Sunday, August 19, 2012

Civil War Sunday - Life in the Slow Lane

We are so frustrated when life slows down for us.

For example (yes, you have reached my Civil War Sunday, and yes, this has something to do with my topic) I've limped along the last week without my speedy laptop, depending on an old computer to do my blogging with.  At one point the download speed of my connection was around 1.29 mps, meaning slo............o..........owww.   Sometimes the blogger software takes several minutes to load.  I'm grateful for my iPhone but I can't blog on it; I'm a one finger typist on its tiny electronic keyboard.  Poor me, yes. 


Yesterday morning we were going to go to a golf tournament and our car (we only have one) had a flat tire.  It was unfixable, and we waited carless while the tire shop (only a mile down the road, so walkable) gives us two new tires.  Meantime, we chomped at the bit...such a nice day, so many places to go to, couldn't, not for two whole hours.

Now fast-backwards to the Civil War era:  1861-1865.

Transportation for civilians is by walking or horse.  Or, if you are lucky, train. (Communication? Well, that's a story for another blog post.  Needless to say, no Internet or phone.)

But what of the foot soldiers of the Civil War, both North and South?

They didn't get to those battles by driving one of several brands of road-ready pickups using the Interstate.  But they sure got around.  As one example, the "home" regiment of the county I live in, the 137th NY Infantry Regiment, was mustered in just after the battles in Harpers Ferry (now West Virginia) and Sharpsburg/Antietam (Maryland).  The 137th NY fought in Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and participated in Sherman's March through Georgia and then fought in the Carolinas. (I've probably lost a few states here and there)  That's a whole lot of walking.

Yes, they walked.  And walked. And walked, in shoes that didn't fit well, or no shoes at all.  Like other soldiers, they carried 50 or 60 pounds of equipment, and these weren't the ultralight hiking packs of today.  They sometimes went long stretches without food, or adequate water. 

Many of the Confederate soldiers were farm-bred and used to heavy labor and lots of walking.  Enough Federal troops were city or small town bred.  They had to adapt quickly to this new life.

The clothes these soldiers wore were not our lightweight synthetic fabrics of today.  A lot of clothing issued at the beginning of the war ended up abandoned in ditches, too heavy for these overburdened soldiers.  A change of clothing was a luxury.  And oh yes, there were those guns and the ammunition, too.  The tents.  The cooking equipment.  The coffee.  The hardtack.

When we study the Civil War, it is not enough to memorize facts. We must put ourselves into the shoes (literally) and times of the people.  It isn't easy.  Reenactors do their best, but even they can't bring back the times completely. (I've seen reenactors, for examples, carrying cell phones with them during "down times". )

I suspect many Civil War soldiers might have been tempted to swap one of their marching days for my day yesterday.  And no, I wouldn't have traded with them.

1 comment:

  1. It is all a matter of perspective, isn't it? I've had to blog from my iphone while dealing with an internet outage, and I bitched about it the entire time I was doing it. Hah. Complaining about something I do for fun, from the comfort of my safe, climate-controlled home,in between however many meals I feel like eating that day and maybe even a nap in my pillow-top bed. I know it's all about perspective, and I also know I don't always maintain mine. ;-)


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