Sunday, June 13, 2010

Your Last Thoughts

Journal Entry: May 23, 1862

We have been posted along the Fredericksburg roads for weeks; we are so familiar with these roads and farms that we start to forget the storm approaching. This morning, Shortcake and I were ambling between camps, along the tree line, moving to the northwest along the Rappahannock River, and I thought, perhaps, I would ride out to see my Marianna. The smell of honeysuckle in the breeze of a beautiful late spring morning; I could close my eyes and amble, imagining Marianna on her horse beside me, as though life was now as it always was before; before the world pushed in on us. I can close my eyes and it feels real, riding along in the silence.

Suddenly, a white-tailed deer sprang out of the trees, not ten feet in front of me; a magnificent buck, he was gone in a second. Shortcake reared back, and I, well, I thought I was dead. That could have been an ambush; a Federal cavalryman with a saber or pistol; not one moment to reflect; not one moment to remember. Reality, or what serves as reality in these times, washed over me like a warm rain that still chills, and I looked down to see my sawed-off shotgun already in my right hand. I don’t remember pulling it from behind me; it was instinct; drills; flight or fight. What would have happened; what could have been? I won’t allow myself to think about what might have been; there could have been an infinite number of outcomes. I shall only remember that the last thought in my mind was, and shall always be, my Marianna.

Letter Home, June 25, 1862:

Dearest Marianna,

The journey away from home has become much more than I imagined. There have been sights I hope you never see. I hope no one that comes into this world shall see the horrors that I have witnessed. Yet, there are people I have met, sights I have seen and lessons I have learned that are more beautiful than this pilgrim can describe. I shall never be the same boy that I was in the Wilderness. I am a part of all of this now; I am all of this now, and for always; in all ways.

As a courier, my horse and I must remain the fastest of the fleet; we travel quick; travel light. I have collected more books than I can carry, so I must bury my parcels of knowledge as my collection becomes unwieldy. Only you and my brother know this, and in the event that I do not return from this journey, only you two will know the locations of these parcels. Upon my person will be a list of latitudes, longitudes, and landmarks. Go there, if you wish to find them; if you wish to find me. What you find there will be a part of who I have become, who I am.

An immensely large battle waits tonight for its players to arrive at dawn. We may return, or we may completely extinguish a generation of boys; whichever it shall be, remember me to all you meet, for within their eyes, you shall see me smiling, and almost speechless in my love for you.

So, no more. I still remain
Yours until death,
and beyond that as well.

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