“Gentlemen, I am going on the train with all the soldiers, but my schedule says it’s time for you to take a leave of absence. And I got a notice from the Board of Occupational Safety Hardship Advancement (OSHA) and they insist that I give you leave or be fined by the Confederate Government. So, here are your papers! Enjoy your leave.” And with those words, General Jackson departed for Richmond.

Henry K. Douglas

McGuire, Pendleton, Douglas, Smith, Crutchfield, and Boswell made plans. They would take Highway 1862 which was a scenic route with several good houses to stop at for bed and breakfast. They didn’t feel like walking, but their horses had been shipped down to the next location.

“Why don’t we just rent-a-horse?” Douglas suggested.

“Good idea,” Smith said. “Dabney was telling me how easy it was. He even got the special chaplain’s discount.”

“Well, I suppose we could all get military discounts,” Crutchfield added, dryly.

“Maybe a student discount too,” Pendleton chimed in hopefully. “Mama didn’t send me my allowance on time this month.”

They trooped down to the rent-a-horse office.

Dr. Hunter McGuire

“We’d like to rent some horses,” McGuire announced politely to the clerk sitting behind the office desk. “Could you please tell us about the options and pricing?”

“Why – of course. We have several options available. Compact ponies. Regular horses. And oversized draft horses for the oversized or overweight baggage. Our prices are all very reasonable, ranging from fifty cents per day to a dollar fifty depending on your horse size. We have saddles and gear for rent too. And we offer a plan that is guaranteed at any blacksmith shop for an additional low cost. Your horse leaves the stable fully fed, but you’re responsible for feeding the horse and returning it in good condition.”

“That sounds fine,” Boswell said. “Let’s see the horses, sign the papers, and get going.”

“Oh – but I did forget one thing. Are you gentlemen over the age of thirty or are your married?”

“No,” they all replied, and the clerk looked worried.

“Well, I must tell you, there is an additional ten dollar charge if you are under the age of thirty. That can be waived if you are married.”

Colonel Stapleton Crutchfield (Virginia Military Institute Archive Collection)

“What prompts the price increase?” Crutchfield asked.

“We are a reliable and reputable company and after many years in the business, we have found that unmarried men under thirty are prone to horse racing, drinking, and other reckless behavior which might injure or harm our horses.”

“And is the ten dollars refundable if we return our horses in excellent condition?” McGuire said.

“I’m afraid not.”

Smith chimed in, “And this is the only Rent-A-Horse within five miles?”

“That’s correct.”

“What about a military or student discount?” Pendleton wanted to know.

“If you are a student, the price goes up fifteen dollars. There is no military discount since you might get the horse shot or traumatize it for life.”

Alexander “Sandie” Pendleton

“Thank you for the information,” McGuire said. “I believe we must consult among ourselves before making a decision.”

“Good grief,” Crutchfield exclaimed as the shop door closed behind them. “That is ridiculous. I wonder if it would help if we told him who we are. I mean we keep the Army of the Shenandoah intact, ready for battle, and in the field.”

“We could try, but what are we going to do when he says that won’t help?”

“We can’t change our ages,” Smith shook his head.

“I don’t want to get hitched just for the sake of getting a horse.”

“But that might be better than spending all that money for a horse,” Pendleton mused.

“No, because you’d have to spent more money on your wife,” Crutchfield reminded everyone.

“Wait a second,” Boswell said, “how does Johnny Pelham do it? I know he is always renting horses for special occasions, and he’s our age and probably has less money since J.E.B. Stuart has those work uniform requirements.”

“You might be onto something,” McGuire replied thoughtfully. “Do you actually have to show a marriage license or sort of stroll by the office talking earnestly with a pretty girl?”

John Pelham

“That might explain why Johnny has recently acquired so many dates. Think about it. If he takes Miss Bessie walking in Culpeper, Miss Sallie driving in Harpers Ferry, and Miss Katherine dancing in Richmond, then the local Rent-a-Horse folks think he’s in a relationship, engaged, or about to be married and he gets his discount.”

“That doesn’t completely make sense, but we could try it!” Pendleton enthused. The others looked worried. Pendleton in love was not a situation they wanted to deal with. Again. The break up with Laura Burwell had been bad enough – especially because Pendleton didn’t drink, McGuire thought.

“But is it fair to the girls?” Boswell questioned. “I think we should tell them why we’re asking them on a date.”

“No!” Douglas protested. “What’s the fun in that? Watch and learn, boys. Watch and learn.”

Six girls came strolling down the lane, undoubtedly older students at the local female academy. They were carrying bouquets of flowers and some heavy boxes. Douglas advanced and tipped his kepi. “Ladies, it’s too warm a day for you to have carry all those items. Might my friends and I be of assistance?”

“Certainly,” one responded. “We’d be delighted.”

“Oh, not as much as we are pleased to help such sweet ladies.” The others joined him and they took the items the girls had been toting, pairing off and starting separate conversations.

“Now, where are we heading?” Douglas asked loudly, interrupting everyone.

“The church, of course,” the blonde at his side said with an inviting smile. “We are tasked with arranging the flowers for the Sunday services tomorrow.”

“Well, now…” This was working better than he could have ever imagined! “Carry a bouquet and off we go.”

At varying intervals, the pairs strolled by the Rent-A-Horse office on the way to the church. Curious, the clerk peeked out the door and noticed them all heading toward the church. “My gracious, they are all getting married. Why didn’t they tell me, I wonder?”

And so when the six officers re-entered the office an hour later, the clerk had all the paperwork prepared with discounts and ready for their signatures. “I had no idea there were six weddings today!” He babbled on and on, very anxious to get the payments, send off the horses, and get home to tell his wife the news of the village.

“Problem solved!” Douglas exulted as they trotted out of town and passed the church, waving to the girls one last time.

“Do you think we should tell anyone that we know Johnny Pelham’s secret?” Crutchfield asked after a few miles.

“Nah, why spoil his fun? And why make life easy for historians in the future?” McGuire replied and the others heartily agreed.

April Fools from Emerging Civil War

Because we all need to have a little fun and remember to laugh… Now take care and remember to wash your hands and pretend you’re on the skirmish line with your buddies to practice good social distancing. 

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