More Value than the Sparrows

He visited the scene twenty-four hours after the shooting stopped, and thereafter, one detail burned itself deep into his mind. Over the years, that detail had grown nonsensical, a cosmic joke told by a darkly comic creator. He could revisit the shade of that moment anytime he pleased, and for the first two decades, heContinue reading “More Value than the Sparrows”

She Cannot Forget You

Reverend Mrs. Clute carried a secret. Or rather, it was a secret growing inside her. To be clear, it was not her second child who was indeed growing inside her and becoming obvious to others. No, this baby boy was not her secret, and yes, she was certain it was a boy–she had had aContinue reading “She Cannot Forget You”

An Inside Joke by Me for Myself

The first time I saw the boy, he had soiled his pants, and I says to him, I says, “Boy, you done soiled your pants” and he says to me, “I ain’t the only one that done that–they was others who did it under fire at Perryville cuz we was all green,” and I says,Continue reading “An Inside Joke by Me for Myself”

The Virtue of Slaughter

Swift, blazing flag of the regiment, Eagle with crest of red and gold, These men were born to drill and die. Point for them the virtue of slaughter, Make plain to them the excellence of killing And a field where a thousand corpses lie. –Stephen Crane, “War is Kind” The table was covered in bloodContinue reading “The Virtue of Slaughter”

The Ballad of Johnny Mather Sloan

[Sing to the tune of the “The Yellow Rose of Texas.”] Young Johnny Mather Sloan Lived on the Texas range. Stole a horse when six years old; His brother thought him strange. Y’all never heard the tale of the boy soldier from the heart of Texas. Damn shame. That boy and his story are asContinue reading “The Ballad of Johnny Mather Sloan”

Angel Glow

As the light faded, so did the sound of artillery, and the musket fire was only sporadic. The sounds they had been masking all day now pierced the night–the moans, howls, screams, and curses. The man was sitting up against a tree, his left thigh useless from a wound, his right shoulder blade also immobileContinue reading “Angel Glow”

Chronicling the Dead

I have lately finished the excellent Kate: The Journal of a Confederate Nurse by Scotch-born and Alabama-bred Kate Cummings. I’ve marveled at her religiosity, fearlessness in going into the worst of the hospital scenes, compassion for the wounded, and her self-delusions at the righteousness of the Southern cause and the wickedness of the Northern cause.Continue reading “Chronicling the Dead”

I’m a Sailor Peg

They have just passed a parking lot on the Spotsylvania Battlefield history trail. There is a clear trail to the right just on the other side of the placards at this stop, so they follow it. It goes for a quarter mile and ends at a busy road. “This isn’t right,” says the man. “WeContinue reading “I’m a Sailor Peg”

Among the Dead at the Mule Shoe

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 defensiveContinue reading “Among the Dead at the Mule Shoe”