Among the Dead at the Mule Shoe

Period photo of Confederate graves at The Mule Shoe, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia

Thunder of cannon. Line after line of men, issuing sheet after sheet of flame—that’s the vision he sees. He is standing on a trail inside Union lines. He stares across the empty field at the Mule Shoe of Spotsylvania Courthouse where Union and Confederate troops fought for 24 straight hours, often with just wooden defensive works separating them. Men had inserted their rifles between the logs and shot each other at point blank range. Wounded and dead littered the trenches on either side and the living stepped on their bodies and faces in the desperate struggle.

For several more moments, he could see the waves of men and the explosions of musket fire in the darkness and at dawn. Then came his father’s voice:

“The dead visit here all the time. Thousands and thousands of them. Because it is the spot where they died. But it’s not like movies or tv say. They are not tormented or confused about it. It is just a place of significance for them—like the place you met your wife or the hospital where your kids were born or a field where you won a state championship.”

The man nods and watches his children and wife wandering among the remaining earthworks. The voice of his father again:

“We have lots of family here. More than you can guess. Thousands of people. It is hard for you to understand how connected everyone is on this side.”

So there is work to do to find these family members. The man knows from experience that this is the limit. He never learns in these visions and whisperings whom he is searching for, just that a place or a family line is a place to look.

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