Re-posted now that I know a little more about formatting in WordPress…
In honor of my Great Grandfather who fought at Gettysburg. While wounded, he was one of the lucky who survived.
Hardtack and whiskey coat my tongue, reminding me of early morning fog wrapped around a sleeping village. We march in silence, except for the clank of canteens rattling against our muskets. What comfort lies in this night of misery except for the worn letter from home safely tucked in my jacket pocket?
Capt’n says be alert as we march through unfamiliar land to meet the gray. “They want to kill us Yankees,” he warns.
The sun is rising, a welcomed gift with rays sent to warm chilled bones and rescue the weary from darkness. Smoke grows in the distance accompanied by endless cannon fire. The battle has begun.
I feel myself fire, then reload, but it is like a ghost in my consciousness. Screams break the air and musket powder fills the nose like water consuming a drowning man. Time blurs into a single moment: endless, chaotic and vividly painful.
My ammo pouch is almost empty, but it does not matter. Agony blends with confusion as the enemy’s muskets find me. I fall as the clash of fighting thunders around me.
A soldier is lying next to me, his uniform bloodied, his face frozen in terror. He extends his hand towards a soldier running by, pleading for a salvation never to come. Light fades into wispy beams surrounded by darkness. I see the color of his uniform; he is the enemy, but the fear in his soul strikes me as hard as the musket ball now buried in my chest.
I grasp at my blood-soaked letter and wonder if the soldier has a letter tucked away, or perhaps a trinket that offers him comfort through this horror. He turns and meets my gaze; our eyes soften with an understanding only the dying can share. A tear falls down his face, and I stretch my arm towards him. A gentle touch subdues our growing dread.
I have found the gray, but it is not the color of my enemy, but the gray that lies beyond the perception of right and wrong.