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Bugle Boy

The major theme of “Bugle Boy” is to tell the story of the deep relationship that develops between Andrew, the bugle boy, and his grandfather Wesley in the setting of the Civil War 1861 to 1865.

It is a historically accurate account of the Union Army’s 75th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) as they battled the Confederates in the Civil War at Gettysburg in July of 1963—the turning point of the war for the Union.

The key characters are Wesley Redick, my great, great, paternal grandfather; his cousin Captain William Redick; Frank DeSellum, armorer; Sergeant Wilson, the chief communicator; and Wesley’s 14-year-old grandson, Andrew Redick. Andrew is the company’s bugler/messenger. Wesley’s portrayals are factually accurate, Andrew’s fictional.

The story describes a brief portion of the successes and failures of battles between Union and Confederate troops, those in command, and how the typically horrific loss of life affects them.

*      *      *

The battlefield smoke billowed along the ridge line to the east. The caustic cloud-like presence partially masked the morning sun. A slight breeze slowly moved the mask, shielding the battle’s carnage to the ridge line on the horizon. Andrew, the bugle boy, was frightened. He was not certain he wanted to see the fighting. He could imagine the terror his ears could hear, but his eyes could not see. He was alone, save for the various wagons and horses and a few foot soldiers on sentry duty. Terror-stricken of the unknown, he felt as if his bones rattled. He was concerned. Andrew feared for the safety of his granddad. This was the first experience in support of Union troops, for his “Gramps,” too. Fighting the Confederates was a new threat for everyone. He was scared.

Andrew was waiting for his next order. Earlier, he had been told to sound “Assembly” . . . then: “Boots and Saddles” . . . and finally: “Charge” as the combined infantry and cavalry of the Ohio 75th joined the brigade to their left and right flanks, and charged over the ridge. As the bugle’s sound echoed over the hillock, a rush of pride filled his chest. The infantry advanced while taking a final check of their weapons . . . the cavalry steadied their spirited mounts as the major shouted orders . . . their swords thrust in the air.

Following his orders, Andrew returned to the headquarters area and stood by the tent, waiting for further instructions. He knew better than ask the major for permission to join the charge; it was clear that he was not about to take any unnecessary chances with Andrew’s life.

This was the first encounter by the 75th as it moved into its attack formation to effectively roust the Confederate troops dug in.

Andrew remembered Wesley’s stern command very well. “Go!” he shouted. “Do not stop until you reach the company area . . .  Go!”

Andrew ran to the rear as fast as his legs would carry him. He heard the cannon’s canister rounds of grape-shot riddle the trees overhead. A “Minie ball” struck a limb to his left, shattering it to bits . . .  he ran faster. He shivered in fear knowing what the company faced along the frontal assault. After several minutes running, he hit-the-deck after arriving at the HQ’s tent . . . he shook as much as the cannon’s report jarred the earth. He asked God to protect the men.

*      *      *

On the village green in Logan, Ohio.

Lincoln’s first call for troops in May, 1961, stirred interest in the men of Columbiana County, Ohio. Many of the local farmers answered the call posted on the courthouse bulletin board. The posting was direct and to the point:

Volunteers needed to form the

75th Ohio Volunteer Infantry OVI.

Those interested should come to the

courthouse this Saturday.

Signed: Wesley Redick

*      *      *

The War Between Brothers

The Final Act

Wes felt as though by talking to the troops he had purged many of the problems that had plagued his decisions as a commander. He had never been in a position like this before. Now his decisions, right or wrong, good or bad, cost lives. It was true, the men had volunteered to serve in the 75th. For many and varied reasons they had chosen war. Many of the single men were simply adventurous with an aggressive, combative personality; others, those married, exhibited a more cautious style. A common trait was their desire to fight Johnny Reb and his defiant attitude, his disregard for the Union, and his “radical” Southern crusade for secession. Both types of Union fighters were targets for the Rebel “ball” regardless of their reasons for fighting. Once armed, Rebel sharpshooters targeted the uniform, the enemy . . . whether friend, foe, or yes, even a relative. The operative word from commanders was “kill or be killed” and “do not hesitate even if your neighbor is in your sights. This is true, especially when his rifle is aimed at you.”

