The camp meal was delicious, prepared by our regiment cook, who happened to be the chef at Fuel in Lewiston, Maine, a well-known and upscale restaurant in the heart of the old mill city. We ate pan-blackened steak seasoned just right, with a blend of garlic and pepper, southern corn on the cob and a hefty portion of roasted Maine potatoes. I doubt the 20th Maine ever ate so well at mess, but we weren’t about to complain about the historic inaccuracy of cuisine.
After the meal, Tom picked up a guitar. He had been practicing old songs from the civil war with a young Irish private, who was skilled with a ghostly harmonica. Together they harmonized, beginning with “Amazing Grace” then continuing with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”. The fire crackled amidst the music and the men gathered around, many joined by their wives. They sat on benches made of logs, swayed to the music, and sang along with Tom and the Irish private.
Claire squeezed my hand as we moved off towards a clearing that overlooked Gettysburg off in the distance. The star field revealed itself to us as the effect of the dancing fire on our night vision diminished. Soon the sky was awash with light, each distant star bathing the blackness with its illumination. Claire spread out a blanket she had brought with her and we lay together while we looked up into the endless depths of the night. A meteor streaked across the sky, then another, in a display of heavenly fireworks.
I started to speak and Claire placed her hand against my lips to silence me. She turned my head towards her and our lips met. Her tongue was warm and moist, our bodies becoming intertwined, wrapped around each other, as if attempting to merge our passions together. I found the button of her shorts and she slid them down over her round buttocks. She pulled down my pants then pulled her shirt over her head. Her body was as hot as the wood embers of a fire, as she slowly moved herself on top of me. She was only a silhouette to the starry sky behind her, a beautiful shapely formed shadow. I placed my hands on her ass as she brought herself down on me; her motions were both smooth and forceful, using her hips to drive me deeper into her. Her head was thrown back and I grabbed her hair with one hand, pulling her harder down on me. Our heat and sweat mingled, becoming a scent of raw desire, which overwhelmed the senses. My mind became lost in her scent, toned muscles, beauty, and raw power that she brought with every thrust. Time became a blur as our bodies danced to a music that played in our minds.
Claire’s body tensed and her rhythm became erratic as she released her passions onto me. She slowed slightly but I pulled her harder on me, increasing the tempo of our movements. She quickly regained her momentum, her body tensing once again. I could feel myself reaching a point of climax. I grabbed her hips with both my hands and held her firm against me. She rocked herself hard back and forth, trying desperately to stifle her cries that threatened to escape and break the quiet of the night. I felt her body stiffen and her smooth passionate rhythm change to quick and hard thrusts. I arched my back and focused all myself into her, as waves of pleasure left my body. She grabbed my hips with both her hands and held herself to me as tightly as she could, continuing her erratic thrusts onto me and whipping her head from side to side. Her whole body tensed as she arched her back and let out a long intense moan. I could feel her muscles relax as I settled myself back to the ground and she seemed to collapse on top of me. Her body shuddered in spasms as our sweat mingled and the cool night air brought a chill to our skin.
We lay embraced and watched the shooting stars streak across the sky. “You complete me,” I said as I looked at her face shadowed in the night.
I could feel more than see the smile on her face. She moved closer and our lips touched as she answered, “I think that is how love is supposed to feel. Feels good, doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does.” We decided to make our way to the tent as I was sure Tom would come and look for us if he found our tent empty. I didn’t think finding the regiment commander naked as a j-bird in a field, was a good example for the troops.
The night had been warm especially with Claire’s soft body beside me in my army issue tent. As Colonel, my tent doubled as headquarters so there was more space to move around in as opposed to most of the other small, cramped tents belonging to the army privates. As I awoke, just before dawn to Claire’s sweet scent in my nostrils, I heard a soft rap on my tent pole. It was Tom come to inform me that a visitor had arrived. A young Captain stood by a black horse as I emerged from the tent. He informed me we were to move to Cemetery Ridge, the site of Meade’s headquarters. A hundred and fifty years ago, on that warm July morning, it was purported to be the safest place on the battlefield, the center of the whole Union Army. But as history would show, Lee would order a reluctant Longstreet, to attack that ridge on the afternoon of July third.
We spent the day overlooking the grand spectacle of Picket’s Charge. The woods, a mile in the distance, were lined with three thousand men, less than a quarter of the fifteen thousand Confederate Troops that had made the original assault. As the troops readied themselves for the advance, a line of one hundred and fifty cannons fired towards us in unison, simulated explosions of dirt and debris erupting around us. The Union would lose fifteen hundred men of the sixty five hundred that defended a stonewall along the crest of the hill. The awe on the faces of those that watched and participated, as the cannons silenced and the Confederate line advanced, was one of silent admiration. The Confederates would lose six thousand men as they attempted to cross the field, in the open, with nothing but blades of grass for cover. They had marched in the face of cannon and musket shot that had torn through entire lines of men. It was said afterwards that you could walk the field, from the stonewall to the woods, without stepping on solid ground, using only the dead as stepping-stones.
