Correspondence from the front lines:
I swear, the new recruits are no more than children. How the brass agreed to let them serve escapes me. In a war that has pitted brother against brother, father against son, comes a new pair. Classmate versus classmate. On this day, May 23rd, in the year of our Lord 2011, comes the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade Regiments of the Meridian Public School under the direction of Gen. Natalie Meyer.
Walking around camp, the troops seem nervous. For many of them, this is their first introduction to combat. Sure, scraps were had on the play ground, but never have they seen the full ravages of a war amongst themselves. The Union troops spend their idle time cleaning their guns, talking of their loved ones back home. A morbid question is posed around camp. "Where are you going to die?" All of the soldiers are certain they are not coming back.
Life in the Confederate camp is similar. The troops gnaw on hard tack and beans, gathered around a campfire. They punctuate their dinner with furtive glances at the Union camp only a few hundred yards away. These are troops they know, caught on another side of a conflict that neither knows how it will end.
Like any true Southerner, the troops find ways to escape the hot noon sun. Like their counterparts in the Union, these boys are certain of their death.
Then it happens. The familiar rat-a-tat-tat of the snare drum, the rasp of the bugle. Come now and see, as children go to war.
The union, while out numbered nearly two to one, has an ace in the hole. A canon, hiding on the tree line up the hill. Once the battle begins this instrument of destruction will cut across the Confederate ranks, leaving torn limbs and lives in the process.
It begins! The call to fire rings out, and both sides rush onto the field of Honor. Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of War!
The canon roars to life, heard clearly over the shouts of the battle below. Children are cut down left and right, screams of pain lingering on their lips.
And just as soon as it has begun, it is over. The Union general lies dead at my feet, not even had made it across the road, the mere halfway point on the battle ground. As the children have promised, they all fell down dead, because that is way more cool that not falling down. Casualties were one hundred percent.
A brief silence fills the battle ground. Soon, four Confederate troops hop up, grabbing stretchers to carry their wounded to the field doctor.
The blood soaked surgeon removes a bullet from the arm of one of the troops. With any luck she will keep her arm. Infection is an all too common happenstance.
Here is one who was not so lucky. Spared a few precious drops of ether and whiskey to dull the pain, the surgeon has to amputate.
Afterwards, gathered in their camps, I visited each side. Photos to commemorate their battle, stories to be shared. Despite losing, the Confederates seemed oddly upbeat. There will be no long reconstruction, as all of the camps are torn down, hopefully never to be used by these children again.
So now what are we left with? Two sides, once friends, met on the field of honor. Even after their deaths, they have learned something. History will not repeat itself with these children, now grown in the face of war. That is, until their teacher covers the Civil War again next year.