By the Shot of a Gun

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Just a short story I wrote in high school. Found it while perusing my old documents and thought it would be fun to throw out there--the old refuse. Whatever.

Submitted: July 01, 2014

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Submitted: July 01, 2014

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1862~The war itself started in 1861, but our story does not start there. It is hard to tell where it really does start: with the Underground Railroad, slavery, the riots and the fighting, the many untold stories of the heroic soldiers who fought in the battles for the freedom of many African Americans and died for them. But there are too many of those stories to tell them all in great detail. The families that waited to hear if their family members made it out of the war alive were to numerous. So we will only tell one story, and that will be the story of Thomas L. Von Hollerbach Reid in1862.

Tom was walking home on the cobblestone streets of Pennsylvania after a hard day of making guns for the war. He felt some-what happy about being able to help in the war in some way. He had wanted to fight alongside his older brother Patrick who had volunteered some months before, but the law stated that he was too young. Right now, he could only spend hours a day in a hot, stuffy room with tons of other people while they prepared weapons for the soldiers. The south had one benefit, and that was the use of slaves. Tom was against slavery hands down, but the south used African Americans to make weapons while most people up in the north had to do the work themselves. At least President Lincoln was on their side, and that had to count for something. For the land of opportunity, America didn’t always have a lot of choices for what to do with your life.

Soon, Tom veered off the cobblestone onto a dirt path leading away from town. His family was a poor one, and a small one at that. After his other brother, Charlie, left to start his own family, Tom had to raise the money for him and his father. They lived in a small house on the outskirts of the town. When the construction of the house was started, they tied to use all brick, but money ran out far too fast. Eventually, they had to resort to wood for the rest of the house. Tom thought that it looked a little strange, being half red-stone brick and half wood, but it stood proudly on the edge of the little road as it waited for Tom to come home. He ambled up the front walk, also made out of dirt, and swung open the door to the house. It was small, with only four rooms in it: two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a kitchen with a stove, pantry, two chairs, and a little table. “I’m home!” Tom hollered as he dropped a bag of groceries on the table.

Several thumps where admitted as Tom’s father limped into the kitchen and rested in one of the chairs as Tome prepared a meager meal for them: bread from the local bakery and salted pork. There were also some tomatoes from the small garden Tom was attempting to grow out back. Tom set the food on two tin plates and set the table. Apart from a quick prayer, the meal was eaten mostly in silence. Suddenly, as they were finishing up, Tom’s father cleared his throat to speak.  “The drafting law came out yesterday,” he said.

“What drafting laws?” Tom asked as he shoved the last of his salted pork into his mouth. His father sighed. “Drafting laws, Thomas, for the war. Every man over twenty years old and under forty-five must enter. After a certain allotment of time, they draw out names to be drafted into the war.” His father picked up a napkin and began to fold it very slowly. “Of course, the law doesn’t have any exception for me, and I was wondering if you could write me in, so to speak, after work tomorrow.”

Tom gulped down pork. His father had been injured in a fire when he was younger and would do little better than a three legged horse on the battle field. “Isn’t there a way to avoid it?” he asked nervously.

“Only two: One is to pay the government three hundred dollars, but we don’t have that kind of money in our possession at the moment.” Tom’s father set down the creased napkin and looked up at Tom with a weak smile. “So you might as well just write me in. What are the chances of me being drafted anyway?”

“Isn’t there another way?” Thomas asked impatiently. He noticed that his father had become very interested in his napkin again. After years of living with his father, Tom discovered that his father always avoided eye contact when he knew that he was going to anger someone or give them bad news. He began listening intently.

“Well, yes, but you can only get a substitute in the right age range and you are……not.”

“Not in the right age!” Tom said, outraged.

“There’s nothing that you can do about it Tom, so let’s not worry about that. It will only make things worse.”
Tom, still fuming, said nothing as he began to clear the plates away. He had been taught at a young age that life wasn’t fair, but for the first time, he saw sense in the statement. If Tom’s older brother was already in the war, why did they need his father too? Why couldn’t it just be one man from every family instead of every man over the age of twenty? Something had to be done to avoid it, but what?

 

The next day after work, Tom once again found himself on a cobblestone path. This one wasn’t leading home, but a place far less comfortable than that. Tom had racked his brains all night for an idea, but his brain seemed like it was not working.  There was a table set up with a man behind it a pen sitting next to several slips of yellowed paper. He got in line behind five men to write his father’s name down for the drafting. Maybe he could write his brother’s name instead?

