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Bull Run

by BrokenSword


If I’m not killed in the charge, then this damned heat will surely do the deed for me, Louis thought grimly as he absentmindedly rubbed the barrel and the blade of his bayonet with a dirty rag. He could feel sweat beginning to rise up and drip off his body underneath his starchy wool uniform. He picked at the material delicately with his thumb and finger as if he could simply pluck away at his discomfort.

Trying to ignore the unbearable July heat, he leaned forward, standing on his toes, to look at the other men grouped together in a thick, uneven line. Several days of marching in the awful conditions had made their mark on the men; they were exhausted, their frame slumped, their hair damp with sweat. Their faces were peppered with new beard, and the very faint stench of sweat and urine was slowly wafting into Louis’ nostrils. The soldiers spoke little to each other, either from anxiety or exhaustion or both, shifting on their feet, some constantly adjusting the positions of their guns. On the shoulder, then on the stock by the feet, then across the chest, as if they were preparing to pose for a photographer who was going to capture their bravery and intimidating stance on a piece of paper, which would be framed and hung on a wall in the soldier’s home, where all would stand around and gaze upon that image of courage and power. Louis twisted his mouth in an amused smile to himself at the thought.

He could not see any familiar faces, except for one here and there which he thought he might have seen about town, such as a shopkeeper or an ironsmith. His very close friend Thomas was nowhere to be seen. His heart sank as he remembered trying to find him before he went off to war. Upon arriving at his house to bid him farewell, Louis had discovered Thomas' residence to be empty. Saddened, he could do nothing and had left for the fighting without him.

Before the war, Louis and Thomas visited each other very often, played checkers or went out into the fields to shoot crows or fish in the nearby pond, like two little schoolboys. Thomas was a good man with a large heart. He was much loved by the citizens of the tiny town of Clearbrooke, and was mostly known for his excellent sense of humor and his taste for adventure and excitement.

Louis sighed and rubbed his face, knowing he would miss Thomas’ good jokes and ever-present smile there beside him to cheer him up during the fighting.

Sighing, Louis glanced with mild interest to the left and right sides of the hilly field scattered with white-barked trees. He squinted and could see several ladies in hoop skirts delicately seating themselves on a quilt spread out on the grass by their beaus and husbands. One by one they settled themselves and opened picnic baskets to enjoy a lunch while they watched the charge. A few misbehaving children played and waded in the banks of muddy Bull Run, dirtying their clothes and delighting in displaying them to their parents.

He turned his head at the sound of snorting and the muffled clip-clopping of horse’s hooves in the dirt and saw General McDowell, flanked by two other men, riding past the line with sword in hand. Louis could feel the line of soldiers stiffen up and breathe deeply in preparation for what was to come.

McDowell gestured with the sword, his wrist flopping a little under the weight of steel and gold, motioning through the thin trees and over the hills. He briefly went over once more how they were to attack, his mustache bouncing up and down as he spoke, but, rather than infuse confidence in his men, he seemed to cause a stir of unease in the air that followed him as he rode back down the line. McDowell was going to split up the divisions and attack to the northwest flank. The men around him nodded their heads slightly in final understanding, but Louis could still feel the uncertainty and nervousness hovering over him like a cloud of locusts.

The general weaved his way down to the far left side of the troops, where Louis could barely hear him; perhaps the humidity had stifled his voice in the air before it could reach his ears.

He held up his rifle with both hands with the other men. The crisp sound of hammers being pulled back in unison broke the stuffy silence around them. Louis picked up and dropped his feet a little to stimulate his stiff legs, wiped the sweat from his forehead and stood on his toes again to wait for the order to move out. McDowell made an upward sweeping motion with his sword and immediately the large line of men started forward at a quick pace, bringing up small clouds of hot dust with their feet. Louis could see the capped heads in front of him bouncing up and down slightly in a loose rhythm, like a mass of cows being herded towards the slaughterhouse.

The men flanking McDowell shouted, and the divisions split, heading in different directions at once, guided by commanders on horseback. The soldiers then broke into a run, their excitement mounting, their hands clutched around their guns as they began to crest the first hill, running around the white-barked trees and wading quickly through the small streams, gradually breaking up and spreading out like a pack of lions, running faster and faster, and Louis could hear panting and thumping boots…

All of a sudden there were great shouts and cries, loud explosions and puffs of gun smoke, thuds and cracks. Louis’s ears were filled with noise and his heart hammered against his chest as he raised his rifle and ran low to the ground, firing at pairs of legs clad in gray uniform.

He didn’t stop to see if he had downed any of his targets; he kept running, ducking, firing at the Southerners through the smoke and the heat, panting and feverishly reloading his gun behind trees. A mixture of horror and excitement flowed through his veins; his heart roared in his ears.

He could hear men falling around him from both sides. One of his fellow soldiers beside him was shot out from under his feet when a bullet struck him in the chest, landing him on his back where he didn’t get up. Another man in front of Louis took a bullet to the head. Louis narrowly avoided tripping over his body sprawled across the ground. Moans and cries rose up all about him as he passed downed men lying in the soil, bleeding to death, screaming in horror as they discovered missing limbs, ears, fingers, eyes.

When he ran deeper into the woods, he met far more rebels. The place swarmed with them. They met McDowell’s men with a clash of noise; gunfire, screams and shouts, heavy thuds and thumps, grunts and gasps. A bullet ripped into Louis’ arm but he only stumbled and groaned, continuing to fire wildly at any rebel he could make out in the haze even as he felt warm sticky blood soaking the sleeve of his jacket.

