I want to thank everyone who has viewed the story. Interest has more than doubled. As we watch the Deep State defy a duly elected President for no legitimate reason, this chapter has the main character, Nathaniel, wrestling with good reasons to object to government overreach. I give this work to the LORD, Jesus and to you my readers. My consistent prayer is, “Jesus, please use this work for Your glory and give readers a great appreciation for why You chose to make The United States of America exceptional, a nation where Your gift of Liberty is protected and preserved for all mankind. For new readers, Chapter 1 is linked: here.
Destination Hope – Book 5 – Reconciliation
A Novel By:
Charles J. Patricoff
Town Hall Meeting
What a difference a day makes,Nathaniel thought. After morning roll call, he limped to the chapel to prepare for his next Bible study. He followed his normal solitary routine. In the morning stillness, his personal reading brought him to the Gospel of John, Chapter 14. He took a sip of tepid, bitter-tasting, black coffee and then read aloud Jesus’ word to His disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places: if it were not so, I would have told you: I go to prepare a place for you.”
Nathaniel held the Bible in his left hand and walked about the room animating the words with his right hand.“And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there may ye be also.”
Suddenly a prisoner cleared his throat, “Uh, excuse us, Major.”
Startled, Nathaniel looked away from the words of life to find several prisoners shuffling into the chapel, some taking seats on the benches.
Lieutenant Charles Pierce stepped forward. “Major, the men want to discuss the oath like we did yesterday.”
Nathaniel moseyed to the podium, laid his Bible down, and scanned the growing crowd. “All right. Come in and find a seat, men.” He recognized many who used to be regular service attendees and dipped his head in acknowledgement. As the buzz grew louder, he pondered what God was doing. I guess I’ll just follow Your lead.
Lieutenant Pierce stepped to the front of the room and next to his friend. “Ya-all shut up, now. We’ve got serious matters to discuss.” It took a couple of minutes for the men to settle. “Okay, Major. It’s all yours,” Pierce said.
What’s all mine? “Uh, thank you, Lieutenant.”
A soldier shouted, “Read the oath, Major.”
Another soldier yelled, “Yeah, Major, what’s it say?”
Nathaniel realized he now presided over an old-fashioned, town-hall meeting. He reached for his Bible and flipped it to the passage where he had left the sought-after piece of paper—Psalm 137. “Alright men, listen up.” When every man seemed to be paying attention, he started to read.
“The Oath to the United States of America. I—”
He paused. “There is a space here for you to write in your full name, so it would go like this:
“I—Nathaniel Thomas Graham—of the County of…”
He said, “And you write in the name of the county you’re from.
“You insert your State’s name; mine would be, Williamson County, Tennessee. Next it says that you do solemnly swear.” He shifted to the first person:
“‘That I will support, protect, and defend the Constitution and Government’…”
He stopped to emphasize “and Government”before continuing.
“‘of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign; that I will bear true faith, allegiance, and loyalty to the same.
“Men pay attention to this next phrase. You have to pledge your support for:
“‘any ordinance, resolution, or laws of any State, Convention, or Legislature, to the contrary notwithstanding; and further, that I will faithfully perform all the duties which may be required of me by the laws of the United States; and I take this oath freely and voluntarily, without any mental reservation or evasion whatever.’
“That’s it. There is a place for you to sign your name, and the rest is for Colonel Hill to complete.”
The men sat in silence for a minute—maybe two.
Lieutenant Pierce stood. “Did you notice the differences between this and the oath you took as officers?”
“Yeah, I heard it,” a ragged soldier stated as he rose to his feet. “The dang Yankees are demanding we pledge our allegiance to the Federal government and its laws and any they might create in the future—good or bad. They can keep me here for the rest of my born days. I ain’t never gonna sign that piece of goat feed. It’s blasphemous in my opinion.” He turned to Nathaniel. “Ain’t that right, Chaplain?”
Being caught by surprise again, Nathaniel said, “Uh, I guess…I can see how you could make the argument.” Deftly, he said, “Men, if you have an opinion or something to add, I suggest you come forward and be recognized. If we are going to do this, we should have order.”
“Here, here,” several men shouted.
This is going to be a long day, Nathaniel realized.
The same pros and cons, which he had discussed with his friends the day before, surfaced. Those in favor all stood by the idea that they could get out of prison, a train ticket home, a year’s pay, and some fresh clothes and shoes. Nathaniel admitted to himself, a pair of good shoes would be wonderful. But is a pair of shoes worth surrendering one’s liberty to the Federal government? It seems too much like Esau trading his birthright for a bowl of soup.
Nathaniel weighed the contrary positions. A year of service in the Yankee Army? The folks at home will call us traitors for certain. So how could I ever go home, again? But the most powerful argument Nathaniel digested was the fact that a prisoner would trade his dependence on God to dependence on government. This, for Nathaniel, would be a form of blasphemy.
But what about Eleanor?
The meeting broke up around lunchtime without any consensus from the prisoners. Nathaniel did offer one comment: “People will swear allegiance for food, or in their case, freedom, without thinking about the consequences.”
The men in the chapel did reach one, unanimous decision: if a man chose to accept the government’s offer, other prisoners left behind on Johnson’s Island would not hold it against him.
The Rebel prisoners rushed out into the common area. Lieutenant Charles Pierce rushed to the keep-out wire and yelled to one of the guards posted on the catwalk near the front gates. “What’s up, Yank?”
The guard who had cupped his left ear, dropped his hand, and peered down on the questioning prisoner. “If I heard right, Jefferson Davis has been captured. I ain’t too sure, but they are saying something about women’s clothes. Don’t know how that fits.”
Nathaniel absorbed the deeper meaning. This closes the final chapter on the Confederacy. There’s no reason to hold us any longer.