Making the River MAG

June 5, 2010
By J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
5 articles 0 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

Diary of Thomas Warren: July 27, 1864 I crouched behind the large willow that overlooked the woodland down the hill, and let my breath come in halting gasps. Cool and soft breezes brushed over me, caressing my skin. My eyes roved around the surroundings, alert for trouble. In each flutter of feathers I heard musket fire and the shouts of my pursuers. Kneeling, I tore strips of cloth from my tattered pants and wound them around my bare feet. I made each movement slowly and deliberately, letting my strength return.

After I had regained my breath, I stood and made a beeline for the glimmering water in the distance. If I could make the river, I could float downstream to camp; if I made it to the river, I would live.

Hearing a commotion, I looked behind me. Far up the hill I could see the flash of a blue uniform. They had followed me. Splinters flew from a tree five feet to my right. A split-second later I heard the sharp report of a musket. I broke into a hobbling run. My eyes flickered over the rocky ground as I searched for any obstacle that might ensnare me and slow my descent.

After several minutes, I turned around, trying to see if they were in sight, and my foot caught a root overhanging a badger's den, twisting it. My body lurched forward. In terror, I clawed at the earth as I fell, then gasped as my face struck the soil.

With my face pressed to the ground, I breathed in deeply; the dark earth smelled of loam and dead vegetation, a rich, heavy scent that invigorated me. That weak and human desire to live that we all share, could not bear the thought of leaving all that I treasured and never seeing or feeling the beauty of God's creation. I dragged myself to my feet and ran with renewed strength. Bitter tears flowed from my eyes as I begged God for the strength to make it to the river.

Events that led to this moment raced through my mind. I remembered signing up for the Confederate Army at 17. I had hoped the peach fuzz that encircled my boyish face would pass for a scraggly beard and lend age to my appearance. I could see myself marching in the ranks of gray-clad, all of us believing in our cause and the invincibility of our forces. God stood with us; how could any stand against us? Oh, how I yearned for the glory of those lost days.

Ever since Grant had taken charge of the Union forces, I wondered if God had turned his back on the South. Defeat after defeat had plagued our armies. We fought for our God-given right to life and for our right to the sovereignty of statehood. Why would God desert us when we fought against such a tyrant as Lincoln? How could God allow this man, who trampled the Constitution, to dominate the glorious South?

My side ached. Breath came unsteadily now. I cried out, “God, you have deserted our cause, but please do not desert me now! I tear off these emblems of a cause which you seem to disdain. I come to you as a man! A lowly man who implores you to shed your infinite mercy upon him. For a man only, not for any cause, please deliver me from the clutches of wicked man!”

In vigorous body and broken spirit I ran on. Even whilst weeping, stumbling, I dreamed of home and Ma and Pa. I thought of the potatoes in the fields, of the cotton rows, and of Mary. She had said she would wait for me. But what good could possibly come of her waiting if I died now? What future would await her if I perished?

Spurred on by a determination which must have come from God, for I can explain it in no other way, I redoubled my speed. Through the trees I could see the river rippling. My pursuers drew closer; I could hear them more clearly than ever, and I could imagine their blue coats brushing through the trees. But it did not matter, for through the trees blazed the beautiful, glorious river. I could see freedom and life in the gentle blue glimmer.

I heard musket fire and the air sang with bullets. But it mattered not, for I broke through the trees. And the river yawned before me, reflecting the midday sun.

I heard a voice cry, “Stop!”

Paying no heed, I jumped and felt the bullet strike my back. And then, in that glorious instant, I knew that my strength came from God, for I felt no pain. God must have shielded me in answer to my prayer. He had shown his mercy and saved my soul from death's clutches.

I felt nothing as I sank into the water. Even as Jonah had come from the depths, so the angel drew me from the waters and onto dry land. My body hovered as I drifted over the ground. Gently, slowly I drifted into slumber in the arms of an angel as it carried me away from the river.

Diary of Sgt. William Garret: July 27, 1864 Today marks an event that has touched me deeper than any other in this bloody war. After the skirmish this morning, a young Confederate soldier attempted to run rather than surrender. I led my men after him. After a wearying chase, we caught up with him on the shore of a river. Private Wilkes shot the man when he attempted to escape into the river.

Although this may appear a trifling event, especially in light of all that has transpired in this conflict, I shall never forget the look that young man gave me as I pulled him from the water. He looked on me from the soul of a boy who had no understanding of battle or death. Those aspects of this war which I used to prize now strike me to the heart as senseless and vain.

That lad could not have yet had his eighteenth birthday, yet now he lies in a hospital tent, a prisoner of war with a shattered spine. No doubt he does not even know the grave injury he has suffered. I have heard that after the spine snaps, one no longer registers pain. Our camp surgeon says that if by some miracle the lad lives, he will never use his legs again.

