
"Good to see you. You remember Col. Richmond, I imagine?"
"It's good to see you again, sir," Jim smiled pleasantly at Mr. Grant, then turned to the
Colonel, "Yes, sir, I remember the Colonel well. How have you been, Col. Richmond?"
he asked and shook the Colonel's hand.
"Fine, James," Col. Richmond answered, seating himself again.
The three men settled and President Grant began. "James, I just offered Col. Richmond
the position as the new head of the Secret Service and he's accepted."
"Congratulations, Colonel," Jim said smiling politely.
"I plan on changes in the Service, James," Mr. Grant continued, "and I want your help."
"I'll do anything I can, sir," Jim replied, his curiosity piqued.
"Good. I have plans for the work the Service will do. There will be agents who still work
and report directly to the Treasure Dept., but a select few will report to the Colonel and
he to me. That will be the chain of command. You, James, are my first recruit to the new
Service as I see it," Mr. Grant explained.
"Yes, sir. I'm honored. What new direction will the Service be taking," Jim asked now
full of anticipation.
"We'll get to that in a minute. First I want to discuss your record," Mr. Grant said. "I have
always known you to be dignified, calm, cool, and collected, a gentleman. Yet, I seem to
notice a bit of liaise fare in your attitude now, James. That stops immediately. Do you
"I understand what you're saying, sir, but what do you mean liaise fare? I believe I've
been very careful in my *ssignments," Jim asked.
"You have. I'm speaking of your tendency to use brute force in accomplishing some of
those *ssignments. I intend the Service to be seen as a dignified force, not a bunch of
ruffians. Before you protest," Mr. Grant waved off the words on Jim's lips before he
could speak, "I know, or I believe, you're dissatisfied with the *ssignments you've
been given. They don't play to your talents."
"Frankly, sir, they've been boring and stifling," Jim admitted.
"I thought as much. As I told the Colonel, my agents will be working with a
different type of *ssignment. You'll be working on ridding our nation of it's most
dangerous and wanted criminals. Also, with rebuilding this nation, there's sure to be
foreign dignitaries that will need protection while visiting and quite possibly foreign
agents coming here to usurp our progress," Mr. Grant saw the gleam in Jim's eye. "More
to your liking I take it?"
"Yes, sir. When do I start?" Jim asked eagerly.
"There's one more thing, son. I have in mind for you, a partner," Mr. Grant stated simply
"A partner? I've never had or needed a partner, sir. Why now?" Jim asked unable to hide
the irritation he felt.
"Because I think you need a calming force, James. And I don't say that as an insult," he
added quickly seeing Jim's eyes blaze. "The man I have in mind will compliment your
talents, not hinder them," Mr. Grant said.
"Who is it, sir?" Jim asked successfully controlling his temper.
"Artemus Gordon," Mr. Grant answered quietly.
Jim jumped up. "What? That broken down actor? He's must be ancient by now, sir," Jim
fumed, his hands curling into fists at his side.
Mr. Grant cleared his throat. "Five years my junior, James," he reminded his agent
"I apologize, sir," Jim replied, composing himself, "But, please, what can he possibly add
to the Service?"
"He's a man of many talents. You only met him briefly years ago. I have maintained some
contact with him over the years and I find him to be intelligent and resourceful," Mr.
Grant answered as much for Col. Richmond's benefit as for Jim's. "He has pursued a
variety of interests these past few years, though his profession is still acting. I feel his
talents are being wasted on the stage. I want you to make it work," he added evenly,
"That is, of course, *ssuming he agrees to join the Service."
Jim flashed on a memory of a smart remark about an aunt and *ssumptions. He had liked
Gordon well enough, but could not imagine him as a partner. "I'll do my best, sir," Jim
answered reluctantly resigning himself.
"Good. Now Douglas," Mr. Grant turned to the Colonel, "I feel I should warn you.
Artemus is a different sort," he started, choosing his words carefully.
"Different? Different in what way, sir?" Col. Richmond asked cautiously.
"He's charming and witty and, as I said, intelligent. Can think circles around any one of
us, probably around all three of us combined," Mr. Grant chuffed a short laugh.
