What Will You Write? #6 has come to a close, and I had to choose a winner. There were four entries this time, which is an improvement from the previous two. We had a newcomer and three who had entered before, including two previous winners. I went with a simpler prompt, and I think that may be the way to go for my prompts from now on. The next edition will be done by a guest, Peggy, if she accepts.
But now, on to the winner of #6. I have to say this was a difficult one. All four entries were related to American or Canadian history, two of them about native American history. It was interesting to see how everyone wrote something that’s close to home. But this is probably my most difficult decision so far. They all deserved to win. However, I had to choose one. So here it is.
The winner is Joshua Bertetta with his entry titled American Shadow. You can see his original entry here. Why did I choose this one? I think this one had the most emotional impact. It was very heartfelt and showed the guilt associated with the killing of innocent people, a dark part of American history. Here is his entry:
by Joshua Bertetta
Dear Mother, Dear Father,
Mother, you taught me well to be a good, God-fearing man and now I ask myself, “What am I supposed to do with this?”
With my life?
They received us like heroes in Denver. Colonel Chivington said we fought nobly and, in comparing himself to Joshua, likened our victory to Joshua’s in Canaan. They were savages. He called our enemy savages. After our victory against the Confederate Army, I followed Colonel Chivington and Mother, I volunteered. I volunteered. Do you hear me Mother? I chose to do this. And now, as the rest of the 3rd Regiment and the 1st Volunteers celebrate their heroes’ welcome, I sit alone, atop my bunk, ashamed.
I ask myself over and over again, why. Why did I volunteer? Was I so enamored with this man, this minister from Ohio? I remind myself I was not the only one. There were 750 of us who looked at him, standing tall over all of us, his chin high, his barrel-chest—the kind of man you knew would lead you, protect you. He convinced us Mother, persuaded us that those of us on the frontier were fulfilling God’s plan. He had promised us salvation against the Confederates, and he fulfilled that promise. He promised us salvation again and who I am to turn from the man I looked to as if he were, as if he were…God?
But Mother, that was not my only mistake.
Mother, your beloved son is now a murderer and there is no court on God’s great earth that would commit me of any wrongdoing.
We left Fort Lyon at night. We marched and at first light, frost still covering the ground, we saw their ponies. Chivington detached a small group of men to chase away the horses after we saw the teepees along a creek bottom below the bluff. We stood over them Mother. A woman came out and looked up at us, much as we all looked up to the colonel, like the Israelites looking up to Moses on Sinai. She sounded the alarm and a man emerged carrying a white flag.
Then the first canon shot. And the rifles. And more canons. The ridge billowed with white smoke and through it we charged. We chased them down, we surrounded them, shooting them down and wounding ourselves in turn. Mother, I love you too much to describe to you the atrocities I witnessed and I can only pray for mercy when it comes time for my reckoning. If I were my own judge, I would have no other recourse than to condemn myself to the eternal fire, for with the sins I have committed I am already damned.
We ran them down. We hunted them. Three, four miles from their camp. We found where they hid, both women and children.
Mother, let it be known that I protested, but Colonel Chivington convinced me. Maybe I let myself be convinced. “It is right and honorable,” he told me, “to use any means necessary.” He quoted scripture. He said it was God’s plan. We had to eradicate them, he said, because “nits make lice.” He smiled when he said that. As always, there was peace in that smile and in seeing that peace, I knew at once he was right.
I fired, I charged, I chased them down. I don’t remember it now, I don’t remember doing any of it. But I know I did, for the blood on my uniform and the scalp in my hand testify against me. I am a murderer Mother.
I can hear you now, trying to console me. “War is war. You did what you had to do.” And when all was over, I looked across the field. The sun was clear, and bright, and a little bird, its wing wounded, fluttered through the smoky air like a broken psalm.
Mother, what I am about to tell you might be the last thing I ever say to you, for there is a noose at my bunk. I would rather face my Lord in Heaven, may he forgive me, now than live the rest of my life knowing what I have done.
I saw what I saw. I looked down, and saw it again. I might agree with you if this was war, Mother, but these were not hostiles, for on their teepees, and sewn into their backs—their backs now riddled with bloody holes from the bullets of my rifle—the American flag.
Your beloved son, your only son, the one you love,
Dated November 29th, 1864
Congratulations, Joshua! First time entry and first win. You have the chance to be the guest to judge and write the prompt for #9.
The other entries are all honourable mentions, because I honestly couldn’t figure out how to make one of them the second best. They all stood out in their own way. So here they are in order of submission.
Tara Southwell wrote about a much more recent event in history with a piece that’s close to my own university studies. It’s based on Clair C. Patterson’s discovery, which is a pretty significant. I found it very interesting to read, especially since I didn’t know him by name. I won’t give it away, so please read her entry.
Peggy (or silverliningsanddustbunnies) came in with her own historic entry, and it was a very nice one. This was also related to native Americans, and it was a very light piece that made me smile. Please read and see what was so positive about it.
Tony Dingwell returns with this hilarious take on a piece of Canadian (or Newfoundland) history. And knowing how quirky Newfies can be, it was just perfect. If you know what Screech is, then you’ll understand the title. Very funny.
All of these entries could’ve been winners. All of you are making this really difficult!
So, Joshua has the chance to write the prompt and judge for #9. Next time, in #7, we’ll have Peggy with the prompt and judging, if she wishes. Please stay tuned for the next round of What Will You Write?