1864: Be Careful What You Wish For

James Frood, guest writer

Aaron was Union soldier who joined the war, not to fight for a just cause, but to die. He grew up in Boston, Massachusetts as an only child. When he was young he believed and followed all that his parents taught him about God and life in general. However as he got older he began to question God and the many statements made. How could someone destroy evil if it is a choice, would that not mean the destruction of free will? If Adam and Eve were the only ones in the garden who did Cain marry? If they were not the only ones in the garden why was all of humanity punished? He began to view God as someone to be feared, as disobedience would mean death. Starting from around 13-14 years old Aaron began to deal with depression. Was existence worth it? If something serves no purpose why does it exist? Do I serve a purpose, should I exist? He stared to care less and less about reality. He ignored others and began to seclude himself, since if no one knew or cared about him they wouldn’t be hurt when he died. Around when he was 19 the Civil War began, the North and South separated with both sides ready for war. Aaron hated the South for their defense of slavery. He believed no one on earth has the right to take others free will. He had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for almost 5 years now and he saw the Civil War as the perfect place to die.
May 5-12, 1864 (Battle Wilderness and Spotsylvania)
It was the morning of May 5th, 1864, the Civil War had been going on for almost 3 years now. Many thought that the First Battle of Bull Run would be the only fighting. No one had expected the war to go on for so long, or that President Abraham Lincoln would create the Emancipation Proclamation. Some of the troops fighting alongside Aaron had voiced their opposition to the Proclamation and others had tried to leave. To Aaron though, the Proclamation was sign of hope that this world could be better, and that those opposed were pathetic. No one has the right to rule over and oppress others because of the color of their skin.
“This world is full of evil and death” Aaron muttered to himself. He looked around at the others preparing their guns and ammunition for the coming battle.
“Why am I still here?” he questioned in his mind. “I joined to die and yet I still live. What is it that is keeping me alive, why am I still fighting? I want to die, don’t I? Don’t I!? I… I…. WHAT IS IT THAT KEEPS ME ALIVE?!?”
“Aaron!” shouted the officer he was posted with.
“What?” Aaron said weakly as he snapped back to reality.
“Stop daydreaming, the Confederate troops should be in eyesight any minute now.”
“Yes sir!” Aaron began to survey the area, his rifle at the ready with finger on the trigger. He had gotten used to the war, to the death and killing. The excuse he gave himself to rationalize it all was they were evil. They fought for slavery and the subjugation of others! They must be stopped and killed for the betterment of humanity. But did he really believe that? No matter their choice they are still people with families and lives. The nightmares never stopped, even when he was awake.
*Boom* A gunshot rang out through the dense forest, followed by hundreds more, the battle had begun. Aaron aimed his rifle carefully searching for where the shots and screaming was. He caught sight of a Confederate and did not hesitate, *Boom* they dropped dead. He quickly got to work reloading his rifle. As soon as another Confederate was in his sight he pulled the trigger. The fighting continued on for most of the day with neither side managing to make any major moves. Darkness brought a stop to the fighting with each side bringing in reinforcements. The next morning Aaron and the soldiers he was posted with got some moments of rest as another set of troops almost defeated the Confederate right flank. On May 7, 1864, Ulysses S. Grant had the Union troops push onward to the crossroads of the Spotsylvania Courthouse.
“I need to decide once and for all….. do I want to live or die?” as Aaron pondered this, orders were given to continue on.
“I cannot continue on in this constant state of uncertainty. I need to make my final decision and soon, this war may make it for me if I take to long. I joined to die and here I am still fighting to survive, heh.”
Aaron let out a sigh as he followed the rest of the troops on their way to Spotsylvania. The others were commenting on their battle and bragging to each other about who got the most kills.
“All this death and destruction, yet we’ve turned it into a game. I don’t blame them, at this point anything to take our minds off the pain is a blessing.”
Throughout the battle of Spotsylvania Aaron could only think of one simple question, life or death? The battle had an inconclusive outcome as neither side had really gained any ground on the other. The Confederates were losing more and more irreplaceable troops as their number of able men were diminishing. The Union on the other hand could replace their casualties in this total war. After the battles of Wilderness and Spotsylvania came the battle of Cold Harbor and a most disastrous defeat for the Union.