"I don't see a problem with that, sir," Col. Richmond answered.
"Yes, well," the President mused aloud, "He's also a bit of an inventor, an accomplished
artist, musician and linguist."
The Colonel just looked at the President waiting for more. There had to be more. So far
nothing his commander had mentioned sounded like a problem.
"He's skilled at using guile and deceit if the task calls for it,” Mr. Grant told Col.
Richmond, recalling his first meeting with Artemus Gordon, “And he can be an adroit
liar if necessary, though it's not in his nature to lie. In fact, he's as honest and straight
forward as James," Mr. Grant continued.
"He's also disrespectful," Jim chimed in since the President seemed to be beating around
Col. Richmond’s eyebrows went up in question.
"It's true. He can be. But he's so charming about it, I never took offense," Mr. Grant
"Anything else?" the Colonel asked, liking the sound of this man less and less.
"Well, now that you ask, yes, Douglas. Artemus walks the thin line of insubordination,"
the President admitted.
Now it was the Colonel who wanted to speak but was halted by the President's wave.
"I know how intolerant of insubordination you are, Douglas, but remember, I said you
could whip my agents into shape. That will be one of your major tasks with him, I
expect," the President concluded. "Where is he anyway?" he growled noting that Artemus
was nearly 10 minutes late.
"Is he usually late as well, sir?" Col. Richmond asked. Tardiness was a real pet peeve
with him, after insubordination. He didn't think he could handle it if Artemus Gordon
possessed his two, no wait, three most annoying peeves. Mustn’t forget disrespect.
"No. He's usually punctual as clockwork," Mr. Grant answered going to the door. He
opened it and found his secretary right in front of him. "Oh, Sallie," he said startled.
"Mr. Gordon is here, sir, and I would appreciate it if you kept the lecherous thing away
from me," Sallie answered, clearly miffed.
The President briefly closed his eyes wishing that had not been the first thing the other
two men waiting for him had heard. "Artemus, please come in," Mr. Grant said shaking
his head. As Artemus entered, the President asked, sotto voce, "That isn't why you're late
"No, sir, my train was delayed," Artemus answered in a low tone, a smile curling his lips, and shook the President's hand without waiting for him to offer his.
"Leave Sallie alone," Mr. Grant added, again sotto voce.
"I'm sorry, sir. She's so stiff and prim I just couldn't resist picking a bit," Artemus flashed
his most charming smile.
"Let me introduce you," Mr. Grant led him across the room. Jim, he noticed, had moved
to one side of the room making himself a ghost by the bookshelves. "Artemus, may I
present Col. Douglas Richmond. Douglas, meet Artemus Gordon," he introduced.
"A pleasure to meet you, sir," Artemus replied gallantly with a slight bow.
The Colonel offered his hand and Artemus shook it. "I've heard quite a bit about you, Mr.
Gordon," Col. Richmond said.
"All good, I hope," Artemus smiled winningly and cast a glance at the President.
"Most of it," the Colonel said softly, averting his eyes.
Mr. Grant decided to let Jim join them on his own terms. If he wanted to observe and
remain unseen for now, that was fine. He indicated for Artemus to take a seat.
"I was surprised to hear from you, Mr. Grant," Artemus said, "I've performed for the
President of the United States before, but never been summoned to his office. It feels a
little like being called to the Headmaster’s Office."
"And I'm sure you have experience in that respect," Mr. Grant teased. "Artemus, I have a
proposition for you," Mr. Grant began seriously.
"A proposition?" Artemus asked interested. He crossed his legs and folded his hands on
"A change of careers, to be exact. I would like you to become an agent with the Secret
Service," the President stated bluntly.
"I beg your pardon? I don't think I heard you correctly," Artemus answered uncrossing his
legs, leaning forward and looking surprised.
"You heard me just fine," Mr. Grant retorted. "What do you say?"
Artemus spread his hands and shook his head. "I'm speechless," he answered. "I don't
know what to say?"
"That's a first," the President guffawed, "Artemus Gordon, speechless?"
"Thank you," Artemus gave him a withering look. "Why me?" he asked.
"Because I think your particular talents will meet my particular needs for the Service,"
Mr. Grant answered.
