Supermen

by Ray B on October 1, 2007 · 3 comments

I think that sometimes as we are looking back on the war we tend to get lost in the research and in the controversy. We look at things from a detached view. We see the general, or the army, or the campaign. THE CAUSE! Every so often I think it is important that we sit back, relax, and look at the individuals who fought this great war. Be they Federals, or Confederates, the men who fought and died on both sides are real supermen.

In the past few years I have gotten into the hobby of Civil War reenacting. As much as I enjoy the events and the camaraderie, I am utterly exhausted at the end of the weekend! On the rides home I have plenty of time to think about the weekend, and how tired I am, and what we are trying to represent. How tired I am… after about 48 hours of sitting in a camp and a couple hours of drill. Wow…

Invariably, on these long drives home, I come to the realization that what I just experienced is nothing compared to what these men did. For 4 years, these men marched hundreds… thousands of miles, fought pitched battles after marching 18 hours strait, in the pouring rain, Fought tooth and nail for every inch of ground, sometimes went days without a single bite to eat and still answered the call when it came. When I stop to think about all this, I can’t help but wonder how in the world they were able to go on. Exhausted, starving, drenched in sweat or rain, injured, bleeding, being shot at, shoeless (even the ones with shoes I feel for, those shoes aren’t very comfortable anyways) hour after hour, day after day. Summer’s stifling heat, the brutal cold in the winter camps. And what was the reward when they made it back to camp or stopped to rest after a battle? A few less men in the ranks. Empty tents, missing buddies who they had walked besides mile after mile. And 2 hours later when it was time to go, did they complain? Did they ask the officers for five minutes more to sleep? Where was their snooze alarm? “Wait just a minute Captain my coffee is almost done!” No… they stood up, grabbed their muskets, strapped on their accouterments and stormed the bridges.

So when you are reading the next book, pondering what you would have done differently, or arguing over why the war was fought on some online forum, just take a breath, sit back and think about the little guy. Think about the supermen.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Meyer October 1, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Nicely done post, Ray! I, too, have often marveled over the tremendous stamina exhibited by the “common” Civil War soldier. Even allowing for the fact that most of them were older kids and young men, there is something incredible about their performances. Of course, what we rarely dwell upon are all of the shortened lives and premature deaths that occurred among so many of that war’s survivors! Yet, even then, there were many who “soldiered on,” years longer than they should have. They were from a simpler, stronger, more robust and individualistic environment than we of today. In their own time they forged with their own incredible sacrifices something of the true sinew and fiber of what America is all about. We get to see their kind maybe only once in a lifetime.

As I watch all of the old strong hearts and strong minds from WWII slowly fade from the scene, I wonder if we will ever see them again!

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Steve Meserve October 2, 2007 at 9:57 am

Ray,

Have you ever read “Corporal Si Klegg and His Pard”? The book tells the story of the CW enlisted man brilliantly. It should be required reading for every reenactor, be he Yankee or Rebel.

Some people scoff at reading it because it is technically a work of fiction. I reply that it is not historical fiction, but fictionalized history, being based on the stories of a man who enlisted in the Union army as a private in 1861 and mustered out as a brevet lieutenant colonel in 1865. The Si Klegg accounts were first published in the “National Tribune” in the late 1870s, and were very popular with the veterans. Too many modern readers deny themselves what I consider to be the best account of Civil War soldier life ever written.

I know for a fact Brian Pohanka shared that sentiment because he worked with me to reprint the book and wrote an excellent introduction to the new edition.

Steve Meserve

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Ray B October 2, 2007 at 2:22 pm

Steve,
I have not had the good fortune of reading this, but it seems like a great read. Thanks for the tip, I’ll. keep my eyes out for it!

Ray B

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