2nd Place – December 2020

The Locket

by Donna Pierce

Henry struggled as he maneuvered through the trees towards the sound of rushing water. Overwhelmed with agony, he was determined to make it to Stones River. Fighting was all around him. The earth shook as General Bragg’s cannons roared across the battlefield. Shouts and screams of dying men tore at Henry’s soul. Determination grew stronger with the river in sight. Aware of Union soldiers behind him, Henry blew his bugle one last time. Rifle fire rang through the clear morning air and whizzed by his head. He no longer heard the Union soldiers, but the voice of friends. “You can make it Henry!” They shouted.
Throwing the bugle to the side, he started down the embankment. Oh God, I never knew pain could be this bad! Exhausted, he fell to the ground and crawled to the edge. Henry rolled off the bank and into the water.
Coughing up blood, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Suzanne, I am sorry.
Henry took a ragged breath as he reached into his pants pocket. My love, I need to see your face one last time.
A ray of sunshine bounced off the lid of his mother’s medicine bottle. He twisted it open and poured the locket into his bloody hand. Henry looked closely at the picture. I want to remember your face forever. He kissed the locket then put it back into the bottle, tightening the lid.
Unaware of his surroundings, peacefulness overcame him, and all fear had vanished. Henry went limp when the current picked him up and rolled his body over. A smile ran across his face as he watched the clouds drift through the blue sky. Henry’s hand slowly opened and released its treasure.
                                                                   ***
“Come over this way, you can’t get by over there.” John yelled.
Heather looked at him with a pale face. “Will you please help me?”
“Hold on, I’m coming.”
Heather was nervous and placed her trembling hand in Johns’.
“Okay. Step on these stones and follow me back.”
As Heather took a step onto another rock, she noticed something by a big stump. “Wait, look over there.  Something is sticking out of the bank.”
“It’s probably garbage. Wait here, I’ll go get it and come back for you.” John said.
Moments later, he pulled out a small bottle. “Look, it’s an old bottle. There’s something in it.”
“Don’t drop it!” Heather pleaded.
                                                            ***
The jeweler examined the locket. “Where did you say you found this?”
“Over by Stones River,” Heather replied.
“Well young lady, you have found something that dates back to the Civil War, maybe one of the soldier’s lockets. Many soldiers lost their lives at Stones River. Did you notice these initials on the back? Looks like S.B. Would you be interested in selling it to me?”
“No, I’m sorry. I want to keep it. Can you remove the rust and fix it though? It is in pretty bad shape.”
“I would be happy too. This piece is special. You might think about posting an article in the newspaper so others can enjoy it.”
“That’s a good idea. I’ll check into it.”
                                                            ***
“I must admit, this is an interesting piece you found Heather. It makes it even more interesting where you found it.” The Murphysboro reporter said.
“Ferguson Jewelers told me that it might have belonged to a Civil War soldier.” Heather reached up and took her locket from the reporter’s hand.
I’m afraid he is going to drop it.
“I would love to write an article on it for the paper. Do you mind if I take a picture?”
“No, go right ahead.”
                                                            ***
Heather anxiously waited for Sunday to roll around. Sitting by the kitchen window, she rose several times to look for the paperboy.
            Murfreesboro NEWS
                             July 20, 2020
                  Antique Locket Found at Stones River
On July 17th, Heather Alsbury and John Williams were enjoying a nice day at Stones River. A protruding object from the riverbank caught Heather’s attention, as they were exploring around Harker’s Crossing. John retrieved the object which turned out to be a locket inside an old medicine bottle. Heather took the locket to Ferguson Jewelers and discovered it dated back to the Civil War. The jeweler believes that this locket could have belonged to one of the soldiers. Heather stated that she intends to keep it but has provided us with a picture.
The Battle of Stones River was fought from December 31, 1862-January 2, 1863, in Middle Tennessee, the Murfreesboro Township. It was one of the major battles fought during the civil war and had the highest number of casualties on both sides. This area is now a National Battlefield and visited by thousands yearly.
            ***
“Ring, ring.”
“Hello.”
“Hello, am I speaking to Heather Alsbury?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“My name is Rebecca Watson. I am calling regarding the article that was in last Sunday’s paper, about the locket you found.”
