Sally worked the carders furiously. It was the only way she could deal with the pain and itching of her foot, which wasn't there. She was making a huge pile of carded wool next to her wheel as she carded and cursed. "I can't deal with this no more!" she yelled as she threw the carders across the room. She stood up on her wooden leg and with her crutch she stumped to the door.
Mrs Rosen of the sanitary commission was surprised as she walked in at the same time.
Vot iz zee matter? Iz your foot bothering you again? If it iz too much I can get you some laudanum.
"Hell no! I know what will happen when I start taking that. That is a horror worse than this damned foot. Why this thing that I left in Chattanooga gives me so much aggravating here makes me so mad!"
Mrs Rosen shook her head in commiseration. "It is a different hell, dis laudanum. I fear ve gave too much too freely. But it does help ven the pain is too extreme. "
Sally walked across the room and picked up the carders and went back to her chair. "I think the cursing and your commiseration helped more than the laudanum could. I feel better." She sat down at the wheel, grabbed some carded wool and began spinning.
Mrs Rosen sat down in a chair next to hers. "Do you want to go back to Tennesse? I vant to go to Nashville. I need someone to go with me for protection."
What do you want to go to Nashville for? It is crowded with army.
"My husband was with the army. He came back to Nashville from Atlanta and he sends me this." She showed her a piece of paper with hebrew writing. "Not a word as to why, he just sends me this divorce. I am entitled to know why he is divorcing me."
Now Sally gave a commiserating hug. "I marched with men for three years. Believe me, it is better not to know"
"Not my Jacob. He wouldn't be that way."
Sally paused with her spinning. "Listen honey, he is male. He is like every other one with a tail in front. " She made the wheel go faster with irritation. "Now I would love to go to Nashville. But you are setting yourself up for heartbreak."
"Good! It is decided. Our train leaves tomorrow at 8:30 in the morning. Here is your ticket. You don't have much luggage. Neither do I. "
Sally looked at her ticket in her lap. "You really want to do this? No tears, ok? I can't see the point of tears for any man anymore."...............
Sally and Mrs Rosen went up to the front door of the Christian Commission. Mrs Rosen gave a sour look. "My Jacob in the hands of the Christian Commission? Vat is Dis?" They went in and looked around. They noticed that all the young men had limbs missing. Mrs Rosen was taken aback by the men on crutches and wheeled chairs. Mrs Rosen looked around and saw her husband playing pinocle and marched up to him and began berating him in German. "What is this foolishness of you divorcing me and hiding here in the Christian Commission? Have you gone mad?"
Rosen looked haunted and answered "Yes." Then played a queen.
Mrs Rosen screamed "Look at me when I talk to you" and swirled his chair so that it faced her. It was a wheel chair, and Rosen had a pair of amputated legs. Mrs Rosen looked for a moment and sat down. "Oh Jacob, Jacob. How could you do this? Why would you do this?"
Rosen grabbed her hands. "It is for the best. You are young and beautiful beyond measure. You can find a nice young man who is entire, I will get $8 a month from the government. No more. I can't support a wife and, God willing, children on $8 a month."
"Jacob! You can still be a school teacher. It is what you do best. You don't need legs to convince children that 9 X 5 = 45."
"Sarah, you need a great deal more energy than I nave anymore to convince the little hellions of anything."
Since the conversation was in German Sally was confused. "He is divorcing you because he got his legs shot off? Is that what happened? That shows he is a good man. Usually it is the other way, the woman dumps the man. Let him be, he is doing you a favor."
"No he is not doing me a favor. He is a good man."
Another person came into their circle. "Hello, corporal Rosen, Miss Getehefrau. Is this Mrs Rosen?"
"Lt Harris, what are you doing here?" asked Sally.
"I'm just checking up on the veterans. What are you doing in Tennessee? You are supposed to be in Minnessota getting a new leg."
"I got it, see." She pulled up her skirt to show off her leg. "It is of oak. It is supposed to last for a good long time. But why aren't you with Sherman? "
"Because I am with Thomas. Sherman is marching to Mobile or Savanna soon, after the election. He sent a small contingent with Thomas in case Hood does something stupid like trying to invade Kentucky again."
Rosen excused himself from the card players and started to wheel off. Lt Harris forestalled him. "Your wife is here! Excellent! I was sure she would come for you."
"He tried divorcing her." Sally explained.
"Now what did you do that for?"
"Dat iz bat I want to know asked mrs Rosen."
"My father's offer still stands. He is sure you can do it. Try anyway."
"What iz dis offer? " asked mrs Rosen
"Teaching the adult servants to read and figure. It is something my parents are big on. Free people need to read the newspaper pop always says. Ignorance is slavery is the way mom puts it."
"Teaching negros to read is against the law. The penalty is severe" Sally said.
"The army is putting that law in abeyance. ".................................
"I wonder if you folks at the Sanitary Commission have any jobs for a one legged Sargent? Sergeant Getehefrau lost a leg at Chickamaga and went to Minnesota to have a wooden leg fitted, and now the Sergeant is back in Tennessee and needs a job for a bit."
"We can often times help for a bit. Not always."
"The Sergeant doesn't want a job peeling potatoes. Done that to often when on report."
"That may well be all we can find for him to do. But we will look. We can give him a cot for starters."
"Any port in a storm, I guess. Sergeant!" Sally came into the office wearing her field jacket with its Sergeant's stripes and saluted. "At ease, Sergeant."
The director of the Sanitary Commission looked at her for a moment and said "This person is a woman. Did this escape your notice?"