Wes had noticed Andrew’s melancholy mood as the campaign wore on and the trauma of death and destruction faced him daily. He quickly found Andrew with DeSellum and joined them by his pinto, Chico.

“How you doin’, son? Is your favorite steed holding up as we prance around the hills and valleys of Virginia? He is certainly a beautiful horse. How old is he?” asked Wes.

“Oh, hi, Gramps. He’s about eight years old . . . going on twelve with this campaign of the 75th. Frank was just showing me how to clean his hoof frog with a tool he made. It’s slick for digging out stones and small pieces of shrapnel.”

“I thought he was going lame or something.”

“No, just needed some maintenance. Frank also showed me how to trim his hooves and give him new shoes. The blacksmith let us use his tools and forge this morning.”

“Sounds good to me, can I take a look?”

“Help yourself.”

Wes lifted up each of Chico’s legs individually and examined how well Andrew had shod his horse.

“Hey, good job, I’ll know where to come when my horse needs some shoes,” Wes said while Wes patted Chico’s flanks and chatted about horses.

Frank seemed to sense their need to be alone.

“See you in the morning, Andrew. Keep up the good work. I’ll be waiting  for your melodic ‘Taps.’ See, ya.”

While leaving, Frank checked all the horses on the picket line where they were tethered, and left the two by themselves.

Wes asked if Andrew would like to have a snack in his headquarters tent. The boy would know, without a doubt, that it would be his grandfather’s favorite ginger-snap cookies. The answer was an eager, “Yes.” They walked shoulder to shoulder across the encampment in the early evening twilight. On the way, Wes asked him to sit on a log by a vacated camp firepit.

Wes spoke. “You’ve carried yourself very well in the Company, son. I’m proud of your performance in the face of adversity. War is hell, isn’t it? Although we’ve taken our licks from Johnny Reb, his luck has just about run out. They’re on the move again, and we’ll be following them as they move north. To where, I’ve no idea . . . maybe Washington, for all I know. I’ll be giving the marching orders in the morning. One way or the other, we will stop them from reaching Washington. We’ll be on their eastern flank every step of the way. One of us will decide when to fight . . . and I guarantee you, if they head east to our capital, we will engage. It will be a donnybrook, a brawl, a free-for-all. This may be Lee’s last chance to launch a major offensive. His troop strength has weakened considerably this year. Yes, he’s won several fights, but lost many brigades doing so.

“I suppose you wonder what I’m leading up to? Here’s my point: Encounters will be more dangerous now. They will be overwhelming. Son, Lee is desperate. There will be unreasonable demands put on his troops to attack at all costs. As such, I’m concerned for your safety.

“As a family, we have lost William, and I do not want to lose you. Do you see where I’m going with this?”

“No,” said Andrew, his voice wary.

“I want you to leave the 75th and serve in the rear with Corps Headquarters. You’ll still be supporting our unit, our brigade, our president, our country. There’s no need for you to stay in harm’s way during these last few skirmishes. I’m thinking of your future, your mom’s concerns, and yes . . . mine. Do you understand my feelings?”

“Yes . . . yes, but you can save your breath. I’m even more resolved to stay since Uncle Bill’s death, and to pay homage to my fellow men of the 75th. If necessary, I choose to fight ’til death for our noble cause.

“No, Gramps, I’m staying ’til the bitter end. My emotions are certainly tied to the country and the president, but they are more permanently tied to your unit—my unit—the 75th. These men are who I fight with and care for. I couldn’t let them down; they depend on me, too. Oh, it may be in minor ways, but nevertheless, I’m there when they need something. Only a Rebel round will end my support for my fellow Union soldiers while the men of the 75th are still fighting.”

Silence.

Wes hugged Andrew around the waist as they walked to the tent for cookies. Andrew’s emotions were clear. Wes did not challenge them. He was a proud grandfather . . . Indeed, very proud.

They had a good night dunking cookies in coffee and milk until Andrew had to leave to blow “Taps.”

Wes had been favored by taps many times over the years, but tonight’s sound seemed clearer, stronger, and of a more wholesome tone than he had ever heard before.

Wes thought, as Andrew turned in for the night, Rest well, young man. May God be with you over the next few months.

