Sunday, February 6, 2011
The siege is set, yet the 9th Cavalry is always in the saddle, riding in reconnaissance; we slip in and out of the Federal lines like a grey wind; the bluecoats pull their collars up tight around their faces to fend against our certain chill. They know we are there, somewhere close, but they shield their eyes, that we might pass in peace, for they have previously felt the wrath of our veterans. Just last week, we rode around the left of Grant’s army and up alongside his rear lines into Coggins’ Point on the James River to capture 2400 cattle, 300 horses and 11 wagons, with no loss of our troopers. This week, we eat well; next week, maybe not.
This entire region from The Wilderness to Richmond has become a lawless landscape of deserters, raiders, and ne’er-do-wells. At sunrise, we follow the smoke, over a ridge, to find burning homes where soldiers and looters are leaving with as much as they can muster. I have seen so many mothers starving; left with only the clothes they carry, holding hungry babies on their hips. Mornings find them foraging along the roads, like mourning doves, sorrowful in their song, scratching in the soil for bits of seed and sustenance. We give what small rations we have in our haversacks, but cannot give them the peace they seek. They do not cry or complain; their eyes hold no tears for themselves. If they hold hope at all, it is for the future of the children.
I tell them that soon life will be better, but my eyes betray me, having seen the life leaving from too many children of other mothers.
It will be better, morning dove, it will be.