I grimaced at the tub of water, clouds of dirt and muck floating about in it. How many had been here before me? "Come on, lad. You wanta clean er not?" came a heavy, brutish voice behind me. Hiding back a shudder, I cupped the water in my hands, bending over to splash it over my sweaty face and over my wrists and arms. The slight coolness relieved my heated skin only slightly.
I grimaced at the tub of water, clouds of dirt and muck floating about in it. How many had been here before me? "Come on, lad. You wanta clean er not?" came a heavy, brutish voice behind me. Hiding back a shudder, I cupped the water in my hands, bending over to splash it over my sweaty face and over my wrists and arms. The slight coolness relieved my heated skin only slightly.Disease ran wild in our camp, many men were dead before the fight had begun. By a horrible mistake, our leader had picked the worst place to set up fort, the humidity in the swamp-like lands made the moist air feel as if it was sticking to our skin, terrible bugs eating away at us. Now, with so many sick and the enemy forces just ahead, we were stuck.'Ed was fortunate to make it out alive.' I thought as I sludged through the muck of the back part of the camp. The generals and higher up in the lines were set up in a better place up in front, made better by their own wealth. I was told it was kept clean and neat, and though the disease was more muted in their piece of the camp, they could not avoid it. We were just linemen, shields they tossed before the enemy swords.
Bitter anger rich with fear throbbed in my chest as I thought of all the upcoming battles that we were to face. Would I live to see it out of one-to ever see my Mother again? To ever see my beloved sister and brothers? I tightened my jaw fiercly; I was here so that they should not die, that perhaps I may die for them instead. Swallowing, I thought, Yes, if it shall kill me, I shall protect my family and fight without fear.
I pulled open the flap to our tent, slipping inside. The air was stagnant and sticky contained in the weak structure, and I could feel sweat prickling on my forehead. A three men Father and I shared the crowded tent with sat on the floor with playing cards in their hands. They were similar to us; farmers, weavers, bakers fighting for family and country.
"Is Father not here?" I asked.
"Nope," answered Lard shortly, not looking from his handful of cards. "Jus' left for a walk, he did."
I was silent, watching their slow game for a moment. Hoofbeats outside caught my attention, sloshing along in the mud. "Letters, letters!" a voice called out. The three men set aside their playing cards for a moment, standing to their feet. We pushed open the flap to the tent, stepping out into the murky sunlight. Others trickled from their tents, creating a small crowd of people about the man and his horse, letters under his arms. "Alby...Baron...Blue..." we all stood as the man called names in alphabetical order, tossing out either parcels or handing out a small handful of letters. "...Elliot.."
Furrowing my brow, I pushed through the gathering of people to the man on his horse. "Elliot?" the man murmured, handing me a single, solitary letter. I nodded, taking the letter from his hand. He turned to continue shouting out names, but I stopped him, asking in an undertone.
“Sir, what of Jon, Mr. Jon Hanway?” I inquired curiously. Usually Jon would bring us our letters, and sit and speak with us. Many times he passed through the camp, but I had not seen him in the longest time.
The man titled his head. “Oh, he has been assigned a different mission. Edin…Edin!” He continued to cry out names.
I turned my attention to the letter, my mother’s hand scrawling out our last name. Slowly, I wove my way through the throng to an empty makeshift alley between two tents. With great care I tore open the seal, unfolding the parchment.
My Loves, Frederick and Luke,
I write with the most unfortunate news, struggling to write these words on this paper. Our dear Ed has passed late last night. His recovery was almost certain until he fell deep into a fever once more, one that we could not break. I fear I can not write much more, other than Ed leaves a loving family, and this woman, Annabelle, carrying his child.
I hope you are all in fine health.