The Curious Case of L B Foster Pt 2

The Curious Case of L B Foster (pt 2)

Lyman Beecher Foster was appointed to the US Naval Academy from the state of Maine by Congressman Israel Washburn jr., a founding member of the then new Republican Party. Lyman had lived since his birth in 1841 in Orono, Maine. His father Cony Foster had successful businesses there and served the community regularly, holding many town offices, which included a 25 year stint as Justice of the Peace. Both sides of Lyman’s family were New Englanders of long standing, so it is particularly odd where he ended up.

He reported to the Academy on Sept 24, 1856 and passed both the medical and academic tests. Throughout his first year, he accumulated remarkably few demerits, a total of 43 which was reduced further to 23 when the Superintendent of the Academy ordered 20 removed. (This is the year he carelessly set fire to the bedding in the hospital noted in a former post). I have not located his academic records, but they must have been subpar for he is still listed in the fourth class for the 1857-58 school year, indicating in the parlance of the day that he had been “turned back.”

He did better repeating his plebe year, at the end ranking 27th in a class of 91 middies, and passed into the Third Class for the 1858-59 year. However, his demerits increased five fold to 112, including many tobacco infractions (smoking, chewing, and permitting others to do so).

By the end of his Third Class year he only ranked 44th out of 50, and was allowed to resign. His demerits had increased also (up to 161), of which three were violations of the regulations governing the academy. One of these states rather cryptically “Throwing torpedoes into No 4 Bldg.” I’m still scratching my head over that one.

Rather than return to Maine, he went to live with his older brother Charles Henry Foster, who was then editor of a newspaper in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. He settled right in, and once Sumter was fired upon in 1861, he remained aligned with his new country. In fact, he travelled to Charleston to volunteer there, but then returned to his new home and enlisted in a North Carolina unit. After recovering from a severe wound received in 1862, he transferred to the Confederate Navy in 1863, and served faithfully until the end of the war.

Lyman felt so strong about his new home, that he changed his middle name to Livingston, which was that of a treasured friend. Beecher was a hated name in the slave states, for Lyman Beecher was the name of a famous Presbyterian preacher and abolitionist, and the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe who was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Rebel Treasure twentyseventh post

Rebel Treasure twentyseventh post

EXT. FRANCE – HARBOR OF NANTES – DAY

THREE MONTHS LATER

ROSS KEENAN, an elderly gentlemen with a lion’s mane of stark white hair and a twinkle in his eye strides along the riverfront, swinging his gold headed cane freely and trying to assure his young companion.

ROSS
She’s a thing of beauty Captain Turner. You’ll see.

LON
It’s just that I was never told up front that she was so–
(pause)
Experimental.

ROSS
Tosh! Hardly experimental at all any more. What with they’ve been able to do in Louisiana and Charleston.

They stop to continue their conversation, causing Lon’s men, who were following behind to bunch up on their heels.

LON
That’s the very thing I can’t get out of my head – the Hunley – lost with all hands.

ROSS
I believe that you will find my design much more stable. Designed to cross the ocean —
(casting about for his thought)
Just as good if not better than that ship out there.

The head of his cane points to the Yankee man-of-war at anchorage in the roads.

JIMMY
(to Louis)
I hear that Upshur is the Captain of that frigate.

LOUIS
Good, I never did like him as an instructor. Be glad to teach him a thing or two.

Ross ushers them through the door into a boathouse.

INT BOATHOUSE – DAY
Ross stops in front of a long tubular object just inside, roughly the size of two locomotive boilers placed end to end, with a narrow pilot house placed amidships. It looks to be a tight fit for anyone, especially the large-boned petty officer.

JONAH
You expect to get me in there?

LOUIS
With you in there, forget about room for any one else.

Ross only smiles and leads them into a larger area that has a boat slip.

ROSS
That was my experimental model.  This is what you’ll be sailing.

There in the boat slip is a larger version – at least three times the size – a big fat cigar, tapered at both ends. Ross beams with pride and excitement.

LON
I’m impressed.

JONAH
There’s no bloody sails at all.

JIMMY
Just think, no need to be out in the wind and rain!
(to Ross)
She’s steam powered, isn’t she?

ROSS
Aye. And then some. But that’s something else all together.
(turns to Lon)
I suppose this is as good a time as any.

