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It was the third year of the war and by now there was
hardly anybody left in the country except the women and the
children. The men were gone with Colonel Reeves to live in the
forests, and many families had fled to Texas or St. Louis.
Abandoned house places looked out with blank windows from every
hollow and valley in the Ozark mountains so that at night the wind
sang through the disintegrating chinking as if through a bone
Adair Colley had just turned eighteen in early November of 1864
when the Union Militia arrested her father and tried to set the
house on fire. Her sister Savannah saw them first; a long line of
riders in blue trotting in double column as they turned into the
road that led to the Colley farm.
All through the last three years of the war Adair's father had
tried to keep his children close to home. Because he was a justice
of the peace, he was called Squire, and the newspapers he
subscribed to came addressed to Squire M.L. Colley. Her father had
determined to stay out of the war and keep his children out of the
reach of soldiers of either army and he had succeeded in this for
three years. He read in the Little Rock paper that the Missouri
Union Militia was being thrown together out of troops dredged up
from the riverfronts of St. Louis and Alton, from the muddy
Missouri River towns. Men who joined up for a keg of whiskey and
five dollars a month.
The trained and disciplined Union troops had long ago been sent to
the battlefields of the East, to Virginia and Tennessee, while the
hastily recruited Militia had been sent down into the Ozarks to
chastise the families whose men had gone to the Southern Army, to
catch and arrest them when they returned from their six-month
enlistments, and to punish those who might be suspected of
harboring Southern sympathies.
Adair's father did not know what the law was on this matter,
concerning men who had been in the Southern Army and had returned
home and were soldiers no longer, or those who had never joined up
at all but had no means of proving it. But it was no matter, for
the Union Militia knew no law. After they burnt down the
courthouses they then began to ambush the mail carriers, so the
southeastern Ozarks seemed a place cut off from the entire
Adair's father read to them in the evenings out of the rare
newspaper he managed to acquire, the Memphis Appeal and the St.
Louis Democrat. Adair sat on the clothes trunk to stare at the fire
and listen to the inflamed prose of the Democrat. She would rather
he read the racing news from the Nashville paper, for she wanted to
hear if Copperbottom's sons were running but the war consumed
everything, even human thoughts and horse races.
There are four main rivers coming down out of the southeastern
Missouri Ozarks into the Mississippi. They are the Eleven-Point,
the Current, the Black, and the Saint Francis. For three years
Adair had seen at a distance soldiers of both armies riding up
these river valleys in search of one another. Her brother, John
Lee, rode to the ridges to stand watch for them every morning, for
the Fifteenth Missouri Cavalry under Colonel Reeves would take your
horses as quick as would any Militia. He watched for their smoke,
at dawn when the soldiers would be lighting their breakfast fires.
He did not go to war himself for he had a withered arm. So the
Union Militia raided and set fire to the outlying places all around
the Colley farm but continued somehow to miss them.
All through this time Adair's father remained absorbed in his books
of law, his newspapers passed from hand to hand down the Wire Road
or the Nachitoches Trace by…
Excerpted from ENEMY WOMEN © Copyright 2002 by Paulette
Jiles. Reprinted with permission by William Morrow and Company, an
imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.