Hope you enjoy it as much as I did the first time around, and do remember friends Randy's many other subjects he writes about on his site include helping literally thousands of folks on questions concerning their camper equipment, pool vacs, and well, things like that.
I do believe you'll agree Randy is unique with his style of writing and the stories he chooses to employ it on.
Until we meet again my friends.
Randy Godwin's Aftermath of Glory
My arms are so weak I can hardly lift them from my sides as I lie down on an old cot for a few minutes after hours of butchering my fellow human beings. Common men they were and are, for the most part.
Ordinary dirt farmer’s sons who vowed to fight for the honor of their cherished homeland against the godless Yankees threatening their very way of life. Yeah, they bought it, as did most of us. Now we are paying the price of loyalty and trust, innocence, chivalry, and honor, all fruitless dreams as we found out much too late.
Palisades and chevaux-de-frise in front of the Potter House, Atlanta, Georgia, 1864. Photographed by George N. Barnard.
My sixteen year old aide--a tow headed, loyal, and rather intelligent boy--has fallen immediately asleep, still holding a severed arm he intended to discard before instant weariness changed his mind. He even has blood in his hair.
Their blood - our sweat and tears ...
Yes, he had invented an easier way to load a rifle with his Minie ball, but the low velocity bullets would simply flatten out on impact, shattering any bones they hit instead of going though and leaving a clean wound. Seldom were there bones to set in this war; amputations of entire limbs being the rule instead of the
Having nothing but raw moonshine to use as an antiseptic in place of medicinal alcohol, I can't remember if I drank more than I applied to the wounds of our poor boys in gray. Great beads of sweat rolled off my face as I sawed through bone and tendon, dropping down into open wounds along with both mine and the patient’s tears.
A nightmare from the depths of Hades some had described it. But it was much worse than that. I still awaken nights, soaking wet with the same sweat which blurred my eyes during that awful time. I can still smell the coppery odor of fresh blood when I wake from these nightmares. I can still hear the cries of those I mangled with care. I still can.
Return to the living ...
We had finally patched up the remaining wounded, covering up the bodies of those we could do nothing for. Abel--my young aide--had finally awakened and quickly relieved himself of the cadaverous appendage he'd found himself still gripping. “That was a hell of a long day, wasn’t it Doc?” he observed.
It was amazing how quickly Abel had rebounded after his short slumber. I’d forgotten the resilience of youth long ago and wondered if I indeed had ever possessed such wonderful abilities of recuperation. “Too long, Abel," I replied. “We can’t last much longer taking on such a load of casualties. At least I cannot!"
"Here, let’s go over to the old store and see if we can scrounge up something to eat. You’d think I wouldn’t be hungry after all of the blood and guts I’ve seen today. A man’s got to eat though, no matter what his eyes remember.”
Terminus lights in the sky ...
There was no honor in this stupid war, no honor at all. But time to quit thinking about it now. A man has to think about pleasant things to be able to abide the horrible. I truly believe it’s a necessary survival instinct. I truly do.
Our boys had pulled out earlier and the wounded - those who had survived my surgical deficiencies, that is - were taken along with the Rebs in old farm wagons or carts. Abel and I would have to leave pretty soon also if we wanted stay out of the invader's hands. But not just yet.
The orange glow from the burning Atlanta skyline was so bright we needed no lantern to see our way down to the old Jew store. I rapped on the door until Solly Cohen peeked back at me from behind the drawn shade. His look of concern changed just as suddenly to a smile of relief when he recognized my face.
Preparing to travel south ...
“Bring the bottle, Solly,” I said. “May as well drink all of it. It’ll just get broke anyhow when we hit them bumpy roads outside of Macon.”
Solly brought the whiskey bottle while his wife Ruth brought in a tray with two bowls of steaming stew and bread to sop the gravy with. The food was southern kosher I suppose, but at any rate, Ruth was a good cook. "Eat,” she said. The lady didn’t talk much either. Yes, Solly was a lucky man.
He was also my best friend in the world. We would be traveling in Solly’s large sales wagon. It took four horses to pull it, but we would travel in style. Solly had his entire life savings in jewelry in the enclosed quarters. He and Ruth were used to traveling around the country in the regular course of his business. But this wasn’t regular business as we all realized now.
Different similarities ...
Growing up in the very deepest part of the south, I had never been around anyone from anywhere but southern Georgia. Other than the slaves we owned to run our plantation, everyone else was about the same. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d cozy up to a Jew, especially after hearing all about them from the preacher at the Clear Springs Baptist Church.
“The Jews killed Jesus,” Brother Morgan would shout from the pulpit. “They turned on their own and let the Romans nail him up on that ol' rugged cross to die for our sins”. He had said this many times during the long Sunday mornings I had sat through his unchanging sermons. It’s a wonder I hadn’t socked Solly in the mouth the first time he revealed his Jewishness to me."
Friend Solly ...
Yes, that’s right, Solly became my brother-in-law. I’d met his sister after he'd invited me to go home with him one weekend instead of taking the train for the 200 mile trip home to Clear Springs.
Sarah was more than beautiful. I had never before been so affected by any southern belle--and they were more than a few who affected me--like Sarah did. Her eyes were wonderfully dark, seemingly able to look into my very soul. I was instantly, hopelessly, entranced by them. We were married just six months after having met.
I had to promise to follow her faith, the same as if I had refuted my own. I had no problem doing so, not with those eyes. There are few things gods have no sway over in this world, true love being one of them.
Mourning for lovers ...
Sarah died giving birth to our son after we had been married only a year. Even the bottle was no companion for me afterwards. Neither whiskey, nor the laudanum from my medical bag, could help dim the past. But they also had little effect on my memories. I cannot decide if this is good or bad. Not really.
I never fell in love again. Sarah was the perfection I had sought so long in my life, and once found, isn't worthy of repetition. I would not dare to look again for the elusive happiness I had once tasted. No mortal would dare.
So, here we were. Atlanta burning all around us and nowhere to go but south. I know my folks haven't forgiven my easy betrayal of my religion for the Hebrew temptress. No, they never called her that, at least not to my knowledge. But it was in their minds, nonetheless.
I don’t know how we will be received back home, especially Solly and Ruth. But I will be there to show the others they are real people, not merely murderers of Jesus in their old book of judgment.
Keeping the gentlemen's oath ...
But I don’t really care at this point about the niceties of going home. Solly is my brother and his wife my kin also. They will go home with me, back to what’s left of my legacy among those who may often look askance in my direction.
I won’t worry about it now though, mainly because Sarah would not have approved. But she also knew I would never fail her family. After all, I gave her my oath as a southern gentleman.