Split Ties

I've always thought that my family's Virginian home was a work of art but now I look at it differently. In fact, I look at everything differently now because, in truth, I can't see how it can ever be the same. Some people will say that it has only been a matter of time before something such as Fort Sumter pulls the country into war but it is completely unbelievable in my eyes. It is always possible to work things out peacefully if one looks for the answer but now the damage has been done and I fear that there is no going back.

Each man must make their own decision. There is no other way to explain what all of us must do. Two armies are calling for volunteers, the union army and the confederate army. Men will flock to both of them, eager to pick up their guns and fight for what they believe in. For me the decision is not a hard one. I have already made up my mind.

Never before has the trip up the front steps seemed so long and never before has my hand felt so heavy as I knock on the door. I've always thought of coming here as something wonderful but my heart is too heavy to feel the usual happiness. This is not a happy trip.

The door opens and my brother, James, opens it, a smile across his youthful face. "George," he says, nodding in a warm welcome, "It is good to see you, come on in. Our parents have been wondering about you, what with the outbreak of the war and everything."

"Yes, I know. That is why I have come," was the reply that I gave. Another reason is that I want to talk to him and find out what his plans are now that o ur country has split painfully apart.

Stepping into the house, I notice that both of my parents are staring at me. It is clear that my nervous and pained expression is not as well hidden as I think. Oh well, the damage is already done. They must realize that I am the bearer of bad news. Maybe they have already figured out the reason I have come.

"George..." There is a slightly frightened note to my mother's voice and I turn my head to look at her. "You are not here for a cheerful visit. What is wrong?"

She even asks that question but I can tell that she already knows why I have come. "We are in a war now, everything is wrong," I say.

James has come up behind me and I look at him, feeling power in meeting his gaze, as my own brown eyes appear to be looking back at me. "You already know why I am here," I tell them, "Why should I try and hide it any longer? I am going North."

The silence that follows can only be expected. We are a closely knit family and it is hard to think that something like this can tear us apart. James isn't at all like me in his political thoughts, even if we are like twins in every other way. He will surely believe in the Southern cuase a nd the look he gives me proves it.

"You can't do that." His voice is soft, barely a whisper but I can detect the pain in it. "You are a Virginian, you belong in the South. How can you even think about going to the people who are trying to take away our rights?"

It is hard to be angry with my brother, even when I don't agree with him. "It is a choice we all have to make," I say, "Although clearly it is a hard one. But James, why don't you come with me? We can be together, just like we always have been."

"No, we can't. It doesn't work like that." James crosses the room and hands me a package which I turn over and open. It is a confederate uniform.

Looking up, I can see the wetness in my brother's eyes. He has already signed up to fight for the South, for him there is no turning back. But I can still make my choice...

Shaking my head, I want to deny it. I don't want anything to do with the South and I have to fight for what I believe in and that's preserving the Union. "I'm sorry..." I start to say but James holds up a hand to silence me.

"There is no sorry, there is only two sides in a great war," he says, "We are each making our own choices and that is leading us to become enemies. There is no other way to describe it."

I want to cry, my heart is breaking so much, but I can't even think of anything to say so I get up and head towards the door. James watches me go but doesn't try to stop me. After all, what can he say that won't make it any worse? While I feel that I am doing the right thing, that can never make it any easier. The heartbreak remains in my heart as I leave behind the pretty Virginian house and walk away, to fight for the North. It feels like I am leaving my very soul behind me.