Rated: ASR · Short Story · History · #1186959
A descent into mental illness, especially caused by fighting for what you believe in.
Occurrence At Bull Run
Do I believe in God? That is a good question. I suppose I do, but he is dead to me and has been for a long time. I do not know when it all happened, but my whole life has been one big struggle. Mama always did try to do her best, after all we lost papa when I was pretty young, but she was not really home. We were poorer than a darky, we were poor white trash, and mama had a job as a maid and nanny. She helped raise the local master’s children, but the job did not come at a cheap price. Mama would always come home with bruises, little scratches, and countless other encumbrances to her body.
“Oh, mama, what happened to you today?” I would ask everyday trying to hold back the tears, but it did not prevent mama from gushing out from her darkened purple eyes and she would cry out, “It’s okay, mah son. Bonnie blamed me again for lyin’ a finger to her and Master Jackson thought I stole somethin’ from him and whupped me. I’ll be okay, please don’t you worry.”
To please mama I always told her I would not worry, but in actuality I really did worry about her. She would always shoo me away to play with the few toys I owned, but I always snuck away to watch her cook in the kitchen. She would always lift up her dress cuffs and she exposed the deep lacerations and many violet bruises that Bonnie and Mr. Jackson decorated her with. Each time after stirring dinner, she looked at her arm with pain in her eyes, cried and would tell herself softly, “Someday we’ll get out of here and we won’t have to worry ‘bout anythin’ and I would never have to go back to the Jacksons’.” Mama then would wipe away the few tears she had from her violet eyes and I would sneak back to my toys until dinner. Every night I would curse God for the way he made our life and how Mr. Jackson treated mama. I knew God did not love us like the way he loved the rich folks and I hated him, Mr. Jackson, his family and the rich all the same.
And then 1861 came and war broke out; I enlisted in the Union army. After signing my name to the list (Oh, how the Union was coy in getting Southerners like me to join their cause, but I am glad their coyness got me out of Tennessee), out of excitement to get back home to tell mama, I started to run and in the process I knocked many of the other enlistees down. Despite their curses and other rude gestures, I did not look back and ran all the way home. Though, the city and my home in the backwoods were a far distance apart, I made it home in what felt like fifteen minutes.
I slammed open the door and I saw mama jump. “Guess what, mama! Guess what!” I yelled out like an excited five year old.
“What Robert? What’s all the excitement for,” she replied in awe.
“I joined the Union army, mama! Our troubles will all be over!”
“Robert, how could you do that? You’re going against our friends, family and the Confederacy.”
“Damn the Confederacy! These rotten yellowbellies are the ones that caused all our suffering and don’t pay much for it either. I want to put a stop to all your abuse and the countless others that have been abused by people like Mr. Jackson!”
“But…. But… don’t you understand? Your family will disown you and then I’ll get fired! I can’t lose my job with Mr. Jackson! I need to support myself!”
“Come with me, mama, to Pennsylvania. We can start a new life.”
“I can’t, son, I can’t. Tennessee is my life. Go, please, go. I’m not disappointed with you. I’m not at all; I’m proud of you… you have more bravery than I do to fight these people.”
“I’ll miss you, mama. I love you.”
“I love you too, Robert. Don’t forget me.” And that was the last thing she said to me, as she wiped away the all too familiar tears from her all too familiar violet eyes, and hugged me goodbye. That was the last time I saw mama.
I was in Pennsylvania by September and despite my Southern heritage, my comrades mostly welcomed me. Many battles came and went; I witnessed many of my comrades and the many friends I made being torn apart by the opposing side, people I have grown up with and most likely played with when I was a little boy. I remember the first time the rain came; it turned the skies red and drenched me in all its rosy glory. The enemy, which I should not call them really since they were my family at an earlier point in my life; but I have no pity for them and they deserve everything I ever called them or did to them, finally obtained cannons. That fury killed some of my friends, but the bayonets and bullet fires did more of the job, and most of the time I was drenched in their livelihood and the rain that fell from the sky.
At first I did not want to kill the enemy, just hurt them and their way of life, just like they hurt mama and our way of life. I wanted revenge, but not at the price of a life. Then one day in late June, after one bloody battle, I was in my tent trying to catch up on some badly needed rest. Drifting into my fantasy life, a life I had held since I was twelve, General Grant personally came into my tent and began to shake me violently. I woke up after him shouting my name in my ear a few times. At first I thought he was going to tell me I needed to put more effort into my battle techniques, but after the first few words I heard intense sadness in his voice and knew it was bad.
“I’m sorry to inform you, Captain White—“
“If I’m dying, General, please don’t tell me!”
“I have received word that your mother was murdered. A relative of yours wrote a letter a few weeks ago; I just received the letter today. Here is the letter. I’m sorry for your loss, good day.” And the General saluted me.
I wished I were dying; the grief hit me like a ton of bricks and life felt so unreal to me. Dying would have been much better because I could have been with my mother and life would not have felt so disconnected. I unfolded the letter that Annabelle wrote. Mr. Jackson hit mama over the head with a pitchfork, then stabbed her in cold blood. This fight became personal for me at that moment. I was willing to put my life into everything to see every last Rebel killed along with their God. I was not going to take this sitting down and I was going to get justice for mama.
I did not have my chance to unleash my own personal fury until the end of August, when we had to fight again at Bull Run. I led the charge this time and held my bayonet so close to me. I charged at Lee’s army like a madman, I would kill them all, kill them in the name of mama and the Union…
“Get me out of here! I don’t want to be here,” I scream out. I do not want to be in this hospital and if I only I had not received that injury to the top of my chest at Bull Run, I would still be killing Rebels.
“Quiet down! Get some rest or we’ll tie you down some more,” the nurse yells at me.
“I don’t want to be here! Get me out of this bed! I want to be free!”
“You know very well you can’t be free, after you tried to kill one of your comrades.”
“What are you talking about? I never tried to kill one of my comrades!”
“Yes you did! Don’t you remember? You called him a dirty yellowbellied Rebel and tried to shoot him.”
“I NEVER TRIED TO SHOOT A BROTHER! YOU’RE LYING TO ME! EVERYONE LIES TO ME! Please just listen,” I pause, sob, and continue, “I’m not crazy! You are all liars… please just let me out of here… please… liars… liars—“
“Robert, please calm down,” a young, beautiful blonde-haired nurse comes walking up to me.
“Don’t lie to me… I’m not crazy. I never tried to kill a brother. I’m not crazy.”
“Of course you’re not crazy.”
“Are you lying to me?”
“No, Robert, I’m not. You just need to talk and I’m here to listen. You are a very brave young man, risking your life for this war and you’ve been through a lot.”
“I saw my friends die…. My mother died…”
“It’s all very sad, Robert. But, you have to move on and the best way to move on is through faith. You do believe in God, don’t you?"
Word Count: 1546