*      *      *

As Wes had predicted, in June 1863, Lee’s army swung up the Shenandoah Valley into Pennsylvania. Both armies moved toward the little town of Gettysburg. The shooting started when a Confederate brigade, searching for shoes in town, ran into Union cavalry on July 1. This incident triggered one of the most decisive battles of the Civil War. Southern troops at 65,000 strength fought the Northern army of 85,000 during this fateful three-day period in our history.

On the first day, Northern troops were pushed east and south of town and later driven up a slope to the south. They finally settled in a defensive location resembling a fishhook, the curved “hook” to the north, and the rest of the men strung in a southerly line. With the hook at Culp’s hill and the troops along Cemetery Hill, it made for a very strong defensive line that terminated to the south at Little Round Top.

Confederate forces occupied Gettysburg to the north, and Seminary Ridge to the west.

On July 2, the second day of fighting, Lee tried a flanking attack up Cemetery Hill toward Little Round Top. Lee’s first assault crushed the first line of defense. However, on the top of the hill where the 75th dug in, the Northern lines held. In an extended, vicious battle, countless times the Rebels attacked up the hill only to by thwarted by the continuous rattle of musketry and withering cannon fire by a superior Union line of defense. Many men fought bravely to save the day, both at Little Round Top and Culp’s hill on the opposite flank.

*      *      *

During the attack on Cemetery Hill, desperate to hold the line and running low on ammunition, Wes asked Frank to go back to the Company area for more ammo.

“Frank! Frank, over here.”

Ka-Boom! A canister round exploded overhead.

“Frank! Do you hear me?”

Ka-Pow. A round almost took Wes’s head off as he raised up to see Frank. “Yep, I’m over here,” he answered over the roar of bursting shells. “Over here. I need to see you.”

“Okay, I’ll see if I can crawl over between bursts,” Frank yelled as he moved toward Wes. Musket rounds fell to his left, to his right, and they whizzed overhead as he crawled over dead and dying men in his path. Those who could speak cried out for help as he slithered by.

“There you are. You okay?”

“Yep, I guess. The blood you see all over my clothes is not mine. I had to crawl over many dead and wounded. What do you need?”

“Ammo! We need much more ammo. We’re running out. Jones, who normally would make the run, is wounded and unable to go. Can you go for us?”

“Sure, just keep an eye on my men. I won’t be gone that long.”

He crawled away about 30 feet, looked ahead to the right and left, stood up to run . . . and,

Ka-Pow!

Frank went down like a sack of flour and rolled over, grabbing his leg.

“Frank! Frank! Are you okay?” Wes yelled.

He yelled, “Let me check . . . yeah . . . I think I’ll be okay . . . it’s just a flesh wound . . . yeah, I’ll just hold my leg tight and it will probably stop bleeding. Damn, isn’t that something? I almost got shot in the arse. Now that would be hard to explain to my men.”

Ka-Boom! Another canister round exploded overhead.

“Okay, you rascal, get going and be sure to see the medics as soon as you return. We’ll try to hold off these screamin’ Rebs until you get back.”

Frank got up again while holding his leg, and ran to the rear not unlike a chimp’s loping sway. So as to be unencumbered by his rifle, be took Wes’s pistol for protection.

*      *      *

Assuming that Private Jones would be coming for more ammo, Andrew had already loaded several haversacks with .58 ball and percussion caps. He was also helping the wounded to the brigade medical tent nearby.

Clearing a hillock to the front, Frank arrived in a slow, staggering crouch. It appeared that he was hurting pretty badly.

“Frank! Are you okay?” Andrew yelled.

“Yep. Ammo, Andy, we need ammo up front . . . we’re about to run out. Jones is hurt, so I’m taking the run for him. I took a round in the leg . . .  I’m losing blood faster than I thought . . . get some ammo . . . quickly,” he moaned.

“Okay, Frank.” He turned and picked up several haversacks and brought them to Frank.

He threw them over Frank’s neck and shoulders—and he collapsed. “Frank, you’re in no condition to go back. Here, have a drink from my canteen.”

“Thanks. I’ll be okay. I just need to rest a little.”

