Baton Rouge, Louisiana 1866
The old Mon LeClaire plantation mansion stood at the end of road covered in a tendril of vines, cherry blossoms, and swamp moss. Once comparable to the mythical gardens of Babylon, Mon LeClaire honored the southern traditions through lavish celebrations and wealthy excesses. However war with the north ravaged the estate leaving merely a shell of its former glory. It had been three years since Private Boyd Beecham of Confederate army's Infantry 33 returned home. Three years since he made his way up the familiar wooden steps clutching a cloth wrapped package in his arms.
He knocked loudly on the door as he proceeded to wait for a response. Slowly the door creaked slightly providing him a visual of a feminine eye peering at him through the corner.
"Aungelique?" Boyd asked approaching slowly.
"Boyd?" The soft voice responded. She pulled the front door even further, tears filling her eyes, and rushed toward him for an embrace.
His sister Aungelique Beecham had aged since he last saw her. When he enlisted in the Confederate army, he remembered a young, innocent girl of eighteen waving goodbye to her brother. Now in front of him stood a girl of twenty one haggard, worn, and sad. She raised her arms to hold him but stopped short upon hearing a cooing sound then a wail coming from the wrapped bundle in his arms. Boyd slowly removed the cloth to reveal a small bald head, ivory skin, and exotic dark eyes.
"A baby?" gasped Aungelique.
"My daughter," he answered. "Her name is Annalee. Her mother was a quadroon who passed for white. She died in childbirth. Her grandmother was a house slave and the mistress of a wealthy landowner in Georgia."
"What are you doing here?" Aungelique asked. She wiped the tears from her eyes as she tried to put on a brave front. "The Yankees are looking for you. You're to answer for war crimes against the Union not to mention the Confederacy wants you dead for being a traitor to the South. It isn't true is it?"
Boyd looked down. He did not want to face the truth of his actions of the atrocities he was forced to commit. He stared at his infant daughter as she cried herself to sleep before returning his gaze back to Aungelique.
"I'm afraid it is," he sighed.
"War changes people Aungelique. I've seen young boys, barely even men, shot down on the battlefield. Women and children tortured, killed, and raped from both sides. I was forced to commit such vile acts by my commanding officers and be a pawn in a war that truly has no victors. The nightmares I have seen Aungelique would make you weep. I was lost praying to God for guidance trapped in world that was spinning out of control. That is until I met Selene, Annalee's mother. She became my redemption. My hope. My salvation. We were stationed in Alabama where Selene's father gracefully hosted us at his plantation where we fell in love. We kept our relationship a secret for fear that her quadroon heritage would be revealed. You see Aungelique my commanding officers held a deep loathing for all slaves proving it by cruelly mistreating them. This became clear the night Selene was giving birth that the officers discovered Selene's true nature by ordering the plantation to be burned down, Selene's father executed, and all the slaves killed or captured. It was complete massacre Aungelique! I barely escaped alive with Annalee and managed to make my way home."
"You shouldn't have come!" Aungelique answered sternly. "A month ago, General Clayton from your infantry came to Mon LeClaire questioning your whereabouts. I told them I knew nothing but he told me that he did not believe in traitors of the South. His ordered his men to ransack the plantation confiscating all our money, goods, and supplies."
"Aungelique, I had no idea..." he replied hoping to comfort her.
"The worst was yet to come. General Clayton wanted to make an example to all southern deserters. He hung the male slaves into the deepest parts of the swamp and abducted the female slaves into the night. The others that tried to escape did not make it very far. Then to punish any slave sympathizer, he forced himself upon me just to prove his power over us!"
"Good heavens, he raped you?"
"Yes Boyd and he destroyed our ancestral home. There is nothing left for you here. Just a house full of ghosts. He vowed he would return next year to ensure that you were punished for your treachery. Boyd! You have to leave with Annalee. Neither of you are safe here!"
"What will happen to you?" questioned Boyd with concern.
"Don't worry about me," she answered. "I'll manage somehow. Just as long as I know you both are safe."
"No Aungelique," he protested. "I will not leave you or Mon LeClaire at General Clayton's mercy. I have a proposal but it require a heavy sacrifice from you."
"Boyd, I don't understand..."
"I know General Clayton," he explained. "Despite his dangerous demeanor, he is a man of honor. He will return to see you within the year. Convince him that his less than honorable actions have caused you to bear him a child. As a good Christian, he should do the right thing and marry you. He has vast access to a large amount of wealth. You and Mon LeClaire would be set for life."
"Boyd, this is madness!" Aungelique exclaimed. "I am not with child. If you must know, I've just had my courses this month."
"No little sister," he continued. "I'm simply suggesting we play this charade for both our sakes."
"But Boyd, he will surely realize this falsehood when no child is produced."
Private Boyd Beecham looked down at the infant Annalee sleeping soundly his arms. Instantly, Aungelique comprehended her brother's intentions.
"No no Boyd!" Aungelique threw up her hands. "A quadroon baby passing off as General Clayton's daughter? He'll know and then we're all dead!"
"No he won't," he reassured her. "Everyone believes that the child Selene delivered died in the fire along with her. They have no clue that I rescued Annalee and made my escape. Annalee can pass for white displaying the same dark hair and dark eyes features of General Clayton. He won't know the difference. The rest of the masquerade depends on you. Aungelique, our family deserves a chance to survive and Annalee is our only hope. Please do this for me. For us."
Aungelique paused for a moment before taking Annalee into her arms. The infant stirred before cooing and greeting her with a smile.
"Very well Boyd," she agreed. "I'll do this for our family.
"Thank Aungelique," smiled Boyd giving his little sister a kiss on the cheek. He handing her a small pouch full of coins and currency. "It isn't much but there's enough money there to help you two out for a few months. Don't worry I'll always be looking out for you both. May the Good Lord keep watch over you."
With those last few words, Private Boyd Beecham turned around and left Mon LeClaire for good. Baby Annalee let out a small cry knowing that her real father had left her forever.