The air is heavy, hard to breath as I fight to draw it into my lungs. Sweat makes my gray uniform cling to my back and I feel as if I am swimming in an ocean of it for it is everywhere. And that's not the worst of it. Blood seems to coat the ground that I walk upon, almost making me slip in a few places as I stumbled along, my eyes trained on the open field and the officer directly in front of me.
I stand with my back behind a fence, very few have yet to climb over it but we have all stopped and we stare in front of us, deadly fear feeling our hearts and minds. We can see no hope as we have watched those around us be cut up by shells and every other type of gun one can imagine. In truth, I dont know how we can make it, not after watching what we have watched, not after knowing that in almost all the other brigades, they have no General left to lead them.
We all know our duty, every last one of us and even from the start I knew that for many of us it would be the end but seeing it in front of me, is more painful then I dare to try and think about. It's easier to try and separate myself from the feelings but I find that impossible, the feelings are going to be with me wherever I go. There is no way to get away from that.
It feels as though time is standing still as no one is really moving. There is a boy knelt behind the fence right near me and then suddenly I see General Armistead beside me, reaching down with one hand to touch the man's shoulder. "Come on boy, come on. What will you think of yourself tomorrow?"
I don't even really hear his words, I think they most have entered through one ear and out the other because I couldn't have repeated it even if I wanted to. Another officer shouts, "Let's go boys!" But then he is shot, gone like so many other men that have fallen on this field.
My eyes focus on Armistead directly in front of me as he shouts something that yet again seems to go right past me. But then I hear his next words, they are so powerful that they seem to cut right through me, reaching my very heart. "With me! Who will come with me!"
His hand reaches towards his hat as I watch him and before my eyes he stabs it with his sword. I watch him as he turns and starts running towards the trees, the trees that we are aiming for. And then I force my legs to move, push myself into a run after him. Others are following us, I can hear see them alongside me as he follow Armistead, our leader, the man who we all trust to lead us. Because we all know that he is a soldier, a brave soldier who wants to lead us to victory, no matter how hard it might be.
A short wave of hope fills me as I follow him. But it doesn't last for very long. Too many have died already... far too many... Even if we manage to take the stone wall, will it be much of a victory?
Before I know it, we are upon it, and Armistead is before me still, climbing up onto the wall and waving his sword. "The day is ours men! Turn the cannons on them, turn the cannons."
I follow him onto the wall as he jumps down, runs to a cannon and puts one hand on it. Behind me, the rest of the men follow and hand to hand combat seems to break out all around us as some of us head for the cannons, trying to turn them around. It is confusion everywhere I look and I don't really know where to turn for fear that someone will jump on me. It is then I turn just in time to see it.
The bullet cuts through the air and I want to scream out a warning but no sound leaves my dry mouth as I can only watch the bullet sink into Armistead's flesh... my leader, the one who has lead us here. Armistead slumps down against the cannon and I can see the blood on his uniform, feel the panic overwhelm me as I spin around and lock eyes with the one who shot him.
He isn't looking at me but I leap on him, clutch my rifle in my hand, and aim it at his throat. The man looks at me for a moment and I close my eyes, the hatred taking over my senses as I stab him. Even without looking, I know that I have killed him and I turn away quickly, come face to face with another Union Soldier who has his rifle pointed striaght at me.
My heart freezes in my chest as I look at the open barrel staring directly at me. War isn't right, I marvel at that in the brief instant before the man pulls the trigger and I feel the blinding white pain as the bullet enters my chest. I am still alive but I slump down on the ground, near the cannon where Armistead lies.
There is a hand on my shoulder then and though the pain, I crack open my eyes and see Armistead there, also bleeding from his own wound. I stare right at him, barely able to think straight through the pain. Opening my mouth, no sound will come out as I am too weak to move much at all. The bullet is too close to my heart.
"Thank you for all you have done boy, for serving" Armistead says, and although his voice sounds slightly weak, the words enter my heart as my eyes close again.
I have done all that I can do, there is nothing more that anyone can do, and all that I have done will have to be enough. Because now my days are done.