Sunday, August 12, 2012

Civil War Sunday - The Two Wars

The 150th anniversary Civil War battle commemorations are coming fast and furious now. 

Three days ago, we passed the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Cedar Mountain (aka Slaughter's Mountain), in North Central Virginia.

There's a lot of trivia surrounding this battle:

AP Hill coming to save the day, which he repeated at the Battle of Antietam, a little more than a month later...and which helped to lead to a feud between him and "Stonewall" Jackson....

Thomas Jackson ("Stonewall") once again showing total disregard for his own life, as he rode into the center of battle brandishing a rusted sword....(I admit it.  I am fascinated by Thomas Jackson, although I was born and raised in New York State).

Clara Barton's first "official" battlefield caring for the wounded... (she later founded the American Red Cross and played a large role in identifying the dead of the infamous POW Camp at Andersonville, in Georgia).

But what the Confederate victory led to was the beginnings of a campaign that would lead the Confederates and Union forces to a second battle in Manassas, in Virginia, and then north into Maryland, where the armies would meet again near the Maryland town of Sharpsburg, on September 17, 1862, in the bloodiest one day encounter in United States military history.

That is what history teaches us - the dry "facts".

What else does history teach us?  I found a fascinating blog in the New York Times website the other day, about "The Two Civil Wars"....the Civil War being fought by the soldiers on the field - and the Civil War of the mind as the families of those fighting struggled to understand what their children were experiencing.

It was a gulf of understanding that, for many, was never bridged.

Even today we still don't understand, even as we try to, when we stand on those silent battlefields and feel the ghostly presence of the dead soldiers of both sides.  They whisper to us, try to communicate with us, try to speak to us, try to tell us....


We have to know, and maybe that is why we keep going back to those battlefields, try to preserve them, and try to reenact what happened in those places 150 years ago.

So we can finally understand.

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