This is another short story/guest post from Claire the Crazy Cowgirl. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!~writefury
Who will have the Courage?
Dedicated to all the soldiers who left their families to fight for our freedom.
Peter is a wiry, brave, smart sixteen year old. It is February 1864. His father died in the civil war in the winter of 1863.
Peter believes if he is to ever have true meaning he must follow in his father’s footsteps. But if he leaves he will have to leave his widowed mother and five siblings. On their farm in Northern Iowa.
Will he take the risk? And will he have the courage?
Who will have the Courage?
War is brewing. But one boy could change the world…………
One bright sunny day in Northern Iowa son was born to a humble farming family. His parents knew since the moment he was born, that he was different from all of his siblings. He was a world changer.
Sixteen years later, Peter was sitting on a hay bale in the old red barn talking to his thirteen year old brother.
“Peter, you really shouldn’t do this mother will be so heartbroken, she still mourns over losing father in the war.” He slowly turned his back to Peter so he would not see him fight back a tear.
“Harry, I know, but I feel that I must follow in father’s footsteps if I am to ever say I really did something great.” He sighed and slowly walked across the barn floor to place his arm around his thirteen year old brothers shoulders. “Harry, I sure am glad I have a brother like you, I can always trust you to care for the family when I am gone. Soon Thomas will be old enough to take care of the house and you can come and fight with me.” He smiled.
“But what if you never come back?? What is I am left to care for mother and our siblings all by myself and provide for them??” He ran his hand around in a circle as if to grab the whole farm in his arms. “I will never go to war even when I am old enough I will not break mothers heart a third time! Peter if you leave I do not know if I will ever forgive myself for keeping this a secret no will I forgive you for being so foolish as so leave your only home, for War.” He walked out of the barn and into the forest.
“ I would like to apply”. Young Peter placed his hand on the table and pointed to the application papers.
“ And what is your name, lad, and what is your age?” A tall General with white curly hair and eyes that seemed to say: “I have seen a lot in my days”.
“My name is Peter Hartford and I am eighteen years of age.” The General looked at him with a quizzical gaze as if to say: “I know that you are lying”. Peter felt his face warm, and he felt a fear rise up within him. What if I am not accepted? What if I have to go back and face Harry and mother?
“Well Peter the uniforms are over there.” The General pointed to a stack of blue uniforms with his callused finger. “ Get yourself settled. We leave for Fort Adams in the morning. By the way my name is General Joseph Gilbert Totten, but call me General Totten.”
“Wow! Thank you, sir, thank you!” Peter jumped up and reached out to shake the General’s worn hand. “ I mean, General Totten.”
“Peter if you are going to fight, you must learn to get your emotions under control. We do not tolerate that kind of behavior is that understood?”
“ Um….. yes sir I understand.” Peter bowed his head in shame.
“ Go get your sleep lad and I will see you bright and early before the rooster crows.” The
Peter had never slept on a bed so soft. He was served a delicious supper at the grandest hotel. Where all the new recruits were lodged. He didn’t sleep much; he felt like butterflies where flying around in his stomach. Since he couldn’t sleep he got up to write a letter to mother. This is what is said:
All is well. I am sorry to leave you with such short notice. I am staying in the grandest hotel with all the new recruits. I have never slept in a bed so soft. I was served a great supper. It will never compare to your home cooked meals. We will be leaving for fort Adams bright and early in the morning. I think I have already made a friend of the general; his name is Joseph Gilbert Totten. He has already scolded me for not controlling my excitement when I got accepted. I hope all is well with the family and the farm. I hope to send home some greenbacks soon. Give the family my love.
Peter James Hartford
Peter licked the envelope and addressed it. He let out a sigh. I will drop the letter off at the post office way before anyone is awake, he thought. He set the letter on the desk got under the covers and was soon fast asleep.
“BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!” Bullet’s whizzed in every direction.