Through fatigue, blood loss, and increasing pain, Frank’s wound had taken its toll. He asked for another drink, then rinsed his wound with a little water. When Andrew saw the torn muscle and bloody mass under his pant leg, he decided he had to take over Frank’s task. Frank wasn’t going back; he was going to the medical tent.

“I say again, Frank, you’re in no condition to go back. I’ll make the run for you. I’m going to carry you over to the medical tent right now, and then I’ll take the ammo to the men.”

“Okay, you’re right. But go now . . . forget about me . . .  I’ll crawl to the medics . . . and be aware, I’ll be in trouble with Wes for letting you go to the front.”

“Not to worry, I’m the only healthy one here. Besides, I’m in charge now. I’m taking you first,” Andrew said as he took the haversacks from around Frank’s neck, lifted him up, and threw him over his shoulder.

Frank yelled, “No . . . get going . . . no . . . don’t!” and he passed out, either due to shock, fatigue, or both.

Andrew now spoke to him as if the company’s sergeant. “Frank, I suppose you’ll tell me that I’m disobeying a direct order, and you’ll take one of my stripes . . .  But, I’ve got news for you . . .  I have no stripes . . . ha . . . now, be quiet.”

After dropping him off, Andrew picked up Frank’s pistol and haversacks of ammo, and ran toward the front.

*      *      *

Ka-Boom!

Wes kept looking to the rear for Frank. After a short lull, the Rebs were about to try advancing again. As expected, the sound of steady footfalls of a column, the tinkling noise made by bayonets striking tin cups, and the clanking and clanging of arms carried up the slope indicating the Rebs were about to attack. Seminary Ridge was about to explode.

The 75th waited. The new sound—silence—on the battlefield was deafening.

The time for attack was at hand; the men of Wes’s company tended to final rituals. Friends sought out friends and wished each other well until after the battle. Wes had directed all officers dismounted as they passed along the lines attending to the needs of their men. Many in the company had scribbled a letter to their loved ones and announced, “Sir, I feel this is the last letter I will write.” Reluctantly, Wes accepted the letters.

Now Wes reminded his men to “Remember what Ohio and our friends at home expect of us.”

Fearing the possibilities of being overrun for lack of ammo, Wes passed on an unfortunate, but practical, command down the line. “Fix bayonets.”

Wes was reminded of his recent training that surprisingly resolved that Civil War tactics were still fashioned after Napoleon Bonaparte’s Armies (early 1800s). Frequently commanders accepted the practice of using the bayonet as a last resort. But by 1862, after First Manassas (Bull Run), the rifle musket now in use on both sides had rendered the bayonet charge foolish. While Napoleon’s charging lines at Waterloo had been exposed to musket fire for a hundred yards, the rifle muskets could destroy a charging line with accuracy from 350 yards, and do damage at more than 500 yards.

By 1862, battle lines infrequently were close enough to engage in a classic hand-to-hand fight. In this case, Wes needed the bayonet for defensive purposes. If he ran out of ammo, the bayonet’s cold steel blade may be his last line of defense . . . the crucial element between life and death.

Wes paused  and gave a more encouraging order. “Select your targets carefully, boys . . . with limited ammo, drop those Rebs like the wind does the leaves in autumn.”

To strengthen the Union cannon batteries, Wes helped an artillery sergeant unlimber their cannon and move the horses, with flanks and muzzles covered with foam and eyes ablaze with fear, team to the rear. While helping the team move their gun into position, he thought, Where is Frank? I hope that bullet didn’t have his final number on it. Wait a minute . . . what’s that?

With his eyes straining to see through the battleground smoke, Wes saw a figure running toward him. It wasn’t Frank . . . he rose slightly to get a better view. He was shocked at what he saw . . . it looked like Andrew. He was running in a zig-zag pattern as all infantry men were taught. Being in a crouch, or bent-over stance, he wasn’t sure . . . until the figure got closer and Wes was sure who it was.

Wes yelled, “Get down, Andrew, the Rebs are about to attack. Crawl! For heaven’s sake . . . get down on your belly. This whole area’s going to be filled with ‘Minie balls’ at any moment.”

“No, Gramps, can’t yet . . . Frank says I’ve got to give out this ammo up and down the line . . .  I’ll be back in a second . . .  Oh, here’s yours.”

