Gettysburg is my all-time favorite movie. The people they chose for the various roles played their parts to perfection (Jeff Daniels practically could be Chamberlain's twin, the late Richard Jordan's performance as Armistead was heartwrenching at times, Steven Lang was perfect as Pickett, and the great Sam Elliott as Buford was another excellent touch), and the soundtrack was fantastic. Wish Ted Turner would go ahead and make The Last Full Measure, but I seriously doubt we'll ever see it, as sad as that statement is.
Originally, I didn't think I could write a fanfic based on this movie, but then I got to thinking, which of course got the creativity going, and this is the result.
Disclaimer: Creighton, Branche, Myrna, Sally, and a few minor characters are mine; the rest are history's.
NOTE: I took some liberty about how quick people got their new insignia after being promoted.
At The End of Three Days...
DAY ONE - 1 July 1863
When the first thump that signaled distant artillery fire was heard, Captain Jacob Creighton, C.S.A. could scarcely believe his ears. As his infantry company marched along with the rest of Heth's division toward the town of Gettysburg, all he'd expected to find there - along with Heth and probably the rest of the division - had been a few armed militia. Now, as they marched onward - and the sound of artillery grew ever louder - reports were coming back that said 'militia' was dismounted cavalry. Rumor had it the unit was Buford's division. Creighton winced slightly; he'd heard briefly of Buford's reputation as a commander, and knew the division had a tough fight on its hands now, especially when word came down that apparently infantry support had arrived in the form of Reynolds' 1st Corps.
Orders to deploy the troops were shouted, and quite a few of Creighton's boys let forth with the Rebel yell, eager for a brawl. With the battalion stopped like the majority of the division due to the Yankee cavalry in front of them, Creighton swung down off his horse and cautioned his men to save their strength for the coming fight.
He paused a moment to think of his beloved Sally Anne, waiting for him back home in Corinth, Mississippi. Yes, she was his beloved, but she wasn't his, per say. No, she'd chosen to bestow her affections on Walter Branche, a young man who aspired to become a lawyer and one who took great pleasure in rubbing that fact in Jake's face. So rather than stay home and have that joy day after day, Jake had enlisted three days after Fort Sumter. As he was one of the first to sign up, he was immediately awarded a commission, and was ordered to Harper's Ferry, Virginia soon after.
Creighton sighed as he remembered his last meeting with Sally...
Newly-commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Creighton tethered his horse and then walked up the steps of Myrna Cale's boarding house, brushing rainwater off his newly-issued C.S.A. cloak as he did so. Gathering his courage, he knocked lightly, and a welcoming smile came over Myrna Cale's face when she saw who was at the door.
"Jake! C'mon in here! Ain't seen you around in awhile...where you been?"
"Had some things to take care of, ma'am," he replied, causing Myrna to roll her eyes.
"How many times have I told you not to call me 'ma'am'?" she admonished good-naturedly. "We don't stand on ceremony a lot around here."
Jake nodded and had the good grace to look sufficiently chastised as Myrna motioned for him to hand her his cloak.
"Jake!" the voice coming from the top of the stairs made him stop what he was doing and look up.
There she was Sally Anne Cale, her blue eyes dancing with mischief, smile bewitching, and her dark brown hair shimmering in the lamplight. She was - as always - exquisite. Sally hurried down the stairs and stood before him, smiling widely. Jake returned her smile courteously, but he refused to allow her to play with his emotions any longer.
"Where have you been? You stopped coming to see me," she pouted slightly, but whereas in the past Jake would've been making a fool of himself trying to apologize for his grave oversight, now her actions had no effect on him whatsoever.
"Like I was just telling your mother, I had a few things to take care of," he replied, finally removing his cloak and handing it to Myra, revealing his new 2nd Lieutenant's uniform. Myra inhaled in surprise, and Sally looked at him in dismay.
"You enlisted?" her voice was thick with hurt.
Jake nodded. "I just stopped here to say goodbye...I'm leaving for Harper's Ferry, Virginia tonight."
Sally's eyes filled with tears and she ran back up the stairs crying. Jake watched her go before turning back to Myrna.