“ Peter get out of the-”. He never finished his sentence it was too late. A bullet penetrated Peter’s body just missing his heart.. “ Agh!” Peter sunk to the ground clutching his chest. A doctor and two nurses rushed to his aid. He was lifted on a stretcher and then everything went black.
Peter sat hunched over a table at fort Union. His chest still ached from the gunshot
wound he had received just a month prior. He was still unable to fight, so he was put to the lowly job of the camp cook. When he lived at the farm he didn’t cook. He was still learning his biscuits were still a little dry and the beans a little hard but no one complained. It was food. And food was scarce they were still recovering from the cold winter months. New recruits were coming in like flies…….just the way Peter had just months prior. They were searching for a new adventure. Peter began a letter for back home he hadn’t written since his first letter when he left home. There had been no way to send it.
I pray that all is well. We are stationed at fort Union. I suffered a gunshot wound a month ago. But do not fear I am faring well. I have been assigned the lowly job of the camp cook. I fear my biscuits are rather dry unlike yours. But the men never complain. It is food. Food is very scarce. We have barely enough to feed the soldiers. I guess we get used to hearing are stomach rumble and ach. I long for one of your home cooked meals around the dining room table. Over a hundred men died this winter some of starvation and some of the freezing tempters. I lost a dear friend of mine Richard Williams, he was the bravest soldier I have ever met! I still remember sitting next to him as he spoke these parting words: “ Peter promise me you will be brave, love the Lord and please write to my family and tell them of my fate”. Now I know what father when through. I feel as if I have seen what he saw, felt what he felt and did what he did. I am afraid General Joseph Gilbert Totten is very sick and he has come down with pneumonia we fear he will not live to see the war end. In this letter I sent sixty five greenbacks. Give the family my love.
Peter James Hartford
A red, white and blue flag slowly made its way up the silver flag pole. The flag had been
raised many times before….This time was different it was being raised in freedom. Thirty six brilliant white stars gleamed in the sunlight. Thirty six stars, thirty six states all united in freedom. It finally reached the top of the flag pole and waved as if in such great peace. All soldiers threw their hats in the air. It was a joyous occasion.
“Well Peter the war is finally over”. Peter’s friend William patted him on the shoulder.
“If only General Totten could have lived a little longed to see this day. And father. He had such zeal for freedom I remember right before he left to fight he told me: ‘Peter take care of yourself and the family. Never ever let anyone take your freedom.’ That is the last thing he said to me.”
“So what are you going to do? Get married raise a family?”
Peter shrugged. “ I am going to go back to my family and work on the farm again. I have some greenbacks that will help me in my travels. And you, what are you going to do?”
“Oh……I’ll most likely find me a pretty gal. All my family is dead, cept’ my pa. But he don’t care a lick for me”.
“Well my friend, I must be off. You are a brave soul. I hope to once again see you one day.” Peter turned around and made his way to the train depot.
The train came to a halt. Peter woke up from his slumbers rubbed his eyes. He was finally home!
The baggers the market vendors. So strange yet familiar. Peter slowly made his way to the bread counter where a frail yet beautiful lady stood. Her hands gently pointed at the things she wanted. She payed the man then turned and walked away. Peter couldn’t contain himself any longer. He ran to the woman. “Mother!”
“Peter? My boy!” The woman dropped her groceries and ran to him and embraced him.
The warmth of his mother’s arms melted the icy cold spirit of the war. Tears streamed down their cheeks damping the shoulder of each other’s clothes.
“Harry! Thomas! Margret! Samuel! Dorothy! Come quick!” His mother yelled out. Still not losing his embrace.
A boy about fifteen appeared first. “Mother, mother what is- Peter? It can’t be?” He ran over to hug his long lost brother.
Soon the whole family had tears streaming down their cheeks.
“Harry and Thomas grab my groceries and forget all the other things we needed to do. We are going home to celebrate!”
By Claire Koch
Fun fact: General Totten was a real Union army general in the civil war and he really did die do to pneumonia right before the war ended. And all the forts were also real.
General Joseph Gilbert Totten