“The Battle of Chickamauga was the bloodiest two days of fighting in American history. The battle cost the Federals 1,657 dead, 9,756 wounded, and 4,757 missing for a total of 16,170 casualties out of 58,000 troops. The Confederate losses were 2,312 dead, 14,674 wounded and 1,468 for a total of 18,545 out of 66,000 troops,” explained the tour guide.

“Union troops were led by Brigadier General William Roscrans. General Braxton Bragg was in charge of the Confederate troops. The fighting had been so intense that President Lincoln sent General Ulysses S. Grant to re-establish command. In fact, Lincoln’s brother-in-law, Confederate Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin Helms was mortally wounded in the Battle. Federal Generals McDowell, Crittenden, and McCook were relieved of duty and order to Indianapolis to face a court of inquiry because of the way the Battle was handled.

“Following the Battle, Union troops retreated to Chattanooga to regroup and get supplies. However, food and supplies were nowhere to be found. Cutting federal supply lines was the first thing General Bragg and his men did. So, the Union troops were literally starving.

“When Grant arrived, he relieved Roscrans of his command and put General George Thomas in charge. Grant ordered Thomas to hold Chattanooga at all costs, but they knew that their men were too weak to put up much of a fight. The next day, Grant and Thomas took Army engineer, General William “Baldy” Smith to Brown’s Ferry to try and figure out a way to sneak supplies to their men. Smith chose William Hazen and a couple of his men to scout the area. The plan was to load flat-bottom boats with food and supplies and move them quietly down the river under a blanket of fog right past the Confederate lookouts.

“One of Hazen’s scouts, Tom Thrasher, came here to Rosemont Plantation on a cold October 25th night. The manor house where we are standing had been deserted by most of the family, but Laura Rosemont stayed behind to take care of her Grandfather, Beau Rosemont, who was dying and was too sick to move.

“According to records that were later excavated, Thrasher broke into the house looking for food and was confronted by Ms. Rosemont. A painting of her hangs here over the fireplace,” explained the tour guide.

“Wow! She beautiful,” Kate exclaimed. “Look at her eyes.”

“Yeah,” Jenny agreed. “You know, you could be her sister. You look just like her.”

“You’re crazy! I wish I looked like her,” Kate said as she stared at the painting, unable to turn away.

“Thrasher seems to have been a typical low-life enlisted man, and when he saw Laura, he reportedly threatened to kill her grandfather if she didn’t take care of his carnal needs,” the guide said.

“Gross!” Kate said to Jenny.

“As the story goes, Laura led Thrasher to a back bedroom, and the repulsive man ordered her to take off her clothes in front of him while he ate bread and cheese he stole from the Rosemont’s cupboard. Laura was determined not to cry or show fear in front of Thrasher. Her hands were trembling as she began slowly removing her outer garments. When she got to her undergarments, Thrasher told her to stop and said that he liked to open his own Christmas presents. He took out his hunting knife and walked toward her. Laura closed her eyes and stiffened, awaiting the assault.

“Instead of feeling filthy hands or cold steel against her throat, she practically jumped out of her skin at the sound of a gunshot. Laura opened her eyes, and a young Confederate Lieutenant, named Jerrod Price, was standing over Thrasher’s prone body holding a spent pistol. Price kicked Thrasher to make sure he was dead and spit on him to emphasize his disgust. Laura was shaking from head to toe. Price turned to the young woman, took off his coat, and wrapped it around her. He looked at her with gentle blue eyes and asked her if she had been hurt. She shook her head ‘no.’ He then escorted her into the kitchen and built a fire in the stove to make her a cup of tea.

“When Laura had calmed down enough to think, she looked at the thin young man in her kitchen and figured he was no more than 22. His hands and face were stained with a combination of dirt, blood, and gunpowder. She looked down at his shirt and saw a growing blood stain. He smiled at her and told her not to worry. He had been stabbed in hand-to-hand combat, but it was just a flesh wound. Laura insisted on removing Jerrod’s shirt. She cleaned and dressed the wound, and she filled a large bowl with hot water to allow him to clean himself.

“Laura started to leave to give the man some privacy, but he said that the shoulder injury she had just cleaned wouldn’t allow him to reach the parts of his body that needed cleaning. He explained that he was a little embarrassed but asked if she could wash him. She looked into the kindly, shy eyes and consented,” the guide continued.

“Excuse me,” Kate interrupted. “You seem to have a lot of detail about this private encounter. How do you know all of this?”

