Friday, May 4, 2012

April 9, 1865 Appomattox Court House, Virginia There was a house, not a real fancy house, nor not a very plain house, but a nice house. It was not a small house nor a big house either. It had a front porch for sitting and visiting when the mosquitoes would let you. Word was it belonged to a man named McLean: a man that had moved away from Manassas to this remote village to get his family away from the war after a cannon ball ripped through their kitchen. At any other time in the past four years this would have been a great irony. But, not today, the war stopped here. It was a Sunday in April when the soft woods are starting to bud, the hard woods, the oaks and the walnuts would wait until the days were a little longer before their stolid branches would turn green with leaves. Next to the house the hyacinths were beginning to push their blue tops out of the ground, and it wouldn’t be long before the tulips came in. The house yard was just starting to turn from brown to green; that is where it was not worn down by treading. The eyes of sixty thousand men were watching the house knowing that a momentous event was to take place this Palm Sunday. First came General Lee dressed in his finest uniform, a shining saber at his side. He was astride Traveler who was known to every soldier in the Army of Northern Virginia. He stopped and patted Traveler’s neck saying something that only he and the horse could hear. Dismounting he handed the reins to a young Union soldier then gave a perfunctory salute as he courteously removed his hat at the door. The wait continued: sixty thousand men and only a slight murmur here and there. Then out of the Union side came, “Hey, Johnny we sure licked you at Gettysburg”. The tension broke for a moment with cat calls and whistles then grew quiet again. “You had us bested ‘cause you had so many catch up with you that were still running away from Manassas Junction,” came in retort. Cat calls and whistling again. Then it all stopped; General Grant had just ridden up to the house. He dismounted and all could see that his uniform was not clean and his boots were muddy. He removed his hat and went inside followed by his aides. Inside where the son of an Illinois tanner would meet with the son of one of Virginia’s first families to decide the future of the sixty thousand men as well as the rest of the country. Captain Jonathon Jordan sat his horse so he could see over the heads of the men standing two hundred deep. He could see even at this distance the arrival of General Lee and General Grant. He said nothing; thinking only of what it would mean to be the conquered. Would they have to stay in some prison or would they be paroled? And what would it be like at home with the Yankees in charge. Would it be the same, probably not, but how would it be different. He hadn’t heard from his family in over a year. They knew his brother had fallen at Sharpstown, but he wasn’t able to find his body because the Yankees chased them off. He just hoped that some farmer would bury him and say a few words over him. He had heard how this Yankee general, Sheridan, had moved up the valley running off livestock and burning houses, barns, and crops. “I hear they’re gonna let us keep our horses and maybe a sidearm,” he heard from another soldier nearby. “I don’t think they’ll let us keep a rifle or anything like that though,” came from another direction. “I live in the mountains and have to hunt for our food. How am I to do that with a pistol. Never could hit much with it anyway. Just used it to scare the Yankees,” came from behind him. He picked up his reins from the horses neck and turned him and began to maneuver his way through the horses and men. “Hey whar you goin?” came from one soldier that had to move aside for him, “Just need to go back up in the woods for a bit,” he answered. He was asked this question many other times before he reached the end of the men and the beginning of the woods. He rode though the woods in a running walk looking for just the right spot. Seeing a big oak tree that sort of stood in a bunch of blackberry bushes, neither had leaves yet, he turned around he looked to make sure he was out of sight. Riding up he tied his horse’s reins to a bush and took out his saber. Putting the blade in the fork of the tree he pulled until it broke. Then leaving the point of the blade in the tree he began to use the other end to dig beside the tree. When he felt he had a hole big enough he went to his horse and took down a rolled up piece of Yankee tent. He laid it on the ground and unrolled it to see the almost new Spenser rifle along with two bags of cartridges then placed them in the hole. Taking his pistol from the hostler on his belt he looked at it and asked himself if the Yankees