When Louis was empty of bullets he held his gun by the barrel and swung it like a club back and forth and thrust with it, knocking out a path through the relentless river of men coming at him. More than once he got a gunstock in the face and his lip and nose began to bleed, but his mind and eyes were still clear and he went on. He spotted a dead rebel on the ground, bent down, snatched up the revolver still in his lifeless hand and began to fire again. Don’t stop to think. Don’t stop to look.

To Louis’ shock, the steadily thinning rebel troops suddenly swelled and roared, charging with renewed vigor. Hundreds of Southerners flooded into the woods with war cries, flattening a row of McDowell’s men at once and trampling right over the bodies.

Louis veered away from his division up into the thicker woods, where he crouched behind a tree and watched from above, panting, his wounded arm throbbing.

It was as if rebels had been dumped out from the sky; there were so many of them that the ground seemed to teem and squirm with gray. Louis could only stand there and watch in dismay as his fellow soldiers either fled from the advancing rebel troops or were shot where they stood.

Anger steadily rose in Louis’ heart at the sight of his comrades being struck down before him. He found he had only two bullets left in the revolver. Taking two rebels down would be better than taking none. He stood up from behind the tree and, leaning out a little to the side, fired twice at two different men. Both of them fell, but unfortunately the rebels grouped around the fallen men looked up and must have seen Louis standing there, for they raised their rifles and fired at him.

A bullet passed through his calf and another whistled past his ear. He fell and hollered in pain. The rebels below obviously believed they had killed him, because they ran off without firing at him again. Louis gritted his teeth against the excruciating pain and crawled up the embankment behind some brush to examine his injury. He probed the bloody wound in his leg with his fingers and, thank God, could feel no lead. He tore off the hem of his jacket and tied it tightly around the bullet hole, trying to keep his mind firmly off the pain. The fabric would soak up most of the blood and hopefully enable him to keep fighting.

He struggled to his feet, using his rifle as a sort of crutch, and surveyed the scene below him. The rebel troops appeared to have moved onward leaving a trail of dead men in their wake, and it seemed safe for Louis to continue on. He limped like a lame dog down the hill, using the thin trees for some cover, and crawled up another gentle hill again until he came to Bull Run. He stood in it and let the muddy water wash his blood away before he staggered on.

When he mounted yet another hill and leaned on his gun to rest, he saw an awful, sickening sight laid out before him. The air hung thick with smoke and gunfire, but nevertheless, Louis could clearly see hundreds of dead Union soldiers lying on the ground and thousands of rebels swarming everywhere, swords swinging and guns blasting. The faint smell of blood and bile hung in the air along with the smoke, causing Louis’ breakfast of hardtack and warm milk to churn horribly in his stomach.

He slowly made his way down the hill to join in the fight, briefly bending down to take another pistol from a dead man on the ground, and advanced towards the rebels, firing into them. He saw many expired soldiers lying on the ground, either shot through the head or the heart or impaled by a bayonet, and he even saw one man reduced to nothing more than a pile, having been struck in the abdomen by a large cannonball.

Louis was beginning to think no one had seen him enter the battle, when all of a sudden he was knocked over by a hard blow to the head and landed face first into the dirt. He rolled over to see a rebel swinging his gun up and bringing it back down on his face with all his might, breaking Louis’ nose and blacking his eye. In a completely automatic reaction, Louis raised his bayonet, blade up, to defend himself. He felt the knife enter his attacker’s belly, but even so the man swung his gun once more and knocked Louis out cold.

* * *

When he finally came to, Louis found he was looking up at a pink sky painted with orange and red streaks of cloud. Hidden behind them, stars were beginning to twinkle at him, waking up to prepare for the night, and for one brief moment, Louis marveled at how beautiful the universe was.

He raised his sore head, groaning. His face was swollen. There was a stabbing pain in his leg and arm where he had been shot and he couldn’t move a muscle without moaning in agony.

Louis lifted his upper body with his arms as best he could. He stared around and blinked through swollen eyelids, trying to clear the vision. He had to get his bearings if he was to get back home.

When he raised his head, the sight and smells that met his senses made his stomach clench. Dead men lay everywhere around him as far as he could see. Masses of dark lumps on the ground, white faces staring up at the sky, the stench of dirt soaked in blood. Louis rolled over on his side and heaved his poor excuse for a breakfast onto the ground.

When he’d gathered himself, Louis lay down again on his back, turned his head to the side and saw a dead rebel lying on the ground close by, impaled by a bayonet. His head was slightly twisted to the side, away from Louis, and his arms were clumsily draped across his stomach. A crooked circle of drying blood had soaked through his uniform around the blade of the bayonet.

It was then Louis remembered stabbing the man who had been beating him, and he shuffled forward a little to retrieve his weapon in the man’s belly. When he reached out to grasp the barrel, he could not keep his eyes from traveling to the dead soldier’s pale face.

The impaled man was his friend, Thomas.

Louis stared in icy disbelief at his friend lying there on the ground. Thomas was wearing a gray rebel uniform. His cap had fallen off, revealing his sandy blond hair, and his dead hands were wrapped loosely around the bayonet, as if he had been trying to pull it out of his stomach in one last desperate attempt to live. His horribly white face was frozen in a look of shock, his blue eyes half-closed and his lips and teeth stained with dark blood.

