“Senator, there’s a letter in the post from your son in Central America” the aide said after having knocked on the inner office of the senior senator from Massachusetts. A veteran of the Civil War and protégé of Thaddeus Stevens the senator was now in his mid-sixties, a respectable age for a man who had survived two of the world’s most vicious battlefields, Third Manassas, and the Reconstruction Congress. Even after Richmond had fallen he’d pressed southward with his corps, meeting the forces coming into Georgia from beyond the mountains they had pushed on together to Savanah, the last serious stronghold of the failed Confederacy by the end of 1863.
“A letter you say? I can only imagine it must have been sent before he sent that telegram to the State Department about the risk of the volcano exploding.”
“I believe the term is ‘erupting’ senator. The post mark does indicate it was sent the day before the telegram yes. It is addressed to you here, not in Salem, so it came directly. I’ll leave it here on top of the other correspondence from the morning mail.”
Once young Johnson had left Senator Straton crossed the room to open the letter from his son.
Father, I hope that Washington is treating you well this session. I will
dispense with the niceties that letters require, because I have news that
I am certain will interest you. James Smith the Third is currently here in
Rivas. I’ve made discrete enquiries and learned that he had luncheon with
John “Bingo” Baylor, who is a member of a shipping family here in
Rivas. Confederates both. Smith is reportedly traveling to Vancouver.
I am certain that you have an interest in knowing both men and their families.
J. Wilberforce Straton
Senator Straton took off his spectacles and rubbed his temples. He knew of both families his son had written to inform him about. While he had had numerous interactions with Smith’s father before his war, including a near duel in the winter of 1861, the reason he despised Smith was what he had done in Savanah. Not only did Smith burn Savanah to prevent the city from falling to the federal forces, he’d ordered the massacre of all Negros in the city. Rather than allow five thousand Negro men women and children become free Smith had ordered squads of Confederate soldiers to go from house to house across the city drag out all Negros, elderly, blind ‘uncles’ to newborn babies and bayonetted in the streets. By the time federal forces had crushed the remaining “army”, more a rag tag group perhaps four regiments strong, without their own shoes, and woefully under nourished but determined to prevent the federals from reaching the docks. The navy had been forced back to Charleston by a massive hurricane, sent by a judgmental God to lash the last stronghold of the Confederacy, but it had allowed nearly thirty ships to escape past the blockade. The ships carried away some of the most ardent Southerners, as well as their bullion. Baylor had slipped away from Louisiana before the Irish Volunteers from Mexico had captured New Orleans in early 1862. Always an opportunist from what he’d learned of Baylor, the man had prospered in Brazil and had invested well, eventually moving to Bluefields in the Federal Republic of Central America. Baylor was reportedly a brilliant man with finance, and fluent in four languages, English naturally, but also Portuguese, Spanish, and Irish Gaelic. It was widely believed that his knowledge of Gaelic had been why he’d managed to escape from the Irish Volunteers. He’d been aware that both men had children born in Brazil. Most of the so called Confederados had remarried and a lucky few had been able to take wives or children away with them. Senator Straton reached for a gazetteer he kept in the office and looked at the distances between Playa El Ocaso on Nicaragua’s western shore and Vancouver. He estimated it would take about two weeks for a ship to make the voyage, bug a staff member could find the exact answer that afternoon.
The Senator stepped to the office door and called out to the aide who’d brought the letter in.
“Mr. Johnson, can you send around to Senators Dow, Lincoln, Blane and Ross? I’d like to meet with them this afternoon if at all possible, see what conference rooms are available. It’s nothing formal so don’t even consider displacing anyone no matter how minor.”
“Yes senator. You do mean Robert Lincoln correct? His father is in town visiting, perhaps for the last time.”
“Yes Andrew, of course I mean Robert. Despite his having been a senator I would never dream of calling Old Abe anything but President.”
“Of course Senator.”
“Actually, since President Lincoln is in town, see if he is available to meet as well.”
“Very good Senator, anyone else?”
“No, as I said this is unofficial. Six of us is enough.”
“Alright a Secret Six.”
“Unofficial, not secret.”
“Say or repeat secret six to anyone again and I’ll shoot you myself.”