Four men left.

No, it was too risky. If someone found out, the consequences could be disastrous. Maybe he could write in a fake name?

Two men.

No, there was the same problem as before. How could he help his father if he was in jail?

No one left.

With no one left in front of him and no more time to think, Tom stared at the paper in his hands. He picked up the pen with a heavy heart. And as he dipped it in the ink, an idea struck him like lightning. Why not right his name down instead? As his father said, there would be a slim to none chance of being drafted, and his father would be safe guarded against it anyway.

Tom suddenly was aware of the man tapping him on the shoulder, urging him to hurry up. Sweat began streaming down his face. What if he was caught? Finding himself slipping away into his own thoughts again, Tom was jolted back to reality and bent down to scribble his name on the paper. He expected someone to call out, “Stop!” or “Arrest him!” as he handed it to the person behind the desk, but no one said a word or even gesture to him other than the clerk’s reassuring nod. Later, he walked away from the table, Tom felt happier than he had all day.

 

Three days later, Tom found himself in the town square for the drafting call with hundreds of other people. His father convinced him that he might as well go, just in case. And now, Tom observed all of the other people in the square. There were many young men and old alike with family members gather around them nervously. Entire families were down there just to find out if their son, or brother, or husband would be sent off to fight for the north in the war. The worry in Tom’s stomach disappeared as he watched the people pour in. The chances of being drafted were even smaller than he had thought.

Lost in his thoughts, Tom almost missed it as the messenger in a Union uniform rode up and began listing the drafted names, “Charles Benedict, Benjamin Clancy, George Adams, James Hawthorne….” A woman next to Tom fainted at the last name. As the list clattered on, Tom began more uncomfortable. He watched as people burst into tears near him, screamed, and occasionally fainted. Even though there were many people there, there were also many names that were drawn. And this was only for Tom’s town! “….. And Thomas Reid. That concludes the drafting for now. Thank you and good luck to those drafted. You are allotted three days to get to the camp in Harrisburg for your training-“ the messenger said something else, but Thomas missed it as he staggered away from the town square, pushing past people in raw shock. He had to get out of there! Could it really be? How could it be possible that out of the many names entered, his was drawn? As he ran, Tom found himself making his way home. Suddenly he stopped; what would he tell his father? He would be outraged that Tom had dared to enter his own name in place of his, and he would only get himself in trouble with the law if he tried to refuse and keep Tom home. He could not ask his brother to go; he had his own responsibilities and his own family to support, and if he left, Tom would be stuck at home with his father to explain why one of his sons was going off to war. No, better not to tell him at all and avoid the confrontation; he’d go about life as usual, report that his father’s name had not been called (because it hadn’t), and leave a note and all the money he had to support the family when he snuck out at night. He hoped his father wouldn’t take it too hard, and that he would understand. Tom would probably have to leave a note for Charlie too, and ask him to help support his father while he was away.

Tom’s father seemed uncharacteristically anxious when he asked about the drafting. He tried to make the question sound nonchalant, but Tom could tell he was worried. When he reported truthfully that his father was not one of the drafted, he had visibly relaxed, and had been giddily happy. Tom felt guilty about the deception, and almost broke down and told his father the whole story when he saw the smile on his face. He would be absolutely devastated when he found out that Tom was gone, maybe forever, and Tom could not share in his happiness, although he put on a cheerful face to avoid suspicion and interrogation. He should let his father enjoy his one night of joy before the letdown, he thought, and resolved to make this last night as enjoyable as possible.

 

Tom woke early in the morning the next day, packed his few belongings, took some of the money he had stored up and bought a horse cheap from the blacksmith. He set off for Harrisburg and got there just as night was falling. Once there, he sold the horse he bought, but was sorry to part with such a faithful steed. Afterwards, he walked the rest of the way to the camp. It had several wooden cabins dotted across of it and the enclosed area was filling up fast. Tom glanced around, looking at all of the men lined up going to what looked like a check in. He took a deep breath in; it would take a lot of hard work to act at least four years older than he was for the next couple of months. Summoning his courage, Tom marched up to take his place in line. When his turn came, Tom told them his name and was surprised at how easily he could pass through into the camp. He was handed a uniform and a cabin number and was told nothing else. Nervous of the consequences, Tom said nothing and started toward the cabin.