"Which particular talents, if I might ask, sir?" Artemus sounded even more surprised and
"All of them. Now what do you say?" the President asked again.
Artemus shrugged and did not answer. He shook his head disbelieving.
"You're usually very glib and silver tongued, Artemus. This is a bit disconcerting. I'm
offering you a job. It's an easy question and requires a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer," Mr.
"I'm completely at a loss," Artemus answered spreading his hands again. "May I think
about it or do you need an answer immediately?"
"I would prefer an answer immediately, but if you need to think about it, perhaps I'm
mistaken in my choice," the President told him.
Across the room, Jim thought to himself, 'Say no' and then, in silent response to the President, 'You are mistaken'.
"I'm honored, Mr. President," Artemus began, then added, "Is the retirement good?"
'Mercenary', Jim thought sourly.
"That's the Artemus Gordon I know," Mr. Grant laughed, "And yes, the retirement is very
good. Do you accept my offer?"
"Yes, sir, I accept. I only hope I live up to your expectations," Artemus answered
enthusiastically. He had never considered a career change, but this intrigued him. He was
a man of many interests and the opportunity to grow and learn was decidedly appealing
"You'll be working with another agent," Mr. Grant said.
"And would that be Capt. West who has been trying so hard to be part of the
furnishings?" Artemus asked not looking at Jim.
Jim turned quickly. He hadn't thought the man had noticed him.
Mr. Grant chuckled, "It would indeed. James, will you join us, please?"
Artemus stood and faced Jim as he approached. "Capt. West," he greeted cheerily, "Nice
to see you again."
"It's Mr. West now," Jim answered evenly.
"Actually, it's Jim, isn't it? I can still call you Jim, I presume?" Artemus asked pleasantly.
"Alright, Artemus, yes, call me Jim," he said flashing a winning grin that held no feeling.
"James, I want you to prepare Artemus for the training program," Mr. Grant instructed,
"And by the way, I'm putting a private train at your disposal. You'll be traveling
extensively from now on and I want you two to consider it your home."
"That's very generous, sir," Jim answered sincerely.
"Yes, thank you," Artemus added.
"It's waiting for you at Union Station. Make yourselves at home and report to me on
Friday," the President told them, "Artemus, you'll go through the training program next
"Yes, sir," Artemus smiled and nodded once.
"That's all, gentlemen," Mr. Grant dismissed them. "Douglas, stay a moment, will you?"
Jim and Artemus left the President's office together. Artemus picked up the valise he'd
left in the outer office and turned to Sallie. "Until we meet again, my little desert flower,"
he crooned leaning close to her and chucking her lightly under the chin.
"Go ... away," was all Sallie would say as she turned bright red.
Artemus put his hand over his heart, "You cut me to the heart, dear lady," he said
dramatically then gave her a bright smile.
Sallie could not help but smile and Artemus grinned broader. "That's the spirit," he said
as he left the office.
In his office, President Grant turned to Col. Richmond. “Well, Douglas, what do you
think of these two?” he asked.
“James is a proven entity, sir,” Col. Richmond started, “As your aide de camp and now
with the Secret Service, he’s proven himself reliable, capable, and intelligent. However,
he seems to be angry, sir. I hope your *ssessment of his disposition being due to lack of
use of his natural talents is correct. If not, he could be a problem,” Col. Richmond
scratched his eyebrow absently as he answered. “And I don’t think you or I want to start
this new age for the Secret Service with a problem already built in.”
“I think I’m correct. He’ll do the mundane, and do it well, as long as that’s not all he has
to do,” Mr. Grant answered confidently. “I know him to be a polite and thoughtful young
man. I believe he’s lost his way in that respect, and the unflappable Artemus Gordon may
just be what he needs to get back on that lost path. And speaking of Artemus, what do
you think of him?” Mr. Grant wanted to know the Colonel’s opinion.
Douglas Richmond had his reservations. “Well, frankly, Mr. President, I don’t look
forward to reining in that one. You know he is in possession of my two most pet peeves,
disrespect and insubordination.”
