Out of the summer darkness came the sound of singing, softly at first, then swelling, many voices joining in. All along the Union line, men paused to listen, standing silently, almost reverently. The music was coming from the Rebel encampment, but the sound carried so well that night. Campfires were visible in the distance, across the long open field in among the trees. The melody was so familiar; the words were engraved in every heart:
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease;
Many are the hearts that are looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight, tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old camp ground
General Meade had addressed them that day, told them that the Rebels weren’t going to give up and go away. Across that field, in those trees, stood Robert E. Lee and all those soldiers who had survived the last two days of this terrible battle. Tomorrow would tell the tale, tomorrow the great hammer would be driven against the anvil of their lines. Tomorrow.
Edward Farber, that freckle-faced kid from Ohio, said, “Those boys are right good fighters, I’ll give ‘em that. And, I guess I’d have to say that they’re pretty good at singin’, too. Almost makes me want to join in with ‘em.”
Elijah Eakins said, “I’ve been around a lot longer than you boys, and I can tell you they won’t be singing tomorrow if’n they try to come at us across that field. They’ll be yellin’ like banshees, I’m thinkin’. We’ll have the Devil to pay, gettin’ ‘em stopped.” He stroked his gray beard, then spat tobacco juice into the fire.
Just then, Lt. Myers strode up to the small gathering, asked if there was coffee. Someone handed him a cup and ladled coffee into it. He squatted down, said, “Well, have you seen or heard anything up here? We’ve been getting some reports of movement over that way. Creepy enough being up here on Cemetery Ridge without having strange noises in the night.” He looked totally out of place, uniform brand new, brass buttons outrageously shiny. Several of the men exchanged knowing glances. “He won’t last long,” they were thinking, “he’ll be wanting to be right in the front and will be just a wonderful target for those fellows over there with the squirrel guns.”
* * *
Among the trees, around the hundreds of campfires, other men were consumed with thoughts of the coming engagement. One fellow swore that he had heard some officers talking about charging all the way across that open field and up against those distant stone walls. Was General Pickett crazy? And if it wasn’t his idea, surely he would argue with Lee that it was pure suicide to advance in that way. It couldn’t be true, it was too fantastic to consider.
One of the Tennessee Volunteers spoke up, “Well, it might be a tough row to hoe, but we ain’t been beat yet, have we? General Lee knows what he’s a-doin’. We’re in Pennsylvania and we’re a-headin’ to Washington, just you wait and see.”
* * *
The sands of the hourglass were running out. Tomorrow would reveal the answer. Tomorrow.
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