The wooden door creaked open to reveal a small room with ten bunks lined up; there were five on either wall. Tom found an empty bunk in the back of the room and dropped his things onto it. According to the man at the check-in, he would start training the next day because it was already late in the day. Tom was thankful for this because he was so tired after his long ride there. After changing out of his riding clothes and shoving them under the bunk with his belongings, Tom flopped down on the bed. Even though it was uncomfortable, it was welcome after the long journey earlier in the day. He knew that the next few years would be rough, but it would be nothing compared to what happened to the men in the revolution. He could handle it.

 

Tom was right, the very next day he was awoken at the crack of dawn for training. They were all dressed the same in the Union uniforms and Tom soon became comfortable with his nine cabin mates: James, David who they called Davy, Gibson called Gibbs, Hector, Mute Cotton (who was indeed mute,) Will and Jack (who were friends,) Daniel Jones who they just called Jones, and Bill. They all had other nicknames too, but Tom couldn’t remember them all. There was nothing special for newcomers either, mistakes meant punishment. Training was an array of cross-country, trench war-fare, reflexes, and gun drills. They only took breaks for meals and sometimes ended the training day early to let the soldiers relax a little bit. Tom’s brain soon began to work on a schedule and soon, he could take shots at targets very quickly, but well aimed. There were arrays of guns that Tom didn’t know the names to, but could shoot all of them accurately enough. The most impressive gun, in his eyes, was the machine gun, and he got to practice with it once in a while.

After many weeks, Tom could reload a gun as fast as some of the soldiers who had started training the year before and could build a respectable trench. Discipline was also rammed into his head until Tom was sure that he wouldn’t run away even if he got the chance in battle. Though, he still wondered what happened to his father and why he ever wanted to join the army, Tom slowly accepted his new role in life. Until one day, his cabin was alerted that General McClellan was taking soldiers to fight the confederates, whose forces were in Fredrick, Maryland. The cabin practically had a party that night.

Before the night when they were told, the cabin sometimes gathered with each other sometimes to tell stories of their life before or share if they received a letter, but the last night in training was special. The next day, they would be with hundreds of other soldiers, maybe never to see each other again. So, they had fun while they had the chance.  Will pulled out all of the letters that his young wife had sent him and James, who had quite an adventurous life when he was younger on the farm, began the story telling with a tale about the time he set the chicken coop on fire. For the first time in a long time, Tom felt happy. He had fun with them all night long and even told his own fair share of stories.  The night was full of laughter and the ten soldiers stayed up late into the night long past they should have. They ended the night with Will’s story when he was working in the blacksmith’s late one night and he heard strange noises. Thinking the place was haunted, Will went through a series of events leading to the discovery of Jack, who had come to visit Will and decided to play some tricks on poor Will!

“…And I swore that if Jack ever played any tricks on me again, I wouldn’t wait to jab that sword into the darkness to find out who was there!” Will finished.

“I think that my fun was well justified!” Jack exclaimed, trying to fight against the laughter directed at him. “What do you think Cotton?” Jack asked, and they exploded into more laughter. Of course, Cotton could not answer, but he smiled. They all knew that Cotton didn’t mind even if the jokes were directed at him. They all took their turns. At last, sometime around midnight, they turned in for some rest before the traveling that would be done the next day.

 

Tom was packed in among other men in the blue Union uniforms with brass buttons and caps and with a gun slung over his shoulder. The pack of soldiers moved under McClellan’s command as they made their way toward Fredrick to fight the Confederate army against General Lee. Tom stood next to a brown haired man around the age of thirty, but no one from his cabin that he knew. After a day of cross country, Tom introduced himself to the man. The man replied that he was called Smokey as a nickname.

“Where did the nickname come from?” Tom asked as they marched. Smokey chuckled. “They gave in to me around the same time they first handed me a gun and told me to try it out. I had never picked up a gun before and had no idea how to handle it. Of course, it just figured that they handed me a machine gun. After only a couple of seconds: blam, blam, blam! Gun powder was everywhere, creating smog around the area. And that’s when they started to call me Smokey.”

They camped in a field that night and Tom shared a tent with Smokey and several others. Although the food was still terrible, Tom found that he was much more relaxed with Smokey and his friends than he was at training. It seemed to Tom that Smokey knew everyone and everyone knew Smokey. Even the higher ranking officers with their fancy epaulettes to mark their status knew him and how he got his name. Over the next few days of traveling, Tom met most of Smokey’s cheerful friends; including Andrew who was a higher ranking soldier and rode a horse. Tom even met Andrew’s horse, Slasher. But the closer they got to Fredrick, the more serious everyone became. Even high spirited Smokey grew more solemn. All of the story telling slowed to a stop and laughter was either nervous or half-hearted.

