The Double Dog Dare
“I double dog dare ya to join the Reb Army Josh; be a drummer boy like me.”
“I caint Ma depends on me. Pa is fightin in the Reb Army. My brother Beau is
fightin for the dumb ole Union.”
“Yeah I see you got problems Josh; but you be missin all the action and the fun.”
“I jest can’t do it Jed. Ma is scairt of them ole Yankees comin here to Midville.”
“Josh you gotta join; they need drummer boys specially to march with Old Pete.”
“I know I should go; Jeb is way to young to defend much of anything. The Yanks
could miss us altogether.”
Josh contemplated the promise he made to his Pa just before he joined up with Captain Richard Birdsong. The Birdsong Plantation was a formidable wood and brick home. Rumors were flooding Midville that Sherman was marching through Georgia; destroying everything in his way. Josh knew there were only three people at Birdsong, he also knew his Ma would go there if the Yankees got as far as Midville.
Josh later that evening sat down with his Ma and his brother Jeb:
“Ma, I am gonna join up with the Reb Army, they need drummer boys. I won’t be in the
fightin. Ma, I gotta go. I went to see Aunt Maybelle yesterday; she said if you was scairt to
come stay with them at Birdsong.”
“Josh, that would be such an imposition on my sister Maybelle. If you are set on going
Josh, then go. Tomorrow Jeb and I will go to Birdsong.”
Josh let out a Rebel Yell loud enough to be heard at Birdsong. He was relieved that his Ma was gonna let him go. He decided to enlist the following morning before Ma had a chance to change her mind.
He walked to town early; a red dawn turning to sunshine. Josh hoped that was a good omen, sun was always a good sign. The general store would be open by the time he got to town. The recruiting from Midville took place at the General Store. He approached the brick structure; the proprietor Mr. MacTavish opened the door when he saw Josh.
“Hello young man, are you here to buy something for your Ma?”
“No sir, I am gonna enlist n fight fer my rights. I heard they need drummer boys.”
“I am sure they do young man. Ah, I see Sergeant Bedford comin down the street.”
Josh, peered out the window of the door. There loomed a mountain of a man. He was over six feet tall and weighed at least two hundred and fifty pounds. He walked into the store to find Josh waiting:
“Good mornin young feller. What can I do fer you?
“I wanna join up sir. I wanna be a drummer boy.”
“Well you be in luck young feller; there is a spot fer a drummer boy in the ninth Georgia.”
Josh, straightened up to his full height. Made his “X”; he was now a drummer boy. He hoped they would supply a drum, if not Aunt Maybelle would give him the money to buy one. The sergeant then sent Josh by wagon to the ninth Georgia. Upon arrival, Josh jumped down from the wagon bade Bill good bye. He reported to Captain Paul Payne;
“Howdy are you any relation to Zack Addison?”
“Yes sir that is my pa.”
The Captain turned to his aide:
“Ya better fetch Zack.”
Zack came at a full run. He entered the tent of Captain Payne. When he saw Josh, words failed him for several seconds:
“Josh, what in tarnation are ya doin here? You promised to take care of your Ma while I was
fightin fer our rights.”
“Pa, Ma and Jeb are safe, they went ta Birdsong to stay with Aunt Maybelle. I joined up
cause I wanna be a drummer boy.”
“Boy you ain’t even twelve years yit.”
“Pa ain’t nothin you kin do about it now.”
Zack gave an exasperated sign; arguing with Josh was like arguing with himself. The Captain sort of smirked:
“Josh, you are gonna need a uniform n a drum. Go with the Sergeant.”
“Zack, we will do our best to keep the boy safe in the back of the lines.”
“Thanks Paul that is all any man can ask.”
Zack was a Lieutenant under Captain Paul Payne. They had become friends as well as soldiers together. Zack worried a great deal about Martha and Jeb; Birdsong was a lovely plantation he just hoped everyone would remain safe. The Second War of Rebellion was coming to a conclusion. The rumors were that General William T. Sherman was on the march toward Atlanta, Midville was not that far away. The rumors also stated that Sherman and his army were burning plantations, pulling up railroad tracks; in general destroying what was left of Georgia.
Josh did not have a uniform, there was no material to be had to have one made. He was given a drum that belonged to a long dead drummer boy. The idea was that if a civilian drummer were playing perhaps the boy would not be shot at. It was a long shot but better than his being a target the first time he drummed assembly. Zack prayed the cruel war would end; he and Josh could return to their farm. He thought about Beau, how they fought because Beau thought that it was wrong to secede from the Union. Beau would be eighteen this next week. Zack prayed that Beau would return someday.
The ninth Georgia began to move out early one morning. No one knew exactly where they were going just some where in Virginia. Rumors said they would be marching for at least a few days.
When Old Pete said move em out that was exactly what he meant. Josh sounded assembly as he always did. He still wore his straw hat, old pants and shirt. The shirt was tattered but there were no small shirts in the Confederate Army...make do he was told. According to the latest rumor they were going to a place that sounded like something out of a bad dream...The Wilderness. There they were going to fight against General Grant. They also knew that Lee would never surrender. Longstreet hurried the First Corp along as quickly as he dared. They arrived at the battlefield just as the Union Army was about to flank the Confederate Army. Longstreet poured it on hard. He saved the flank. Longstreet then made a surprise attack from an unfinished railroad section. Just as the action saved the day a bullet struck Longstreet. Josh rushed over to help the General. He stayed with the General until two stretcher bearers arrived to carry the General off the field.
Word came from Birdsong Plantation; General William T. Sherman had spared the plantation. Words could not convey how both Zack and Josh felt. Relief was perhaps all they felt. The fighting continued until April 9th, 1865 when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant.
Zack stood quietly in the background watching them sign the surrender. Tears filled Josh’s
eyes as he thought about his friend Tommy who had double dog dared him to become a drummer boy. Tommy died at Gettysburg.