North July 1, 1863
Dearest India Opal,
Now, you already know we, the union, was marchin’ down to Gettysburg as Lee has been up to his usual troubles, invadin’ the North and causing mayhem. Today was just like any other day. Started out real normal, but things took quite a turn from there. I have not the slightest idea what quite happened, or from whence this turn of events occurred…All I know is that battle between the Union and Confederate forces have broken out. By accident. You see, we was just marchin’ down, when we happened to meet with Lee and his troops. Lee thought he could take us on real slick, and continue his advance on the North, but our boys ain’t gonna let him through that easy. We gonna fight till the end, and till the death. I can’t keep this lantern on for too long, and am quite exhausted as is what with today’s hard battle. Give my love to everyone back home and hope to see you soon.
Always and forever,
P.S) Among the Southern ranks today, I saw a boy right ‘round my age lookin’. I dunno, he just kinda struck some sort of chord with me. Shame so many youth are caught up in this battle, just cause as it is. I wonder how many young ones are on that side, how many have perished…I know we have suffered a great deal in that sense.
Lee sent us down to Gettysburg, as you know, to further infiltrate the North. We happened to have met with the Union warriors, and Lee sent us in to finish ‘em off. The boys morals were high before this, I mean, we have so many victories saddled to us already, but we are kind of uneasy about this one…I don’t know. I, for one, am still only here to defend my country. Battle is too much for the likes of us, and I would just as soon be home with you and the rest of the family, as well. I have seen enough of war and shot guns and bomb shells and cavalries…And death. Today, I saw a young man, just ‘round my age, on the other side. He fought with fierce determination, motives other than just a victory for his cause in his eyes. Maybe motives like mine: going back home. There are too many young ones here. Too many. Far too many young deaths. Far too many old men, who by all rights should be at home, losing their limbs, or vision, or hearing. Sadness of the battlefield is an emotion we got used to ‘round the beginning, but no one said anything about being used to it dulling the pain. And it don’t. It really don’t.
North July 2, 1863
Dearest India Opal,
Day two of this bloody battle is already upon us, and it don’t look to stop anytime soon. I have seen much today. Too much. I seen the death of Robert’s father before both our eyes. I seen men biting on slabs of wood as they get their arms or legs sawed right off, because they’re gone. I seen friends dragging friends across no man’s land, too tired to carry on, too weary to witness more bloodshed. We have developed a battle tactic, in the form of a hook to pen the Confeds in, but I, too, have grown weary. Sorrow is heavy in the air, so hot and warm that it swirls in our lungs, tangible, weighing down the air we, Northerners and Southerners, breath. More have deserted than I can count, but the battle tears on and I will stay till the end.
May the heavens bring us together again,
I haven’t much time as I write this down. This battle is too much for me, too much. Gun shots, battle cries, and worst of all, sounds of men in agony have riddled the sky with bullet holes too sensitive to be perceived by the innocent man’s eye. Tonight, the night sky was lit up with the burning fires of war and the sorrow of men alike. Death has swooped down and claimed from both sides, North and South. Many have run, run away as fast as they could, some hindered with the loss of a limb or two. Many have seen their friends, fathers, grandfathers, neighbors gunned down before their eyes. More than once, I myself have thought to run. But, I can’t. It looks to me the Confederates have met their match…
I must go. If I don’t make it home just know,
North July 3, 1863
The last day of the battle has passed us. The Union won. But, this battle is bittersweet, but with far too much bitter mixed with the sweet. The devastation of this war is all around me, dangerously close but already passed. Panic tinges the faces of young men. Sorrow has settled in the deep lines of the older men, many of whom gained more than a few new wrinkles as a result of this war. As the dust of this battle settles, I can see men, uniforms too dirty with the tear of battle for me to differentiate between blue or gray helplessly and hopelessly walking about. Over 23,000 Union soldiers lost their lives these past three days. Over 23,000 Confederate soldiers lost their lives as well. This has been the bloodiest battle yet, and for all the bluster I put up during battle…This I cannot even begin to ponder. I no longer see Union solider or Confederate soldier…I no longer see blue or gray…I now see solely men. Men like me. Men like dad. Men like Robert’s father. Men, who feel as I do, and lost as I have. I saw the boy again. His name is Steve. He was having a bullet removed from his shoulder. With a blade. I could hardly look at the sight of it, but I steeled myself and went over to clasp his other shoulder and talk to him a bit to get his mind off the pain…Or maybe to try to extinguish the frightened look in his eyes, the all too knowing vulnerable flinching of his face as he saw the blade. My tears have ceased to flow, and yet to begin again, as the loss of so many men hits me once more.
Seeing you soon,
The Confederate has indeed, met their match. We lost. I was shot in the shoulder. The doc says I will regain use of it soon and the pain will soon cease. But, the experience and feelings of haunting memories will never cease. I will never forget clamping down on a piece of wood, while a not very learned doctor plunged a rudimentarily sterilized silver blade in my shoulder to fish the bullet out. I will never forget the haunted look that plagued men, old and young alike, as they ran their hands over the stump that they now have in place of their limb, or the clumsy way they carry out tasks, still feeling the lost limb and unaccustomed to loss of its usage. I met with the young man I saw, whom I know to be a Union soldier because of his face only. His uniform was too soiled to distinguish side colors. His name was Sam. He tried to talk to me while I had the bullet removed, and I responded as best I could under the circumstances. Turns out we both like a game of ball and cornbread with extra molasses. Same as anyone. All of us were actually same as everyone. No one of us is different in this place, and the loss of so many loved ones brought us all together in this realization. Jem is dead, and more than a few others. We lost so many, so many…So many that the number is too vast for me to put faces behind. Well over 23,000…And the same for the North I hear.