The guide answered, “When we were renovating the plantation with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation grant, one of the items we unearthed was Laura Rosemont’s diary. The section about her encounter with the lieutenant was quite detailed,” the guide explained with a smile.

“Laura then cleaned and fed Price. According to the diary, they shared a bed that night in the main bedroom at the top of the stairs. Laura described the evening as the most intensely romantic and erotic experience of her life. The next day, the soldier got ready to rejoin his unit. But, before he left, he promised Laura that he would return for her.”

“So, did they live happily ever after?” Kate asked.

“I’m sad to report that Price was killed in the Battle of the Little Tennessee Valley. Laura waited for him to return until after the war. Finally, she married a doctor from Atlanta and went on to have three children with him. He was reportedly an honorable and decent man, and she loved him. But, she never again felt the passion she experienced in the arms of her soldier savior.

“Though I have never seen or experienced anything personally, there have been several reported sightings of a man who bears a striking resemblance to the description of Jerrod Price that Laura included in her diary. Many believe that Jerrod Price returns to the manor to try and make good on his promise to find Laura,” the guide explained.

“That’s so sad,” Kate said to Jenny. “Imagine having only one night with the man of your dreams and losing him forever. I can’t imagine anything more tragic.”

“I totally agree, but wouldn’t this place be perfect for our Halloween fund raiser? Do you think they would allow it?” Jenny said.

“I don’t know how you can think about parties after hearing that story, but, go and ask,” Kate said. While Jenny was gone, Kate looked at the furnishings in the family room and moved closer to get a better look at Laura’s portrait. Her eyes seemed sad, Kate thought. “Maybe I’m imagining things.”

She caught up with Jenny, who was peppering the guide with questions about renting the facility for a night. Afterwards, Kate asked him about the diary.

“Actually, you can read it yourself. The Foundation reproduced it in book form, and it’s available in the gift shop,” he answered.

“I’ll come by tomorrow to give you a deposit and make arrangements,” Jenny said to the guide, who turned out to be Mr. Bryant, caretaker of the property.

“Thanks. It should be a great atmosphere for your fund raising event,” he replied.

Kate and Jenny were part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at Benton College, and the sorority had adopted the local chapter of the Children’s Defense League as the focus of their fund raising efforts for the year. The Halloween Ball would be the first major event, and they were hoping to raise $10,000 through corporate sponsorships and alumni connections.

Jenny was going to the Ball with Brad Keller. Kate had broken up with her boyfriend over the summer, so she didn’t have a date.

“Katie, with those long legs and that killer body, I can fix you up with pretty much any man on campus,” Jenny offered.

“Thanks, but we’ll need worker bees for the event, and I’d rather work than have a blind date.” Kate replied.

“Don’t be so quick to turn down blind dates,” Jenny smirked. “They have to communicate with their hands, you know!”

“You are horny and twisted,” Kate said as she shook her head.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Jenny remarked.

Kappa Alpha Psi, one of the college frats, heard about the fund raiser and offered to help host the event. They said that if they pooled their alumni resources, they thought they could raise $25,000 for the League. AKA agreed. Kate was asked to be in charge, and her counterpart was Stephen Cowens. Kate was not thrilled. Stephen was a stereotypical spoiled frat boy with too much of his father’s money and not nearly enough of his brains. He was basically no help except for being an expert in the acquisition of beer kegs. Kate had to pull together the event mostly by herself, though several of her sorority sisters did pitch in to help.

A big tent was set up on the grounds by the manor house. The Rosemont Foundation agreed to allow the first floor of the manor house to remain open during the party, but the upstairs was to be off-limits.

Kate hired a jazz band to play during the event, and Walton’s Catering came up with a Civil War period menu, composed only of dishes that could be made with the items that would have been available on the plantation during the war. The dinner was served by waiters and waitresses in plantation era tuxedos. Guests were encouraged to wear tuxes and ball gowns, preferably from the era, but that wasn’t a requirement.

The response was better than anyone expected. Limos were lined up for a couple of miles as the corporate sponsors and guests danced and dined. Several attendees were so impressed they donated extra to help pay for the party so more money could be sent to the League.

“Kate, you have done a magnificent job,” Terri Marshall, the Executive Director of Children’s Defense League gushed. “I have been doing this a long time, and I have never seen such a response. The decorations, the music, the food … it’s all terrific. Thank you so much for your hard work. You and AKA are going to help a lot of kids get out of bad homes and start new lives because of what you’ve done here tonight.”

