Writins of Weakeyes Cody
Talented and witty writings
The young soldier looked ahead of him and paused to rest for a little at the edge of the dusty road. He was tired and even though he had only a mile more to walk it seemed a long way. He looked behind him hoping for the approach of a wagon or buggy or some conveyance to give him a ride on home. Home. He never realized what the word meant until he was away for so long. Now he ached for the sight of it, and it was merely yards away now. His eyes strayed upward to the turning leaves of the trees above him. Even they seemed to be spreading their protective shade to welcome him. He walked to the base of one and sat down leaning back against it.
That spring morning back in '62 seemed so long ago now. His mother had wept and his father had shook his hand and wished him well as he marched away with his unit comprised of men from this little village wherein he had grown to manhood. He had longed to join the fray and at last he was old enough. His mother had made his uniforms with her own hands saying she wanted her son to be warm and well dressed. he carried extra socks and another uniform in his rucksack. He was well equipped and walked proudly as the local band played and they marched out of town that day. He couldn't resist a look back as they reached the turn at the bridge. His parents were still standing watching. That was the last he saw of them.
He was sent to a place near D.C. where he was taught to march and learn the manual of arms. The food wasn't good and the bed wasn't like his own and there seemed to be no kindness within anyone. His friends all became enthralled with playing poker and swearing too much and no one seemed interested in what they once were back home. It seemed to rain a lot and his boots were always muddy, the tent smelled of mildew and one of his tent mates acquired head lice. It seemed they only drilled and repaired equipment. Then one day he was told he would become an artilleryman. He was issued a new uniform and wore a red band around his cap.
He was assigned to a group of artillerymen and then to a specific gun. He learned that all cannon bore names and his particular cannon was Joshua. It seemed the men had a propensity for biblical names. Then he was given the opportunity to help fire it. But only for practice. He liked the roar and to see where the load impacted the ground away out there. Still, they only hitched the horses to the caisson and pulled it about northern Virginia. He wasn't called upon to go into combat and he was thankful because he had seen the bloody results of some of the battles as the units filed past from down south. He read and drilled, fought dirt, washed clothes, and watched as his commanding officers were changed again and again. He wrote letters and received some. His mother wrote that his father was bothered with his back. But all was the same.
The Army of the Potomac sat idle and drilled with a skirmish now and then and he grew indifferent to the goings on and fought the crawling things that insisted on accompanying soldiers clothing and hair. Then one morning they were instructed to move out. He and his comrades harnessed the team, hooked them to the caisson and loaded up the powder and grape along with the balls and mounted up. "Where we goin'?" He had asked. "Some place up north." Came the reply. "I think its in Pennsy. Place called Gettysburg."
They drove for two days hard, reaching the area of Gettysburg about midnight. Without sleep or rest they had set up five cannon facing the direction they were told the enemy would possibly come. At dawn just about the time silhouettes could be seen the Rebs came down the road. The cavalry partially dismounted while the others ran at the enemy and soon after they retreated and the artillery was called upon to fire at the enemy. He had stood and repeatedly loaded and fired, seeing through the smoke the loads strike men at no more than a hundred yards away. The screams and the sound of rifle bullets striking near him was like a dream. This is what it's going to be like to die, he thought. After what seemed like forever the Rebs pulled back. He and his fellow cannoneers were ordered to the rear and another unit went forward.
All the following day he and his unit was held in reserve as they lay and listened to the sounds of battle in the distance. Then on July third, they were positioned across from a wide expanse.... a meadow he thought. To each side of his unit stood maybe 200 cannon. He knew he was about to witness something profound. All morning they stood thus. It was most terrifying. They could see the enemy moving about and could see their artillery aimed at them. He stood beside Joshua, sweat seeping down his flank and listened and waited. There was little talk among the troops. Then at exactly noon the Confederate cannon roared and the shot could be heard screaming overhead. "Shoot!" Came the order of their sergeant and he touched off old Joshua's first round. It was pure hell and the smell of powder and smoke continued for a full two hours. He was busy loading and helping his unit and had no time to think. Few hits fell around them and they concluded that the Rebs were firing over them at the reinforcements. But he could see the impacts of the Union guns at they struck the Reb artillery and knew they were doing well. Then, as suddenly as it started, it stopped.
He sank to his knees fatigued from the heat and the motion. He knelt there and watched the Rebel army form their ranks. It was most a mile long and three deep. A solid line of gray and mustard pants. Their flags and banners all waving while the smoke and dust settled. Then silence. "Hold your ground lads!" the officers walked behind them swords drawn. The infantry stood to the rear waiting to move up. "We'll give 'em all we can with the guns then let the infantry have a go at 'um." Then the gray lines began to move toward them. Rifles at the ready. His comrade Dorsey Daniels whispered under his breath, "It's been good workin' with you boys." At first the Rebs walked. they came on slow. Then they began to jog. Then some let out their Rebel yell and the commander shouted "FIRE!" They fired. 15,000 southerners would never see the sun set that day.
"You want a ride boy?" He was shaken from his musing and his eyes fastened onto the gray bearded familiar face of his neighbor. He stood dusting the seat of his britches squinting at the old man. "Mister Donner? Is that you?" The old man's expression changed as he recognized the tattered soldier who stood before him. "Joseph Tomerlin?" He half asked. "Yessir." The old man dismounted his wagon to wring the hand of the younger man. His hand resting on his shoulder. "We thought you dead, son." he said.
He slid from the springseat of the wagon, glancing back and nodding at his benefactor. Then his eyes rested on the rather small house before him. A little in need of attention but still for the most part, home. A thin woman came to the door to shake out a table cloth and stood looking down the road after the wagon. then her eyes swung to the face of her son standing near the gate. Slowly with recognition she sank down to her knees her hands together as if in prayer but her tearful eyes not leaving for a moment the jewel before her. then her old arms opened and her son hastily walked to her kneeling down with her to embrace and kiss her face. Neither spoke. Finally she asked, "Are you alright son?" "I'm good mama, except that I'll need to work with one hand." He held up the bandaged wrist and smiled. She wept and hugged him once more holding him and rocking for a long moment.
Then his father appeared standing in the door aroused from his axe sharpening at the rear of the house. His eyes locked onto those of his only son and his lower face began to quiver. He never spoke, but just stared into the blue eyes of his boy. The woman and the soldier stood and they all three held each other. "Welcome home son." His father managed to say. The soldier nodded, and they entered the small New England house together.
~ Weakeyes Cody