In Chapter 7 we follow Richard Clow beyond the intense shelling and attacks on April 1, 1865 into the second day of the assault in which Petersburg finally falls to the combined Union forces and General Lee begins the long painful flight to the West across much of the State of Virginia to end at Appomattox Court House and surrender.
Richard Clow only writes 6 lines to his sister on the 9th of April, giving some indication of his own state of exhaustion after following the Confederate retreat across the hills of Virginia.
“I am alive and in good health. We have been marching for some days and I have not had a chance to write. I can only say a few words now while the Regt. is in a large field waiting for orders.
I am quite well and just as leave fight as eat. Write and tell Father so I never heard from him since I enlisted. I expect to be home soon for we have done our part.
I was one of the first in the rebel fort April 2nd. It was rough enough.”
When I first read this letter, I was struck by those last two words “rough enough.”
I thought to myself, “What does it mean for a soldier who has been fairly verbal in describing his experiences to just say to his sister that it was “rough enough?”
Since he has already described some pretty difficult situations, What is it that he is not telling us? Is it because he in fact is too exhausted? Doesn’t he have enough time? Or is it something that he has yet to come to terms with and put in enough perspective to be able to verbalize?
He doesn’t write another letter for six days (April 15), but when he does, it is a mixture of worry, hope and perhaps some despair as to what has happened and what will happen. It begins with some optimism but you can see that there has been a lot of stress:
…”I am well and having a good time at foraging as the army has never been here before. The boys know how to relish good things as we have been cut very short rations for some time….”
Then we get the crux of the problem after another ten lines:
…“I lost my best chumb in the battle of the 2nd of April. He was hit in the side of the neck….the only hope was to press forward amid the the shower of lead and iron…”
The letter end on another note that shows how his world view has changed:
…”I will be back on the old farm again some day, I hope.”
Nothing is completely sure in life after going through a war.
What would it take for you to say,”It was rough enough?”