THE FIRST DRAFT: "On Common Ground"


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(No Title Yet)

By Heather Graham


The young woman’s face seemed tired and worn out as she made her way between row after row of men; sick, hurting, dying. Day after day she found herself holding a soldier’s hand as his last breath seeped from his body, day after day she met new eyes of anguish and suffering, and day after day she found the strength to face each dying person. It was her job; a nurse, yet at times it was so draining.

Clusters of men camped together, scattered around the 40 acre vicinity. Friends and countrymen stuck together day in and day out talking of home and dreaming of families and loved ones.

Often men made their way down to the creek bed to pan for gold.

I met Mr. Savarino shortly after we moved into our new house. One morning as I woke up and from the sun shining through my window, I went to it and saw and figure poking around in my backyard down by the creek. Mom told me Mr. Savarino, who lived up the street from us, was looking for Civil War buttons and bullets. In our yard? Strapped across his shoulder he carried a mettle detector that swept across the surface of the ground. His big head phones covered his ears and drowned out any sounds except for that which could send his heart racing, that which could lead to historical treasures.

1864-John sat by the calm creek writing a letter home to his mother, knowing that there was a realistic chance that he may never see her again. He wrote,


Mother:
I have been sent with the rest up from Richmond because they were afraid I’d infect the healthy soldiers. I am feeling better, but they said it was mumps, I don’t know what that really is. The worst of it has gone. For weeks I was delusional, they said I talked in my sleep, but that’s all I did, sleep. I was very close to old Mr. Richard’s son, Sam. They said he had mumps too, and he was sent up here to Boscobel with me. Sam died yesterday. I heard Mr. James was killed by the Yankees, let’s hope it isn’t so…


John played with his loose button on his jacket as he wrote the letter to his mother, trying to hold back the tears that wanted so badly to come. He didn’t even notice when the mettle button with his North Carolina inscription on it fell to the ground and as he rose the walk up the hill to his tent he stepped on the button pressing it into the soft damp earth.

“Beep, beep, beep,” every time Mr. Savarino hears that sound his pulse increases with excitement. Taking out his old shovel he begins to dig. “Beep, beep, beep”, the metal detector continues to confirm Mr. Savarino’s discovery. Shifting through the dirt he spots the valuable find. He picks up the small metal button and rubs the mud from the surface to see what might be inscribed on the face of the button. It reads, “North Carolina”

Wednesday July 29, 1863, the New York Times Daily Tribune talked about the sick and wounded, “Dirty, ragged, and covered with vermin – their soiled and torn uniforms, if such they may be called were stained and soaked with blood; and their wounds, which had not been dressed…, were absolutely alive with maggots” (Swank 51). Mr. Savarino said that they probably sent only the worst people to our land. They wanted to get the sickness away from Richmond, those were the people who didn’t stand much of a chance.

Another man died at the camp today. His body will go through the same ritual as the rest. His clothes, covered with blood, dirt, and sickness will be burned to see that no one catches his disease. There are burning pits all around the camp site, it is nothing new to look and see new clothing being thrown into the flaming pit. The disease must be contained and destroyed. “Their old rags were collected in a heap and burned” (Swank 51). The bodies were gathered together and buried in mass grave sites.

I talked to Luck Stone….

Sources:

Interview with Mr. Savarino

Interview with Luck Stone

Swank, Walbrook D. Confederate War Stories. Colonel, USAF RET., 1991.

Daniel, John M. The American Journals, The Richmond Examiner During the War. ARNO & The New York Times, 1970.



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