My ears ring from the barrage of cannon and musket shots that bombarded the green hills of Gettysburg in July of 1863. Twelve years old, but tall for my age, I shared music (snare drum) and medic duties for a Union Army regiment. Nimble fingers tapped a sprightly beat through the fog of battle. Those same hands wrung cloths for fevered foreheads or sewed up uneven gashes seared by gunpowder. We swung through victories in Virginia, and circled back into Pennsylvania to witness hell.
Sixty years later, I limp along the hallowed, quiet grounds. Startled by the sight of blood, I realize it is clusters of pink flowers intermixed with red. I wander the Gettysburg pastures in 1923 to commemorate all of the brave soldiers from whom I stole: a locket here, a watch there, and sometimes a book. Frightened and separated from my regiment, I scurried to save myself. I was no saint. I pilfered the pockets of blue and gray uniforms.
Today, I pull a gold chain from a decorative box. The watch on the chain no longer works, but it is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship. I polish it lightly, kiss it, close my eyes, and murmur a blessing before placing it in a small hole I dug earlier.
"Grandmother, why do you look so sad?" my blond, blue-eyed grandson asks as he strolls to my side. "Tell me again how you fooled the Army into letting you join. Did they give you a gun?"
First published: November, 2006
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