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Comments on “A letter from a Union soldier, 1861 . . .”

I recently received an e-mail from my nephew in Mississippi that included a copy of a letter written by a Union soldier on the eve of a battle early in the War Between the States. Click here to read that soldier’s final written words, beautifully written in a fashion that is largely lost to us in this day and age. My posting of the letter garnered a comment from a reader, a comment to which I responded at some length.

This is the reader’s comment:

I was educated in the British system and for a long time, the Civil war meant either the War of the Roses or Cromwell’s war. It was as an adult that I started to understand our own Civil War. It is a sad thing the young man did not survive, consigning his small children to the very horrors of an orphaned existence. That said, I have always been struck by how beautifully young men wrote 150 years ago.

My response to that comment follows:

Thanks for visiting and thanks for the comment. Your observation that the written word was beautifully constructed 150 years ago necessarily invites comparison with today’s pitifully penned letters. Cursive writing is a lost art, soon to be consigned to the graves of history, along with Egyptian hieroglyphics and prehistoric cave drawings.

Our children are not learning penmanship. At best, they learn the art of printing letters, then graduate from there to thumbing letters and numbers on digital devices and clicking on an infinitesimally huge host of pictorial characters that represent thoughts, locations, ideas and emotions, expressing themselves silently without leaving any sort of footprints for the future, other than those captured and held in digital form.

Should the unthinkable occur—nuclear war with the resulting loss worldwide of the atomic movement of electrons, neutrons and protons through electrical circuits, whether land based or hand held—without access to that method of communication mankind will eventually regress to its original system of grunts, groans, hand signals and facial contortions to communicate, and millenniums later will probably advance from there to crudely drawn pictorial representations on rocks and on cliff sides and in various caves around the globe—that is, of course, if anyone remains after the holocaust of nuclear war. Civilization is by far the worst for the deficiency in communication wrought by binary bits.

And finally, just to wrap up this response to your comment, I will quote an unknown contributor to our language:

What goes around, comes around.

That astute observation, obscured in the ancient mists of time, may be reversed without any loss of its meaning, namely, What comes around, goes around, a truism equal to another obscure saying:

There is nothing new under the sun.

It’s useless to Google that affirmation—there are endless variations that effectively say the same thing, whether or not shown on the Internet. Somewhere on our planet, probably penned on a cave wall or on a stone buried in the rubble of some ancient civilization, there is undoubtedly a series of identical crude pictures or symbols. That series ends and continues with unrelated pictures or symbols, and then centuries later, perhaps millenniums later, the original series is repeated.

And even that is not the origin of that contribution to our language. It was undoubtedly expressed in the grunts, groans, hand signals and facial contortions that were used to communicate with others of the human species, and even before humans appeared was expressed by the physical appearance and the sounds and poses adopted by non-humans, the so-called lower orders of animals.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2011 in civil war, death, Family

 

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A letter from a Union soldier, 1861 . . .

I received the following e-mail from my nephew in Mississippi, the nephew that toils lovingly and highly successfully in his chosen profession of designing and renovating churches of various denominations. The e-mail included a copy of a letter written by a Union soldier on the eve of a battle early in the War Between the States—I refuse to refer to it as a civil war—there was not a trace of civility in that bitter conflict. The letter was untitled and is reproduced in its entirety following my nephew’s e-mail, exactly as I received it.

Note: Letters to and about Janie can be found here, here, here, here, here, here and here. My not-so-humble opinion is that all are worthy of being read—I wrote them and published them to commemorate Janie’s life and to serve as a reminder to all that life is fleeting—in the words of British poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674), Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying. Click on that excerpt to read the entire poem and more about Janie.

This is the e-mail I received from my nephew:

Uncle Mike,

Your most recent posts, your letters to Janie, have reminded me of a letter I learned about from a public television series done by Ken Burns. The series documented some of the history of the American Civil War. Specifically, the program included parts of a letter written by a Union soldier who later became a casualty of that war. Although the letter was written before his death, the spirit of the letter, for me, transcends life and death. I believe your letters do the same. A copy of the text of the letter is attached.

