The following is an excerpt of a short story from my book Shades of Gray: Strange Tales from the Old Dominion, now available exclusively on Amazon Kindle. Order it today for only $2.99.
The roar of muskets nearly drowned out the shouts from frantic officers as they tried to get their infantry back into formation. Several men clad in gray and butternut collapsed into the tall grass, and Wilson leveled his nine-pound musket at the blue line several yards away. A flash erupted and smoke poured from the barrel. The Federals answered with their own volley, and the man next to Wilson dropped to the ground. Behind the lines, several young women wearing white cotton shirts and ankle-length skirts, carrying canvas bags, roamed the battlefield, checking on the fallen. Wilson reached into his ammunition pouch, but he grasped at air.
Suddenly, a bugle blew and the shouting tapered off. Applause erupted from the crowd on the nearby bleachers.
“What is going on?” Wilson’s colonel spat angrily. “It’s been what, ten minutes? We hardly got in a half a dozen volleys.”
“No wonder the crowd was so small this year,” another man said.
“I swear, if they don’t get their heads out of their—”
The parade had started. Wilson, a tall man with a graying wisp of hair and a closely trimmed goatee, shouldered his replica Enfield Rifle-Musket and joined the line behind the other men in his unit. His friend Carl, who had sprawled onto the field moments earlier, picked himself up, brushed off the dirt and a few blades of grass, and fell in line. They marched past the bleachers, raising their hats and cheering, while the crowd waved miniature American and Confederate flags in response.
The heat was nearly unbearable, and Wilson chafed beneath his cotton uniform. Fortunately, he had stuffed ice in his hat before the reenactment began. The ice cubes were virtually all melted at that point, but the cool water dribbling down his scalp was a relief.
Wilson knew that many of the men in his regiment, which numbered a few dozen at most (far less than even a company in the real Civil War), were frustrated by the battle time allotted by the reenactment’s organizers. Wilson was not bothered. The reenactment took place not even half a mile from the real Chancellorsville battlefield. Not very many reenactors got to come that close to hallowed ground. In his opinion, there was no better way to spend an afternoon.
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