“Yes. What can I help you with?”
“I am the librarian for the Murfreesboro City Library. Your article in the Sunday paper was interesting, so I did a little research. There were several newspaper articles in our old microfilm regarding the Stones River battle. One story stood out about a young lady that lost her fiancée in the battle. She was later involved in a lengthy trial, that ended in a murder verdict. Sadly, she took her own life the following year.”
“Who was she?” Heather asked.
“Ms. Suzanne Blevins. She was the daughter of a cotton farmer outside of Murfreesboro.”
“Blevins, that sounds familiar?” Heather murmured.
“What you might find more interesting was the name of the soldier that died in the river. His last name was Alsbury.”
“Alsbury! Is it spelled the same way my last name is spelled?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Do you mind if I come down there so you can show me these articles? I’ll call my mother and see if she remembers the names Suzanne Blevins and Henry Alsbury.”
“That sounds like a good idea. Come in when you are ready. I will be waiting for you.”
                                                              ***
“Ms. Watson, I have someone here to see you.”
“Hello, Heather? Have a seat.”
“It’s nice to meet you Ms. Watson. Thank you for your help.”
“You are welcome Heather. I appreciate you placing that article in the paper. I have been working on my family tree and found it interesting.”
“This is mind boggling to me. I called my mother and she pulled out her grandmother’s bible. It is so old that it is falling apart but mom loves it. There is a lot crammed into those pages. She was able to find information on Suzanne Blevins and her baby. The baby’s name was Henry Alsbury.”
“So, you are related to Henry Alsbury?”
“Yes, I am most definitely related. Mom said that there was a picture of Suzanne holding a baby in the bible and May 27, 1864 was written on the back of the picture. She said that the name Henry was written under the date and a notation that Henry was given to the Alsbury family after Suzanne’s death. There was also a note written by Suzanne’s name on the family tree design. It stated that Suzanne was to wed Henry Alsbury, but he left quickly as the southern states organized their Confederate soldiers. Henry had promised to marry Suzanne after the war, but he was killed.”
“I’m anxious to see what you found on microfilm. You said Suzanne hung herself? “Heather asked.
“Yes, from a rafter in their barn. Poor thing.” Ms. Watson replied. “Are you ready to take a look at the articles I found?”
“Yes, I am excited to see them. Mother said that baby Henry would be my grandfather three times over. This is so bizarre.”
“Follow me to the basement. We have a dinosaur microfilm machine.”
Murfreesboro NEWS
         January 23, 1863
The death of a young Confederate Soldier:
It appears that Henry Alsbury was not killed in combat as previously reported. Through much stress and scrutiny, Suzanne Blevins accused Sam Dickens of murder. Suzanne stated that Sam Dickens was jealous of Henry Alsbury, according to Earnest Roth, a reporter for Murfreesboro News. Ms. Blevins stated that she previously courted Mr. Dickens and this courtship ended six months prior to her new courtship with Henry Alsbury.  Mr. Dickens visited Ms. Blevins on December 29th to request that she reconsider him the night before Alsbury was killed. She denied his requested and stated that Mr. Dickens had revisited her home again the following evening on December 30th.  He told her that he had gone to Stones River during the battle to seek the bugler. Dickens was able to locate him when Henry sounded the march. Dickens fired upon Henry Alsbury and watched Mr. Alsbury die in the river while hiding behind a tree nearby. Mr. Dickens has since been arrested and is pending trial in Murfreesboro.
“Okay, here it is. Take a seat and I will flip this beast on. The first document is a copy of the Murfreesboro newspaper article regarding the war and the second is an article regarding Suzanne Blevins. They wrote a small article later when she died. Probably because it was an embarrassment to the community on how they treated her.”
     Murfreesboro NEWS
                 June 9, 1864
Ms. Suzanne Blevins of Murfreesboro took her life by hanging on June 4th. She had given testimony last year in the Alsbury-Dickens murder trial, in which Mr. Dickens was convicted.
She is survived by her parents Leroy and Margaret Blevins and a son, Henry.
“This is such a sad story. Thank you for all your help.”
“Heather, I think it is only fair that I tell you something.” Ms. Watson said with a worried look. “Tell me what?”
“There is more to this story.”
“What do you mean Ms. Watson?”
“My maiden name is Dickens.”

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