I took to resting my feet in the shallow waters of Stones River late this day. Pulled my boots right off, and plopped those footsies straight in to feel that cold water.
I felt something sticky in that left boot; the one missing a heel. I knew it was my blood but was really hoping it was just Tennessee mud. I did not want to look too close, though.
In the river water, some White Bass and Tennessee Shiners seemed to accept my feet, running round them, like kittens playing, except with scales. They made the water ripple and calmed me after my horrors of the day, men screaming, dying, and bleeding.
Couldn’t hear any birds. Sure was hoping for one sweet Dove coo.
My momma told me the Dove came from ‘twixt God and us, to let us know there was hope for tomorrow.
Earlier, there were pretty clouds, but the sky runs much darker now. I will have to make do if I even see the morning sun.
Late in the year, it is. Most of the trees have lost their leaves and wonderful colors since the cold wind made ’em shed.
Like any other troop, I carried my life on my self, food, warmth, and protection. Wish I had an extra coat. Not long for me now ‘fore I need an extra.
We heard last week that the Army of the Cumberland was marching from Nashville to meet us. They said the blue belly line stretched as far as a body could see.
Caissons and cannon pulled by mules too many to count, followed by a never-ending line of Bluebellies, 4 by 4.
My brother, Willie, was scared of the Blue Coats, he only fifteen. Me not!
I have seen and felt the tug of yonder Mini ball and musket several times, through my sleeve and just past my ear. A few times, I had held a buddy, while his blood let out, or watched the butchers remove his hand or leg and called it medical treatment.
“Saving lives,” they say. More like creating an ARMY of cripples, says me.
I kept hearing that General Brampton told us we had to hold this bit of land.
Hell, I do not care one whit about what some General said. I was trying to protect me and mine from the pillage and burning from the North.
They thought we was stupid, the Northerners.
They are right, I can’t read a book, or make my letter, but I can think.
I can follow the trail of the sun; know when to plant and when to pull it in. I know how to fix the plow when it is broke. I know when to kill a thing and when to let it run.
I ain’t stupid.
And, I know damned well a man I can trust and one that will never know me.
Most of what we grow in these hills, ‘fore all this, went by rail and mule to feed the north.
I bet some up there are a might hungry, ‘cause we are not filling their bellies.
Part of the reason for fighting and dying in this war had to do with food, those that wanted to pay less, and those that needed more to grow or transport it.
Why they want to kill me? I don’t want to kill them.
But I will. And have to protect mine.
Some would say it is about slaves, but none of mine, nor my neighbors have any. I hear some riches east of here have some.
I ain’t seen no slaves, except the ones wearing a blue or gray uniform fighting with or against me.
After all this killing is over, I had wished to run a few acres of corn.
‘Way I figure it, any man that fights the ground and wind and rain to put a seed in and make sure it grows is a good one. Color don’t matter. Just like me, he must love his kin and mother.
But, he has to treat me and mine right.
I have seen them bleed, from all over. Every one of them, that blood is red, whether they be blackies fighting for the North or against the North. If they fought on my side, they were friends, just a tad darker is the way I looked at it.
Old Toby, redheaded as a crawdad, had skin whiter than anything. Breach loader took his arm off at the elbow, blood redder than his hair, his breeches changed colors within a few seconds, within a minute, and he was gone.
Yesterday, Willie, Bobbie, and I shared Christmas with biscuits and kit we had left.
Old Lennie, spent last week making ‘shine, so Christmas day, we all had a pour.
That moonshine burned like hell, but took some sting off my pain. Lennie said if you didn’t go blind, you were blessed.
Never saw Lennie after his drink, he was behind me later on that day. Don’t matter. I hope he went out quick.
Some hotshot told us to charge late in the morn.
Willie and I ran straight ahead, yelled, while Hell settled around us just like a dirty old blanket. I lost sight of Willie. That might have been when he was dropped.
I think I caught a ball midways ‘bout then. Don’t want to check that one either.
Right now my bellie feels funny, so could be.
I found out later, first volley this morning took my cousin, Bobbie.
He weren’t much good, been limping for a long time. He just caught one and just like he lived, he went down without a whimper.
Never called on God or his mother, ‘cause he knew he was gone.
The wind shifted from the west to the north late in the day, cause the musket smoke went that way. A musket ball has a way of finding the wind and missing what you aimed at, so we pay attention, right close to the wind.
Got colder too, because of that wind shift.
Well, I must be blessed, sitting here with my feet in the water, and I can feel the glory of God, though I do smell the stink of me, black powder, and death coming all around me.
Right now, I sure love the sound of the river and those fishes.
Still hoping for a Dove, and hoping God finds me ‘fore the Devil, ‘cause I mean to ask his help to find Willie.
All this killing makes me wonder of all the poor people that died before me, going back all those years.
I have to wonder if they were not just protecting theirs and kin like I am.
Jesus on the cross just wanted to protect his kin, mankind.
Getting to worry about God, now, cause I am feeling pretty cold. No Dove to warm my heart and give me hope either, only the water to chill my soul. Time for me to pull my feet out of the river, but can’t muster the strength.
Need to make my mark on this here river bank, so someone finds me, knows I did what I could, and maybe my name.
Can’t seem to muster the strength for that either.
Come on, God! I know you have plenty of practice here with dying folk.
I promised Momma I would take care of Willie, in life or death.
Give me a Dove to help find Willie; don’t matter if I am breathing or no.