To the casual observer this event must seem trivial. But those eyes … I cannot forget them. He had the eyes of a child, so full of hope and life and so oblivious to their own loss.

How can any man truly wish for this bloody conflict? Who, whether man or monster, sparked this struggle? Can we truly place such value on the operation of Government as to slaughter our own brethren? Why must that boy die? What girl will now sit alone and mourn him? Will his parents stare at the empty field where he used to help work the soil? Should so many now feel anguish for the loss of that young life? How can anyone draw purpose from anything in this hell called war?

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This article has 25 comments.

on Jun. 15 2010 at 1:21 pm
no problem man. "Occurence" was a good story. We did a whole unit in school on a bunch of Civil war-era stories (They dubbed it "Realism" or something) that included that one and "A Mystery of Heroism" by stephen crane and a few others that I don't remember. I think Crane focused on the Union soldiers more so you might find good examples of how they acted/thought and stuff. There was another story by Crane (I forget what it's called) about like two people digging a grave or something and I think that was a story that really captured the horror that they felt for war.

on Jun. 13 2010 at 10:32 pm
J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
5 articles 0 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

Oh wow... did I seriously write the wrong date? That is a typo lol. I knew that, I just hit the wrong button and then copied my previous mistake in the later entry. Thanks.

As far as the younger soldier, I kind of had the idea in mind that he was from an upper class family. I did not specify that, but it was something that was supposed to show in the writing. So I think I shall keep his vocabulary and reasoning at a higher level.

But I defenitely see what you mean about the Union Officer. I think I shall alter that.

Thank you very much for the critique, it has been very insightful and was very well laid out. As for your comments about my writing style, I will admit that I did take a part of my idea from An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge. And much of my reading does come from the 1900s.

on Jun. 13 2010 at 8:44 pm

Simon cowel feedback--you asked for it!

The writing is very impressive. I can see the 19th century influence of Stephen Crane among others--it reminds me A LOT of "An occurence at Owl Creek Bridge"

The only writing mechanic flaw i saw was this:

"defeat after defeat had plagued" should be "defeat had plagued."

Other than that, the writing was very good and professional. That said, There is no way in heck that a Confederate soldier not much older than 17 has that kind of vocabulary unless he's very rich, and if he was very rich, he wouldn't be fighting in the army--he'd be in the new confederate congress or something.

That said, the perspective is brilliant. You captured the essence of Stonewall Jackson with the quote:“God stood with us; how could any stand against us? Oh, how I yearned for the glory and emotion of those lost days.” That's something ANY confederate soldier would say. The paragraph that follows was an abrupt, awkward change in subject but I suppose you did that intentionally to convey the shock and horror that the Southerners felt at that time.

Another huge problem is that the date is off--the civil war started in 1860 and ended in 1865.

I also don't think Garret would say "confederate soldier" he'd probably say something more scornful like "rebel" "reb" or something like that. He's only a sergeant... so I don't think his language would be quite as sophisticated either. Also, if this is taking place when Grant was taking control of the Union army, the Civil war had been going on for a really long time and people on both sides--especially the North were tired of fighting and people--especially northerners were losing morale. It would be unlikely that Garrison would hold the opinions that he does. Maybe he's sad that he saw a dead boy, but I don't think he would be that sympathetic to the South. "Will his parents now stare..." Is a sentence a Southerner would use. Unless Garrison is from Kentucky or Maryland or something, he'd hate the South like every other Yankee did. Stephen Crane portrays that very well with all his dialogue and makes it clear that low-ranking men on both sides didn't speak nearly as well as your characters do.

So with that said, I'd make this a third-person narration so that you can keep that impressive writing style of yours and make it all more realistic. If you're not going for historical accuracy or realisticness, then it's fine the way it is--but please change the date. In 1854 Lincoln wasn't even running for president yet.

on Jun. 13 2010 at 6:30 pm
Inherinerd GOLD, Ashland, Ohio
16 articles 9 photos 302 comments

Favorite Quote:
A word to the wise ain't nessecary it's the stupid ones that need the advise

I really liked your story!!!! REally nice description and meaning!!!!! You're a great writer!

on Jun. 12 2010 at 8:28 pm
J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
5 articles 0 photos 25 comments

Favorite Quote:
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

I feel it necessary to clarify one thing: The ending of this story is the portrayal of a man who has lost all hope and is despairing. I am NOT IN ANY WAY A PACIFIST. This reflection is one of a character and not my opinion. I plan on rewriting this story to clarify that the war has deep meaning beyond this character's comprehension..


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