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Letters From the War: Chapter Seven

An Abrupt Ending

But then, in reality, an abrupt ending happened to many soldiers in the Civil War, didn’t it? This was never meant to be a long, drawn-out affair. It was meant, instead, to raise awareness, and to be a vehicle for my own thoughts about war and this country. I’ve accomplished that and so it is time to move on.

An impossible situation

An impossible situation

MAY 15, 1864

Dear Mrs. Clayton:

We regret to inform you that your husband, Samuel, died in the Battle of the Wilderness. His body has been recovered and will be sent home to you via rail by the 20th of May.

Your country thanks you for the ultimate sacrifice and sends you our deepest sympathies.


Captain Begley

1st Division, Company C

Army of the Potomac

Dear Mrs. Lee:

We regret to inform you that your husband, Jedidiah, died from wounds incurred in the Battle of the Wilderness. His body is currently being transported by train to your home town, and should arrive within the next week.


Captain Richkoff

Company A

Army of Northern Virginia



The Battle of the Wilderness

The Battle of the Wilderness was the first battle on the eastern seaboard under the command of Ulysses S. Grant, who had been summoned by Lincoln to take overall command of the entire U.S. military. It was fought near Spotsylvania in Virginia, in a dense forest with thick underbrush, two massive armies firing at each other, sometimes blindly, the bullets buzzing through the air, the shooters unseen, companies getting lost, stumbling into enemy positions . . . it was hell.

At the end of the fighting another 28,000 men, total, were lost. Grant showed her particular personality by not retreating but rather by moving his army further south in a continuing pincer move towards Richmond, the Capitol of the South. The two massive armies would remain in a death struggle for another year of almost continuous fighting.

In the End

Over 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War.

Is it asking too much that we learn from that bloodbath?

It could never happen again, or so we have been told.

I’m not so certain of that.

“Even today we raise our hand against our brother... We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.” Pope Francis

Set aside, for a moment, the car-bombings and mass shootings. There will always be crazies in this world. There will always be enemies of the state willing to sacrifice dozens, or hundreds, to make their political beliefs known.

A greater concern, for me, are the family members who no longer speak because of differing views. A greater concern, for me, are the former friends who now disassociate from each other over issues like immigration and health care. A greater concern, for me, is a Congress completely incapable of compromise. A greater concern, for me, are middle school students beating fellow students over differing political views, the views of their parents, views those students are completely ignorant about.

When does the madness end?

And then there are the deep-rooted issues no political leader has the guts to tackle.

The Civil War could have been avoided . . . or could it?

The issues that ultimately caused the Civil War were debated by our founders back in the late 1700’s. The issue of a strong Federal government vs states’ rights was not new in 1861. The issue of slavery was certainly not new. Slavery was whispered about in dark corners of back rooms for decades . . . “we have to do something about this sooner or later” and then later became sooner and the time for discussion was past.

Perhaps the war could not be avoided. Perhaps, as long as there is a United States of America, there will always be issues no one wants to face, contention leading to blind anger leading to war. Perhaps we are again approaching the boiling point.

The young fool

The young fool

I Was a Fool

I was such a dreamer in college. I firmly believed that love would win out in a head-to-head battle with hate, that one day we would all come together for the common good. Michael row your boat ashore, if I had a hammer, come on people, now, love one another, there’s something happening here, and all that other anal b.s. we spouted while sipping cappuccino in the coffee house.

That was fifty years ago, a time when the neighborhoods of the United States were on fire, and rational individuals were shouted down by the agents of hate.

Fast forward to 2018 . . . has anything really changed?

Sure . . . now I drink vanilla mochas instead of cappuccinos.

Is love capable of winning this war?

I have my doubts!

We honestly believed we brought an end to Vietnam . . . really? . . . or did the fat cats just find another profitable conflict to promote somewhere else?

What, then, am I, and my fellow believers in love, to do? Throw in the towel? Become one with the hate groups and embrace vitriol? Strike out at anyone who dares to think differently from me?

I can’t do that!

I won’t do that!

I would rather continue to play the part of the fool.

I would rather believe in the power of love.

The End of This Series

This was a fictional series, of course, and yet I think it managed to get to the root of the matter . . . wars are planned by old white men drinking scotch and smoking cigars . . . wars are fought by young men with entire lives ahead of them and families who will grieve over their loss when it all ends.

What we see on the news today is not a fictional series. It is all terribly real. What we read on social media is not the figment of a writer’s imagination. It is a reality which sucks the humanity from your collective soul.

