do not own: not getting paid: all in the name of fun:

I remember that the morning of March 6th, 1861, dawned fresh and clear. Spring was approaching – you could feel it in the air. The nights were still crisp, but the days had started to gather the warmth that would last for the lengthy growing season – not that there would be much growth for the season that year. I, myself, welcomed the day along side my father, sipping coffee in silence as we watched the rosy sunrise turn slowly into the bright expanse of azure that characterised the sky over Texas.

It was our goodbye, of a sort, to the land that we loved.

My father, Jackson Alexander Whitlock was a military man, like his father before him, and while he had inherited the small family farm on the outskirts of Huston on his late father's death, it was the charisma and leadership that he showed in the Mexican war as a colonel that had allowed his to, more comfortably, support his family: his beloved wife, my mother, Elenora, his two beautiful daughters, my sisters, Patience and Temperance, and myself.

The farm was not large; enough land to grow vegetables and animals enough to sustain ourselves with some surplus for selling at market. But it was enough for us. From the age that I became able, I would help my father tend the property – the two of us working side by side were able to see everything done without the need to employ slaves. It was not that my family was against slavery, it was just my father's belief that the supply of slaves should be kept for the rich plantation owners he believed require the aid more that we. Instead he would spend his money on spoiling my mother and sisters.

Ordinarily, at least one of us – my father or I that is – would be left at home with the women to oversee their safety and anything that need overseen, but in this instance, in this new war, both of us would be fighting. Unlike me, Father had been called upon for his experience, like most of the soldiers from the war near twenty years earlier.

If there was one thing that the 'old soldiers' had learned, was love of our land. Texas had not been a member of the union for that long, having been dined access until Polk got the vote. Having had that limited connection and prior independence... well there was no way that we would be letting politicians in Washington tell us how to run our state.

A sentiment that my father installed in me.

A sentiment that lead me to lie about my age and enlist in the Confederate Union Army.

I knew that I would miss working on the farm and teasing my sisters, but ever since I had been a babe, my father would regale me with tales of fighting and heroism, so that by the time I was seventeen, as I was that morning, it seemed only natural for me to prepare for battle myself.

As the last of the haze of dawn faded to the bright of day my father turned to me, pride shining in his eyes so clear that even the newly born sun faded in comparison. No matter how long I walk the face of this planet, I will always remember the words he spoke to me that morning – the last words of any meaning that he ever told me. Not for any sentimental nor motivational reason, but the moment, that moment, became a snapshot of everything I had left behind.

"Boy," he said, "Son, you know that I love your sisters dear', spoilt them as I have your Mother, but you, you have always been special. There is so much of me in you Jasper, so much of me that it is impossible for me not to be proud of what you have become – what you will become. You will make a fine soldier m' Boy, our home will never fail as long as you stand for it. You were born to be a leader Jasper – just as I was – just as your Grandpappy was. This is your destiny. I am only saddened that I will not be able to stand by and watch. But such as life."

He ran his hands through his hair then, causing some of the whisper fine strands of gold to fall haphazardly in front of his eye. For a man of his years and experience, he had aged gracefully; laugh lines surrounding his eyes from times of peace and a paper thin, faded scar running from widows peak to ear lobe from times of war the only marks that betrayed his life – I could only hope in that moment that I too would have such fortunes. The grey of his jacket however added a strange pallor to his tanned skin that the blue of his corporals' collar did nothing to reverse. It was almost as if the uniform new a secret of the death and destruction that was to come before anyone else did.

The two of us planned to go to the muster in the city after breakfast. Mama had insisted that we eat a good meal before we left – she didn't trust the military to feed us properly. While I was only 17 at the time, ten months shy of the eighteen years required; my father assured me that I would not be questioned about it. I was a tall lad – 6 foot 3 in a time where my father's own 5 foot 8 was considered beyond average. Said father was also a colonel in the new army. No, I would not be questioned. The cause needed all the hands it could get after all. I would also not be headed in the same direction as him. He had assured me that this was for the best. He and his men were destined to be led by General Lee, but Father felt it best that I make my own way in the world. He would help me get in, but then I would be on my own.

A crown of bright gold appeared in my line of vision, followed by a pair of sapphire eyes and the rustle of petticoats, as my younger sister, Temperance, appeared in front of me. She was only twelve and looked up to me like a god. But this morning, her usual bright and cheerful disposition was over cast – more in line with her name than was usually the case. I think my parents may have been a little optimistic when naming my siblings.

"You'll be comin' home soon, right Jas? You and Pa won't be gone long, right?" She asked, her almond shaped eyes threatening to overflow with unshed tears. Our father merely let out a snort of laughter, allowing me to take the fall of the question.

