A Teenager's First Attempt at Historical Fiction
I was digging through some of my old papers this afternoon when I came across something I thought I would share. This is probably one of the earliest examples of my very first attempts at creative writing. Oddly enough, it isn’t completely fictional. Let me set the scene for you.
It is 1985, and I am in high school. One of my courses that year was American History, which was taught by Mr. Moore. One of our assignments, which was due on September 25th, was a paper. I can’t remember the exact assignment, but I do have the results of my efforts for it. I wrote a five page report on the battle of Gettysburg from the American Civil War. What was unique about this report was the fact that I attempted to fictionalize the facts of the battle. Instead of simply stating facts, I decided to incorporate characters and dialogue into my report. It was a risky thing to try considering that I did not know how Mr. Moore would take such a radical approach. So here, for the first time, is my high school history report, with all of the spelling and grammatical errors in tact.
The Battle of Gettysburg
The battle of Gettysburg is called the turning point of the Civil War. The battle last from July 1 to July 3. The following story is a slight dramatization of the battle. The main characters are fictional (or so I hope). The generals named in this story were real people. The battles that take place were also real. So sit back and enjoy the story.
The main characters in this story are fictional. All of the battle plans that are mentioned are true.
The year was 1863. It was the morning of July 1 and the town of Gettysburg lay asleep in the silence. as the sun rises the silence is broken by the sound of marching. Down the road just outside of town came a line of confederate troops. They marched into town and the order was given for them to break the ranks. The soldiers bike ranks and walked off in different direction. One soldier in particular headed off looking for some new boots to replace his worn-out pair. This soldier was James Fairbanks. Born and raised in Virginia, James had just turned 18 and decided to join the Confederate army. Gettysburg will turn out to be his first really taste of war.
On the other side of town was a troop of Union soldiers. A small part of the 10,000 Union troops sent to the area around Gettysburg to intercept Lee’s troops. These men were sent into town to make sure the Confederates hadn’t taken Gettysburg. At the back of the line was Joseph Bain. Beng born in the backwoods of Pennsylvania, he knew this area quite well. His troop marched on through the streets of Gettysburg.
James was staring into a shop window when he heard the gunshots. as he ran in the direction of the noise he was met by several more men from his troop. As they reached their destination they could see Confederate troops engaged in a fight with Union troops. James and his comrades joined their fellow soldiers in the fight. This engagement slowly and painfully of moved just outside of the town.
Joseph saw more Confederate troops come up behind the ones his troop was fighting.
“Their popping up everywhere!” said Joseph to his good friend Jonathan Rhoads.
“I know!” said Jonathan as he fired his musket.
On the Confedrates’ side.
“So this is what fighting is all about, eh?” said James as he fired his musket.
“Look I got one!” he shouted as a Union soldier fell over dead.
“Don’t get cocky kid.” said a soldier next to him.
James reloaded his gun and fired again.
During the first day, the fighting extended to the north and west sides of the town proper. Near the end of the day, the Union troops were forced to retreat back through town and sup a ridge where the town cemetery was. This ridge, now called Cemetery Ridge, became the main front for the Union forces. Lee moved his troops to a ridge running almost parallel to Cemetery Ridge, known locally as Seminary Ridge.
That night, Joseph sat around the campfire with some of his buddies.
“I think we should have stayed and fought. Retreating like that makes us look like cowards.” said Joseph.
“You don’t understand, do you? We were out numbered 10 to 1. If we stayed there we wouldn’t be alive to be talking about it now.” said Jack Hanson, one of Joseph’s new friends.
“Well, I think we should turn in . We’re going to need all the rest we can get.” sad Jonathan.
On Seminiary Ridge, James was also sitting around the campfire, but he wasn’t thinking of the victory of the day, he was thinking of something more important.
“Ya know, if we can’t stop them damn yanks, they could march right on down and kill our families.” he said to Jefferson Robertson, James’ long time friend.
“If any of them yanks touch my wife and kids, I kill ‘em.” replied Jefferson.
At that moment, Thomas Jamison, another of James friends, came up to the campfire.
“Hey! I just heard that ‘ol General Lee is going to have us charge that there hill that the yanks are on.”
“That’ll be suicide. We could all die if we do that.” said Jefferson.
“Yeah, we could all die.” thought James.
In the morning of July 2, General Meade arrived at Gettysburg and took charge of the Union forces. By approximately 9:00 am, he had all but on corps in position on Cemetery Hill. by this time the Union forces had grown to 90,000 men, including infantry, artillery, and a cavalry force of 12,000 commended by Gen. Alfred Pleasonton.
Small skirmishes began in the morning, but the real fighting didn’t start until about 4:00 pm.
A confederate sergeant came up James and several others and told them that they were going to join in an attack on the Union forces. James and other confederates charged an expostion Union left, a peach orchard. James ran to a nearby peach tree and aimed his musket. He pulled the trigger and then began to reload his gun.
Union soldiers ran to their positions when they saw the Confederates’ attack. Joseph grabbed his musket and took a position behind a rock. He fired at a Confederate who was behind a peach tree reloading his gun, but missed.
James ducked as a bullet ricocheted off the tree he was behind.