Larry

This is the Union soldier’s letter to his wife, written on the eve of battle:

July the 14th, 1861
Washington DC

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.

Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure—and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine 0 God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.

But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows—when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children—is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?

I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death—and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.

I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar —-that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.

Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have oftentimes been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night – amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours—always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.

Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.

Sullivan

A special note: The soldier, Sullivan, did not survive the battle—he died, but his letter and his spirit live on.

That’s the story of my nephew’s e-mail and the letter written by a Union soldier, and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in civil war, death, Family, marriage, Military

 

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Wylie, Texas possum saga, cont’d . . .

This posting was prompted by an e-mail from my son-in-law in Wylie, Texas concerning his running battle with possums in the attic. Other postings related to that saga can be found here, and here and also here.

Here is his e-mail:

The possum saga, continued:

Possum returns to attic after fraternizing with rabid possums and skunks recently highlighted in the news.

It takes even better food to entice possum into trap because he now knows what it is. More fruit and peanuts fail—bait escalation includes pizza, fried chicken, mahi-mahi and rack of lamb with mint sauce—still no possum in trap.

Finally $150 Chateaubriand meal from Three Forks and glass of Baron de Rothschild ’57 claret does the trick. Possum decides he is ready for another trip to visit his country cousins and enters the trap for the meal.

Brantley shoots possum while still in trap, rolls same in plastic bag and places in the trash.

I just received your e-mail concerning the demise of a possum in your attic, and I feel compelled to tell you that it was not the same possum you released into the wild “a mile away” from your house. This was definitely a different animal, obviously a female, and obviously accustomed to the finer things in life, particularly gustatory delights. Given her appetite for fine wine and Chateaubriand, she was probably a procreating Parisian possum in Plano’s possum population (I just love alliteration!).

This lady (?) possum was very likely a one-time companion—well, perhaps more than one time—to the one you captured and released. That teenage possum was in a blue funk, trying desperately to understand the loss of his one true love. That’s why he paced your attic—he couldn’t sleep for thinking of what had been, and what could again be if they could only be reunited.

Other than mere physical attraction, he had little interest in the one you summarily shot, placed in a plastic bag and consigned to the trash. She was just a temporary diversion while he continued his quest for the one trapped by your next door neighbor some time prior. The fate of that possum is unknown, but your neighbor took a snapshot of her (pictured at right). She is gorgeous, and one can readily understand why the teenager you released into the wild had such strong feelings for her!

And I’m sure he was fed up with the Parisian possum’s constant whining and complaining about his inability to satisfy her materialistic needs, such as a bigger house, better food, etc. Otherwise, he was probably doing okay for himself in their relationship. Through an intensive online search, I found an image of a female Parisian possum, pictured at right (there goes that alliteration again!). Judging by this image, it’s likely that a friendly relationship with a lady Parisian possum would be exciting and memorable.

Congratulations on your latest feat, and I assure you that it detracts in no way from your “bring ’em back alive” status. Even Frank Buck, when faced with death or injury to himself or to others, dispatched elephants, rhinos, lions, tigers and other such wildlife to another world, far away from zoos and their natural habitat—and he probably also sometimes shot them simply because he was—well, in such instances, he was referred to as Frank “just got pissed off at ’em” Buck.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Possum in the attic . . . got ‘im!

My favorite attorney son-in-law and his adventures with wildlife—specifically with possums— prompted this posting. I have two other sons-in-law, one of which is my favorite computer whiz son-in-law and the other is my favorite truck broker son-in-law).  My favoritism fluctuates among sons-in-law depending on my needs—whether legal matters, computer related matters, or matters related to the international transportation of goods (I also depend on the truck broker son-in-law and his son—my grandson—to assist in moving weighty goods to and from my home).

A related posting, Ode to a Possum, a must–read, can be found here.

More possum info here.

And even more here.

