The Burnt Country

Eliza sat scrunched up against her little sister and a few soldiers in the back of a spring wagon, it’s four tired mules slowly pulling away down the muddy trail. The pair was shielded from the sporadic rain showers by a dirty blanket that was laid over a mesh of sticks. They were going to southwest Georgia, where their older sister was living with her two small children.

Eliza’s hometown had been bypassed so, strong-hearted as she was, she wasn’t quite prepared for what rose before her. The road was lined on both sides with the carcasses of horses, cows, pigs, and other unrecognizable boney animal forms. The sight was gruesome but the stench was horrendous and she found herself gagging. Her sister handed her a little bottle of perfume and she doused her hanky and held it over her face. It helped some.

“Them’s Sherman’s Sentinels,” the driver said, nodding ahead.

Eliza removed the cloth and looked out to see scattered stacks of bricks fingering up from the scorched earth. The chimneys stretched from horizon to horizon, marking the piles of ash and rubble where children once played.

“They’s all black and charred … jes’ like the Yankee hearts that torched ‘em,” the driver said through gritted teeth.

As the wagon bumped it’s way through the devastation, Eliza noticed the driver was slowing, and she jerked back and forth as the mules stutter-stepped.

“Galvanized Yankee!” yelled the Lieutenant beside Eliza, and the wagon stopped.


“A Yank that’s done changed sides. He looks ‘bout haff-dead. We betta’ take him in ‘fo the country folk “lose” him in the grape vines. He’al find hisself runnin’ in the air on nothin’.”

That evening, southerner Eliza Andrews found herself spending Christmas Eve of 1864 sharing her food with a Union soldier.

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