Sunday, December 7, 2008

How The Christmas Story Saved a Soldier's Life

written by Archibald Rutledge
(Note: Archibald Rutledge, the late poet laureate of the State of South Carolina during the 1960's, was the author of more than 70 books. His father was a Confederate colonel. This story was found by Doc Julia, life as a retired librarian!. One of Archibald Rutledge father's old soldiers told him the following anecdote of how, indirectly, the Christmas story in the Bible saved his life during the War Between the States).
About the time the war broke out, I had tuck up with a girl named Bess. She worried powerful about my getting in that snow country where we was going. So she made me six warm shirts, so she did; and right over my left breast she fashioned a pocket in each one. The she gave me a little Bible that just fitted in the pocket. And Bess, she told me to wear one of her shirts every day, and always to wear the Bible in that special pocket. I teased her about the shirts and the pockets and the Bible. But Bess, she had a kinda faraway look in her eyes as if she knew far better than I did what I was a-goin' into. And, by cracky, she did, too.
Well, off we went to Virginny with our colonel where all hell was poppin' off. Don't ever let anybody tell you that those Yankees can't fight. There were some brave men among them, and some real good sharpshooters. They killed four of my best buddies, and they nigh had me.
One cold December night on the banks of a stream not far from Harper's Ferry, I was supposed to go on picket duty. Just before going I said to myself, "Do you know, it's close to Christmas, and I never have taken out that little Bible Bess gave me to read. I believe I'll just carry it in my shirt pocket tonight like she asked me to. I believe there's enough light from the moon for me to read about the angels and the shepherds and the Little Baby Jesus."
So I put the Bible in my shirt pocket and went out. I didn't know it but across that river, in a grove of big sycamores, some crack sharpshooters were posted. A sharpshooter can't generally do much in the night. But this was a night of full moon. I could not see them, but they could see me.
I leaned my gun agin a tree and took out that little Bible. But then I heard a dry branch crack on one of them sycamores, and I figured a Yankee sharpshooter was up to something. He was up to killing me. I rammed the Bible in my shirt pocket, and grabbed my gun, all in one motion. But that there sharpshooter, he was quicker than I was. Something like a sledge hammer hit me in my breast, and down and out I went. A bullet don't hurt you so much. It just slams you down.
Next morning, when I woke up, our old regimental doctor was sittin' on the side of my cot. He was holding the Bible that Bess gave me, and he was chuckling. "Young man," he said to me, "you have a sweetheart who loves you very much." I guess I colored up, wondering what he knew about it.
"At your age," he said to me, "I doubt if you know what stays are. Well, the ladies wear corsets. They are made to stand stiff by long thin stips of steel or whalebone. Now take this little Bible here. See where the bullet meant for your heart tore through the first cover but was stopped by the second? Your girl had taken one of her corsets apart, got these stays, made them the right length, and sewed them inside the cover, back and front. You know, a woman can keep her loved one safe even if he is far away. This Bible that I found in your shirt picket was right over your heart. Your girl made the shirt, didn't she?" "Yes," I said, very faintly, I guess because I felt all choked up to think of what Bess had done.
With a bang, the old soldier suddenly brought down the tilted chair in which he had been sitting, talking to me. "Bess!" he called, "come out here on the porch and tell this an about the Bible and the shirts. This is the same Bess," he added softly to me, "who had that thing all figured out. We been married now nigh 40 years, and I believe we care about each other more than we ever did. Come on, Bess, I want him to see you."
Reprinted with permission from
Robert Niepert
Thanks Bob

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