Wilhelm Sorge, as he looked around his town, looked as he saw the dirty dusty streets of Boston clogged and in some disrepair after all the endless regiments raised helped create this condition after almost a year of war, the Brothers’ war, the war against the departed brethren down south who had gone on to form their own nation, was growing pensive. He thought back to how his father, Friedrich, the owner of small print shop on Milk Street, a former barricade fighter in his native Cologne back in ’48 (as his father would say), a known “high abolitionist” around town had played his part in raising that dust before him with his endless tirades about the necessity of creating regiments in preparation for the civil war that he knew in his bones was coming. They had, father and son, argued constantly for a time about Wilhelm’s enlisting in the fight, in Massa Lincoln’s fight Wilhelm called it. That argument had died down if it had not been extinguished when both men had seen that the other’s arguments held no sway. Wilhelm flat out saw no reason to fight, saw benefits to his career such as it was by keeping out of the fight and decidedly did not want to lift a finger to free the sweaty turgid slaves. Wilhelm was by no measure his father’s son on that score.
As Wilhelm thought about the present political situation think amid the dust clouds being raised as he walked along Tremont Street he said to himself that no, he had decidedly not changed his mind over that time, over the year since he and his father had first quarreled, and subsequently, every time, every damn time his father, the “high abolitionist” Friedrich Sorge held forth on his favorite subject-freeing the “nigras.” Or rather his favorite subject of having his eldest son, one Wilhelm Sorge, him, put on the blue uniform of the Union side and go down south, south somewhere and fill in a spot in the depleting armies of the North. There were plenty of farm boys and mill hands eager to lay down their heads for that cause.
No, as well, he had not changed his mind one bit about how his employers had been “robbed” since the military actions had started the previous year and the flow of cotton had been so diminished that he was only working his clerks’ job at the Sanborne and Sons warehouses three days a week. The damn blockade and the wimpy position of the British ahd wreaked havoc on supplies coming through. He was supplementing that meager wage working for Jim Smith, the former neighborhood blacksmith now turned small arms manufacturer, who was always in need of a smart clerk who also had a strong pair of hands and back to work on the artillery carriages that he produced on order from Massachusetts Legislature for the Army of the Potomac. And, no, one thousand times no he had not changed his mind about the nigra stinks that had bothered him when they had worked at the Sanborne warehouses in the days before secession when those locations were filled with beautiful southern cotton that needed to be hauled on or off waiting ships dockside.
What was making Wilhelm pensive though, making him think every once in a while a vagrant thought about joining up in the war effort was that all his friends, his old Klimt school friends and Goethe Club friends had enlisted in one of the waves of the various deployments of Massachusetts-raised regiments. Those friends had baited him about his manhood even as he offered to take them on one by one or collectively if they so desired to see who the real man was. Moreover he grew pensive, and somewhat sheepish, every time he passed by the German graveyard on Milk Street where he could see fresh flowers sticking out of urns in front of newly buried soldier boys. Soldier boys like Werther Schmidt, his school friend, whose mother was daily prostrate before his fresh-flowered grave. He would cross the street when he spied her all in black coming up the other way for he could not stand the look she would give him when she passed. Gave him like he, not some Johnny Reb or more likely some disease, had been the cause of poor Werther’s death.
But who was he kidding. Lately Wilhelm Sorge had not become pensive as a result of pressure from his father and friends, nor about his reduced circumstances, nor about Negro stinks but about what Miss Lucinda Mason thought of him. Miss Lucinda Mason whose father, like his, was a “high abolitionist” and was instrumental in assisting in forming the newly authorized regiments in Massachusetts. And while her father was mildly tolerate of Wilhelm’s slackness about serving his country Lucinda, while smitten by her German young man met at a dance to raise funds for the Union efforts of all places, continually harped on the need for him to “enter service” as she called it. And of course if the rosy-cheeked, wasp-waisted Miss Lucinda Mason harped on an issue then that indeed would make a man pensive. Yes, it was like that with young Wilhelm about Miss Lucinda Mason.