Monday, May 23, 2011

Character Monday: A Civil War vet's love tells all

Character Monday

Tell us a bit about yourself.
About myself? Well...I was the second child of my parents. I had an older brother, Jon. He died in the early part of the war. I also have two younger sisters. My mama was a teacher before she married my papa. She saw to it that all of us could read, write, and do math.
But what about you, specifically. What do you like to do?
I do a lot of reading. And I draw. When I have the chance. I haven't had much free time since the war began. Sometimes I like to go outside and just take walks. Get away from everything. When I was little, Jon and I--and sometimes Rachel--would go out into the fields and just run. I loved feeling the wind on my hair, hear him chasing behind me.
How do you feel about the war?
I hate the war. It took my family and my way of life from me. Our home in Maryland is in practical ruins, all of our plants gone. Our livestock taken or sold. My papa and brother gone in a heartbeat.
But the worst of it is the destruction the war is responsible for. And I don't just mean the land, but the destruction of the people. Grayson and I have discussed it; people didn't fight just for slavery or against it--Grayson certainly didn't, even though he is a Southerner. They fought to preserve the right to make their own choices or to protect their homes. Or because they were expected to.
Everyone is going to have to rebuild, land, homes...families. Grayson's brother was missing for weeks. Matthew Hamer is never going to be the same, his injuries ensure that. Many of Grayson's neighbors lost everything, too. They aren't just Southerners, they're people.
The North wasn't hit as hard, but the toll on the economy in both North and South is something that will take a while to rectify, Grayson says. We're some of the lucky ones. Grayson's place still stands, though half the buildings and barns were burnt to the ground. It'll take us a while but we'll rebuild, God willing.
What was it like?
What was what like?
Life in the mid 1800s.
It' I'm not sure what you mean. I eat, sleep, and spend time with my family. I work hard. It's different from life now, I'm sure. But...aren't we still at war? Overseas, somewhere? Don't people still struggle to feed their families and to have nice things? Don't they work hard, have goals, and love their families?
I'll admit, I'm not too sure just how I got here today. You met me at the door to our home and asked me to join you. Now here I am...Can you tell me what that thing is on your lap?
This? This is a laptop...It's a computer. You don't have any idea what that is, either, do you.
No. What does it do?
A computer does many things. I am now writing down what you say to me.
Without a pen or ink? Without paper? How?
I push these letter keys and the words appear on this screen. See?
Oh! Can I try?
I'll be very careful with your comp-u-ter. I just want to see how it works.
Clack. Clack. Clack. Clack.
Oh! How nice! But it takes so long to find each letter. How do you do it so quickly?
A lot of practice.
I suppose. This would have made the writing of Olivia's Journey so much easier! It took me hours upon hours to write it.
When did you write it, exactly?

Shortly after, I found Grayson! He bought Amelia and me some clothing at the mercantile. Amelia must have told him that I like to keep a journal. I found it in with our purchases that day. He'd written an inscription. A 'thank you' for my saving his life.
That was sweet of him. And very thoughtful.
It was. And I'll always keep my journal. I plan to give it to my children some day. So that they'll know exactly what it was like when I found their papa...May I try your comp-u-ter again? I would love to redo Olivia's Journey with actual letters! My handwriting is horrible and I'm afraid it will be hard to read...
I have a few hours free if you'd like to start on it now.
Thank you...
clack. clack. clack. clack.
Oh! Look at that! It looks like a real book! You can read it on this screen! How wonderful! Can I take a comp-u-ter back home with me?
No. But I can print out what you type if you'd like to take it back with you.
Oh, thank you! I would like that very much. I'm going to keep writing it now! It is so much easier to read like this! Listen!

My uncle would kill him if he saw him, so I hid him down in the barn on Jessup Mill’s farm. Jessup had had a heart palpitation after receiving word that both his twin boys had fallen in Maryland; he’d died less than a week later. Jessup’s place had been empty ever since and was the only place I could think of to hide him. As I led him down the path connecting my uncle’s place to the barn it started raining and I could barely see the path before me. He faltered in the mud and I began dragging him along.
I dropped him just outside the barn doors. I hadn’t meant to, but he was so heavy and with the rain making holding him difficult, he slid right from my arms. Finally, though, I got him inside the old building; I settled him in the back stall on old hay and covered him with tattered old horse blankets I found stacked in the corner. I rested myself for several moments; then, breathing ragged, I rose and began to tend him.

My hands hesitated on the top buttons of his uniform―whether from the gray color so reviled in this section of the Ohio Valley or from the dark stain of blood so dark against the faded material, I didn’t know. I had never seen a man without a shirt before, not even my father or brother before they had died. Yet I knew this soldier was dying and no one else in the town would help him.

So many men lost to this wretched war! When was it going to end? I wasn’t about to let it take another, not when I could possibly stop it. The fighting had already taken my brother and two cousins within hours of each other, and I was determined it would take no other, not while I could do something to stop it. As I unbuttoned his shirt, he looked at me; his eyes were so black from the fever within him that I nearly cried...

To find out more about Olivia's Journey you can purchase it here.


  1. I just read this. It's an amazing story told by a truly great writer.

  2. I've read it too. It's awesome.