A picture of pure shock and curiosity, Emma placed her empty glass down, “Surely, you are not suggesting I dress as a man and enlist in the Union Army!”
“That is precisely what I am suggesting.”
In an era when women are adornments, Northerner Emma Mansfield finds it challenging to fit the mold. It becomes an impossible task when her country is torn apart by civil war. Knowing she must take action, Emma finds herself in the midst of danger and intrigue when she takes up the guise of a young artillery soldier for the Union Army. Desperately trying to find out if her two brothers are alive, Emma must maintain her anonymity as she fights for survival.
“You have to hold him tighter!” The Union doctor showed no sympathy at all for the man writhing in blood on his table.
“Yes, Sir!” The youth compressed all his strength on the man, turning his face away from the bloody limb, which vaguely resembled a leg.
The sawbones grasped the bone saw firmly and without much ado, began vigorously amputating the man’s leg. The strangled screams echoed in the youth’s ears and he swallowed hard to prevent himself from losing what little food he had in his belly.
The soldier passed out as soon as the doctor hit bone. Although it seemed to take an eternity, the whole procedure was over in ten minutes. The youth crawled off the man and waited while the doctor stitched the wound. Leaving a hole for drainage, he bandaged what was left of the man’s lower right leg.
“Get him moved!” The doctor was already preparing for the subsequent amputation. The youth followed the stretcher out of the tent, ignoring the cries of the next soldier. He wanted to slam his hands over his ears and fuse his eyes closed.
The carnage was almost too much to bear. The Confederate Army had devastated the Army of the Potomac. The youth hung his head and trudged along, scuffing his boot in the dirt. A hand grabbed his ankle and he steadied himself.
“Water…gimme water, boy.” The soldier was on a stretcher awaiting the surgeon, with a gaping hole in his abdomen, intestines spilling out.
The youth knelt down and wiped away some dirt from the man’s face, “Won’t be long now.”
The soldier fished in his pocket and pressed a gold watch into the youth’s hand. “My boy…he’ll be 10…man of the house now…take this to him. Name’s on the inside.” He grabbed the youth’s collar, “Promise me, boy.”
Folding his fingers around the watch, the youth quickly nodded and the man collapsed back, his eyes vacant. Rocking back on his heels, he stared for a few moments at the dead man. Nearby, soldiers were digging a mass grave for the men who had fallen on the battlefield. Removing his kepi, he said a short prayer and made the sign of the cross before rising and shuffling his way to the hospital tent.
Two officers were speaking in hushed tones and barely noticed the thin youth entering the canvas tent. The smell of death permeated the air, along with urine and vomit. The surviving patients were awaiting transport to the city from the battlefield. The youth quickly located his compatriot and pulled a wooden stool to the side of his cot.
The youth placed his hand on the man’s chest, “You cannot have any yet, William. Soon though. They are going to take you into the city.”
Will gave him a weak smile and grasped the narrow boned hand, “If I survive long…”
“You will! Have faith.”
“Hurts like hellfire, Em. Wish we were back at home. It’ll be Christmas soon…I wish I could taste my ma’s cookin’ one last time…” William let out a sigh and shut his eyes again.
Hanging his head, the youth angrily brushed away a tear, speaking in a voice low enough for Will not to hear, “Me too, Will. Me too…”
TO WIN A COPY OF THE SOLDIER’S SECRET, ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER, BELOW. ENTRY IS OPEN FOR THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS, AND THE WUNNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Heather Osborne was born and raised in California. She has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Victimology, as well as coursework in Early Childhood Education. In 2009, she met her husband and moved to Scotland, very much a dream of hers since she was a small child. Heather has been writing short stories for as long as she can remember. She also has written and directed several plays. In her spare time, Heather enjoys reading, writing (of course!), theatre, as well as caring for her young son.