Almost every small town in the South, at lease in the deep South where I live, has a memorial to the men and boys lost in the War Between the States, as we call that awful conflict down here. Some even have a cannon or two on the courthouse square and it's neat to see little kids climbing all over them. While we are walking, Jackie is able to vent her undying passion for barking at small children, and while I attempt to choke her down, they quickly seek sanctuary atop the old guns. So far I have avoided any lawsuits.
How I love to recall the stories passed down in my family through so many generations of the terrible days of the Civil War, as it is called in the North. Doubtless time has blurred the total truth of the following, but I would like to share it with you. I call it "Recollections of a Small Battle," as told by my great-great Aunt Fannie Rees.
Long the battle raged, she told us, round her father's fields that day. Through the smoke she saw them falling. Frightened lads in blue and gray. Wading cross the creek at sunset Yankee soldiers brought their dead. Placed them near her house with reverence. "Guard them well," the captain said.
Wild hog ranged the woods, she told us, deadly creatures on the roam. "Should they desecrate one body we will surely fire your home," were the orders stern they gave her, and she knew she must obey. Ere the sunset fires were kindled. She would watch till break of day.
"May you never see," she told us, "what my eyes beheld that night. Only Hell could hold such terror as reflected in that light." Feral hogs came from the forest. Blazing sticks held them at bay. Father, brother could not help her. Grievous wounds were theirs that day.
Will, a Yankee boy, she told us, feeling pity for her plight, helped her keep the great fires burning, and stood vigil through the night. When the sun came up the wagons came to take the dead away. As to which side was victorious she could never really say.
Nearly all was lost, she told us, when that awful time was done. Southern hopes all turned to ashes when the northern forces won. Yet she thought of Will who helped her when the need had been so great, and she knew the memory of him which she held was not of hate.
Will, the Yankee boy, she told us, came to see her one spring day. Going home he was that April and he had some words to say. Love soon moved this lass, once wealthy, to a humble, mountain life, and she never once regretted being Uncle Willy's wife.