would let him keep this; it was a good Union Navy Colt he had taken off a dead Yankee officer at Spotsylvania Court House. He grimaced as he thought back and saw again that the Yankee blown completely in two. It had all stopped for him right at that moment: the war was over; I will fight no more; it’s time for me to go home. He decided right then and there that he would stay with the troop to Lynchburg, but from there he would go home. He had given three years and a brother to the cause: a cause that was finished. That was enough. He placed the pistol with the rifle and threw in a bag of cartridges, rolled it all up and buried it leaving the broken blade in the tree to mark the spot. On the way back he crossed a small creek that was running with good clear water from the snow melt in the mountains. He stopped reached out and pulled the bridle off his horse and let him water off. The east reaching shadows were getting longer when he returned to the waiting men. The officers on the porch and in the yard were standing in small groups talking. The front door was still closed. He asked the time of those around him and one man had a watch; it was nearly four-thirty. He had just settled back in his saddle to wait when the front door opened and an officer stepped out. It was a pensive moment; the officers on the porch and in the yard gathered around. The sixty thousand men made very little noise. When an officer stepped to the edge of the porch and waved a paper the cacophony erupted. He could see the Union band playing in the street in front of the house but could not hear it over the shouting and guns being fired in the air. The southern boys were cheering but not as loud. It was a sad happiness; they had lost but it was over. The officers began to fan out, grey and blue, to find their commanders so the message could be passed down the line. He just waited and watched his eyes tearing up with emotion. He thought of it all: the blood, the blown off arms and legs, the sight of men dying of disease cramped over in pain, and death the sometimes relief, the life ending of so many young men. He asked himself the question that he had asked over and over again, “what makes men do this to each other. Where does it begin, and where does it end.” He had no answer. “Captain Jordan, please come up.” He heard in the distance. Touching his horse with his spurs he began to move through the crowd of men who were spreading to make a path for him. He saw a group of company commanders gathering around his regimental commander. “Here is the message we need you to take to the troops. We for the Lord’s sake don’t want any incidents. These are the conditions of surrender.” He choked when he said the word surrender and his voice broke. It was a full minute before he could begin again. He took up a paper and began to read “’In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th inst., I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of N. Va. on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate. One copy to be given to an officer designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged, and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officer appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to their homes, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.’ There will be three days time before this is concluded and for that period we will be considered prisoners of war with all the rights and privileges accorded. The Yankees have agreed to give us rations during that period as is only fitting. Gentlemen, you must relay this to your companies in a manner that it will be understood my each man. Warn them that any offense will be dealt with in the most severe manner. Before you go I wish to thank each and every one of you for your service. We have been together, many of us, for a long time and traveled many a mile. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to be your leader and for the rest of my life I will always remember the bravery and loyalty that you demonstrated. Again, thank you. This will be my last order to you, so go and be with your men.’” Jonathon turned his horse and began moving through the crowd looking for his junior officers. As he saw one he beckoned him to join him and the other officers. As they gathered he began to relay the terms of surrender. They all sat on their horses without talking. “Gather ‘round. Here are the conditions of surrender.” He told them what the cornel had read adding that they should find a way to help the enlisted men keep their horses. “Captain, I got a little money saved up. Not much but a little bit. Do you think it’s any good?” His heart sank; the man looked so down trodden, “I doubt if anyone would take any Confederate money now.” Jonathon watched as