Sadie’s Short Stories (SSS): 54th Regiment (Part II)

They crowded into their seats. It was hard for Walter’s long legs to fit beneath the small, short wooden table, but he managed. 

“Men, we will be practicing the use of firearms and calvary units these next weeks while we are here.” The man who was on the cabin porch said this. He smiled at the bunch of men who didn’t know a single thing about combat. Some of us used to hunt for our master’s meals, but most either had worked in the fields or in the woods. “Well, I am to be your commander and chief. My name is Robert Gould Shaw, you all are to call me sir unless told otherwise.” He said this to everyone, not just us blacks. That was something we never really experienced. Walter knew then that he would experience things he’d never known before he came here. Things were about to change for them all. 

We then ate our food in silence. Most of us were tired from the long day. Walter could feel his eyes closing even during the meal, his tall frame hunched over the table. Some men went to their bunks right after the meal, while others went down to the lake to bathe. 

Being one of the men that went back to the bunkhouse, I laid down on my cot without even taking off my boots. It wasn’t worth scraping my open-sores for. Before I could even say my prayers I went to sleep. 

Walter awoke when a trumpet sounded in the distance. It was a fast-paced tooting of the horn, the sound was cheerful, but soon that sound would become tiring. The men gathered their uniforms, Walter having slept in he just brushed himself off and donned his hat. 

That day was rough on them all. The drills were tough, marching for hours on end. Muskets had to be cleaned and oiled, the powder kegs refilled every morning. For weeks this went on, day in and day out. Every night Walter’s uniform was more faded, his feet more blistered, but his skin was becoming healthier from the food he was eating and the muscle he was gaining. Soon he was muscular and his once drawn skin was now stretched from the muscles bulging now on his lean frame. 

Not but three months after coming to camp when he heard a new trumpet call. It sounded long and drawn out, but with fire and with a ring to it. It seemed to raise the spirit inside of you, and the men came rushing from their tents. They hurried with their muskets and gathered in marching formation before the Colonel’s cabin. Colonel Shaw came out, wearing a uniform like their’s the union hat upon his brow. He saluted them, they did likewise. 

“We are summoned to fight our first battle in South Carolina, at the Port of Charleston. The confederates are stationed there, about 1,700 men in all. We will be outnumbered, but with all I have taught you, we will be victorious.” They raised their voices in a loud hurrah, then marched their way to the coast, where they bordered boats. They were going to take the Atlantic coast down to Port Charleston which was guarded by Fort Wagner. 

Walter was motion sick by the time they arrived. It was daylight, the Confederates saw them when they pulled ashore. Our men came rushing forward, our bodies like a wave. They were well stationed there, their fort surrounded by wooden spears sticking out of the bank of the bay. Many of our men made it through this, others not seeing it before they were impaled. The day waged on, or men falling in great numbers. There were six hundred of us, and twice that of them. I knew most of us wouldn’t make it out alive. 

Muskets were being fired, swords drawn. The bodies of my fellow comrades covered the ground. My musket was firing, I was just aiming for their gray uniforms. I had a large gash in my forehead, from where I had fallen on a dead body. I looked over the battlefield, the blood from the wound flooding my vision. I was looking for young Billy, but I couldn’t see him anywhere. I ran, my long legs carried me through the fray to where I could find a spot to lay my weary body to rest. I jumped over some sandbags that were piled by the bay to keep the Fort from being flooded. I looked around me, and then I saw it. Little Billy lay in a heap by the waterfront, his musket thrown aside. My insides surged, both my body and my spirit fell. I crawled over to where he lay.  

Walter tore off his shirt, coming to wrap Billy’s wound on his head. 

“Stop, that won’t do anything. I got shot here.” Billy pointed to his chest, right by his rib cage. His breathing was forced, his wheezing could be distinguished above the noise of men’s dying cries of agony. 

“Please, you can’t die here. I have to help you somewhere safe.” Walter knew though that if he tried to move him, he would die. 

“Walter, thank you for being my friend. Please, take this. It belonged to my wife.” He handed Walter a tintype, and Walter’s eyes filled with tears. The picture was of his sister. “Billy, this is my sister. We’re brothers.” Walter picked up the dying man, and he held him. His shirt was stained with his brother’s blood. He held him until he felt Billy go limp. 

Walter stood, his tall form charged into the fray in anger. He swung his sword, slicing everything in his path. 

Out of nowhere, he saw a sword, which then was lodged into his stomach. He cried out in agony. He fell, his body falling on top of other dead men. He knew it was useless to pull the sword out. It would just kill him, both ways. It would just cause more pain. The sweat stung the wound on his head, the blood gushing from his stomach. He pulled the tintype from his pocket and looked at it from dimmed eyes. The black was coming closer, his head spinning. The last thing he saw was the tintype and the blue sky. 

Later on, they captured the fort, the men from the 54th regiment looking over the dead men. Half of their men perished in the fight, many still wounded. Colonel Shaw had died in the fray, as did their young friend Billy. They looked around the men who were left, but they didn’t see the tall figure of their friend Walter. Thomas searched, looking over the fort. He then saw a man, a sword protruding from his stomach. He saw the sun glint on the sword, and on a metallic tintype, he held. 

Thomas went over to the dead man, and through the blood on the face of the dead man, he saw it was Walter. Even in death, he held firmly to his chest the tintype of his sister.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *