A Ghostly Tale of the Civil War
By Gary L. Gregg
I wrote this little tale on Halloween night 2013.
For the full story, please visit: Chickamauga
Fog covered the camp as he arose the next morning. It was early and the late night sentries were exchanging their positions with fresh eyes as he crossed the dewy grass. “I have never been so glad to see dawn,” one of them said to another, “it was like I could feel ten thousand dead standing up and walking the grounds about that bloody creek.” The boy from Ohio rolled his eyes and kept walking toward the edge of the camp. He pulled a small mirror from his pocket to check his hair, vanity knowing no end, even in the terrible war of brothers. He squinted as his eyes seemed less bold and clear, almost grey, in fact. He looked up at the fog and determined it was just the defuse morning light.
Hands in his pocket, the soldier looked into the dense fog, playing games trying to make out the objects cutting the peculiar shapes. One was moving and moving fast. It grew in size and speed at it approached. A man. No, a horse. It was a proud and mighty black steed that burst from the oblivion beyond. No rider drove it on, but it bore an empty saddle upon its back, cavalry stirrups dangling at the edge of its belly. The beast pulled up short in front of the Union soldier.
“Move on, plug. Be your man living or dead, an officer’s mount is no good for me in camp!” As he slapped the horse’s rump, he noticed the saddle had the initials CSA burned into the leather. “Ah, a Rebel horse! Well, who killed your traitor-owner?”
Fueled again with an energy he only knew when he was looking down on someone else, the boy who volunteered each time a chicken needed slaughtered, threw himself up into the saddle. He felt the power of the horse beneath him and took the reigns into his hands. He would ride it over to his superior officer’s tent and offer it as tribute. Perhaps he would be rewarded. It did appear to be a very fine horse.
He dug the heels of his worn and nearly ruined boots into the horse’s flanks. As he did, he felt his hands tighten around the reins. Pressure built in his legs as they pressed against the ribs beneath. He pulled his right leg and then his left but neither moved. Pressure like arms enveloped his chest and squeezed. The private squirmed but could not move. He called for help but no one reacted. He didn’t know if they could not hear or the pressure around his chest kept him from emitting the sounds he intended.
The horse reared back and turned. Out of the camp in Chattanooga it ran. Into the deep fog. The helpless rider was flung left and right as the horse lurched around trees and jumped brambles and boulders. Onto the fields where sergeants lay next to privates in the equalizing embrace of death, the horse carried its prisoner. Bodies, once full with laughter, now lay in unnatural contortions, their life-giving blood staining the grass and already sunk into the soil below.
The boy thought he could see all the existence of these bodies in all their forms, one after another and almost all at once; Life, agonizing death, deep fear, resignation, the bleaching of death, gaseous explosions before the final stages of decay made the renewing magic of new soil. Movement. The movement of the bodies. Death was to be still, here it was all movement, all change. Fear gripped his soul and squeezed in the same way his body was being held to the horse.
Pulling up to a rising Confederate casualty, the horse bucked. The pressure released. The boy from Ohio felt himself falling toward the killing fields.
For the Full story, please visit: http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2013/11/chickmauga-war.html