When will it end?

It will take a wiser man than I to accurately answer that question.

2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on March 28, 2020:

Exactly, Peggy! I have no grand illusions that it will happen while I'm alive, but I can help to build the foundation.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 27, 2020:

A sad ending for the families of these two fictional characters, and yet, it happened all too often in reality. As to your ponderings at the end, I would also hope that there could be peace someday and love between brothers, friends, neighbors, and people around the world. Maybe in the next life! At least we can do our part in this one to forward that dream.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on September 20, 2018:

Sha, I don't know any other way to get through life sane than to believe in love. Thanks for sharing that beautiful sentiment, my friend.



Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 18, 2018:

Bill, I've come in on the tail end of this series, and several months late. I definitely have to catch up, even if I do so backwards.

Excellent final chapter, Bill. It reminds me of a mixture of 12/59 and Tobias (in mindset and style).

I continue to look at life through rose-colored glasses. I refuse to see only black and white with a shade of gray. I know the world has gone to hell in a hand basket, but as long as there are those of us who fuel ourselves and others with love, there's hope. There just has to be!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 10, 2018:

Ann, we may never see it in our lifetime, but love is the only possible solution to this madness that continues.

Welcome back, wherever you are. :)


Ann Carr from SW England on February 09, 2018:

Yes, Bill, you made your point succinctly. You balanced the two sides. Both believed in their cause, both followed orders, both had doubts, both suffered and most paid the ultimate sacrifice and added to a nation's grief.

Lest we forget,eh?

We should all concentrate on love.


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on February 06, 2018:

Lawrence, thank you for following along, and for your insights. I appreciate it very much.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on February 05, 2018:


Conflict often ends abruptly for those involved in them.

WW1 was the 'War to end all wars' yet less than twenty five years later we were plunged into a nightmare that took 80 million lives!

I enjoyed the series for the realism, and the sentiments that the two characters showed, they reflected what I imagine every soldier 'at the front' felt.

Normal Schwarzkopf once said, "No one hates war more than the soldier" but if someone doesn't stand up to the world's bullies, then what hope is there for us?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 08, 2018:

Beautiful thoughts, Rasma! Beautiful thought indeed. Thank you for sharing it.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on January 08, 2018:

This was an interesting and educational series. I remember someone who had experienced a number of wars said that he often wished he was a magician. When asked why he replied that every time a bomb went up he would make it so that roses came back down. I always thought that was wonderful imagery, alas the reality is so very different.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 08, 2018:

I fluctuate, Zulma! I'm an uncomplicated,complicated human being. :)

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on January 07, 2018:

You may have been naive in believing you ended Vietnam, but not foolish in your belief in love.

I seem to recall a writer I greatly admire once wrote that love changes everything...or words to that effect.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 06, 2018:

Perfectly stated, Genna. I don't have an answer to this question, but I sure hope someone does. Thank you dear friend.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 06, 2018:

Never give up, Kari! If I can't believe in the power of love, there is nothing to believe in.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on January 06, 2018:

And the letters stopped coming...

Your conclusion to this illuminating series was a epitaph, commemorating the loss of love at a devastating cost. I don't know if the Civil War could have been avoided. Can any? War has intertwined with humanity over centuries. One cannot follow the evolution of the human story without it. And therein lies the tragedy. Humanity needs to change -- perhaps to become more human than human -- and I suspect that will require one hell of an epiphany, Bill.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on January 05, 2018:

Thank you, Bill, that you won't and can't give up on the power of love! I will never give up. I will not allow myself to become cynical. Becoming cynical is one of my greatest fears in life. We are here to love and help each other, and I refuse to think differently.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 05, 2018:

Thank you very much, Gilbert! If at all interested, read Bruce Catton's historical novels on this topic.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 05, 2018:

Flourish, that kind of disagreement is right below the surface of many, I'm afraid. Thanks for mentioning that.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 05, 2018:

Love and peace, Maria! Absolutely nothing except getting rich.



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 05, 2018:

Thank you Mike! I like your ending better than mine. LOL

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 05, 2018:

I totally agree, Mary! I hope to see that happen in my lifetime. Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 05, 2018:

Thank you, Manatita, for the very kind words. I will try to live up to them,my friend.