“He’s not really disrespectful, Douglas. In fact he’s extremely polite. Did you hear
anything disrespectful in here?” Mr. Grant asked pointedly.
“No, sir, I’ll admit I did not. But a man who is insubordinate, by your own admission,
well, the only solution I’ve ever had is to break his rank. Since rank has nothing to do
with this position, I don’t know how I’m going to deal with him,” Col. Richmond
“Just remember, Douglas, I said he was borderline insubordinate. I don’t believe Artemus
would ever buck your authority. He may challenge you, by making comments or
suggestions, but take them for what they are,” President Grant explained.
“And what would they be, sir?” Col. Richmond had to ask. Insubordination was
insubordination in his mind. Clear cut, no shades of gray.
“I told you he can think circles around any man I’ve ever known. He’s thinking all the
time. If his comments come out a little flippant, I believe it’s because he expresses them
honestly and bluntly. Once you get used to his wit, you’ll see its’ self-confidence, not
arrogance that drives him,” Mr. Grant replied.
“Any reason you didn’t share all this in front of James, sir?” Col. Richmond asked.
“I want James to figure it out for himself. How else is he going to get to know the man if
I give him all the details beforehand? If they are to succeed as partners, they have to get
to know each other,” Mr. Grant explained. Then with a laugh, he commented, “And God
help them both.”
On the street, Jim faced his new partner. "Are you always that annoying with women?"
"No. Usually I'm quite charming," Artemus answered saucily, "but she's so prim. Just
trying to lighten her up a bit."
"Hmm," Jim commented and started down the street. He needed to get his things from the
room he had at the boarding house.
Artemus caught up to him. "Do you need help with your things?" he offered.
"No," Jim answered curtly. He was still angry at being *ssigned a partner..
Artemus took Jim's arm and turned him round to face him. "Ok, what's up?"
Jim pulled his arm free more forcefully than necessary. "Nothing's up. Why?"
"I don't remember you being this unpleasant when we first met. In fact, I remember you
as a reasonable, intelligent, young man," he answered, then narrowed his eyes as
realization dawned, "Oh, I get it. You don't want me as a partner."
"I don't want anyone as a partner, but yes, you're right. I don't want you as a partner," Jim
"Well you're stuck with me, and I with you. We started on bad footing 5 years ago. Let's
not do it again, what do you say?" Artemus offered his hand to Jim.
Jim did not answer, nor did he take the offered hand, he just glared angrily.
"Listen, I don't know anything about being a Secret Service Agent, so I won't try to run
things," Artemus tried to placate, slowly drawing back his hand, "and I don't have your
physical prowess, so I probably won't hurt you," he joked, "But we've been thrown
together and the President asked you to prepare me for the training program. Can you do
that and reserve judgment until after I fail the training?" Artemus asked trying to lighten
"You're right," Jim sighed still angry but calmer, "All right, I'll try to prepare you, but," he
shook his head not finishing his thought.
"What?" Artemus asked as they started down the street again. Jim was silent. "But what?"
Artemus asked again, "Come on. If we're to be partners, we shouldn't hold back anything." He stopped Jim again with a hand on his arm. Jim remained mute. "'The
highest compact we can make with our fellow is: 'Let there be truth between us two
forever.'" Artemus quoted at him.
"Who said that?" Jim asked finally speaking.
"Ralph Waldo Emmerson. So what's your reservation?" Artemus answered nodding with
his chin urging Jim to respond. “Out with it.”
"You're what, 40 now? I don't know if I can teach you to fight in a week," Jim replied
eyeing Artemus up and down.
"42 and I can take care of myself," Artemus answered slightly insulted.
"And what exactly does that mean?" Jim wanted to know.
"It means, if I'm pushed, I push back. I'm not a fighter by nature, but I'm not going to let
anyone just have a go at me and not defend myself," Artemus started, "And, if necessary,
I'd be right there to protect or defend you," he added sincerely.
Jim began to laugh out loud. "You, protect or defend me?" he guffawed. "I can't imagine
anything you could contribute to this partnership, let alone that," he added unkindly, his
anger coming out as venom.
Artemus looked irritated. "Listen, Pipsqueak," he started, then composed himself, "Forget
it. I'll see you at the train," he answered evenly and turned and walked away.
