Today’s post is inspired by my fellow blogger and author, Lori Crane, over at A Day in the Life of Patootie. She’s challenged all bloggers to participate in a month-long series of posts about our ancestors. Check out her blog – she’s loaded with anecdotes from her lineage.
In the past few weeks, I’ve immersed myself in the writings of my great grandfather. He left behind a legacy for his children chronicling his years as a Union soldier in the Civil War. He joined Michigan’s 2nd Regiment in 1861 in the early days of the war. I’m putting the journal in electronic form so others can read about his experiences as a soldier and as a prisoner of war with the Confederates in the last year of the war. As I proofread a chapter, I came across this passage that gave me pause. The passage was written in December 1862 as the soldiers prepared to make winter quarters after several Union defeats. He wrote this in the days following the Battle of Fredericksburg, December 11-15,1862, where the Confederates won the battle, but nearly 18,000 men were injured or killed.
If we’re discontent with what’s happening or not happening in Washington today, imagine what it was like to be a soldier in the field having seen the death and destruction of the bloody Civil War while the folks at home sitting in front of warm fires fought over petty matters.
Excerpt from Civil War Reminiscences of Harmon Camburn:
“December 1862 – With the whole surface of the country one vast mortar bed, active operations were not thought of in the army. Yet every newspaper that reached us was full of condemnations for the idleness of the troops in the field. Any attempt to move large bodies of men was inexpedient and to move artillery and supply trains was next to impossible.
Between the clamor of northern papers, the quarrels among general officers, and the interference of Congress with artillery movements, the rank and file of the army of the Potomac was becoming discouraged and demoralized. The men were beginning to feel that they were enduring hardships and that lives were being sacrificed without adequate results, because of petty jealousies among the leaders. Idleness and discontent go hand in hand with soldiers, and the gloomy outlook of our winter camp was not cheering. The fences had all disappeared for fuel, and green wood for cooking and heating purposes had to be hauled long distances with the mules floundering knee deep in the mire and the wagons cutting almost to the hubs.”
Isn’t it time we learned?