He looked at the detailed United States map displayed on the monitor that covered the wall in front of him. In every state, at least one city was lit with a small blue dot within its borders, in many states, multiple blue lights. It would soon be time to wake the sleeping giant, the great tiger that had grown fat and lazy, gorging itself on an abundance of bread and wine. People moved like lemmings through their daily lives; without purpose, passion, or even consideration for one another. The great Me generation had reached a societal apex.
Occasionally, after a hurricane, tornado or some natural tragedy, the populace would join together, briefly, to help one another. But those moments were fleeting and did not carry over once the event fell from the daily news. The attention span of the American public was so short that the next iPhone app could make them forget a tragedy that had occurred against their fellows.
That would soon change. Americans needed not only a reminder to come together as one nation, but a constant reminder. One tragedy would not convince Americans to band together, but a host of heart wrenching stories and tragic events would. America needed to become a country always on guard, where not a city street or hamlet park would be safe to spend a lazy afternoon. A land where to gather as a crowd would be an invitation for a visit from the grimmest of reapers.
He turned to the television and watched the news reports of the tragedy unfolding in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. A lone gunman had entered a movie theater and had begun firing, indiscriminately, into the crowd. Few had made it out of the multiplex alive. Someone had managed to dial nine-one-one and the theater had been surrounded with local law enforcement. A command center had been set up by a swat-team in an adjacent parking lot. The police moved a crowd of onlookers back to a safe distance. A van exploded in the midst of the crowd, killing dozens and wounding dozens more. All captured by a local news coverage team.
The explosion had created enough confusion to allow the gunman a chance to escape. The police were on the lookout for an on-off road motorcycle said to be seen fleeing the scene just after the explosion.
The coverage returned to the kaleidoscope of blue and red lights shining against the night. Ambulances rushed from the parking lot heading for the local hospital. The local news station camera panned across the hellish scene in the parking lot that contained a line of bodies whose night would end at the morgue.
Get the countries attention and hold it. That was his goal. It was time for another revolution just as Jefferson had wanted, had envisioned. Jefferson would have been amazed the country had lasted this long without completely overturning the government empire. But Jefferson was a visionary far beyond his time. The Civil War had almost changed the landscape of America, but had failed and no other substantial attempt had been made. Sure, there had been the occasional Militia attempt at insurrection, but nothing of any lasting impact. That was about to change as he and his brethren pulled the tail of the tiger.
He turned back towards the map and typed three numbers into the keyboard on his desk. He watched on the map as the blue dot in Oklahoma turned red.
The sun was now high above, although it had already begun its descent on a hot, early July afternoon. I wondered at how my ancestor, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, had marched all morning, and then double-timed the final ascent up the far side of this small hill, to the north of Gettysburg. The wool uniform I wore was hot and scratchy. The dust, stirred up from the double-quick marching boots along the dry dirt road, seemed to stick in the back of my throat like a day old doughnut. But, as history would repeat itself today, we arrived and became the extreme left flank of the Union Army of the Potomac on time.
I stood looking down over the wooded and rocky sloping ground before me. Men, dressed in similar blue wool jackets and striped wool pants, stood beside me lining the slope. A boulder was on my left and the men beyond the boulder angled back along the crest in an elongated V. I wore a jacket, bearing the insignia of a colonel, which had been passed down through my family from father to son. It had belonged to my great- great-grandfather, who once wore this now old and musty wool uniform and cap upon a small rocky hill known as Little Round Top.
Beside me stood Thomas Chamberlain, my cousin, who carried the name of my great- great-grandfather’s brother, who had fought beside him on this July second, one hundred and fifty years earlier. Historically, there were three hundred and fifty men of the 20th Maine, fighting for the survival of the Army of the Potomac, as the fifteenth Alabama regiment of the Confederate Army charged relentlessly, time and again, up the tree lined slope.
I took my pistol and aimed it down at the charging rebels as muskets fired beside me and men fell as they had fallen those many years ago. The smoke from black powder muskets filled the air with a gray smoky haze that thwarted my vision of the enemy who came in wave after wave. I saw the Rebel flag fall, get picked up and move forward again, only to be driven back. Through it all, the rebel echoed up the slopes from the many throats of the soldiers, trying desperately to gain the heights.
In 1863, the battle would rage for close to three exhausting hours and on this day, one hundred and fifty years later, it lasted less than an hour. Every muscle in my body seemed to protest against me as I ran up and down the line, giving my men encouragement and direction. As was the case on that summer day, the men ran out of ammunition. We were all tired and weakened, down to only half our original numbers. There was no way we could hold back another charge, but as the extreme flank, we could not yield. If we did the Confederate Army would roll over the hill to devastate the Union Army and perhaps end the war, here and now, for a Confederate victory.
I looked over my men, many representing those fatally wounded or bleeding from limbs they were destined to lose, as so many had in that war. I called to the ancestor of Lieutenant Ellis Spear, “Lieutenant, I want you to tell the men to fix bayonets. We need to swing the left wheel of the line like a giant door, drawing the Reb army together and knot them up as they come up the hill. Once the left wheel is forward, just below our main line, we charge down the hill. Any man wounded and unable to charge needs to be prepared to defend this spot to his dying breath, should we fail.”
