|My debut novel, PATRIOT HEART|
Dan closed his eyes to sleep flat on his back. Not even moonlight slipped in around the shades. Street noises were muffled through the closed window. He liked it that way.
He squirmed on the mattress, leg muscles tightening, while the familiar slide down the slippery slope continued. If he could fight this for a little longer . . . if he could. . .
Dan moved along with hundreds of other Union men and herded into the crammed boxcar in Virginia. The pressure on his right shoulder from the guard’s rifle butt left him sore. The core of his body shivered as winter air turned even colder, and the wind picked up and blew through the cracks in the boards. The frigid draft seeped deep into his bones after days in the unheated freight train.
Hunger made his stomach growl and his head ache. To distract himself, he joined in a discussion with other captives about a prisoner exchange. That fueled his hope. Vague shadows boasted, gestured with arms wide spread, and shouted above the racket of the train barreling along the tracks. He struggled to think straight and to fight panic.
Dan’s leg muscles burned as they bunched into tight knots. His feet cramped. His weightless body floated above everyone. He didn’t mind the sensation.
They had to use a large pail as a slop jar, the stench crowding out body odors in that confined space. Dan swallowed to keep the waves of nausea from overtaking him.
A guard told him how lucky he was with the first group of Federal prisoners taken to the new Confederate prison. Almost made him giddy, thinking the place would be clean. But then Dan caught the lopsided smile like the Reb kept a secret and knew better.
The train he rode stopped at the depot in the small town of
Georgia. Anxious to leave the filth and cold, he hurried to jump off the
railway car and onto solid ground. His legs buckled and he staggered to right
himself, staring into a living nightmare. Andersonville
Ahead, Confederate artillery faced the prisoners.
“Father God, help me as I surrender my freedom to the enemy. I choose life. No matter what happens, I want to live,” Dan mumbled under his breath, tapping his pocket Bible hidden inside his shirt.
“Psalm 91:1, 2 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in Him will I trust.”
|Andersonville Prison site|
13,000 POWs died in 1864