Below is a narrative from the perspective of an 18 year old boy who lived in Reading in 1861. He is in the mists of the civil war, and now has to decide whether self preservation or service to one’s country is more important.
Day by day, it keeps getting harder and harder to ignore the war going on around me. I see soldiers come home, walking on their cork limbs, and sharing news of the bloodshed that never ceases to amaze me. They tell of a completely new style of combat. Gone are the days when soldiers would line up to charge at eachother with bayonets flying in the air. Now, battle has little to do with brute force and more to do with strategy and technology.
The confederates soar beyond us in the means of strategy. As we plan to isolate the south through the Anaconda Plan, they are fully aware that they only have to defend themselves in order to successfully secede. But, with that being said, we take the advantage when it comes to technology.
Inventors have developed a new weapon called the rifle musket; a gun far more deadly than anything the world has ever seen before. Loaded with Minié Balls, these guns hold the capability to shatter bone from further distances; stealing the lives and limbs of many. Although the confederate army also has this technology, they don’t have the resources to manufacture nearly as many as we can; giving us a clear advantage.
All of these things bounce around in my head as I look at the enlistment forms in front of me. Should I stay and help my country? Or should I save my own life and run? The honor of staying would be great, but the incredibly high risk of war wounds, infections, extreme medical treatments, and death make me second guess myself. As I contemplate my decision, an old conversation with an army doctor begins to play back in my head. I remember him telling me about the bone saw used for amputations and how, even sedated with chlorophorm, people would still cry out in agony as their limbs were being removed. On top if that, survival rates were incredibly unpredictable, so even if you got your limb professionally amputated, you could still lose even more of your body and possibly die from infection.
All of these things were daunting to me, but, in the end, I shocking made the decision to stay. America is my home, and I am willing to fight to keep the union of the country together. Sure, there will be hard times and a great deal of danger, but here in the Union, being a war veteran is honored and respected; as it should be. If I am in fact unlucky enough to get a limb amputated, I know that I will have the access to prosthetics, good medical treatment, and fair compensation that would not be available down in the Confederacy. Plus, I will be forever respected for the service and sacrifice that I made for my beloved homeland.