Now It Can Be Told (The Names are Fictitious – The Facts are Facts)
The thin blue line of the Grand Army of the Republic is barely perceptible on the horizon of the living. Five years ago, 5,000 wearers of the Blue assembled for the last encampment at Gettysburg; the tottering remnants of a proud galaxy that marched in triumph three-quarters of a century earlier. It is now 80 years since the memorable battle on the Pennsylvania hills and lads who were 20 then are centenarians now, if they still are living.
Wizened old Cappy Foultz was puffing on his clay pipe as he rocked back and forth on his favorite fanbacked chair. It was a blustery winter evening and his granddaugher’s choice of spare-ribs and sauerkraut wafted news of itself through the curtains which separated the parlor from the kitchen. Things were “mighty near all right with the world” as Cappy would have expressed it, Bei, cracky it was almost like the cold nights on top of Chackamauga, way back in the 60’s – only them Southerners didn’t know anything sauerkraut.
Swish! Flop! The newsboy delivered a copy of the Reading Times.
“Sorry its late” shouted Newsy, the trolleys were snowbound all day – got stuck near Mohnton.
“Trolleys huh!” Grunted Cappy, “In my day the Pony Express wasn’t a-scared of a bit of snow” but the newsboy did not hear the soliloquy. Cappy chuckled a bit when he picked up the paper and reflected “One good thing anyhow, I’ll see the paper before the others get it all twisted and mixed up – Now let’s see . . . H-m-m-m girls in Army uniforms – WAACS they call ‘em. Whew! Meat rationed two pounds a week . . . the poor devils in Andersonville didn’t get any – this war news . . . old stuff! . . . . now for the obituary column.
“Judas Priest! Now it can be told. Hey Same . . .Molly come in here, I have a story to tell and my time is short.” Old Cappy shouted his summons, almost screeched in treble, but Sam and Molly Foultz were not greatly alarmed, they were accustomed to the old man’s outbursts. But they indulged his whims and soon responded to his call.
“What is it grandpop?” asked Same, his middle-aged grandson.
Cappy giggled as he pointed a bony finger to a name in the obituary column.
“Old Milty Barr has passed away” mumbled Molly, puzzled to know why Cappy found the item a subject for levity.
“Yep. Old Hero Milty is no more and now I am released from my now.”
“Yep. Now it can be told, and by kreimenitics I am going to tell it.”
Sam and Molly looked at each other with question marked eyebrows. Cappy had the floor.
“You youngsters remember how proud old Milty always was of the battle wound in his shoulder?”
“Yes, the bullet wound he received at the battle of Murfreesboro” offered Sam.
“Murfreesboro the Rebels called it – we knew it as the Battle of Stone River. Well Milty always told you that the bullet went through his shoulder and so it did, but it went into his back and came out in front. Milty was shot in the back.” And Cappy laughed and laughed.
“Why? Was our hero a coward, running away from the fight?”
“That’s just what Milty was allus afeared folks’d think if they knew. That is why he made me swear never to tell a soul the true story so long as he lived. Now he is gone comes my chance to talk.”
“But why should you chortle about such a matter as it relates to one of your best friends? Surely you never acted as if your comrade-in-arms had ever disgraced himself.”
“No, Milty was not a coward, but he was afraid that people might think he was. You see it was this-a-way. One day our platoon got orders to wipe out a Rebel nest on the opposite side of a creek. In order to get to the rebels we all had to jump across the creek. Milty was the shortest man in the ranks and when his turn came to jump he landed short of the opposite bank. In his scramble to set himself to rights he turned his back to the Johnnies and just then one of them let him have it – in the back. Milty made every man in the whole platoon swear that he was shot in the back. I am the last man of that platoon – now it can be told.