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The Student News Site of Oakmont Regional High School

The Oakmonitor

The Student News Site of Oakmont Regional High School

The Oakmonitor

The Impending Dawn


The Impending Dawn

Matthew Connel 


December 10th, 1862,   

To my dear sister Eva. I am writing to you now because this may be the last time I do. We have just received orders from General Burnside that we will be crossing the river in a final attempt to take Fredericksburg from the hands of the Confederate army. I fear the odds are out of our favor and though I fear death I will die knowing it was for the right reason. Send my love to Mother and Father. If this should be the end I love you all and I will see you again side by side with the lord.

-Your loving brother Thomas


I folded up the letter and tucked it deep into my pocket. As I stood there by the tree and watched what might be my last sunset I thought of all that was good in my life. I stood there for what felt like an eternity. As the sun moved out of sight I heard the sound of a bugle ring in the distance and it was like my last moment of peace and calm was gone and all that was left was the weight of the impending dawn. 


As I returned to camp I ran into my good friend Gaberial who has been with me since childhood.

Thomas, ¨the Chaplin has started service¨, said Gabereal 

¨I heard I’m headed there now. I have a letter I need delivered.¨

¨I expected so. All the men do.¨


For the rest of the way, the both of us kept silent. As we walked through the camp, on my left I saw a small group of men loading their cartridge boxes to prepare for the battle ahead. On my right were two men sitting by the fire together sharing stories from each other’s lives trying to have one last laugh, a bit of light in the sorrowful darkness that enveloped them. 


A little further down the street most of the men were just heading off to bed and that’s when I heard it. Mark, a new private in the ranks, was alone and crying under his blanket in his tent. The poor boy was only sixteen, barely even a man, and I fear if he will ever live to become one. Further down the line was the company fly and under it was the cook preparing some coffee and passing out hardtack for the men going out on picket duty. It wasn’t much but it was all we had considering the supply chain hasn’t caught up with us yet. 


Past the mess tent and the captain’s tent was the chaplain’s tent where he was holding the evening service for those who wanted to attend. Our Chaplain held a service every Wednesday evening plus Sundays.  Gabereal and I sat down with the rest of the men and listened to what may be our last time hearing the word of God. The chaplain always started his sermons with a quote from 1st  John.


¨Grace be with you mercy and peace from God the Father and the lord Jesus Christ the son of the Father in truth and love. Our text is from the book of Isaiah the 40th chapter the 31st verse. 

But they who wait upon the lord shall renew their strength they shall mount up with wings as eagles they shall run and not be weary they shall walk and not faint.¨


As Chaplin continued I slowly felt myself drifting off, every crack in the fire slowly turned into gunshots. It was like I was back in the battle Balls Bluff. All I could think about were the horrors of war we’ve been waiting here at camp for boats so we can cross the river the same way we did at Balls Bluff. Before the battle, we were in church. It’s all coming back to me now the bullets whizzing past my head the blood stains on my shirt the young men crying out for their mothers. Suddenly I saw a cannonball falling it was headed right for me it was getting closer. Then a log dropped on the fire right in front of me. Gabereal nudged me in the arm


¨Thomas, are you ok?¨

I looked back at him and said yes then looked up at the Chaplin as he spoke the benediction. 


¨May the Lord bless thee and keep thee may the Lord make his face shine upon thee and be gracious onto thee may the lord lift his countenance upon thee and give thee peace. Amen. 

¨Amen¨, we all repeated.  ¨Go in peace.¨

I walked back to my tent and lay down closing my eyes.  That feeling of peace left me. The sulfur smell of gunpowder wafted my nose and the sound of gunfire slowly became louder. I rubbed the dirt from my eyes and the light pierces the darkness. The peace is gone and all that is left is the dim of war. But even that is fading. I heard the cry of an eagle or is it my imagination? I reached into my pocket and withdrew the letter and wondered if she would ever read it.



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