Lon reads his orders under the anxious gaze of his men.

[next pt 28]

Rebel Treasure twentysixth post

Rebel Treasure twentysixth post

EXT A DUSTY ROAD IN TENNESSEE – DAY
Title: Near Memphis, August 1864
Two heavily laden wagons plod down the road. Romeo holds the reins of the first, with Lon riding beside him. Jimmy follows in the second with the Petty Officer driving the team.

Then, from around the bend ahead comes a racing rider. Soon, it is clear that it is Louis, who can barely keep the saddle under himself.

LON
(to Romeo)
No mistaking a sailor on horseback.

ROMEO
I just don’t think he likes heights of any kind.

Louis reins up to them.

LOUIS
There are horsemen up ahead.

LON
Ours or theirs?

LOUIS
No telling, they aren’t in uniform.

LON
You keep back with Jimmy and the “freight.” We’ll let them poke around this wagon, but if they try it with yours, you know what to do.

Louis spurs away as a body of horsemen emerges from around the bend. The one in front breaks away from the pack and charges them at a gallop.

ROMEO
Lordy. I know that face.

LON
I do believe I do too.

The obvious leader reins up in front of them. His followers soon catch up and fall into a semi circle to their front.

LON (CONT’D)
Jesse?

JESSE JAMES
Would I have the honor of addressing Captain Turner?

LON
That would be an honor, but as you can see I am only a Lieutenant.

JESSE JAMES
(laughs and hands him a letter)
Here. We were sent to find you.

Lon breaks the seal and extracts a paper.

ROMEO
(reading aloud over his shoulder)
Alonzo Turner is hereby commissioned a Captain in the Provisional Navy of the Confederate States of America.
(turns to shout to the others)
Lon’s a Captain!

JESSE JAMES
And my orders are to relieve you and your men of this detail and give you your new orders.

Jesse takes another envelope out. Lon peruses the directive.

LON
It’s alright, men. We turn our shipment over to these gentlemen.

JESSE JAMES
We’re right lucky to have caught you when we did. The territory up ahead is swarming with Yanks. As it is, we’re going to have to take your “freight” down into the mountains yonder.

Lon holds out his hand and Jesse James grips his wrist.

Three of James’ men dismount and trade their horses for seats on the wagons. Everyone in Lon’s party has a horse except Romeo.

LON
Do you have a mount to spare for my man?

James looks to his men, but they all look the other way, pretending they didn’t hear the question.

LON (CONT’D)
Looks like you’re riding with me.

As they watch the wagons change direction and head off down the dusty road towards the Smoky Mountains–

LON (CONT’D)
Well, lads, we’re going to run the blockade and go to France. We’ve a brand new ship waiting for us!

[next pt 27]

Rebel Treasure fourteenth post

Rebel Treasure fourteenth post

INT. HEMSLEY’S TAVERN KITCHEN – NIGHT
The kitchen bustles with activity. Romeo is seated at a crowded servants’ table. Lon talks with his childhood friend and family slave.

ROMEO
Bless me, but haven’t you grown. And such a gentleman.

LON
I’m not the only one. Look at you, you’re taller than me.

A SERVING GIRL delivers a steaming platter to Romeo. She smiles at him coyly and drops a curtsy before dashing away.

LON (CONT’D)
How are things to home?

ROMEO
Mostly the same. Though Sissy done had her twins.

LON
Twins?

ROMEO
Yes sir. A boy and a girl. And there’s gonna be a powerful cane crop this year.

Romeo takes a bite of food.

LON
I can’t wait to see home again. It’s been a long time since we sat around the sugar house together.

ROMEO
Oh, we’re not a-headed home.

LON
What?

Romeo puts his fork down, realizing that he’s said more than he should.

ROMEO
Now, I shouldn’t have said anything about that. It isn’t my place. Massa Clay–

Before Romeo finishes talking, Lon is on his feet and out of the kitchen.

HEMSLEY’S TAVERN
The CLATTER of silverware and the BUZZ of voices lend a cheery tone to the busy tavern. Mr. Clay occupies a cozy table in the corner by a roaring fire.

LON
What’s going on? Romeo tells me that we are not going home.

Clay eats a spoonful of the chowder while waving to Lon to take his seat. Without ceremony, Lon plops down and tries to wait for his answer, but loses patience.

