Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Patrick Woods

When I quit Memphis, I knew most of my acquaintances must’ve thought my rather sudden love of the secessionist movement a rather strange turn of character.

Sadly, the reality was one of cowardice and not patriotism. I’d run up some rather serious gambling debts in the weeks before the Union took the city, and I doubted my debtors would be so lugubrious in seeking repayment once marshal law lifted.

I petitioned the Provost Marshal for a pass out of the city, claiming I had a sickly mother in Alabama that desperately needed my care. A pass was granted, and I left the next day, believing my troubles behind me.

Some time later, I came upon a wagon of men traveling along the same road. They said they were refugees fleeing the tyranny of Union occupation. Jokingly, I professed to be a kindred soul, and they promptly offered me passage on their wagon.

Once I’d settled into a free space, the men around me struck into a Confederate fighting song I had never heard before.

And promptly followed it with ten more.

A sinking feeling grew in me that I’d escaped one bad situation by leaping head-long into the next.

Memphis Note
Special Order Number 1 was issued when the Union forces took Memphis during the Civil War. It established marshal law, and gave a window of time for men to either take the oath of loyalty to the United States, or petition for pass to leave the city. Several less than scrupulous people took this as an opportunity to flee various forms of debts by escaping to the other side of the Union lines.

Sherry Whitten

Lazarus Silverman stood on the porch of his friend’s mansion, wearing naught but his nightclothes.

A loose band of nearly forty men were arrayed in the lawn before him; armed, mounted and greedy.

Moments before, they’d drug Lazarus from his bed, seizing him and the thirty thousand dollars in gold coins he’d brought with him as investment capital.

“Why are you doing this! I came to help you! To help rebuild!” He yelled at them, nearly wetting himself with fear.

“I know!” Called out a man at the front of the group, wearing a patched Confederate officer’s uniform. “And you cannot imagine my elation when your good host informed me of such a fact. In trade a small percentage, of course.”

Growling, Lazarus leapt at his friend. The bandits grabbed his arms and held him tight.

“Good sir, I ask that you calm yourself! There is no need to worry! You are helping us! Helping us to a much easier life in more attractive climes.”

“I thought you guerrillas were supposed to have a purpose! To be fighting for something greater!” Lazarus spat his words.

“There’s no profit in purposes, Master Silverman. And I’ve grown so tire of being poor.”

Memphis Note
While the Battle of Memphis was a quick affair, Confederate guerrillas and raiders were a constant problem in the delta during the Civil War. Some still fought the war, but others decided on a much more profitable use for their weapons and training.

Caroline Mitchell Carrico

“It’s moments like this that make you, well, question the nature of things, question yourself even.”

Roar of the fire meant that Jack had to shout his words, which inherently took away from the gravity of the statement he was trying to make.

“Whaddya mean?” Shouted Leopold from across the back of the fire engine as they
wrestled with a length of hose.

“The secesh boys set fire to the calaboose the Yankees put the drunks in.”

They pulled the hose of the fire engine and started running it toward the burning brick building.

“Yes. Yes, I am very aware of this.” Leopold held his hand up to shield his face from the heat.

“But, they had to ride past the garrison, through the heart of town to burn down an unimportant building across from the police station. It seems like such a petty statement to make, considering the great risk to life and limb.” A piece of smoldering twine floated past his eyes. “So insignificant in the grand scheme of things.”

“Or, it just meant they’re like the rest of us.”

“How’s that?”

Leopold open the hose nozzle.

“Mad as hell you can’t get a drink in this town.”

Memphis Note
After a few too many incidents of drunken debauchery, the Union officials occupying Memphis banned the sale of liquor. A short while later, the guerilla fighters loyal to the Confederacy burned down the calaboose – a small, square brick and stone building used as a non-military jail. I’m sure the two things were completely unrelated.

Justin McGregor

“How goes the day, old soldier?”

Private Avery Inman looked up from the headstone he’d been reclining against. The crazy man was back, stomping towards Avery.

He said he was a psychic, able to commune with the dead. He saw the Memphis National Cemetery as a place to hone his skills.To Avery, he was just a nosey pain in the ass. And, oh lord, he’d brought that yappy dog with him.

“Oh, fair to middling, I suppose.” Avery answered.

“Off by yourself today?” Said the man, gasping for breath after his half-block hike from the entrance.

Avery looked up, squinting into the sun as light poured into the hole a Confederate officer had blown in his head at Fort Pillow. “By myself most days. The Sultana Boys ain’t my biggest fans.”

“Sultana Boys? Oh! Right, right! The souls from the Sultana Disaster.”

“That’d be them. Something ‘bout being buried along side a negro from the other side don’t sit too well with them.”

The psychic’s dog had started sniffing around Avery’s leg. He kicked at it, his foot passing straight through, which made it immediately piss on the psychic’s shoes.

It was the small things that made death bearable.

Memphis Note
The Memphis National Cemetery is home to the second largest number of unknown graves of any national cemetery. Much of this is do to the extended period that the graveyard was not used during the Civil War, and it being the resting place for hundreds of nameless dead from the Fort Pillow Massacre and the Sultana Disaster.

Shawn Wolowicz

Deep inside the iron bowels of the USS Carondelet, Thomas thought about all the things he missed from before the war. His mother’s cooking, running with his dog, the sense of satisfaction at the end of a day’s work.

A shell exploded against the metal hull of the gunboat, sending a deafening shockwave roaring through the confined space. Flecks of red-hot metal cut through a porthole. A man screamed as they slashed across his cheek.

It had been months since they’d cast off their tether at Carondelet, Missouri to join the war. Since then, he’d lost track of time in the steam clouds that rolled out from the Carondelet’s massive boilers. They were his charge. So long as he kept them pumping, the ship kept moving and everyone stayed alive another day.

Most of all, though, he missed her. Her long, straw colored hair, the way the wind and sun could pass so beautifully through it. And how her fingers were always cold, even on the hottest of days. They felt so amazing when she touched them against his neck and brow.

Here, in the midst of the steam and metal and death, he longed to feel them again.

Memphis Note
Carondelet was one of four City class ironclad gunboats that participated in the first Battle of Memphis. They’d been working their way down from the north, eliminating or passing by key Confederate forts for several months. At Memphis, they were challenged by half again as many Confederate ram boats. However, the battle was entirely one-sided in favor of the Union. All of the Confederate boats were destroyed, with only minor casualties on the Union side, effectively breaking the hold the Confederacy had on the Mississippi River.