“Thank you, Ms. Marshall. It was fun. The kids you introduced me to were amazing, so this was really a labor of love.”

“Did someone say love?” asked Stephen, as he intruded into the conversation. Terri gave him the same look she would have had if she had stepped on a snail. Kate stifled a laugh.

“Yes, well, I have to get back to mingling. Kate, please call Annie on Monday so we can find a time for me to take you to dinner as a small way of saying thanks.”

“Am I invited too?” Stephen asked with as stupid grin.

“Only if we decide to dine in a brewery, dear,” Terri said with a fake smile. Kate laughed out loud at that remark. Terri winked at her and made a hasty exit.

“Kate, you look hot in that gown. How about taking a spin on the dance floor?” Stephen asked.

“Thanks, Stephen, but I’m still working.”

“So am I, but we can have a little fun, can’t we?” He grabbed her wrist and pulled her to him. “You know you’re the best looking girl here. How about a dance with the best looking guy?”

Kate struggled to get out of his grasp. “Stephen, let go of me! You’re hurting my wrist”

One of the waiters had been watching the activity out of the corner of his eye. When he saw that Stephen was not releasing Kate, he walked over and said, “Can I help you, Miss?”

“Fuck off, Jose. Kate and I were just going to have a little dance, weren’t we?”

Kate slammed her heel down on Stephen’s foot, which enabled her to get out of his grip. “WE are not doing anything, loser!”

“Come on, Kate. I’ve seen how you’ve been looking at me the past few weeks,” Stephen said.

“Yeah … like an entomologist examining a mutant slug!” The waiter let out a burst of laughter before putting his hand over his mouth. Stephen shot him an angry look.

“Sorry, sir. The young lady’s metaphor caught me off guard,” the waiter explained.

“Why don’t you go peddle some drinks,” Stephen said, stepping toward the waiter menacingly.

“If it’s all the same, sir, I’d rather stay and make sure the young lady is all right,” the waiter replied in a calm but firm manner.

Stephen turned like he was going to walk away, but quickly turned back to deliver a right hook to the waiter’s jaw. The waiter merely took a small step back, threw up a forearm to block the blow, grabbed Stephen’s tuxedo sleeve, and used Stephen’s momentum against him, sticking out his own leg to trip the obnoxious frat boy and send him tumbling to the ground. Kate watched the whole thing in stunned silence.

“May I help you up, sir,” the waiter asked as Stephen struggled to his feet. Stephen angrily brushed grass and dirt off his pants, slapped the waiter’s hand away, glared at Kate and stormed off.

“Thank you …” Kate said as she searched for a name badge.

“Jerry,” the waiter offered. “Are you alright?”

“Yes, thanks to you. I don’t know what that Neanderthal would have tried to do if you hadn’t been here,” she said she gazed into Jerry’s clear blue eyes.

He shrugged modestly and replied, “He wouldn’t have done anything too bad with all these people around. I’m just glad I was here at the right time.” He took Kate’s hand and gallantly kissed it. “Well, I better get back to work.”

“Really? Do you have to? I mean, the party’s almost over,” Kate said.

“Yes. I have to finish serving the guests and then work as part of the breakdown crew.” Kate’s face dropped a little. “Of course, if you were still here near the end of clean-up, we could share a late evening drink.”

Kate looked at the handsome face with the light stubble, the pronounced dimple on his right side and the small cleft in his chin. She was momentarily lost in his masculine good looks. “Uhm … yes, I’d love to,” she said with a big smile.

“Then it’s a date,” he replied. He handed her two clean wine glasses and picked out an excellent bottle of Bordeaux for her. “Meet me on the back porch in an hour and a half. I’ll be the one in the sweaty monkey suit.”

“I’ll be the one dying to get out of this corset,” she replied, which made him chuckle. He nodded his head, smiled, and went back to work.

Jenny saw the tail end of the exchange and saw the look on Kate’s face. She walked over to Kate and remarked, “Excellent taste, Ms. Sebastian. He’s gorgeous! Where did you find him?”

“He found me, actually. He stopped Stephen from dragging me off into the woods for good ol’ hearty rape,” Kate explained.

“Just like Laura …” Jenny said. “Saved from an assault by a gallant soldier!”

“Yeah,” Kate snorted. “No damsels get distressed on the Rosemont Plantation.”

