A/N: This is one of them. Jasper Whitlock is the intellectual property of S. Meyer, and is likely copyrighted. No infringement is intended. I'm just playing with history. All other characters are either known Civil War leaders or figments of my overactive imagination. While I recognize my own limited knowledge of both historical events and Twilight, this is my attempt to increase the historical elements and accuracy in fanficdom. Special thanks to WuogKat (prereader) and MaleficentKnits (beta).
April 6, 1862
He ran as fast as he could. It was as though he hoped to outrun the musket balls being fired at him. The young corporal was racing through the forest after he had gotten separated from his regiment, and now he was running for his life through the trees as a small gang of Union soldiers fired volleys after him. He could hear the balls pierce the air. They whizzed near him, but none hit their intended target.
His sole concern was refuge… which he saw another 30 feet away.
Another ball whizzed by.
Two more balls.
Phwwwww went yet another ball.
Corporal Sumner dove over the fallen tree. Gasping for air, he listened for more projectiles, hearing nothing but silence.
"They've given up," he muttered in between his gasps for more air.
"Nonsense," someone said, calmly and in a deep Texas drawl.
Sumner looked over to see a toeheaded, young man in an officer's uniform, but about his age, seeking refuge behind the same tree no more than ten feet away.
"They're reloading. Give 'em another 15 seconds if you don't believe me," he said. His calm was almost as disturbing as the enemy fire.
"Now that's total buncombe. One Confederate isn't worth this much trouble." The corporal was right in principle, but was blissfully unaware that this was not an organized attack, but a small rogue element of Lew Wallace's "Lost Division" that accidentally arrived behind Confederate lines.
"Then stick your head up," he paused, "in another 7 seconds. 6… 5… 4… 3…" The blonde haired stranger never looked away (did he blink?) as he counted, but slowly bobbed his head as he said each number.
As the count would have hit one, came the all-too familiar sound of musket fire. Within moments there where balls flying within inches of their heads. Then there was a new sound. It was a deep thump, the unmistakable sound of flesh being ripped by a ball. Sumner was so scared he thought the he had been wounded, before finally realizing that the shot itself had landed in the pulp of the tree behind which he was hiding. He never knew how similar those two sounds were…
"Now that's good to know," said the stranger, counting the blasts. "There's only five who followed you."
"Does it matter! They'll kill us soon enough."
"Why's that?" he smiled. "They have to reload."
In that moment, the stranger jumped up scaled the log and, seemingly from nowhere, procured a revolver. In one fell swoop, he glided to his left as he leapt over the tree, and unleashed five, perfectly placed shots; one into each of their attackers. He watched for a moment to confirm that his aim was true before returning to his new colleague, who was still cowering.
"Now what in the hell were you doing bringing them to me?" the stranger asked as he offered his hand to assist the young man up.
"I didn't even know you were there… sir," stammered Sumner refusing the hand, not wanting to get up. "I just got lost and they found me."
"Well, all you succeeded in doing is drawing both their attention and fire in my direction. It has delayed my delivery of Beauregard's orders," he pulled an envelope just far enough out of his pocket to reveal the general's seal, "and he will bear a righteous indignation that I did not deliver these to General Hardee in a more timely fashion. It is most fortunate for you, however, that I did not catch you actual name, Corporal 'Lost'."
And with that Major Jasper Whitlock continued onward to complete his duties as assigned.
Jasper Whitlock was a unique officer in a unique position. Although he was a Major in the Texas 2nd Infantry, Whitlock had been detached to serve temporarily in the Army of Tennessee. When Confederate President Jefferson Davis reassigned General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard from Charleston, SC to serve as second in command to Sydney A. Johnston in Tennessee, Beauregard took it upon himself to hire a new personal aide-de-camp.
Upon learning of his new command, The Fighting Creole contacted fellow Louisianan General Paul O. Hébert, who was overseeing Confederate efforts in Galveston. He reasoned that as Texas was not engaged in active battle, Hébert could spare a trustworthy officer to serve under him as adjutant. Hébert looked no further than a native Texan named Whitlock, whom he recognized as one of the premier up-and-coming officers in all of Texas.
With that, Jasper traveled more than 700 miles to his new assignment in southern Tennessee. Beauregard soon learned why Whitlock had been chosen. His ability to connect with the enlisted soldiers was beyond that of any officer he had ever met. He had a rapport that commanded respect and obedience to orders without making his subordinates feel like underlings. However, even more importantly, his sense of honor and duty knew no equal.
It was this very personal trait that required Jasper to dispatch the five misplaced Union soldiers in haste, so that he could complete the task with which he had been assigned.
"Did he push through Sherman's line?" Beauregard asked as soon as Whitlock returned to Shiloh Church.
"No sir," the Texan replied. "However, he did push Sherman's troops all the way back to Pittsburg Landing. The Hornet's Nest has finally been crushed as well, and Wallace's men are backing up as well."
Hmmmm… Beauregard muttered to himself. He stood at a table, pouring over the map in front of him. He adjusted his troop markers to reflect the most recent reports as they came in. It was already getting late into the afternoon, and soon the early spring sun would be setting.
