paulwitcover (paulwitcover) wrote in theinferior4,

Last bivuoacs

I'm back in New York at last, after almost three weeks traveling through parts south, catching up with friends and family.  My goal of visiting the arm of Stonewall Jackson remained unmet, alas, but I did manage to visit some final resting places of Civil War soldiers.

 This stone marker is from the Glendale National Military Cemetery, located adjacent to the battle of Malvern Hill, which took place 145 years ago yesterday.  This was the final engagement in a string of bloody battles known as the Seven Days Battles, in which Union forces under McClellan, attempting to come at Richmond from the south, were repulsed by Lee's troops.  

 This particular battle, featuring a Confederate charge almost as devastating and foolhardy as Pickett's, ended in a Union victory but nevertheless marked the end of the Peninsula Campaign.  It would be three more years before Union troops again approached Richmond.

This snapshot of the battlefield, with Union cannon in the foreground, vividly conveys why the Confederate charges failed, and failed so spectacularly.  Just imagine tons more cannon, as well as sharpshooters, pouring massed fire down toward that treeline, from which Confederate soldiers are emerging in an undisciplined mass.  Melville wrote a rather dour poem about it. 

Anyway, the cemetery at Glendale, which contains only Union soldiers, was established after the war.  It now holds the remains of those killed in subsequent wars, including a medal of honor winner from Vietnam.


About twenty miles away I found a Confederate cemetery containing the remains of soldiers who died during treatment at a hospital outside Richmond.  The site was well maintained, with Confederate battle flags flying, set amidst single-family homes.  The lines inscribed on the monument speak for themselves, though not, at least to my ear, as intended.



  "We know not who they were, but the whole world knows what they were."

It's almost literally impossible in this part of Virginia to throw a stone without striking a historical marker.  I came upon this one on my way back from the cemetery above.

What was going through Lee's mind as he made his way back to his family in Richmond?  That I could not know.  But later, in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, I did see the tent he camped in on that and many other nights, along with various personal effects.

  This museum's exhibits often cross the line into outright hagiography, as with the display of the bloodied handkerchief that staunched the wounded arm of Jackson, although there is no record of how many miraculous cures the artifact has effected.  But it's worth a visit, if only to witness the bizarre grip the "War of Northern Aggression"  continues to hold on the South, and the attendant mythologies that have sprung up to justify and glorify the "Lost Cause."

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