I know a song for everything. Really.
Archive for September, 2008
I’m not sure how best to organize my thoughts on this reading- It’s not so much that this is a long reading, just that it varies, I think, in what it describes.
1. I see why we talked about skimming this. A lot of his entries are four or five words long and are concerned only with where they moved to during the day.
2. I think everything he writes is an understatement- he never gets overly excited and there’s this very dry tone to the writing. I like, however, the accent in which he writes and the colloquial way it sounds.
3. I was kind of surprised that the German officer had lived in Chicago- I didn’t see that coming.
4. York is from Pall Mall tennessee… isn’t that a brand of cigarettes?
All right, levity aside… he handles the whole thing very calmly and factually. He doesn’t seem to feel as though he’s done anything really amazing, and I suppose this is because he sees it as the work of God helping him to be successful and keep him safe. That’s an attitude I really admire. I am extemely amused by the understatement of this. He spends more time talking about going to church than meeting the President and if you didn’t skim very closely you would miss his passing reference to ‘my medal of honor’.
Okay, so just so everyone knows that is just a joke… reenactors aren’t that nutty, I swear (although they do tend to make fun of the ren-faire people). At reenactments, we generally don’t have a chance to shower, we spend the weekend sleeping in tents and we try to do what we can to recreate history. And a lot of reenactors, in fact, any quality group, takes accurate history pretty seriously. I take a lot of care to make sure that my dresses are the same pattern and material that women would have worn back then, right down to the petticoats and drawers (that’s the underwear) and that my hair is done as they would have done it. I actually wear fake hair, because mine is so short. The men who do a military impression (we portray the 3rd US Regulars, by the way) wear different uniforms (not drastically, but slightly different) depending on which year of the war we happen to be doing that weekend, as the uniforms did change somewhat. They learn to drill as soldiers did during the Civil War and to emulate what they might have done in battle.
This is a very fun hobby- we go out for weekends to live as closely as we can to the way people lived during the Civil War and I would definitely recommend it for anyone who’s interested in this time period.
And… just for fun…
Private Eric Halsey, 3rd US Regulars and Miss Rebecca Welker (yours truly :))
Okay, this is where I start posting related media… I don’t have much on the Rev. War, but I have a ton of songs and pictures and stuff that has to do with the Civil War and which, I think, relate to this class. (And some stuff will show up here that doesn’t relate much at all but I like it!)
This first one is a painting by Mort Kunstler (who has a gallery in Gettysburg, very cool) and it’s called ‘We Still Love You, General Lee”. Hence the title of the post. Talking about Confederate Soldiers going home reminded me of this. It’s a little small, you’ll see it better if you click on it.
After reading through the book, I somehow expected a little more detail about the author’s actual homecoming. For once, the details were not forthcoming- he has talked all through the book about writing what he remembers, but he is quite silent on one event that I cannot help thinking he must remember clearly. I suppose there are a number of reasons he is so silent on the actual experience of returning home- perhaps it is too personal to share or perhaps he feels it does not fit in with the rest of his narrative. After all, most of the book is concerned with his experiences while in the army; perhaps he does not count the events of his homecoming as relevant because it is after he leaves the army.
Another thing which surprised me was the poetic nature of the last two chapters. I was actually sad when it ended, and I get the feeling that perhaps he was too. He writes of wishing that he could simply skip an obviously painful memory and in the closing pages of the book he seems to be remembering all that once was and giving us a picture of how he feels about things such as the loss of his friends, the loss of the confederacy, and the end of the war. It’s a melancholy feeling, and that is certainly not lost on the reader.
I am incredibly excited to be reading this book- I don’t know why exactly I haven’t read it yet, but I keep hearing how good it is. And I definitely haven’t been disappointed.
For one thing, it’s very interesting to read about the Confederate side of all this. I know plenty about the Union- I think the majority of written works are from the Northern point of view and of course the records survived better for the Union than for the Confederacy. (Which is too bad.) So, all things considered, I feel like this is an interesting new perspective.
Another thing I really like about this book is the author’s sense of humor! Some of what he says is just so sarcastic and he keeps reminding the reader that a private isn’t supposed to think… I liked his comment that Edison could proabably have made something even better than the private, since an actual machine wouldn’t have needed food. But my absolute favorite is probably his story “Please Pass the Butter” (pg 98). I have to admit, I actually laughed aloud…
” I dive in afresh. She said, “I get a dollar a pound for that butter,” and I remark with a good deal of nonchalance, “Well, madam, it is worth it,” and dive in again. I did not marry one of the girls.”
Another thing that I’ve noticed is how often he talks about the will of God in connection with the deaths of his friends. He keeps referring to Matthew 20:10, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your father’s will.” I think a third of the chapters end with an observation of this sort. It’s not the sort of thing I imagine would be found in a modern version of this kind of book, but I think having these asides and observations in the text makes the reader feel closer to the author/narrator and gives us a real voice to connect with and definitely an idea of who he was as a person.
I was, however, highly amused when he made fun of the preacher who promises, “Remember, boys, that he who is killed will sup tonight in Paradise.” and then proceeds to run from the battle. (“The parson isn’t hungry and never eats supper.”) The preacher’s quote also, and I realize how off topic this is, makes me think of 300. “Tonight we dine in hell!”
So I was just reading something that kind of made me laugh- not in a happy way, but in a sarcastic, cynical way. It’s that part in Chapter 3 where the authors talk about the ways in which the Republicans and Federalists, long after the Revolutionary War was over, began to use the veterans for their own gain. The line that actually elicited the aforementioned cynicism was this one. “Federalists, on the other hand, celebrated Veterans to attack Republicans for being soft on defense.” I think I may presume to draw a parallel here. It kind of reminds me of how much the fact of McCain’s military service is mentioned and how often we, as voters, are reminded of it in order to gather votes. Now, I really respect John McCain for his service, whatever I think of his politics. (I, too, am under the influence of my society. We talked about that last class.) But his military record is definitely being used to influence voters, just as the Federalists used their commendation of veterans to influence voters at the turn of the 19th Century.