This is the e-mail I received from the son-in-law that luxuriates in marriage with my princess daughter in Wylie, Texas:

Here is the update on our “Possum in the Attic”:

Night 1:

Trap is carefully set; loaded with peanut butter, peanuts and an old banana.

Next day trap check:

Banana is mysteriously missing, trap was not sprung, peanut butter and peanuts untouched. Trap is adjusted for sensitivity, as it is suspected the possum is very cleverly eating the banana from outside the trap or tip toeing into the trap and slyly leaving the peanuts and peanut butter to confuse the trapper (which has had considerable success).

Night 2:

After trap is adjusted, it’s re-baited with a nice bunch of canned peaches. Peanut butter and peanuts from night before are left in place.

1:00 AM:

Kelley hears a rustling in attic and suspects the possum is up and about. Brantley stays fast asleep, hearing nothing.

7:00 AM:

Kelley checks the trap and THE POSSUM IS NABBED!  Curiously, the peaches and peanut butter and peanuts are gone completely. He’s rather large but seemingly docile and even appears friendly. Kelley demands that he be set free unharmed.

7:15 AM:

Brantley sets possum free a mile or so away in the woods. Possum seems pleased and in a good mood—Brantley wonders whether a mile is far enough.

Thus ends the possum hunt.

Or does it?

I think I’ll keep the trap for a few weeks—just in case!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Ode to a possum . . .

Please note: There are several other postings related to this literary examination and elimination of possums in attics. Such problems are commonplace in our state, in fact in most states, and perhaps these postings will enable others to handle such problems more effectively and efficiently. The other postings can be found here, and here.

Oh, and also here.

Following in the footsteps of Keats, Shelley, Robert Frost and other exalted poets, I have penned Ode to a Possum. An ode is defined as, A lyric poem of some length, usually of a serious or meditative nature and having an elevated style and formal stanzaic structure. My Ode to a Possum conforms to that definition perfectly.

As with many similar lyric odes, this one is meant to be sung. My list of preferred singers would include Toby Keith and Diana Ross—perhaps even George Jones or Whitney Houston, depending on their current medical status.

My first choice would have been Tiny Tim and his ukulele, but that worthy is long gone, both from the music scene and from this world—may he forever happily and gracefully tiptoe through the tulips.

A perceptive reader of this posting will note the absence of an O, as in Opossum, and will undoubtedly wonder why it was omitted. That’s because the prefix O is not used in our southern regions, and especially not in the sovereign state of  Texas, neither in writing nor in speaking.

A similar spelling may be noted in the name of our Irish president, Barack O’bama—the O is present with an apostrophe added, as in O’Reilly, O’Brien and other Irish names. (Thanks, and a tip of the kingly crown to Kinky Friedman, our perennial candidate for political office in Texas, for defining the president’s heritage by adding the apostrophe and for saying he would vote for him).

And here is my lyric poem:

Ode to a Possum

In Wiley lived a possum named Fred,
That used Brantley’s insulation for his bed.
He rambled ’round the attic
Till the family grew frantic,
And wished that ol’ Fred was dead.

Brantley baited a trap with wine,
And chateaubriand quite fine.
Of each did Fred partake,
His death then did fake,
And Brantley told Kelley “It’s time.”

“Don’t kill him,” Kelley then cried,
But Brantley took Fred for a ride.
No mercy would he show,
Cause ol’ Fred had to go.
In the attic he could not abide.

Just past the limits of the city,
Brantley’s heart overflowed with pity.
Though his eye shed a tear,
Fred had nothing to fear,
And I’m nearing the end of this ditty.

Fred did Brantley return to the wild,
By handling him gently and mild.
But when Fred was free,
He climbed a tall tree,
And at Brantley thumbed his nose like a child.

The saga of Fred will be told,
By Kelley’s children when old,
How a possum so bold,
Came in from the cold,
But succumbed to a trap that would hold.

That’s my Ode to a Possum and I’m sticking to it.


 

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