A Widow's Memoir

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A widow of the Civil War ponders her husband's death and remembers him fondly, though, she discusses who she blames for his death.

Submitted: December 17, 2009

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Submitted: December 17, 2009

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What it was that drew us together, we will never know, but what ripped us apart is clear. I choose not to blame his fellow soldiers, General Lee, or anyone else involved directly with the war. It wasn’t the young man’s fault whose shaking hands pulled the trigger nervously and killed my dearest Isaiah. No, I think it is deeper than that. I blame this country, the whole thing, North and South. I blame those who favoured secession, those who favoured abolition, those who didn’t. I blame everyone who gave my husband a reason to go fight. Had it not been for the martyr Lovejoy over in Illinois, or for Calhoun who first entertained the idea of splitting this nation, without them, my Isaiah would still be alive. But, alas. My husband fought because he held the belief that all men deserve freedom, as we all believe, and that the country should remain as one, and because he was so moved by Lovejoy, Truth, and the murdering lunatic who fancied himself to be Moses. I’m sure he fought gallantly, as he argued gallantly. After all, he had an intellectual, moral reason to fight, as he was so strong in his beliefs. But my husband was no warrior for a cause. Perhaps in a political sense, but he was never meant to be a soldier. Too soft, too supple in the way he acted and thought. A gentleman. He would have been better off in the cultured parlour of some European aristocrat reading Goethe and pondering the ideas of Moses Mendelssohn, sipping tea and sketching wildlife, wasting hours writing poetry and playing Bach and Schubert on the piano. This is the life my dear Isaiah should have had. Not a disillusioned abolitionist writer from Boston, tempted by the prospect of the good of human sacrifice for something right. My husband should have never set foot on the battlefield, never put on a United States Army uniform. He was meant to write, to war top hats and waistcoats, silk-lined vests. My love was a fragile man, but a man of strong and sound mind. Like that Polish pianist, (the poor fellow, I heard, passed away a few years ago, back in October of 1849), Frederic Chopin. Isaiah, like Monsieur Chopin, was emerged in intellectual things. Neither were men of many words, nor were they concerned in the triflings of people. They held dear pure beliefs, and they both are immortalized: my Isaiah in his driven abolitionist writings, and Chopin in his music. Save, one went on to Heaven by the hand of another human being, the other by the hand of God.
Isaiah Elias Dartsmouth was the son of a decently wealthy second-generation Englishman, Jonathan Dartsmouth. Like his son, Jonathan was a quiet man of quick wit and tongue. He also wrote for a newspaper, however, that not being ‘The Liberator’. Isaiah was raised to believe, like his father had taught, that all men were equal, and to disregard that was an abomination in the eyes of God. It was this, and his advocacy for women’s suffrage, and his pacifism which drove him to go to university and become a writer. He read and devoured Dickens, Locke, Franklin, Poe, Darwin, and, (secretly), Brontë. He held dear the novel of a certain Miss Stowe, and quoted it as often as he did the Constitution. It was words like those in the aforementioned writings which he lived his life by. So, needless to say, when war broke out on the twelfth day of April, of the year 1861, with my dear being in his twenty-third year, he ran to town and enlisted to be an infantryman. He found war to be diabolical and unnecessary, but this war, he thought, was worth it. The reasons behind this war were ones he was willing to fight and die for. He said he wanted his children and grandchildren to live in an America where all were free and equal, in an America that had a North and a South, and where slavery was a legendary point in history, too far away and abstract to draw any real conclusions or meaning from. However, Isaiah, Lord rest his martyr’s soul, would never have any children or grandchildren, for a defective wife and a trembling man’s unsure bullet would betray him. However, he may rest in peace knowing future generations, posterity if you will, the children of others, both black and white would thank him, the unnamed soldier who lay slain in a southern field, for fighting their freedom. I thank him, I curse him, I love him. I curse him for having a conscious, but I love him more than ever when I think that I am Mrs Isaiah Dartsmouth, the brave soldier’s widow. I am wretched with despair knowing I will never gaze into his eyes again, or hold his hands in mine, but I know he is here with me, here in my heart, in the hearts of all us Americans, in the heart of America itself.


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