the men rode through the men milling around. He felt almost sick inside thinking: four years and all those lives for what? The Confederacy is gone and slavery is gone. Seems like such a great price to pay. He spotted a clear spot beside a tree near the line set up to be the barrier. He stepped down loosened his girth slid the saddle off laying it on the ground beside the tree, He pulled the bridle off and stooped down to place a set of hobbles on the front feet. Looking around he saw that there was no grass to eat. He patted the horse on the neck saying softly, “I’ll try and find you something to eat.” They hadn’t had any horse feed for a couple of days except for some dry corn fodder they found in an old vacant barn when out scouting. Some forage but not much nutrients. The horse stood there; his head down relaxed. He knew to rest when he could. Jonathon was about to doze off when he saw another officer leading his horse coming his way. “Cap’n mind if we share the tree with you?” he asked stopping in front of Jonathon. “Sure, but I ain’t a captain anymore, just a prisoner named Jonathon Jordan. Unsaddle your horse and hobble him over there with mine,” he said without getting up. He motioned with his thumb towards where his horse was standing. “Name’s Virgil Cain. Used to be a lieutenant but now I’m just like you a Yankee prisoner.” He put his saddle against the tree, took off his tunic and folded it to make a cushion. Virgil looked to be a couple years younger than Jonathon. He was light in weight from the war, but you could see that he had long straight hard muscles built up from hard work. His hair was longer than he liked it and his beard, not a beard grown and groomed, but only from not shaving , was choppy and uneven. His uniform looked like everyone else tattered and thread bare, and boots were worm completely leaving holes in the soles and vamps. He wore only one spur. Both men leaned back and sat quietly. Virgil was the first to speak, “I hope they come right along with that food they promised us. I ain’t et since day before yesterday. Then it was only some parched corn then.” “Hope they bring some horse feed too. I ain’t got as far to go as some, but I need Luther to carry me.” Turning to look at Virgil he asked, “how far you got to go? I’m just north and west of Staunton. Folks got a place up there we farm and raise horses; not so many saddle horses but work horses. And, my pa will trade some mules once in a while if they come along.” Jonathon caught out of the corner of his eye a wagon loaded with hay and what appeared to be bags of grain. “Look over yonder,” he pointed, “let’s get over there and get some feed before it’s all gone.” He got up and started walking hurriedly towards the wagon. Virgil was already on his feet making big strides. They both returned with their arms full of hay and their hats full of grain. Jonathon led Luther a bit away from Virgil’s horse and dropped the hay and emptied his hat on the ground. Luther started to move over towards Virgil’s horse to fight him for his feed, but Jonathon smacked him with his hat and gruffly spoke, “Here get back over there and behave yourself. You got feed of your own. Don’t be worrying about anybody else’s.” He turned and followed Virgil back to the wagon for more feed. They returned with arms and hats full again. They dropped the hay along with the other. “Better hold off on giving them oats. They ain’t had none in a long time and they might founder.” They dumped the grain under their saddles and covered it up. The wagons with food had just started to pull up, and one was close to Jonathon and Virgil. They came back with a piece of salt pork clutching some hardtack biscuits in each hand. They each took out their knives and started eating without talking. Jonathon was the first to speak, “Damned if this ain’t the first time in a long time that these biscuits don’t have weevils in them.” Broke off another piece of hard tack and asked with a mouth full, “where you from, Virgil?” “East Tennessee, little town of Greenville. My pa has a farm up in the holler. We didn’t go to town much, ‘bout couple times a year was all. We had neighbors and a little school at somebody’s house and one of the mother’s would teach us. So, we didn’t need much. We didn’t have a preacher, but somebody would read from The Book on Sunday, then we’d have a picnic or something. Nice place to live and raise a family. I got a neighbor girl I benna sparkin’. Just hope she’s still there. You can bet on one thing when I get back there I’m stayin’. Ain’t leavin’ them hills for nobody. How ‘bout you?” “Looka yonder. The Yanks are settin’ up sentries. Guess they don’t want us to run off before they finish with us.” He watched as a sergeant marched a squad of soldiers in blue uniforms