Category Archives: Uncategorized

Diamond Resolution

Chapter 20

Day of the Dead

March, 1865

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.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Diamond Resolution

Chapter 18

Backward, Ever Backward

March, 1865

The attack came that same day, and it seemed to me that, of all we had suffered in a short while,  each one was worse than the one before. Hiram somehow found a drum, and when we were attempting to advance against an overwhelming number of troops, he stood in front of us, beating out the call to attack. Certainly, he retired to the rear when we moved forward, but for the time he was there, he put himself in grave danger since he had no weapon save his slingshot. I admired his courage and prayed for him as he stood his ground. He might not believe in prayer, but I did, and so I prayed as hard as I could for his safety.

We were overwhelmed with this attack, and fell back enough that we felt we were out of range of pistols and rifles. Artillery was a different matter, and they continued to throw shot and shell into our ranks, creating carnage with every ball that landed.

Adolphus, Andrew and I took refuge behind a small hill to rest. We knew we would have to continue our retreat soon, but for the moment, we had a desperate need to catch our breath and gather our wits, which were greatly disturbed by what we had been through.

“I do declare I believe this is the worst assault on their part yet.” Adolphus wiped his face, which was blackened by the powder we used in the rifles.

“I must agree,” I said. “We think each one is the worst, and then one comes along that is even more horrible.”

“What do you say we keep running until we reach Lynchburg? Then we will be in place to surrender.” Andrew looked pensive.

“I doubt our captains would think much of that plan.”

Adolphus stood up. “It is time to continue. Be careful and luck to all of us!”

During the long day, we fell back a mile or so, moving in increments until we felt we were safely out of range of all but the biggest cannons. There we took a moment to eat a cold supper—we had had no lunch, and were marvelously hungry.

As we sat and ate, Adolphus asked, “Have you any word from Laurel?”

“None since the last letter. I fear that all lines of communication are cut, and I may not see her until we are reunited, which is a consummation I devoutly wish.”

Adolphus nodded. “Well, I shall pray that you receive a letter soon, or, even better, that you are reunited before not too much longer with your dear Laurel.”

“She is that to me, and I thank you for the prayers.”

We sat in silence for a moment, thinking of what lay behind us, and speculating on what was to be our lot.

Adolphus stood up. “There’s no putting it off—it’s time for us to dig ourselves in.”

Andrew and I groaned, even though we knew that doing so was a necessity. And so we fell to our task, feeling every bit of fatigue and discouragement we could muster.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Diamond Resolution

Chapter 17

Returned to Tell Thee

March, 1865

We experienced a rarity when we slept through the night that evening. I think the captain knew how hard we had exerted ourselves and gave us some additional rest. Of course, that rest was so we could go at it again. I awoke with the first rays of the sun and found Alphonso also awake. “How long have you been up?” I asked him.

“In truth, I did not rise, but have lain here for a spell enjoying the quiet.”

He was right. There had been no sound from either side the entire night.

“Do you not think it odd that we were not disturbed?”

“Indeed I do. Something must be up.”

“I fear you are correct.”

“Well, let’s get ready for that ‘something.’”

We prepared ourselves for the day, including having some hardtack and coffee. This much was usual, anyhow.

We had nearly finished getting ready when Alphonso straightened up. Since we were not done with our business, I knew he had seen something unusual. I looked in the same direction as he did, and saw a small figure coming toward us. As he drew nearer, I saw he was missing an arm.

“Adolphus! Is that Hiram?”

“I cannot tell as yet. He must come closer for me to have an idea of it.”

The figure came on, and soon we knew it was Hiram.

“It is he! How did he obtain his release? He was intransigent when we saw him last.”

“I do not know. Perhaps it is another miracle.”

At that moment, apparently Hiram saw us and broke into a run, although he had his back pack on. He came up to us, and we both embraced him. Our words tumbled over each other.”

“Hiram, we did not expect to see—”

“We never thought you would be—”

“We had not been looking—”

Hiram held up his hand. “Please! One at a time. I can’t understand you.”

“All right. What has affected such a miracle cure in you?” Adolphus smiled broadly.

“I do not know. It was as if my true self was deep inside my head, watching all manner of terrible things I did and said. I knew they were wrong, but there was a barrier between myself and my best behavior. If I treated you so, I am truly sorry.”