LON (CONT’D)
Did my father send you to encourage me to resign?

Clay looks around for eavesdroppers.

CLAY
Please, Mr. Turner, a little discretion.

LON
Are you going to answer my question?

CLAY
First, let us eat. I am famished.

LON
And I, sir, am famished for the truth!

Clay drops his spoon into the bowl and pushes it away.

CLAY
All right then. No. Your father did not send me to influence you. But he did send me–

LON
For what?

CLAY
I see another uniform in your future, Mr. Turner.
(pauses as his words sink in)
I am authorized to offer you a commission, when the time is right, in the Navy of our new Southern nation.

LON
And why would I not be going home, then?

CLAY
Quite simply, we have a mission for you.

The interest and excitement on Lon’s face glows almost as bright as the fire behind him.

LON
Where?

CLAY
We think you should take a tour of the Caribbean. There are some sons of the South serving in the U. S. Army down in Panama, and we want you to contact them and make a similar offer.

Lon grows thoughtful, dropping his eyes to stare at his bowl of chowder.

LON
Would this new nation have an interest in acquiring a shipment of gold?

Clay’s eyebrows rise in surprise, and he leans forward.

LON (CONT’D)
I have heard that every spring a shipment crosses Panama on the way to New York from California. I could keep my eyes open.

CLAY
Do that! A nation runs on the yellow metal. I shall contact my fellow “knights” and we’ll see what they can do to help. I have a feeling that you are going to go far in your profession.

The blaze from the fireplace illuminates the pin on Clay’s lapel – a golden circle.

[next pt 15]

Rebel Treasure eighth post

Rebel Treasure eighth post

INT. MOTEL ROOM – EARLY MORNING
With the SOUND OF A SHOWER running in the b.g., Ben pores over the images captured from the detector on the laptop. He adjusts the scale of the image so all the objects are within view. He flips it 180 degrees and focuses it in and out.

IN THE SHOWER
Riley’s concert of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” is interrupted by a SHOUT from the room.

MOTEL ROOM
Riley barges through the door girt in a towel, ready for action. Ben is dancing around the room with his fists in the air.

BEN
He’s talking to us!

RILEY
Who’s talking to us, Ben?

Ben pulls him into the dance.

BEN
Alonzo! It’s a map, Riley! It’s another map!

Riley breaks free and stoops to look at the laptop.

RILEY
Bedsprings and junk?

BEN
Cousin Toby is going to flip!

EXT. MOTEL PARKING LOT – LATER
Ben and Riley have their things piled on the curb, waiting outside the motel restaurant. Ben closes up his cell phone.

BEN
Still no answer.

RILEY
I’m getting a bad feeling about this.

BEN
You’re getting a bad feeling!

RILEY
I’ll call us a cab.

SLIDELL RANCH – THE GRASSY SLOPE – DAY
Our mournful duo stand on opposite sides of a freshly dug pit. The items from within are strewn helter-skelter about the landscape. And at the bottom is a neat circular hole from which the glass jar had been plucked.

They pick up their things and turn towards the Slidell ranch house, in front of which are now parked two vehicles, a sedan and an SUV.

E/I SLIDELL RANCH HOUSE
MRS. LETITIA SLIDELL, a white-haired Southern Belle of a grandma with a smile as sweet as apple pie and coffee in the parlor answers the door.

MRS. SLIDELL
Good day, gentlemen.

BEN
Howdy, m’am. Would you happen to be Mrs. Slidell?

MRS. SLIDELL
(with a chuckle)
Why, yes, and whom do I have the honor..?

BEN
The name’s Ben Gates, and this is my associate Riley Poole. And I’m afraid that I bear some bad news.

MRS. SLIDELL
Do forgive my lapse in manners, won’t you come in?

She ushers them into a spotless kitchen, sparkling in the morning sunshine. At the table sits MORGAN SLIDELL, a fine specimen of thirtyish manhood. The creases on his shirt could cut the steak that he currently is carving for breakfast.

MORGAN
What’s the problem, Ma?

MRS. SLIDELL
That remains to be seen, Morgan.

Ben shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other.

BEN
I’m afraid that someone has taken something from your property.

MORGAN
There, Ma. See, I told you so, you gotta start locking your doors.

RILEY
Actually, it was something way out yonder…

He points out the window and down the grassy slope.

