The Uncounted | Teen Ink

The Uncounted

May 3, 2019
By Sarahx15 PLATINUM, Brandon, South Dakota
Sarahx15 PLATINUM, Brandon, South Dakota
22 articles 8 photos 26 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Someday everything will make perfect sense. So, for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, and keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason." - Art Thomas

I turn fifteen the day the soldiers come

Betsy and John stand beside me

Eyes wide in awe, wonder


Mother covers her mouth, face pale

She calls us to her, voice trembling

John doesn’t hear; he doesn’t listen

Betsy tugs his arm, but he shakes her off


My sister and I slip to our mother’s side

She doesn’t cry, because

She is a strong Southern woman

We all raise our heads defiantly as the troops appear


A command comes from the high-ranking officer,

And the soldiers stop marching

The slaves start to run towards them,

Thinking they’re free

But they don’t make it halfway across

Our front yard


Jeremiah’s shotgun in hand,

He shot them down one by one

Then nods to my mother

Better they die than fight with Yanks.


Mother agrees with the flick of her head

I bite my cheek to keep from doing anything

And the commanding officer of the soldiers

Yells something, something awful


All of the Union soldiers are suddenly sprinting

Around us and past us and to us

And John is gone, a scream trailing in his wake

Mother shudders with horror

But doesn’t cry.


Jeremiah is stabbed with a bayonet

Betsy turns to the side and throws up

Still, Mother’s eyes remain dry

Buildings go up in hot, crackling flames


A soldier leaps onto the porch; snatches Betsy

She cries out and grabs Mother’s hand

But Mother lets go.

I sob as my sister is carried off


Why why why why? I ask them,

But my scream is barely heard.

Mother grabs my arm tightly

Steers me into the house


The noise of guns and laughs and screams

Is muted in here, a relief to my ears

I collapse on the couch,

And Mother locks the doors


As if that might keep them out.

We stay close together, too scared to move

Happy birthday, my mother says.

Her face is weary and sad


I can only think of them.

What about…John…Betsy?

Mother sighs, pulls me closer.

Don’t worry about them right now.

It’s every man for himself.


Then I smell it.


Our house is on fire.

We run to the door, but it’s too hot

Too late.

Fire outside the door now.


I never thought I’d burn to death.

I never thought I’d die on my birthday.

I never thought soldiers would do this.

But it doesn’t matter what I thought.


Because what’s done is done.

When my father comes home,

His home and family will be gone

We will be gone


We are the uncounted,

The dead, some of us without a tombstone

Some of us ash and dust,

Some of us bloated under an unforgiving sun

Some of us barely clinging to life

In a forgotten field, a forgotten battle


We are the uncounted.

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