My Great Granddad, Calvin Casebeer 1865
“The Battle of Chickamauga was about the bloodiest of the war, and the casualties were overwhelming. The 44th Indiana infantry only had three men killed, but 10 men were unaccounted for and 59 were shot up pretty bad. My brother and I were counted with the wounded. John had been run over by a runaway wagon, and I’d been shot through the leg. The field hospitals had performed amputations, patchwork, and temporary fixes, until their medical supplies were exhausted, and then they clenched their teeth and proceeded without them. The traffic of dead and dying soldiers from the Chickamauga to points north and south was slow and steady, and the pitiful laments of the injured rose from the wagons in a low guttural moan that for many was only answered in the thralls of death. By the afternoon of the 20th, John and I were in the back of a wagon on our way to a field hospital. We slept, best we could, shielding our eyes from the glaring sun and our ears from the sounds of agony and despair. Even in sleep, the scenes of battle repeated in my mind, and my consciousness reeled from the stench of death and war. War has always been an enigma to me, an irreconcilable amalgamation of glory and Godlessness. Even now, after my baptism of fire and a near death experience, I view it with a strange mix of abhorrence and wonder. It’s as though, despite its revulsion and abomination, war has some redeeming quality. I can tell you this about war; if war possesses any redeeming qualities, they’re not apparent out on the battlefield, where gallant young men are killing and being killed. The redeeming qualities of war are pretty illusive to those who observe its horrid stench first hand. War’s finer facets, in order to be fully appreciated, must be polished, politicized, and refined, by some well bred, manicured, articulate, gentleman back home. Back home the less desirable aspects of war may be overlooked. One may sip their brandy, smile benevolently, and observe, ‘Ain’t war inspirin’!
In the case of the Civil War, both sides sought peace. The north was bound by the patriot’s sense of E PLURIBUS UNUM, and the south was bound by home and hearth and their ancestral way of life. Few would argue that either was served by war. Death and destruction may quell revolt, but they rarely result in peace. Don’t get me wrong. I realize that freedom requires commitment, commitment requires perseverance, and perseverance requires the will to act. When freedom and just causes are threatened, honorable men respond. But surely war is the last resort of those who know its grief. Surely for reasonable people there’s a better way! Freedom is every heart’s desire and every just government’s goal, but it’s a mighty illusive concept when you’re at war. Freedom is nearly impossible when ya don’t have peace.”
So what, in your opinion Mr. Casebeer, is our best hope for peace?” “Well sir,” Calvin responded, briefly removing his hat and running a red bandanna over his wispy, white hair, “ol’ Abraham himself summed it up far better than I ever could.” With this Mr. Casebeer reached into his pocket, produced a tattered remnant of President Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address, and read aloud, “With malice toward none; with charity for all: with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have born the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.” With that, Mr. Casebeer smiled warmly; parted by offering the unfailingly compassionate hand of true Christian fellowship, and Mrs. Casebeer assisted him back to the house. And I collected my papers and came away enlightened.
The preceding excerpt, although historically accurate, is a work of fiction, based on the life of my great granddad, Calvin Casebeer. S. T. Casebeer. This short story may be read in its entirety under SHORT STORIES, on my website: www.shannoncasebeer.com.