• Member Since 11th Apr, 2012
  • offline last seen July 15th

Bad Horse


Beneath the microscope, you contain galaxies.

More Blog Posts698

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  • 38 weeks
    Don't Forget

    I've visited every historical museum, festival, re-creation, or archeological site that I had the chance to since I first got my driver's license--except US civil war re-enactments. They made me nervous.

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    9 comments · 885 views
Nov
3rd
2020

Don't Forget · 5:59am Nov 3rd, 2020

I've visited every historical museum, festival, re-creation, or archeological site that I had the chance to since I first got my driver's license--except US civil war re-enactments. They made me nervous.

The actors at every other kind of historical re-enactment or encampment were there for the public.  But I always felt like I was intruding on civil war re-enactors, like a tourist in a cathedral during a service. They felt too real. It seemed a little perverse, even suspicious, to be obsessed with such a terrible part of our history.

Just a while ago, I went to see one anyway. There was of course a forge, where a cluster of boys watched two men hammer junk iron into knife blades, and a guy selling hardtack, and rows of heavy canvas tents which I suspected were much nicer than anything Civil War foot soldiers could carry with them.

One fellow at the top of a little hill had two big tarps up over several glass counters of exhibits, and a sign above it all that said, "We Forgot".

I walked up to ask him what it was we forgot, but on the way there, I forgot. He had an exhibit on the Invalid Corps. That was a special branch of the military which both the North and the South introduced by the end of the war.  If a soldier was injured too badly to return to regular service--say, losing an eye, a hand, or a leg--instead of sending him home, they'd put him in the Invalid Corps and try to figure out something he could do. If a fellow had just one leg, but both arms and eyes, why, he could still fire a rifle, plus he wasn't likely to run away.

(They didn't usually get a rifle. I think the idea was that if things got bad enough that the Invalids were on the front lines, there'd be plenty of rifles lying around for the taking.)

He sold me a piece of hardtack, which tastes salty but otherwise fine as long as you don't make the mistake of biting it. You just put it in your mouth and hold it there, then swallow after your saliva breaks it down. It's made of nothing but flour, water, and salt, so the only way to live off it is to wait until it's infested by mealworms, so you get some protein.

I went down the hill and walked across a little road to a tall man standing by a cannon, addressing a crowd. I don't know Civil War insignia, but sergeants don't need insignia any more than a bull needs a warning label. He was explaining that you could rise through the ranks quickly in the artillery, because most of the gunners would be killed in every battle, as the snipers on each side focused on them.

I'd have thought that you'd want to avoid walking in front of a cannon's mouth, but the man who put the powder into the gun would turn his back to the enemy and deliberately cover the mouth of the gun with his body while pouring the powder in. That was because it was safer for him to get shot than for his bag of gunpowder to get shot.

Then I listened to a young officer who was emptying out an infantryman's backpack and explaining what everything in it was for, and how much it weighed. One of the more memorable things was a few pounds of raw bacon. There was no mess; soldiers were expected to do their own cooking. It was easier to leave it uncooked while it was growing rancid, or you'd have to cook it again later anyway to kill whatever grew in it during the day.

At most other military historical exhibits, say the forts along Lake Erie, they'll tell you about the geopolitical situation, the officers in charge, the battles--a sort of "big picture" view. Here, I realized, they all talked about the same thing, just in different ways: how awful civil war was.

Maybe that was what always made me nervous about Civil War encampments. And maybe that was what we forgot.

Report Bad Horse · 885 views · #election #history
Comments ( 9 )

This is what happens when you try to cover up what happened.

But such is the way of history.

In ten thousand years, there is nothing new under the sun.

And the same ones who stamp and shout for war to wipe out "the enemy" often find out that it isn't pretty, or glamorous, or quick and easy. They often find themselves the ones who are doomed to die instead of being feted as the heroes they thought they would be, and they will eventually find friends or family on the other side.

This is one of the reasons why I think "All Quiet On The Western Front" should be essential reading.

There is no beauty. There is no glory. There is no quick and easy. And, if you live, you will be haunted.

But this is what happens when you let problems fester and kick them down the road for someone else to deal with, the way the previous three generations have.

Now we have to deal with a huge, looming monster when it should have been handled when it was small and easily-killable.

This is typically how civil wars come to be.

I only hope cooler heads prevail and the right and wise decisions are made, ones of peace and agreeing to disagree, with the possibility of going out separate ways, if we cannot find a way to live with one another.

But I don't think it will go down like that.

History does not repeat.

But it follows patterns.

And if it does go down like I think it will, it's going to make the first civil war look like a minor spat.

I sense a lot of cynicism in this post.

Justified, perhaps... but from your descriptions it does seem like these reenactors know that they're warning future generations, and not glorifying war.

5391165
I think All Quiet was one of the books that started my path down nihilism, which fortunately later detoured into absurdism, which is basically nihilism plus pinkie pie.

Interesting, and indeed perhaps relevant; thank you.

I once, when visiting a museum in Huntsville, Alabama while I was living there for college, was invited to be a British observer in Civil War reenactment, but I never followed up on it; I didn't really have the time, then. It did sound interesting, though.

I'd add this, though; It was worth it to end slavery.

It shouldn't have been necessary, but it was made necessary. I think the cause is more tragic than the outcome.

5391578
Yes, fighting against slavery was a worthy cause. But I don't see any side in America today that I'd die for.

He was explaining that you could rise through the ranks quickly in the artillery, because most of the gunners would be killed in every battle, as the snipers on each side focused on them.

- this remined me about some episodes of Last Exile ...

as of 'there is no side to die for' - yeah, apparently hardest thing will be just living in all this ... without complete breaking (by breaking I mean not just obviosus signs, but also ... unability to care about someone or similar problems)

Fitting in general, and for the civil war in particular. Not only was it awful, but it was absolutely insane how both sides thought it would be a quick war and very glamorous to do.

Forty miles a day on beans and hay...

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