Thursday, October 8, 2009

The American Civil War 2

I’ve been watching the second part of the American Civil War documentary DVD. What carnage, heroism, valour, waste. The moving image at its best – unfortunately presenting such bloodshed.

Apparently after the war began a 900 men volunteer corp was raised in Tennessee. The casualty numbers from all the battles meant that at the end of Gettysburg only 3 of the original men were still in the corp – the rest were either dead or maimed.

The nature of the regiments meant the fortune of not being called to join a battle counterpointed the ill luck of being called upon to engage. All the men from one village would be killed, while from a neighbouring town most would survive.

Though the Union introduced conscription the wealthy could pay for someone else to represent them.

The war was not just battles. There are interesting items on hospitals and the treatment of the wounded and on the role of women in supporting the soldiers.

By the end of the war one in ten Union soldiers were black. It was not till a hundred years later that they really began to achieve equality.

At the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery the speaker before Lincoln orated for two hours. Anticipating a lengthy address from the President the photographer took his time getting his camera ready – exposure issues. By the time the 269 words were spoken Lincoln was heading back to his seat without the picture being taken. What words they were – one of the greatest speeches of all time.

Grant and Lee are now slugging it out in Virginia. The Union had at long last found a general who didn’t retreat. It had become a war of attrition and the numbers were on the Union side.

P.S. Hillary Mantel’s Wolf Hall has won the Booker prize. I’m sixty pages from the end. It’s a well-deserved award.

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