War has prevailed between people as long as history has been recorded. Historians through the ages have different opinions of facts and accounts of what and why things happened. Books are written and versions of those events will take twists and turns according to the author. I find that by reading the various interpretations, I then can gather my own conclusions. The history books I studied from – when I was a student are much different from that which is taught in schools today. But as years melt away – time marches on and more history evolves. History over time may not visualize certain historical events in the same light. We cannot erase what has happened, therefore we must learn from mistakes as well as victories. The reason for the American Civil War has been debated for over a century and will go on and on. It is important I believe not to put a spin on what our emotions dictate. I found an interesting quote as follows. “Historical revisionism, the reinterpretation of orthodox views on evidence, motivations, and decision-making processes surrounding an historical event.” (Wikipedia)
Of importance is that many people died in that terrible struggle for causes that they believed in. The eyewitness accounts are most insightful when I interpret historical happenings. I found an interesting story in the Daily Times from March of 1862 – concerning the bloody aftermath of a battle.
This is what a war correspondent saw and reported. “I saw” he says, “an old gray haired man, mortally wounded, endeavoring to stop with a strip of his coat, the life tide flowing from the bosom of his son, a youth of twenty years. The boy told his father that it was useless – that he could not live; and, while the devoted parent was still striving to save him who was perhaps his first born, a shudder passed through the frame of the would be preserver, his head fell upon the bosom of the youth, and his gray hairs were bathed in death with the expiring blood of his misguided son. I saw the two a half – hour afterward, and youth and age were locked, lifeless, in one another’s arms.”
He spied another casualty of the battle and approached to find and report – “A dark haired young man of apparently twenty-two or three, I found leaning against a tree, his breast pierced by a bayonet. He said he lived in Alabama; that he had joined the rebels in opposition to his parents’ wishes; that his mother, when she had found that he would go to the army anyway, had given him her blessing, a Bible, and a lock of her hair. The Bible lay half open upon the ground, and the hair, a dark lock, tinged with gray, that had been between the pages, was in his hand. Tears were in his eyes as he thought of his anxious mother, pausing, perhaps, amid her prayers, to listen for the long expected footsteps of her son, who never more would return. In the lock of hair, even as much as in the sacred volume, religion was revealed in the dying young man, and I saw him lift the tress again and again to his lips, as his eyes looked dimly across the misty sea that bounds the shore of Life and Death, as if he saw his mother reaching out to him with the arms that had pursed him in his infancy, to die, alas!”
History brought alive by an unknown reporter – reporting on unknown soldiers from what he witnessed in the aftermath of the battle. That was a terrible time for our country and a time that brought sorrow and death. Let us learn from that time in history and never forget what was sacrificed by all Americans – so as to get to where we are today. Let’s hope that we never become a divided nation like that again.
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org