THE LAST CHARGE

by Norman Kingsley


Sergeant Fredrick Davidson began to perspire as the roaring hot sun began to bear down on him and his platoon with full fury. Sweat leaked out of his armpits and began to darken sections of his light gray Confederate Army uniform. Davidson sighed in boredom.

Droplets of sweat trickled down his sun-baked face, as well as down his back, which oozed over the bumps of his spine. Davidson had his Confederate Infantry cap tilted slightly, hoping to keep the burning sun rays from scorching his already well tanned face, especially his nose which had begun to have dead skin peel due to an awful sunburn.

As he licked his dry lips, which had already begun to chap, he began to reminisce on the beginning of the war. Upon hearing the attack on Fort Sumter, Davidson eagerly enlisted in the Confederate army of Georgia the very next day. Growing up, he had idolized his grandfather for having fought in the Revolutionary war and expelling the tyrannical British.

Now, he saw himself in his grandfather's position. Only, the tyrant was not King George, but rather Abraham Lincoln. In fact, he tried hardest to stay out of the political situation as a whole. He never cared much for Democrats or Republicans, tariffs or taxes.

Davidson grew up in a poor household, the oldest of four other children. All boys. The Davidsons were so poor, that the boys could not even finish Grammar school, but rather work long hours to help the family's pitiful financial situation. Later when he joined the army, Davidson sent almost all of his pay home to help his parent's debt. Since the Davidsons were so poor they had to rely on their sons working to pay the bills. So by no means could they ever afford a slave, even though it was completely normal. They were like most Southerners. Since Davidson could never possibly own a slave, like most Confederate soldiers, he certainly wasn't fighting to preserve a practice that he would have no chance at being a part of. But if not for slavery, then for what?

State's Rights? Personal Vendetta? Davidson wanted one thing. Glory. He wanted to be hailed a hero the same way his grandfather was. Yet, as most Americans learned, no matter what side they fought on, there wasn't much glory in seeing a man's insides blown out. Nor in seeing maggots nesting in the mouths of dead soldiers. And neither in witnessing hogs feasting on the guts of the corpses of Union and Confederate dead alike.

Yet, Davidson and his comrades managed to march on. They (or at least some were) were fueled by the belief that they would endure until final victory.

The young Davidson, who had absolutely no Military training before he volunteered, learned quickly the rules of survival on the battlefield. He was only at the tender age of 17 when he took a life, bayoneting a Union Corporal in the chest at Bull Run. He would take many more. How many had he killed since then? 10? 20? 30? He cared not to think about it.

As he lay huddled in the grass with his fellow soldiers, he turned his head around to gaze up at the sky. It was a cloudless day, which only made it more unbearably hot. Davidson's ice blue eyes focused on the sun's radiance, only to look away quickly before they damaged. The young Sergeant began to worry. The war had consumed him to the point to where he truly had no idea what state they were in. Even more horrifying was that he couldn't recall what year it was! Was this same Sergeant Fredrick Davidson who fought gallantly at Bull Run. He showed no fear at the bloody battle at Shiloh. And he met the Union troops head on at Gettysburg. For his bravery, he was promoted, decorated, congratulated, etc.

Now, he was simply a skeleton of his former self. His outline was there, but the will for battle on the inside, was gone. The war was lost (to the realists anyway) and what would happen to him? Could he really become an ordinary citizen and go back to the most menial, thankless jobs to pay his debts? He had no one to really go back to. No lover. No friends, since they had all been killed in combat. His family was still there, and though they were still his parents, he did not feel like their son. The war had truly eaten him alive. It had been with him every day he woke up and every night when he fell asleep.

Before he could ponder his future any longer, the Lieutenant stood up. He raised his saber into the air and screamed "Charge!" And so, they obeyed. The rebel yell raised up once again as the rushed to storm the Union position. Davidson at last knew that this was his destiny. To meet death in hand to hand combat with the enemy, as it had been done for centuries.

However, fate would rob even that from Sergeant Davidson. For as they neared their target, the Union troops unveiled a new weapon. The first machine-gun. From a hundred yards away, the bullets sliced through the Confederate charge. Davidson along with all the rest, was simply ripped to shreds. The American soldiers slaughtered other American soldiers in the new way of war. Cold, impersonal, and mechanized.

Fredrick Davidson and his comrades were struck down in matter of minutes. Out of decency, the Union troops buried the platoon in a separate grave for each. Then, the northern soldiers went back to their post and waited for the next enemy to come by.

And so, the flesh and blood of the old fashioned soldiers had come face to face with the iron and steel of the mechanized warriors of tomorrow; only to be crushed under the grinding wheels of war.


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The Last Charge, 28 October 2001