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A Civil War Trilogy

William Joseph Grady was born on Friday May 16th. 1845 at his family's farm in Dalton, Georgia, eighty miles or so north of Atlanta and close to the state border with Tennessee.  His parents were William and Martha Grady and young William Joseph, Billy-Joe, was their first child. By the time Billy-Joe was ten years old he had been joined by two brothers and a sister. William senior had taken over the farm from his own late father, Joseph, in 1840 therefore it was already quite well established and easily able to sustain the Grady family.  Martha, though, had been raised in the city of Atlanta and had enjoyed a well-rounded schooling there.  Her family had moved to the rapidly expanding Dalton in 1841 when her father decided to open a general store in the centre of the town.  Martha was then just turned sixteen.  It was not long before her fine looks and fair hair were noticed by a handsome twenty-three-year-old bachelor farmer, William Grady, and on a sunny July 4th. 1843, amid the lively Independence Day celebrations of that year, William and Martha were married in the small wooden church by the crossroads. Later that day William drove Martha away to start her new and very different life on the farm.  
   
As soon as he was able Billy-Joe took his place working the land, the work was hard but he was proud to labour each day with his family around him.  He always looked forward to the day's end when he could find a little time to himself or spend some of that time with the others, talking, joking, and taking part in some well-earned fun after supper.  His mother was fond of telling stories, at which she was really most proficient, and could always hold a spell bound audience gathered around the crackling of the bright evening fire.  On occasions she would read from one of her growing collection of books and had a particular liking of Harriet Beecher Stowe's endearing novel  'Uncle Tom's Cabin',  a copy of which she had acquired during one of her visits to town in the mid 1850's.  On the other hand, father, William, was ever willing to demonstrate his vocal skills and he often sat out on the front porch singing traditional songs of the south. All of the other family members listened to him, as they enjoyed watching the sunset in the western sky, sometimes joining in with the chorus.  Theirs, then, was a happy and contented existence, relying on each other for their comfort.  
   
As the 1850's slowly drifted away the winds of change were also drifting overhead, drifting across the southern states and, of course, the whole of America.  Democrat James Buchanan had been elected president in 1856 and was sworn in for the1857 to 1861 term but as his term of office drew to a close a new and dangerous candidate was running for high office.  Dangerous because, among other things, he was committed to the abolition of slavery.  This was no good news for the state of Georgia and her sister states in the south-east of the country.  So,  as the voting was counted following the presidential election of November 1860 Abraham Lincoln, a Kentucky born lawyer (though from up Illinois way those days) was duly elected to be the sixteenth president of the United States of America.  Lincoln, now a republican statesman, became the incoming president-elect and was awaiting his inauguration which would take place on March 4th. 1861 in Washington D.C. However, the success of Abraham Lincoln led directly to eleven of the south-eastern states ultimately deciding to secede themselves from the rest of the United States.  South Carolina was the first to declare her discontent on December 20th. 1860 with Billy-Joe's homeland, Georgia, being the fifth of the states to leave the union on January 19th. 1861.  Tennessee was the eleventh state to secede on June 8th. 1861.  The Confederate States of America had been formed on February 8th. 1861 by seven of the southern slave states, the others following later.  The simple plain living ways of the Grady family would soon be transformed for ever.  
   
On April 12th. 1861, some four hundred miles east of Dalton, Captain Abner Doubleday had embarked on his day as second in command of Fort Sumter, a man-made island fortress lying on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina at the entrance to Charleston Harbour.  Captain Doubleday was a career soldier in the Union Army and, at forty-two years old, was proudly approaching twenty years of military service.  That April 12th. was to go down in the egregious pages of the history books as the beginning of the worst conflict in the history of the United States of America.  Very early in the morning of that day the South Carolina Militia began their bombardment, from the shore, of Fort Sumter.  Abner Doubleday soberly aimed the canon which fired the first shot to be fired by the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War, a smoke asphyxiating gunshot which ricocheted and rebounded around the whole of the country.    
   
