Friday, April 17, 2009


They were all Americans. They met by the Tennessee River in early spring and butchered each other. The two-day killing was so intense that it is remembered in history as one of the greatest battles fought on the soil of the United States.

Yesterday we were touring the battleground called Shiloh . We find it interesting how the battle related to the topography, the ground, how the army was pushed up against the river and were only saved by reinforcements by water during the night.

So, during the day we spent tracing the history upon the land, we met another fellow doing the same in company with his daughter. You could tell that he was almost agitated with the excitement of day. We talked for a while. He was a southerner and traced his lineage to participants in the battle. He hailed originally from the Cumberland region of eastern Tennessee. He was a retired college professor and a wholly likable gentleman.

Our conversation touched on a subject that has stayed with me... that started me considering. The question we both wondered was this: How could men who were neighbors be pushed to the passionate savagery needed for this kind of killing. Official numbers put the total casualties --killed, wounded and missing -- at nearly 25,OOO.

Here are my reflections later in the evening, after we had retired to the woodland where our camper is now stationed: Throughout history, wars are fought between groups of people who differ in race/color, language, or religion. Both sides realize that "they are not like us" so savagery is made easier by some degree. For confirmation, simply consider our relatively recent wars: Korea, Viet Nam, and those bloody incursions into the middle east.

But, here at Shiloh there were none of those differences. Both sides were Americans; both were the same color, the same religion and spoke the same language. Perhaps this conundrum is a key reason why we Americans have been so obsessed with the civil war since the 186O's. How could neighbors, brothers and aquaintances do this to each other?

It was an invigorating day with spring in full force. Dogwood and redbud were in amazing flower. The sun shone yesterday upon the killing fields where almost at this same time of year soldiers drank from "bloody Pond" were dead men and horses had turned with water red. That happened on April 6 and 7, 1862.

I wish now that we had our southern acqaintance from yesterday for some more "considering".

Bonus question: Guess which key on my computer keyboard has stopped working? I was gonna put some neat photos with today's blog. But technology is failing us on this trip. One laptop has gone belly up and the ancient backup computer we keep as backup can't read the camera card. So, use your imagination!!

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Please enlighten me. The Hired Man