"Don't worry Tempy," I soothed. "We'll be home sooner than you can blink." A lone tear made its escape down her cheek, still rosy from sleep. "Okay?" She sniffed and nodded her reply before throwing herself onto my lap for a hug, her little arms forming a vice like grip on my neck. Before the rest of her tears could make themselves known however, the contrasting laughs from my elder sister and her new husband radiated towards us from the path leading up to the house.

"Now now Tempy, what good will Jasper be to Texas is you strangle him on our front porch?" Patience laughed. She had been married for less than a month, but her beloved, Frank Stapp was a doctor in the city meaning that he would not be enlisting with the rest of us. This was one of the reasons that both my father and I felt comfortable leaving the women behind like we were. We knew that Frank would care for them as well as we could.

Temperance let go of me with a small 'huff' of displeasure, glaring slightly at the other woman while smoothing out the wrinkles that she had created in the front of her pale blue dress. "Don't you care that Pa and Jas are leavin' Penny?" Patience and Frank had by this stage closed the gap and were now standing on the base step, allowing Frank to busy himself greeting our father with a manly handshake, and putting Patience in range to muss Tempy's hair. She was rewarded with a high pitch squeal at which the three of us men winced.

"Of course I'm sad their leavin' Tempy, but they are grown men, they can be carin' for themselves now. Or at least Pa is," She leaned forward to kiss the older man. "Mornin' Pa," she told him softly, to gain an arm pat and smile in reply. She turned to me, a sly smile playing on the corners of her pink mouth. "Jasper here still has to be provin' himself to be a man. But that should take him long."

Our Mother, noisily bustling through the door put a stop to any retort that Temperance may have had. My mother, Amelia Mary Whitlock, was a sharp contrast to the four of us – my father, myself and my sisters. Where we were all tall, blonde and blue-eyed, she was small and dark; round and soft as all mothers should be, barely passing the four foot mark. The thick mass of chestnut curls that she called hair rarely stayed bound in the snood that she would where around the house, while her eyes would shine like bright emeralds surrounded by her olive skin.

Never one to be impeded by her skirts, the green cotton swished merrily as she hurried onto the porch and over to our growing group carrying a heaving basket of fresh, hot biscuits. "Ah Patience, Frank, your'll just in time." She chimed, spotting the new arrivals. "Temperance, run you inside and fetch the bowls of butter and jam, we eat out here this mornin'"

Within seconds the young girl had returned and a heavy silence settled upon the party. The women not knowing what to say, understanding that any attempts to convince us to stay would be futile. The men, on the other hand, were just busy themselves with the consuming task of eating. I, like any boy, was convinced that my mother cooking was the best in the world and intended to make the most of it while I still could, but all too soon the food was gone and we were stuffed.

Catching my eye, my father nodded at me before raising himself out of his chair and moving around the table to embrace my mother. My parents were a couple that were in love as much that day as they had been when they were married. And demonstrative about it too. They never felt the need to shackle their emotions in the way that society deemed they should. He pulled the small woman from her chair, bumping the table and upsetting the cups, to pull her tightly against his chest and press his lips passionately against hers. As they broke apart he whispered something to her, too low for the rest of us to hear, before moving once again around the table, this time to press kisses into the blonde hair of the girls and shake Franks hand once more. As he returned to his seat to reclaim his haversack and yellow kepis he turned to me.

"Make you leave Boy." He bid me. "I'll fetch for the horses. It's past the time for us to be gone." Without another glance at the small group, he turned heal in the direction of the barn, leaving me to take leave of my family for the first, and last time.

My mother was first, the strong pillar of the family that she always was. She shed no tears, showed no emotion, only bid me luck and to return before wrapping me in her warn embrace. I was standing by now, and easily able to lift her off of her feet and into the air, swinging her around as I went. Once firmly settled back on solid ground she issued me with a swift smack to my ribs. "Jasper Alexander Whitlock!" she scolded "I didn' be raisin' you to act like no fool!" I would have taken her seriously if laughter and amusement had not been playing across her face.

Patience, ever the poised Southern Belle that our mother had trained her to be was just as stoic as the older woman in her goodbye, making Tempy's howling tears seem louder in the quiet of morning. With a final slap on the back from my brother-in-law I was at last able to sling my own haversack over my shoulder and stride purposefully toward the barn where my father awaited, our horses saddled and ready to make the short, dusty journey into Huston and our futures.

Okay people, you know the drill – I write on demand but I'm not Edward, I can't read your minds. So you have to let me know whether you want it or not through good ol' fashioned communication.