The Second Corps had advanced, and after several hours volley fire and artillery duels the Federal troops had begun yet another retreat towards Washington.
The fighting now in a lull, Corporal Cooke sat down to take a much needed rest. At twenty, he was already proved himself, so thought he could afford the break. He opened a haversack, and took out a month old copy of Harper’s Weekly. Though old, he had not yet had a chance to read this edition. He scanned the pages, and shook his head at the inaccuracy of the woodblock prints.
After reading several articles, he put the magazine back into the sack and took out an envelope. The address was in a delicate feminine hand, and he sniffed the paper to see if it retained any sign of dainty scent. He then took out the letter. It began with the words, My Dearest Harvey. The letter was mostly chatty little accounts of what was going on in the town back home, but some lines hinted at her undying love. He folded the letter and placed it back into the envelope, and withdrew the photograph of a handsome young woman with big expressive eyes. He smiled as he looked at the pretty face, and then returned the picture to the envelope as well.
As he replaced the letter back into the haversack, he took out three pieces of hardtack biscuit, and a half eaten link of hard sausage. He drew his bayonet and cut the meat into three pieces and placed each onto the square crackers. He let each bite slowly soften in his mouth before chewing them and swallowing – making the most of each and every mouthful.
The recall soon sounded, and Corporal John Cooke of Jubal Early’s Division stood up and grabbed his rifle-musket. He bent over and collected all of the percussion caps out of the belt pouch of the body of the dead Pennsylvanian he had been leaning up against.
“Thank you kindly for the lunch, Harvey,” he said to the corpse giving it a friendly nod of the head as he departed.