A Christmas Gift – Non Fiction

short story

Say what you will about the American Civil War, it brought families together. All across the nation, relatives gathered on the field of battle to lovingly stick bayonets into one another’s eyes. Nowhere was this demonstration of brotherly love more clearly demonstrated than Montgomery County, Kentucky where nothing more than a creek separated the Yanks from the Rebels and family members tore out each other’s throats with reckless abandon.

A small area of 200 square miles in the eastern half of the state, Montgomery County had spent its relatively short history mostly disregarded by the greater nation at large. However, due to its almost perfectly central location with regards to the war, it found itself a hotbed of attention now.

In 1862, the Union army welcomed with open arms Mr. James Perry as one of their own through the mandatory adoption known as the draft. A few months later his younger brother, Richard Perry, who lived scarcely an hour’s walk away as the musket ball flies, was added, through no choice of his own, to the ranks of the Confederates. Since neither brother was eager to skin the other for the cause, they found themselves in a quandary.

As Fate would have it, both men were granted leave at the same time from their respective armies and they arranged to meet in a familiar saloon. An establishment that both brothers had grown up frequenting, Richard found himself unwelcome there now as it had been converted to a watering hole for Union soldiers.

Apparently not one for cowardice, Richard replaced his uniform with civilian garb and met his brother inside the tavern. However, Montgomery County, as mentioned earlier, is a small place and he was quickly recognized as a Confederate soldier. A fracas ensued and, in self defense, Richard killed a Union soldier to save his own life.

Together, the brothers fled and stayed missing for nearly a year before they were captured by the Union Army. Richard was sent to prison in Louisville. Details are murky as to how he came to be released a short time later with many people crying “foul” in retrospect. Whether he was freed by conspiracy is anyone’s guess. What most people would agree on is that he would have been better off had he remained incarcerated there.

All the same, he was turned loose into that sunny December morning and it was here that things went from bad to worse for poor Richard. Deciding that he had no interest in blowing holes in his friends and family, he enlisted in the Union Army. Sadly for him, a Colonel recognized him as a rebel soldier and turned him in to civil authorities.

The civil authorities wanted nothing to do with Richard or his case. In the end, majors from both the Union and Confederate sides were contacted and both refused to claim him or to try his case. As a result, he sat in a Union prison for a year until, in December of 1864 he was mysteriously murdered while locked up.

On Christmas morning, his family was gifted his naked corpse on their front porch with a note that stated Richard was a disgrace to both uniforms. His brother James was later arrested but found not guilty of aiding and abetting and returned to the theater of battle. He was honorably discharged following the war and collected a pension.

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This story is true – the names have been changed. So it goes.

 

 

Author: Fred Rock

Writer of fiction and fiction-based accessories.

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