"Sydney's passed," he said with a sigh.
"Excuse me, sir?" Whitlock was taken quite by surprise.
"Johnston was shot during his charge towards the damn Nest earlier," Beauregard spoke matter-of-factly, "his boot filled with his own blood before anyone realized how badly he was wounded. This happened sometime between two and three, but I was only informed this hour."
Jasper was at a loss for words, but never lost his decorum nor failed to stand at complete attention. Although every soldier knows that death is the constant companion of every battle, somehow he never seemed to think that it would happen to the generals, the conductors of the orchestrated battles that occurred with increasing regularity.
"General Beauregard, sir," even though he didn't know exactly what to say, Jasper always seemed to find the right words, "you have been thrust into the forefront. Whether or not you can lead the Army of Tennessee is not the question. If you are concerned for the men… well you need not worry. They all know that you are the hero of Fort Sumter. Your reputation precedes you, and the men will follow."
The general looked up and the right corner of his mouth creaked slightly upward. In most circumstances this would have gone unnoticed, but under the weight of combat, this was the closest to a smile that anyone could hope for.
He stood upright, pulled out his pocket watch, and then looked outside toward the setting sun.
"They are stuck there at the Landing, and they can rot there for all I care." For the first time all day, Beauregard sounded relieved. "It has been a vicious day, and there has been enough blood. Whitlock, pass the word. Call off the attack. Our men need rest. We shall crush them tomorrow."
"Yes sir!" The yellow-haired Texan saluted and darted out to spread the order.
"…and Whitlock," he called almost as an afterthought, "get a condition report from each sergeant."
"… and I want that five minutes ago!" he called as Jasper continued about his business.
As to be expected, Major Whitlock followed his orders as quickly as possible. Generals Hardee, Bragg, Breckenridge, and Polk all called off their attacks as quickly as was prudent. Although it was almost unheard of for a general to accept an unwritten order from a major, they all wanted the day to end. The battle had waged since first light, and the mental fatigue was almost as excruciating as the physical exhaustion.
The troops slowly withdrew and returned to their campsites. For them the first day of the Battle of Shiloh was ending, but for Jasper and the senior officer corps, this meant that the day was only half over.
Whitlock had extended the order for reports, but he knew that it would take some time for the non-commissioned officers to tally up total losses. These reports never seemed accurate on the ground level. Soldiers could be killed in action, while others were injured and unaccounted for on the battlefield. Yet some simply got lost in the fog of war, or perhaps saw the opportunity to flee (which did not happen very often at this stage of the war). Then there were those enlisted men who turned up elsewhere. The fact remains that at the most manageable level there were too many variables, so the numbers were rather closer to guestimates. However, once written down on paper and reported, these educated guesses became cold hard fact.
As the Major worked his rounds, some junior officers took the liberty of sending their own aides to give reports to the General. While it would seem to confuse the works, Beauregard's staff was exceptionally well prepared to assimilate this information.
However, the greatest effect of what this system did is that it allowed Jasper to hear conversations that he might otherwise not have heard. Because their primary enumerative task was completed, the officers would typically start concocting their plans and reconnaissance for the following day's attack, or questioned the strategies employed that day. Eavesdropping on these informal sessions provided adjutants such as Whitlock with more valuable information than the formal reports.
"Buell is moving in," Whitlock overheard outside of one junior general's tent. "I don't know how many forces he has, but it's gonna give Billy Yank at least another 8,000 troops or so."
Outside of another, "Why'd we push those damn Yanks to the river. We shoulda pushed the flanks left and shoved into that gawdforsaken swamp. That way they'd be totally cut off."
He wanted to announce his presence by saying, 'because if we'd've pushed them into 'that gawdforsaken swamp' we'd have Yankees on front and our rear.' Instead, he just held his tongue.
It's easy enough for them to play that game, Whitlock reasoned. All they have to do is follow orders, and raise questions after all is said and done. Making those decisions as fast as reports come in takes a skill that few men possess well.
However, it seemed that once he entered the officers' tents, the second-guessing ceased. It was a natural hazard of his position of adjutant. Once the commanding general's emissary entered, all conversation was sanitized for the official record. However, something was different with Major Whitlock. The shift in conversation was not to hide information, but a result of the sudden shift in atmosphere as he entered the tent. Without knowing why, all of the officers seemed to feel reassured merely by his presence.
Although only a major, if left in a room alone with these men, they would all begin to look for his approval. Jasper's ability to command the attention of those around him was second to none. Perhaps it was his calm demeanor. His presence alone was soothing enough to the many of them that their fears abated their concerns were eased. Perhaps the only exception to this was a rather brash and outspoken Colonel Nathan Bedford Forrest.
"If the enemy comes upon us in the morning," he declared, "we'll be whipped like hell."
Armed with his reports and candid observations, Major Whitlock returned to Shiloh Church to deliver the appropriate information. He hurried as fast as he could, but something unsettling was in the air. He couldn't tell what it was at that moment, but there was something that was out of place after a battle.