along the line leaving one off every fifty yards or so. A soldier was placed near Jonathon and Virgil; they were next to the edge of the clearing. “Virgil, let me ask you something.” Jonathon leaned back against this saddle. “Why did you join up. I mean you could have stayed back in those Tennessee hills and just kept on living”. “We knew about the war from gossip, then one day a rider came through telling us that they were forming a company in town. Me and Nathan, my older brother, saw this as an adventure. We could leave the mountains and fight just like some of the stories in the Bible. Nathan was just rearing to go, and I would follow him to the end of the world. He fell at Shiloh on the first day just about the time we lost General Johnson. I buried him that night as best I could on the side of a hill overlooking the little town. We’d only be in ‘bout three months.” His voice began to break; wiping his nose on his sleeve he went on, “Nathan was always the one for takin’ chances. Even as kids he was always getting us in trouble. I didn’t mind taking the whippings; he was my big brother. I got home for just a little while a year and half ago, and told the folks about Nathan. I would rather be gut shot than see that look on my mama’s face again. I thought about just stayin’, but we had the Home Guard: a bunch of cowards to scared and lazy to help out. If you didn’t go back they said you were a deserter and could be shot. One of them was my cousin. He said he couldn’t go because his back hurt him. That’s the same thing he said when there was work to be done. “After that I just kept goin’. One day they asked if any of us could ride and wanted to be in the cavalry, and I said yes. And here I am three years later.” He stopped speaking and sat silently for a moment. “I’ve seen enough for a hundred lifetimes. I have to tell you something: I was going to run off from this one. I was going home.” “I had a brother, name was Robert, only I was the big brother.” Jonathon began. “I lost him at Sharpsburg. He rode runner for Colonel Ashby in Jackson’s Army. We both rode for Colonel Ashby, one of the finest officers I will ever know. He fell at Port Republic not far from our place. “We knew about the war starting, but didn’t give it much thought until one day a horse buyer came by looking for horses. They were forming a cavalry under General Jackson down near Lexington. He had a string of about twenty-five horses already, and Pa sold him five more. He needed help to get the string to Lexington so Robert and me hired on to help him. We made a couple of more stops along the way and had over fifty head when we got to Lexington. “Before he would accept the horses, General Jackson wanted to see each one of them ridden. So. Robert and me spent the next three days riding horses. Some of them were pretty well broke, some were just green, and some were kind of salty. General Jackson refused to take about ten of them so he and the buyer sat down one whole afternoon bargaining. General Jackson was as tough as a dried out boot. Just about evening they struck a deal, but it included Robert and me staying on breaking horses for the army. I said, ‘Whoa back. We didn’t sign on to join the army’. The buyer stepped in and told us not to worry all we needed to do was stay around a top a few out then go home. He said if we didn’t he wouldn’t be able to give us our money. We knew we were being tricked, but we went along anyway. The next day we started riding horses. Now Robert and me were both good horse hands we had been doing it all our lives, but they started running in some big stout horses off the mountains that were as tough as I ever saw. I got bucked off more that first week than I had been bucked off my whole life. We had been there a couple of days when we met Colonel Ashby. He talked to us about how it was necessary for the South to fight off the Yankee invaders. How if they took over they would take away all we had. He was one of the finest gentlemen I will ever know. He talked us into joining the army and riding with him. “The next day the horse buyer stopped by and gave us half the money he owed us and promised to get the other half to us soon. We never saw our money or the buyer again. He did tell us that he would stop by and tell Pa that we had joined the army; at least he did that. They gave us brand new uniforms, boots and all, and we started cavalry training and breaking horses at the same time. Some times that got pretty exciting. “You asked why we joined. I guess the answer is: we just sort of thought it was the right thing to do. After all we were Virginia boys and she was at war, so it was our job to join in and help. “Sure we had slaves. Had two of them. But they weren’t like real slaves; they were mostly like black family