“What do you say, Louis…let’s go shoot crows in Mr. Harvey’s old field…come on, what do you say...”

A cold, paralyzing horror squeezed Louis’ heart with its iron hand…he had killed his own friend, the very man he had hoped to find fighting beside him; a comrade in battle. He had wanted to hear his jokes, to feel him slap him on the back and laugh with him, to grab his hand and pull him out of danger, to console him when he missed his family. He had hoped to triumph together or die together, but when he could not find him, he concluded that his friend had not been enlisted and was away…but he had been here all along, as a Southerner, and now he was dead, run through by his friend’s own two hands…

“Oh, God,” Louis gasped. He wrapped his arm about himself and squeezed his ribcage. Tears coursed through the blood and dirt on his face, and his wounded body heaved with every rattling breath. He leaned down, his good arm shaking as it supported his weight, and he hugged Thomas, lifting him up with his bleeding arm. He buried his face in his neck, smelling sweat and dirt, and cradled his head gently with his own hand, sobbing deeply into the matted hair.

“I’m sorry…”


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36 Reviews


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Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:49 am
GodfreysBouillon wrote a review...



Yes.

This is what I hope to write someday. This is what many wish they could write.
The quality of this work amazes me, and I can feel the tattered clothes of the Rebels, the blood gushing out of Louis' leg, or the cries of pain on the battlefield.

I've never been much into the American civil war, not more than any other history fan is, but this maybe has sparked my interest.

How long did this take to write? Because its a masterpiece.
Full 10/10, awesome job




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Sun Feb 01, 2009 8:36 pm
mkjohns says...



i really did like that, i read alot of hirstory fiction especially American like the book stabuck by Bernard Cornwell ect. anyway i thought that was very good can not wait for you to write another




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Mon May 28, 2007 10:55 am
Certainly Love says...



I think you are a better writer than I am. I like your style.




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Tue Mar 13, 2007 1:08 pm
Southern_Belle wrote a review...



Very good story!

Now, my critique is probably going to be a bit biased, since I am thoroughly interested in the American Civil War and know a lot about it. In fact, as my name suggests, I am a Civil War reenactor and a member of a local artillery group. Our battery attends such events as the reenactments of the Battle of Cedar Creek, Virginia and the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. And, this upcoming year, we're going to be attending the site of your story, Manassass, Virginia for the reenactment of the Battle of Bull Run (Manassass Junction).

So, I really enjoyed this, not only because it was set in my favorite time period (1861-1865), but because of the way you described everything. The details of the battlefield, the descriptions of the scenery around Louis, etc. . . It brought to mind a clear picture of a Civil War battle, and the harsh reality of how bloody it really was. I also really liked the surprise twist ending. As mentioned before by others, it was a reality for family members and friends to fight against each other in this particular war. (I think this is what often attracts historians to it. :wink: )

The only other things that really stood out in my mind about your story were, first of all, the civilians watching the battle. I see that you found some proof of your claim, but I've been taught to distrust Wikipedia, since it can be edited from outside sources. As for your other source, I am quite shocked that these civilians dared to put themselves in such immediate danger, and I am even more shocked about the way we go about doing a reenactment :oops:.
As a reenactor I can say that we try to make our reenactments as authentic as possible, and I (a civilian reenactor) am not permitted to be anywhere near the battlefield under any circumstances. I have to stay in camp.

However, I do know of other cases in which civilians were directly involved with a battle, and not just spectators. There were men and women (often dressed in civilian attire) who ventured onto the battlefield to bring ice and water to fallen soldiers. They were called "ice angels." But even this could possibly be a falsehood as well, since I received that information from another biased source, lol. History is, by no means, objective.

Secondly, when you mentioned the man getting hit by the cannonball, I noticed a couple of slight errors. As I mentioned before, I am involved with an artillery unit. Cannonballs, contrary to popular belief, are actually fairly small. They're usually between the size of a baseball or a softball, and unless the cannon is a Napoleon, the shots are completely round. (We only use powder in our cannon when doing a demonstration, but we have done live shoots, where we used Campbell's soup cans filled with concrete, lol). Perhaps you could be a bit more specific about that detail, because it is relevant to Louis's perception of the battle.

It's also quite unlikely that a man would be hit by a cannon shot (Cannons are HORRIBLY difficult to aim! We tried to hit a target at only 200 yards and couldn't hit a thing! I can't imagine it on a real battlefield!!), but if he did get hit, chances are good that one of three things would happen:

    1. He would be blown to smithereens (typical of grape shot).
    2. There would be a perfectly round hole in his abdomen (typical of a man somewhat close to the cannon's line of fire when hit).
    3. The man would consist of an upper torso, and a pair of legs (typical of a man hit at a longer distance with a larger size shot and more powder).


As for the case with the fabric, I happen to know that soldiers' uniforms were made of wool, but they often wore cotton shirts beneath them. Four fabrics were commonplace during that period: cotton, wool, muslin, and silk, though the upper classes often had a wider range of choices for their clothing, which would include silk taffeta and brocade.

And oh! I did have to make one more comment that might make you laugh. Sitting on the ground in a hoop skirt is actually quite fun. You can just plop down and the skirt spreads out around you. I once did it in one of my day dresses and took a nap . . . :roll: :wink:

Anyway, all in all, I really liked your story, and it made me realize that I still have a lot to learn about my favorite topic (US Civil War). In fact, I should probably be researching it right now, considering that I have a presentation about it to do for my senior project . . . Anyway, thanks for writing a story that history buffs can enjoy! It's often difficult to write historical fiction because one can't always rely on his/her imagination. It takes a certain amount of research to write something worth reading . . .