"I better get down to the train station...I'll write you when I can."
"Write her too," Myrna replied, looking at the ceiling as she referred to Sally. "Her reaction to your uniform proved something...that girl loves you, not that pompous lawyer-boy."
Jake didn't voice the opinion that Sally sure had a funny way of showing it. Instead, he merely smiled and hugged Myrna goodbye.
He was back on his horse and about to leave when the front door opened and Sally ran out onto the porch, a shawl over her head to protect herself from the rain.
"Why are you doing this, Jake?" she pleaded, her voice thick with tears.
Jake thought about replying with something about 'The Cause', but knew Sally would never buy it. He sighed and decided to go with the truth.
"Because there's nothing here for me now...you've made your choice, and I'm not it."
"Jake..." Sally's voice broke and her shoulders shook with sobs.
"Please come back...promise me you will..." she choked out, and Jake met her eyes for a few moments before replying.
"Do some growing up while I'm gone, and I'll come back to see you when this is all over...I promise."
Sally nodded solemnly, and Jake rode off without looking back.
Jake shook himself out of his reverie, remembering how much he'd yearned to kiss Sally that night, but knowing that if he had, he probably wouldn't have left. He wrote the Cale family regularly, and told them what he could of the war.
He remembered being at Fredericksburg, and shuddered at the carnage he'd seen wrought amongst the Union forces there. His CO had been killed by a lucky shot, and he'd taken his place, with a promotion to 1st Lieutenant along with it. He'd mourned along with rest of the South after Jackson's death after Chancellorsville, and wrote Myrna and Sally of how nice the funeral had been done, simultaneously informing them of his promotion to Captain.
"Battalion, at the double quick, march!" came the voice of Lieutenant Colonel Markson, the Battalion Commander, followed by the voice of the second-in-command, Major Watkins, echoing the order.
"At the double quick, boys!" Creighton yelled, running onto the field to deploy, his company following behind him. They deployed outward like usual, aimed and fired like usual, and men fell like usual, but it was as if this particular fight was different for some reason.
Creighton knelt on the line, took out his pistol, and fired three shots toward the enemy. There was a crack of rifle fire and a puff of smoke from the enemy line in front of him, and the man beside him, Corporal Slocum, went down, shot through the head. Creighton rolled to his right, behind the line and out of fire, before standing back up to command his troops again.
He glanced out at the battle. There...could it be? Am I seeing things, or are soldiers moving back from the line? Yes! They're breaking!
He motioned to Private Murphy, his runner.
"Go over to F Company and ask Captain Sartain to meet with me here briefly, with my compliments."
About two minutes later, Lieutenant Forsythe, second-in-command of F Company, was standing before him saluting.
"Where's Sartain?" Creighton demanded.
"Dead, sir...I'm in command now. What are your orders, sir?"
"The next artillery salvo after this one, I want you and your boys to give my company a nice, strong masking fire...those bluebellies are breaking and my company's gonna rout 'em!"
Forsythe looked at Creighton briefly as though he were a reincarnation of Jackson before saluting smartly.
He ran back to his own unit as Creighton turned to his men and cautioned them to get ready to run. He glanced back to see General Heth, Lieutenant Colonel Markson, Major Watkins, and their staffs watching the battle from afar.
The artillery thundered again...the signal! Forsythe's company blasted away with their rifles, adding to the smoke. Creighton drew his saber and motioned toward the enemy.
"Forward, boys! They're breaking!"
His company responded with a Rebel yell and charged after him. The Yankees were stunned at the sight of Rebels charging at them from out of the artillery smoke, and some fired one last time before turning and running.
A cannon boomed, there was an explosion nearby, and suddenly Creighton felt himself flying backwards. He landed hard, the breath being knocked out of him, and his saber clattering to the ground nearby. He laid there for a few moments, getting his breath, before attempting to sit up. He was fairly surprised when he found he could do so easily. He patted his body briefly, even more surprised to find no serious wounds save for a few minor scrapes and bruises.
