Making the River | Teen Ink

Making the River MAG

June 5, 2010
By J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
5 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

Diary of Thomas Warren: July 27, 1864 I crouched behind the large willow that overlooked the woodland down the hill, and let my breath come in halting gasps. Cool and soft breezes brushed over me, caressing my skin. My eyes roved around the surroundings, alert for trouble. In each flutter of feathers I heard musket fire and the shouts of my pursuers. Kneeling, I tore strips of cloth from my tattered pants and wound them around my bare feet. I made each movement slowly and deliberately, letting my strength return.

After I had regained my breath, I stood and made a beeline for the glimmering water in the distance. If I could make the river, I could float downstream to camp; if I made it to the river, I would live.

Hearing a commotion, I looked behind me. Far up the hill I could see the flash of a blue uniform. They had followed me. Splinters flew from a tree five feet to my right. A split-second later I heard the sharp report of a musket. I broke into a hobbling run. My eyes flickered over the rocky ground as I searched for any obstacle that might ensnare me and slow my descent.

After several minutes, I turned around, trying to see if they were in sight, and my foot caught a root overhanging a badger's den, twisting it. My body lurched forward. In terror, I clawed at the earth as I fell, then gasped as my face struck the soil.

With my face pressed to the ground, I breathed in deeply; the dark earth smelled of loam and dead vegetation, a rich, heavy scent that invigorated me. That weak and human desire to live that we all share, could not bear the thought of leaving all that I treasured and never seeing or feeling the beauty of God's creation. I dragged myself to my feet and ran with renewed strength. Bitter tears flowed from my eyes as I begged God for the strength to make it to the river.

Events that led to this moment raced through my mind. I remembered signing up for the Confederate Army at 17. I had hoped the peach fuzz that encircled my boyish face would pass for a scraggly beard and lend age to my appearance. I could see myself marching in the ranks of gray-clad, all of us believing in our cause and the invincibility of our forces. God stood with us; how could any stand against us? Oh, how I yearned for the glory of those lost days.

Ever since Grant had taken charge of the Union forces, I wondered if God had turned his back on the South. Defeat after defeat had plagued our armies. We fought for our God-given right to life and for our right to the sovereignty of statehood. Why would God desert us when we fought against such a tyrant as Lincoln? How could God allow this man, who trampled the Constitution, to dominate the glorious South?

My side ached. Breath came unsteadily now. I cried out, “God, you have deserted our cause, but please do not desert me now! I tear off these emblems of a cause which you seem to disdain. I come to you as a man! A lowly man who implores you to shed your infinite mercy upon him. For a man only, not for any cause, please deliver me from the clutches of wicked man!”

In vigorous body and broken spirit I ran on. Even whilst weeping, stumbling, I dreamed of home and Ma and Pa. I thought of the potatoes in the fields, of the cotton rows, and of Mary. She had said she would wait for me. But what good could possibly come of her waiting if I died now? What future would await her if I perished?

Spurred on by a determination which must have come from God, for I can explain it in no other way, I redoubled my speed. Through the trees I could see the river rippling. My pursuers drew closer; I could hear them more clearly than ever, and I could imagine their blue coats brushing through the trees. But it did not matter, for through the trees blazed the beautiful, glorious river. I could see freedom and life in the gentle blue glimmer.

I heard musket fire and the air sang with bullets. But it mattered not, for I broke through the trees. And the river yawned before me, reflecting the midday sun.

I heard a voice cry, “Stop!”

Paying no heed, I jumped and felt the bullet strike my back. And then, in that glorious instant, I knew that my strength came from God, for I felt no pain. God must have shielded me in answer to my prayer. He had shown his mercy and saved my soul from death's clutches.

I felt nothing as I sank into the water. Even as Jonah had come from the depths, so the angel drew me from the waters and onto dry land. My body hovered as I drifted over the ground. Gently, slowly I drifted into slumber in the arms of an angel as it carried me away from the river.

Diary of Sgt. William Garret: July 27, 1864 Today marks an event that has touched me deeper than any other in this bloody war. After the skirmish this morning, a young Confederate soldier attempted to run rather than surrender. I led my men after him. After a wearying chase, we caught up with him on the shore of a river. Private Wilkes shot the man when he attempted to escape into the river.

Although this may appear a trifling event, especially in light of all that has transpired in this conflict, I shall never forget the look that young man gave me as I pulled him from the water. He looked on me from the soul of a boy who had no understanding of battle or death. Those aspects of this war which I used to prize now strike me to the heart as senseless and vain.

That lad could not have yet had his eighteenth birthday, yet now he lies in a hospital tent, a prisoner of war with a shattered spine. No doubt he does not even know the grave injury he has suffered. I have heard that after the spine snaps, one no longer registers pain. Our camp surgeon says that if by some miracle the lad lives, he will never use his legs again.

To the casual observer this event must seem trivial. But those eyes … I cannot forget them. He had the eyes of a child, so full of hope and life and so oblivious to their own loss.

