Reapers’ Portraits: July 1863


It is a well-known fact that Death has an active business during war, and the War of Rebellion, when the Southern States seceded from the North for several years, was no different. Some reapers made their way through Cross, yet when asked their destination, they merely smiled and waved the question off.

In July, another reaper stopped in Aldrich’s studio, mentioned his familial connections, and sat for his portrait. This reaper was clad in the uniform of a New York unit, and he wore the stripes of a sergeant. As had become his habit, Victor Aldrich asked where the reaper was traveling to, and he fully expected to have the same smile and refusal to answer.

This reaper told Victor his destination.

“I am for New York City,” the reaper said, gathering up his gear.

Aldrich, who had family in the city, asked what the reason was.

“Ah, well, there’s the rub. The Irish are not so fond of the colored, nor are the Democrats so fond of the Republicans.” The reaper adjusted his cap and smiled. “The gangs are not so fond of the police, nor are the police so fond of the gangs. It is, I must admit, a most interesting situation. On the thirteenth, you will hear of me. I shall be busy over several days. While the official numbers will be small, you may rest assured that they will, in all actuality, number in the thousands. Worry not though, Mr. Aldrich, none of your kin will fall beneath my gaze.”

As had become his habit, Aldrich watched the papers, and on the fourteenth of July, he learned of the riots in New York City. He read with growing horror of the atrocities committed, and in his ledger for that reaper, his handwriting is shaky at best.

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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