Happy writing in the future, and I hope to see more from you!!!




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Mon Feb 26, 2007 1:47 pm
Fishr says...



Heh!

I think you'll find that I'm real nit picky, but no where near as Snoink or Smaur. I have fun picking a story apart because, like myself, I know there are always areas of improvement. So, I generally push, and make the writer think with my editing practices.

Thanks for answering my questions, and once I'm caffienated, lol, I'll check out the link.

Best of luck with future projects. Cheers!




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Mon Feb 26, 2007 5:03 am
BrokenSword says...



Hi again, Jess,

I got most of my information from my favorite history book series called "A History of Us" by Joy Hakim. I read the books like novels, they are so engrossing.

fishr wrote:Were the Union uniforms really made of wool? Or was the fabric cotton?



Quote from the above book I used:

"Most of the men [on both sides] wore heavy wool uniforms, as was custom then."
-Joy Hakim, War, Terrible War


There isn't any mention of cotton or other material.

I do recollect that youngsters would wade into the water near Bull Run but I hadn't the slightest clue that people would literally put themselves in danger by being spectators.


Quote again from the book I used:

When that July day began, in 1861, war seemed a bit like a show. And hundreds of Washintonians didn't want to miss that show...They decided to go to Manassas with their picnic baskets, settle down near Bull Run stream, and watch the fighting...
-Joy Hakim, War, Terrible War


Also, here's part of an article from Wikipedia:

The wealthy elite of nearby Washington, expecting an easy Union victory, had come to picnic and watch the battle. When the Union army was driven back in a running disorder, the roads back to Washington were blocked by panicked civilians attempting to flee in their carriages. Further confusion ensued when an artillery shell fell on a carriage, blocking the main road to the north.




Why did Louis smell urine? Did the men pee in their pants during the march?


Is Clearbrooke an actually town near or within the county of Virginia? I just wondered since this battle was fought near the town of Manassas. As a matter of fact, where is Louis and Thomas from? Are the two originally from the North?


Now these two, I have to admit, came strictly from my imagination, which can run a little wild at times. Sometimes when I am writing I become so immersed in what I am describing that sometimes I'll put down things that I think I would see hear, smell or touch. I put down that Louis smelled the stench of urine because there really wasn't a place for a soldier to properly relieve oneself, so I assumed they must have done their business against a tree or on the ground. With that many people, it would probably smell a little unpleasant, LOL.

As for Clearbrooke; I loved the name so much I just put it in. I wanted Louis and Thomas to come from some tiny, almost obsolete town, to contrast with the fact that they are now in a huge war that will change America. Clearbrooke isn't real, I have to admit. That was from my imagination. :D

Do mean blacksmith? Blacksmiths work with the raw material such as steel or iron, heating it up to I believe 2000 degrees.


I've heard the word ironsmith thrown around as well as blacksmith, but I agere that blacksmith would be a little more familiar.

So, were there really that many trees, bushes and whatnot to conciel/hide McDowell's men?


Actually, it appears, there were patches of woods across the bare landscape. Check out this link, in which a Corporal named Samuel J. English describes his experience at Bull run. He mentions woods that the rebels retreat into and that he enters. I'm sure the landscape was quite bare in some areas, but it seems to be that there were occasional dense woods.

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/bullrun.htm



Perhaps, I too have misunderstood the meaning, but being flanked happens by the opposing force. Are these two men riding with McDowell; are they an opposing force?


I meant this definition of flank:

To stand or be placed or posted at the flank or side of.

So there were two of his men, commanders, riding their own horses with him on either side.

If you look real closely, (yup squint at the monitor if you must), McDowell's mustache is thick and short so there is no possible way it could bounce while in the saddle much less up and down while he's talking.


LOL...another vision from my imagination. When I see people with large mustaches talk, they usually move up and down on their lip. I see it all the time, and the image just popped into my head as I was writing.

Hmm… Granted it, men were accustomed to hard living, and were generally tough individuals on the battlefield, perhaps more from adrendaline, they certainly weren't bulletproof! So, let's take a close look at Louis' injuries. He's already been shot in the arm. He never stopped to seek cover and tied a tight bandage around to suppress the bleeding, yet, he's running around like a madman for survival.


I agree, I think I should have made Louis react a little more to the injury. :oops:

This one has me still curious. These two were, as it appears, good friends, yet one joined the Confederacy and the other – Union, which brings me back to my earlier question, where were the two originally from? And what brought Thomas to join those filthy, gray-suited scumbags? Was Thomas a slave-owner himself? And another question, if I may. At the end, are we supposed to use our imaginations or did Thomas recognize his friend before attempting to kill him?


I really don't know myself if Thomas recognized Louis. I sort of assumed he didn't, because the fighting he was in was so intense he may have not even realized who he was beating. Perhaps he recognized Louis just before he was killed. I really don't know; I think that's sort of up to the reader.

I don't think Thomas was a slave owner, or even if he supported slavery, but perhaps his family owned slaves and pressured him into joining the South. Maybe he wasn't sure if he opposed slavery or not.

They both lived in Virgina, but quite a ways from where the Battle of Bull Run was fought.

