|At the Stone Wall (standard:other, 499 words)|
|Author: kendall thomas||Added: Aug 01 2003||Views/Reads: 1895/1||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A fictional retelling of the battle of Fredericksburg in which men, as symbols of courage and self sacrifice, become ciphers in a concluding double entendre spoken by a Confederate general.|
At the Stone Wall by Will . December 13, l862 General Burnside took a swig from his silver flask then ordered his Northern troops out from the shelter of Fredericksburg to form a battle line 600 yards from a long, stone wall where General McLaw's Confederates where concealed. It was a cold day; the breath from thousands of men fogged the air. Private Hanna, on the Northern side, stared across the wide, frozen field to where the Grays waited four deep behind the long, stone wall; on top their deadly muskets were posed in readiness. Private Hanna stood next to the grizzled standard-bearer, Sgt. Casey O'Riley, who was holding the flag high, a gold plated eagle gleaming on top. A brass-throated bugle gave its call to advance, and two brigades began tramping forward, their gear clattering and clanking in the tense, still air. Almost instantly Confederate artillery began cutting them to pieces before the Georgians behind the wall even fired a volley. The Northern troops fell back. Sgt. O'Riley was down on one knee, but still holding the flag high. Blood covered his chest. He gave Private Hanna a wink and nod that he was all right -- but he didn't look it. Another soldier tried to take the flag from him, but the stocky, old soldier shook him off like an angry, old bull against a young upstart. Again Burnside sent in two more brigades. And in quick succession they were driven back. The field was littered with the Union dead and dying. Throughout the afternoon Burnside sent wave after wave of his infantry to their slaughter. Mini balls whizzed through the air; in the tumult thousands of men fell dead on the frozen ground. Private Hanna was behind Sgt. O'Riley just as he went down again. When Hanna reached him the old veteran was struggling to rise once more while still maintaining the flag in an upright position. But he no longer had the strength. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. Private Hanna placed his hand on the staff to help keep the flag up, but he didn't try to take it from O'Riley. Between spasms of pain, O'Riley smiled up at Private Hanna, then closed his eyes; his gnarly hands reluctantly slipped from the wooden staff. As slowly as a child's hand slips from its mother's in sleep. He grew still like a picture, and Private Hanna knew he was dead. Darkness finally ended the butchery, but not before seven Union divisions had shed their life's blood in 14 charges trying to reach the wall. The next morning Confederate General McLaw and a couple of his subordinates, Generals Kershaw and Cobb, stepped among the dead, pausing when they came to the body of a young private still clutching the Union flag to his chest. “There lies a good man,” Cobb said. McLaw stared out over the battle field where over 8,000 men lay dead. “They're all good men, General Cobb; that's why they're dead.” Tweet
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