How can any man truly wish for this bloody conflict? Who, whether man or monster, sparked this struggle? Can we truly place such value on the operation of Government as to slaughter our own brethren? Why must that boy die? What girl will now sit alone and mourn him? Will his parents stare at the empty field where he used to help work the soil? Should so many now feel anguish for the loss of that young life? How can anyone draw purpose from anything in this hell called war?

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This article has 25 comments.

on Jan. 4 2014 at 12:02 am
shorvath1832 GOLD, Lansdale, Pennsylvania
12 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Show me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Very nice job! I like to write about the Civil War myself, and I think this was truly a fantastic depiction of it. Most writers have a very hard time depicting Confederates as humans, which really irks me, but you did so very adroitly. Congratulations.

madkin said...
on Nov. 5 2013 at 5:32 pm
This is just amazing.....I thought you'd like to know that we analyzed this short story in my Honors US History class :)

Merla said...
on Sep. 11 2013 at 9:53 am
Merla, Reykjavík, Other
0 articles 0 photos 6 comments
Usually I don’t like short stories. The characters don’t give me as much as if I’d read a long novel. Your story was different. I have never felt desperation as strongly, with just reading about it. I didn't exactly like Thomas as a character, nor do I like the cause he’s fighting for, but I was extremely relieved he felt no pain and that he believed it was the work of God. He deserved that. 

on Jun. 4 2013 at 8:29 am
iluvrockandroll2 PLATINUM, Tinton Falls, New Jersey
22 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Some women choose to follow men, and some women choose to follow their dreams. If you're wondering which way to go, remember that your career will never wake up and tell you that it doesn't love you anymore."
— Lady Gaga

Brilliant!! I love your work, and how it felt like it was how you made the reader feel like they were actually in the moment, and you showed both perspectives of the war. Well Done and keep writing!!

BellaCharlie said...
on Feb. 15 2013 at 3:56 pm
BellaCharlie, Osler, Other
0 articles 0 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!
-Audrey Hepburn

This is very good. The way you mangaged to incorporate emotion into an intense scene was very well done. Keep up the great work!

on Oct. 7 2012 at 6:30 pm
BilbroSwaggins SILVER, Blountstown, Florida
5 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Only the rocks live forever, so it matters not how long we live, but how we live." -Native American Proverb

Great emotional story!

Trees BRONZE said...
on Sep. 21 2012 at 7:34 pm
Trees BRONZE, Billings, Montana
3 articles 0 photos 35 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die. How is that?

This is stuning!

on Aug. 11 2012 at 5:13 pm
Prehistoric-Fool GOLD, Wellesley, Massachusetts
16 articles 2 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Every path is the right path. Everything could’ve been anything else. And it would have just as much meaning.”

Nemo Nobody

this is great!

on Apr. 14 2012 at 10:33 am
AugustSummerFling PLATINUM, Mylapore, Chennai, Other
36 articles 0 photos 265 comments

Favorite Quote:
'For you, a thousand times over.' - Hassan, The Kite Runner

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.

This was amazing!! Thus is the second story I've read about this war since Gone with the Wind. Truly captivating!! I love how you expressed human emotions. It was brilliant. You inspired me to write more and love historical fiction!! Keep it up! Good job!

on Mar. 21 2012 at 7:59 pm
Weatherby76 PLATINUM, Newtown, Pennsylvania
33 articles 34 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
“The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” – Douglas Adams

I loved this! History/hist. fiction is my favorite genre. This brings to life the Civil War brilliantly and vividly. Well done!

on Aug. 3 2011 at 3:15 pm
Blue4indigo PLATINUM, Sturbridge, Connecticut
24 articles 0 photos 382 comments

Favorite Quote:
I'd rather be sorry for something that I did than for something I didn't do.
-Red Scott

Great story, although this genre is generally not my cup of tea, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Can someone look at some of my work, rate, and comment, please? (Especially the poems, when posted.)

on Apr. 1 2011 at 4:53 pm
Penfencer BRONZE, Amherst, Massachusetts
4 articles 0 photos 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I see you have a sword. I have one too. They're very ... manly. And ... tough."

I think you really got that across. It doesn't seem to me that you were making him a pacifist, or that the war did not have deep meanings. You were very clear that those were their voices, and were therefore biased. If you wanted to make it at all clearer, I would turn to the sargeant's reaction. His response was the only remotely pacifistic piece in the story. Overall, however, you shouldn't feel like you need to change the story to fit a certain "moral". It's a wonderful piece of writing and it can stand on its own. In a way, after you clarify that you're character's views are

1. historically accurate


2. accurate to their individual voices

... you're good. IN a way, changing your story to show that the war has a deep meaning shows some bias. I'm not saying you can't tighten up the characters' voices and clear up something that seems confusing to you or your readers, but consider that people will take from your writing a number of viewpoints, many of them much deeper than you can anticipate or prepare for.

Okay, my point is, you're pretty much fine. Don't worry about your personal opinion not being expressed in the piece. Your piece can stand on its own. 

