Inside War Bug

First Month 1862

Heavy snow was falling as the sun rose on First Day, the fifth day of First Month, 1862. Powder swirled through the air and stuck to the branches of the trees across the Occoquan River, making the wooded hillside look like it was covered by an enormous lace tablecloth. The small timber house was dark and freezing until Ann Bagley added wood to the embers in the fireplace, causing the logs to ignite and begin to radiate heat throughout the main room. In the light of the dancing flames, Ann entered the kitchen and used a dish towel to wipe condensation off the window and peer into the early morning light. A foot of fresh powder was on the ground, and a glowing white blanket stretched across the frozen Occoquan River. “Come see,” she called to her sons. “The world has changed.”

Samuel, the eldest at twenty-two, was the first to emerge from the small bedroom he shared with his brother. Wrapped in a wool blanket, with only his face and thick brown hair showing, he walked to the window, put his arm around his mother, and asked, “How?”

“Look at the river. Gone. It is now a white valley.”

“So flat,” said Samuel. “Like a sheet.”

“A shroud,” said William, who had crept up behind them. “A pall. A burial cloth.”

“Thou art morbid,” said Ann, who turned and tousled her twenty-year-old’s blond hair. “Death is but crossing the world.”

“What?” said William.

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.