Saturday, April 16, 2011

Civil War Stamps and the Battles of (Manassas? Bull Run?)

I am not a stamp collector, but I did expect there to be an issue of Civil War stamps and I was not disappointed.

Concurrent with the April 12th sesquecentennial of the shelling of Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor, was the release of the first of several Civil War stamps.

I invite you to read the article posted about this issuance....it is a very good one.

One thing I was struck by in the article was the mention of the "Battle of First Bull Run."  This battle was also known as First Manassas.  Bull Run (named after Bull Run Creek) was the name of the battle (actually there were two battles, about 13 months apart) as I learned it, growing up in the North.  First and Second Manassas are the title given by the descendents of the Confederates.  But interestingly, the National Park Service site (a U.S. National Park )is called Manassas National Battlefield Park.

In some ways our country is still divided, even to what we call some battles.  And when I travel in the South, it always strikes me when I see buildings proudly flying what we call the American flag.  And how many proud sons of the South serve in the U.S. Military. (when my spouse was in the military, I can tell you, a lot of his fellow soldiers were from the South.) but in other ways, the Civil War is still being fought at the same time.

Why would we care about First Manassas or First Bull Run, whatever you want to call it?  Because this was the battle (fought July 21, 1861) where both sides first truly realized that this war was not going away, that both sides were going to be into it for the long haul.  Many of the symbols we associate with the Civil War grew out of this battle.  The Union troops or Federals wearing blue, the Confederates wearing gray or butternut brown, the flag we know as the Confederate flag (there were several, and my favorite, the Stars and Bars, looked too much like a U.S. flag in the windless conditions of the battlefield that day)

No one could have seen what that long haul would cost.  Over 618,000 dead.  If you look at the population of our country in 1870 (39,800,000) it comes out to about 2% of the population.

We can only imagine how devastating this must have been, to both North and South, especially to the people of the South. (some may wonder, why is a Northerner being sympathetic to the South?  Keep in mind that they bore the brunt of the civilian casualties.  Maybe they "deserved" it but if they deserved it, that is a discussion for another day.) And while we are at it, let's remember some of the places that suffered greatly before and during the Civil War.  Bloody Kansas wasn't named Bloody Kansas for nothing. (and I did live in Kansas, earlier in life, for about 4 years).

Recently, Time Magazine ran an article on Why the U.S. is still fighting the Civil War.  The horror was so great that we blocked chunks of "why" out of our collective mind...and many people are still doing it.

Myself, I can identify with the Civil War so much....yet (as I've blogged before) I had no ancestors here at the time.

So, as part of my interest, I'm seriously thinking about visiting Manassas for the July 21st anniversary of First Manassas, First Bull Run or whatever you want to call it.   Depends on if I drive my spouse crazy with this outburst of history.

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