Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Civil War soldiers

David Brooks provides another thoughtful column today, on the perspectives of Civil War soldiers toward their role in the conflict, as we approach the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. He cites James McPherson and others who report patterns of civic mindedness in letters written by soldiers, and he contrasts them with the post-WWI "Hemingway" version of war perspectives that is considerably less rosy.

Two thoughts occurred to me. I wondered whether the written record during the Civil War was much representative of enlisted men as opposed to officers, during a period when literacy was not widespread. But it is also plausible that a fight to preserve the unity of the country, as opposed to the foreign wars fought since then, which have arguably never been existential, might well be perceived very differently by those involved.