He threw a sack toward Wes, and crawled along the line giving the remaining sacks to the four platoons.

Ka-Pow! Ka-Pow!

As Andrew leaped over, around, and through the detritus of logs, rock, and bodies . . . some wounded, others dead, he finally made it back to Wes.

“Yip—Yip—A-A-E-E-EEEEEE,” suddenly rose from the attacking Johnny Rebs; the yelping screams shattered the air and echoed across the Union Lines.

“Get down, Andy, here they come . . . hit the dirt.”

Andy leaped behind the Union fortifications in front of Wes, gave him another sack, caught his breath, and quickly started loading a rifle musket like the others on the line.

While shooting and reloading, Wes yelled over the battle sounds, “Son, no matter what, don’t expose yourself to enemy fire like that again . . .  we don’t need any more fearless fighters falling . . . now get out of here—get!”

“Okay, Gramps. I was just filling in for Frank.”

“I know . . . and you did it well, but you’re too young to be up here. I promised your mother I wouldn’t put you in harm’s way . . . whenever possible. By the way, how is Frank?”

“He’ll make it, but a ‘Minie ball’ rearranged his quad muscle. I took him to the brigade medical unit.”

Ka-Boom! Iron pellets showered the area from a canister charge. Ka-Pow! Ka-Pow! Ka-Pow! Ziiinnnggg! Ka-Boom! Echoed across the front as the charge began.

Wes repeated, “Fine, now get . . . one thing, did Frank ask you to bring this ammo?”

“No. He had passed out by then.”

“Figures. Now get!” said Wes as he turned to face the charging Rebs.

*      *      *

While running back, a series of cannon bursts along his return route made Andrew alter his course back to the 75th. He circled around the southeast side of Little Round Top and headed northeast to reach Company Headquarters. He held his position a moment and looked around for a landmark or two to ensure he was on the right course.

He thought, Ah, this is the way, I’ll head for that toppled pine to the northeast . . . yeah, that’ll work.

He caught his breath, took a short swig from his canteen, checked his pistol, then took a long draft . . . and paused.

As he stepped off, a noise by a downed pine tree caught his attention. He paused. “What’s that?”

He looked around the area for the source of the sound. It was very weak sounding, like a moan. “O-O-HH-aa.” A mournful cry.

“There it is again.”

Andrew thought, I’d better check; it could be one of our wounded.

With his half-cocked .45 Colt leading the way, he walked toward the sound. He carefully stepped over the boulders and trees downed by cannon fire . . .

Ka-Boom!

He hit the deck.

With the aid of the flashing burst overhead, just ahead . . . a supine body with a pained face stared back at Andrew.

For a moment, in the dynamics of the fierce battleground, he turned to stone.

“I’ll be darned,” Andrew cried as his eyes caught the eyes of the injured man. Pressed in a soiled gray uniform, it appeared to be a Johnny Reb. The soldier’s rifle lay near his feet, an empty canteen by his side, and a red-to-black stain on his upper right arm indicated a serious wound. Additionally, most of the sleeve was torn away with a blood wrap encircling his upper arm.

With a strong Southern drawl, he said, “No—no—don’t shoot—leave me alone . . . I want to die, I’m bleeding to death . . . leave me alone—I want to die.”

Andrew lowered his pistol and relaxed; the wounded soldier was no threat.

Somehow, some way . . . the wounded man must have read Andrew’s body language and changed his mind.

The man raised up a little, and screamed, “Help me . . . please help me. I’m bleeding to death.”

Approaching carefully, Andrew put his pistol into his waistband and offered the man a drink.

He appeared to be in his mid-twenties, thinner than average, with soiled yellow hair. He had a long beard that masked his true appearance. His threadbare Confederate uniform was filthy and torn in several places. He had no shoes. A soiled blanket roll was wrapped around his shoulder.

“Do you feel better now?” Andrew asked after the Reb had gulped down the remaining water from his canteen.

“How can I help you? Are you able to walk? Can you move at all?”

“No, I also sprained my ankle after taking a round in the arm, and I’ve lost too much blood . . . I’m too weak to move. Please, can you help me?”

Andrew thought, Gramps told me this fighting would get worse. It has, but here I am in an unusual situation with a wounded, and probably dying, Rebel soldier, shot by a Yankee. What to do? I’ve got to do something.

