An excerpt from a new book by Shelby Toe, Meteors in Their Courses - The Gettysburg Campaign

Chapter 6

The sun set on the smoky carnage-filled scene around the hills that lay south of the small college town. The two opposing armies lay resting, panting like two big-boned farm girls after a wrestling match at a barn dance, competing for a young man's favors.

Upon Seminary Ridge the tents of the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and his staff were set. General Robert E Lee, now at just over two years in his current position, sat on the end of his cot, thinking of tomorrow's plans and scratching absentmindedly at the rash on the inside of his thighs.

The rash had appeared shortly after the battle at Sharpsburg, and had gotten to the point that he preferred to sleep without wearing trousers.

His army's progress of the past two days had been remarkable. With little knowledge of the enemy's disposition he had driven him pell-mell on the first two days, wrecking three enemy corps and shaking the rest of the enemy's army, which now sat entrenched on the high ground southeast of Gettysburg.

One nagging concern had been somewhat relieved. His cavalry commander, James Ewell Brown Stuart - called "JEB" by most - was reported to be on the way to the headquarters to make his report. He was both glad and angry to see him… glad because he felt relieved that his subordinate and confidant had not run into serious trouble, angry because Stuart had given no word of his whereabouts for the past several days. To make matters worse he would now have to put his pants back on.

Lee slowly put his trousers on and buttoned up his jacket, listening to the quiet still of the night as he did so. The only sound was the whispering of the junior staff members as they went about their unimportant errands and the occasional sound of Traveler breaking wind, as his stomach was out of sorts after eating several green apples along the road from Chambersburg.

Not 200 yards away General Stuart rode in with a single member of his staff, a dimwitted kinsman of his mother who was feebleminded and useless. (He could, however, keep a good shine on the General's boots. He was also renowned for being infested with the most lice of any man in the Army). He rode quietly toward the commander's tent, being careful not to make any noise to disturb the two sentries that lay asleep at their post, guarding Lee.

Stuart entered General Lee's tent and saw the General standing there, coldly eyeing him. He noticed the General's trousers were unbuttoned and a small tuft of underdrawers were sticking out, somewhat abnormal for the general's usually impeccable appearance in uniform. He saluted sharply, as was his nature and reported for duty.

"General Stuart," began Lee, "Our Army has been without the aid of your reconnaissance for several days now. We came into this fight against unknown odds, and it is only by divine providence that we did not meet disaster here."

General Lee then paused and walked towards the entrance of the tent, clasping his hands behind him, causing his drawers to stick out of his fly like a snowman's codpiece on a brisk winter morning. "It is the opinion of some excellent officers that you have been derelict in your duties." General Lee finished and turned to stare at his subordinate.

"General Lee," snarled Stuart, as his nose hairs puffed out of his flared nostrils like party favors, "If you would kindly tell me the names of these… these gentlemen..."

"NO!", exclaimed General Lee. "There is no time for that! I will not tell you their names... but their initials are Longstreet, Hill and Ewell."

Reprimanded, Stuart slowly hung his head. Deliberately, he took the sword and scabbard off his belt and undid his trousers, turning around and exposing his pimply, round, saddle-weary buttocks to the Army Commander.

"Since I no longer have your confidence sir, I wish to be punished."

"I told you sir, there is no time!" said Lee, slamming his fist on the map table. He turned and looked at Stuart again. "Now, sir, that did pain me greatly," he said, gently rubbing his hand.

General Lee went to his subordinate speaking softly, while Stuart pulled his trousers up, buttoned them and put his sword and scabbard back on his belt. "You have made a mistake, sir. I trust it will not happen again. Let us learn from this, as a man does," he said soothingly to his chief of cavalry.

Stuart turned and faced his commander as General Lee walked to the other side of the tent. The magnificent gentleman turned toward Stuart and said, "I trust this matter is concluded. You are dismissed, sir."

Stuart saluted smartly and ducked out of the tent, almost bumping into a chubby Dutch girl in underpinnings, who was giggling and carrying a small bucket of berries with cream. She also held a riding crop in her hands.

He quickly mounted and looked over at his aide, who stared back at him with a vacant, inbred look, "Well cousin, let's go," he said. They rode off toward their destiny. The headquarters was soon left to settle back into the quiet of the night, the only sounds being the snoring sentries, a giggling Dutchgirl, the Army Commander imitating a Negro field hand and a final blast of flatulence from Traveler.