The War of the Rebellion: South Carolina, 1865


I had sat down to my evening meal, deep in some Secesh forest, when I heard the unmistakable call to rally on the battalion.

There was a sense of urgency and fear to the beat that I had heard upon battlefields, yet there was no gunfire or accompanying musketry. No yelling or haranguing by officers and sergeants.

Only the drumming.

Leaving my food and kit behind, I raced towards the sound of the drum, and when I reached it, I came to a halt, Spencer in hand and surprise on my face.

A lone drummer boy stood among a field of corpses. The bodies, clad in Federal blue, were the remnants of a colored troop, their white officers dead alongside them.

Across the field, a group of Secesh approached, their rifles shouldered and their laughter ringing out. I heard them calling out to the drummer, asking him who he thought he was calling. I brought the Spencer up to my shoulder and I was about to answer for him when the dead stirred.

Slowly, as though the boy and his drum were pulling each and every one of them back from the grave, the bodies of his dead comrades shook and trembled. Those that could got to their feet, and those that could not, rolled to face their enemy.

As I lowered my rifle, the Secesh raised theirs. They took aim not at the living dead shambling towards them, but at the drummer.

Yet the white officers gathered in front of him, protecting shielding him from the bullets that Johnny Reb sent screaming towards him.

The enlisted men, led by their sergeants, continued their advance upon the Secesh, and it was only then that the living focused on the dead.

A few of the Secesh stood their ground, reloading and firing upon the corpses.

I picked off those that tried to run.

The battle was over in a few moments, and when the last of the Secesh had fallen, the drummer boy ceased his rallying beat. With the silence, the corpses of his comrades collapsed, and only the boy and I remained.

When I walked to him, he looked at me with sad and tired eyes, then down at his colonel, saying softly, “Colonel always said I could raise the dead.”

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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