May 31-June 12th, 1864 (Battle of Cold Harbor)
The regiment Aaron was assigned to didn’t reach Cold Harbor until midnight on the 31rst of May. Everyone was far too fatigued to assist in the Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s left flank and as a result the attack was postponed. Aaron had finally come to a decision about whether or not he wanted to live.
“God, I am sorry for the foolish mistakes I have been making. I realize now that I’ve just simply been running. I was afraid, I was angry, I just didn’t understand. I’m logical in my approach to the world, if something is impossible I give up. I questioned and challenged the pastors and teachers about faith, the inconstancies, and why good and evil are only choices. But no one gave any sort of answer. When I asked them, I didn’t see the faith and love of a God who cares for them. I saw only fear of a ruler who would punish disobedience or any sort of negativity. I began to fear You, nowhere seemed safe any more. My mind seemed like a battle ground for You and the devil, constantly trying to control which side I would be on. The noise was too much, I just wanted to be left alone. I just wanted peace from all this. Death seemed like, the perfect solution. No more noise, no more choice, just peace. Heaven may be the perfect reality for some, but to me… It is said that heaven is a place for those who want to be there. So the obvious question is then, do I want to be there and why? Do I want to be there because I love, respect, and follow Your commands? Or I am I afraid of permanent death and simply running to You out of fear? I know You want a relationship with us. You don’t want us to follow out fear, but out of love. So then would I be following You out fear or respect? I don’t mind having a relationship with you Lord, I just don’t understand how to balance You as both my friend and God. Why can’t there be a third choice? Why must I be put with the side of evil for not wanting heaven!? Must I sacrifice what makes me, ME to follow You truly. If so then am I really what is following You or is it another in my place? How do you destroy evil and not destroy free will? Good and Evil are choices, when combined they create free will. As in its simplest form free will is the ability to chose wrong. Because if Good and Evil did not exist there would be no choice, only existence. Just following orders. You know all; what will, has and has yet to happen. You know if I will make it to heaven or not. If I was going to fail why did You create me? What purpose did I serve? Why must humanity be the example of sin? Why did You have to put me here on this earth? Why couldn’t I have lived elsewhere, away from this pain and suffering? Why must it be such a struggle for us to gain Your favor, yet the rest of Your creation gets it for free? Why did You give me an imagination if You knew what it would led to!? I am done, I give up.
The next day the fighting started, Aaron and the other Union forces around assaulted the heavily defended Confederate lines. The assaults ended in complete disaster for the Union forces as they were slaughtered. Aaron fought harder then ever before, something in him pushed forward. His body would simply not let him give up easily. He peaked from his cover and fired at where he thought the enemy was. He reloaded his rifle and aimed, suddenly a sharp pain shot through his right leg. “Hhhhhhuuuu” he looked down at his leg and saw blood dripping down from where a bullet had forced through. He collapsed down on left leg “aaaauuggg” he struggled to form any words and his mind started racing. To his dismay he was alone here, there was no one to save him. Fear gripped him as he aimed his rifle, struggling to hold it still. He had wanted death for so long and now the reaper was right here. His fear of God seemed amplified to the max as he realized what was happening. *CRACK* The bones in his left arm felt as if they had shattered, blood covered his left side as his arm fell to the side. He couldn’t feel his left arm any more. He looked and it was still connected but it wouldn’t move.
“NO!” Aaron screamed in his mind. He looked up hopelessly, his adrenaline made the whole situation play out in slow motion. The reaper’s scythe was raised and ready to strike, death had arrived.
*BOOM* A bullet flew straight towards his face, his eyes followed its path.
“It is over, Lord I’m sorry….I failed You……..”
Works Cited
americasbesthistory.com. http://americasbesthistory.com/abhtimeline1860.html. Accessed 15 Jan 2018
AmericanCivilWar.com. 1864 American Civil War Battles Timeline. https://americancivilwar.com/tl/tl1864.htm. Accessed 15 Jan 2018.
George Tindall, David E. Shi, Erik Anderson. America: The Essential Learning Edition. December 2017. digital.wwnorton.com.

“Civil War Trust”. Civil War Trust, Civil War Trust, www.civilwar.org. Accessed 1 February 2018.
“Dictionary.com”. Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com. Accessed 1 February 2018.