“Okay, listen up, here’s what’ll happen. Our brigade’s medical facility is about 100 yards to the northeast. I’ve just been there with one of our wounded. Since you can’t walk, I’ll carry you, and our medics will do what they can to help. First, I need a little info. What’s your name?”

He answered, “Joseph Reddick.”

Ka-Boom!

“What?”

“Joseph Reddick . . . R-e-d-d-i-c-k, Reddick.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.”

“What?”

“You’ll never believe this. That’s my Mom’s and Gramp’s last name, too. They both mentioned there were a lot of Reddicks in the South, only spelled with a double ‘d’ . . . I wonder if we’re related somehow?”

Ka-Boom! More canister pellets rained down from the canopy above.

“Dang . . . let’s get the heck out of here. Some of those rounds are landing too far beyond the line for comfort. I think your cannons are trying to reach over the lines to quartermaster and medical.”

Without comment, Andrew picked Joe up, wrestled him over his shoulder, and struggled his way through the downed timber and rubble like a man afire. On the way, several rounds whistled overhead while he zig-zagged to the medical tent.

The medical officer at the brigade tent stopped Andrew. “Hold it right here! What’s this? What have you got there, soldier? It looks like Johnny Reb to me . . . explain yourself!”

Andrew explained who he was, his unit, and the circumstances leading to the Rebel being brought to the Yankee medical unit.

“Well now, you’ve certainly performed way beyond the call of duty today. We’ll take the Rebel and see what we can do for him. I suggest that you’d better get back to your unit—no telling whether our lines can hold. Lee has been throwing troops at us all day. They tell me we’re holding. The slope up to the Union positions, called Cemetery Ridge, is littered with Rebel dead and dying. My advice to you is to—get! This is no place for a 14-year-old.”

Andrew gave Joe one last look to say goodbye, but by then he had passed out either from pain or loss of blood. It was clear to Andrew that he had to get back to Company Headquarters—quickly. As he turned to leave, he stopped and yelled, “By the way, his name is Joe . . . Joe Reddick, that’s with two ‘d’s’. He may even be a relative. My Gramp is a Redick, but with one d. Interesting, huh?”

The medical personnel listened passively to this seemingly unimportant connection . . . and repeated: “Get!” He then added that Frank was doing fine.

Just after clearing the medical area, Andrew found the path back to the 75th and ran full tilt.

Ka-Boom!

An aerial canister burst overhead and rained pellets down on Andrew.

A jagged pellet hit him on the side of his head. It threw him off his feet and slammed him onto the littered ground. His pistol went one way, his canteen another, and his hat a third. His ever-present bugle wrapped around his body and fell underneath him as he rolled over and crashed into a downed log.

He quickly felt his body parts for any broken or fractured bones. He found none, but did feel the blood running down his face from a tear in the skin above his left ear.

“Damn, that pellet tore a pretty big hole in my skin, and I think another pellet may have punctured my bugle. Thank you, old horn, you may have saved my life. I’m lucky the hit on the head didn’t tear my ear off. The medical personnel were right, the Rebs are targeting support units behind the lines—or are just bad shots. That is awful, but as Wes said, ‘war is hell’ and just about anything goes.”

He decided to cleanse the wound himself, wrap it to stop the bleeding, and move out of the area as quickly as possible. He could use the first aid kit at headquarters to do a better job later.

“Wait, where’s my pistol, my hat? I’d better go back and get ’em. I’ve got to get out of this impact area, but I’ve also got to retrieve that gun.

He ran back, suddenly feeling a headache coming on from the wound, and searched for the big log that he had crashed into.

Ka-Boom!

Pellets riddled the area and splintered the overhead limbs.

Ka-Boom!

Just as he turned to leave, a canister burst at a lower level, throwing him to the ground. As he fell, he put his hands over his head . . . and got so low, he ate dirt in the process. It happened again. A pellet, ricocheting off a nearby rock, slammed into his right shoulder blade with a thud. It felt as though he had been hit with a ten-pound hammer. Painfully, he reached around slowly and found a blood-soaked pellet embedded in his back. His thick jacket had helped to lessen the impact on his flesh. He looked at it with contempt, but kept it as an example of a “lucky pellet,” for if it had been a direct hit, versus a ricochet . . . he would have been killed.

