The Last Tattoo

From Chapter 4

Listening long for voices
that never will speak again, hearing the hoofbeats
come and go and fade without a stop …

Donald Davidson
Said of General Lee after the War


The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo;
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.

From Bivouac of the Dead
Theodore O’Hara

Joab spent the night on the bank of the Tennessee River, rose with the first light of day, rolled his blanket, and rode up the hill in knee deep grass to Shiloh. The rain had stopped and the early sun cast cheerful rays through hundreds of live oak trees whose fresh green leaves glistened with every drop that clung for moments and then dropped to the acorn-covered ground.

He was seeing the beautiful state of Tennessee for the first time. If not for the sickening thought of blood and treasure strewn across the hills of Shiloh, it would have been different. 

The Bloody Pond, Shiloh
He rode slowly through the woods, past the Bloody Pond, its banks slightly overflowing from the rain. It was just that—a pond, not a very big one. In fact, he was surprised. And there was no blood, of course, only a thick layer of fog that would soon burn off with the morning sun. He closed his eyes and tried to visualize the South that April morning six years ago. Its men in tattered gray and butternut brown screaming, groping their way to the water’s edge and falling into the cool liquid to soothe their burning bodies riddled from cannon fire, rifle shot, and Miníe balls. The water had turned brilliant red as men and horses bled to death. What hell this war had been!

He removed his hat, bowed his head and paid his respects to the brave southern soldiers who had fought fearlessly. It was the closest Joab would ever get to the war. He needed to relive the day, wanted to walk where General Albert Sidney Johnston walked, stand on the spot where he died, wade out into the now infamous Bloody Pond and ride across the Peach Orchard, where the trees drooped from the weight of their blossoms, pink and white.

There was nothing left of Shiloh Church, for it had not withstood the war. Joab thought maybe its people would build it back someday. Or maybe those who once worshipped there would not be able to do so again. Shiloh would never be the same. It would forevermore be a burial ground. Up the hill and near the front entrance of the battleground were thousands of grave markers, mostly for Union soldiers. Tennessee was a southern state, a secession state, yet the men in blue were given the grave sites on the hillsides. The South’s men were buried together in several long narrow trenches with scarcely a marker.

Matters not, he thought. God knows where they are, and they will come forth at the Resurrection. A calmness overwhelmed Joab at the thought of it, a strong measure of strength now belonging to him. He rode up on the bluff, and standing in the middle of Shiloh ground viewed the landing below, dismounted, and he recalled the full account as it had been passed down to every young Confederate—

Jane Bennett Gaddy, Ph.D.
Trinity, Florida

Excerpts from JOAB
Scheduled for publication Fall, 2012


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