MRS. SLIDELL
And who was it that did the taking?

BEN
We suspect that it was someone we know. But it’s only a suspicion.

RILEY
We don’t even know for sure what was taken, but we’re quite sure that it was very valuable.

The Slidells look at one another with absolute befuddlement.

BEN
Are you familiar with the Turner name hereabouts?

MRS. SLIDELL
It was a Turner that once owned this ranch, if I am not mistaken.

BEN
Yes, Alonzo Turner. He was an ancestor of mine. On my mother’s side.

MORGAN
We’re talking about back around the time of the Civil War aren’t we?

BEN
Alonzo was a Confederate naval officer during the war, but it was quite some time after that that he lived here.

MORGAN
So, you’re saying he left something of his on the property?

BEN
Actually, yes. And he left a map by which to find it.

MRS. SLIDELL
And if it is on our property now, it’s ours isn’t it?

Her question casts a silence over the room.

BEN
That is most certainly true, m’am. In fact when we were here yesterday…

MORGAN
You were here yesterday?

RILEY
Yes, we located where something had been buried…

BEN
But went no further, for we were awaiting your return, in hopes that we could come to some agreement.

MRS. SLIDELL
I see!
(turns to her son)
You see it too, don’t you son.

MORGAN
Yeah, I smell a rat.

BEN
I assure you both that our intentions were and are honorable. Why don’t you come with us and we’ll show you?

Mother and son exchange a look and shrug “Why not.”

[next pt 9]

Rebel Treasure first post

Rebel Treasure first post

                                                                                                                                                                                              FADE IN:
EXT. USS PREBLE – DAY

Title: OFF THE COAST OF FRANCE 1865
The last of a rain squall sweeps the deck of the sloop of war, as overhead the sky clears. In the growing light, an odd-looking vessel appears in the view of the forward look-out.

LOOKOUT
Ship in sight!

QUARTERDECK OF USS PREBLE

LT. CYRUS MANNING, the executive officer, brings the speaking trumpet to his lips

LT MANNING
Where away?

LOOKOUT
The middle channel, sir.

The lieutenant turns to CAPTAIN UPSHUR for instructions. The captain calmly trains his spyglass on the middle channel.

P.O.V. THROUGH UPSHUR’S SPYGLASS
A faint trace of steam rises from the funnel topside of the elongated hull pointed in their direction. A sudden shift of wind pulls into view the Confederate battle-flag flying at her stern.

BACK TO SCENE

CAPTAIN UPSHUR
It’s her! Beat to quarters!

The RATTLE of the drum calls the GUN CREWS to their stations.

INT. COMMAND DECK OF THE C.S.S. GRAY WHALE
A young, steely eyed Confederate naval captain, ALONZO TURNER strains to see through the fog and mist on the other side of the viewport.
A small CREW mans the gauges and gizmos that pack the command deck. He removes the speaker tube from its hook.

ALONZO
Forward lookout, any report?

Behind him we see a highly polished brass plaque with the inscription: C.S.S GRAY WHALE.

Cue Final Jeopardy music.

INT. JEOPARDY GAME SHOW SET – DAY

                                        ALEX TREBEK
Well, it now comes down to today’s current leader, Mr. Gates of Baltimore, Maryland.

Ben stands dazed.

ALEX TREBEK (CONT’D)
Mr. Gates?

BEN
(startling from his reverie)
Sir?

ALEX TREBEK
Mr. Gates, the answer is “The last submarine to sail under the flag of the Confederacy.”

Ben’s answer appears on his lectern screen, “What was the C.S.S. Gray Whale.”

ALEX TREBEK (CONT’D)
Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Gates. The question should be “What was the C.S.S. Hunley.” Though at $8500 you are still in the lead, pending your bid, of        course.

Ben’s screen displays his bid – $8500, the whole amount.

BEN
But the Hunley was the next to last submarine in the rebel navy.

Mr. Trebek looks around in confusion as the audience buzzes with excitement. He cups a hand over his earpiece.

ALEX TREBEK
Again I am sorry Mr. Gates, but the judge’s ruling is final.

In the audience, Ben’s wife ABIGAIL CHASE GATES and his best friend RILEY POOLE exchange pained glances.

ALEX TREBEK (O.S.) (CONT’D)
Mr. Reuben, you are today’s Jeopardy champion.

[next pt 2]