members. Walter and Minnie had been around ever since I can remember. My pa said he bought them from a trader when he was young and just startin’ out. They were man and wife but never had any children of their own. We, Robert, me, and my two sisters, were their kids. Minnie was just as much mother to me as my own mother. And, we knew Walter could take a switch to us just like Pa, and he did too. They had a little house out back that Minnie fixed up real nice, and they ate with the family at the same table. One time Minnie was sick and Ma sat up several nights tending her. From time to time we would have other slaves. Pa would buy and sell a few. I never thought if it was right or wrong. It was just the way it was. “Are we fightin’ to keep our slaves. As far as I am concerned our slaves are free and have been for a long time. I realize that our slaves aren’t like the rest of them, but would I fight so some could keep their slaves? No, I wouldn’t. I don’t think it’s worth the price. And I’m not so sure that some folks should own other folks. It just don’t seem right. I guess the war has made me look at life a little different.” “I never saw a slave before the war.” Virgil said. “We had a black man come through one time looking for work. That’s the only one I ever saw. We didn’t have any work for him, but if we had I’m sure that Pa would have hired him and treated him just like a white man. Ma fixed him a little sack of food. So to ask if I would go to war to keep the blacks in slavery, the answer is no, just like you. Would I give up my brother just so some rich white man can keep his money? No to that too. I might fight to protect my family, but that’s about all I would fight for.” The both just sat quietly each contemplating his own life. Jonathon turned to the guard that was just a few yards away. “Hey, Yank, let me ask you a question.” They both turned to see if the guard would respond. He turned and hesitated then walked to where Jonathon and Virgil were sitting under the tree. “What did you say?” He held his rifle across his chest and leaned forward. “Say it again I can’t hear too well. Too much cannon fire.” “I said Yank let me ask you a question,” Jonathon raised his voice. “First thing I ain’t Yank not anymore at least. My names Harold: Harold Davidson. I don’t want to be a Yankee or a Union or anything anymore. I just want to go somewhere and sit, so maybe I can figure this out.” He put the butt of his rifle on the ground. “Well, I guess we’re all in the same pen. This is Virgil Cain and I’m Jonathon Jordan. My question is: where you from?” he paused then added, “Harold.” “From Ohio. Plumb out on the west edge a little town of Dayton. Not many people, and I guess I’m related to most of them in some way or another. Where you boys from, if you don’t mind my asking?” “I’m from Virginia, a little north and west of here, and Virgil is from Tennessee. We’re both wanting to go home.” Jonathon replied. “Why are you here if you don’t mind me asking?” Virgil looked up and asked. “I mean Ohio’s a long ways off, if my mama’s book is right. Did the war get that far that you had to come here to protect your folks?” “Well I’ll tell you.” He began to relax, and talk like someone who wanted to tell his story. “In ’61 word came out that President Lincoln was calling for men to join up and fight the Rebs. They made a big to-do about it in town. My pa has a farm just north of town. They put up a table in front of the store and put big ribbons on it and started taking names. Man said it would only be for ninety days. Me and my two brothers talked it over and since it would only be for three months we would go. So, just after we helped Pa get his crop in the ground, that was ’62, we got our uniforms. They put us in railroad cars and started us east. It was spring but it was still cold riding in them railroad cars. At the first stop we found us a bucket and picked up some coal and made a fire in the car, but it was so smoky you couldn’t hardly breathe. So it was live with the smoke or get cold. We kind of did one then did the other for a while. We had three days rations and some guys ate theirs up just as soon as they got them, so you always had someone asking for food. We got three days rations every four or five days. We spent fourteen days on that train; had to get off and march one time for two days. It was cold but at least we had some fresh air.” “That Yankee cold would have ‘bout killed some of southern boys. We’re not used to that kind of cold. It gets cold down in the mountains where we live, but not that northern cold. I been told about it.” Virgil said. “When we got to Washington they assigned to a big tall tent with ten other guys. They made us march and drill every day. Made us get up ‘bout day light and march