That's just my silly little advice, sorry if it was SUPER confusing and unhelpful. Just take it into consideration if you can.

on Apr. 1 2011 at 4:45 pm
Penfencer BRONZE, Amherst, Massachusetts
4 articles 0 photos 27 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I see you have a sword. I have one too. They're very ... manly. And ... tough."

Just want to say, I totally agree with AvengedJasonFold on the vocabulary use and keeping the voices of the characters consistent with their class (historical accuracy IS a big deal with historical fiction pieces) but I wanted to say that I think "defeat after defeat had plagued" is a perfectly reasonable writing choice. It emphasizes the complete obliteration of morale, and although it may be slightly stylistic, it's perfectly grammatically correct. Sorry, just wanted to put in my two cents there.

on Feb. 24 2011 at 11:05 pm
J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
5 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

Whoever keeps giving this one star every couple of days just to drag its rating down . . .  would you mind stopping? It is kind of immature and stupid, especiually considering other than you every other rating it has received save one was a 5.

on Jan. 11 2011 at 12:25 am
J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
5 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

Interesting. As far as what it is like in the North regardign the Civil war . . . I don't run into many people who really think that deeply on it. Many people tend to think of it as being all about slavery. I wouldn't say it is a common topic though.  


When I first wrote this I actually started it a couple times, eac time with the Rebel soldier motivated by a different mindset regarding the war. My first try had him fiercely loyal to the south and fighting for the southern way of life. The second attempt portrayed him as fighting out of loyalty to family. I eventually settled on this one because of the feeling. But I recognize what you are refering to about the varied and complex motivations for the southern army. The reason I think that to this day the "rebel yell" is still remembered as something bone chilling and powerful is because the south did have so much tying them to the war. They had so much invested in the issue. The north entered battle to keep the union together, but this was not as powerful a rallying cry as the protection of families and homes. The north also switched its rallying cry later to focus on emancipation when the union soldiers started to lose what morale they had. There was such a difference in how much the two sides cared for the conflict, that it was obvious even in individual cases to see the higher morale of the southern troops.

on Jan. 10 2011 at 8:46 pm
3 articles 0 photos 2 comments
To say I am a Civil War fanatic would be a huge understatement. I try to learn everything about that War basically because I have ancestors that fought in it (the war messed 'em up pretty bad though. One was mentally messed up and the other became addicted to morphine...) unfortunaetly, instead of being huge plantation owners like the famous O'Hara's, they were poor sharecroppers. But I wasn't mad at the statements you gave and I don't think you disrespected the South in any way, but another intriguing aspect of the war was the conflicting emotions, for the Rebs that is. To fight or not to fight? What were they fighting for? For slaves? For respect? For rights? Or for the only way of life they'd ever known? I think a fraction of them fought for the action. It gave male teenagers chances to prove themselves in some ways. Southerners in general are very proud of our heritage. Sometimes we act like we won the war, I guess. We are a proud determined people who don't always think things through though. Sometimes I just wish I could go back in time and witness it all for myself:) just out of curiousity, what's the North like?

on Jan. 9 2011 at 5:03 pm
J.Octavian.R SILVER, Lake Nebagamon, Wisconsin
5 articles 0 photos 23 comments

Favorite Quote:
A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.
C. S. Lewis

Haha. yes, I empathize. I love history. Although my literary tastes primarily focus on classical literature, I also enjoy history a great deal, particularly early american history. I would be very interested if you would give your general thoughts on the causes of the war as you are from the south. (I live very far north) I tried to represent the loyalty to statehood that Southerners felt. I did not really delve into the economic conflict, because to do so would require too much deviation from the story. But I tried to treat the issue fairly. Also, although this individual's (the southern soldier) loyalties are rather messed up and conflicting, and he obviously is unsure of his commitment to his side, this does not reflect my view of the south in general. This was more meant to show how much this particular character was motivated more by youthful enthusiasm and less by an understanding of the issues. Through the sergeant I tried to show the lack of morale of many Northern soldiers who had far less of a reason to invest themselves in the conflict than the southerners. Personally my beliefs as far as the war is concerned are that slavery is morally wrong. But legally it was the South's right to hold slaves and to secede from the union. I believe that Lincoln overstepped his Constitutional authority and was wrong to cause the war legally. But on the issue of slavery I believe it was a barbaric institution, particularly the type of slavery that America used.

on Jan. 9 2011 at 11:20 am
3 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Wow! It's amazing to think other teenagers like history! It's so depressing being called 'nerd' all the time for being interested in the American Civil War or a Yellow Fever Plague. I think you did a great job with the diary article, but we here down South sometimes see the war in a different light:)

on Oct. 27 2010 at 8:36 am
Nutty3,14 BRONZE, Johannesburg, Other
3 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
I shall never grow up. Make believe is much too fun.
You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

This is fantastic, I love the discription and the imagery created. Will definatly look up more of your stuff.

630R63 BRONZE said...
on Jun. 29 2010 at 5:52 pm
630R63 BRONZE, Newton, Massachusetts
3 articles 0 photos 7 comments
good job! I like how you use a diary format, it worked well