He tried to shake off his feelings as he approached the church. Jasper could hear the General before he even got to the door.
"Damn right I want you to quote me! Use those exact words!" He was talking to a captain who was preparing the report to be sent to President Davis. "A COMPLETE VICTORY," he (obviously) repeated in his slow, deliberate, yet distinct Creole accent of his so as not to be misunderstood.
"With all due respect, sir," Jasper started, "is it wise to make such a conclusion before hearing all reports?"
"Whitlock, I've got enough information to declare it the victory that it is," he replied confidently.
"If I may speak more freely, sir…" Jasper trailed off waiting for a response, which he got in the form of a slight nod, as the general motioned the captain off.
"General, I've got some reports from our officers, and two letters here, but I'm hearing some disturbing information being passed around the canteen." He paused; although he had been given permission to speak freely, he knew that he must weigh his words carefully. "Sir, there are reports of General Buell arriving with reinforcements, and he'd have easy access across the landing."
"BUELL?" proclaimed Beauregard, "Buell's no where near here!" He started looking through papers that scattered the table he was using. "He's off for Decatur, Alabama," he held up a piece of paper and looking particularly happy about this news. "Helm just reported that Buell's heading east. I'm not going to waste my time chasing ghosts."
"Of course not sir, but what if it's true? Shouldn't we prepare?"
"There's no need. I've got Grant right where I want him. He's pinned down by the river. Tomorrow, we'll finish this," he said confidently.
"Some of the men, off the record… well… that is to say, I overheard some of the men asking why we didn't just finish them off tonight, before they could get any reinforcements or supplies tonight."
"Whitlock, is this the first time you've seen action?" his voice changed. Although Jasper was worried about offending the General, it seemed to have become more fatherly than annoyed.
"In point of fact, yes sir, it is."
"I've seen it far more than I care to. From as far back as '47 at Contreras in the Mexican War. It's an awful sight." He paused in an almost reminiscent fashion before speaking more quickly, "Grant's barrage of artillery was getting rather formidable there at the end. It's not too much, but more than we could handle after fighting for 12 hours. If I didn't call it off, we would have been cut down like trees before dynamite."
"Sir, my count gives us 20,000 strong available to fight…" he was cut off.
"…And that's more than we would have if we kept pushing Grant. Right now that's more than we need to whip 'em in the morning."
For the first time in their few weeks of working together, Jasper was unsatisfied with their ability to work together. He was truly disappointed with how his boss could simply disregard these concerns. Yet, this was the same P.G.T. Beauregard who had managed to take Fort Sumter without losing a single soldier in battle. Clearly his experience gave him benefit of any doubt. Moreover, the Major knew his place, and it was not over a general.
"So are we prepared for tomorrow?"
"Very nearly. I shall have you deliver orders soon enough," Beauregard replied.
"By your leave if I may, sir." The major was still somewhat frustrated.
"Certainly Whitlock. Get a drink and return within the half hour."
"I am obliged, sir."
Jasper wasted no time extracting himself from that table or from that room. His frustrations with battle were many. There were the many unanswered questions, the second-guessing of junior officers, having to defend each individual decision. Then there was even his concern over the impending telegram to Jefferson Davis declaring total victory.
He needed a few moments to breathe. A few minutes in the air outside were all that he needed, although a walk would help, too. The sun had set and the cool spring night had settled upon the Tennessee countryside. The night was clear and would be chilled by morning. He stepped further into the clearing, away from the church, so that he could enjoy the stars, but he was careful to remain within earshot, in case he was called for.
…and then it hit him. Earshot. That is what was wrong with the after action reports. He could still hear mortars firing occasionally, but that sound was secondary to the main concern he had. He could hear the moaning and wailing of the wounded. It was not just coming from the hospital, or the ambulances. Instead it was coming from everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.
He wanted to identify the source, but as he moved north toward the battlefield, the sounds simply continued getting louder, from all around.
Twenty thousand men, he thought. If we have only twenty thousand men… that means that we have approximately 5,000 men dead, wounded, or missing. Of course, if some of these men are dead, how many are wounded and left wanting for help? If that's the damage to our side, how many more must there be from the Union…
He slowly drew ever closer to the fields. Jasper was once again experiencing something new, something he had never noticed before: compassion. He felt sorry for all those who were suffering. He drew some comfort in knowing that he was not responsible for any of the suffering. Those men that he killed died quickly. At least three died before they even knew what happened. Looking back on it, he was surprised to see how calm and collected he felt there in the thick of the fight. It was standing on the sidelines delivering orders that made him more uncomfortable. The great irony is that it was this highly coveted "safe assignment" that made him feel more out of place than being on the front lines.
Jasper Whitlock was coming to realize that his role as adjutant, although honorable, was not where his natural abilities lie. He finally saw himself for what he is. The world of messages and personal duties took away his talents. Instead he was fulfilling orders rather than being what he was meant to be: a man of action. Little did he know, that his time for taking action would soon arrive.