He knew he had to move and leave the impact area. So, despite being in great pain, he rose slowly and continued his route to the 75th.

There was no running this time, nor zig-zagging to avoid incoming rounds, no high stepping, leaming over freshly-downed trees; he carefully advanced using a slow, staggering off-balance crouch. One hand was on his wound above his ear, the bugle thrown over his back, and the pistol in his other hand. He felt pretty sure there would not be any more Rebels lost behind Yankee lines, but—one never knew in the chaos, the terror, the horror of war, what might pop-up unexpectedly.

At camp, he cleansed, disinfected, and dressed his head wound. He checked the horses on the picket line, looked to see if any rounds had hit the wagons—they had not—and thought of Frank. He thought, Maybe I should have stopped in to see him when I dropped Joe off. Oh well, there had been too many incoming wounded to linger there, and the medical personnel said he was doing fine. That’s okay by me.

Andrew finally sat down to rest and noticed how banged up his bugle had gotten. The flared horn end was bent a full 45 degrees to the right and the mouthpiece 45 degrees in the other direction. It did not look very melodic. He chuckled at the twisted musical piece of brass . . . until he noticed a hole torn through the flared end. “Holy-cow! There’s a large tear in the metal on one side of the flared end, and a big dent on the other side.”

He put his finger through the hole, “Damn, I think my bugle may have saved my life . . . I’in indeed a lucky guy.

“Guess what? I’m not going to straighten it. It’s earned its shape . . . through my travels and my falls. It has earned its battle scars. Then again, Wilson will probably make me straighten it, we’ll see. I’ll blow a few notes to see how she sounds.”

Da-da . . . da-da-da . . . da-da-da-daaaaa.

*      *      *

As Andrew tested his bugle, several heads turned in the medical compound. “What’s that?” a medical orderly said as the sound wafted through the air like a rhythmic tattoo.

A patient, Frank DeSellua, from the 75th, said, “That’s our bugler; he’s the boy who brought me in about an hour ago.”

*      *      *

Back at the 75th, Andrew commented, “She sounds good. I may not straighten her until I’m told to—by Wilson. I’d better stay put awhile, it sounds like the offensive probe by the Rebs has failed. The excitement I hear in the ranks sure sounds like Yankee cheers—thank God—I think it may be over soon.”

*      *      *

Wes looked at Wilson through the clearing smoke and exclaimed, “I think it’s over . . . thank God. Longstreet’s last advance has failed; the Rebels are retreating—at least for the day. Hurrah.”

Wilson agreed. “’Tis true, Wes. Johnny Reb is in full retreat. The 75th has held. We stood alone with their final rush . . . and held our ground. We held for many reasons: sheer guts under fire; leadership by officers and NCO’s, and an ample supply of fire power and ammo.”

Wes looked at Wilson. “Speaking of ammo, I wonder how Frank is doing? Remember, Andrew made the ammo run after Frank was hurt. I’d better check on him. It looks like the fighting is over for the day.

“Speaking of Andrew, did you hear that?”

A distant bugle sang faintly . . .  A familiar. sound, varying in strength, a rhythmic beating and rapping coming from the east. Someone was blowing a few notes as if to test a bugle. As quickly as it started, the sound abruptly stopped.

Wes commented, “It’s gratifying to hear that sound. Wouldn’t you agree that it sounds like Andrew? Like he’s checking out his horn—testing it for some reason?”

“Wes, I think you’re correct, Andrew’s our boy . . . or more correctly, after today’s trial under fire, he’s the man from the 75th, who happens to blow the bugle, too.”

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Published by markallennorth

Retired educator, Bendix Aerospace designer/engineer, industrialist, and Michigan native Mark Allen North has published numerous technical and academic articles, primarily in the field of human-factors design. More recently, he published his memoir, Time Past—Time Present. Studies of Native American spirituality led to Valiant Lady, his third novel in the series that began with Intreprid Lady and Courageous Lady. He also writes children’s books, including A Water Journey, the story of a young Indian boy’s adventures; and Bugle Boy, the story of a young boy serving in his grandfather’s company during the Civil War.

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