Friday, May 23, 2014

The Civil War Short Story - Part 1 of 4

The Civil War Short Story
Part 1 of 4

The following excerpt is from Part III of the forthcoming Short Story Collection:

“American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)”

The "Civil War Short Story" is considered by the author as the Feature Presentation of the book.

Statue of a Civil War Soldier at Gettysburg
Source: user smithwil

The Civil War Short Story - Part 1 of 4:

[This short story was first published by William Leverne Smith as “My Home Town During the Civil War,” in Echoes of the Ozarks,, Volume Nine, An Anthologyy Publication of the Ozarks Writer’s League, November 2013, p. 9-19.]

Alex McDonald on “Saving the Homeplace” during the Civil War

My name is William McDonald and I am writing this story as it is being told to me by my cousin, Alex McDonald, for our American Centennial project at my school. He is also one of my teachers. He has asked me to write the story as he tells it to me. This year is 1876 and Alex has finally agreed to talk to me about what happened during the Civil War years here on our McDonald Homeplace, and the surrounding valley, in northwest Shannon County, Missouri. I was not born until 1864, so much of this happened before I was born.

We will start in 1861 when Alex was about 12 years old like I am now. This is what Alex told me:

In the late spring of my twelfth year, the great Civil War was begun in the United States. Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States and the south seceded.  Southern interests fired on the Federal installation in Fort Sumpter, South Carolina and the war began. Here in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri, we were caught right in the middle of the conflict. Folks to the south and southeast of us were for the south and hated Lincoln. Folks to the west and north of us were mostly sympathetic to the Union and supported LIncoln.

Even our family was split. My earliest actual Civil War-related memory, and I can now only assume it was true because it is still so vivid in my mind, was of my two older brothers screaming at each other, out in the yard:

"Lincoln is a dictator! He is the Devil!" Patrick could not control himself. He whacked Thomas on the shoulder. "How could you even think of joining the Union Army! Traitor!" 

Patrick was only 14, while Thomas was 16. Patrick had become friends with some other fellows his age and a little older that lived just to the south of us, and they all became Rebels, including Patrick. My mother and father tried to get him to change his mind. But, one day shortly thereafter, he just took off with those friends and we never saw or heard from him again.

Then, my brother Thomas, likewise, when the word came down that the Union army was recruiting up in Houston, he packed his knapsack and set off on foot to sign up. He was killed at Shiloh along with thousands of others on both sides.

My older sister, Caroline, was planning to marry Lewis Truesdale, but the war interrupted those plans. Lewis did join the Union army as well, and survived. When things really got bad here, she left with my pa and ma, Harry and Sarah, and my younger sisters, Mahala and Rebecca, and went to live near Jefferson City. Your mother, Jane Truesdale, joined them when your father, Daniel, left along with Lewis to the Union army. Jane lived with her Truesdale grandparents who had moved there several years earlier. Lewis and Daniel each ended up spending most of the war stationed in the central Missouri area, so that worked out well, for them. And for you, too, I suppose, since they got married and you were born during this time.

My GranPa Henry and I continued to stay here. These decisions were made over a period of time, of course, as local circumstances changed. No one but the boys signing up for the armies made those decisions quickly.

During the rest of 1861 and most of 1862, we did our best to do some farming and keep food on the table, but it became a real struggle. As time passed, everyone left here in the valley did what they could. We cut back on the size of our crops so we could handle them successfully. We all worked together, but it got harder and harder to survive. We could get few outside supplies - there just were not any available. From time to time, small groups of soldiers, or outlaws... mostly saying they were for the rebels... it was often hard to tell which they were... came through the valley. They almost always did some damage to property and occasionally people were actually killed. From time to time, houses, barns, shops and other buildings were burned. The raiders always took something with them that they ‘needed’ - whether it was food, clothing or mules or whatever they saw that they wanted and could carry away.

To be continued... next Friday... [Go there, now]

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