By Ireland Fuller
I could tell the moment I got in and dropped my bag that I wasn’t staying. I felt the days march deep in my bones and echoing in my belly. Even though my bag didn’t weigh much, I dropped it like a bale of hay. I carried ammunitions given to me by the supply officer, some hard biscuits and a piece of salt pork. I’d brought the pork from home; the final piece of meat from our last hog. I told Ma to keep it. They needed it too. She insisted I take it. Being a good Christian son, I obeyed my Ma. I have a pencil and some paper held together with a bit of string for practicing my letters. I took out the book of prayers given to us by the Chaplain. I tucked it into my shirt pocket near my heart. I hoped God might hear them and I’d be less afraid. I have a tin of matches and a candle to use on the nights we can’t risk building a fire. There’s a pair of socks I took off a Billy back in Vicksburg. Is it a sin to steal from a dead man?
A blue gray fog and the smell of sulphur surrounds me. I have arrived in the heart of Hades. Drunken soldiers fill the night with the haunting Rebel war cry. Any man that says he’s heard it and wasn’t afraid has not heard it or is lying. The Federals answer with a cannon blast that shakes the ground beneath me.
I see no point in drinking. When I meet the Lord I want to be sober. I sit by the fire and take out my pencil and paper. An officer helps me write
Alfred Thomas Fuller
12th La. Co E
and pin it inside my shirt collar. I write a note to Ma saying I’m sorry and to tell Melissa to forgive me for breaking my promise. I ask the Lord to save my soul.
Come sunrise I will march to the forward line. My Mississippi rifle, a Christmas present from Pa, will defend me against the weapons and endless gunpowder of the Federals. I have stood with men who fell. I have stood with men who ran. I will not run.
No. I won’t be staying long.
Ireland Fuller is a registered nurse who works at a Northern California hospital. She grew up in Arkansas and Louisiana. She lives in the Monterey Bay area with her husband, daughter and two dogs. “A Confederate Prayer” is her first publication.