This is a preview to the chapter Chapter Three from the book A Beautiful Glittering Lie by J D R Hawkins.
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A sergeant near the front of the passenger car stood, and turned to face them. “Gentlemen, you are to exit after me. Once you are outside, line up in single file.”
He went out the door, and slowly, the human contents of the car spilled out after him into the bright morning sunlight.
“Where are we?” a sleepy soldier asked.
The sergeant glared at him with bulging, steely blue eyes. His face was leathery, testimony that he had spent too much time in the sun. “We’re in Chattanooga, boy,” he replied before sneering at the young man, who slinked off to find his place in line.
Once the car was empty, the sergeant started down the line, calling roll while he moved amongst the new recruits. Hiram glanced down the row, noticing that one sergeant was assigned to each passenger car, and they were all walking up and down their lines, too.
“Soldiers of the Confederate States of America!” the nearest pacing sergeant hollered, staring each enlistee in the eye. “I am your superior officer, Sergeant Meadows!”
Bud choked a chuckle as he stood beside Hiram, who knew what he was thinking. For such an ugly fellow, the name didn’t fit.
“For the next few days, you will be accountable to me! I am here to make y’all into the finest soldiers our country has to offer! By the time I’m done, y’all will be the best damn fightin’ army there is!”
A few of the men clapped, but seeing the sergeant stare them down, quickly suppressed their response.
“Each of you is responsible for your own belongin’s, and if somethin’ gits lost, I don’t want to hear y’all whinin’ about it! Understood?”
Some hesitant souls mumbled in acknowledgment, while the others stood in silent awe.
“Yessir!” a third of them chanted.
“Men, you are to report back to me at that location over yonder …”
He pointed to a grand, century-old sycamore. Underneath, several staff officers stood, some smoking fat cigars, all staring at the new recruits, and summing them up, Hiram was certain. He and Bud gave sidelong glances to each other. Bud suppressed a smirk.
“… at seven o’clock. Dismissed!”
The men let out sighs and started for the baggage cars.
Hiram withdrew his pocket watch to check the time. “We have half an hour,” he observed.
The North Alabamians gathered their belongings, mingled about, and then scavenged for something to eat, bartering off one another. The passenger train that had delivered them departed, leaving the soldiers standing haphazardly around the depot. They learned that their destination was Dalton, Georgia, where an Alabama regiment was being formed. At the designated time, they congregated near the enormous sycamore tree, and waited in the warm sunshine. Nearly an hour passed before a freight train arrived. Ordered to line up, the men were loaded into boxcars. Several complained about being treated no better than cattle, but the circumstances didn’t improve. Soon, the train pulled out.
Bud and Hiram sat down in the musty straw beside their comrades, listening to the rhythmic clunk of the rails beneath them, and the low hum of men’s voices. Light filtered in, streaming through the wooden slats. Hiram glanced over at a young man who was busy scribbling in his journal with a nib.
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