I went for a walk.
It was Cheatham Hill again. I travel the same trails. Each time, I hope to notice different things to photograph, to think about, and to write about. Lately, I have had plenty of time to think. If I’d thought differently years ago, I might be wandering a different trail by now.
A Small Marker
This field was a battlefield. Do we even have battlefields anymore? Did they go out of fashion when video gamers became soldiers? Things are so anonymous these days. Yet men and women continue to die in wars and battles. It is personal. Very personal.
War 150 years ago was much more personal. The distance from Confederate trenches to the Union trenches on this hill was less than 100 feet. That is not all that much further than good COVID-19 social distancing in line at the grocery store.
From the top of the hill looking down, viewing it from the vantage point of the memorial, one can easily see why this battle was more a slaughter than a battle, and why a lot of people died.
The memorial to the poor boys from Illinois was raised in 1914. There is a small marker, shown in the photo above. It says, “Here fell Capn. S. M. Neighbour … of Newcomerstown, Ohio.”
“And who is my neighbor?”, the lawyer asked Jesus, and he answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan.
I don’t mean to take advantage of brave Captain Neighbour with a disrespectfully, crude pun. His death raised the question in my mind. His name is a convenient segway for me to ponder. Our parents give us names. There are consequences.
Charles Dickens named Scrooge “Ebenezer”, which is a biblical name. I am certain it was on purpose. “Ebenezer” in the Hebrew Scriptures means “The Lord has brought me thus far.” (The book of 1st Samuel, Chapter 7.) Our names transcend ourselves sometimes. In naming him Ebenezer, I am certain Dickens intended to reveal something deep about the character of Scrooge, a name which has come to mean anything but God’s providential care.
Captain Neighbour fell as he and his men charged the Confederate lines toward soldiers whom I am certain lay down a heavy volley both in anger and in wonder at those Yankee farm boys, who worked the black earth of Ohio and Illinois and not the red clay of Georgia and Tennessee. The relatively slow, but massive bullets and balls probably cut the poor captain in half.
Someone wrote a letter to his family. Perhaps a friend of his delivered it. Maybe his friend came with a personal word instead of a letter. His family mourned. They never got over it. War is personal.
Across the valley, across a stream, which meandered about back then, and up the hill toward Cheatham Hill Road, there is another stone marker which says “The Starting Point”. It’s in the woods. I wonder about those kinds of starting points. Sometimes you don’t know the starting point of battles until after those battles are finished. You have to walk back to find them.
Along the trail and in another open field there used to be a farm. The foundation corners are still there. Flowers bloom there in spring. There is a pear tree standing, and right now, this very minute, it is full of fruit; big, fat, luscious pears. I doubt the tree was there during the battle. However, I can imagine soldiers picking a pear or two before things heated up across the field.
The first house I remember living in, in Atlanta, had several pear trees, a couple apple trees, a peach tree, and grape vines. All produced enough fruit that my mom would make preserves and can them. We helped.
However, regarding this tree, I did not pick the pears, nor did I pick a peck of pears, nor did I pick a peck of pickled pears from this tree. Nope, not a one. But I do plan to go back tomorrow. I bet they’s good eatin’.