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The Most Honourable Man - A 3000 word short story set in the American Civil War following the journey of a woman hiding in the ranks of the Union army. Shortlisted by Globesoup. 

The first half of the story can be read below:

The wagon rocked from side to side as it trundled towards Fort Sewell. First Lieutenant George Wilson watched from the wall and grimaced. The smell of rotting limbs rose from the discard pile outside the surgery wall, but at least up here you could be alone. Thank the Lord the task of prison guard was almost over! In two more days, the Lieutenant would be able to return to the front and there wouldn’t be anymore listening to the crying out of the starving prisoners or the crude conversation of fellow officers. On the front-line the Lieutenant would be able to get on with fighting and keep solitary without scrutiny from the men in the company. It was safer that way. Being stuck in the fort put the Lieutenant on edge. Seeing the same faces everyday had risks, and dismissal from the army was not a welcome option.

The large wooden gate swung open, and the wagon pulled in, stopping in the yard. Two armed union guards jumped out, followed slowly by the six Confederate prisoners, each one stumbling over the chains around their feet. God, they looked even worse than the last lot. Clearly the rumours were true; the South were running out of resources. All but one were bare-footed and their ragged clothes hung from bony frames. A few were already coughing, and one young lad limped, his left foot dragging badly behind him. They were practically dead already. There was no chance they’d survive for long in the camp.

Colonel Marchant strode out of the nearby cabin and the Lieutenant hurried down into the yard to join the other officers already gathered around the wagon. The Colonel looked the ragged group up and down.

“Captain Franks.”


“I was under the impression that there was some reason I needed to be here for this particular arrival.” The Colonel clipped his words, which he only did when he was annoyed. “Not one high ranking officer among them, and they’re hardly a group of troublemakers. Most can barely stand up. Why was I called for?”


“Begging your pardon, Sir, but there is another prisoner still in the wagon and I received a telegram insisting my senior officer should decide how to proceed.” Captain Franks replied, “I was intending to get this lot cleared before you arrived.”

“Then get on with it,” the Colonel ordered.

“Sir.” Captain Franks nodded respectfully. “Banks, Kinsey, take these men to processing and get them into their new lodgings. Give them some bread and water and see that they have a blanket or coat. Grimes, take the lad with the bad leg to the doctor and see what he makes of it.”

The lad shook his head. “Don’t let the sawbones take my foot, please. There ain’t nothin’ wrong with it that cain’t be fixed with some time off my feet.”

“That’s for the doctor to decide,” the Captain said coldly.

“But I’ve got a farm to get back to. How am I gonna work the fields with only one foot? Please. Don’t send me to the sawbones!”

Captain Franks waved his hand and Second Lieutenant Grimes moved forward, placing a hand on the lad’s shoulder and steering him across the yard towards the surgery before he could argue further. Banks and Kinsey herded the other prisoners the other direction and the wagon guards followed.

As soon as they were clear another two Union officers got out of the wagon. One was in chains. It was a young Major, clean shaven, but stained by blood and mud.

Captain Franks turned to the Colonel. “Colonel, this is Emma Abbot, formerly known as Major Franklin Abbot.”

Murmurs rippled through the assembled guards and Lieutenant Wilson felt a tightening around the chest. Most disguised women were sent straight home if they were discovered, not clapped in irons. Then again, most weren’t Majors.

Colonel Marchant stared at the woman and Emma Abbot confidently returned the look. There was something impressive about the way she held herself, like a Queen waiting for the Colonel to bow to her, not a prisoner before a commanding officer.

Captain Franks handed the Colonel a telegram. He read it slowly, pausing to look up at Miss Abbot, and then handed it back to the Captain.

“This telegram informs me you were fighting at the front when it was discovered you were in fact a woman.”

“Yes Sir.” Her voice was steady. “I sustained an injury to my side and a blow to the head which knocked me unconscious. When I came round, I was in the field hospital and the doctors had discovered my disguise while tending to my wounds.”

“And now you’re here,” the Colonel said, matter of fact, “in my fort. It seems you are to stand trial for fraudulent activities, but until you can be transferred to Washington, you will have to remain within this compound. I could confine you to a cabin, but we are overcrowded, which leaves me with the prison cells.”


“Hardly seems a fair way to treat a decorated officer,” Emma Abbot said pointedly.


“You are not an officer of this army anymore, Miss Abbot. As heroic as your actions might have been, you still broke the law. Your rebellious behaviour could have had serious consequences. For that you must be held accountable.”

“I didn’t break the law to be rebellious,” Emma answered. “I joined the army because I wanted to do my part. At the start of the war, I watched my brothers and friends leave to fight. Later I saw the faces of their mothers when they were given the news their son wasn’t coming back. I wanted to help those who were still alive. How can that be a crime?”

“Impersonating a man in the army is an illegal act, Miss Abbot, and a waste of feminine beauty.”

Emma Abbot scoffed. “I have always been plain, Colonel. Not pretty. How else do you think I held my disguise for the past two years?”

It was true. You wouldn’t have known she was a girl. Her hair was cropped short, and her baggy uniform hid her female figure. With mud all over her face she looked just like one of the underage lads whose beard hadn’t come through yet.

Lieutenant Wilson swallowed. It was like looking in a mirror.  If the Colonel and the Captain stared at Emma Abbot long enough, would they see the similarity? Would they realise?


“Wilson!” Captain Franks shouted.

The Lieutenant’s heart was pounding and the bindings across her chest seemed even tighter. She could hardly breathe.

“Take miss Abbot to the private cells.”

“Sir,” she managed to squeak, moving forward and taking her place by Emma Abbot. Oh Lord! Side by side it would be even more obvious. “This way,” she barked, taking Emma’s arm and pulling her past the Captain, all the while keeping her head down. More men had gathered around the wagon, investigating the rumour of a discovered woman. Wilson wove through them, leading Emma as quickly as she could. One of the Privates spat at Emma’s feet as she walked past and another couple of men made lude comments and laughed together as Emma shook her head in disgust. Wilson hid her own distaste. She’d got used to ignoring crude conversations ignited by letters from women back home, but witnessing the filthy gestures and comments aimed at a real person was different. It made her skin crawl.

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