Upon The Sunrise
Written by Alaina Wolfgaard
This short story is dedicated to the Shaw family out of Boston who had and still have an important influence on America and its history.
The tide was going in and out as the sun rose in the distance. Face behind a man standing upright in radiant blue, was a fort made entirely of reinforced sand. The man stood so confidently that he gave his small build an intimidating aura. His hair was a deep chocolate while his eyes emphasized the morning sky with brilliant blues. His face was all that gave away his true attitude.
This day would be his last. He would never again see his parents, sisters… his wife. All this effort for the sake of having his name etched into history forever. He wanted to cry but his military discipline would not allow him the comfort. The only comfort he had was to stare into the horizon, contemplating his future. Every step from here forward would be remembered forever. He had not come this far not to be remembered. Standing still on the beach of Fort Wagner was, even then, being written into history. He started it all, liberating African American’s, giving them a chance to serve their country. It was he who opened the door of new beginnings for them. It was his doing, and his alone.
He came to his senses, lying face down in the field. This was by far the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. For a moment he had forgotten where he was. He half expected to be back in Boston; just waking up in his favorite chair from another one of his mother’s famous tea parties.
Instead, he stood up; he was on the battle field of Antietam. The last thing he remembered was watching someone beside him get shot, the shrapnel flying everywhere. That would explain the intense pain in his neck. His fingers touched ripped flesh.
“Great,” he thought, “this wound could warrant gangrene. I’m lucky I even woke up.”
Two African American grave diggers watched him pass. He smiled a polite smile at them, still holding his wounded neck.
“That boy is a smilin’ when his buddies be dyin’ in front of ‘im,” one said to the other.
He ignored the comment. If he remembered correctly the nurse’s station was across the field on the union side.
“Robert this is a once in a life time opportunity,” said his father, Francis.
Robert made his way through a throng of party-goers who frequently attended his family’s festivities. A woman in a violet gown smiled at him as he passed. Francis and Robert made their way into a crowded billiard room where his mother was speaking with Governor Andrew and the acclaimed Fredrick Douglas.
“Robert…” his mother affectionately cooed.
“Father, I only want time to think about this,” Robert addressed his father who was poring himself some very expensive brandy.
Governor Andrew raised a glass to Robert, “Take all the time you need,” he smiled, “but not all the time. There’s a war to be had!”
Francis was patting Governor Andrew on the back when Fredrick Douglas stood up from his chair.
“If you accept the invitation, many people will be freed because of you. Your name will go down in history,” Douglas handed him a glass of brandy, “Just think about it.”
His men stood in the rain on a dark January night. Everyone was freezing, but none could show it. They were all soldiers.
“Section Two: And be it further enacted, That if any person shall hereafter incite, set on foot, assist, or engage in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States, or the laws thereof, or shall give aid or comfort thereto, or shall engage in, or give aid and comfort to, any such existing rebellion or insurrection, and be convicted thereof, such person shall be punished by imprisonment for the period not exceeding then years…!!!” Robert yelled over the thud of raindrops.
The Emancipation Proclamation.
“So, Lincoln did have a spine,” Robert thought.
He looked at his men; they were all holding in shivers caused by the icy rain. Even he was trying not to shiver. Shivering as a commander of a regiment made a poor example for his men.
Robert read out more of the Proclamation to his men, his officers standing at attention beside him.
After the reading was done, Robert rolled up his paper and put it into his coat pocket.
“History is inside everyone who stands witness here tonight!” He yelled to his men, “Go back to your tents and take ease. Tomorrow we start early!” An officer beside him, repeated his orders to the men out of hearing range. A trumpet blew giving the men permission to leave.
He wondered how he got to where he was. All the effort he put into making soldiers out of slaves. His best friend and fellow officer came up behind him.
“Major Forbes, it appears that tonight we will make our marks in history,” Robert turned to look at Forbes.
“Indeed. But I can not help but ignore this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach,” Forbes put a hand of Robert’s shoulder, “Perhaps God is trying to tell me something.”
“No, I have that feeling also. Our bodies are telling us it’s time to fight.”
Robert ran up the ramparts of the fort, his sword drawn. A flag man ran beside him; Major Forbes on the other. His entire regiment charged up the ramparts together. Gunpowder flew into the air beside him; the flag man had been shot to his knees. Another soldier came to his aid, taking the flag from him so that it would not touch the ground.
“LEAVE ME! I’M TOO MUCH OF A BURDEN!” The wounded soldier yelled.
Robert and his men continued to storm the fort. Major Forbes shot into the opposing army, protected by the barricades of the fort. Roberts’ right had held his own empty gun.
More gunpowder went into the air. What once were the barricades of Fort Wagner were now stars, the black night illuminating the white stars in the sky.
“ROBERT!!” he heard someone yell.
He couldn’t move. He couldn’t feel anything.
The stars blurred into blackness.
As the Union troops reached the parapets, the fighting proved intense. Three brigades managed to occupy a portion of the walls, but they were forced to withdraw after an hour of fierce hand-to-hand combat where almost every officer was killed.
The Union forces suffered around 1,500 casualties and the Confederate garrison fewer than 200.
Although a tactical defeat, the battle proved to be a political victory for the Union since the valor of the 54th against hopeless odds proved the worth of black soldiers. It spurred additional recruitment that gave the Union Army a further numerical advantage in troops over the South.
The Union besieged the fort after the unsuccessful assault. After enduring almost sixty days of heavy shelling, the Confederates abandoned it on September 7, 1863.