L i f e S t
o r i e s o f C i v i
l W a r H e r o e s
Just outside of Tennessee
I saw the most wonderful and peculiar sight and wanted to
write to you about it.
Yesterday morning we were on the march, and towards mid-day moved
off the turnpike to a spacious farm that had not yet been touched
by the withering hand of war. We were well satisfied when directed
to locate our camp inside a large walnut grove. The trees had rough
and dark trunks, and their branches twisted skyward where they locked
together to form a leafy, dappled canopy overhead that shielded us
from the sun. Their fallen fruit created a carpet that snapped and
popped as the columns marched over it, crushing the hard hulls. All
day the men were seen plucking these nuts off the ground and cracking
them open to enjoy the buttery tasting prizes inside.
At sun-down, the campfires were leaping and crackling.
Sighs and laughter of men glad to be off their feet
echoed through the grove. We enjoyed a hearty meal of
pork and potatoesthe first in many daysand
found that our appetites were sharpened even more by the
crisp touch of the cool autumn air, as the sun sank lower
into the surrounding hills. Though anticipating a night
of some frivolityknowing that we would remain in
this place for several daysI found myself strangely
tired, but nevertheless in a contented and relaxed mood
by early evening. After singing songs and speaking of
home, I was ready for sleep. I raked aside some walnuts
to clear a spot sufficient enough to house my bedroll,
then unrolled my blankets and cloak in anticipation of a
cool, damp night. I had chosen a spot beneath the
spreading arms of a noble, old tree and laid down to
rest. The murmur of men at the fires around me, and the
snoring of those who had passed on before me, soon lulled
me to sleep. The last thing I remember as I lay on my
back in the darkness was the bright light of Jupiter
hanging low and steady in the sky.
It seemed I had not been asleep for long when I heard 1st Sgt. McHenry
awaken Corp. Morris on the ground beside me. "The stars are falling
again" he whispered. The camp was silent except for the sergeant's
footsteps, the occasional popping of embers, and the soft rustle and
flurry of ashes collapsing into the dying fires. McHenry had told
us he had seen stars flying through the sky early in the morning for
the past couple of days, and each time they had become more numerous,
and even brighter.
At two o'clock A.M., I saw a brief but brilliant light
streak across the night, low on the horizon, traveling
from south to north. In a few minutes, I saw another,
then another. All flew along their cold paths in the same
precise directionsome high in the sky, others
appearing to skirt along the low, black hilltops in the
distance. Jupiter now looked brighter and larger than
ever, and had taken up his throne in the exact center of
the dark hall of the heavens, to sit and rule over this
The stars began flying by in greater numbers now. Some were quick
flashes of light, others moved more slowly. Some were only pinpoints
as small as the stars that shone behind them. Others dared to be larger
than Jupiter himself, and tore through the dark night, dragging luminous
tails that flared and trailed behind them, leaving a plume of glowing
stardust that hung in the sky, then faded like mist. I watched them
for nearly an hour through the branches of the tree overhead. Warm
and at ease in my familiar old blankets, I felt as if the ruler of
the heavens had provided this display for my own particular pleasure,
and given me the most advantageous seat from which to view it. My
heavy eyelids would sometimes close for a few moments, but there was
a lazy comfort in knowing that these distant travelers continued flying
over my head on their endless and mysterious journey, even as I rested.
When I opened my eyes again, they were still there, just as I knew
they would be, darting through the branches of the tree, and flying
across the horizon in their determined flight.
It occurred to me that I was missing the chance to have
enough wishes for a lifetime granted to me, and began to
make a wish on each star as it streaked past me. If that
tale is true, I will have all that I desire in my
lifetime, as I pinned a wish on every star that flew by.
It was a most spectacular sight and experience.
Eventually the call of sleep was to0 strong for me to
ignore, and I drifted off into the darkness, feeling as
if I, too, was traveling through the night with those
beautiful stars, on a mysterious journey of my own. When
I awoke, the day was dawning and Jupiter had retired
along with the shooting stars. But I had seen them, and
will always carry the memory of them with me.
So that is the story of the stars. Perhaps you had seen
them too? I hope you and your family are well.
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