Julius put up his hands. "The army didn't notice for three years. And she did loose a leg at Chickamaga. So she is a disabled veteren. She is entitled to her pension."
"She should just get married..."
"I look forward to marrying her on some near tomorrow, but she won't discuss that yet. Not until the war is over. "........................................
Sally easily got past the provost guards. They were watching for men leaving the firing line, not women walking toward it. She got within 200 yards of the men firing at the men somewhere beyond the gun smoke. She lay down behind a tree watching Julius patrolling behind his men. She shook her head. Officers were idiots.
Yesterday the confederate line had been just about here. There were guns and detritus of a battle all around. There were a few unburied dead attracting flies. There was a Lee Enfield Rifle laying next to her tree. She picked up the rifle and noticed a percussion cap on the nipple. She stood up and fired the rifle into the air. Unsafe to have guns like this. She noticed a few cartridges and she stuffed them in her pockets.
A major came riding up, and gave Julius an order. Julius saluted and walked over to the bugler. The major went further down the line. The bugler blew attention. Somewhere off in the distance a signal gun went off. "God damnit! No! " Sally shouted. The whole line fixed bayonets and began marching toward the confederate line.
The smoke dissipated from in front of her. She watched as men got killed and wounded as the marched. The bugler blew double quick time. She could see the confederate line now, 250 yards in front. And what she saw electrified her. It was Wilkerson, riding a horse on the confederate side encouraging the men. Quickly she stood up and went through the the manual. Gun in front, Cartridge in the teeth and tear the cartridge. Pour the powder down the barrel, place the ball in the front of the barrels, ramrod out, ramrod down the barrel hard so that the bullet was snug, ramrod put away, and raise the barrel. The whole procedure done in 20 seconds. She looked down the barrel for Wilkinson. There! He was waving his and going down the line. Not a good shot. She followed him. Then suddenly she was pulled down from a bullet plowing into her wooden leg and pulling it off her. She lay in the mud. She could still fire the gum prone. She looked behind her. He wooden leg was in pieces behind her. She looked to the front. There was less firing as both sides using clubbed rifles in hand to hand combat. Wilkinson was encouraging the confederates and waving his hat. She grabbed the rifle and looked down the barrel. He was standing in one place facing directly in front of her. She inhaled, aimed for his crotch as he stood in the stirrups, and pulled the trigger. She stared down the barrel of the gun and she saw a hole rip open in his coat directly in front of his heart. He gradually fell off his horse, which bolted with one leg stuck in his stirrup.
Sally didn't want to lay in the mud. She used her musket as an improvised crutch. She moved to a tree and hoped the ground around it was drier. It wasn't. She sat down anyway. The gun made a miserable crutch. She watched the attack. It was faltering. Suddenly the line began going back with about half the men coming back as had advanced a short time before. She looked for Julius. He was retreating also, taking shots with his revolver. The men got to their firing pits and began shooting again....................................
"Now just a goddamn minute! You can't have us be the prisoners of these nigger troopers! It ain't christian!"
Lt Harris stopped for a moment. He walked slowly to the man raising objections to being guarded black troops. He noticed that there were nods of agreement. "I lost a lot of men I respected and admired due to you god damned bastards. I am told off to guard you evil thugs or to send you bastards to hell. I would prefer to send you to hell. If that is the way you prefer it, so do I." He gave a signal to the guards who raised their rifles. "Your choice, hell, or be guarded by these fine outstanding courageous black troops."
After a few moments they submitted to being tied up by the black soldiers. The one who had been raising the objection grumbled under his breath. "Just you wait, niggers, just you wait.".................................. ..............................................
Sally grabbed her Henry rifle and went to the window. There were fifteen or twenty men in sheets riding horses and shooting rifles around the big house. She recognized a roan horse and aimed the rifle at the rider. the rider carried his brand to the schoolhouse and threw it onto the porch. Sally saw teacher Rosen wheeling to the door at the same time as the rider. The rider brought out his revolver and aimed it at teacher Rosen. Sally shot, and the bullet went into skull of the klansman. The other klansmen were carrying their brands and tossing them onto the schoolhouse. Sally thought she recognised the horse of another rider. She aimed, and put anther bullet in the head of another sheeted klansman. A bunch of bullets went through the window. Sally nodded at her husband and they both moved to the window and took shots at the klansmen milling around the yard. Julius missed, but Sally got another one. She quickly cocked her rifle and took another shot off, and wounded another one. Most of the klansmen began running away as fast as their horses could carry them. Sally cocked her rifle and looked at the remaining Klansmen. She saw one off his horse taking aim at her husband. She shot him first. Julius shot twice, but didn't get anyone. Jacob was stuck in the burning school house. Julius raced over to the side of the schoolhouse. Sally and Julius tried to get the to the back door of the schoolhouse, but there were brands back there too. The tried to open the window, but Sally smashed through the glass. First Mrs Rosen passed jacob out the window, then passed the wheeled chair, and then she climbed out herself. all four of them went far away from the schoolhouse which was all involved in the fire. Sally stood there with her rifle in wonder. Other men were passing buckets to prevent the fire from spreading to other buildings. Suddenly, a pair of shots rang out. Sally looked for a couple moments, and saw a pair of sheeted men charging their rifles. She quickly shot them both in the time it took them to charge their rifles. But after that, all was quiet
Julius sighed "we will have to get the sherriff."
Sally said "No need to bother, he is right here. " She pointed at the first man she shot. She walked over to the corpse and pulled off the hood. "If you are looking for the deputy, he is over there" indicating another corpse.