“Won’t you have some whiskey?” K. B. asked, pulling a bottle of Bourbon from his satchel.
“I promised my mother when I was a baby that I’d never taste liquor,” James replied with a shaky awkwardness.
Several of his friends were gathered round and they all urged him on.
“I wish you would,“ one of them added, “I think that today merits an exception... after all, even the town across the woods is pointing out the irony of your predicament. It’s named after a tavern for God’s sake...”
James threw his hands into the air, resigning himself to the persuasive force of peer pressure. He looked over at his friend Andrew, with whom he had been through much.
“Tell me, Andrew... how do I look?”
“There’s a little flush to your face,” he said, “Why don’t you take it?”
James stroked his thick beard for a moment and let out a deep sigh. All eyes were on him as he reached forward and took hold of the bottle that K. B. was still holding out for him. He raised it up to the late afternoon sun that was filtering through the Virginia pines and inspected its caramelized color. Before uncorking it, he hesitated and looked over at a few soldiers standing nearby.
“Go do your duty for your country,” he said in a commanding voice. He pointed with the bottle, “Back to the front.”
The soldiers, sheepishly obedient, moved out of his line of sight.
It was May 11th, 1864, and Confederate Cavalry General James “Jeb” Stuart had little more than 24 hours to live, mortally wounded by a Yankee sharpshooter at Yellow Tavern.
The aroma of the sour-mash was shrill to his virgin sense, grown accustomed only to the smell of horses and gunpowder.
“Mama, forgive me...”