Archive for May 27th, 2019

Civil War Soldier DageurrotypeMemorial Day weekend. I’m no historical anthropologist so I can’t be completely certain when I say that I don’t believe there is any one group of people on this planet who have not been touched by war in some significant way. The history of this world has been written in the bloody ink of war.

A few years back, when I began doing genealogy for the families of my wife and myself, I was surprised at the many, many generations in each line who had taken part in the wars of their times, putting their lives aside to give so much of themselves– in some cases, their very lives– for causes that often might have been mere abstractions to them.

In fact, we have both have ancestors who have fought and died in every war and conflict waged on and by this nation since the Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock. I have a 7th great grandfather from the 1600’s, Benjamin Church, considered the founder of the Army Rangers, who led his Ranger unit in King Phillip’s War  and other early wars. There are ancestors who fought on both sides of the conflict during the American Revolution. There are ancestors who were prisoners of war at Andersonville and a number of others who are buried throughout the American south, from Louisiana to Georgia to Virginia, as a result of the Civil War.

Part of me is proud that these people have answered the call to be a small part in something bigger. But another part of me is simply sad to think that they were called on to give so much in order to satisfy or deny the baser motives of those in power. War has usually been about greed and acquisition, nationalistic pride or ethnic and religious hatred– in each instance proposed with the greatest conviction and certainty by the leaders of each side of the cause.

And on Memorial Day, we remember the people who actually fulfilled the pleas of these leaders, be they right or wrong. These citizens did what they were asked and what they felt was necessary in their time and place. And I have nothing but respect for that.

For today’s image, I chose the daguerreotype of the Civil War soldier at the top because there was something in him that seemed to show the sacrifice of war. Maybe it’s the steely stare of his eyes. Or maybe it was his belt that is cinched in to what looks to be a ridiculously tiny diameter, showing how emaciated he appears to be. I’m not exactly sure but there is something in him that seems contemporary, less dated.

And for today’s Sunday musical selection, I have chosen the song Ben McCulloch from Steve Earle.  It tells the story of two brothers who enlist in the Confederate Army in the Civil War and discover the hard realities of war as they serve under General McCulloch, who was a real person who died in battle in 1862. The chorus probably echos the sentiments of many soldiers through time for their commanding officers who foolhardily place them in situations where they face overwhelming odds.

So have a great Sunday and a Memorial Day filled with some appreciation of what the day really encompasses.

This post originally ran several years back but its message is the same as I would convey today.


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