Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mightier Than the Sword


Forgive the longer than usual gap between posts.  I am gearing up for the start of another fun and exciting semester wherein I get to fill the heads of my students with stories from the American Past.  They call this "teaching history".  I guess that is what I do, but I prefer to call it "having fun".  Just don't tell the colleges that I teach for that I said that.  They'll try to make me do it for free.  I'm also working on a novel.  I've been writing steadily and am about 20 pages shy of the halfway point.  I set a target of 300 pages for the first draft that I can then play with and increase or decrease as I go through the multiple revisions that my little redhead says that it will need.  Don't get your hopes up though.  It isn't a Civil War novel.  That one comes next.  I have to get this one out of my head and onto paper before I can work on my Magnum Opus.  (I always wanted to use that phrase!)

So the writing process has got me thinking, which is always dangerous.  I'm sure since many of you are fellow Civil War Addicts, otherwise you wouldn't be reading this, you've probably read some memoirs written by those who lived through the War.  I'd like to focus on those written by the higher ups.  I think that a Confederate general's worst enemy after the war was not advanced age or illness but other Confederate generals.  It seems like they spent more time shooting at each other (metaphorically speaking) than they ever did the Yankees.

Jefferson Davis, a man who I do have a lot respect for despite his personality, wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government in the post war period.  It took a lot of work and a lot of dedication on his part.  The book (books actually since it was published in two volumes) is massive.  It totals somewhere along the lines of 1500 pages.  I think I can sum it up briefly.  "I was right.  Everyone else was wrong."  If you want some insight into the mind of Jefferson Davis, read it.  But know going in that it is a difficult book to read.  I don't know if it is available as an audio book or not, but if it is, I promise you it will take care of any issues you may have with insomnia.

His memoir is not all that different from those written by his contemporaries.  All of them try to portray themselves in the best light possible.  Sherman and Grant were not surprised at Shiloh.  They expected the Rebels to attack all along.  I guess Sherman was just acting then when his staff was surprised by a group of Confederates who burst out of the treeline and fired on them, striking Sherman in the hand.  His words at the time "My God!  We're attacked!"  We believe you Uncle Billy......you weren't surprised at all!  General Hood blamed his subordinates for the, shall we say, foul up at Spring Hill.  And those are just a couple of examples.

I say all of this not to cast aspersions on any of these gentlemen who risked their lives for the causes that they believed in.  My point in doing so is to merely point out the irony that men who may have served together in a common cause could turn on each other when they considered what their "legacy" might be for future generations.  If anything, they've given us something to talk about.

And now if I may ask you all for a favor.  You will notice on the right side of the screen a link to the Civil War Addict Facebook site.  If you haven't already done so, and you are willing, please "like" my Civil War Addict page.  Right now I have 170 likes and I'm really hoping to hit 200.  Feel free to share it with all of your friends.

My name is Lee Hutch and I am a Civil War Addict who never stops being grateful for the kind readers that this blog has.  Though we are all from different parts of the country (or world), we all share a common interest in the "fiery trial" that was our Civil War.

(Or War of Northern Aggression as Nell Christine Fitzgerald, my great-grandmother, called it.  She was a remarkable woman and I would not even be remotely interested in history had it not been for her.  She's been gone for almost 20 years and I still miss her every single day.  I learned a lot of history from her...and also a little bit about historical bias!)

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