The End of a War (by BnzaGal)

Summary:  Written using the five words (Bachelor, Medieval, Commence, Culmination, and Tassel) from the Chaps & Spurs Challenge, June 2011.

Rated: K+ (1,110 words)

The End of a War

Story Notes:

I hope to someday turn this into a story… but that will be in the future.

Chaps & Spurs, June 2011 

***

Day was fading into the shadows of night. Light was retreating from the darkness that stole across the battlefields. It was over. Finished. Battlefields would become farmer’s fields once again. It had ended. Done. The blood that stained the ground would fade away. With time, no one know that the lands they stood on had been fought for and bought with blood, that young and old, bachelors and married men, fathers and sons on both sides had given their last full measure of devotion in what would become just another field.

Hadn’t they longed for this day to come? Hadn’t this been the culmination of their dreams ever since the bloody war had commenced? Shouldn’t there be a measure of joy?

Smiles and shouts of joy were scarcer than an un-patched uniform around the campfires of the Confederate camp. Defeat hovered over the men like some medieval spectre as they stared blankly into the fires and while here and there men wept silently.

It was over. And they had lost. They had fought and died. So many dead. And now they had lost.

The conversations that normally floated around as the fires swayed in the evening breeze were gone along with the jokes and teasings spoken to try and raise each others spirits.

Tonight was the end of waiting for the order to fight or march. Tonight was the beginning of the final retreat. Retreat back to wherever on God’s earth you had come from.

“We can still take them,” One man staggered to his feet and raised his fist. “We can still fight!” Men jumped to their feet and joined him.

“Lead us and we will go!” Cried one.

“Lead us to our graves and we will follow!” Yelled another rising on crutches.

“Virginia!”

Soon tears were in all eyes as men wearily stood, proudly wearing the grey. “Virginia!” The cry sounded from every man’s heart. “Virginia! We cannot fail.”

But they had. And it was over. It was time to return home and pick up the pieces of the lives they had left behind.

Darkness fell, engulfing the camp as captains and sergents calmed the men. They must go home now. It was over. They had tried, but it hadn’t been enough.

Men began to drift asleep and the sounds of weeping were heard more and more. Some lay their all night weeping for their friends who had given their lives to the Cause that had ultimately lost. Some even wept in their sleep. Others stared into the flickering flames all through the night and into the grey of morning and the dawning of their final retreat.

Joe Cartwright was one of those. He wasn’t known as Cartwright though. Here he was called Joe Devlin, having adopted the last name of one of his best friends. His hair was falling about his shoulders. His face was thin and haggard. His eyes dull. He wondered if his family would recognize him. He wondered if they would even accept him back.

He had run away from home without a word to anyone, save for a hastily scrawled note that he had tucked under his Pa’s pillow. He had changed his name so no one could ever find him. He had no doubt that they had tried.

The flames bent and waved gently reminding Joe of the branches of the pines outside his bedroom window. Home. A year ago the very word had brought a lump to his throat. But now that home was finally a reality, Joe wasn’t sure he wanted to return. So much had changed. Maybe too much.

He was only two years older, but it felt like twenty. Hadn’t it only been yesterday that Josh had told him he walked like an old man? He looked down at the dirty bandages that swathed his leg below the knee. He wondered if he would be able to walk all the way back to Nevada on his freshly wounded leg. By the time he had made it back to camp after that last battle he thought he was going to collapse.

Joe’s eyes returned to the flames and his hand snaked down to rub his leg. It would be the only scar he would bring back from the war if you didn’t count the thin line across the underside of his arm where a Yankee’s bayonet had barely missed his chest and the scar through his right eyebrow where the debris from cannon fire had caught him in the face. But small scars like those hardly counted.

Joe’s eyes were averted from the flames when two older soldiers carried a stretcher between them to the campfires. The only bugler their company had left struggled to sit up using his elbows. Joe watched solemnly as the young man struggled to raise a battered and dented bugle to his lips. The tassel that hung limply from the instrument was singed by the same cannon blast that had resulted in the bugler’s legs being removed above the knees.

He’s younger than me. Joe thought as he watched the boy take a shuddering breath before sounding the call. He’s going to die. Joe bowed his head as the first notes rang out across the night.

They had heard it every evening. Joe had even learned to play it himself. The call to bed, to rest, to pray for whatever tomorrow held, to dream. Only this time it was not signalling the end of another day, but the end of a bloody war that had destroyed so many lives.

The eerie notes echoed in the hearts and ears of every soldier. The notes wavered slightly and Joe saw the bugler’s shoulders shake. He was crying. Joe realized that there were tears in his own eyes. They blurred his vision and burned in his eyes.

The notes ended and drifted off into the night air. The bugler lowered the instrument and was carried back toward the hospital tent.

He died sometime during the night. But he wasn’t needed anymore. The war was over. No one needed to play Revelry the next morning anyway.

-The End-

End Notes:

Thank you for reading!

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

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Author: BnzaGal

I'm a member on the forums here at BB and have written a few Fanfics that I hope you will read and enjoy!

3 thoughts on “The End of a War (by BnzaGal)

  1. Good Civil War story. One quick correction, if I may: it’s reveille not revelry. That mistake just kind of stared me in the face, especially since I come from a military family!

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