The arrival in Fredrick was a strange one. Everyone came out expecting battle, but the confederate troops were nowhere to be found. Several scouts were picked to search the area while the rest set up camp. Tom was one of the scouts picked. ‘Sometimes it’s good to be small,’ he thought as he began to search around his designated area. Tom had to look in the fields outside of Fredrick. He made sure that he was extremely quiet as he looked through the tall grasses in case confederate soldiers were about, hiding. But after close inspection, Tom found that there was no one there other that himself. It was time he turned back and reported to a commanding officer. As he placed a booted foot on the trail he had made, Tom noticed something on the ground: a pack of cigars among a set of footprints. He almost disregarded it. Lots of men smoked cigarettes, including Smoky, but he bent down and picked them up anyway. ‘What’s this?’ Tom thought as he untied some yellowed papers wrapped around three brown cigars. The things drawn on the paper looked like battle plans. But that didn’t make sense to Tom. ‘I’m the only one in this field and no one else was here before me except…..the Confederates! They must have escaped through the fields. Tom studied the plans more carefully and extracted more information from the plans. The confederates had up and left two days ago and headed for Antietam Creek outside of Sharpsburg. They were led by General Robert E. Lee, who was extremely smart and divided the army into five different parts.

Tom had to get these plans to General McClellan where they would be useful in the war. He took a few moments to memorize exactly where the cigars were in the field in case it would be important later. Afterwards, Tom raced back to the group. As he neared the camp, he called out, “Andrew!” He recognized the tall soldier mounted in the saddle of Slasher patrolling the edge of the camp and ran towards him. “Andrew,” he panted,” I need you to look at these.” Tom thrust the recovered battle plans at Andrew who reluctantly took them, obviously mistaking them for something less important. After starting at them for a bit and muttering to himself, Andrew’s eyes widened and he called Smokey over.

“Smoke,” he said, “what do you make of these documents?”

Smokey barely glanced at them. “Battle plans,” he said bluntly.

“What kind of battle plans?” Andrew persisted. Smokey took the plans from Andrew and removed his cigar from his mouth as he looked the papers over. He suddenly looked up and grinned at Tom who was watching the two soldiers expectantly.

“Well?” he asked.

Confederate battle plans.” Smokey said. Andrew motioned for him to take a look at them. “Lee’s confederate battle plans!” he amended, obviously impressed.

“Quite right,” Andrew said as he took the battle plans back and began rolling them up. “I think that we should let McClellan take a look at these. “ He beckoned to Tom, “Come on Tom, I think that you had better come too.”

“What did I do?” Tom asked reproachfully.

Smokey grinned again, “I think that you might have finally gotten this battle going!”

 

*****

 

Five days later, McClellan finally decided to move out and follow the Confederates. Tom was angry that it had taken them so long to decide what to do, and felt that the opportunity had been lost. By now, the Confederate’s would be ready and waiting for them. The Union now knew where the Confederate Army was preparing though, in a cornfield right outside of Sharpsburg. They readied the troops and after a brief speech by McClellan, prepared to go out to the cornfield. Tom’s position in the Union formation found him five rows from the front line. It was dangerous to be so close up, but Tom pitied the front line more.  The line would most likely be wiped out after a few minutes and then the soldiers behind them would advance to take the fallen one’s positions. It was a sign of weakness to show a gap in the line, and they couldn’t afford to do that.

The Union marched to the cornfield in their formations with their guns rested on their shoulders, but at the ready. Tom was nervous. They had the disadvantage, not able to see their adversaries through the thick stalks of corn. They wouldn’t know where the Confederates were until the first men fell. Suddenly, a shot rang out, but Tom knew from its position that it was not a Confederate soldier. Most of the men wheeled around to see who it was who had made the mistake. Whoever it was, they had just given away their position! All at once, several more bullets hissed through the air; finding their targets with deadly accuracy. Several men in the front line fell to the ground with groans. One of the men was in front of Tom’s line. They all had to move up to secure the position, but could not fire back until they knew where the Confederate soldiers were hiding. ‘If only we hadn’t waited so long!’ Tom thought as they marched forward. His heart thumped faster with apprehension. He could be next.

The soldier directly in front of him went down silently, dropped by a well-aimed shot to the head. Tom knew his orders: fill the gap. But something in him hesitated, unwilling to leave the man lying there and impassively replacing him. It felt like betrayal, disloyalty. The soldier behind him seemed to guess what he was thinking. “Step forward,” he said. “Fill the gap. You know your orders. It seems cruel now, I know, but think what it could mean for you—and the Union—if you fail now.”