“That is no matter. What is important is that you are better and now returned us!”

“Hiram, do you consider that your cure is due to a miracle?”
He shook his head. “No. You know how I feel about religion, doubtless brought on by the circumstances of my early life, so I do not believe in miracles or in God either, for that matter.”

I put my hand on his shoulder. “We will pray that you recognize the true nature of your recovery and that you see God’s hand in it. For now, I rejoice with Adolphus at your return.”

“Yes,” said Adolphus. “Since we saw you last, we had a miracle of sorts when Andrew was released from the prison where he was held captive. He does not know why he was let go, or under whose agency the matter was accomplished.”

Hiram frowned. “I am sorry. That does not change my viewpoint.”

“Nor would I expect it to. We will be praying for you.”

“That’s good. I cannot pray for myself or anything else. Tell me, what has happened since my withdrawal from the world?”

“We have gone back and forth across the front line, and now find ourselves here expecting yet another attack.”

“That’s as I would have expected. I shall have to procure another drum and do my duty.”

“The units are in confusion so I may not tell you where one could be found.”

Hiram shrugged. “No matter. I will find my way along until I come across my unit. They have to be here somewhere.”

Once again I was struck by Hiram’s courage and perseverance. We were lucky to know him.

“Very well,” Adolphus said. “You go off and, when you have found your drum, come back to us to stir our blood and give us courage.”
“I shall do so. Until we meet again, then.”

“Good-bye,” I answered, “and God bless you.”

“You know about me and God.”

“That doesn’t stop me from asking Him to bless you.”

“All the same. Good-bye again.”

We watched him walk off. “There goes one of the bravest and resourceful lads I have ever known,” Adolphus said. “And I have know many of them.”

“I would agree with you,” I returned.

“Let’s finish our preparations. I did not expect such a happy reunion, but it has slowed us down.”

“I welcomed it. Such good news.”

I care not what Hiram says, I thought. There is plenty of evidence of miracles of all sorts.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Diamond Resolution

Chapter 19

Another Miracle of Sorts

March, 1865

We managed to use some small tree trunks to build a sort of rampart. It was nothing like the ones we had built earlier, but we hoped it would do that job. We had just finished when Hiram stood up and said, “Listen! Do you hear that?”

Adolphus and I stopped and stood quietly. “I don’t hear anything,” Adolphus said.

“There’s something there,” I answered. “I know that Hiram has exceptionally keen hearing.”

Just then, Hiram said, “Look! Here comes a horseman! And he has packs on his saddle.”

“Well, that sounds like a mail delivery,” Adolphus added, “but we already said that would be impossible.”

I recognized the insignia of the group that delivered mail. “Well, then, look upon another miracle! The mail has come!”

The rider came up to us. “Any one of you Caleb Dillard?”

I stepped forward. “That would be me. We were surprised to see you.”

He handed me a letter and said, “Don’t get used to it. This will probably be the last delivery of the war.”

“Nonetheless, I thank you.”

He touched his finger to the brim of his hat by way of saying thank you and went off.

I looked at the letter and saw it was from Laurel. I tore it open and read.

My dear Caleb,

It has been so long since I have written you. I trust you and the others are well, and that you can look forward to the war soon being over. I need you and I miss you so much. Come home to me!

I have been preparing the garden for planting. I do not have any help except little Caleb, so I will have to work doubly hard to have all the seeds in on time.

Otherwise, there is little news. Perhaps I will find some when I have time to go to town. And I hope the news is good, although with the war, perhaps not.

I must go back to my hoeing.

I love you, my sweet, dear husband.

I am your wife,

Laurel

When I finished reading, there were tears in my eyes. Poor Laurel worked so hard and now had so little help. I should have been there for her. My only consolation would be that soon I would  be with her, and soon.

Adolphus and Hiram watched me as I read, and mistook my tears.

“Is all well? You look so distressed,” Adolphus said.

“As well as it can be,” I answered. “She is preparing the garden. My tears were those of frustration at not being there to help her.”

“And because you miss her, I assume.”

“You assume correctly.”

