Journal Entry: Nance’s Shop, Virginia; June 23, 1864
I am becoming more and more aware of time; the days, the months, now years spent away from home. Soon, I will turn twenty-four, but I feel as tired and worn as a hobbled greybeard, as though my life has passed; I should be home. I should have lived life, as it was promised. While this war has dragged on and on, approaching its fourth year, there are so many opportunities I have missed. I should have lived a quiet life, instead for riding with the firebrands. I should have watched the red-winged blackbird near the river run, instead of watching red blood turn black on the banks of the Antietam. I should have shared an ale at the Wilderness Tavern with my friends, not buried them there. I should have farmed with my brothers, instead of fighting my other brothers from the northern states. I should have lived by now.
By now, I should have taken on my role as adult, to take care of my mother and father, as they cared for me. I should have built my own home, a small cottage down near the run. By now, I should have married, and danced many a Virginia Reel in the parlor with my dearest Marianna. I should have started a family; the tiny tickle of babies laughing should have filled my rooms, filled my heart.
I should have built a red bank barn and raised a fine stable of Morgan horses by now. In the three years that I have lost, I should have planted and harvested, planted and harvested, and then, planted once more. I should have seen the seasons, the spring growing, the winter resting; all that, I should have lived it.
My list of should could go on and on, but I should not dwell upon it. I will have my time to live that life of simple treasures; I will take note and honor every moment. It is a time that hundreds of thousands of boys will now never have; hundreds of thousands buried far from the life they should have lived.
I should live; I could have died.