Gilbert Arevalo from Hacienda Heights, California on January 04, 2018:

Thanks for writing the Civil War series of letters, Bill. I'll use your series as reference when I want to study the war in closer detail myself, for a novel, short story, or article. I noticed you posted several videos for extra interest. Keep up the good work. I enjoyed the series.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 04, 2018:

I think it’s an appropriate end, as there are often sudden stops in life that are much unexpected. Someone I know recently ended a friendship of more than 60 years after the friend spouted a bunch of racist and anti-immigrant opinions that culminated in a political debate. They were always very different people.

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on January 04, 2018:

"I said, war, good god, now, what is it good for?

Absolutely, nothing..."

A chilling, inevitable conclusion, dear Bill.

Love and peace in this new year, Maria

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on January 04, 2018:

Hi Bill - I may have come to the point where my Southern soldier and my Northern Soldier wrote their family members during their last evening and gone out in the morning and died on the same battlefield.

This was a very good concept with many emotions to explore.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on January 04, 2018:

I would have been surprised if your story ended differently.

These are challenging times and I feel people have lost the ability to communicate effectively. It needs to be rekindled, starting in the home.

manatita44 from london on January 04, 2018:

It is the beauty of that style - that down to earth, yet gifted kind of wit and humour - that awesome bit of writing that makes you stand out so much!

War? You are a better man than me to tackle this seemingly impossible puzzle. Yes, those responsible drink caviar and play golf. I have a poem about this somewhere. Congratulations on completing yet another excellent series.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2018:

Thank you, Larry, and welcome back. Happy New Year my friend.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on January 04, 2018:

Getting caught up. Been offline for a bit.

Great read! Great job trying to get a fair representation of everyone's side.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2018:

Like always for sure, Peg! Wise words of yours. Every four years we make a choice. Spreading hate is not a choice which helps anyone. Thank you!

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on January 04, 2018:

I loved this series and realized that it would ultimately come to this sad end. You did a great job portraying the different viewpoints of both sides along with the heartache.

Wise insight into today's political tension and divisiveness. I'm appalled at the ongoing hatred from both sides, the name calling, the mud slinging and the constant negativity. I believe it's time to move on and if the current staff doesn't suit one's belief system, just wait a bit and it will change again. Like always.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2018:

Linda, in our lifetime, we surely have not seen it happen. I guess I'm running out of hope,my friend.

Thank you always!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 04, 2018:

Wow, Bill you really found the guts of the matter. There are a lot of "civil wars" waging right now, right this moment. There is no reasoning, there is no willingness to compromise, there is no love.

Is there any hope at all that it will ever improve?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2018:

Monkey, this sadness never ends, I'm afraid. This may be a part of human nature we will never tame.

Thank you!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2018:

It was my pleasure, Linda! Thank you for following along.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 04, 2018:

I'm glad to hear that, Dora! Thank you very much.

RoadMonkey on January 04, 2018:

So sad but almost inevitable. Two good men fighting battles that should have, as you said, been sorted out round a table years before. Yet we continue to avoid them because somebody can make money by avoiding the issues and setting brother against brother.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 03, 2018:

The story that you have told is full of sadness, but the events are important for us to remember. Thank you for creating the series, Bill.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on January 03, 2018:

"It managed to get to the root of the matter." I think so too and want to register my appreciation for the thoughts about separation, family concerns, loneliness and fear, absurdity of war that your series generated. We are wiser.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 03, 2018:

Thank you, Dee, and Happy New Year to you!

Dianna Mendez on January 03, 2018:

It may be fiction but it seems so real. I too believe in the power of love and will use it to help others find true meaning in life.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 03, 2018:

Oddly, Jackie, Vietnam is the one that breaks my heart more than all the other wars. So senseless!

Happy New Year my friend, and thank you!

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on January 03, 2018:

All the thousands of sympathy letters sent home to widows overwhelms this writing. Also thoughts of high school friends who never made it home from Vietnam. Boys really. Still breaks my heart.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 03, 2018:

Perfectly stated,Eric, and I totally agree with you. I will go to the grave believing in the power of love.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 03, 2018:

I got stood down the other day, by folks I appreciate and love. My whole point was that I did not give a good damn about the issues. That they will work their way out. I can write about them and listen even in my own home.

What I got my unders all in a bunch about was not treating others with some semblance of love.

I have 3 wonderful adult children on the far different end of the spectrum than me. We have great respectful debates. We will never admit defeat, but we all agree we always learn from each other. To me their is not political debate, there is only the debate of how to differ lovingly.

Thanks Bill.

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