Personally, I think it would add some flavor to the already clichéd ending, friends betraying one an another, if Thomas recognized Louis, and the shock factor while Louis is struggling to survive. While that suggestion is also cliché, I'm wondering how it would reflect upon the action in the story? Would it improve it? ;)


Yes, that is a good suggestion. I think there are many ways this ending could be twisted, and I could experiment with them to see how they turn out. :)

And to properly end this for now, for you're pleasure, and from my photo album, Thomas being embalmed. ;)
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v622/ ... titled.jpg


:o Poor Thomas!...And I don't think I would want to be the man doing the embalming! LOL




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Sun Feb 25, 2007 2:37 pm
Fishr says...



Introduction-

As you may know, the American Civil War was among the bloodiest the US has ever encountered. It was the war where more American lives where lost than any other war we have encountered, which I'm sure you're also aware of but not many are aware of the Civil War's roots; what events actually started the war?

The American Revolution (1775-1783)

Yes, the Revolution was the very war that paved the way, birthing the Civil War. The Revolution in itself WAS a mini civil war where Tories (people loyal to the Crown) fought against the Rebels. The Northern colonies were very much aroused and voted for war whereas the Southern Colonies, said, "Nay." It was a rift then, and it carried onto the 19th century where the south fought against the north, but this is a minor statement.

If it had not been for the Battle of King's Mountain, a battle where it was fought entirely by "Americans," – Patriot militia versus Patrick Ferguson's militia Tories, the Southern colonies might have not fully joined the cause. If you're interested, the Battle of King's Mountain was part of the Southern campaign, and a link can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_t ... ionary_War

The Declaration of Independence-

Another rift that would eventually lead to war is the very document that most Americans hold dear, is none other than the Declaration. During the Revolution, it's very course that fueled the Rebel Army (Washington's army) was, "We're starting a new world. We will soon be free. Things will change." But, there's one technicality. The supposed to new world did not change, at least not completely. Sure, Americans were free from British rule, but the Declaration was only written for "whites." When Jefferson first drafted it, he was prepared to risk his neck in the Congress for he wanted slaves be released and free as his brethren was now finally.

In the end, free slaves were removed from Jefferson's draft, and the Declaration was eventually signed. This was the first major mistake that the Southerners refused hotly not to release their slaves, and so the American Civil War was already in effect but it waited for the perfect time to pounce and suck lives so eagerly and expertly.

I'm a firm believer if any person is to write about historical fiction, you must know every aspect of it, even the very core in which led to a war, if you're able. So, I felt it necessary (and to show what a geek I am, lol), to show two major events in which led to C.W.

***

The characters, plot, and setting.

He could feel sweat beginning to rise up and drip off his body underneath his starchy wool uniform.

Were the Union uniforms really made of wool? Or was the fabric cotton?

Their faces were peppered with new beard, and the very faint stench of sweat and urine was slowly wafting into Louis’ nostrils.


Why did Louis smell urine? Did the men pee in their pants during the march?

On the shoulder, then on the stock by the feet, then across the chest, as if they were preparing to pose for a photographer who was going to capture their bravery and intimidating stance on a piece of paper, which would be framed and hung on a wall in the soldier’s home, where all would stand around and gaze upon that image of courage and power. Louis twisted his mouth in an amused smile to himself at the thought.
This needs to be broken up a bit. It’s a run long sentence. I would delete "which would," and put a period after "paper." Then put "It would be framed…"

Thomas was a good man with a large heart. He was much loved by the citizens of the tiny town of Clearbrooke
Is Clearbrooke an actually town near or within the county of Virginia? I just wondered since this battle was fought near the town of Manassas. As a matter of fact, where is Louis and Thomas from? Are the two originally from the North?

He could not see any familiar faces, except for one here and there which he thought he might have seen about town, such as a shopkeeper or an ironsmith.
Do mean blacksmith? Blacksmiths work with the raw material such as steel or iron, heating it up to I believe 2000 degrees.

He squinted and could see several ladies in hoop skirts delicately seating themselves on a quilt spread out on the grass by their beaus and husbands. One by one they settled themselves and opened picnic baskets to enjoy a lunch while they watched the charge. A few misbehaving children played and waded in the banks of muddy Bull Run, dirtying their clothes and delighting in displaying them to their parents.
Just a note, I haven't been to the library yet. I just couldn't wait to edit, hehe… But this is interesting. I do recollect that youngsters would wade into the water near Bull Run but I hadn't the slightest clue that people would literally put themselves in danger by being spectators.

Could you please provide a link to an article where citizens willingly and delighted in watching the Union soldiers preparing for a battle?

Sighing, Louis glanced with mild interest to the left and right sides of the hilly field scattered with white-barked trees.


Now, there is nothing wrong with this sentence but the fact that I was under the impression Louis was skirmishing in a thickly covered forest, that was odd to me. Remember I haven't done any further research on my own accord – yet – but original photos of infantries stationed seem to prove that Bull Run was not so thickly covered as it is so brilliantly described in the story. It appears it was a flat country, not many hills with pockets of trees that could be considered a "forest."

Upon looking through, I found this. It's a map of Bull Run, and where the troops where stationed before the battle.
Image
The link itself allows you to zoom in. http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundat ... le-map.jpg

Defination of skirmishing:
Quote from Wiki because I'm without coffee:
Skirmishers are infantry or cavalry soldiers stationed ahead or alongside of a larger body of friendly troops. They are usually placed in a skirmish line to either harass enemy troops or to protect their own troops from similar attacks by the enemy. Skirmishers are generally lightly armoured for increased battlefield mobility and are usually armed with missile weapons to harass the enemy from a distance.