Jim chuckled again then went to pack his things.
It was nearly 6:30 when Jim finally arrived at the train. He entered the parlor car and
looked around, impressed. The entry area was like an outer office and contained two
chairs and a coat rack. A wall of wood and etched gl*ss separated this area from the main
living room which was appointed with two plush, gold sofas, a desk, and two chairs.
There was a fireplace at the end of the room and a door leading down a corridor on the
right. Jim smelled something cooking and dropped his bags on the sofa under the
windows and went down the corridor toward the source of the aroma. He found the
galley and Artemus, an apron tied around his waist.
"What's for dinner?" Jim asked leaning against the doorjamb arms crossed over his chest.
"I'm having roast chicken with potatoes and onions and collard greens," Artemus
answered pulling the bird out of the oven. "What are your dinner plans?" he asked
pleasantly but making it plain that he was not inviting Jim to join him.
The chicken was browned to perfection and Jim saw potatoes with onion all around it.
Artemus lifted the lid off a pot on the stovetop and a savory steam combined with the
other dinner fragrances. Jim's mouth watered.
"Is there enough for two?" he asked boldly.
"Yes there is. Who did you have in mind?" Artemus finally turned to look him in the eye.
"Possibly," Jim answered slowly, "me?"
Artemus just continued to hold his gaze expectantly, a small, pleasant smile curling
around his lips. When nothing more was offered, he shook his head and asked, "Do you
"A little," Jim lied. He was terrible at it.
"Then I suggest you cook something for yourself," Artemus told him and turned to carve
"There's enough for two, you said so yourself," Jim protested coming away from the
doorjamb his hands now at his sides.
"Yes," Artemus drew out the one syllable word slowly, "but you don't imagine I could
contribute a well cooked meal to this partnership do you?" he quipped never turning
"My earlier remark was a little unkind," Jim admitted slowly.
"Yes it was," Artemus turned a serious face to Jim and again seemed to wait for more.
Again there was nothing more from Jim. "Don't you have any manners at all?”
Artemus asked seriously, shaking his head slowly.
"Yes, I do. I just don't apologize well," Jim replied quietly.
Artemus nodded, his features softening a slight smile returning. "Then that will do for
now. We'll work on proper apologies later," he said. Artemus paused a moment. "Jim, do
you like chicken with potatoes and collard greens?" Artemus asked as though none of the
prior conversation had taken place.
"Yes, Artemus, I do," Jim answered pleasantly.
"Would you care to have some dinner with me?" Artemus asked casually.
"Yes, please," Jim replied as Artemus handed him a plate and served him.
The dinner was delicious. 'At least I won't go hungry', Jim thought still doubting his
‘partner's’ other abilities. After all, the man was an actor, not exactly the most physical
of professions, he mused.
After dinner was cleaned up, Jim showed Artemus some of the martial arts he'd studied
and tried to get Artemus to complete some of the moves. Artemus was completely inept
at it, landing on the sofa every time Jim countered his attacks. They worked at it for
almost an hour before Artemus grew frustrated and stopped.
"I give up. Is this really in the training program?" he asked throwing himself into a chair.
"Because if it is, I'm done for."
"No," Jim answered simply, with a slight cock of his head.
Artemus sat up quickly, "Then why are you putting me through this exercise?" he
"I want you to know how to fight," Jim stated.
"I already told you. I know how to fight," Artemus protested.
"Prove it," Jim challenged.
"What would you have me do? Punch you in the nose? Actually, I should for torturing me
for an hour," Artemus said standing.
Jim responded by landing a quick jab to Artemus' chin staggering him back a step.
"You little whelp," Artemus recovered quickly and came forward to defend himself.
It turned into a true boxing match with fists landing left, right and center. Although Jim
toned down his *ssault, he was finally convinced Artemus could defend himself.
I don't think he could win a fight, but he night be able to hold his own, Jim thought and
let his guard drop to take a step back and end the match. Artemus caught him unaware
with a jab to the nose that snapped Jim's head back and drew blood.
