New Western Adventure Story
"The life and times of Marshall Luke Johnson"
by a. j. Lombardi Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved
The civil war began when the Confederates bombarded Union soldiers at
Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861.
Much to my family’s dismay I joined the northern army and headed off to war. I was under the command of General William Tecumseh Sherman and fought in the first battle of Bull run. I began my new direction in life proudly wearing a brand new spic and span uniform which made me feel important." However, by the end of the war, my uniform was as tattered, stained and torn as the man who wore it."
Since heading off to my duties as a soldier in the northern army, things were never the same in our family. My older sister Sara married a gentleman who was from the deep south. Although we had a great relationship, a cordial silence ensued our family. Before heading off to war, we never discussed our views at family gatherings. I think we all knew it would only lead to a very contentious path that we could never reverse from. We all just kept our views in check through our awkward family gatherings. During my first years in the war, I lost many friends and came to realize the importance of my faith. After a few months of the daily reality of war, I stopped writing letters back home. The never ending trials of war quickly took over my life. My former life back home slowly drifted away. The days weeks and months seemed like one long day for me. My fellow soldiers and I hoped and prayed that each new day would bring an end to an endless battle.
That day did finally become a reality when a soldier came galloping through our camp firing his pistol in the air. "One would think that the news would make me jump up and down. That was not how it was for me." The war had drained all emotion out of me. My uniform, shoes and socks were muddied and wet from the previous days heavy rain. All I wanted was to sit by the campfire in silence and try to get warm. The war’s end was a time of exoneration for some and total destitution for others. "A new era began, and an old era ended." I fought for the North and truly believed in the cause, but in the end, I felt a loss for all who suffered, both North, South and caught in the middle of it all. We tend to believe that all people from the North all hold the same values and all people from the South all share the same values as well. Many of the people I encountered in the South were as kind and caring as the people I knew from back home. For me, it was not the people that were my enemies. "But rather the deeply held ideals that divided us."
1865 War ends
With the civil war ending, I had to contemplate my next move in life. A lot of the other soldiers spoke about re-enlisting and going off to the Indian wars. I heard about a General named Custer who was looking for men to join his command. They say that he commanded the 7th. Calvary. Having experience with horses all my life, I figured that I would fit right in! A lieutenant from my company said that Custer and his troops were the sharpest group of soldiers he had ever seen! I thought that maybe it would be a good adventure for me. "Besides, it would be great to have a new uniform!" However, I needed some time away from the battle and soon found myself in a small town in Montana. I rented a room next to a local saloon and soon became a regular guest. I would just sit there for hours drinking and trying to figure out my next steps in life. The Indian wars were going on and I figured I would re-enlist and join General Custer onto my next life’s adventure. The summer months that followed quickly passed and so did my cash reserve. I realized I had to make a concrete decision on my future. On a summer afternoon in mid July I was sitting alone at the Dove tree saloon in the center of town. As usual, there was a very ruckus crowd. Everyone was just enjoying their drinks, flirting with the barmaids and enjoying the tunes that were being played from an old out of tune piano with missing keys. No one seemed to mind just how bad the off-tune piano sounded. I think everyone was just so caught up in the moment that was a long time coming for many.
The Dove tree saloon brought in people from all walks of life. I enjoyed watching the various people who frequented the establishment. The array of customers included gamblers, hustlers, gossips, farmers, cowboys, soldiers and just plain folk looking for a good time. I could pretty much tell each person's story by the way he or she spoke, dressed and acted in general. Ma always said that I was pretty good at noticing details about people that most folks didn’t notice. "She said I should become an agent for Pinkertons detective agency." In the far corner of the saloon I noticed a man sitting by himself who looked very much out of place. The two things that really stood out about this man was that even though his clothing was somewhat raggedy, they looked like they were pretty expensive. I also noticed that his hands were not the hands of a working man. His face was without sun burn as most people who work in the farms or as ranch hands. His hands looked like he never touched a plow or dirt in his live. I did notice him sitting in that spot every day. He would just sit there alone and drink. Late afternoon each day a young boy about seven years of age would come in and tap him on the shoulder telling him “Ma is waiting outside for you Pa!” After several pleas by the boy, the man would get up and slowly leave the saloon.
About two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon thing were as usual in the saloon when all become suddenly quiet. Folks starting rushing toward the exit of the saloon. Everyone was pointing to the beginning of the main street outside the Sheriff’s office. I followed the crowd and witnessed a sight I will never forget. A family of four Indians were heading into town. For me it was the first time I had encountered them face to face. The head dress of the men and women along with their style of clothing was magnificent. Their horses were tall and spotted beautifully. There seemed to be a hush along the crowded street as the Indian group rode slowly down the muddied street. The road in front of them was muddied and lined with many dilapidated houses and store fronts. In back of them to which they came from was the scene of beautiful mountains and open lands. A man who was standing next to me said that they were ordered to leave their lands and go off to the reservations.
The weeks quickly passed and after much contemplation I decided I would head out and re-enlist. The day before I was to leave, I went down to the saloon to have a final drink or two. Looking over the left corner of the saloon I saw that same man sitting alone that was there every day. The one thing that caught my eye was that he was holding a beautiful hand engraved Colt 44 revolver. During the war I have seen and used many different style guns. This one stood out as a special made very expensive one. "It must have cost a fortune, and not a gun that would be in possession of an everyday cowhand or farmer." At the time the saloon was very loud with laughter, men shouting over each other and the sound of a loud out of tune piano. A man in a drunken state stood on a table near the piano trying to sing only to end up falling to the floor. In the flash of a moment I saw the guy sitting alone bring the colt revolver up to his chest and fire! He slumped over landing his face flat down on the table.
I have witnessed some of the most horrible scenes during my time in the war but never felt the emotion I felt watching that man shoot himself! What made matters worse was that not one person in the saloon took notice and just kept drinking, smoking and dancing away. About one minute later the young boy came in as he usually did. Seeing his father slumped over into the table was a sight he witnessed daily. He was unaware of the shooting. As usual, he tapped his father on the shoulder and yelled “Pa it’s time to go, Ma’s waiting outside!”
Continue Part 2.
Please note that this is an ongoing story that will contain several additional parts that will continue to be published until it's completion.