Author's note: I recently had the honor of participating in the Chestnut Cemetery Ghost Walk. I channeled the ghost of Capt. Henry Abell of the Milton Light Artillery which was formed in Apalachicola in 1861. In researching my character, I found that the graves located in the Hull family plot hold two Confederate soldiers who lie next to two Union soldiers. It is a true example of the brother against brother nature of the Civil War.

R.H. and L.N. Hull served in Company B of the 4th Florida Infantry, while J.H. and P.R. Hull rode with Company I of the 4th Missouri Cavalry (Union). I wrote the poem Duty several years ago, but would dedicate it this Memorial Day to these men from one family who fought on both sides during the War Between the States.

 

A young soldier newly minted wearing Union blue,

brass buckles and buttons shining, fresh-faced awaiting review.

He would do as he was ordered, by his Captain speaking now

of duty and honor and glory, with a smile upon his brow.

 

As the days and months passed by him and the blue was torn and stained,

the burning sense of duty and his honor still remained.

The spring day was warm and pleasant reminding him of home,

Of working the fields with his brother, plowing the fertile loam.

A bounteous table awaiting the end of their work-filled day

as with family gathered around him, his father began to pray.

 

He was drawn from this passing dream by the sound of his Captain’s voice

asking for volunteers from which to make his choice.

He stepped forward to do his duty, to do as he was told,

as the Captain sought a volunteer to watch the southern road.

No rebel could pass that way, going back to the enemy’s line,

to carry word of the Union presence and the threat they would divine.

 

He rode out to do his duty, to watch the southern way,

not knowing what honor would cost on that fateful spring like day.

He found a place to watch for a southern rider to come,

and lying in ferns and mosses, a memory he started to hum.

The sound of a galloping rider drew his eyes to the road below

and the grey of the soldier’s coat told him all that he needed to know.

 

His rifle to his cheek and finger caressing the trigger

he watched with a marksman’s eye as the figure below grew bigger.

He sighted the soldier below and as the boy drew near,

the duty bound Union soldier shivered with newfound fear.

The lives of his Union comrades overshadowed his horrible dread

and by his hand and gun, the rebel soldier lay dead.

He had seen his duty and done it, on this unspeakable life-changing day,

for two brothers rode forth to fight, one in blue and the other in grey.

 

Jerry Hurley's work most recently appeared in the 32nd edition of the Florida State Poets Assocation's annual anthology.