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Thursday, April 12

September 18, 1862

The putrid smell of death and pain invades my nostrils.

I am here, helping out in the makeshift hospital, as I have proven myself a good helper here. The only good thing about being here fighting is that I'm not just a negro, I am a soldier for the Union. Here in this tent, it is hard to make out those who are dead, and those who have not yet passed, but are surely doomed to do so. The dead piled in mounds all wear a similar expression, glassy-eyed, staring into a nothingness that only the dead can see, the look of pure terror and agonizing pain as they knew death was not far off still etched on their features.
Every once in a while, I hear a scream, from amputation or just because it is too hard to hold in the pain. It is hot, and the whole camp gives off a feeling of despair. Only a day ago, we fought a battle. We were given the victory, but at a price; many are wounded and others didn't live to see another day.
I often look at a dead man and wonder why or how he died. I think about if he had moved just so in a different direction, he might still be alive. I think about his family, how they will never see him again. I think about the dreams he had, if he had children who he loved dearly. I stare into his eyes and try to find the answers to my questions, but I only get an empty stare, the soldier and his soul is gone, all that remains is an empty shell. I sure hope I don't end up like him.
Jimmy has gone mad. Won't even look at anyone. He keeps talking 'bout how the Rebs are hiding behind the trees, waiting for the right moment to gut him. He almost stabbed another fellow last night, he sleeps with his knife, and the man startled him. I don't know what's wrong with him, but it sure scared me. I want Jimmy to be okay, he is a good soldier, never gotten injured. I pray for him.
Everybody is so hungry, and tired and shocked. We didn't even have time to relish the fact we won, because there were so many soldiers to attend to. Within two hours after the battle there was already a pile of legs, feet, hands, arms and other amputated parts as big as me!
At night, I look up into the stars and think of Mamma. How I miss her and all the things she does for me. I miss her warm smile that always cheered me up, no matter how awful a mood I was in. Mamma is my only family, I want to make it back to tell her I love her.

Pvt. Freeman.

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