Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)
TITLE: A Civil War Tale
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Two days later, she watched Wiley and his best friend, Ben Crumly, walk down the narrow dirt road toward town. The children were gathered around her holding on to her skirt for fear that she, too, would leave them. Mary’s hand went instinctively to her abdomen, and fears for her unborn baby brought tears to her eyes. Immediately she offered up prayers for them all as she watched Wiley turn and wave one last time, and walk out of sight.
Life in the Confederate Army’s Company G, 23rd Regiment, Alabama Infantry proved difficult. They were a rag tag collection of men with little skill for battle. Food was scarce, and they generally had to depend on the kindness of strangers along the way for provisions. Wiley would notice the women with their children, and he would feel a painful longing for his family.
Conditions were unsanitary, and soon Wiley began to notice his skin turning a yellowish hue and his strength leaving him. He was hospitalized in Petersburg Virginia, and after his recovery he rejoined his unit in Tennessee just prior to the battle at Franklin. Many Confederate soldiers lost their lives as Union forces outnumbered and outfought them. Wiley was one of the fortunate ones. He was captured. Wiley desperately wanted to rejoin his Regiment, and was able to plan his escape and execute it only two nights after his capture. With his unit once again, they marched to Nashville, Tennessee. Had Wiley known what was to befall he and his fellow soldiers there, he might have reconsidered his earlier escape.
The Battle at Nashville on December 16th, 1864 was gruesome. Union forces outnumbered Confederate forces more than two to one. When the musket fire finally stopped, the stench of gunpowder and the sight of all the bloodshed made Wiley sick to his stomach. While leaning over a wounded friend, holding pressure to his wounds, he once again found himself at the mercy of the Union Army. Wiley was thankful to be alive in that moment, but in the months to come he wished many times for death. Only thoughts of Mary and his children kept him alive.
He was imprisoned at POW Camp Chase in Ohio. Camp Chase saw 16,000 POW’s during the war, and while they were cared for in earnest by the medical staff there, a third of the prisoners died. Outbreaks of pneumonia, skin lesions, and scurvy were commonplace. Although he was weak, hungry, and suffered pneumonia, Wiley survived.
When the Civil War ended, the Union guards simply opened the gates, and stood back while their captives walked out wearing government issued shoes. Most had nothing except the ragged clothes on their backs and the few pieces of dry bread in their pockets. Wiley was weak, ill and thin, but freedom brought him a renewed strength. He turned in the direction of home and started walking.
Two and a half months later he found himself walking down the same narrow dirt road that he had started out on. It was the road that led to his home and his family. He’d lost forty pounds and looked a mess with long stringy hair and a beard. Exhausted, but finally home, he made his way over to the well to wash off as Mary rounded the corner of the house with a basket of laundry. Seeing Wiley, she dropped the basket, and fell into his arms, crying. They held each other for a long while before saying a word.
It was customary for strangers to be fed in the Godfrey home, so the children were not surprised to see the man seated at the supper table. It was not until their mother told them it was their own father that the children knew his true identity. They climbed all over Wiley smothering him in kisses. The clamor woke up little Dawson and he began to cry. It was then that Wiley held his new baby boy for the first time. By God’s grace, husband and father had come back home.
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