The First and Last Fight of Samuel Arnett

May 19, 2010
It’s odd, thought Private Samuel Arnett of the 28th Pennsylvania, birds are still singing. Cannons punched the air in the distance. The crackle of rifles was everywhere. Screams of defiance, pain, and fear flew with powder smoke to the heavens. And the birds still sang.

An order was barked. Sam’s rifle met his shoulder before he could even realize that it was an order to make ready. He looked out at the smoke- shrouded cornfield ahead, seeing the outlines of hundreds of embattled, gray- coated men.

At the order to take aim, Sam flicked his eyes past a battle- torn Georgian flag. He pushed thoughts of his cousin that lived in Georgia from his mind as he found his target. The silhouette was whipping his head around in panic as he hurriedly rammed a bullet into his rifle.

The Georgians didn’t see the 28th Pennsylvania. They were too busy contending with three Ohio regiments to notice the new threat only 100 yards away. They simply saw the woods fill with smoke. Those that weren’t thrown to the ground by a bullet heard 800 rifles spit their fury.

Sam coughed through the powder smoke, his ringing ears barely detecting the order to reload. He was in a cloud, only able to see men in blue coats next to him. He pulled out a cartridge, bit the bullet out of the paper, and poured the powder into the rifle. Sam spat the bullet in and rammed it into the barrel. Sam slid his ramrod back into its hoops, put a new percussion cap in place, and pulled his hammer back until it clicked in place. The whole process took twenty seconds.

A few seconds later, the order to march forward was given. The line of 800 men moved forward, trampling ferns underfoot. They advanced through their own smoke to see the carnage. The Georgians were bloodied, but they were still fighting with a wild frenzy. Veteran Ohio regiments exchanged fire with them, creating eerie red flashes amid the ghostly smoke on both sides.

At fifty yards, the order to halt was again given, followed by a shout to fix bayonets. Along with the 28th and the Ohio regiments, Sam slid his blade from its scabbard and locked it onto the end of his rifle’s muzzle. Some of the Georgians turned and fired a volley at the 28th. Men were plucked to the ground by invisible hands, leaving red mists where they were. The fifteen- year- old boy next to Sam’s head seemed to explode as a bullet bit into it.

Sam tried to ignore the blood that spattered his face as the order to charge was shouted. He thundered into the Georgian- filled cornfield with over a thousand other Union soldiers. Sam heard a high- pitched war scream, and became aware that it was his own, seconds before he reached the Georgian line.

They had hurriedly fixed their own bayonets, and many weren’t in place. Sam stabbed a sergeant in the gut and kicked the screaming man off his rifle. Another man took a swing at Sam with the butt of his rifle. Same ducked and hit the man with the butt of his own rifle in the stomach. Sam’s Lieutenant finished the Georgian off.

Sam raised his rifle and shot an enemy Captain, sending the man crashing back into the mud made from tired soil and blood. The Georgians were breaking, fleeing the crazed Union soldiers. Sam relaxed, taking a few deep breaths as he bent down and wiped blood off of his face.

Sam looked up. One of the few remaining Georgians had turned around for a parting shot. Sam saw the flash of the rifle and a lead blur. The bullet slammed into his heart, killing twenty five year old Samuel Arnett before he hit the ground. His vacant eyes continued to stare at the skies. Skies filled with singing birds.

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