Manassas

By Katy Bowman

Later, she would look back on that day and remember the carnage, the broken men with mangled bodies who staggered past and scared her half to death.  

Later, she would remember how the boom of the cannons shook her body so hard she was afraid her soul would escape. She would remember how her father tucked cotton in her ears. She would remember that it did not help much. 

Later, she would remember the smoke that rose from the battlefield. She would remember how upset her father was. “We can’t see a damned thing!” he had shouted. She would remember catching sight of a man falling to the ground, blood spouting from a wound to his stomach. She would remember being glad for the smoke. 

Later, she would wonder how her father could have taken her to such a thing. She would wonder why he had been so excited about it. She would wonder why he had thought she would enjoy it. She would wonder at the fact that she had never asked. She would remember her father wanting to join the army so badly that he would later confess to her mother that he had tried to conceal his limp. She would remember the sound her mother’s hand made as it cracked against her father’s cheek. 

Later, she would remember the confusion of horses that rode past them. “The cavalry,” her father had yelled in her ear. She would remember how smartly they had been turned out, how the dust had not yet settled on their boots, which shone in the early morning sun. She would remember being captivated by those boots, watching them, not the horses and not the men, as they rode towards the battlefield. 

Later, she would remember when the lines broke. She would remember that they did not know it right away. She would remember the boy that came running towards them, screaming for them to run. “The rebs are coming,” he yelled, “they’re headed straight here!” 

Later, she would remember the panic. She would remember the mad scramble for the carriages, the carriage horses whinnying with nervous energy. She would remember running with everyone else, trying to keep up and wondering what would happen. She would remember that her father had gone “for a closer look” and was not there. 

Later, she would remember the kind couple who scooped her up and tossed her into their carriage. “Where’s your family, child?” the woman had asked her. She would remember that the woman had a kind face and was doing her best to appear calm. She would remember her answer: “I don’t know.” 

Later, she would remember being in that carriage with them for hours and hours. She would remember sleeping snuggled up against the woman. “I am Mrs. Murray,” the woman had told her with a smile, “but you may call me Stella.” She would remember Mr. Murray pulling out some bread and cheese around tea time. She would remember that it was all the food they had. 

Later, she would remember the men that clogged the road along with the carriages. She would remember the carriage wheels splashing through trails of blood. She would remember Stella trying to distract her with a game of whist. She would remember not wanting to be distracted. She would remember worrying that one of the men would bear her father’s face. 

Later, she would remember the carriage pulling up in front of her house. She would remember that her house had never looked more beautiful, more inviting, than it did that day. She would remember Stella and Mr. Murray accompanying her up on to the front porch and knocking on the door. She would remember seeing her mother almost faint at the sight of her. She would remember her mother falling to her knees and folding her daughter up into her arms and sobbing. She would remember Stella and Mr. Murray, as tired as they were, coming inside and asking Maisie to prepare some tea. She would remember that they stayed for a bite to eat, as late as it was, and promised to stay in touch as they left. She would remember that she never saw them again. 

Later, she would remember that her father did not return home until the next day. She would remember that her mother cried and hugged him as well, but that she did not hold on to him nearly as long and did not speak to him for a month afterwards. She would remember that he occupied a separate bedroom after that day. 

Later, she would remember that morning, the morning her father woke her up and asked if she would like to see history being made. She would remember that she nodded her head eagerly and jumped out of bed. She would remember how much she had thought of herself as her father’s daughter. She would remember being excited and happy that her father had thought to take her along.

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Katy Bowman is a writer living near Dayton, Ohio. She has had work published at The Rumpus, Flash Me Magazine, and on the Dayton Mom-Spot website. You can find her on the web at katybowman.com.

 

 

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