Reluctantly Tom stepped forward to fill the empty place. He could see the soldier’s point, and there was nothing he could do for his fallen comrade now. The instant he stepped forward, two other things happened. The first was that the soldier behind him filled in Tom’s old spot. The second was the swift crack of a bullet being fired at the Union line. The soldier standing behind him fell with a moan. Tom’s eyes widened. If he hadn’t moved……….he was jolted out of his thoughts by the rustling ahead of him; his line was about to breach the edge of the cornfield. He knew that simply marching out unprepared would make him an easy target for the Confederates; all they would have to do was fire at head level and it would be all over for an unlucky soldier. Thinking quickly, he yelled, “Drop!” just as his line stepped out of the field. Now he could see the damage already wrought by the enemy; all the previous Union lines had been wiped out. Not this one, though, as Tom’s line and several behind him obeyed the impulse driven into their brain: obey orders without question. The Confederate barrage missed its intended target, and Tom and his comrades opened fire on their opponents. Now enemy lines were taking hits too, and as each Union line fired, they made their way back to the end of the line to reload. Tom took his place at the end of the line, relieved. An officer standing at the back motioned to him. Tom crept over, staying low to the ground so that the Confederates would not notice the movement of the corn stalks. The officer didn’t waste any time. “Take some of our troops over and around to try and attack the flank; we might be able to drive them into a retreat.” Tom nodded. They should start taking advantage of their superior numbers. He signaled to the Union soldier at the back, and they passed on the message to many of their comrades. Tom didn’t wait to size up the numbers; the officer could send more men if he felt there weren’t enough.

Creeping through the corn, Tom was thinking. This seemed like the logical action to take, but something still didn’t feel right. He couldn’t shake that anxiety from his mind. Not only was it logical, it was predictable too. Lee was too smart not to be expecting this counterattack. But how to counter the counter? Tom stopped abruptly. There they were, a whole cavalry corps, lying in wait for them to blunder into the clever trap. Tom circled around, keeping as quiet as possible. He knew that the soldiers probably wouldn’t hear a small crackle during the tumult of the battle, but what about the horses? Thankfully, they were upwind, so the steeds couldn’t smell them. Tom leveled his reloaded gun at one of the riders. The rest of his group quickly caught on and positioned themselves accordingly. Tom raised a hand slightly, every muscle tensed in readiness. One of the horses suddenly threw up its head with alarm; it had heard them! Hastily he slashed his arm down, and the men opened fire. The cavalry were caught unprepared, and the first volley created much needed confusion. The Union soldier opened fire again, and the remaining stragglers suddenly realized where the enemy was. Whirling their mounts, they returned fire. Tom knew he didn’t have enough men to keep at this for long, and he still had his initial purpose in mind. He had to get to the enemy’s flank! Those were his orders. Signaling again, he ordered his men to cease fire. They obeyed, and they crept slowly away, pursued by the bullets of the Confederates. Tom didn’t know what to do. The punishment for disobeying orders was severe, but he couldn’t possibly complete his mission with so little men, he realized that now. He hadn’t even started out with enough.

‘Think like Lee,’ he told himself. In order to challenge the cunning general he had to predict his strategy and find a way to counter it. Suddenly it came to him. Quickly he divided his forces into three parts. One would go back to challenge the cavalry and keep them busy; if they staggered their positions and fire, they could probably fool the enemy into thinking that there were more soldiers than there were. The other two-thirds would go to fight the flank of the main army; they would catch them in crossfire. With this plan in mind, Tom explained his plan to the soldiers. They nodded in agreement. But before they could act, a shrill whistle split the air. The Confederates all sat up straight in surprise, then scattered and disappeared into the woods near the outskirts of the cornfield. Others dropped straight to the ground and crept away, silent as snakes. Several men opened fire, but to no avail; the Confederates knew the land and utilized their advantage efficiently. Tom couldn’t suppress a shiver; there was no telling where they had gone now; even the horses had been completely silent and stealthy.

The Union regrouped and began to assess the overall losses and state of the army. McClellan had decided to let the Confederates get away; they had achieved their goal of driving Lee out of Sharpsburg. Tom gritted his teeth in frustration. The Confederates would now have time to regroup and attack again whenever and wherever they pleased. The Union had all the advantages—size, supplies, funds—but was wasting them completely. Tom knew better than to challenge his superiors, but the plan seemed foolish to him.

