Short Story: “Blood River” Part One

Ezra Bebop, staff writer

July 3rd, 1863, Gettysburg

Victory a strange feelin’. I had to spend much time tellin’ myself over an’ over again-we won, we won, we won.  Pickett and Lee went scamperin’ back to wherever they was from, their folly strewed about Gettysburg in odd bloody rows like a slaughterhouse before supper. 

Everyone called Pickett a crazy son of bitch for charging. But I hear Lee gave the order.  Sending a thundering wall of blunt bayonets and screamin’ Johnnys to they death like that- that’s most frightening thing I seen a man do. I guess it don’t really matter who told em’ neither. They were just lookin’ for a scuse’ to kill. The wild look in they eyes, furious gnashing rabid dogs, tore us up good, real good, but they ain’t win as we did.  

They gots to run off back to Johnny land. 

We got to clean up what they left behind.  

They pulled in carts and wheelbarrows along with horses and wagons. My hands still couldn’t set still.  

I couldn’t grip things right, could barely hold onto what was left of Micha.

 Sometimes, during the morning shelling, I’d sit in the ditch and share my hardtack with him. He was a drafted city boy, but he could nibble on hardtack like nobody’s business. “Nothing like sucking on a bite of hardtack,” he’d always say. “Hardens the stomach good.” 

Today I tossed Micha into a wagon with thirty Johnny’s all stacked up.  Micha was the only blue in that pile of gray I seen. I muttered a little prayer for him as the wagon drove him off to town to be buried or burned, whatever they was gonna do with all these bodies. 

Nobody ever told me. A hand gripped my shoulder as I said my final blessing. 

“You praying for them dead Johnnys boy?” Rough voice, hoarse from hollering. Only could be Captain Monroe. Guess he lived.  The wagon disappeared into the gathering morning fog. Captain handed me a shovel.  

“No suh. Just a word or two for Micha and a little for the rest of our company.” 

The captain removed his cap and his cavalry gloves. “Always a shame when the city boys bite it. Lincoln loves his city boys. Even the nigger ones.” The fog was thick now. 

The captain motioned for me to walk with him. “Stay attentive boy. You find anyone else?” 

“No suh. I neveah see anyone else from the company, but I been out here all night lookin’. We is whats left of B company.” 

Captain Monroe looked down, and then at me. He read my cold stare but said nothing. 

We both knew what happened, but I didn’t have none to say quite yet. 

We approached a bundle of tents, pale orange lantern light warming the heavy fog around us. People rushed about in a hurried dance, shouting orders, carrying moaning men, or pieces of them, here and there. Nobody was cheering our victory.