Back home in Dalton Billy-Joe was now fifteen years old and as the war savaged its bloody way throughout the land, he and his fellow Georgians were able to receive news of the battles, the victories and the defeats, of both sides of the struggle of north and south. Billy-Joe's parents had ensured that their children had been taught about the Revolutionary War of almost one hundred years previous.  It was at this time that the United States of America had been born and had soon become a great nation in the world ~ a country for a young man to be proud of. Even so;  one has to wonder if a terrible civil war has to be the costly price, just a few generations down the line, for the purchase of a nation's independence.  And so it came to pass that, on May 16th. 1863, Billy-Joe Grady celebrated, along with his family, the occasion of his eighteenth birthday.  The following day, standing on the familiar porch of the house, he said farewell to his brothers and sister, shook his father by the hand, kissed his beloved mother's tear bedewed face, and marched off with a whistling grey bedecked regiment of the Georgia Militia along the dry dusty track leading from his home and to the hell of all that a war between fellow countrymen can spawn.    
   
   
'What Price Independence?  (A debate)'  
   
"What price independence?" Confounded, ask I,  
"Four years civil war!"  You proudly reply;  
"Along with with the death of so many brave men".  
" Ah! now I follow  ~  A sound bargain then".  
   
Independence seek we,  
For this land to be free;  
A home to re-forge  
And be rid of King George.  
A war to relax  
The payment of tax  
Till the bitter last breath ~    
So, a fight to the death.  
   
Who are you to say  
Red coats "On your way!"  
Who gave you the right  
To uprise and fight?  
With a king at your head  
No more need be said.  
Return to your farms  
And lay down your arms.  
   
The king has no heart  
(A sea width apart)  
To favour this land  
And offer his hand.  
Well, fight you we will  
For better or ill;  
Each man, every town,  
Shall stand 'gainst the crown.  
   
Then, you'll fight till you win  
Alongside your kin,  
Rebellion your tool  
To strive for home rule.  
But eighty years on  
The peace will be gone  
And the cost, all the more,  
Must be civil war.  
   
   
'The Life and Times of Billy-Joe  ~  1863'  
   
Billy-Joe, the farmer lad,  
Ploughed the southern soil;  
He roused at dawn  
And drawled a yawn  
Before his daily toil.  
   
He worked the ground from light to dark  
And as the day was done  
His mother's wise  
And smiling eyes  
Would simulate the sun.  
   
There in the evening by the fire,  
Or on the foreporch swing,  
He'd sit and smoke  
With his kinfolk  
And hear his father sing.  
   
But bleak clouds gathered o'er the South  
As war came to the land;  
So, Billy-Joe  
Was called to go  
To fight and make a stand.  
   
But as the battles blundered on  
And thunder rumbled forth  
The order came  
To kill and maim  
The blue line from the North.  
   
Then as he charged, this soldier lad,  
Young Billy-Joe soon lay  
In blackened mud  
And crimson blood,  
As all the world turned grey.  
   
   
'Gettysburg Night'  
   
The night is red and raging,  
A burning in the air;  
Here, as war is waging,  
Despair beyond compare.  
And when the break of day appears  
And lightness spreads around  
Seven thousand combat-eers  
Lie lifeless on the ground.  
   
Farewell to you my mother dear  
I see your smiling eyes  
For I'm a lone survivor here  
Beneath the smoky skies.  
Adios to you my father friend  
I hear your voice in song,  
As when I contemplate my end  
I fear it won't be long.  
   
Where I repose in blooded grass  
The air is deadly still  
And nor a simple sound, alas,  
Within an eerie chill.  
A tiredness sweeps over me,  
A breeze from nowhere blows;  
So, with my troubled soul set free  
My eyes may slowly close.  
   
   
   
   
   
 
Alan-S-Jeeves
Written by Alan-S-Jeeves (Alan S Jeeves)
Published | Edited 25th Jun 2021
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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