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Billy, Don't Be a Hero

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
1864-Billy and Emma are engaged to be married. Then Billy decides to join the military to help defeat the Confederate forces. A love story for all time. This story is inspired by the song "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" written by British songwriters, Mitch Murray and Peter Callander and performed by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods.

Submitted: August 09, 2018

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Submitted: August 09, 2018



 Don’t Be A Hero, Billy
By Brian Lee Clements


Billy and Emma were inseparable since before they started school. Living on farms next door to each other it was very easy for them to become best friends. Their friendship was so close that their teachers sometimes felt that they were almost like twins.

The Civil War was raging when they finished high school and Billy was wondering what he should do: Stay on the farm or join his friends and fight the rebels. A very serious question since he and Emma got engaged a month after high school.

It is the fall of 1863. News has traveled during the past few months concerning the defeat of the Confederates by Union forces in the Battle of Gettysburg back in July. Even in the town of New Ulm, Minnesota, the news was so exciting that there was a request for more volunteers to help defeat the rebellion of the Southern states.

The marching band was playing along Main Street and people were cheering and the soldiers were marching in the parade. There were quite a few people signing up for the military and getting in line. And Billy was one of them.

Emma and Billy were standing and watching the parade. Billy was eager to go but Emma was afraid for him, afraid that she would lose him forever. Emma put her head on Billy’s shoulder and started crying.

She said, “Don’t go Billy. I want to to stay here. I don’t want you to be a hero. I want you to come back and make me your wife. I want to be Mrs. William Tessmer.”

Billy replied, “Don’t worry, Emma. By the time I get to any battle, the war will be over. And besides, I can’t wait for for us to get married on January 7,1865 like we plan.

Billy then kissed Emma and then turned around, Emma yelled to him, “Billy, Keep your head low.”

It’s been about nine months since he enlisted and Billy wrote to Emma every week letting her know how he was doing. He told her that it was very quiet with the 2nd Minnesota Infantry where he was and that he has been promoted to Corporal. He told her that The 1st Minnesota, however, had seen extensive loss at Gettysburg back in 1863. He also said that was hoping to see her in late July.

Billy was bored with his assignment. He hasn’t seen any action in Minnesota so he requested a transfer to the 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. He decided not to tell Emma so not to worry her. But he still wrote letting her know that he was ok. He also told her that he would not be able tomake in July due to his “assignments.”

In May, 1864 Billy’s unit started moving toward the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia which became known as the Valley Campaign. The first battle was in Lynchburg, Virginia and then down to New Market, where they were pushed back near the Virginia Military Institute. The unit later headed for D,C. through Harper’s Ferry to protect the Capitol from a rebel push and also give the men a little rest. After raiding a railroad train in the New Market area, they headed upto Monocacy Junction near Frederick, Maryland to head off any rebel attack.

Major General Lew Wallace was the head of the unit in Monocacy. He was leading a very inexperienced group of soldiers. In fact, Wallace, himself had limited experience as a battlefield commander, having been the Union Army's youngest major general at the time of his promotion. His military career faltered after he was blamed for the high casualty on the first day at the Battle of Shiloh. 

With only 2,300 men, General Lewis and his men were the only people that stood between Confederate General Early and D.C. A lot of men had been diverted to Petersburg, Virginia to fight General Robert E. Lee.

All was fairly quiet until July 9 when rebel soldiers led by Lt Gen. Jubal Early started to Monocacy Junction in route to D.C. That was where the Union Forces were hoping to stop the rebels. General Early’s 2,300 men was joined by 230 troopers of the 8th Illinois led by Lt. Col. David Clendenin. But that still wasn’t enough. They needed more reinforcements.

Col. Clendenin gathered his troops and asked for a volunteer to go to General Henry Halleck to request reinforcements because the Rebels outnumbered them by 2,000 men. Nobody wanted to volunteer because they knew that it would be a suicide mission.

“We need some extra men to hold this piece of ground, gentlemen. I need a volunteer”

Only one person raised his hand.

Billy raised his hand and said, “I’ll go, sir!”

Col. Clendenin stated, “You may not make it. Are you sure you want to do this? I’ll understand if you change your mind.”
“Yes Sir, I want to do it. We need the extra men.”
“Ok. What’s your name, son?”
“Corporal Billy Tessmer, Sir.”
“Get with the Captain and he’ll tell you how to get to the General’s post. May God be with you”
“Thank you, Sir.” Billy salutes the Colonel and heads toward the Captain.

The Captain gives Billy the information for the General and salutes him. Then the Captain sends Billy on the fastest horse that they had.

As Billy starts riding, he starts to think about Emma and what she said when he left the year before. “Come home and make me your bride. Don’t be a hero.” Billy didn’t think he was being a hero. He was just trying to get a message to the General.

As he was riding like a bat out of hell, he started hearing gunshots and ricochet of bullets around him. All of a sudden he feels a sharp pain in his right side. He reaches down and sees blood on his hand so he decides to ride faster.

Bleeding, he makes to the General’s camp and gives him the message. After saluting the General, Billy passes out. The other soldiers try get Billy to the doctor but it was too late…..

Emma really enjoyed the letters that she received from Billy. As she read his letters, she felt like he was sitting on the front porch and talking to her. She really missed him. When the letters stopped in late July, she started to get a little worried.

About a month after the Battle at Monocacy Junction, a courier was in New Ulm looking for Emma. It was an important letter from Sergeant Johnson. It took the courier about a day to find the Washington farm.

When Emma saw the courier coming up the path, her heart dropped and her face turned deathly white. She had a bad feeling about the letter. After the Courier gave her the letter, She opened it and read it aloud.

“Miss Washington,
I regret to inform you of the passing of Corporal William Tessmer. Corporal Tessmer died on July 9, 1864 during the Battle of Monocacy Junction.

William was a hero that day. If it wasn’t for him, many more men would had died and our Capitol may have fallen. He died a hero and you should be proud of him for his courage and the way he died.

I am sorry for your loss.

Sergeant David Johnson”

Emma was in shock. She became numb and then cried for two solid hours. In her grief, Emma tore up the letter and decided to just throw it away.

Emma never married. There were many people that wanted to court her. But here was only one person for Emma, and he was gone forever.

© Copyright 2019 Brian Lee Clements. All rights reserved.

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