Ellis sent runners in both directions relaying the orders and took command of the left wheel. On that long ago battlefield, it would have been close to seven in the evening. My hoarse voice echoed over the remaining line of men as I yelled with all the strength I had left, “Bayonets!”
I saw Ellis motion the left wheel to begin, Thomas on my right poised to spring down the slope. Ahead the Rebel flag had begun again to move up the hill and it was time. With a scream, which drowned the rebel yell that came from below, the 20th Maine sprang down the slope. The Rebs had been surprised at the charge and many turned and ran back towards the woods. Some threw down their rifles while others turned and fired before surrendering or being shot in turn. I approached an officer who pointed a pistol at my face and fired. The guns chamber was empty. I placed my saber to his chest and requested his firearm, which he gave me with a bow.
All of a sudden a great roar and applause erupted throughout the woods and from the observation areas, both below and above the battle lines. We embraced the gallant boys in gray as the wounded and the dead rose from the ground. The reenactment for our part was ended, Little Round Top was held by the gallant and herculean efforts of a dwindled regiment from Maine.
Clarita Sanchez approached from up above, a beautiful smile spread across her face, her white teeth a stark contrast to her dark complexion. She looked like she was on an African Safari rather than a mountaintop in Pennsylvania in khaki shorts, light green shirt, and a brimmed floppy hat. As she ran towards me, bouncing from rock to rock in her light brown LL Bean hiking boots, she leapt from a few feet away. Her five foot-one frame landed on me full on, as she wrapped both her arms and legs around me. I tried to maintain my balance, but the downward slope behind me, and how tired my legs were from the day’s activities, caused me to fall back. Fortunately, a cluster of young beech trees were behind me and kept us from plunging down the hillside.
“That was incredible!” exclaimed Claire, her green eyes flashing in delight. “I’m not sure if that was bravery or insanity.”
I leaned heavily on the trees, thankful they were there, and tightened my grip on Claire as I said, “That’s what they thought back then too. My great-great-grandfather didn’t have a choice and did what he had to do.”
“A lot like the Chamberlain’s of today,” she said then kissed me long and deeply.
“Hey, I don’t think that being in a lip-lock with a beautiful woman after the battle is historically accurate,” said a voice behind me belonging to be my cousin Tom.
“I’m rewriting history then,” I said just breaking away from Claire’s lips long enough to respond.
Tom laughed, but continued in a serious tone, “We have orders, Sir, to move to the large rocky hill to the left. We are to post sentries and bivouac until further orders. So, if the Colonel Sir, could separate ones lips long enough to give the order, I would be obliged to get the men moving.”
Claire loosened her grip from me and stood. As she pulled her lips from mine our eyes met and I saw the beauty of her soul revealed within her sparkling green eyes. She let me know of her love for me that reached from such depths that I could easily have fallen in, losing myself. In those depths lay a vast spectacular maze of beauty that she would show only to me. With her smile and the fire in her eyes, she illuminated for me the true path through that maze to her heart. I found myself a willing traveler down that path, forever deeper, as she revealed to me secrets to the woman she was. She smiled at me, as her eyes portrayed a knowing look, which I understood as her love for me and returned it with all my own blood and soul.
“Have a detail bring the prisoners to the rear,” I said as I reluctantly returned to the reality of why I was here. “Form the regiment for the march. See to it that the dead and wounded are properly attended to before we move out.”
“Yes, Colonel. May I say, Sir, every year I witness this charge, I am amazed and overwhelmed that such a day took place.”
“Yes, Tom. So am I.”
This was the first year that I had portrayed my ancestor in the famed battle at Little Round Top. In previous years I had been one of the many re-enactors but this role had always belonged to my father. At the end of last year’s performance, he had given me the sword of Colonel Chamberlain and told me that he had performed his last re-enactment. The following year would be the hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebration and the part would be mine to play. It was a sad moment, yet one of tremendous pride. It had occurred to me that I did not have an offspring to pass this honor too. It was the first time that I had ever considered children in my life. It’s not that I didn’t like kids, but marriage and a family seemed to take a backseat to the career I had chosen. As we completed our march and I now stood upon the rocky cliff of Big Round Top, overlooking the fields of Gettysburg, I wondered if it was time to truly consider a new future. Below were places hallowed by the blood of thousands of American soldiers, of both the Union Blue and the Confederate Gray. Places ingrained in American history, such as Little Round Top, the Peach Orchard, Devils Den, and the place the 20th Maine would head to in the morning, Cemetery Ridge and the focus of Picket’s Charge. I saw my mortality in these places.
I heard Claire come up behind me and I turned to her. She approached from the west, as the sun settled atop Cemetery Hill shrouding the world in evening dusk. I could not make out her face with the light behind her, but I could feel my heart quicken even as my mind quieted to a serenity that she seemed to give me. “What are you thinking about?” she asked in a voice that sounded like a symphony, both sweet and melodious.
“About my father and that I do not have a son to someday pass this sword to,” I said as my hand rested upon the hilt of my heirloom.
She was close enough now, the sun no longer blinded me, as it passed below the ridge and I could see the soft smile on her face. “You are an amazing man, Jack, and your family has an incredible history. I do not think your lineage will end with you.” She looped her arm in mine and laid her head on my shoulder. “Let’s have some of those marvelous camp beans I smell cooking over the fire.”