"Never, Forever:" A #GreyDawn #microfiction thread. #lesfic #amwriting #civilwar

In which the last survivor of Buford's division, timeslipped to the 21st century, returns to that hallowed ground.
12 September 2021
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Where can I even begin, to do justice to the feelings that well in my heart on being on this hallowed ground? How can I even express what it means-- will I ever be heard, if I even essay to do so?
In a sense, I suppose it is moot to ponder such things. After all, I've come here to speak to a gathering at one of the liveliest bookstores in town, to discuss my memoir, and to share reminiscences of this and the rest of my war for abolition and union.
Some heard me. Others have hardened their ears and their hearts, having preordained what they believe I've said about the Rebellion, rather than what actually transpired.

Though it was over a sequicentury ago, it remains as current as ever, and I fear that some have not learned.
Some of those who come closest to understanding are the veterans of my wife's generation: the ones who've been to hell and back themselves, have "seen the elephant" and had their fill.

But even they cannot know what it was, to stand here with carbine and sword in hand.
It is said that Gettysburg is haunted, and I believe it. But it is a different manner of spirit that haunts me here, than that which beckons to the children of the 20th and 21st centuries that come here to ponder and to dream.
The silence, in this hallowed field, is so very loud...
Were it not for my wife's steady presence beside me, I am not certain I could be here. She may not understand wholly, but she has seen plenty of her own wars in this strange time, and know the meaning, the gravity of places like these.
That night, after an early dinner, we walked out from the College's verdant grounds, following the Mummasburg Road out into the fields. We said little. What as there to say? From time to time, cars passed, until they grew more infrequent, out past the trees.
The monument-- our monument-- is unassuming. The bas-relief is magnificent, yes, but for the most part, it's but a slab of stone, sitting facing downhill, just as we had on that July morning.
Leigh's hand, fingers entwined with my own, grounded me. But as we grew closer, it was as though I came unmoored in the world around me, and could again see the terrible things we of First Cavalry had endured, as we waited for Reynolds and his men to hurry north to our aid.
We gave as good as we got, all morning long till Reynolds arrived and lengthened our lines, but by then the Rebels had come crashing upon us and we had no choice but to mount a fighting withdrawal, south to the ridge where Meade's armies had begun to coalesce.
"Chloë. Hey, babe. I'm here. You with me?"

We were there, and Leigh had turned to look to me with quiet concern. This close, she towers over me, and I love it. It makes me feel safe.

And yet, what this time calls PTSD- which we called "nostalgia"- is a quiet, insidious monster.
I squeezed back against her hand, still closed around mine, and tried to take a few deep, steadying breaths before I spoke.

"I'm here, wife mine. I'm here."
The monument-- the most notable tribute to the service of 17th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry in the War of Rebellion-- is not visited as often as the Angle or other places in the field. But perhaps that was for the best. We could have our peace and quiet.
This is not the first time I visit it. No, the first time was under far more difficult circumstances, back at the beginning, when things between Leigh and myself seemed to fall apart entirely.
Gettysburg had witnessed a turning point in our relationship, too. And for that reason, also, it was important to us both.

We're the same, and yet, so very different now, six years since a twist of fate threw us together.
The shadows over the deathless field lengthened. I nestled closer to Leigh, for warmth as much as for steadiness.

Because my god, that field, empty though it is, is so *loud.*
"September 12, 2026," I muttered. "We're now--what, 136 years and a day since the dedication?"

"Sounds about right," Leigh concurred. "They're well cared for, but that notwithstanding, they built these to *last."*
I led the way in a lazy half-circle around the monument, to its face, my back to the rolling slope from whence Heth's men had marched to meet us. Aside from the occasional crow in the distance, there was little but the chirr of crickets tonight.
Slipping a hand into the voluminous pocket of my ACU trousers, I retrieved and unlocked my phone-- so fluid a motion for what had been so alien a concept, not so long ago-- and pulled up the old photo I have pondered since I first saw it.
They were old men, when the photographer set up his camera roughly where my wife and I now stood. They'd grown old and gray, those men I'd known as young men, once upon a time when I'd drank from the same canteen and shared the same bivouac.
Switching to another image, this one a facsimile of regimental records, I straightened up, gathered myself in the presence of what felt like some invisible host.
"Company F! Sound off for roll call! Lee. Sponsler. Tate. Beidler. Lee. Paul. Green. Tate. Severs. Fisher. Dull. Hutchison. Frownfelter. Creamer. Walker. Soper. Macbeth. Luper. Hollinger. Smith. McBride. Zeigler. Gill. Deitch. Trego. Simmons. Yoder..."
One after another, I read the names, all of them, as the shadows lengthened around us. And then at the end, at long last:

"Chloë Parker Logan...Present."
I pocketed the phone. The air seemed to be turning to chill.

"Leigh."

"I'm here."

And then she was there-- close again, tall and strong and steady and warm, beside me.

"Thank God for that," I sighed.
"No place I'd rather be, babe. You know that."

She swept me into her arms, and for a long time, we stood there, in those deathless fields: Buford's last trooper and the erstwhile 10th Mountain Division soldier, united despite time and distance.
At last, she took my hand and led the way back into the town, to the lights and little cafes and souvenir shops that were modern Gettysburg.

"It's loud, out here," I remarked, gesturing over my shoulder as we left the monument behind.
"Lucky for you," she smiled, "you don't have to face it alone."

Perhaps I am understood after all.

/thread
NOTE-- one point of errata, date with which the thread led off is incorrect-- it should be September 12, 2026. 7 years after her arrival, 6 years since she and Leigh became a couple.
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