"I'm sorry, Jim," Artemus said immediately as he realized, too late, why Jim had dropped
his hands, "I didn't realize until it was too late. Are you alright?" he asked handing Jim a
"I'm fine," Jim answered wiping the blood, "I'm convinced you can defend yourself. I'm
sorry I laughed at you in the street," he added sincerely.
Artemus raised his eyebrows and squared his shoulders. "Now that wasn't so hard was it?
You know how to apologize just fine, James," he teased.
Jim chuckled. "Yeah, it just doesn't come naturally to me."
"Like fighting isn't natural to me," Artemus told him, "but Mr. Grant would never have
suggested me as a partner if he didn't think I had something to offer."
"I know that. I'm just not used to working with anyone and I'm not sure how we'll do this.
But I'm willing to try," he extended his hand to Artemus who clasped it firmly and
sighed, much relieved.
During the next few days, they worked on a number of things Artemus would find in the
training program. Jim set up scenarios complete with traps, and found that Artemus was a
quick learner, observant, and resourceful in his adaptation to new situations. He followed
directions exactly and worked late in the lab at night. The next scenario Jim laid out had
it's traps sprung by diversionary 'toys' Artemus had come up with. Jim began to hope that
Artemus would, in fact, p*ss the training program.
In their down time, Jim made an honest effort to get to know Artemus. Artemus was a
master storyteller and willingly and openly talked about his life and experiences,
including his intelligence work during the recent unpleasantness. Jim began to see how
this would be beneficial to the new direction the Secret Service was taking. Jim found
himself listening with interest to his partner's explanation of his interests in science,
music, art, and invention. He’d found Artemus' sketchbook and peeked at the drawings
and seen for himself how talented he was. Jim found Artemus a patient teacher as
well, imparting the skills he’d learned as a medic and his knowledge of and interest in
chemistry. Once, Jim had walked in unseen, while Artemus played his violin and again,
found he was impressed. He'd already seen his partner's gift for invention in the scenarios
he'd set up for training purposes. Jim found his respect for Artemus growing daily.
He also found himself telling Artemus about his life. A deeply private person, the fact
that he was sharing personal details with this virtual stranger, surprised Jim more than he
cared to admit. But Artemus was as good a listener as he was a storyteller and Jim felt at
ease with him. The man's wit and humor made Jim feel relaxed, even happy. He found
himself smiling more in the last few days than he had in the last year. He enjoyed the
mental sparring between them and found himself teasing and goading his new partner
into situations that led to it. And best of all, he could beat him at poker, though not easily.
Jim also realized that, for the first time in a long time, he'd been angry, frustrated,
punched in the nose, and he'd not retaliated with flying fists. He began to think he
understood the President's 'calming force' remark. Artemus seemed to be able to diffuse a
situation adroitly and was forcing Jim to be the polite person he'd been brought up to be.
A year and a half of frustrating *ssignments had worn him to a frazzle and made
everything and everyone an annoyance. Now that was changing. Finally, and of a great
deal of importance to Jim, he realized that Artemus was comfortable with himself. His
self-confidence was exactly that and not the arrogance Jim had ascribed to him.
Artemus' respect for Jim was growing as well. He found him to be as intelligent as he'd
thought him to be 5 years ago when they'd first met. Jim listened and remembered easily.
His quick mind led him to understand most of what Artemus told him about science and
invention. And Artemus learned a great deal about spotting a trap, tracking a subject in
the wilderness, and, even though he could defend himself, he learned how to defend
himself more effectively. Jim's physicality was impressive and so was his talent at cards.
Artemus had met his match in that respect and they had enjoyed many a hand of poker in
the evenings. And Jim had proved he had a sense of humor. For absolutely no reason, Jim
had set up a bucket full of confetti to come pouring down on Artemus as he entered the
W.C. one morning then stood just out of reach grinning from ear to ear. Another time,
while Jim had Artemus following a trail in the nearby woods, snow fell and covered the
tracks that Jim had left for Artemus to follow. Although Artemus had successfully
uncovered the tracks and followed them to where Jim waited, instead of the expected
congratulations, he’d been bombarded with snowballs. It had led to a battle with the two
grown men running through the woods pelting each other with handfuls of snow,
laughing like children. Jim was perceptive and read people very well. He was a good
judge of character and put that expertise to use when challenging Artemus in the training
scenarios. And he was quite good at keeping up with Artemus when it came to a mental
sparring match. This Artemus enjoyed more than anything else.
