Headed For the War
My life before everything changed...
July 12, 1862
My name is Blake Shepherd. I am 23 years old. I am from Atlanta, Georgia. I have joined the Confederate Army. Honestly, I don't know how I feel about that. It's pretty much mandatory for any man 16 or older to join the army. Sadly, there are even men younger than 16 fighting in this unnecessary war. My mother practically pushed me out the door to join the Confederate Army. Considering, she wants me to be a man, and possibly find my father and three brothers. She doesn't even know where they are stationed. We ask, but no one knows. Seems like no one knows anything anymore. I come from a big family with lots of plantations, which means we have a large amount of slaves. I have never seen anything wrong with slaves, even though I am a southerner. I could never speak of this to my family because every single one of them seem like they hate slaves. I don't know why. Slaves keep our plantation running, they make us money, clean our house, and I was practically raised by a slave. Lord knows my mother doesn't care about me. I am the youngest boy of 4 boys, with a total of 12 children. My mother always favored my older brothers, and just adores my precious 8 sisters. Since my mother wanted nothing to with me, even when I was an infant, Ms. Jubilee raised me. In private I call her mama. Ms. Jubilee is our most noble slave, who has the privilege of being inside of our home to take care of the house and take care of me. So, I guess I didn't mind leaving for the war to get away from my "mother", but boy do I mind leaving my real mama, Ms. Jubilee. Oh how I miss her! These lonesome summer days have driven me to chastising drills, marches, conditioning, and plain boredom. I wonder if I will ever make it back home to Atlanta, Georgia, to see my mama.
Till we meet again.......
Long Days, Short Nights
August 3, 1862
The long summer days seem to go on forever, and the nights go by in the blink of an eye. I long for the chance to write in this journal. It seems as if much has changed here during the War. My work has increased. I have activities, drills, marches, preparation, and practice all day. Maybe four hours or less of sleep each night. With little sleep, my mood bounces from exhaustion to anger in a split second. Even though I am dreadfully exhausted, the work and activities keep me busy. In the early morning to noon, I clean guns, drill for two hours, march for an hour and a half, and chop down trees for firewood. Oh, and that's not all! In the early afternoon to late at night, I prepare for battle by drilling and marching once again, cook dinner and lunch with the other soldiers, pitch tents, and target practice. So far I have been promoted to Sergeant because I saved my platoon during the Battle of Antietam. A union sniper tried to kill one of my men in my platoon, but I shot him before he could dare touch one of my soldiers. Also, I have secretly given a newspaper an interview with me to describe how I feel about the War. I surely did give the newspaper reporter a good summary of what the War has done. I wish this miserable war would end. That's exactly what I said. Not to mention many gruesome stories. Hopefully these war efforts will stop this war, and our nation will once again be free of war and united as one whole. Some days, the only thing that keeps me alive is thinking about my mama. I dream of her warm peach cobblers and tender cut roasts. I often feel as if I can taste her cooking even this far away from her. I long and hope for the day I reunite with her. I have heard no word about father and my brothers. I have not even gotten a letter. My regiment moves from camp to camp, but still no word of them. I sometimes think maybe they're dead. I hate to think of it, but it's the war and there's nothing anyone can do for that. Maybe they're better off dead, maybe we are all better off dead! I don't know anymore. Is the hunger and exhaustion worse than any broken heart? Only the Lord knows. Well it's time for supper. Hard tacks and root soup for dinner, yum...
Till we meet again......
December 26, 1862
It seems as if our lives have completely changed. Every night I look up at the stars and remember the time when you and I went camping on the old Sherman farm. It was a father - son trip. The night was so calm, peaceful. Only the light of the stars and moon were our pathway to see. I compare that to our lives now. It seems as even today, I still look up to the stars to guide me through these hard times. There hasn't been a letter from you yet. I truly hope you are not dead, but would it be better than this war? I surely do not know. Although, I haven't received a letter from you or brothers, I have heard word of the last battle you were seen in. Apparently, you were seen during the Battle of Fredericksburg. I was also there. I sit and ponder what if I had seen you? What if we could have stayed together? I hope we meet up soon because there are days I feel that I should desert. Father oh father, when will this war be over? When will I be united with you? I can only hope, and that is just what I have to do.
Till we meet again.....
