Got himself shot and killed by a Yankee.
In May of 1861, me and Johnny had joined the infantry. As we marched out of our Virginian hometown, pretty girls rushed toward us and handed over iced cakes and wilted wildflowers. Johnny bragged to each girl how he was “gonna lick them Yankees.”
“This war will end soon, and we’ll return and marry the prettiest girls here,” Johnny declared. “We’ll entertain our sons with tales or glory”
Our regiment didn’t have to travel far since camp was outside of Norfolk. We arrived at twilight. We pitched tents and then crawled inside and fell into a deep, untroubled sleep. I think of that first night’s sleep as the sleep of angels. We’ve seen much action since; smoke-filled battlegrounds, wounded horses, and the screaming wounded now fill my dreams.
One time, Johnny confided in me that he was scared of dying in battle.
“All I think of now is carnage strewn on the battlefield,” Johnny said. “If I get killed, promise me that you’ll get my Bible back to my mother.”
“I will. But you aren’t going to die. Remember, we’re going to marry the prettiest girls,” I answered with a half-grin. My answer was met with silence.
In early September of 1862, we broke camp and boarded a train for Sharpsburg, Maryland. Rations were scarce during the trip and even more so once we pitched camp in the vicinity of Antietam Creek. One night, me and Johnny decided to forage for food. We headed off to the nearby dirt road. We soon spotted a lit lantern hanging outside the back door of a farm at a bend in the road.
“If we're quiet, I bet we can get some chickens. Those would be worth our trip.” We tried concentrating on quieting our grumbling bellies as visions of stewed chicken filled our thoughts.
Johnny must’ve been thinking about chickens too much because he knocked over a pail of water sitting by the barn. A dog barked, breaking the night’s silence. The house’s back door swung open. A lean, tall figure stepped out and yelled: “You had better identify yourself. I’ve got a loaded rifle, and I’m ready to shoot.”
Me and Johnny froze. We kept quiet, waiting to see if the tall figure would give up and return inside. The dog barked again. A rifle fired three times, ejecting spiraling bullets toward us. Before Johnny dropped to the muddy ground, he looked at me, surprised. Moonlight shone on blood trickling from the wound right between his eyes.
The rustling of the tall figure’s petticoat grew louder as its owner neared Johnny’s resting spot. I pulled out Johnny’s Bible from his butternut uniform jacket and then ran deep into the woods. I stopped to orient myself, knowing that I must take flight. I had a Bible to deliver.
Vickey Mouze (no relation to a certain Disney character!) currently resides in Florida. She’s an Army veteran who served as a military newspaper reporter, editor and journalism instructor. This is her first publishing credit in fiction. You can find her on Twitter at @scriptor05
A Tale of War is a Fiction War Finalist entry.
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