Letter From The Editor - Issue 68 - April 2019

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Issue 20
Sympathy of a Gun
by Gary Kloster
The Vicksburg Dead
by Jens Rushing
The American
by Bruce Worden
Bonus Christmas Stories
Wise Men
by Orson Scott Card
IGMS Audio
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

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The Vicksburg Dead
    by Jens Rushing

3rd Place - Best Interior Art - 2010

The Vicksburg Dead
Artwork by Kevin Wasden

In May of 1863, General Grant rolled down the Mississippi with his seventy thousand. He wanted the river, and he only had to take Vicksburg to make it his.

I was serving with the 3rd Tennessee when General John C. Pemberton picked me for his aide, on account of my good looks and superior penmanship. I wager there were plenty of folks who would jump at the chance, but not me. I figured my best chance of getting through the battle would be to catch a round in the leg or maybe take a tumble down some stairs and sit it out in the hospital. No, as Pemberton's right hand, I'd have the privilege of dodging shells on the field while seventy thousand Yankees gunned for me, lunged at me with bayonets bristling, and generally made my life hell.

Imagine my relief, then, when there was no real battle. No, Vicksburg sat high on a bluff, with guns overlooking the river, and it was a damned tough nut to crack. Grant sent just two regiments, and the Louisiana boys waited for them at the redan north of town and blew them to hell. The Union troops dug in and started shelling, none of their shells coming anywhere near the mark. We got comfortable, too. They attacked again three days later, on May 22nd.

Maybe they learned a thing or two from their first licking, but they came on hot, and the fighting was fierce. I sat on my mare, saber at my side, wondering nervously if Pemberton would jump into the melee and I'd have to go after him.

But there was no need. Our men in grey beat them back without too much trouble. Laid out four thousand of them.

"They'll think twice, oh, yes," Pemberton chuckled, tugging on his beard. "Now we just wait for Johnston to bring more men from Tennessee, and he'll rout them right out, eh, Ashby?"

Well, it was yours truly who a few days later bravely dodged enemy fire to retrieve Johnston's message from a fallen courier. The gist was: "Sorry, old boy, but we're terribly busy in Tennessee. Advise surrender."

Pemberton turned six shades of red and ripped it up. "That coward! That - blackguard! Abandoning us to Grant!" He bellowed loud enough to make the windows rattle, "Never! I'll fight him to the last man."

Pemberton was born in Pennsylvania, you see. He married into the Confederacy. I'm sure Johnston and Jackson and the others never let him forget it, either. So he couldn't surrender, or there'd be all sorts of talk about his true colors.

"Bravo, General," McNoughton, the major general, said. "Death before dishonor."

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