And of course, that one went both ways just like it does today. While the Federalists were attacking the Republicans for their lack of committment to a strong national defense (wow, it felt really weird to write that) the Republicans were using the veterans in order to celebrate the ‘citizen soldier’ ideal and link themselves to the heroic light in which Americans, influenced by politicians and media, had begun to see the Revolutionary War and the men who had fought in it. Then, as now, everyone wanted a piece of the political pie.
The sad part of it all, to my mind, is this: That this recognition, this outpouring of support, this view of veterans as heroes, came along so late. I imagine that this was just a convenient time in history. The government had money to give pensions to the veterans, whose numbers were fast dwindling and it was politically advantageous to do so. It’s a shame they waited so long.
Usually I happen upon a particular passage I feel like responding to- something catches my eye and I have some profound thought about it and I respond for an exceedingly long paragraph. Not this time. I guess this won’t be the post I choose to polish up later in the semester.
Anyway, I’ve got to come up with something on-topic, and the thought I’m really left with is that that was an interesting read all over. I don’t think I had realized before that Daniel Shays wasn’t really into being the mastermind of a rebellion. I guess I had pictured him as this hard-boiled country farmer who takes a long drink of beer, spits some tobacco into the fire in a manly way and plans to overthrow somebody who deserves it. I don’t believe the word ‘sprightly’ ever entered my mind. Kind of funky to think of these historic figures as real people, isn’t it? But I think it’s fitting that the man whose name went down at the head of a farmer’s rebellion just wanted to… farm. In peace, without worrying too much about the money.
And I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would have thought of the state of our government today, considering how little farming is done compared to what he knew. Would he say we have become as corrupt as the governments of colonial-era Europe, with all of our cities? I suspect so.
Not directly related to the class, so I’m not tagging it. Still, felt like sharing… ~Rebecca
What does it mean to be a real patriotic American? Nothing aggravates me more than the stereotypical Middle American patriot. You know the kind, the flag-waving, “support our troops” types. The soccer moms who boycott French wine with one hand and drive SUVs that guzzle Saudi oil with the other. Or maybe it’s the corporate American “red stater,” who uses his connections to get his boy into Texas Tech and sees absolutely nothing wrong with sending Hakim from Crenshaw off to die like a dog in the desert. I have been called “anti-American” by these “patriots” on multiple occasions.
Recently, I signed a delayed enlistment contract with the United States Marine Corps. This was the culmination of about six months of diet and exercise that would allow me to pass the physical tests required to even go to basic training. No more than two weeks after I recieve my high school diploma, I shall be on the bus headed for boot camp. Why am I doing this? I love my country. Not the president, not the government, but the idea of the United States and the values I have come to equate with it: equality, social justice, and tolerance.
Do any of these “real Americans” have the cojones to do what I have? I think George W. Bush is the worst president I will ever see in my lifetime, and the Iraq War is the most flagrant misuse of governmental power that I have witnessed in my young life, but still, I shall go. My home is decent, my school is good, and my family could pretty easily afford to send me to college. I owe my country something for being so fortunate, but more for those less fortunate than I. For the poor son of a Nebraska farmer dodging bullets fo the GI Bill, for the Mexican immigrant chasing the American dream who must sign up or starve, for the patriotic homosexual who is denied the chance to even serve because his country tells him that he is a second-class citizen, those are the people for whom I fight.
The people who say “one nation under god” need to be taught a lesson. They need to see that atheists can be in foxholes. I have no designs on finding Jesus in some hope-forsaken Iraqi slum. I shall show them by example. This left-wing libertairan pseudo-intellectual has more bravery in him than all the beer-guzzling, date-raping, all-American, pray-every-day football players combined.
Support the troops indeed! I do wonder if these Middle American patriots will continue to support me when the find out what I support. But ultimately that doesn’t matter, because I am still willing to fight and perhaps die on their behalf, whether they appreciate it or not, and that is what being a patriotic American means to me.
And He That Cheats A Soldier Out Of His Little Pay/ May The Devil Take Him On His Back/ To Hell With Him Straightaway
I think the quote I’ve used for the title pretty much sums up the veterans’ thoughts post-revolution. The reading we just completed detailed, it seems to me, Congress total refusal to assist in any manner the soldiers who had fought for the newly formed United States. It’s a pretty surprising thing to read, and definitely at odds with the way my previous history classes have been tought. Until the last few days, when we really started talking about Revolutionary War veterans, I had a picture in my head where all the army’s harships were centered around Valley Forge, and that going home was the easy part. So tonight’s reading basically did away with that lovely notion. And one line struck me in particular, and it seems to be symbolic of the way Congress handled the matter of veterans pensions.
“Then, as in later wars, there were those who suggested that the soldiers were greatly honored simply by participation in the war. To people concerned about commerce and credit, it seemed almost unpatriotic for former soldiers to place a price tag on deeds that honored them so. ”
This fries me. The people holding that opinion had never (and I would be willing to put money on this) fought a war. Only someone very naive and selfish could have thought that people should be honored to endure every hardship imaginable, and to risk everything for their country and yet ask nothing in return. To be sure, there are probably soldiers who do feel honored to have participated in the turning points of their country’s history and to have defended a land they loved but that does not mean that they have given up a need to eat, to wear clothing, to sustain a family. Feeling honored to have served your country is all well and fine, but honor does not feed a family. Feeling proud of oneself is payment enough for returning a dropped wallet or helping little old ladies cross the street. It is not payment for being shot at for more than half a decade.