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The Night after Gettysburg
Soldiers were burning the carcasses of fallen horses. Black smoke swirled through the night, lingering over burial trenches quickly carved out for 10,000 men.
“Johnson, scout the field for any union soldiers who still have a pulse.”
Johnson looked up. “What if I find a wounded confederate?” he asked.
The commander smiled, “Have mercy. Slit his throat and send him on his way.”
Johnson’s stomach clenched. He trudged out to the battlefield, tiptoeing around the dead. Scarlet mud stained his boots.
“Now they’re sleeping,” he shivered, shutting the eyes of a dead man.
Someone moaned behind him. Johnson spun at the sound. He approached the wounded soldier -a confederate- and pressed his thumb against the man’s wrist.
No heartbeat. Johnson sighed.
He heaved the body out of the mud and rolled it into an empty trench. As he peered over the ridge, his blood froze. He stumbled back, fumbling for his rifle. A pale hand reached out and seized his ankle.
“Come,” the figure moaned.
Johnson slipped deeper into the trench. He raked his nails into its crumbling walls, shrieking into the night.
It took eighteen days for the townsfolk to approach the last burial.
“Strange,” they muttered, peering inside, “These soldiers have no visible wounds.”
They shrugged and continued shoveling dirt into the trench. They sealed the bodies beneath a thick layer of mud. When the grass grew back, they built a wall to honor the souls at rest.
One confederate --and one hundred union soldiers.