As the Union army marched toward Sharpsburg, they were still on the lookout, guns loaded and at the ready. No matter what anyone said, they were keeping their guard up. The battle was still too fresh in their minds. As they marched up a particularly large hill, they noticed slight, scuffed footprints in the dirt, footprints that had apparently tried to have been hidden. Confederate tracks! They had passed this way! The soldiers halted and checked their guns to make sure that all was in order. It looked as though Lee hadn’t given up yet. This invasion of the North was a critical step for Southern victory, and support from other countries for their failing economy. The flag-bearers raised the standard high, and the troops began to march forward again, cresting the hill. They were and easy target for the Confederates, silhouetted against the horizon as they were. The enemy was positioned in a sunken road, providing cover and good firing position, like a trench. They easily picked off one Union soldier after another, but they kept marching forward, knowing that if they could reach that sunken road, they could drive the Confederates out.

In the end, the Union’s superior numbers won out. Although they lost many men along the way, they finally reached the sunken road and opened fire on the Confederates. Now the tables were turned; the Confederates had no place to go and were trapped; as they scrambled to get out of the deathtrap, they were picked off one by one. But finally the enemy was able to escape the trench, and were making their way towards a small bridge crossing Antietam Creek. It was another good strategy, as the scattered trees across the river would provide cover for the battle weary soldiers. Also, the bridge was narrow, allowing only about four soldiers to walk abreast across, perfect for the low-ammunition status of the enemy. But the odds were still against the Confederates; their original army was in tatters, and completely disorganized. ‘Yes,’ thought Tom in satisfaction, ‘this is how we will win the war. We will outlast them, chase them, scatter them. They don’t have a chance now!’ And yes, it seemed that this was the case. Lee’s once-formidable army could suffer a terrible defeat, possibly speeding up the end of the war. Lee didn’t have many options left. He was backed into a corner, and he knew it. 

As Tom looked up after reloading his gun, he spotted a dust cloud atop a hill just behind the scattering of trees where the Confederates were. Tom squinted, just to make sure. More soldiers were on the way! Now Lee was trapped between a rock and a hard place. He was finished. But unfortunately for the Union, this was not the case. There were more soldiers coming, but not to aid the Union. This was A.P. Hill’s division, coming at the last possible second to rescue Lee from a crushing obliteration of his army. The fresh soldiers and cavalry smashed into the Union line, catching them completely off guard, and forced them to retreat back across the bridge. Tom fumbled with his gun, bringing it up to aim. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw movement, and dropped his gun as he dove out of the way, barely evading a decapitation by a cavalry officer. Tom looked around frantically, trying to locate his gun. He couldn’t afford to lose it, and neither could the Union. This was the only gun he got. Finally he spotted it, and had time to aim one last shot, which hit A.P Hill’s horse. It staggered with a squeal, but managed to stay upright. Quickly the general dismounted, patting his horse’s shoulder. The animal fell to the ground, and he ruffled its forelock as a sad good-bye before continuing the fight on foot. This hit Tom like a brick wall; these were men too, soldiers just like him, who too had families and lives away from war. How many were fighting against their own brothers? Hearing a shout and seeing a soldier beckoning to him, he turned and retreated backward with the rest of the army, which was getting clear of the perilous bridge. Once again the Union made ready to fire, but there was no need. The new division had served its purpose; Lee’s army had escaped again, to fight another day. Knowing McClellan, he would simply let Lee retreat without pursuing him. The Confederate general was under no pressure, and this victory was a small one if there was to be no counterattack.

Tom breathed heavily and looked around. The battle field had dead and wounded soldiers strewn across it. But he could make out Smokey, Andrew, and Slasher, all with minor injuries some ways away. The after effects of the battle shook him to the bone. Had he really once longed to be in the Union army only months before?  What had become of his father, brothers, and the many cabin mates from training? Had they all died somehow? Tom felt dizzy and somewhat giddy. He had to clear his mind of all these thoughts. Ignoring the soldiers around him, Tom looked up at the beautiful blue sky stretched out above them. They were all nothing compared to its vast beauty. The Confederates and Lee might have gotten away, but this was only for now. Besides, he believed that now he respected the southerners more, for only trying to protect their way of life. What was the proper way? They were all men, simply men who were fighting for what they believed in.There would be many battles to come, but somehow, he knew that they would win. And for the first time in months, Tom felt hope. 


© Copyright 2020 LeoMann. All rights reserved.

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