We lost? Had I understood right?
The Yanks said we put up a good fight.
“There’s room” said Loving
“In Texas—no shoving.
So come home and help me and Goodnight.”
Not again! Where in the hell did these things come from? I guess it was because Limerick and I had been talking about the old days in Texas.
The old days. Had it really been less than five years?
Limerick saw me stirring and came over to check my bandage and see if I was ready for more swill. I told him my new…uh, Limerick.
“Miles, where in the hell do you get these things?”
I told him I had just been asking myself the same question. “But speaking of where things come from, I’ve got a couple of questions for you. First, I’ve known lots of Irishmen, but never one with the name Limerick. And second, how come you don’t sound Irish? You sound like a damn Yankee!”
“I’m third generation Irish in Boston—that’s why I sound like a ‘damnyankee’, as you put it—and not like some ‘Paddy’ fleeing the Famine. My grandfather knocked some Englishman to the ground with an axe handle. Not waiting around to see if he had killed the man or not—it wouldn’t have made much difference either way—he jumped on a ship headed for Amerikay, as they say. He dared not give his real name, in case he was being hunted, so he took the name of his home county—Limerick. He married an American girl and produced my father. My mother, a good Bostonian, named me John Quincy. My father, being a good Catholic added ‘Francis’ in honor of the saint. I suppose I ought to be glad he didn’t call me ‘Assisi’. God knows ‘Francis’ is bad enough.”
“I know what you mean.”
“And, Francisco,” he added, threatening me with the spoon, “if you ever call me Quincy, you will DEFINITELY be buried in Pennsylvania soil and never see Texas again!
“Yes”, he went on, “we checked out your papers when you were brought in. That’s when I found out your real name. So we have an agreement, do we not?” He paused and spoke quietly. “By the way, Dusty, as I was going through your belongings, I ran across the letter in your pocket. I’m truly sorry about your family.”
“Thanks,…John, “I muttered, then motioned for him to stop trying to feed me. The lump in my throat would not allow it. “I should have been there. I never should have gotten involved in this war.”
“I know what you mean. I enlisted back in the ‘50s because finances were tough and the army provided three squares a day and lodging. The West—particularly Texas—was something I wanted to see and the Army would pay me to see it. I never dreamed I would someday face fellow Americans—if I can call you Rebs that—across a battlefield. Were you at Fredericksburg?”
Puzzled at the change in conversation I told him that I had never been, but my wife had relatives there.
It was his turn to be puzzled. Then the light came on. “Not Fredericksburg, Texas, you knucklehead. (Do you Texans ever think of anything besides Texas?) Fredericksburg, Virginia—God, you Rebs gave it to us there.” It was his turn to grow silent with a lump in his throat. After a bit he spoke again. “That bastard Burnside kept giving the order to take the hill, and soldiers kept getting killed. God help me, I don’t know how I survived that, but it’s why I’m here today—working in the hospital. I’d rather work at saving lives than at trying to take them.”
“Is that a fact? I swear you’re trying to kill me with that slop you keep feeding me. But I hear you boys gave it back to us at Gettysburg.”
“It’s amazing. After seeing the devastation at Fredericksburg, Lee made the same mistake—ordered his men to take a well-fortified hill under insurmountable odds. They made a hell of a try, but couldn’t accomplish it. After the battle, the defenders of the hill yelled ‘Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!’ so show the Rebels they had given them a dose of their own medicine.”
“So what’s going to happen now? Was General Lee beaten bad enough to quit?”
“If we had pursued the Rebels, possibly. But you boys had given us a pretty good drubbing, and General Meade decided to lay up a while. Too bad. If we could have stopped the Confederate retreat, the South wouldn’t have had much more to fight with.”
“You know, in Texas the firebreathers were telling us we could whip you Yanks with cornstalks.”
“They said the same thing here.” He raised up and sighed as he looked around at the wounded and dying men from both sides all around. “Pity you wouldn’t fight that way.”
“So when, providing you don’t kill me in this hospital, will I be well enough to be exchanged?”
“No exchanges—straight from Washington. As I said—for you the war is over.”