Picture of Bull Run:

Image I see there are two tikes near the river, but this same picture is similar to others I've seen – there is not real coverage, hardly if that.

And another - :P Image

So, were there really that many trees, bushes and whatnot to conciel/hide McDowell's men?

He turned his head at the sound of snorting and the muffled clip-clopping of horse’s hooves in the dirt and saw General McDowell, flanked by two other men, riding past the line with sword in hand.
Perhaps, I too have misunderstood the meaning, but being flanked happens by the opposing force. Are these two men riding with McDowell; are they an opposing force?

Flanking is when an opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability.

Flanking maneuver: Wiki has a decent article, and yes, I did quote some from it because I'm not caffinated yet. But I'm aware of flanking which is why I'm questioning how the tactic was used in the sentence above.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flanking_maneuver

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Weird how McDowell was born in Ohio just like my 3rd g. grandfather was too. Still, what a nifty and dignified portriot, eh?

There's just one nitpick, and here it is:
He briefly went over once more how they were to attack, his mustache bouncing up and down as he spoke,
If you look real closely, (yup squint at the monitor if you must), McDowell's mustache is thick and short so there is no possible way it could bounce while in the saddle much less up and down while he's talking.

Something rather interesting I found, while reading a bit on McDowell (just to see if his true character is being portrayed correctly), and I think you'll find it intriguing if you're not already aware of it. The excerpt reflects upon the McDowell in the story as well.

McDowell was promoted to brigadier general on May 14, 1861, and given command of the Army of Northeastern Virginia, despite never having commanded troops in combat. The promotion was partly because of the influence of his mentor, Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Although McDowell knew that his troops were inexperienced and unready, pressure from the Washington politicians forced him to launch a premature offensive against Confederate forces in northern Virginia. His strategy during the First Battle of Bull Run was imaginative but ambitiously complex, and his troops were not experienced enough to carry it out effectively, resulting in an embarrassing rout.


So, let's see here. McDowell never commanded troops, which is evident by his lack of experience in this:

but, rather than infuse confidence in his men, he seemed to cause a stir of unease in the air that followed him as he rode back down the line. McDowell was going to split up the divisions and attack to the northwest flank. The men around him nodded their heads slightly in final understanding, but Louis could still feel the uncertainty and nervousness hovering over him like a cloud of locusts.
No wonder the Union Army lost! But it appears you've done your research on McDowell so good work!

More than once he got a gunstock in the face and his lip and nose began to bleed, but his mind and eyes were still clear and he went on.
Hmm… Granted it, men were accustomed to hard living, and were generally tough individuals on the battlefield, perhaps more from adrendaline, they certainly weren't bulletproof! So, let's take a close look at Louis' injuries. He's already been shot in the arm. He never stopped to seek cover and tied a tight bandage around to suppress the bleeding, yet, he's running around like a madman for survival.

Lesson 1 for severe injuries especially when knives or bullets are related to the cause of a wound. When a person is struck, the best course of action, (besides not panicking) is to stop immediately from running. By quick movements, this accelerates your heart which in returns pumps more blood. If you are able, tie a means of a bandage, two, three, whatever it takes to suppress the blood flow until medical attention is in your favor. If by some chance a needle is with you for mending, use the string from your uniform to sew up the wound, then bandage it tightly.

I could go more in depth, as I was almost certified, twice, in basic first aid, the Heimlich(sp) as well as CPR but I never retook the third test the following year – I gave up. I needed an 85 to be certified and I scored an 84, then, an 83.

As for Louis, he's just been shot, and eventually the loss of blood will take its toll. Blurry vision, loss of balance or simple coordination is just some of the symptoms, and on top of that, he's being knocked by the butt end into the face several times. Wouldn't you think at the very least, Louis would be dazed? It just seems unrealistic that Louis is able to carry on as if he was untouched at all.

The impaled man was his friend, Thomas.
This one has me still curious. These two were, as it appears, good friends, yet one joined the Confederacy and the other – Union, which brings me back to my earlier question, where were the two originally from? And what brought Thomas to join those filthy, gray-suited scumbags? Was Thomas a slave-owner himself? And another question, if I may. At the end, are we supposed to use our imaginations or did Thomas recognize his friend before attempting to kill him?

Personally, I think it would add some flavor to the already clichéd ending, friends betraying one an another, if Thomas recognized Louis, and the shock factor while Louis is struggling to survive. While that suggestion is also cliché, I'm wondering how it would reflect upon the action in the story? Would it improve it? ;)

And to properly end this for now, for you're pleasure, and from my photo album, Thomas being embalmed. ;)

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Sun Feb 25, 2007 12:30 pm
Fishr says...



Why, thank thee, Myth. Hehe...

But I'm done not yet... Not by a longshot. If I'm able to get to the UVM Library today, I'll be able to knuckle down since the University has an exstensive collection, especially relating to the 17th-19th centuries.

If not, the Library of Congress has never failed me. I just won't be able to obtain the book I wanted that has all popular firearms and bayonets, as well as swords too but I can still be a nitpick. :twisted:

Ta!




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Sat Feb 24, 2007 1:09 pm
Myth says...



BrokenSword wrote:
Myth wrote:First thing I noticed were the women and children at the charge[?], would they have been allowed there? Didn’t the men say goodbye at home?


Hello Myth,

The first Battle of Bull Run was also the first large battle of the Civil War, and people came from all around to watch it (they were usually not the families of the men, but the citizens of the nearest town). Since they didn't have movies or radio in those days, the war was a source of entertainment for them. People really did have picnics while they watched the war, but unfortunately, in the first Battle of Bull Run, things got out of hand and the spectators had to flee.

Thank you both for the helpful reviews. :)

B.S.


Thanks for that, I'm a little more informed now. See, Jess is more than helpful--pictures included. :D




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Fri Feb 23, 2007 11:02 pm
Fishr says...



Heh, no problem.

Revolvers were used, but I don't remember them mentioned in the story. I wouldn't worry about someone assuming you had "copy and pasted" or wrote out of your ass basically. If that's a concern, you can do one of two things.

1. Write a bibliography. This way readers will know exactly where you're getting your knowledge from.

2. I know there is such a things as info dumping, but on the other hand, breaking that rule (and I break rules often. I'm an unorthadox writer.) could work to your benifit. At any case, it's worth to using your knowledge and let it shine. You can save the first draft, copy and paste into a new window in Word, and futz around with different weapons. If the second draft bombs, you'll always have your first draft to back yourself up for round three.

But I say go for it! Let's see those weapons! And lets see the names and damage they can do with their calibars, hehe... Or... you could get creative and say, "My Colt ran out of bullets so I knocked the Yank with the buttend of my gun. The poor fool's noggin was ripped clean open. Serves him right, crossing in my path. Bloody Yank..."

XD

As for me, you'll see most of my work set in the 17th and 18th century as far as HF goes. But I write often in non, Action, Sc-Fi, Horror, Horror/Sci-Fi, and Comedy. Just more than half of it is not posted on YWS, LOL!




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Fri Feb 23, 2007 10:45 pm
BrokenSword says...



Wow, thanks for the constructive critisism, Jess. It was very helpful.

I did research weapons used in the Civil War at the time, but I refrained from putting too much detail into them because, frankly, I felt that it would be obvious that I had looked it up, and people would assume that I really didn't know anything about equipment used in the war; sort of like how it is obvious if someone looked up a word in a thesaurus and put it in their story.

Now, I was really confused in the beginning since Bull Run was fought in Virginia. I had assumed Louis was apart of the Confederacy, then much further down McDowell is mentioned, then at the end, finally the word I hope for would turn up - "Union," to signal to me once and for all that Louis was a Union soldier.


I can't believe I didn't put that in; I should have explained what side Louis was on very early in the story. :oops:

I believe I did mention handguns, but I think I incorrectly reffered to them as revolvers (can't remember if they had been invented in that period??) And I completely forgot about swords, my apologies.

I had forgotten there were different kinds of bayonets (I remember reading about the sword type bayonet). I suppose the bayonet I was reffering to was the socket-type, but again, I was hesitant about putting in names and details of the weapons, because I was worried it would appear as though I had looked them up and sort of "copied and pasted" into the story.

Thanks again for your review. I'll use these tips later on. And yes, I do love to write in the 19th or early to mid 20th centuries. :P




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Fri Feb 23, 2007 10:12 pm
Fishr wrote a review...



Good Afternoon. I am Jess, as Myth first introduced me. Pleased to meet a fellow history buff. ;) So, the Battle of Bull Run, eh? The Civil War has had me quite jazzed since learning that I had a realitive that served in it. My 3rd g. grandfather; 1st Sargeant William C. Landon served for at least two years but there is still some debate that he really served four, as it says on his stone. Landon was in the Battle of Chancellorsville, where he had received his own injury - a blind bullet to the right eye. Some speculation points to that Landon had reached, and plucked the bulled out and continued fighting. But it's clear in my family that he spoke often about the war, and especially about his injury to my 2nd g. grandfather and my g. grandmother. He was hit, he fell, and a nieghboring comrade said, "Well, Landon's dead."

So yes, as you can see, I'm proud of my ancestory, and moreso that Landon was a Union soldier, not some filthy Southener of the period. XD

*

Now, I fully admit I'm not familer with Bull Run, and so to accurately critique the historic aspect of it, I'll do some re-educating, lol. Mostly, I'll be looking at the weapons with a fine tooth comb because the less than worthy references to "bayonet" and rifle don't do this story justice, especially in the midst of a battle. It made the story a little bland, at least for me, when I love to read about the EXACT names of the weapons of warfare. But I'll get back to the weapons in a bit.

Now, I was really confused in the beginning since Bull Run was fought in Virginia. I had assumed Louis was apart of the Confederacy, then much further down McDowell is mentioned, then at the end, finally the word I hope for would turn up - "Union," to signal to me once and for all that Louis was a Union soldier. So, yes, there was some confusion because I was not familer with Irvin McDowell - I had forgotton about him because he's not really all that of a famous face in the Civil War. Perhaps you could make this more clear by telling the reader that either Louis is apart of the Union side or McDowell is commanding it towards the beginning.

Back to the weapons-
Besides a rifle, I noticed right away, handguns weren't mentioned. Don't you think it would be a pain in the butt to run swift and steadily across the plain with a long, smoothbore and cumbersome firearm licking and knocking against your hips? Many, and I've looked a decent amount of pictures, where soldiers had handguns, sometimes two tucked into their belt. When I do more research, I'll provided exact names of a couple of handguns right down to the calibar if I'm able.

Now, as far as "bayonets" are concerned, I suspect a lack of research was done here. There were two types of bayonets used in the war - the socket and "sword-type." Again for me, it was a bit bland to keep reading and seeing the term, "bayonet" when I personally am aware of the two different styles. This will greatly improve and make the story more interesting if you could go beyond the typical term, and actually familerize yourself not just with a socket or sword bayonet but the makers of them, and the names.

Here's an example, and this bayo I almost bought for my collection at an auction but in the end, I decided I still need to keep working the field and teach myself more about the weapons of this war.

M1853 socket bayonet; used on the Enfield
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On socket bayos, you will often see, U.S. stamped by the riscasso.

Confederate "Sword" bayo.
Maker - Boyle, Gamble & MacPhee (B.G.&M.)
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Of course, in their hayday, the blade wouldn't be so pitted nor show that the weapon went through a grinder.

Last but not least, the sword. I'm very, VERY surprised and bewildered that the common and simplistic sword that meant life or death if a socket bayonet or firearm were not handy - was not mentioned at all...

This is another aspect that brought down the story for someone who adores militery combat, and reading about historic weapons of war within that period. Where was the sword?? It's cool if you forgot or perhaps decided it was not important but rest assured a sword IS that important. A soldier was never caught without one, and if they lost it, their new sword was either docked from their pay or on the battlefield, a new one was stolen from a rotting corpse. From sabers, to straight-edged, to a cutlass, a soldier always had a melee weapon tucked in their belt. In fact, I picked up a Musician's Sword from the maker, Christopher Roby (c. roby), and on the riscasso, it's dated 1863 and underneath is the inspector's mark - F.S.S. (Francis Strong), which is also stamped onto the hilt.

If you'd like, I can take a few photos of my sword. But I'm strongly for researching firearms, especially if the setting is in the midst of a battle. You'll be surprised and amazed knowing the actual names of weapons will greatly enhances the reading pleasure. And for an added bonus, more often than not, if the reader is confused, they will research on their own accord to further their knowledge. Afterall, if the reader is reading historic fiction, they are history buffs. Myth (sorry Myth!) is a nice example. She went and started reading about the American Revolution after reading some of my novel. :D

This isn't a very detailed article, but it'll give you idea of some of the weapons used, not just a "bayonet" and a rifle.
http://members.tripod.com/~ProlificPains/wpns.htm

Now that I've done my ranting about weapons, lol, wait until you see how thorough I am with dates, people, and history in general. XD But first, I must re-educate myself, LOL!

*

What I liked-

The sense of the battle. Though there were a little too many cliches for my liking, you managed to bring forth the chaotic and bloody nature of the Civil War. Afterall, more than half a million lives were sensely lost. This is not an easy task, and whether it was from exstensive reading or "shooting the breeze" in guessing, I commend you on sending the reader into the bloody battle. I really sense the atmosphere, and it was nice to be sitting with Louis, and feeling his anxiety. That too is not an easy task; allowing readers to actually feel emotions from a few written words.

If the 19th Century is where your interest is at, by all means continue with it! It seems you have a knack for it. Best regards, and I'll try and get back to bug you some more. Hehe... Ta!




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Fri Feb 23, 2007 5:27 pm
BrokenSword says...



Myth wrote:First thing I noticed were the women and children at the charge[?], would they have been allowed there? Didn’t the men say goodbye at home?


Hello Myth,

The first Battle of Bull Run was also the first large battle of the Civil War, and people came from all around to watch it (they were usually not the families of the men, but the citizens of the nearest town). Since they didn't have movies or radio in those days, the war was a source of entertainment for them. People really did have picnics while they watched the war, but unfortunately, in the first Battle of Bull Run, things got out of hand and the spectators had to flee.

Thank you both for the helpful reviews. :)

B.S.




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Fri Feb 23, 2007 1:15 pm
Twit says...



I know nix about the American Civil War, but this is a good story, and the ending was a shock! I'm glad you put that in tho, because things like that happened all too often in any war. Very good!




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Fri Feb 23, 2007 11:36 am
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*

Louis twisted his mouth in an amused smile [to himself] at the thought.


Not necessary, but maybe take that out?

Saddened, he could do nothing and had left for the fighting without him.


‘fighting’ sounds so award, maybe: war?

He struggled to his feet, using his rifle as a [s]sort of[/s] crutch, and surveyed the scene below him. [...] He limped like a lame dog down the hill, using the thin trees for [s]some[/s] cover, and crawled up another gentle hill again until he came to Bull Run.


I really don’t like to see ‘sort of’ or ‘some’ in writing unless it is in a dialogue. You know, it is something people use in every day speech: “Some guy told me...,” “You sort of have to blah blah,”

The faint smell of blood and bile hung in the air along with the smoke, causing Louis’ breakfast of hardtack and warm milk to churn horribly in his stomach.


Since there are hundreds dead/dying, then the smell of blood would be quite strong, wouldn’t it?

The impaled man was his friend, Thomas.

“What do you say, Louis…let’s go shoot crows in Mr. Harvey’s old field…come on, what do you say...”


This makes me wonder if Thomas knew he was beating his own friend.

*

Hello BS!

First thing I noticed were the women and children at the charge[?], would they have been allowed there? Didn’t the men say goodbye at home?

Nice and short historical fiction, I can’t be of much help as I don’t know much about American history, Jess would be of great help though.

But I do know that during the Civil War, brothers fought against one another and so did friends and I’m glad you showed that here with Louis and Thomas—friends expected to be fighting on the same side.

I’m impressed by this piece and look forward to reading more from you.

-- Myth





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