He glanced toward the enemy line, and saw his men had a firm hold on it. Running feet from behind him soon turned into the sight of Forsythe's men going to join his own, and Forsythe was beside him moments later.
"Captain...are you all right, sir?"
Creighton nodded as Forsythe and his Color Sergeant helped him to his feet.
"It would seem so."
A Rebel yell sounded from what used to be enemy territory. Four of the enemy cannons had been turned around and were now being loaded to fire on their own troops, which were now slowly falling back through Gettysburg. Creighton could only watch dazedly as more of his company's battalion surged forward. His initiative had won the day.
Creighton stood outside Lieutenant Colonel Markson's tent. The Colonel had summoned him about half an hour ago, but had kept him waiting ever since. He knew this was partially for intimidation purposes, and forced the seemingly-interminable wait not to get to him.
Footsteps behind him caused Creighton to turn. Lieutenant Polk, Markson's aide, was standing nearby.
"The Colonel will see you now, sir," he stated courteously and saluted. Creighton returned Polk's salute and stepped inside Markson's tent.
Markson was sitting on his cot, smoking his pipe. He glanced up at Creighton's entry, but then returned to his thoughts.
"Saw what you did out there today...damn foolish thing, risking your boys like that. Them Yankees could've mowed every last one of you down, and you know it."
Creighton started to defend himself, but Markson spoke over him.
"It was also a damn fine piece of soldiering, and General Heth was most impressed with it. He mentioned you in his report to General Lee, who's given you new orders."
Creighton waited expectantly.
"You've been transferred to command of a battalion in Barksdale's brigade, and promoted to Major. Congratulations."
Creighton dazedly shook Markson's hand and was then ordered to get a new uniform jacket before heading over to his new assignment. In less than two hours, he had his new jacket, and he'd reported to General Barksdale, who was quite pleased to have another Mississippian in his command.
He was sitting on his cot in his new tent when he heard a voice outside.
"Permission to enter, sir?"
Creighton gave permission as he rose from his cot, turning and setting up his few personal possessions on the small table he'd been given: his personal Bible, and a folding picture frame containing a picture of his late mother on one side and the 23rd Psalm in her own handwriting on the other. His framed picture of Sally he always kept over his heart, no matter what.
The voice he heard next made him grin with relish, knowing a situation from his past had now been reversed.
"Corporal Walter Branche, sir...battalion runner."
"Pleasure to see you again, Corporal," Creighton replied, laughing inwardly when he sensed Branche's confusion. He turned to face his old adversary.
"Major Jake Creighton, your new Commanding Officer."
Branche's expression darkened considerably at the sight of Creighton.
"Yes, sir," he replied stonily, fixing his gaze straight ahead.
"And how is Sally?" Creighton asked, and Branche smirked conceitedly.
"Very well, sir...we plan to marry the next time I manage to make it home. I'll admit she was somewhat unsure at first, but I managed to convince her marrying me was the best choice for her."
Fire blazed in Creighton's eyes as he thought of how Branche might have 'convinced' Sally, but his murderous train of thought was halted when Branche continued to speak.
"I'd be on my way home right now had that damn fool Heth not stumbled into the Yankee Army today."
Creighton's murderous train got going again as he got in Branche's face.
"You listen here, Corporal," he snarled, stressing Branche's junior rank, "you're referring to a superior officer, so I'd best hear you showing him the respect his rank deserves, do you understand me?"
Branche appeared to pout like a petulant child at Creighton dressing him down.
"Dismissed," Creighton snapped, and watched as Branche stalked out of the tent. He shook his head sadly once Branche had gone, knowing the Corporal's attitude was something he'd have to deal with sooner or later.
He took off his uniform coat and draped it over the back of a chair, sighing wearily as he sat down on his cot and removed his boots before lying down. He initially thought he'd be much too keyed-up to sleep, but it seemed like the second his head hit the pillow, the excitement of the day caught up with him, and he fell asleep almost immediately.
Up Next: DAY 2: What happens with the situation between Creighton and Branche? And how will our young Major from Corinth fare when he goes in with General Barksdale's brigade?