By Friday when they reported to President Grant and Col. Richmond, Jim was proud of
what Artemus had accomplished. They both acknowledged that they had learned a great
deal from the other in their short *ssociation.
"Do you think he's ready, James?" Mr. Grant asked.
"He’s more than ready, sir. I predict he'll p*ss with flying colors," Jim answered with a
smile lighting his face.
President Grant noticed the change in Jim. He was the young man he'd come to trust and
like so many years ago. "How are you two getting along?" he ventured.
"Just fine, sir. Artemus is easy to like. I'd hadn’t felt that when we first met 5 years ago
but I admit I was mistaken. I apologize for being so impudent when you suggested him as
a partner, sir," Jim answered honestly and sincerely.
"And do you think he'll be an *sset to the Service?" the President wanted to know. He still
valued Jim's opinion and judgment of character.
"Definitely, sir. Although," Jim paused.
"What is it, James?" Mr. Grant asked sounding concerned.
"Col. Richmond is going to have his hands full with him, sir," Jim smiled imagining how
the stern Colonel would react to Artemus' quick wit and glib tongue.
"Yes, I see. But I gave Douglas fair warning about that," the President agreed.
By the end of the next week, Artemus had proved Jim's prediction right, p*ssing
everything that was thrown at him with grace and ease. He excelled at the research
portion of the program. In many cases he actually knew more than the instructors.
The physical portion he did well, due in large part to Jim's training. With credentials
in hand, he was now truly, Jim's partner.
Just as important to each man, was the friendship that was growing between them.
Together, they modified Jim's suits, making hidden pockets for lock picks and knives,
Artemus showed Jim how he’d revised the heels of his boots to carry a breakaway
derringer and a small amount of explosive. Artemus also sewed on new buttons he'd
devised. Each one carried a small amount of explosive. He also sewed a thin line of fuse
into the hem of Jim's jacket.
"Where'd you learn to sew? Is your father a tailor?" Jim teased grinning at the handiwork.
He had no way of knowing that Artemus had lost his father less than a year ago.
"No, just the only son of a widowed mother," Artemus answered with a touch of sadness
in his voice. "Actually, my parents were actors too. In the theater, you better be able to
repair or modify a costume or you just might be left, uh, out in the cold, shall we say,” he
chuckled at a memory and shared it with Jim. “On stage one night," he
chuckled again, "my father had neglected to repair his costume and wound up with a tear
all the way down the back of the tunic he was wearing. Left his backside completely
bare,” he laughed. “I was just a child when that happened, but mother made sure her son
knew how to sew after that." They shared a laugh over the story.
"I wish I had someplace to conceal a gun other than my boot," Jim mused aloud checking
out the break away heels in his boots filled with an explosive compound and the other the
"Ask and ye shall receive, James, my boy," Artemus replied and handed him a special
item he'd made.
"How does this work?" Jim asked holding the lightweight metal slide.
"Take your jacket off," Artemus instructed then helped Jim place the slide on his arm and
install a small derringer. “It should activate with the flex of a muscle,” he told Jim
handing back his jacket.
Jim pulled his jacket back on and activated the slide simply by flexing a muscle. The
derringer landed perfectly in his palm. "This is great," he complimented the handiwork.
Just then, the wireless clattered and Artemus took paper and pencil and signaled he was
ready to receive. It was a message from Col. Richmond, giving them their first
*ssignment as partners. They grinned at each other.
“Well, Artie, ready to begin your new career?” Jim asked his eyes flashing.
“Artie?” Artemus repeated, eyebrows raised in question.
“You mind?” Jim asked sheepishly.
“Not at all, Jim, not at all,” Arte replied smiling contentedly and thinking back on how
far they’d both traveled to reach this anticipated moment.
Mrs. Fortune: "Which one are you? The one whose father was arrested for moonshining?"
Artie: "No, the thoughtful, considerate one."