Thursday, April 21, 2011

Letting Bygones Be Bygones - A Follow Up to the Time Magazine Post

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Well, there has been a little buzz here at Cosmic America over my critique of Time's article on Civil War memory.

Brooks Simpson over at Crossroads wrote a very thoughtful response and included a few words on one of the best books (that I disagree with, naturally) on the subject of memory - David Blight's Race and Reunion.

I have received comments, here and on Twitter and Facebook, as well as more than a few emails. Some people agree with me, some people think I am missing my mark. Fair enough - there's always lots to argue about. But I was going though the Cosmic America archives yesterday and came across this. It is one of many examples I have of Union soldiers telling it as they saw it - but this one piece, I believe, is a fantastic representation of a very widely held belief.

This is the introductory statement in a book - really a collection of anecdotes written by former Union soldiers - called Sparks from the Campfire or Tales of Old Veterans, edited by Joseph W. Morton in 1899:

Those there are who say ‘let bygones be bygones,’ ‘let us forget all about the war;’ but we cannot endorse these sentiments. Men who talk thus are not those whose life-blood watered the gory field – not those who went promptly to the front when danger threatened, ready to sacrifice life or limb upon the alter of patriotism. We know the war is over; the strife has ceased; the victory has been won; but the story of the great conflict will never diminish in interest, and the tales of veterans will always command respect and attention. Whatever is worth talking about is worth writing; and whatever, is worth writing is worth publishing

These words are about as clear as any that I have run across in terms of how Union veterans remembered the war. So when we begin to think that old soldiers simply put the war behind them and went on about their business, we should reconsider....and have a look at what they actually said.



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