So this is where it officially began for your grandfather, Enos Blair. Here is where he became a citizen. But the story stretches much further back. Back to when he emigrated to the US in 1848 (please see the previous post) . I wonder how many fought in the Civil War who weren’t even citizens?
I wrote a post a while back about his son, Newell, becoming naturalized in Bolton, Vermont (see “Newell Blair”). Somehow, I imagine that he was just following the example set by his father. So, as I am so prone to do, please allow me to fill in the details that simply don’t exist…
Enos waited in line, hat in hand, and weary to the bone. It was time, he supposed, to officially become a citizen of the US. He grimaced with each step, mindful of the injury and how it refused to heal.
The Civil War was anything but “civil” he reflected. Too many lost their lives in a brutal, bloody and senseless conflict brought on by two opposing set of beliefs.
He cursed softly.
Brother against brother and him losing one of his own sons gave him a different insight to a war that should never have been. The country was nearly shredded in half, families were left with widows and the men who survived were left crippled, some physically and all mentally.
“Excuse me,” a man said from just behind, “your injury, you served?”
“I served.” Enos wiped the sweat from his brow. Early September sun in Vermont could bring such heat, but it was nothing to the humid, tepid air in Virginia. It was no wonder so many of the wounded had lost limbs to infection.
“You were one of the lucky, then?”
Enos turned to face the stranger. A lad. A bloody damn teenager, curious about the war. Nosing about someone else’s business.
“I lost my older brother and my father,” he said with a shrug.
That stopped Enos cold. “I’m sorry for that, son.”
Then he noticed the lines of grief that hardened a youth way before his time, the sharp look of pain and loss far too fresh, though it’d been years since the war had come to a close. He shared that grief, that loss and anger, but he was an old man. This one, he had an entire life ahead of him.
“You are young, in time you will heal.”
“I will never forget.”
Enos nodded. A good thing that. “We should never forget those we’ve lost.”
“Next,” the man at the table said and motioned for Enos.
He turned once more to the youth. “Where are you from?”
“Ireland,” he answered simply.
“Step up or move on.” The registrar had lost his patience.
Enos offered his hand to the young man. “You are here now, and maybe you can make a difference, no?”
Enos turned away. The process was simple really, state his name, when he was born and where. The registrar dipped his quill in the pot of ink and made a note in the large ledger.
“Raise your right hand,” he instructed, his voice bored and expressionless. “Do you swear loyalty unto the United States of America?”
Enos felt like grabbing the man by his collar and giving him a punch. Swear loyalty? He’d buried a son in Virginia. He’d nearly lost a leg. He had left a wife and young children alone to fend for themselves for two long years.
“That’s all.” He waved Enos away. “You can pick up a copy of the certificate at the town office. ”
That slip of paper represented so much to Enos and to the others who stood waiting patiently in line. With it, they could find work, better housing, claim pensions from the war. He glanced at the youth one last time, then Enos Louis Blair, now a US citizen, put on his cap and limped away.