Thursday May 23, 2013
150th Anniversary of the U.S. Civil WarTim King Salem-News.com
A century and a half ago the bloodiest war in U.S. history was launched, against itself.
(SALEM, Ore.) - 150 years ago today, the United States entered into its single most destructive war, one where brothers fought brothers, Americans slaughtered their fellow Americans. 624,511 lives were lost. People were brutalized. Homes were burned to the ground and people were left penniless.
It was über tragic and while we all have our own opinions about it, I conclude that the war is one that had to be fought, because people were sick of living in a country that openly traded in slavery and through often brutal techniques; slave labor for the cotton plantations in the south.
Interestingly, it is said to have been Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' that actually led to the war taking place. It is also a fantastic movie available online at not cost to watch.
When people are exposed to certain stimuli, as in the case of Vietnam, they tend to react with severity. Many Americans believe it is the media's fault that Vietnam became a vastly unpopular war. Famed Civil War Photographer Matthew Brady's photos of the dead from the Civil War did little to bolster its popularity. People had never seen the faces of the dead in photos prior to this time.
It was the beginning of a new period and signifies the launch of a government war to suppress and control the images of carnage that war actually represents. This is the dead opposite of 'transparency' and does little to bolster public confidence in the honesty of governmental statements and positions.
I have many thoughts when it comes to the Civil War, don't we all? My mom used to play the song 'Two Brothers' with Tom Jones at the mic, and it made you shiver to realize that such an epic and bloody war was fought not only within the United States, but mostly only the eastern side.
However there are some exceptions to the traditional Civil War battlefield. I learned while living in Yuma, Arizona that there had been a deadly skirmish between the two sides in that state. What is known as the Battle of Picacho Pass, "the westernmost conflict of the Civil War", was fought on 15 April 1862. In fact the state of Arizona was under the Confederate flag for the first part of the war. It was the California Union Volunteers who marched on Tucson and drove the Confederates out in June 1862. Civil War battles were also fought in New Mexico.
But as the videos below attest, the concentration of fighting took place in a few states and some of the battles were total bloodbaths, with insufficient medical teams and supplies and food and then there was disease, and the fact that doctors didn't know as much then. The Civil War also led to thousands and thousands of amputations.
One personal aspect is shared by millions of Americans; I am descended from Civil War Veterans on both sides. I am in my late 40's and my dad was 44 when I was born in 1963. My dad, Charles King, was born in 1917. His father, Albert King, was born in 1881. His father, James Stanhope King, was a major in the Confederate Army, out of Tennessee, although my family at that point had a farm or plantation near Helena, Arkansas.
On my mom's side, I am descended from a decorated Union soldier, whose name was Edward Hazell. He was a Senior Private with an Illinois Cavalry outfit. Edward Hazell was my mom Nellie King's paternal grandfather; her mother was Emma (Stuchlik) Barkley. On this side of the family my Civil War ancestor is my great great grandfather. However in the case of my dad's family, my great grandfather was in the war. This probably seems strange to people who actually know their great and great great grandparents. All it takes is for each generation to have a kid in their mid 40's for three generations and it spans a lot of time.
My brother Kenneth King was a Civil War Reenactor for many years, and appeared as a famous Confederate general on a special History Channel film. Ken and his wife Susan say they both learned a great deal about the Civil War by participating in this unique activity that pays a special homage to those who served and fought in the Civil War.
Finally, I also will always recall my dad talking about how Civil War Veterans used to visit his elementary school in Los Angeles and share stories with the students. He also recalled both Union and Confederate Veterans taking part in parades held in Los Angeles when he was a kid.
What seems like so long ago, and truly is, 150 years... is actually something that I feel a connection to through the stories I related here. They say we're all connected through six degrees of separation. I would say that through my dad I am connected to Civil War Vets through two degrees of separation, and that is downright interesting.
The next clip, and this is arranged to keep becoming more interesting from clip to clip, is a montage of archival footage from the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Try to imagine as you watch this, what the ages of these Civil War Veterans must have been.
The thing that separates this amazing 1938 Civil War Anniversary footage of the battle at Gettysburg, is that the cameras had the ability to capture sound, and in the mix of all of this you can even hear one of the elderly Confederate Veterans call out the famous 'Rebel Yell' which became so famous over and into time that even Billy Idol ended up singing about it.
Trademarks; they are a part of every war and fighting force and time period. The determination of men (and today also women, particularly in more recent years) engaged in war who have given up hope of survival and are laying their bodies on the line to kill other fighting forces, is a fierce one.
It can only be imagined how it would be to see and befriend your enemies so long after the fact.
One interesting point when it comes to Gettysburg, is the incredibly long list of reported sightings of ghosts and phenomena that were very hard to explain. Many who are familiar say they simply accept that the deaths of so many men, young and old, left an indelible impression and whether it is simply history repeating itself, or actual spirits roaming the grounds, some very unusual an inexplicable occurrences are regular fare in this part of Pennsylvania.
The next clip from YouTube is Civil War veteran soldier footage, captured between 1913 and 1938. "Our other greatest generation. God bless both sides of this war who both tested and saved our union."
The 1913 Anniversary gathering is probably the single most incredible samplings of Civil War Veterans on film that I have ever seen. Even in 1913 they were old, but two and a half decades younger than during the 1938 gathering.
The men show a huge amount of character and reveal the pleasure they find in this most unique rendezvous of former enemies; both blue and gray, and also black and white.
But it is the reenactment of Pickett's Charge that was the most memorable of all. Wikipedia explains that, "Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War."
This is incredible history and it strikes me as a form of living history, because it is so unique and moving in real time. YouTube and other sites like it allow the visual information that finds its way from archival film to video to be viewed by millions, and that is positive.
As a final thought, what took place here so long ago is taking place right now in the Middle east and hundreds of thousands have died as a result. When one considers the consequences of such bloody politics, which we so well know, it is dumbfounding that as a nation today we are responsible for so much death, all a result of our military. We haven't necessarily become any wiser over the last 150 years.
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