“Come on … let’s get back to the party!” Jenny said, as she rambled off to find Brad.

Kate stood there for a moment, thinking about Jerry, then shook her head, and followed Jenny to the bar.

At midnight, Jerry came around the side of the house and saw Kate swinging gently on the porch swing. She had taken off her shoes, and she was staring at the stars in the cool, blue darkness. He smiled.

“You made it!”

“Of course,” she said demurely. “I wouldn’t stand up my rescuer.”

He waved his hand as he stepped onto the porch and approached her. “You’re giving me too much credit. That guy was a buffoon. It was no big deal,” he said as he sat beside her. She turned her body so she was leaning against him. Jerry put his arm around her shoulders.

“I’ve never been saved before, so cut me some slack. If I want to fawn over my hero, I’m going to fawn,” she replied.

Jerry chuckled. “Okay … you win. Fawn away.” He pulled a bottle opener out of his jacket pocket and opened the wine. He sniffed it. “Mmmm … I think you’re going to like this,” he said as he poured her a glass. She sipped it. “What do you think?”

“That’s great! What is it?” Kate asked.

“It’s a 2004 Domaine de Bellivière, something or other. I’m not very good at French, but I do know this is supposed to be an excellent wine,” he answered.

She settled against him and sipped her wine while they swung back and forth. “So, tell me about yourself, Jerry. How did you come to be here to rescue me?”

“I recently got discharged from the Army and am taking a little time off before starting to college. I guess I dread being the oldest guy in the classroom,” he said.

“What are you going to study?”

“My grandpa has a big ranch out west. I was planning on going to vet school and moving out with him to work on the ranch and eventually take it over. He and my Grandma Millie desperately want to keep the ranch in the family. What about you?”

“I’m a journalism major, hoping to make it onto a paper some day and become the next female Bob Woodward.”

“Really? The paper and not TV, huh?”

“Yeah. I know everyone says newspapers are dying, but my dad’s an editor, so I guess I inherited ink under my fingernails.”

Jerry picked up her hand and kissed her fingers. “They look pretty clean to me.” She turned to look up at him, and he stared into her dark brown eyes, brushing back some loose strands of her long, straight hair. “God, you are beautiful, Kate. In the moonlight, you look like a Goddess from Greek mythology.”

She snorted. “Give me break.”

“I’m serious. With your dark hair and your tawny, velvety skin and those chocolate pools of your eyes,” he said as his speech got slower. “And, your soft, ruby lips.” He bent down and kissed her. Kate turned her body to provide easier access. She put her hands behind Jerry’s head and pulled him into her. Jerry opened his mouth wider to let their tongues dance together. As their kisses grew more urgent, Kate felt herself begin to get wet.

Jerry stopped and took her hand. “Bring the bottle and come with me,” he said, picking up the glasses. They stepped off the porch and walked in the moonlight to the old smokehouse. Jerry used the small foil knife from the bottle opener to pry back the plunger in the knob of the back door. “Be careful,” he cautioned Kate. “It’s dark and a little treacherous.” Kate had no idea what he was doing, but she felt safe with him, so she continued.

They went down some narrow stairs and walked through a tunnel. On the other side was a short staircase that led to the back of the kitchen in the manor house. He led her into the hallways and up the stairs. When they got to the master bedroom, he took the wine from her and set the bottle and glasses on the nightstand.

“Jerry, what are we doing here? This is breaking and entering. We could get into serious trouble.”

“It’s okay. Everyone’s long gone, and they don’t have a caretaker at night. We’ll be fine. May I?” he asked as he waited for permission to begin unleashing her from the Civil War era gown and undergarments. She knew she shouldn’t be doing this, but she didn’t want to stop. Jerry saw from her eyes that he could continue.

He unhooked the back of her gown and pulled it slowly off her shoulders. His smelled her scent and kissed her cool, creamy skin. Kate closed her eyes and concentrated on the feel of his strong hands. He pulled the skirt open to enable her to step out of it. He untied the back of the corset and released her body. He picked Kate up and gently laid her on the bed. He let out a long deep sigh as he studied her beauty. In fact, Kate had never felt more beautiful than basking here in the radiance of his stare.

Jerry looked into her eyes as he rested one of her feet on his chest and unhooked her stocking. He put one hand on her inner thigh and one on her outer thigh and ran his hands down the entire length of her sleek leg as he slid the stocking off her slender foot. He repeated the action on the other leg, took her foot in his hands and began kissing her toes.