The Recordings of a Civil War Soldier

For some reason, I was struck with the idea of writing a small and fictional journal entry from the viewpoint of a soldier during the American Civil War. I didn’t want to focus too much on the actual war itself, but what might happen in the eyes of a Civil War soldier after the war had ended. There isn’t anything special in here, but it was just random thoughts that went through my head.

The Recordings of Robert Johannes Williams

Friday, May 19th, 1865

I figured since the war had finally ended, that when I arrived at home here in Michigan, times would be drastically getting worse. Lest I should not be alive when the morrow comes, it seemed essential that I write my thoughts of this atrocity of war down onto parchment. The doctors say that the leg may have to go along with my life. The bullet is lodged under the thighbone in my right leg. The night before the surrender at the Court House is when it happened. The Rebs had broken through our lines, and I was shot at point blank range by some damn Colonel’s pistol. I am so happy to be home, and the look on my mother’s face when I knocked on the wooden door leading to the parlor left me in uncontrollable tears. To be held in mother’s arms again was like pure bliss to the heart of a man that has seen Hell and Heaven in less than a lifetime. We sat by the fire and read Charles Dickens for hours on end. Lord, thank you for allowing me to return to my mother’s arms in safekeeping. I felt good to be home, away from the fighting and the dying and the blood…

Sunday, May 21st, 1865

The official word has been given to my mother and family: the leg has to go. I’m glad it’s a leg. I do one too many things with my arms to lose an arm. This whole situation could be worse, because good ol’ Billy lost both of his legs after Gettysburg. I have to admit, watching him hobble along on his bottom while cursing all the while was pretty amusing. Even though it is amusing, it is a saddening tale. His family over on the other side of Wayne County has suffered through times of hardship and poverty. I wept when I heard the news of his death last night. It really does hurt knowing that he died on the day of his 20th birthday. I have written a letter to his parents expressing my grief and explained the friendship that we had together. We were so close, that when he died, a piece of me went with him. Today, on the day of the Lord, I pray for the soul of Billy and my heart goes out to his parents. Today, I pray.

Monday, May 22nd, 1865

“I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.”  –  Robert E. Lee

I found this in one of the Southern newspapers. I think this saying by I guess, “one of the most respected men ever,” applies to every soldier and man that fought in this past war. Honor is not something that is earned or bartered. Each man has it. It comes in many ways and forms. Honor became part of the 24th Michigan Volunteers when we died for our country that day in July of 1863. We held the line, by golly, we held it. Billy was lying next to me as I screamed “Fredericksburg” in joy of achieving victory. The march home was also disastrous; we lost another twenty of our men. The candle is low which means the day is drawing to an end, so here at the end, I will pray for Billy and for the men that gave their lives in this war. Tonight, I pray. I pray for the leg that has been cut from my body. I pray for the mere thought that I have to endure the hardship of no friends and a hard life. This war has brought many a problem upon this country. This war has ruined many lives. Tonight, I pray.

Monday, June 5th, 1865

Two weeks ago, everything here at home seemed fine. Today is the day that my worst fears have been confirmed. Mother has come down with the Scarlet Fever. Doctors say it is mortal, and after I thought about it, she got it from being left home alone with no one to tend to her. If only I had been home in this time of tragedy, I could have saved her. I could have prevented her from getting sick, and even if she did, I could have caught it with her, because I would rather visit the Lord with my mother than not visit Him at all. She is one of the greatest people on this Earth. She brings joy in my heart when I see her making the early morning meal each day. I hope in my heart, as well as in my mind, that there are no more wars. The repercussions of war are brought upon every person. Some of those “every person” are my family. They all are feeling the impacts of that war, and sometimes, I wish it never happened. So, tonight, when I go to close my eyes, and I know my mother is on her deathbed, I will pray.  Tonight, I pray.

Friday, June 23rd, 1985

Had to run to the market today. I ran out of eggs and such things to cook. Ever since mother died, cooking became essential for me to live. Cooking really is a horrible thing. It is like marching on the front line before a battle: you are anxious for it to be done with, but you just don’t want to see what the outcome will be. Especially if it’s a male cooking. We can’t cook worth a damn. It’s like sending a woman into battle. It just ain’t right.

Saturday, June 24th, 1865

I cooked a “good” meal last night. I think the curtains on the parlor windows caught fire from just the smell of it. The neighbors closed the windows on their house because they said that I was, “disturbing the town.” I put out the fire, poured out the stew, and decided bread and a nice glass of whiskey should do the trick. I thought about tossing the glass and just drinking the bottle down, but an entire bottle would just give me a massive pain in my head in the morning, lest I eat all of the bread before I drink. Then, if that happens, I will just have to cook some more of that stew for my senses to have to endure. Maybe that will make the pain go away. Or will it make it worse? Tonight, I pray for my sake and the soul’s of my mother and Billy. Tonight, I pray.

Sunday, June 11th, 1865

I had a dream in my slumbers last night. I dream’t that Billy was still here with me. I dream’t that mother was cooking me a wonderful stew; one that ensnared the senses with such a smell to make even the richest of Generals envy me. I dream’t of a small ship that came and took me away to a place far from this country; a place where no man, no woman, and no “person” fight for any reason at all. I dream’t that the war never took place. I dream’t that the Heavens gave back everybody that was lost. When I awoke, I wept. I wept for the lives of loved ones and even those that weren’t that close. For every man I killed, I assured my sins and my path to the Dark Gates. I prayed when I awoke, that someday, somehow, man would come to his senses. Man will realize his weakness and take control over it. Tonight, when I lie down to sleep, I will pray. I will pray for a dream to end all dreams. I will pray that my mother and Billy and every other person in this dream will visit me. I pray for life and the many “riches” it will ensure me. When I sleep tonight, if I do not wake, I will gladly go to God with all the joy in my heart. If that event is to happen, I will be sitting next to Billy and mother again. Tonight, when I go to my slumbers, I will pray for my life. Tonight, I will pray.

 

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