Monday, April 14, 2008

A Soldier Asks God A Question [Exclusive]

The young soldier scratched at his scruffy beard as he listened closely to the musket shots in the distance. Lying low in the underbrush may help dodge the attention of his enemy but the hot muggy weather didn’t do much for his confidence in survival. If his brother in arms didn’t get him then the snakes and mosquitoes surely will. The thought had come to him that death on the battlefield, while dreaded, may be far better than the stench pits for the prisoners.

Why was he fighting his brother? Together they had fought the British, the French, and even the neighboring Mexicans. But now they raise arms over the differences of others. He thought about the family he had left on the dirt farm in the hills back home. He heard tell of the freeing of the slaves and he had known a few rich slave owners back near the river. For his family slavery wasn’t an option. Maybe that was best. So why was he out here waiting for his Yank brothers to either kill him or drag him off to hell?

Maybe if times were different they might meet in the field and travel together back to the old home place to share a pot of beans and some coffee. It was the best he could do, but it sure beat eating tree roots and nuts, praying a squirrel would wander close enough to knife. He dare not risk the sound of a musket for hunting, and what dry powder he had left probably wouldn’t be enough to carry him back to his regiment. He had lost the rest of his comrades at the daybreak fight back on Cedar Creek. For all he knew they might already be marching in chains to Yankee land.

The sun had reached mid day and the breeze gave little relief to the searing heat of Alabama. He had seen a cave spring about a quarter mile back down the hollow that could bring some cool relief. But the musket shots behind him kept him lying still like a rabbit in the eyes of the fox. The rotted cloth of his grey uniform, tattered and torn, soaked up his sweat to the point of dripping. If only darkness would bring cover he could probably make out the fires of the Yanks’ camp and sneak back to the cave. Thoughts of his family crossed his mind and weighed almost too heavy to bear.

Today he fought proudly for God and his family. He knew if the Yanks advanced to Bear Creek his family might not survive the onslaught. He had heard the stories from his companions on what happened when the enemy came upon a Southern farm. Even his small farm would surely be attractive to a weary soldier who had marched from the northern parts of Ohio. Will God forgive us for what we’ve done? Does God even know why we are here?

The thirst had overtaken his parched mouth and he glanced back one more time at that cave with the cool water. The sun delivered its final blow upon him for the turn of his head cause the emblem on his hat to glare. At first it was a sharp stinging pain that settled into a slow burn. He felt the warmth of the new thick liquid overtake his soaked uniform. A musket ball had found its target. One last time he stared to the heavens and asked God, “Why must man hate another and find someone else to raise the sword?” Now only he heard the answer for at that moment God took our soldier home. And yet the battle raged on.

© 2008 Mark A. Daily