We then turned to stowing what we would need beyond the rampart, a task which took us little time. We then saw that we would have a chance to rest before the battle, and so made ourselves as comfortable as possible and, leaving Hiram to watch, we fell asleep.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Diamond Resolution

Chapter 18

Backward, Ever Backward

March, 1865

The attack came that same day, and it seemed to me that, of all we had suffered in a short while,  each one was worse than the one before. Hiram somehow found a drum, and when we were attempting to advance against an overwhelming number of troops, he stood in front of us, beating out the call to attack. Certainly, he retired to the rear when we moved forward, but for the time he was there, he put himself in grave danger since he had no weapon save his slingshot. I admired his courage and prayed for him as he stood his ground. He might not believe in prayer, but I did, and so I prayed as hard as I could for his safety.

We were overwhelmed with this attack, and fell back enough that we felt we were out of range of pistols and rifles. Artillery was a different matter, and they continued to throw shot and shell into our ranks, creating carnage with every ball that landed.

Adolphus, Andrew and I took refuge behind a small hill to rest. We knew we would have to continue our retreat soon, but for the moment, we had a desperate need to catch our breath and gather our wits, which were greatly disturbed by what we had been through.

“I do declare I believe this is the worst assault on their part yet.” Adolphus wiped his face, which was blackened by the powder we used in the rifles.

“I must agree,” I said. “We think each one is the worst, and then one comes along that is even more horrible.”

“What do you say we keep running until we reach Lynchburg? Then we will be in place to surrender.” Andrew looked pensive.

“I doubt our captains would think much of that plan.”

Adolphus stood up. “It is time to continue. Be careful and luck to all of us!”

During the long day, we fell back a mile or so, moving in increments until we felt we were safely out of range of all but the biggest cannons. There we took a moment to eat a cold supper—we had had no lunch, and were marvelously hungry.

As we sat and ate, Adolphus asked, “Have you any word from Laurel?”

“None since the last letter. I fear that all lines of communication are cut, and I may not see her until we are reunited, which is a consummation I devoutly wish.”

Adolphus nodded. “Well, I shall pray that you receive a letter soon, or, even better, that you are reunited before not too much longer with your dear Laurel.”

“She is that to me, and I thank you for the prayers.”

We sat in silence for a moment, thinking of what lay behind us, and speculating on what was to be our lot.

Adolphus stood up. “There’s no putting it off—it’s time for us to dig ourselves in.”

Andrew and I groaned, even though we knew that doing so was a necessity. And so we fell to our task, feeling every bit of fatigue and discouragement we could muster.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Diamond Resolution

Chapter 16

Forward and Backward

March, 1865

The next morning at dawn, we stood at our posts, ready to climb over the ramparts and press our attack. I was nervous, as I always was, but resolved to acquit myself as best I could, avoiding injury and trying to inflict as little of that as I could. This seems an odd thing for a soldier to wish, but I never enjoyed killing, and wanted no more of it. I knew that more opportunities would be thrust on me, but, as I have said, aspired to make the best of those by causing no harm.

And so we went up and over, firing like madmen in every direction, but harming few. We surged toward them for about fifteen minutes and labored through 1,000 yards, and then they came back with a savagery I had not seen before. Well-fed and well-rested, they screamed like banshees and cut us down like wheat.

Oddly enough, the thought of wheat made me think that Laurel would be planning her garden. This tender picture so disarmed me that I nearly shot one of our own. The bullet sailed high, but the man could not tell where it was intended to strike.

With that, I turned with the others and ran for all I was worth. We were becoming better at retreating rather than advancing, I thought. After all, we had had plenty of practice.

We fell back until the Union advance petered out, and found one of the many groves of trees in that area. There we rested and tended to our wounded. The dead would be gathered up later, after the battle. The thought of those once living and breathing men lying insensible on the cold ground caused a great melancholy to descend on me. I tried not to think too much of it.

I found Adolphus, and I was right glad to see him. “How long do you think we will keep doing this?” I asked.

“As long as we continue fighting back.”

“I pray that will not be long.”

“As do I.”

We erected the best defenses we would in the trees, and sat down, alert, to await further attacks, but none came that day. As the dusk gathered, I asked Alphonso, “Do you think they’ll attack soon?”

He surveyed the scene in front of him. “It’s always hard to tell, but with darkness coming on, my guess would be that they are done for the day. We should remain alert nonetheless.”

“Of course. Do you think they’ll try using sappers again?”

“If I read the setting correctly, I do not think so. It is too difficult to dig among roots with the tools they have.”