till dinner time then we got a break for a while then drilled the rest of the day. I think I know one thing we could out march you rebs, don’t know if we could’ve out fought you, but I know damned well we could out march you. “Our three months ran out, and we were ready to go home when they came around wantin’ to stay another ninety days. Me and my brothers talked it over and decided to stay on a while. The food wasn’t that bad, and we were getting’ paid regular. We were getting fourteen dollars a month. We saved most of our money except for a couple of times we went to see a sportin’ woman and get something special to eat. We didn’t drink no liquor. The Bible says, ‘Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.’ We stayed in Washington all that summer just drillin’ and training, you know how to use a bayonet and all. A couple of times a week they would march us out by a river, and we would practice shootin’ . Then just ‘bout harvest time back home they put us all together along with a bunch of others, and we started marching north. We marched for four straight days across some pretty country, ‘though it was a bit hilly for my taste.” “Flat where you come from?” Virgil was leaning back almost laying down. “I come from the mountains where there ain’t no flat at’all. We got cows with two legs shorter than the others from grazin’ on the side of the mountain.” He looked over at Harold and smiled. “As I was sayin’. We marched quite a way to the north makin’ camp ever night. Then on the fourth night they came around and handed out ammunition and told us not to make camp but sleep on the ground with our rifles beside us. Me and my brothers we all agreed that we would stick together.” He sat down on his haunches and drew back into himself talking but seemingly not talking to anyone, only himself. His eyes were looking a thousand miles away. “Yeh, that’s what we did we agreed we’d stick together and help each other out. After all we was brothers.” He paused and no one said anything there was just a murmur coming from the rest of the men as they lay around. Some had made fires out of the sticks lying around. The sound of the peepers made a background. “Well, we all agreed to stay together, the three of us. It was just about daybreak when we heard rifle shots and cannons go off. We, all three of us, started to get scared. This was real; it wasn’t just practice. We heard that the Eighth Ohio, was being held in reserve. So we just laid there all morning listen’n to the shootin’ goin’ on over the hill. That’s what we did; we just laid there. Then about dinner time they came and got us and marched us over to the bottom of a hill. We couldn’t see over the top, but we could hear a lot of shootin’. I looked around and Bill and Frank were right there beside me just like we planned. “The captain held up his sword and told us to move forward up the hill. We still couldn’t see. As we got to the top we could see that the rebs were down in a ditch of some kind shootin’ over the edge. We couldn’t shoot at them very well but they were a killin’ us. I started to back down the hill and looked over and saw Frank get hit with a cannon shot. He just turned into a red cloud. Just red stuff floating in the air. I ran over and called “Frank, Frank’ but he didn’t call back. I looked all around for him and couldn’t find him. He was just gone. My mama’s baby boy was just gone.” He stopped and looked at Jonathon with a puzzled look. The timbre of his voice changed to almost a pleading howl, “He was just gone. I ran over and started picking up little pieces and putting them in my cap so I could take them home to mama.” He was no longer talking to Jonathon and Virgil but looking far off into space and talking. “Frank was her baby. I started hollering for Bill to come help me, so we could get all the pieces. But he didn’t hear me; there was too much noise. So I ran over to where I last saw Bill and found him lying on the ground. I shook him to wake him up so he could help me with Frank, but he wouldn’t wake up. I shook him again and then reached up to shake his head awake, and he didn’t have no head. I said ‘Bill, we got to find your head , so’s you can get up and help me with Frank’. I started looking around for Bill’s head, but I couldn’t find it. He was going to need his head if he was going to help me with Frank. I was crawling around on my hands and knees when someone ran by me and grabbed my jacket and pulled down the hill.” He paused and looked down at the ground. Virgil and Jonathon sat quietly listening. “I just sat there on the ground not knowing what to do. Then it got night and the shooting stopped. I walked back up the hill and found Bill and drug him over to Frank and started picking up little pieces. All I got was a cap full. I