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Life in a Time of War
The soldiers marched by my family’s farm at dawn. Throughout the nights before they had marched from Washington D.C. to Baltimore; my brother was on our farm at the time.
Later on he would tell me what had occurred. He told me that seven thousand large were the troops sent to attack us on land. Fifty British war ships would attack the nearby fort, Ft. McHenry. Although I was an infant at the time I can relate to the noise my family heard, “It sounded like the whole world was coming to an end.”
My brother described to me the attack. “When they attacked the main part of town it sounded like hell on earth. From our fathers farm we couldn’t see who was attacking us. But we didn’t need to see the battle to know what was going on.
The bombs that were sent into the air all night long lit up the sky like little suns. Many farming families had their eldest sons drafted. I was no exception. About an hour into the battle a runner came by the farm to gather more recruits. Hundreds had been killed so far, many more would die, so it was best to gather all that could fight.” Although my brother was drafted my family was lucky that my second eldest brother was not yet of age. The farming families around us all had two or more sons taken away by this war, my mother was in tears from being able to keep most of her family at home.
My father and brother had spent many nights talking about the wars past, and the similarities and differences between them. There was one of these conversations that was brought up by my brother very frequently when he had told me about this war, the War of 1812.
Hope; at the beginning of the battle my brother spoke of brokenhearted people. To stop the British Navy from docking in Baltimore, a fishing village, the fisherman had sunk their lives to the sea. Without boats they would not have a way to make a living if they made it through the approaching battle.
Their efforts weren’t in vain, thankfully, because of their actions the British Navy had to stay further out at sea. Still, the hopes of the people were drastically low.
“Our enemies were far greater than us, in numbers and strength,” I remember my brother saying; “A few things in a war will bring the outnumbered soldiers strength. The rule of a great commander handling the decisions, or a great event that would propel the less towards the top.”
He explained to me that the last one was very prominent in this war. The event that I would learn that he was talking about was the sniper.
A sniper had given the American soldiers some much needed hope at the beginning of the battle. This unknown, unnamed sniper shot down the British’s head general, General Ross.
“After General Ross was shot dead you could feel some of the despair in the lines of Americans lift. Not many even knew what had happened, but the British became more uncoordinated, and their fall (in a way) made it so America had a reason to take that emptiness and rise to the occasion.”
As great as my brother made the sniper’s actions sound I know that many other things went on that caused the downfall of the British. A lot of events took place, because the British were attacking in Baltimore and at Ft. McHenry they both had to succeed to win this war, if one of them lost one group of English soldiers would join the other and surely defeat the remaining American forces.
Many great things came out of America winning this war. But that was not a great factor in the story my brother was telling me. At this time in my life I am fourteen, my brother had passes a few years ago, two months after the War of 1812 ended. My brother may not have been a big hero in the war, but to me he was. He translated military actions into a story of great hero’s and their actions that I, a eight year old at the time, could understand.
I was at his side as he passed; he never told me why the sniper had a place in his memory and heart. As I sat next to him in the candlelit room I saw how old the war had made him look. The sniper, he told me, was his lover. He had fallen in love with a wealthy man’s daughter, little did the father know she was an esteemed huntress, and one who would bend any rules set by heaven or someone on earth.
A small group of Americans had been hiding in the thicket that Gen. Ross’ men were about to enter; by shooting the Gen. the woman had succeeded in protecting her true love. She was shot down in the same minute she shot the bullet. Friends had pulled the outraged man in hiding in the thicket away from the scene so he wouldn’t get himself shot as well.
The unnamed woman lies in a grave next to that of an unknown man. Their gravestones depict the war in its greatest moments. Bombs flying in the night sky, outlining an American flag, and burning buildings with a forest of flowers and cattle in the background.
Two things meaningful to some, to others their words are lost in the howling wind of the Atlantic.
-When the flag is gone, and the mounds of dirt are all that is left is when they will show sadness.
- We humans lose all hope, and in the end of all we see that darkness is a tunnel of death, with a pinpoint of light on the horizon.
I will always cherish the memory of the story that my brother told me in his last days on the farm. Unknown was his last breathing word, remembered was his meaning.