Dead from the mourning
Night had pushed the day behind him, wet and cold he pulled himself close to the tree. He pulled his knees to his chest, wrapping his arms around his legs he began to weep. He cried off and on for hours - numb and still, his mind attempted to clear the fog of anger and sorrow. This was Edward’s first day of battle, his first experience of the fear of death and the first kill of his life. It was July 2, 1865 - the place was Gettysburg and in his heart he was indeed grieving, or best put “dead from the mourning.”
It was Saturday morning, May 1963. Bill Hayes entered the attic of an old farm house searching for what was perhaps missed by so many others. Bill was a Professor of History employed by the Gettysburg Historic Society looking for the “treasures” of history. Leaning against an empty shelf he noticed it tilted with the weight of his body, he stood back and pushed the shelf to the right - nothing happened. Next he tried pushing the shelf to his left and it moved - revealing a hidden hole.
Within the hole he found several bundles of cloth - within one bundle were three folded papers. One of them was a letter from Edward Holder to his wife Catherine and their three children. The letter was dated July 3rd, 1865 - it read as follows:
“My Dearest Catherine - I write this letter as dawn breaks. Yesterday was bound by the horror of war, it was my first day of fear beyond the explaining and yet, no matter the chaos, I find my heart aching from your absence and longing to embrace my children. We were called to charge a hill, one called Cemetery - I pray that I will never again engage in the fight as today - for coming face to face with one Yankee, I sidestepped his fire, dropped to my knees and shot him.
He spun and fell face-forward. I rushed to his fallen body to ensure he was dead, as I turned him face up I was filled with horror and shame - for he was no older than our precious fourteen-year old son Jimmy. I can’t help but ask God, who surely is on our side, how do I live with this burden of guilt and shame - it indeed seems as though I will die, if not in battle - I will surely be taken by ‘mourning’. I am deeply sorry I left you and our children for what I believed a just cause, I was wrong. There can never be a just cause for the death of a boy so young.
Tell Maddie, Justin, and Jimmy that I love them. If I should not make it back home please move on with your life. Be sure to love again, hope always and surround our children with faith. Keep in mind always that I am deeply in love with you and will be waiting to hold you as we’ve promised. I must go for we are being called to fight yet another day on a hill called ‘Culp’s’. I close with one last request - forgive me for this useless sacrifice shall I fail to return. I am forever yours in love, Edward.”
Bill put the letter down at his side, looking up he whispered - “Edward, I hope you made it home.” World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and still Afghanistan - thousands and thousands of Edwards later - when will we see the devastation of war - perhaps only in the “mourning.”
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