laid down my cap there beside Bill and told him to stay there I was going over to find his head. But I looked and I looked and couldn’t find it. A man can’t do much without a head. I said to myself, ‘Mama’s not going to like this’; she’ll probably have Pa take a switch to me for getting her boys killed. You see I was the oldest, and it was me that was supposed to look out for the others. But I better go home and get it over with. So I put Frank inside Bill’s coat so I wouldn’t drop him, and picked up Bill and started walking. I walked a long ways. I walked through a soldier camp and went on. Nobody said anything. I even walked through a reb camp. I walked until I came to big river. It was too wide. I sat Bill down and leaned him up against a tree and checked to make sure Frank was okay. It was too wide.” He looked first at Jonathon then at Virgil and tears started down his cheeks, “It was too wide. I couldn’t get across. It was too wide. I wanted to take them home, but it was too wide. I couldn’t swim very much; Bill was always the swimmer, but he couldn’t carry both me and Frank.” He looked pleadingly at Jonathon then at Virgil, “It was too wide. I couldn’t take them home. So I slipped Bill into the river and told him to go on home and make sure Frank got there too. Tell Mama I’m sorry. Tell her I didn’t mean to get you killed. I couldn’t go home without my brothers so I went back to the company. I just hope the Lord understands.” He looked first at Jonathon then at Virgil, “ I never told anybody about me getting Bill and Frank killed before. I was too a shamed. A man should be able to keep his brothers from getting killed. Now the war’s done and I got to go home. That’s right I got to go home.” He got up without saying anymore and walked to his guard post. Virgil and Jonathon sat backed against the tree. Virgil scratched the ground with a twig, and both were quiet. Then, bang, they jolted at the sound of a gunshot; it came from where Harold was standing guard. They both quickly looked and saw Harold on the ground; his legs were twitching. Jumping up they ran to him and saw that the top of his head was nothing more than a bloody mass. His rifle lay beside him; smoke was drifting out of the barrel. “Get your hands up, you God damned rebs!” A soldier in blue was holding a rifle pointing at them. “Just get away from him!” He was young and the bayonet point was shaking. He sounded like the ‘God Damn’ was alien to his mouth. “Hold on! Mister We was just trying to help.” Jonathon said as he and Virgil raised their hands over their heads. “We was just talking to him over there.” He pointed with his hand still in the air. “Helping my foot! You was trying to steal everything he had. I know you rebs.” He was still pointing the rifle and the bayonet was still shaking. “I bet he didn’t have much to steal,” Virgil said quietly. “What did you say, Reb.” He poked the bayonet at Virgil. “I don’t want to hear any of your reb smart talk, so you just get over there where you’re supposed to be.” He poked the bayonet again. “Now, git! The lieutenant will take care of this.” When they got back to the tree Virgil said, “Damn all I been through and to get shot by some kid in a Yankee suit who’s too scared to even think.” They both just sat and watched as several soldiers gathered around the body and the young soldier pointing their direction talking to an officer. When he finished the officer walked toward the tree. He walked like a man with a purpose. His uniform was new and just a little big for him. His boots were new and a saber rattled by his side. His mustache was young man’s: thin and short; he had the look of a nineteen old on his face. “Don’t you men stand and salute a superior officer?” He said standing over Jonathon and Virgil. “Well, Sir,” Virgil said not getting up. “Yesterday we would have, but today we decided we ain’t soldiers no more; we’re just folks. This here is Mr. Jonathon Jordan and I’m Mr. Virgil Cain.” “Well, I don’t know how it is in the reb army, but in the United States army you don’t just quit anytime you want. You must wait until you are properly discharged.” He took a pistol out of the holster on his belt. “Now, I will suffer no insubordination from rebels. So you will stand up and properly salute a superior officer,” Both Jonathon and Virgil slowly stood up and gave a snappy salute. Each with their eyes on that pistol. “I think I better take you two to the captain. So you will walk in front of me with your hands in the air.” He motioned with his pistol. “I think the little son-of-a –bitch would shoot us. I been in about ten battles and go get shot by snot nose kid. That would beat all.” Jonathon whispered as they were walking toward the Yankee camp. The lieutenant kept motioning with his pistol and giving