RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 8 . . Rebels . . Part 4
RAILCAR GOLD is a historically accurate multi-generational fictional tale of hidden treasure, primarily set in York County, Pennsylvania during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. This is Part 4 of Chapter 8 . . . Rebels. A new part will be posted every Thursday. This chapter stands alone, starting here; however new readers may want to start at the beginning.
CHAPTER 8 . . . REBELS . . . Part 4
Johnny returned from scouting the locations of the Billmeyer & Small railcars as the locomotive “The Susquehanna” emerged from the Susquehanna River Bridge in Columbia. He immediately sought out George Small and gained the use of his engine to pull a train of all the Billmeyer & Small railcars in the Columbia rail yard.
With the approach of the Rebels, there were still additional engines that had previously bunched up in Wrightsville. George Small returned to the other side of the bridge to help these engineers prepare their locomotives for a bridge crossing to safety.
Congestion and confusion reigned in Columbia; with all the refugees, livestock and railcars intermixed in the rail yards. Johnny presented his plan for a Billmeyer & Small train pulled by “The Susquehanna” to the person in charge of the Columbia rail yard. Unfortunately, most of the Billmeyer & Small cars were boxed-in at far ends of sidings; necessitating their train likely would be one of the last trains to leave Columbia.
It was late Saturday before the last engine emerged from the bridge on the Columbia side of the river. The smoke stacks were replaced on the various engines throughout the night and the task of shifting railcars into trains began Sunday morning.
Four fully loaded trains had already left for Philadelphia by late Sunday afternoon as word reached Columbia that a brigade of Confederates had marched through York and was now making their way towards Wrightsville. That message must have been delayed, because scarcely ten-minutes afterwards, the people gathered in Columbia heard the first shooting between the Rebels and the defenders in Wrightsville.
Dan was alarmed, “Johnny, we need to do something to hurry up this process of switching all the Billmeyer and Small Cars into a train.” Johnny was not overly alarmed, “Don’t worry, I’ve heard that the bridge has been rigged. They’ll blow-up a section or two to prevent the Rebels from crossing. All boats and ferries are on this side of the river and the Rebels definitely will not be able to ford the rain swollen river due to all the recent rains.”
George Small had already convinced Johnny not to head to Philadelphia because of the congestion of trains already converging in that direction. Small’s suggestion was to take the Columbia & Reading Railroad out of Columbia and find a siding near Salunga. Then wait in Salunga to see what transpires with any Rebel attacks on the Susquehanna River Bridges at Harrisburg. From Salunga, they had two rail options east; towards Philadelphia or Reading.
At about six o’clock, Rebel cannon fire onto the defenses and town of Wrightsville could be heard in Columbia. The cannon smoke and falling shells were visible all the way across the river in Columbia.
At half-past six o’clock, the Billmeyer & Small train was finally ready to pull out of Columbia. It turned out to be the final train to leave the rail yard. However just as the train was building steam to pull out, a Union officer rode up to the engine and talked to George Small. He requested Small to wait a little longer; “just in case some of the militia need to be rapidly transported somewhere.”
It was seven o’clock when the out-numbered and out-gunned Wrightsville defenders started withdrawing across the bridge into Columbia. The defenders continued to emerge in an ever-increasing torrent out of the covered bridge; here, they reinforced the defenses built on the east side of the Susquehanna River.
Dan and George stood on top of the railcar containing their horses to watch all the action unfolding in front of them. All of a sudden, they saw a big cloud of smoke emerge from a section of the bridge near Wrightsville; quickly followed by “Boom, Boom, Boom,” in rapid succession.
People on the ground around them starting shouting, “The Rebels are firing on the bridge.” However Dan and George knew otherwise, this was the section rigged to blow-up in order to prevent the Rebels from crossing the river. Soon enormous flames were reaching skyward from the bridge.
Go to Part 5