Emerging Writers. Historical Fiction Parts 6 & 7, by Mary Ann DiLorenzo
Journeying Back to What Used to Be, Part 6.
Johnny’s best friend since childhood, Samuel, now married, had been the only one to greet him that day he returned home. Samuel at an early age had taken on most of the duties for the family farm from the time his father had gotten sick, and he was forced to quickly grow up and shoulder a heavy share of the man’s work around their place. When Samuel left for war, he left behind his wife Becky and his ailing father to run the place with the hirelings, most of whom had also gone to war, but enough had stayed so the ones left behind had been able to continue to make a go of it such as it were.
“Best ask Sam about Emily, how she’s getting on,” Johnny mused. Emily was Johnny’s sweetheart before the war and still Becky’s close friend. Johnny and Emily were planning to get married one day and have a big family. Emily had no use for the war, “the foolish Southern cause,” she liked to call it and didn’t want Johnny to go. But go he went and Emily promised that she would wait for him. That promise was undone when her visit to some Northern cousins ended up with her marrying a family friend. Johnny read all this in a letter Emily had written afterwards, and if he weren’t so tired and weary of war when he got the news, Johnny figured he would have been pretty angry.
He remembered that day like it were yesterday, that day he got the news of Emily jilting him. Back in the spring of ’63, during the Chancellorsville Campaign with Lee and Stonewall. In the end it was a glorious victory for the Rebs, but a very costly one. Lee lost one of his most trusted generals, Stonewall, mortally wounded by his own men. Oh, they said it was dark and no one could see, but Stonewall was gone and the Southern boys needed that man.
Nevertheless, the drudgery of war continued on and so did Johnny. And so did all the others, both North and South alike.
“How’s it comin’ along?” Johnny turned and saw Samuel standing there.
“Wish the Yanks had left me some more wood to work with,” he grumbled back. “What they didn’t destroy outright, they used for firewood. But they missed the back fence and I’ve been using that to fix up the house. It’s comin’ along wouldn’t ya say?”
“Sure would! Be almost good as new before too long! Guess the war came in handy for something!”
“Yep, seemed like our company was always building and unbuilding and everything in between,” Johnny recollected. “Never thought about using the knowledge one day.”
“Been thinkin’ ‘bout going into town tomorrow,” Samuel said. “How ‘bout comin’ with me? The Yank who bought the mill and the general store offers fair prices.”
“Is that right! Whad’ya know, a fair Yank!”
“I’ll tell ya Johnny, you best make up your mind to get along with them Yanks as that’s all we have now for buyin’ things. They pretty much come and bought up everything except for Percy’s feed and seed and he’s half Yank anyway.”
Johnny thought about it a little before answering and then he said, “You know, just about the only difference between the Yankees and us is where we were born. Maybe one day that won’t matter anymore.”
Johnny felt a chill as he remembered that night in December during the war. Close to enemy lines, he could hear those Yanks breathing. One whispered over, “Got any tobacco?” “Here ya go Billy Yank,” Johnny said and he threw it two feet in front of him through the darkness. “Thanks Johnny Reb,” the Northern boy replied. “We could be friends one day, if we make it through this thing.”
“Yep, Sam, you are right,” Johnny agreed, “best get along with them Yanks.”
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