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Two Brothers, One War
The sun was beating down upon the blue and grey covered bodies on the hilly terrain. A thin haze of opaque grey musket smoke settled where one hill ended and another began. The Blue Union Soldiers and the Grey Confederates tore up the battlefield. There were wet slippery areas caused by the constant flow of fresh blood from the lifeless bodies obscuring the ground; the terrain of Gettysburg was hazardous.
For Gerald Jefferson, Jr., this was business as usual, just another day fighting for the Southern Cause. He looked up towards the morning sky and thought that the sun was focusing its inferno upon him. His wool uniform was now dripping with sweat, and it was hugging his skin, leaving no room for his skin to move without rubbing against the scratchy cloth. Yet, Gerald Jefferson was proud to have that grey wool clinging onto him as long as it meant he was fighting for the Glorious South. And fight he had, from the moment he left his loving parents and younger brother on the plantation in Tennessee. The plantation to which he felt he was entitled. Firm in his beliefs to both God and the southern cause, he said a prayer and swung his sword arm downwards like a gavel, deciding the fate of a union soldier as he ran to the center of the battle at Cemetery Ridge.
On the far side of the hostile field, Edgar Jefferson surveyed the war grounds of falling comrades and foes, yet as much to his relief, he saw no family members. He pulled a photo of his family’s plantation out of his dirtied blue pocket. On the deck of the plantation stood his parents and misguided older brother. While Gerald had fought for the South, Edgar believed in democracy not aristocracy, and fought for what he believed was right. Edgar had sewn the union flag into the moral fiber of his being. Charging into the thick of the battle Edgar said a prayer for himself and the Union before firing his musket at an approaching figure in grey wool.
Gerald was running savagely, bringing down everyone in his path, however every lunge of his bayonet and every forceful stomp into the red dew that blanketed the ground was on a subconscious level. Gerald had retreated from the battlefield to a warm, hot day in Tennessee. He was ten and his younger brother was eight. Their mother was sitting on the plantation deck waiting for the mail to arrive. He and his brother were playing war, and saying BANG each time their hand pistols fired. Every time, the game would end with an argument, over who shot whom first and whether or not he was dead. Mother would always end the fight cradling them in one armed hugs while crouching saying, “No, not my boys.”
Gerald heard a bullet gallop by his ear, a church bell that awakened him to the current game of guns taking place at Cemetery Ridge. The only difference was that the guns were not hands and the BANG was from the muzzle of a pistol instead of a young boys mouth. There was no arguing over who was dead and who got shot first. Gerald saw a clearing where a man stood. Sighing, he began to crouch towards the man, bayonet at full attention.
It wasn’t long before Edgar had reached Cemetery Ridge, and took a look around him. From the corner of his eye he saw a man dressed in grey-bloodstained clothes. All he was able to catch of the man’s face was a familiar handlebar mustache. He tried to rationalize, saying that many men had mustaches in that style. Edgar could not quell the gale of trepidation that was in his heartbeat. The gust of the storm was turning his body to confront the man, and the first lightening bolt of a tempest struck as Edgar found his brother with a bloody bayonet poised to attack.
“Hello, Little Brother,” said Gerald as he dropped the bayonet down and took out a revolver. Seeing this, Edgar immediately drew his revolver, cocked it, and replied, “Salutations, Big Brother.”
“This is just like the old days. Remember how we use to make our fingers into guns? Well this is just like that… except it ain’t no game. So then…how are we gonna settle this fight you being a Yankee, I a Confed-”
“Traitor,” Edgar interrupted, dressing the word in a loud snarl which was overpowered by the approaching maelstrom of cannon-hail.
“Traitor, Yankee, Yankee, Traitor…be what we may we are still brothers.”
Edgar knew this and knew he didn’t want the other dead, nor did Gerald. Yet this was war. Edgar was dressed in blue and Gerald was dressed in grey. This was the battlefield, and Edgar was on one side and Gerald was on the other, both with guns in their hands, swords in their belts, and insurmountable differences in their ideals.
As the bullets danced by in a destructive waltz to the one-note tune of a gun, both men stood conflicted between their family ties and their respective principals. The cannon balls were crashing through the air above them causing momentary eclipses when they passed the sun. The eclipses caused shadows to cross the mens faces darkening one feature of the face as it the others. Both men, still not yet thirty, knew that despite the love they had for one another, the love for their causes was greater. For the two brothers everything amplified. The sun began to invade their thoughts and the sound of their own internal tears made the sounds of Gettysburg shrink to a whisper. Soon the whisper was muted by the reverberating sound of a solemn truth like the echo of a cannonball.
They knew one of them must die.
As each pulled their guns up to shoot, a cannon ball, like a bat, silently swooped down from the hilly tops and landed. When the smoke had cleared, both men were laying one atop the other. The uniforms, which were worn with a passion, the uniforms that had separated the brothers into confederate and union, were no longer two separate colors. Gerald and Edgar Jefferson’s uniforms were cleansed of war and colored in the one thing they shared. Blood.
As the battle ended, bodies were counted and coffins were made. For each pine coffin of the Union, a Union officer wrote a letter. For each pine coffin of the Confederacy, a Confederate officer wrote a letter. All the while, the July morning aged into the August twilight.
Miles away in this twilight, Carol Jefferson stood on the plantation deck as the mail arrived. Taking it from the mail carrier, she saw there were only two letters, she begun to whisper “No…” one in a grey envelope shut with the confederate seal “…Not my baby boys” and one in a blue envelope with the union seal. Falling upon her knees, she cradled herself in her arms as she use to cradle her baby boys.