“These bullets are getting too close for comfort!” he shouted to Jefferson who was standing behind a tree a few yards away. The only answer James received was a shout of pain. James watched as Jefferson fell to the ground with a bullet hole in his head. James stared at the body for a moment then aimed his musket at the Union troops. It became hard for him to aim because of the tears in his eyes. the commander of this attack, Gen. Longstreet, drew his sword and signaled for his troops to charge. With bayonets on their guns, the Confederates charged up the Union lines.
Joseph fired his musket but didn’t have time to reload, so he used it as a club. He swung the gun and knocked a Confederate off his feet.
James ran up and stuck his bayonet into a Union soldier’s stomach. When he pulled it out of the soldier, James realized what he had done.
“I killed him!” said James.
“That’s the whole idea!” said a fellow Confederate who was nearby.
James became extremely confused. “Why were we killing other human beings jut over the issue of slavery? Was slavery a big enough reason to kill each other over?” thought James.
He didn’t have time to ponder on this thought for very long because a Union Soldier came up and hit James with his gun.
Joseph had just hit a Confederate soldier with his gun when the Union troops got he command to retreat. Joseph ran and leaped over dead bodies of his comrades and enemies. the Union troops retreated to a place of safety. Fighting would continued all over the Union front until darkness.
James opened his eyes and looked around. He was lying on the ground at the same spot that he had fallen. As he sat up, two of his fellow soldiers came over to him.
“Hey James! We thought you were dead.” said Thomas Worthington.
“yeah! You must have been hit by one of them damn yanks.” said George Cutterson.
James got up and slowly walked over to the campfire.
That night, Lee decided that he would have to charge the Union lines if he was to win this battle.
The next morning, fighting began again until about noon. The fighting quieted down. Very little action was visible. At about 1:00, The Confederate artillery bombarded the Union lines. Union artillery returned the bombardment. There were 135 guns on the Confederate lines and 85 on the Union side. After twenty minutes of the hellish bombardment, the Confederate ammunition was starting to run low. Finally, a Confederate gunnery officer scribbled a note for Gen. George Pickett, the divisional commander detailed to lead the charge, saying: “For God’s sake, come quick…Come quick or my ammunition will not let me support you properly.”
When Gen. Pickett read the note he turned to Gen. Longstreet and asked, “General, shall I advance?”
After a long pause, Longstreet shoke his head.
“I am going to move forward sir.” said Pickett.
Out of the woods that lined Seminary Ridge came 15,000 Confederate soldiers. Somewhere among them was James.
“I don’t believe it, they’re charing.” said Joseph.
“This proves how dumb those rebels can be.” said Jonathan.
“I admire them slightly.” said Joseph.
“What do mean?” asked Jonathan.
“Look at the courage they have. Their walking right into death and yet none of them is turning back.” replied Joseph.
“That’s not courage. That’s stupidity.” said Jonathan.
Their conversation ended when they were given the command to fire. Union artillery and guns fired at the Confederate charge. yet the brave Confederates continued to charge towards Cemetery Ridge.
As the Confederates reached the top of Cemetery Ridge, the brave Confederate Gen. Lewis A. Armistead, whose horse was killed under him, yelled, “Follow me!”
With his sword held high, Armistead lead his troops over the Union lines. All up and down Cemetery Ridge, a bloody battle began as the Confederates charged into the Union soldiers.
Joseph fired his musket and then reloaded it. As he raised it up to fire, Gen. Armistead grabbed the end of the gun and shouted:
“Surrender or you shall die.”
Joseph pulled the trigger and the general fell to the ground, dead. As Joseph began to reload his gun, he heard footsteps and he looked up to find himself staring down the barrel of a Confederate musket.
James had the Union soldier cornered. He pulld back the hammer on his gun and took aim.
Joseph dropped his gun. He knew he had no use for it anymore.
James pulled the trigger on his gun.
Joseph fell to the ground with abullet hole in his forehead.
James began to reload his gun. Over all of the gunfire, he heard one musket fire tthe loudest and he heard someone scream. The he realized that it was him who was screaming. James fell to the ground. Jonathan stared at James and then Joseph. After a moment he turn and returned to the battle when had moved further up the hill.
The fighting continued on through the rest of the day. At first it seemed that the Confederates would win, but because of the thickening masses on Union troops. The Confederate troops were forced back down the hill and back to Seminary Ridge. From there, Lee lead his troops back to the Potomac River.
The battle of Gettysburg is known as the using point of the war. Estimates of the Confederate losses stad at 3,903 killed, 18,735 wounded, and 5,425 missing, a total of 28,063, a reasonable figure considering that Lee was the attacker. Meade’s army lost 3,155 killed, 14, 529 wounded, and 5, 365 missing, a total of 23, 049.
Meade had the chance to follow and destroy Lee’s army, but didn’t. Lincoln said in reply to this: “We had then in our grasp. We had only to stretch forth our hands and they were ours. And nothing I could say or do could make the army move.”
So what did my History teacher think of this unusual report?
Here are his comments:
- Rather Unique
- Quite Interesting
Next time - warn the reader of the shifts from army to army.
And the grade he gave me? A
Thanks Mr. Moore!