Reclamation of Number 21
Fiction by Charles
Just prior to the end of the civil war, there were nearly 6000 men who were not accounted for but assumed to be alive. Under truce, a secret meeting between Lee and Grant was held on no mans land, in the spring of 65. A commission was established between the two men, made up of 6 lieutenants from each side. They were to determine if the awols were able and fit. If they were flagrant in their responsibility, and if so, determine the best way to reclaim their dignity for them. Out of the 6000 they identified 3400. Of these approximately 2500 were, in the opinion of the commission, acting with the good of their families foremost, who were already in destitution and near starvation. All charges were dropped leaving them free men. Of these, almost 600 were so taken aback by the fairness and generosity of the generals, they left their families, going back into their respective units and it was estimated that 400 died in battle. Approximately 1000 were found to be lacking in integrity and the following sentence was carried out on them.
They could as a first choice face a firing squad. As a second choice they could go back into battle with false id. They would be held in chains until the appointed time, which was when the LTs in charge decided the fighting would be fierce enough that the prisoners could not logically survive. At that time they would be delivered to the battle lines of the North or the South with no thought given to their original allegiance. Regardless of the decision made, from the time they were asked to decide, they were no longer an identifiable person. They were no longer white black or otherwise. They gave up their rights as human beings. The only thing they had left in this life was how they died and their relationship with their God. That evening one of the prisoners managed to get a knife embedded in the hot cooking coals. He was found stripped naked on the field of battle two weeks later. Across
his chest was a scar which read:
They say I am number 21
My life on this earth done
I have lost the right to live
Nothing greater can I give
Dedicated to Him alone, above
I pledge my life, My troth, my love.
This notation found after the war recorded in the diary of Lt. Jeofrey Cook, 3 battalion, 6 nfantry, Confederate army. US of A. The diary heavily stained and smeared, I like to think, by his tears.
© Charles Henderson
June 1, 2011
Copyright © Charles Henderson | Year Posted 2019
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