Day of the Dead
I felt like I slept fitfully, not enough to be rested when I awoke, but sufficient that I had a dream I remembered. As we were eating what passed for breakfast, Adolphus noticed that I had said nothing, which was not my custom. He let it pass for several minutes and then said, “What is wrong, dear boy? We have not had a word from you since we arose.”
I sat silently for a moment, and then said, “It was probably the dream I had. It was so real that I had trouble for a while telling what was dream and what was real when I awoke.” With that, I fell silent again.
“Is there more?” Adolphus prompted at last.
“Yes, though I am not sure what to make of it.”
“Well, if you would be so good as to share with us, we will do our best to clarify matters.” Adolphus looked eager to do so, so I started.
“I had a dream, as I told you, and in it I saw all the people who have died either in my company or those whom I have received word of their passing.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I either dreamed or saw—as I have told you, I could not tell which it was—all the departed ones standing in a field, arrayed in formation like soldiers. I passed among them, and one by one, they said the same thing: ‘You caused my death and, for this, you shall not live.’ Their faces were ghastly, and their voices rough and low, as I would expect from the dead. I said nothing, and when I had reached the other side where these beings stood, I turned around and started to come through them again. This time, they said, ‘This end shall be soon. It shall be very soon.’ When I returned to my starting place and turned around to look at them once more, they faded as does morning mist under the sun’s rays. Then I woke up, and you know what happened after that. I have no notion what it could mean.”
Adolphus looked thoughtful. “It could be a preoccupation that your waking mind keeps at bay. When you sleep, your dreams release all limitations, and then you see what you have described.”
I shook my head. “What I experienced was too real to be a dream. It was a kind of sleeping manifestation of something that was very tangible indeed.”
“I see. Did you feel it could be prophetic?”
“I cannot tell. I suppose it could, but I have no way of discerning that matter.”
“Well, we must wait and see what manifests itself.”
“I suppose so.”
“But now we must prepare ourselves for what the day will bring.”
We fell to, packing our backpacks and checking our rifles. Then we waited behind our ramparts for something to happen. The morning passed, and it wore on toward noon with nothing happening. Then we saw two riders approaching at a gallop. As they neared, I saw that one was our captain, and the other a lieutenant I did not recognize.
“Look!” I exclaimed. “The captain is coming! He must have something important to tell us.” Headquarters would have sent a lieutenant if the matter were usual, but the captain’s coming meant he had important news.
The two horsemen reached us and the others along the line and stopped. “Gather ‘round, men,” the captain called. “I have important news!”
Just as I surmised, I thought.
He stood in his stirrups. “We have received intelligence that part of Grant’s command will move to the south in an attempt to go around us. They will then come back in a pincers movement to try to surround us. You must meet them before they can get into place and stop their advance. And you must leave now! I have other groups to tell this news!”
He and the lieutenant goaded their horses, and they took off to go further down the line.
“Well,” said Adolphus. “That was clear enough. Let’s go!”
We packed up hurriedly and went south on the double. We could hear the sounds of a great many troops who seemed to be running parallel to us. It was only a matter of time until they engaged us.
After about half an hour, we and our other forces reached a small hill where our captain awaited us. He must have an extremely fast horses to reach this place before we did, I thought. He addressed us once again. “Dig in! The enemy is only over yonder! Prepare to engage!”
We fell to digging and had just finished our trenches when we saw a blue line of soldiers crossing the meadow in front of our hill. The captain drew his sword and held it aloft. “On my signal, men. Easy, easy, hold it…now FIRE!”
Our rifles spoke as one, and although the blue line wavered, a number of Federals came on. We continued to fire, and more and more of them fell. We took losses ourselves, of course, but it seemed they were fewer than among the ranks before us. After about fifteen minutes, we had beaten back the attack, and could hold our fire.
“That’s it, boys! We’ve had the best of them! Hold your ground! They might come back!”
We waited nervously for sign of a counterattack, but after an hour, it seemed clear that none was in the offing. The captain studied the terrain in front of us through binoculars. After a while he put them down. “I believe we have bested them,” he said. “You may stand down but designate a man from each unit to keep watch. It is best to be prudent under these circumstances.”
We gladly relaxed, lying in the dirt and please to do so. “It is hard to believe that we defeated them,” I said.
“Yes,” Adolphus agreed, “but we know it is only a temporary surcease.”
It’s only for a while, I thought, and then it will continue.