Saturday, February 05, 2005


One hundred thirty-nine years ago…

In April, 1865, as Richmond fell,
Lee fled west toward truce at Appomattox .
He surrendered to Grant with the dignity, they tell,
of a gentleman, and each Johnny Reb who survived the fight
was allowed to keep his gun, his sword, his life.

Now, near my home, not a half-mile from this chair,
stands a replica of the site,
where Johnston met Sherman . There,
in the middle of old Hillsborough Road,
defying orders, they chose to end a wretched fight.

One hundred thirty-nine years ago…

In January, 1865, my father’s great-grandfather,
wearing Confederate gray was defending Fort Fisher .
This sandy spit, where we casually walk collecting seashells today,
was the guardian fort of the city of Wilmington ,
the last open port of the Confederacy.

One cold dawn, the sun revealed, offshore,
a fleet of Union ships and cannon balls falling by the score.
When Fort Fisher fell, Micajah was taken,
like so many others who wore gray. By the end of the day
these poor countrymen were herded onto vessels.

One hundred thirty-nine years ago…

Missing their farms, the food that their wives could glean,
and the smiles of their children, they were
bound for Union ports, for lands unseen, then railroads and prisons:
Elmira for some, Point Lookout for others
to conditions not much better than sties.

For many, this meant death from bitterly cold, clear skies
or dysentery, but Micajah…was a lucky man.
A brief month later, Micajah was told
that he was going home. He boarded a train,
headed east from Elmira, with others, anticipating home.

One hundred thirty-nine years ago…

As the train came upon New York City,
Micajah saw the strength of those he had fought
and knew that his fight for home and country
had all been for nought.
This sad, defeated man boarded a ship for Virginia.

North of the James River, Micajah was exchanged,
traded for a Union man, a similar fellow in Yankee Blue
anxious, no doubt to see his family too.
They traded glances as each walked past the other
Not a thought that each man could be one’s brother.

One hundred thirty-nine years ago…

Only a hundred miles from sweet Carolina,
Micajah, dreaming of biscuits, fatback and peas,
was loaded aboard a raft to cross the James, water dark like teas,
the last large obstacle before a long walk home,
to wife, kids and an obedient yellow dog.

Mid-way across, amid the flowing eddies, someone jostled,
another bumped and poor Micajah, into the waters,
fell like a cannon ball and sank out of view.
He could not swim. Never needed to. Didn’t expect
that he would ever be in water so deep.

One hundred thirty-nine years ago…

Micajah lost his life in a tragedy, so close to home
so close to safety, that he could nearly smell
the sweet honeysuckle from his yard.
He could almost feel the warmth of his wife’s embrace
and dreamt how he would tell of his great luck in this wretched war.

Micajah was forty years old when they covered him with earth
in Petersburg , in Virginia, so close to Carolina, his land of birth.
He was forced to wander in quixotic quest for a cause so lost,
a cause that was, at best, questionable, at worst fraught
with guilt, damnation and the souls of millions.

One hundred thirty-nine years ago….

(Copyright 2004 by Ron Hudson - All Rights Reserved - No reproduction without express permission from the author.)



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