“That is good news.”

“Ah, yes, but we also will have the usual shot and shell to contend with.”

“That settled, are you hungry?”

“Yes.”

“Let’s eat, then.”

We fell to our rations, eating eagerly as if the food were good. It is amazing, I thought, what the human mind and body are capable of tolerating. And that includes the war itself.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Diamond Resolution

Chapter 15

Dug In

March, 1864

We fell back about half a mile, beyond the worst of the shelling and had time to dig some hasty trenches. They weren’t very deep, but they were better than nothing. Once they were as deep as we had time to make them, we huddled in the bottoms, our rifles ready. We stayed like this for half an hour, and nothing happened.

“What’s going on?” Andrew asked.

“Absolutely nothing,” Adolphus replied, “as you can tell.”

“I wonder what’s they’re waiting for?” I asked.

“Maybe they’ve given up and all gone home.” Andrew smiled sardonically. Adolphus and I snorted.

“More likely they’re waiting for enough troops and fire power to drive us back to Lynchburg in one fell sweep,” Adolphus mused.

“That is more likely.” Andrew looked serious.

We stayed in our places for an hour, and then the same captain came up on his horse. He stood in his stirrups and shouted, “For whatever reason, they seem to be stopped, as if they’re waiting for something. That gives us time, but not much, to erect some ramparts. Fall to it, men! Quickly!”

We immediately set to work felling trees and trimming their branches. The resulting logs were cut to length  and then fixed in the ground, a procedure we knew too well. We had our work decently done within an hour, and still no sign of anything from our enemy.

With our section finished, Adolphus, Andrew and I collapsed against a log wall.

“That was a lot of work!” Andrew said. “I am exhausted.”

“You’d best regain your strength,” Adolphus told him. They will no doubt regroup and then be on us once again.”

We did not care: we fell asleep in the mud, without benefit of blanket or cot. The events of the last day had tired us so that we could not resist.

Adolphus awoke me.

“Wha—wha—what is it?” I asked.

“Do you feel a tremor in the earth?”

“Of course not. I was insensible.”

“Feel—there it comes again.”

I tried to wake myself and calm my senses to see if I felt anything. I hesitated for a moment, and then said, “No, nothing. Perhaps you were dreaming.”

“It woke me to my present state. Perhaps, if this is what I think it is, we had best quit ourselves from this place.”

“But we just got here!”

“And if we don’t leave, we will die! Awaken Andrew!”

Something about Adolphus’ manner made me do so. He was sensitive to all manner of things, and did not make any request lightly.”

“Should we wake those around us?”

“I fear that for our safety we may not. Perhaps some of them felt what I did.”

I went over and awakened Andrew. “Andrew! We must move!”

He came to slowly. “Why? What has happened?”

“All I know is that Adolphus says that he feels something in the earth and we must to. And I believe him.”

“What time is it?”

“Three, if I read the moon correctly. We need to go!”

Andrew hauled himself to his feet. “Now where to?” He was too groggy to think straight.

“Westward!” Adolphus cried. “And at your best pace!”

The three of us climbed out of the trench and ran as hard as we could. We had gotten about a thousand yards away when there was a tremendous explosion right where we had been, accompanied by a bright flash and shaking of the earth. Alphonso had been right.

The force of the explosion threw us to the ground, but we were alive. I shuddered to think of what had happened to those poor souls who did not awake and run, and said a quick prayer for them.

We regained our feet and continued running. When we could go no more, we put our hands on our knees and tried to recover our breath.

“Alphonso!” I gasped. “What in the name of all that is unholy was that?”

“Sappers.”

“Sappers?”

“Yes. The Federals dug tunnels under our lines. That is why they did not stage a counterattack. Then they stuffed the tunnels with explosives and set them off, to the effect that we have just seen. It was perfidious and unexpected. I have read of it, but never dreamed of experiencing it first-hand. What a horrible way to die!”

“It is indeed,” I murmured. “Murder most foul.”

“But then,” Adolphus mused, “War is about sanctioned murder and all sorts of horrid violence. I wonder if it is all worth it.”

“For my money, having seen what I’ve seen and experienced all I’ve experienced, I’d say it isn’t.”

We continued on our way and met up with the other survivors about half a mile away from the explosion. We all collapsed to the ground and awaited the next event.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized