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Homeland

Story set in the US Civil War era.

Homeland

He greeted the dawn with a stretch and a yawn,
then he crawled from his canvas abode –
a roof for some thatch that was heavily patched,
so the rain wasn’t stopped – only slowed.

His johns were still wet from the soaking they’d get
as he slept on the irriguous ground –
though he harbored desire for the warmth of a fire,
any smoke would ensure they were found.

The get-up-and-go from a hot cup of joe,
was the way he preferred to prepare –
but a cheek-full of snuff would be more than enough
to bring all of his senses to bear.

He was thankful and pleased that the drizzle had eased
and the sky had been partly exposed –
but without any shroud from a low-hanging cloud,
their position would soon be disclosed.

They’d been on the run since the war had begun,
as guerillas, their numbers were few –
they’d strike in the night when conditions were right
and then vanish ‘fore anyone knew.

But now they were deep in their enemy’s keep,
where a vigilant post was required –
a task they would share just to keep them aware
of encroachment by those undesired.

Their unit was formed when the enemy stormed
a small town in the Tennessee hills
by the few not erased as the soldiers laid waste
to the stables, the farms and the mills.

Most of their town would be burned to the ground
while the citizens tried to defend,
but the men were outgunned by a hundred to one –
so there wasn’t much left in the end.

Their force couldn’t grow past a dozen or so,
but they garnered a menacing will
when the slaughter of lives – even daughters and wives,
only fueled their ambition to kill.

They were country-astute and they knew how to shoot,
how to track and to live off the land –
with a notch in their stock for each Yankee they dropped,
they would take retribution in hand.

Their camp had been pitched at the side of a ditch
that would shield them from enemy lead
and would hide them from sight if they opted to fight –
or would mask their escape if they fled.

They’d sent out a scout to go looking about
and ensure that they’d covered their trail –
when he failed to return, they would share their concern
that his mission had probably failed.

A few days before, their diminishing stores
found them pilfering regional coops
when they crested a knoll while a Union patrol
was in search of confederate troops.

The fight that ensued left them bloodied and bruised,
but they killed every man that was there –
then they quickly contained any wounds they sustained
and took all the supplies they could bear.

The triumphant force set a southerly-course,
to a place they’d be safe and secure,
since the Smokies provide the best places to hide
with the basics – abundant and pure.

They’d scored a defeat, but their hasty retreat
left a bearing that others could trace –
that even the skills of the boys from the hills
couldn’t hide from the Cherokee race.

Commissioning guides from indigenous tribes
helped the Union with rebel pursuits –
when they showed them the way to the dissident gray
by disclosing their secretive routes.

The small wounded band had returned to the land
where their entrance to war had been spurred –
that they’d sworn to defend if it meant to the end,
and the place where their loves were interred.

The goods that they stole from the Yankee patrol
had supplies that they needed to treat –
with their injuries dressed, they would give it their best
to deliver another defeat.

A few headed out since the fate of their scout
was unknown by the rest of the hive –
and they’d quietly go to the valley below
with the hopes that their friend was alive.

But their search found him tied with some pieces of hide,
to the trunk of a towering pine –
he was already dead from a shot to the head
and displayed as a threatening sign.

They knew it was best they return to the nest
and prepare for a Yankee attack –
since it seemed pretty clear that their rivals were near
and would certainly follow them back.

Then the crack of a shot from a well-hidden spot,
sent a slug to Confederate flesh
that would shatter the bone as a rebel was thrown
where the blood and the coppice would mesh.

The two that remained had to deal with the pain
of their leaving a brother behind –
but they galloped away and evaded the spray
of the lead their aggressors consigned.

Then a second would fall when he met with the ball
from a sniper who covered the trail,
so the only one free was the last of the three –
and he knew that he had to prevail.

He hammered his steed in support of his need
to arrive with some minutes to spare,
then he fired off a round as he got to high ground –
so the others would know to prepare.

They all made a run for their ammo and guns,
then they jumped to the lower terrain
and they pondered their fate as they stood there in wait
for the chance to defend their domain.

When the soldiers appeared, it was just as they’d feared,
there were many and all were well-armed –
with a cannon or two and a Gatling in view,
they were feeling profoundly alarmed.

The grays wouldn’t yield when the blues took the field,
and they rifled them down by the score –
but it wouldn’t be long ‘till their bullets were gone
and they couldn’t shoot back anymore.

They jumped to their feet and commenced to compete
using nothing but Bowies and swords –
but success didn’t rain on their futile campaign
and the Rebels would meet their rewards.

The soldiers withdrew when the fighting was through
and they’d loaded the ones who were slain –
then away they would go to the valley below,
while the rebels were left to remain.

Just tatters of gray that would finally decay,
leaving nothing but parcels of bone
that would bleach in the sun when the buzzards were done –
sporting names that would never be known.

The Tennessee hill was now silent and still –
nothing left but the sound of the wind
through grass painted red by the blood of the dead
who had met their rewards in the end.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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