Monday, March 9, 2015

Letter to Eugenia

Dear Eugenia,
My best friend died in my arms yesterday.  I watched the light of life in his eyes flicker and extinguish.  My hands haven’t stopped shaking since.
As I walk over all this rubble and grime and blood, I can’t remember what it all was for.  I was twenty when I left you and joined the war.  Now I’m twenty-three.  Of course I was drafted, but I was excited for war.  But why?  I can’t seem to remember.
Why did they shoot him?  Prisoners of war are often used as leverage, they are usually kept alive.  But this man was killed like a dog as we rescued our soldiers and the receding Confederates took one final shot after executing many we could not rescue.  
He was a negro, you see.  I was suspicious at first, but now I see that he was a living being who deserved his right to life as much as the rest of us.
I have kitchen duty.  I scrub our dishes and clothes to the sound of screaming.  It is hard for the younger ones to keep moving.  That’s why most of us don’t go out to fight.  But I wanted to fight that day.  Why?  Every time I blink my eyes, I see the blood and the clay bursting from his chest.  I can’t sleep at night.
The Confederates won’t seem to give up.  They’re fighting for their country, their livelihood, their economy.  Even though we have the advantage of men, and supplies, they have the great advantage of will.  I wonder which will prove the strongest, in the end.  
It may be treasonous to say something like this, but sometimes I wonder if I’m fighting for the right side, or for the right reasons.  Word came in this morning that General Sherman has completed his March to the Sea.  He has torn a path of destruction from Atlanta to Savannah.  Even the churches were burnt down-- with people inside.  How will they survive?
As a man, I am expected to be brave and tough, and I am trying my hardest to keep that appearance.  I hope you do not think me a weak person, Eugenia, for I am trying so hard to be brave.
My best friend died in my arms yesterday.  He was killed like a dog.
And that’s why I go on.  Because I will never feel completely free until his mother and sisters and son are free as well.  That is why I fight.
I miss you.