Friday, December 06, 2013

Grading War Letters to Home, Day 2

These are the letters from the second day of the Grading War.  If you landed here by accident and don't know what you're reading, click here for the backstory.

6 December 2013, 10:05am
Dearest Marcus,
I take up my pen this morning to inform you once more of my disconsolate station. Please pardon the poor condition of this missive. You no doubt hold it in your delicate hand now soaked and tattered by the wretched weather conditions that have beset us. Pardon also the weak penmanship, the lack of Poetry in these lines, the ineptitude of my authorship. An icy cold paralyzes both hands and mind this morn. Only Prayer and memories of you keep my Soul safe from the same frozen ruination.

I return to the front today with a heavy heart as I have yet to receive a reply from you. Our young mail-boy, Josiah, was always a delicate and sick creature. I pray his fragility has not prevented him from dispatching his most important of Duties: carrying home my news and my love to you, dearest Marcus. What little I have seen of the Grading War, already far too much for one Soul, has convinced me that its greatest cruelty is this unbearable loneliness.

Steeling myself once more for today's fight, I expectantly await some affirmative report of your Welfare and remain, as ever,
Constantly Yours,
Leigh M. Johnson

PS- Unfortunately, I am unable to send news of our friend Charles, who is stationed nearby but from whom I have received no word of late. You should carry a positive report to his family nonetheless. In the meantime, we can hope together that Providence finds a way to make your false report a True one.

Dearest Marcus,
I pray this finds you well and taken neither by fever, hunger, exhaustion nor the wretched loneliness that animates my pen now. It is late afternoon here. The Wintry Hell, which I only scarcely described in my previous letter, continues. It is punishing, dear Marcus, as merciless as it is relentless, simultaneously freezing and burning what remains of my and my compatriots' Will to persevere. I will not frighten you with the horrific details, but today's battles have been particularly disheartening.

And so, I have withdrawn to a nearby billet where I have found a moment to write, a hearth and, I confess, also a bottle of spirits.

This moment to think on you, the comfort of the fire and the blankets here are a welcome respite, but the spirits' warmth is truly a Godsend. I must confess that some of the others look upon me now askance and with the Judgment of a stern Parson for my present indulgence. They insist it is far too early in our struggle to mollycoddle the drunkard's vice.

To them, and to you, I say: Each must endeavor to survive this War as she can and as Providence permits, for there are no Guidebooks in the State of Nature. I doubt I will return to the front again today, though I will remain, as ever,
Very Fondly Yours,
Leigh M. Johnson

PS- It pains me to relay that I am no longer certain of our friend Charles' fate. He promised regular reports, but the silence from his front is now deafening. Please say a prayer tonight that the Darkness has not fallen over his eyes.
PSS- As you are able, please also send report of Josiah.

Dearest Leigh,
I pray this meager note finds you comfortable and protected from the many and various enemies and obstacles that persistently nip at our heels. It is my sincere hope that you suffer from none of the sickness, despair and loneliness that dog our weary steps and invade our mirthless dreams. As I hurry to complete my note, night falls. The cold and the persistent rain have conspired to place a blanket of ice over my fellow soldiers and me. The cold is merciless, my dear Leigh. I fear that many will not survive till the morning. And yet, we must push on, even in the face of this despair. Our dogged determination would have it no other way.

As we are wont to do from time to time, a few of the men and I gathered around a small fire to recount merrier times in the Grading War. There was Abraham, a sturdy fellow from Albany, New York, Frederick, a jovial blatherskite from Pittsburgh, and Peter from Dayton, Ohio – slow to talk but quick to laugh. All recounted moments that made them smile in the midst of this seemingly endless War. All seemed able to, if just for a moment, make some sense of the chaos in which we find ourselves. When they had all finished, they turned to me. I tried, Leigh, I truly tried, to conjure up a story that would bring some small solace, some vanishing wisp of pleasure to these men with battered bodies and broken spirits. But alas, I could conjure no image of a happier time. And so we fell silent, and took solace in the heat of a slowly dying fire.

When I read your note, I was heartened by the fact that you had found the comfort of a fire, blankets and a bottle of spirits. I take joy in your indulgence! And pay no mind to those who would interfere or otherwise hinder your justifiable pursuit of respite. I say to you, and anyone else who should happen upon these musings, you are more than justified in your pursuits, for you too know the unspeakable pain and indescribable anguish of this Grading War. So, find your pleasure. Find your comfort. Revel in what little sanctuary you discover along the stony road we trod.

One of the ancient Greeks wrote that “In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, against our will, comes Wisdom – by the awful Grace of God.” If this is any true measure of Wisdom, I daresay that you and I – and all who endure this Grading War – are wise indeed.

I will try to write you again, but I cannot be certain of it. I will remain, as ever,
Very Fondly Yours,
Charles W. McKinney

Click here to proceed to DAY THREE of the Grading War Letters

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