As we stood and watched the spectacle, a series of explosions ripped the ground beneath the feet of the charging Confederate soldiers. It appeared at first to be a part of the dramatic pyrotechnics that had been on display for the entire reenactment. But quickly, the awe on the look of everyone’s faces, turned to horror as bodies were thrown into the air, many missing limbs as they were torn apart from the explosion. For a brief moment in time, the fields before the stonewall on Cemetery Ridge, relived the horror it had born one hundred and fifty years earlier. The Confederate soldiers ran some forward towards the ridge, others back towards the woods from where they came, but in either direction, another series of explosions ripped through their lines.
The silence that enveloped the battlefield, as the echo of the last explosion reverberated off the countryside, was like a giant inhale before a scream. I called the 20th Maine to form and we charged over the stonewall down to the carnage on the field. The first group of men we came to was a mix of both survivors and victims, trying desperately to help each other from bleeding out on the battlefield.
A young private laid on the blood soaked ground before me, his leg missing from the knee down, the flesh torn and tattered, blood racing from the wound. I unbuckled his belt and strapped it around his leg, just above his tattered knee, as tight as I could to cut down the flow of blood. I called to two of my men and told them to carry him to the army hospital on the ridge. It had been set up for display and minor injuries but they were going to get numerous serious casualties in a hurry.
Many men ran by me to help others but I did not have to move far to find the next man in need. A piece of fence post had been torn apart in the explosion and had struck and lodged in his chest. The man gasped for breath from a punctured lung. I looked behind me; I could see lights from ambulances on the crest of the ridge and medics making their way down with stretchers. I signaled desperately to get the attention of someone that could carry the man back to the crest of the ridge and help. A couple of field medics came over and immediately unfolded a field stretcher. They carefully maneuvered him on it and moved him up the hill as fast as they could.
I heard a series of explosions off to my right and looked to see a shower of dirt and debris raining down once again on the battlefield. There were Union uniforms now among the dead, where just moments before, there had only been Confederate grey.
I frantically looked for Claire who worked twenty feet to my left helping a couple of medics treat several people. She stopped momentarily and our eyes met as she searched for me, a worried look in her eyes. Once she was satisfied that I was not involved in the latest explosion, she went back to applying a wrap to the head wound of a young Confederate Captain.
The ground was covered with wounded and moaning figures. On the far side of the battlefield, five army trucks came to a stop, each bearing a red cross prominently on its side. At least six army medics, carrying medical supply bags, along with others bearing field stretchers, emerged from the rear of the trucks and ran towards the scene. There were more army medics who entered the field over the wall above Cemetery Ridge. A helicopter had landed on the crest of the ridge, with the sounds of more on the way reverberating off in the distance.
My father came over to me and took me by the arm. “Son, come on let these guys do their jobs,” he said gently. “Something tells me you have a different job to do.” My mother was with Claire and took her by the arm and led her up the ridge. “Come on son.”
As we walked up the ridge I looked over at Claire. Her face, arms, and clothes were covered in blood but it was her eyes that struck me. She had that look I had seen before. Her eyes were narrowed so that the beauty of her green eyes was hidden and only a dark black pupil could be seen. In the center was the glow of fire, smoldering and dangerous. She looked at me and simply nodded, both knowing that this act of violence needed to be atoned.
When we arrived at the stonewall upon the crest of the ridge, we could see the activity of ambulances, both military and civilian, arriving. A temporary makeshift triage center had been constructed, even as patients were being carried into it. The first of the ambulances left the scene, while in the small clearing a helicopter was also leaving with another poised to land in its place.
“Claire,” I said as I took her in my arms and looked into her eyes. “We need to find out who did this, search the field down below as soon as we can. The blast sites are being trampled down destroying evidence,” I said nodding off down the sloping ridge.
“We can’t do anything about that now, Jack,” she said as she wiped the hair from her eyes that was stuck to her forehead with blood.
“No, but let’s get cleaned up. I wish I had some cop clothes to change into.”
“I thought we talked about this?” she said reminding me that I was supposed to swear off my cop suits for a more modern look.
“Alright, I don’t think I brought any of the old suits anyway,” which only caused her scowl to deepen. I decided that changing the subject might save my ass so I continued, “We want to find out who was in charge of the pyrotechnics.”
Claire and I jogged up towards the stonewall and the field hospital beyond when I heard my mother ask my father, “Where is Tom?”