The Civil War is over. But for Sergeant James Taft, there seems to be no end in sight. He had seldom considered what he would do after the war, because he never believed he would live through it.
James briefly returns to Pennsylvania in an unsuccessful attempt to work as a farmer. He then sets out to find peace and somehow vanquish the ghosts in his soul. What he can't possibly foresee, as he rides west, is the epic story of tragedy and triumph that he will take part in.
"It's unfortunate, but true, that darkness must often be complete, before we notice the subtle glimmer of hope." - Doc Jefferies, Ever the Wayward Sky.
~ Teaser ~
As the days passed, James felt himself sinking further into depression. He tried to work on the family farm but couldn't focus on the tasks. Darkness slowly began to swallow him from the inside out.
"Well, we finally pulled that old stump out of the South field." John attempted to sound encouraging at the dinner table.
"That's wonderful. That old tree always irritated your Pa. I'm glad we took care of it, and it is gone." His mother glanced over at James after saying this.
Her son sat staring blankly at his plate of food. He heard nothing they had said.
His mother turned and looked across the table at John, who then glanced over at his wife, Velma. All three now watched James as he held his fork over his food and appeared to be far away.
The two children took notice of what was occurring and began watching their Uncle also.
Realizing the children were watching, Velma stood up and took a pitcher of water over to James.
"Would you like some more water, James?"
He almost shook as he came out of the apparent trance.
"Oh, no Velma, thank you."
Johnny laughed a little, and this caused Grace to giggle as well.
"You children eat now. No playing."
"Yes, Grandma." Both children replied, almost in unison.
James looked around the table with a lost expression on his face.
"I think it'll rain tonight," John said in an attempt to bring supper back on track. "What do you think James?"
"Yes, it might."
He knew something wasn't right. He realized now that he'd been somewhere else. He didn't know what to do about it, though. He glanced around at his family. He loved them dearly, but he didn't belong here. He wasn't sure where he belonged, but he knew now that it wasn't here.
Later, as James lay down to sleep, the rain began. The soft pattering of raindrops outside his window caused a soothing effect, and he drifted into sleep. Then the thunder came, and as James slipped farther into slumber, he found himself on a faraway battlefield again. As the sounds of the storm erupted outside, the cannons roared on the battlefield of James' dream.
"I heard them was Morgan's boys over there, Sergeant."
A young private nervously spoke to Sergeant Taft, who was riding back and forth in front of the men. James reined his horse in to answer the young cavalryman.
"Don't matter who they are, Private! That cavalry unit is protecting the Reb's flank, and we'll run them off the battlefield, or die trying!"
When James said this, the private appeared to calm down. But he was still obviously frightened. All the soldiers appeared concerned. The horses moved underneath them nervously; sensing death to be close at hand. Smoke from the guns drifted through the unit's ranks as James scanned the faces of his men.
He then moved closer to the young private. James thought he might be able to say something to calm the young man, but as he came near, the soldier began to speak.
"I sure got the feeling that I'm going to be one of those that die trying, Sergeant. You ever get that feeling?"
James reined in his mount again, trying to calm it. The horse quivered under him in an apprehensive excitement for the battle at hand. Then, James lied to the young private. He always lied in these situations.
"Almost every day, Private." After James had said this, the man calmed some more. He smiled a little. James smiled slightly as well, and then he thought of several other men that had told him the same sort of thing over the years. They all died on the battlefield after telling him this. The cracking of rifle and cannon fire became intense. He positioned his horse to the front of the unit, ready for battle.
Their lieutenant rode swiftly up from the back of the unit.
"Alright boys, it's time, let's give'em hell."
The lieutenant then pulled his saber out and nodded to their bugler, who immediately sounded the charge. Sergeant Taft spurred his horse just as the lieutenant charged forward.
"Let's go 9th," James yelled out, and his heart began to pound inside his chest.
The ground began to tremble as the horses burst into a gallop.
James looked across the field at the enemy just as bullets began to sing around him.
He became hot as the blood rushed to his head. Then, as always, he slowly became numb as the specter of death approached.
He put the reins in his mouth and lowered his head as if facing a fierce wind. He could now see the enemy’s faces clearly.
As the gap closed, he pulled his saber out with his left hand and his revolver out with his right.
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~ About the Author ~
Oliver Phipps served in a Special Forces unit of the United States Army and studied at MSC. He has spent much of his life traveling throughout the world. Visiting many countries in Asia as well as Alaska, The Canadian Yukon territories and as far north as the Arctic Circle.
In 2004 Oliver published his first book and continues writing books articles and short stories. He has had eight books on the Amazon bestseller lists at the time this was written, with as many as five on a bestseller list at one time. In June of 2015 Oliver’s novel A Tempest Soul landed the #1 bestseller spot in its category, garnishing Oliver his first number one bestseller.
Currently Oliver and family reside happily in the U.S.
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