1864 Sunnyside continued-8
While Robert was rescuing Bessie, Margaret and her siblings were safely hidden away in the smokehouse. Sallie, Margaret's best friend, had crossed her mind and she knew that she had to quickly alert her about the Union Soldiers headed their way. Knowing her sisters had pleaded for her to stay, Margaret found an opportunity to slip away unnoticed. In the corner of her eye, she saw a mule that had not been slain safely tucked away beside the pecan orchard. With a clever move, Margaret hopped on the mule's back and sent it into a gallop. Griping the mule's mane and kicking its side, she was soon on her way. Margaret had had many experiences riding mules bareback.
As Robert sat in the smokehouse he worried about Margaret. Thinking the worst his anxiety soon turned to anger and he asked Bessie and the girls to remain in the smokehouse and not make a sound. Robert snuck out into the yard, concealing himself behind a stack of wood, and spied a mounted Union Soldier who had no idea he was being watched. In one swift move, Robert pulled the soldier from his horse, snatched up his saber, and ended the soldier's duty there and then. Robert then took the sidearm and hopped onto the horse.
Robert rode back to the smokehouse and gave the sidearm to Bessie before quickly heading off towards Sunnyside. It was a new moon so there wasn't much visible light, but he could still make out the mule tracks. He rode on and soon enough, he crossed Savage Creek at Patterson Ford. After a while, he noticed that the mule tracks had faded away, but he continued on his journey to Sunnyside.
As Robert made his way towards Sunnyside, the dogs started to bark, stirring Marry Ann from her sleep. She tried her best to wake GW, a few attempts later and he was finally awake. Looking out of the upstairs window, GW noticed a cloud of dust followed by a Union Horse. He sighed, remembering the warning his brother William had given him about the Union Army only a week earlier.
GW emerged onto the porch in his longjohns, having picked up his 10 gauge Parker Double Barrel Shotgun and loading both barrels. He called out to the rider, which turned out to be Robert. Robert's response was quick and scared, "It's me, Robert! Don't shoot, don't shoot!" GW stepped down from the porch and asked, in genuine concern, "Robert, what on earth are you doing here? What's happened?" Robert told him about Margaret's disappearance, how she'd set out to warn them about the Union Invasion, and how his plantation was destroyed. GW spoke in a caring voice, "We haven't seen her around here. If you'd like, I'll help you look for her."
GW returned to the house and discussed the matter with Mary Ann. She kindly assisted GW with his attire and coat. As GW got changed, Mary Ann woke Henry and requested he go rouse Axson to saddle GW's horse. Despite the slew of questions, Henry began his mission to awaken Axson.
Once GW was ready, his horse was already tied to the porch railing. He then mounted his horse. He told Robert, “We should go to Richland Church, in about an hour the sun starts to rise," GW said. "I think if we ring the bell three times, that'll will alert the neighbors so we can all meet up together at the church to assemble a search party, at first light we can begin the search." Robert nodded in agreement. "Sure thing, my friend!"
GW and Robert rode their horses slowly down the clay-red road, almost five miles to the Richland Church from Sunnyside. Approaching the church, they were curious to see a crowd gathered there. Before they could understand what was happening,they saw the church had been turned into a hospital, with both Confederate and Union soldiers in need of medical attention. The moans and groans of anguish filled the air as the darkness gave way to dawn. Coming to terms with the realization, GW and Robert decided they needed a Plan B.