directions until they were in front of a tall round tent. There was a soldier standing by the opening leaning on his rifle. “Soldier you are out of order. Stand up straight and fix your tunic and salute a superior officer when he approaches.” The soldier snapped to attention, reached down an straightened his tunic, then saluted. “That’s better,” the lieutenant returned the salute. “Now go in and tell the captain that Lieutenant Hapsgood is waiting with two prisoners.” The soldier opened the flap of the tent and ducked inside. “What the hell does he expect me to do about it. Hell, I got twenty thousand prisoners, and I don’t disturb his evening,” bellowed from the tent. “The captain would l like to know the nature of your business. He is a very busy man,” the soldier stuck his head out of the flap. There was a strained look on his face of someone who wants to laugh but knew better. “Tell the captain that Lieutenant Hapsgood is here with two prisoners who might be able to tell us something about the man who was shot this evening.” He was not used to waiting and having his conversation filtered by an underling. The lieutenant ushered in the prisoners when the soldier held open the flap. “Yes, lieutenant, just what is it that requires my attention”. Around the tent were boxes some three feet high and a bunk. In the middle of the tent sat a short pile of boxes made into a desk. In the desk were some papers and a jar of clear liquid. A lantern affixed to the center pole cast down a yellow light on the captain, a man of perhaps thirty years, he had the look of a much older man. His tunic lay across a box along the edge, and they could see his boots were muddy and worn. “These two prisoners,” the lieutenant was standing at attention having put his pistol away making sure the cover was buckled, “can give us some information about the man who was killed”. He stopped and waited for an answer, when the captain didn’t speak, he went on, “They can tell us just how the man died and give us some information for our investigation.” He stopped again. “How he died. We know how he died. He committed suicide, that’s how he died. He shot himself. There is no investigation. There is nothing to investigate.” The captain sounded annoyed but restrained. “But, sir, we must determine the cause of death before we make any assumptions as to whether it is suicide or murder.” “Lieutenant. The regimental surgeon investigated the body and found that was an entry hole in the roof of his mount and an exit hole that took off the back of his head. Now, it appears we have two options here: A. He had his head held back with his mouth open gargling salt water when someone shot him in the midst of sixty thousand men and no one saw the shooter. Or B, he shot himself. Now you decide which I should put on my report along with your name as chief investigator.” He looked straight at the lieutenant. “I understand , sir. But what am I to do with these prisoners. They both were disrespectful to me as superior officer by nature of their being prisoners.” His voice was tempered with embarrassment. “Leave the prisoners to me, and return to your command before some other soldier gets frustrated with you and shoots himself.” The lieutenant snapped a salute, and the captain raised his hand to his brow. He spun on his heel and marched from the tent. “That’s what happens when your uncle is a congressman. You boys want a drink of liquor?” he pushed the jar across the desk. “We ran across a still the other day. This ain’t the best I ever had. I think it wanted to set a little longer. Like I said it’s green but drinkable.” Both Jonathon and Virgil winched as they swallowed. “I expect you boys better get back to the area. Sentry!” When the soldier stepped in, “escort these men back to their area”. It was way past moon rise when they settled down beside their tree. They each found a place on the ground where they could sleep pulling their saddle blankets over them to ward off the cool night air. The next day it rained and they had to pull their saddle blankets over their heads to keep the rain off their heads. On the Tuesday it was still raining, and the orders came down that the men were to line up by units to stack their weapons and battle flags. All around there were color bearers revolting by burning the pennants or tearing them apart and giving each man a piece. “By God the damned Yankees never got this a fightin’, and I’ll be damned if they’re going to get it now.” Then it was over. The rifles stacked, the paroles issued, the oaths taken. Men dispersed some walking some riding but all going home. Their uniforms were ragged, but they held their heads high. They were bested but not beat, whipped but not conquered.

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