War and History Fiction posted November 10, 2010

This work has reached the exceptional level
Brothers on opposing sides meet post Civil War

Sacred Grounds (1,487 words)

by c_lucas

It was a long walk home, but I made it. My attention turned to the remains of one of the largest plantations in Georgia. I was with Lee when Sherman marched through my home state. I was still with him when he met with Grant at Appomattox. I've been walking home ever since.  
The house I was born and reared in had been reduced to a scorched skeleton. The barns and slave quarters no longer existed.  A healthy bay-colored Dun grazed in Mother's former flower garden. A Yankee soldier walked out the doorless front door.
I stopped and unhooked my holster cover. Something was familiar about the man. He made no move toward his gun and I didn't draw mine. "BJ, is that you?" I hadn't seen my brother for five years.
"RJ? It can't be. You're dead. Your marker is in the family plot."  His face paled.
"It's me all right, Billy Joe. What the Hell are you doing here?"
"Same reason you are here …. This is our home."
"It's my home. You gave up your birthright when you put on that damn blue uniform."  My anger began to build.
"You and Pa were wrong. No man should own another." He didn't back down, but he was scared.
I started for him, my blood boiling. He was my younger brother, but he had betrayed us all. To me he was a damn Bluecoat, and no longer my flesh and blood.
"I ain't your whipping boy, Richard Jacob Jeffers. I've grown some and you best think twice."  He raised his fists and took a fighter's stance.
"What's this bullshit? You think you can whip me?"  I stopped a couple of yards from him.
He started dancing, keeping his hands up. "I don't want to fight you, but your days of whipping up on me are over."
"What ballet school did you go to?" He's a tough little snot, always coming back for more when I knocked him down.
"This ain't ballet, it's boxing." He danced toward me, watching my right hand, so I knocked him down with my left.
"That's called barroom brawling." I stepped back and let him up. He didn't disappoint me, but he surprised me with an upper cut that nearly knocked me out of my boots and left me flat on my butt. Where did that rooster learn to hit!
"I take it you prefer barroom brawling over boxing?" I shook my head.
The Yankee in him reared its ugly face when he tried to kick me as I started to get up. I caught his boot and put him on his back.
I waited, hands by my sides, for him to get up. When he did, he began his crazy dancing again. What can I say? He has the misconception that being in a Yankee uniform made him the better man.
BJ did the damdest thing. He pretended to poke his fists at my face.  I waited for the time to be right, stooped down and gave him an under-cut to the family jewels. He lay rolling on the ground, holding his balls. Why didn't I do that before? It took all the fight out of him. I could have spared my knuckles.
I heard horses and turned around to see a small Yankee patrol coming my way. "Okay, little brother, if you want to see me hung, here's your chance." I offered BJ my hand and damn if he didn't use it to stand.
He glared at me and waited for the horsemen.  A pup wearing a single bar held his hand up and everyone reined in their horses.
"What's going on here, Sergeant?" The officer pup asked BJ.
"Nothing, Lieutenant, just a family disagreement."  BJ glared at me. "You had to cheat to win."
"You wouldn't stand still long enough for me to hit you." I smirked.
"Sergeant, arrest that Rebel scum!"  The young pup stared at BJ.
"He's not Rebel scum. He's my brother and I am no longer in the army."  BJ put his arm around me.
Damn! He even stinks like a Yankee. It must be that uniform he's wearing.
That pecker head officer didn't know when to leave good enough alone. "Sergeant Winston, arrest these two for disturbing the peace. Put the Rebel trash in chains. The new private will be in your command. He gets twenty lashes for desertion when you get back to the Post."
Just then, the sounds of shotguns being cocked quieted things down real peaceable like. "Master Jacob. Master Billy. Sorry it took me so long to recognize you. The moment you started fighting, I knew who you was."
I glanced at old Eli, Pa's ex-slave. He was about Pa's age and that made him old to me. His two boys, Isaac and Abraham bracketed him, all holding scatterguns at the ready, fully cocked.
Those two boys are about the same ages of BJ and me. "Eli, it's good to see you. I think the Lieutenant has seen the errors of his ways. Why don't you have your sons take them into the house and have them strip?  BJ, why don't you join them? Keep a careful record of the things they sell you. I'll settle up when Eli and I come back from visiting the family's grave yard."
"Where're you going to get the money to pay anybody in a graveyard?" BJ demanded.
"Let's just say Pa, Ma and I have been guarding it on Sacred Grounds. Remember to buy anything we can use, especially the horses and gear. Seven dollars a head will be a fair price if they include the tack. Buy all the horses, but not all the gear."
It took us about an hour to dig up three graves and pack the contents in the newly purchased saddlebags.  We filled the phony graves and I turned to Eli. "How much is left in your grave?"
The former slave took off his hat and rubbed a sleeve across grey wiry hair. "Master Henry was a right smart man. He taught me and the boys our Three R's and every other nigger that wanted to learn. The ones that didn't, he gave them their freedom and five silver dollars each. He helped to get them north. My Elsie and your folks are in Nebraska. He took the rest of the niggers with him."
"Your grave is the last one." I saw BJ and Eli's boys headed toward us with the horses.
"There's nothing in my grave. With everyone leaving, your Pa decided I need to hide my two hundred gold coins above ground." He pointed to a Red Oak. "The coins are in the highest bird nest up there and Isaac is the only one light enough to get them."
It didn't take Isaac long to climb and return with a weathered leather pouch, which he turned over to me. I counted one hundred dollars to Eli and twenty-five dollars each to his sons. Eli only spent fifty dollars in three years.
I handed two sets of saddlebags to BJ. I pointed to the six remaining saddlebags. "Two of them are mine and the other four belong to Ma and Pa. You and I both got five thousand in gold coins. I don't know how much is in the other bags. Pa did the divvying up. He let me know what you and I were getting. He wanted me to bring the four bags to him, after the war …."
"What if you have gotten your sorry ass killed?" BJ glared at me. "This sounds like a stupid plan."
Eli took a few steps toward BJ.  "It would've been my job to wait for your return. If no one showed up, I would have delivered it all to your father." He waited for the information to sink in.
"Master Henry made provisions with Lawyer Tucker to make sure the taxes were paid. This young scalawag came to steal what he could. Master Henry owns Red Oaks lock, stock and barrel."
"What did you do with the Yankees?" I nodded toward the house.
BJ smiled. "We tied their sorry asses back to back. I figured you owed them one hundred and fifty dollars, but since they were going to steal from us, we're even."
"Drop a knife so they can work their way to it. Use your money to pay the post commander and take a steam boat to Omaha in the Nebraska Territory. Keep track of the monies you spend. Pa will pay you back when we catch up with him."
"Okay, but you still cheated by hitting me in the balls. I'm going to whip your ass when I see you again!"
"If you are dumb enough to try, get used to singing soprano."


Thank you, PW Ryan for your image, "Old Tree."
(1,487 words)
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Artwork by P W RYAN at FanArtReview.com

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