This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Ten from the book A Beautiful Glittering Lie by J D R Hawkins.
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David stayed informed by acquiring current editions of the Huntsville Confederate, which had been reduced down to only one sheet folded into two pages, due to the paper shortage. Major changes were taking place within both armies. As of November 10, Alabama had supplied over sixty thousand men to the Confederate cause. President Lincoln replaced McClellan yet again, this time with General Burnside, not so much because of Burnside’s performance at the recent Battle of Sharpsburg, or Antietam as the Yankees were calling it, but because of his displayed abilities at First Manassas. Frustrated that “Little Napoleon” had refused to aggressively pursue and attack the Rebels by inaccurately assuming he was outnumbered, Lincoln was quoted as saying to him, “If you don’t want to use the army, I should like to borrow it for a while.”
It seemed obvious by what the press was reporting that, because of Lincoln’s declared Emancipation Proclamation, the chances of Europe backing the C.S.A. were quelled. England and France had considered supporting the Southern states before the war became an issue of slavery, but now it was something they didn’t want to get involved in. The Confederacy was completely on its own.
Coming across a recent copy of Harper’s Weekly at the mercantile, David opened the publication to discover contents within it that alarmed, yet intrigued him. Inside the pages were engravings, copies of photographs that had been taken near Sharpsburg by a photographer named Alexander Gardner. Even though they were drawings, the pictures were disturbing nevertheless, and depicted crumpled corpses slumped together like potato sacks, laid out in front of a small white building, along with broken caissons, dead mules, overturned limbers, and more pictures of Confederate bodies. It seemed to him that there were no deceased Union soldiers lying about in any of the pictures. Although he knew his father wasn’t among the casualties, he was still appalled by the drawings. He had seen photos of corpses post mortem before, but nothing as horrendous as the mangled bodies of slain soldiers left rotting on the ground with dead horses. Setting the newspaper down, he came to the conclusion that his mother had to somehow be prevented from seeing them. It was apparent that the distant battles in Virginia were getting closer all the time, which he found somewhat distressing.
He waited for word of Owen’s arrival, but none came, so he assumed that he must have been misinformed. Even though he didn’t like him personally, he did wish Owen had enlisted with the Confederacy instead, for then he would loathe his schoolmate a little less. He also wished he could get his mother’s mare back, but realized that was improbable.
Three weeks after Callie’s party, Jake rode up the lane and quickly dismounted. Without knocking, he strode into the familiar saddlebag house to find his friend in the front room, helping Josie construct a Christmas present for their mother.
Glancing up as he entered, David greeted him by saying, “Hey, Jake. What brings you by?”
“Miss Josie. David.”
The tone in his voice caught David’s attention. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Miss Callie. She’s fallen ill and has taken to her bed.”
“That’s too bad,” remarked Josie.
“I was wonderin’ if y’all want to go check on her with me.” For once, Jake’s lighthearted demeanor was replaced with concern.
David consented. “Of course we will.”
They went out to the barn. David saddled Renegade, mounted, and pulled his little sister up behind him. The threesome rode to the Copeland residence. Once they arrived, Jake asked if they could visit Callie. Mrs. Copeland consented, and led them upstairs to her daughter’s bedchamber. Hesitating at the threshold, David followed the others into Callie’s room, which was illuminated by warm, glowing embers from the fireplace. Mrs. Copeland made her way to the window, and slightly pulled open the blue velvet curtain, allowing a sliver of sunlight to filter through.
Callie stirred. “Ma?” she asked groggily from under the quilts of her canapé bed.
“It’s all right, dear,” her mother reassured her. “Your friends are here.”
Callie’s eyes fluttered open. Squinting at first, with her pupils dilated, she finally focused on the visitors. “Jake?” Her blue eyes flitted over David’s and Josie’s faces.
“Beggin’ your pardon, Miss Callie,” David apologized, suddenly feeling uneasy about invading her privacy. “We jist wanted to make sure you were all right.” He gave Josie a gentle tug on her arm, and glanced over to see Jake kneel down beside Callie’s bed.
Taking her cue, Josie called out, “Please git well soon, Miss Callie,” as she exited.
“Y’all can wait right here if you’d like,” Mrs. Copeland offered, faintly smiling before she went downstairs.
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