April 14, 1863
It feels as if I haven't written in an eternity. War life has been busy. Battle after battle, which never ends. It seems that this war will never end, and it will just keep killing soldier after soldier. It is crazy to think there are brothers fighting against brothers, wives losing their husbands, children losing their fathers, and soldiers losing them self. Although it is busy every day in this dreadful war, there is never an exciting job or action. Same old life, officers, but different soldiers because they are all dying around me. I am surprised I am not dead yet. Since I have a higher ranking now, due to my heroic efforts on the battlefield and home front, I have "some" different chores and expectations. In the early morning to early afternoon I have to steal crops from southern plantations, find housing/shelter in southern homes by going around and knocking on doors, I lead the privates in drill instead of me doing the drill, and I condition the privates by making them run and do push ups. In the afternoon to late evening I hunt for game with other soldiers, dig graves for fallen soldiers, lead the regiment in a meeting about our game plan for the preceding battle, and I lead the army in church by preaching from the bible. I have used my skill of organization to create a strategic plan to attack the Union. My skill allowed us to win the Battle of Chancellorsville! Also, I have discovered a new herb to heal infected wounds, which has saved many soldiers lives. I have found a new root that satisfies a hungry stomach, which has led our soldiers to victory because they can concentrate on the battle instead of their hunger. So as these days drift by, I will continue on...
Till we meet again......
May 11, 1865
For I have longed to write you for many years now. I only hope you are still alive to read this letter I am writing to you. I have been stationed at a camp and battle field in Charleston, South Carolina for three years now. I have had the privilege of not moving around from station to station, but it has separated me from you and your brothers. Son, I am so deeply saddened to report that all three of your brothers died during the Battle of Shiloh. Even though the boys didn't last long, they were together when they drifted to the heavens and fought hard. I know your brother Daniel saved 300 people by getting them to an escape route. Also, your brother Simon was a General at the Battle of Shiloh, and died with his men. And your brother Samuel died after saving 13 children from a burning Union home. Don't give up son! I know you will fight through this war. I just know. Please fight your hardest and never give up. You have to get back home to take care of our family. Fight for them, fight for me, no, fight for you! I also need to tell you that I have a disease that has affected my health greatly. The doctor doesn't know what it is exactly, but he knows I don't have much longer. I'll be fine, so don't worry about me! You keep fighting because I will too. Don't miss me too much. Take care of your mother and sisters for me, and give them a kiss for me. I am so proud of you son. I love you, always.
Till we meet again......
How can this be? A life without a father, brothers! I should die too. At least we would be free from this war in the heavens. No, no, father told me to fight. I have to take care of my family back home. I am going to win this war, for you father! Oh father, I truly do love you.
That next day..
May 13, 1865
I fought like I have never fought before in my entire 3 years of this war. At this point, I don't care that the Confederate Army has lost because in reality no one wins a war. I wanted to win this war for father, but I know he would be proud of me for trying my best. Hopefully, the slaves will now be free. Hopefully, this country will once again be united as one. Plus, I'm coming home...
Oh, I am coming home!
2 weeks later...
May 27, 1865
Mama comes crying down the driveway to greet me with a big kiss on the cheek and a bear hug. I fall into her arms taking in her sweet scent. I have never missed anyone so much I say. I love you Mama. Later, my sisters and "mother" greet me with a kiss and hug, but have worry in their eyes as to what I have to say. I tell them about father, Daniel, Simon, and Samuel. They cry hysterically, but soon relish in the fact that I am alive. For once it seems as if they care about me, for real. How can this be? Has war also changed my family? I hand my mother the letter. All she does is wrap it tight around her heart and sob into my shoulder. I let her because I am sad too. Everything is alright, I know that. I have my mama, and my father and brothers' spirits with me. I'll make it.
August 30, 1865
It feels good to be at home. It feels like a part of our house is missing with brothers and father gone. Every night I sleep in father's white cotton shirt. I still look up to the stars to guide me through this life. The war has not only destroyed families, but the entire South. Thankfully our southern home wasn't destroyed by the Union's rampage. My mama and I are with each other every day. I plan to buy her a house and move to what ever state she would like. Life in the War will never be forgotten, but it is certainly worth leaving.
It has been a few months since President Abraham Lincoln died. Everyone in the South despised him because they thought he just wanted to rid of the south because they believed in slavery. I don't think that was his intention at all. Our president wanted to restore this country back as we once were. I agree with him. He wanted to free the slaves, which I am in favor of. I have always wanted the slaves on our plantations free of slavery. I have always wanted my mama free from slavery. Abraham has given us hope. He has given hope to the slaves and to the entire nation. His assassination deeply saddens me. He was a great man and a great president. He lead this country to the end of the war. Mama says Lincoln was a good man. Mother hates him. Of course my sisters hate him too. I know the view point of Lincoln is different in our house, but he deserves our respect. A coward shot our beloved president. And that person deserves to die! His fate will be decided by God when he passes.
Mother grieves every day for father and her precious sons. We all do. Days go by and life seems to fade away. I'm ready to start my life as a man, not a soldier.
Today is father's day... we all put candles in the windows in honor of our father. We pray and sit down for supper. Out of the corner of my eye, I see my ill father pacing down the driveway. He's alive! How can this be? Oh, thank you god! I'll tell ya, mother has never ran so fast in her life to greet anyone, but this was definitely a special occasion.
We're home! Oh, lord, we are both home!
So, we meet again.....