Letters From the War: Chapter Seven
An Abrupt Ending
But then, in reality, an abrupt ending happened to many soldiers in the Civil War, didn’t it? This was never meant to be a long, drawn-out affair. It was meant, instead, to raise awareness, and to be a vehicle for my own thoughts about war and this country. I’ve accomplished that and so it is time to move on.
MAY 15, 1864
Dear Mrs. Clayton:
We regret to inform you that your husband, Samuel, died in the Battle of the Wilderness. His body has been recovered and will be sent home to you via rail by the 20th of May.
Your country thanks you for the ultimate sacrifice and sends you our deepest sympathies.
1st Division, Company C
Army of the Potomac
Dear Mrs. Lee:
We regret to inform you that your husband, Jedidiah, died from wounds incurred in the Battle of the Wilderness. His body is currently being transported by train to your home town, and should arrive within the next week.
Army of Northern Virginia
The Battle of the Wilderness
The Battle of the Wilderness was the first battle on the eastern seaboard under the command of Ulysses S. Grant, who had been summoned by Lincoln to take overall command of the entire U.S. military. It was fought near Spotsylvania in Virginia, in a dense forest with thick underbrush, two massive armies firing at each other, sometimes blindly, the bullets buzzing through the air, the shooters unseen, companies getting lost, stumbling into enemy positions . . . it was hell.
At the end of the fighting another 28,000 men, total, were lost. Grant showed her particular personality by not retreating but rather by moving his army further south in a continuing pincer move towards Richmond, the Capitol of the South. The two massive armies would remain in a death struggle for another year of almost continuous fighting.
In the End
Over 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War.
Is it asking too much that we learn from that bloodbath?
It could never happen again, or so we have been told.
I’m not so certain of that.
“Even today we raise our hand against our brother... We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves as if it were normal we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death.” Pope Francis
Set aside, for a moment, the car-bombings and mass shootings. There will always be crazies in this world. There will always be enemies of the state willing to sacrifice dozens, or hundreds, to make their political beliefs known.
A greater concern, for me, are the family members who no longer speak because of differing views. A greater concern, for me, are the former friends who now disassociate from each other over issues like immigration and health care. A greater concern, for me, is a Congress completely incapable of compromise. A greater concern, for me, are middle school students beating fellow students over differing political views, the views of their parents, views those students are completely ignorant about.
When does the madness end?
And then there are the deep-rooted issues no political leader has the guts to tackle.
The Civil War could have been avoided . . . or could it?
The issues that ultimately caused the Civil War were debated by our founders back in the late 1700’s. The issue of a strong Federal government vs states’ rights was not new in 1861. The issue of slavery was certainly not new. Slavery was whispered about in dark corners of back rooms for decades . . . “we have to do something about this sooner or later” and then later became sooner and the time for discussion was past.
Perhaps the war could not be avoided. Perhaps, as long as there is a United States of America, there will always be issues no one wants to face, contention leading to blind anger leading to war. Perhaps we are again approaching the boiling point.
I Was a Fool
I was such a dreamer in college. I firmly believed that love would win out in a head-to-head battle with hate, that one day we would all come together for the common good. Michael row your boat ashore, if I had a hammer, come on people, now, love one another, there’s something happening here, and all that other anal b.s. we spouted while sipping cappuccino in the coffee house.
That was fifty years ago, a time when the neighborhoods of the United States were on fire, and rational individuals were shouted down by the agents of hate.
Fast forward to 2018 . . . has anything really changed?
Sure . . . now I drink vanilla mochas instead of cappuccinos.
Is love capable of winning this war?
I have my doubts!
We honestly believed we brought an end to Vietnam . . . really? . . . or did the fat cats just find another profitable conflict to promote somewhere else?
What, then, am I, and my fellow believers in love, to do? Throw in the towel? Become one with the hate groups and embrace vitriol? Strike out at anyone who dares to think differently from me?
I can’t do that!
I won’t do that!
I would rather continue to play the part of the fool.
I would rather believe in the power of love.
The End of This Series
This was a fictional series, of course, and yet I think it managed to get to the root of the matter . . . wars are planned by old white men drinking scotch and smoking cigars . . . wars are fought by young men with entire lives ahead of them and families who will grieve over their loss when it all ends.
What we see on the news today is not a fictional series. It is all terribly real. What we read on social media is not the figment of a writer’s imagination. It is a reality which sucks the humanity from your collective soul.
When will it end?
It will take a wiser man than I to accurately answer that question.
2018 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)