A Salute to my brother and his son the Marine and to our great-great-great-great-great grandfather the fifer in the Revolutionary war; to great-grandfather Henry Butts, Civil War veteran; our two uncles and cousin, now deceased, who made it home from the Pacific in WW II; and my son who did peacetime duty on a submarine. And a special salute to my grandson now in Iraq, may he live long as a proud veteran. [2010 update. Thankfully he is now back in the states where he will stay until the end of his contract with the Air Force.]
I have been thinking for quite a while about what I wanted to write about to commemorate Veteran’s Day. My brother, a veteran of Vietnam, thinks I should write about the Civil War. He, my sister-in-law and two nephews (one of whom served in the Marines in Iraq) participate in Civil War Renenactments in California. So obviously, HE is the one who should be writing about books about the Civil War.
I will digress from my usual pattern here and tell a little story of my own, and then list a few books that seem to be worth looking at if you need travel literature to help plan re-enactments of your own.
My grandfather, William Henry Butts, an Ohio farmer, served on the Union side of the Civil War. We still have some of the letters he wrote home to his wife, unhampered by standardized spelling and punctuation. (In the excerpt below I have seen fit to add periods, just to make it easier on the reader.)
He was discharged for disability after 8 months. Being let go in Nashville, Tennesee, he presumably had to make his way home to Ohio on his own. By October 1864 he had re-enlisted, and he served until July the following year. “Dear Wif” he writes on December 18, 1864 from “Near Savanah, GA”
It is a pleasure to me that i am permited to seat myself to anser your ever welcom letter which came to hand yesterday. i was glad that you and dear little Allen was well. your letters found me well and enjoying myself as well as I can enjoy my self. better since i herd from you for it has bin a long time to me. i must tell you the reason i did not hear from you sooner we started on this march the 15 of november and landed hear on the 10 of this month we had no communication all that time but its all right now. we have had a hard march over three hundred miles. some nights we did not get time to lay down and hardly time to eat but we are through and i em glad this is Sunday. my dear last Sunday i did not think that i wold write to you this day for we laid under the rebels fire boath Saturday and Sunday and the shells and balls flew thick and fast. thear was one shell bursted about ten feet from me and broke three of our guns so i begin to think that was coming rather close.
One of the rare lucky ones, he was able to return to his wife and lived a long life, and was buried in the church cemetery outside his small town. We went in search of great-grandfather’s grave, and noticed that in the older section of the church cemetery, Civil War Veteran’s graves spout brass star that indicates service in The War. One star stood beside a grave of a boy who lived to the age of fourteen.
While you think about that, you might also think about taking a road trip to one or more of the many, many battlefields of the Civil War scattered from Pennsylvania down to Georgia. You can drive. You do not have to march.
- Gods and Generals by Michael Shaara. Best book on the Civil War, hands down. When Michael Shaara died before the book found fame and became a movie, his son Jeff took over and completed a trilogy with Killer Angels and The Last Full Measure. Jeff Shaara went on to specialize in novels of war.
- Rise to Rebellion and The Glorious Cause relate the American Revolution.
- The Last Full Measure , covers the gruesome and grueling World War I
- No Less Than Victory, a novel of World War II
I will no doubt be talking in the future about WWI and WWII sites to visit, but here are previous posts about a movie in France, a memoir in Naples,and the underground in Crete all set in WWII. Travel to American revolutionary places were covered in Philadelphia, and Reading for July 4; a guest poster talked about Vietnam during the war.