‘What do ya think o’ that Schaeffer?’ asked Peterson, sprawled out over the dry grass, his beige jacket laid over his chest.
‘All I know is that it ain’t got nothing to do with me, this whole black folk thing’ the gruff private muttered.
‘Aye, an i don’t think it has much to do with old Lincoln either’ added Vincken, shuffling his back up against the gnarled bark.
‘True, now, an don’t get me wrong ere’, I don’t hold no problems against any peoples’ remarked Peterson, stuffing tobacco into his father’s hand carved pipe.
‘Well, that’s agreed’ Vincken added lazily.
‘What I have a problem with is them in the North, with their fine and dandy lives trying to go about and tell us what we can and cannot do, I think that’s the issue’ Peterson said, shuffling in his coat for a misplaced match.
‘How about you, Cap’n, what are you fighting for?’ Vincken called over to the officer sharing Peterson’s tobacco.
‘Well, I’m not fighting for slavery or nothing like that, I don’t have me much land and I farm it myself just fine. No I’m fighting because I have to, because some rich folk in Rhode Island, some factory owner in Maine, some diplomat in Washington is trying to run our country. If men like us don’t stand up to the aggressors then who will, I’ll die for my country, my Virginia.’ The former school teacher was stirred with passion.
The other three men grunted their agreement. Schaeffer turned to the fifth, the boy on his left.
‘You’re quiet Hicks, what are you thinking of sonny?’
Hicks gazed up into the sky; the night was perfectly bright even in the absence of camp fires. He didn’t care much for talk of politics. The way he saw it, the only thing to focus on was oneself, the wider scope of the conflict didn’t concern him, couldn’t concern him.
‘My ma, she can see them stars back home, she’s probably sitting out on the porch right now with Mary and little Albert. That’s what I’m fighting for, to get these damn Yankees to let us go home and stop bothering us’
The men all fell silent. More than anything they had said, every last one of them wanted to be back in Norfolk, back in Richmond, back in Chesapeake.
The sound of hooves approached as a young officer rode through the camp.
‘Captain Shawcross, captain?’ cried the adjutant.
‘Aye, here’, replied the captain, patting Peterson’s chest as way of thanks for the smoke.
‘Captain Sir, I bring word from General Pickett. The good general has received word from General Lee’ he said, dismounting.
‘Ah, what is the command of the old fox?’ the captain stood up and shook the lieutenant’s leather-bound hand.
‘General Lee is a few days north of here sir, he has urged the General to push forward post post-haste and join up with the main body. We move at first light ‘
‘Why such haste lieutenant?’
‘The enemy has been sighted sir, we believe Meade has taken command, General Lee intends to meet him on good ground, a small town’
‘Will the good General Pickett allow me the name of the town?’
‘Ay sir, Gettysburg’