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Posts Tagged ‘American Civil War’

Freedom Square, NYC July 2015 – From the Ashes the Phoenix rises stronger than ever.

As a #ProudAmerican, I express my gratitude to the many hundreds of thousands of my fellow Americans for the service and sacrifices made by the men and women in our military services. The last Monday of the month of May has been a part of our heritage since the first Decoration Day was recognized after the American Civil War, to commemorate those who have died in the service of our country.

“Copying a practice that began in the Southern states,[19][20][21] on May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the veterans’ organization for Union Civil War veterans, General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for “Decoration Day” to be observed annually and nationwide.[7] It was observed for the first time that year on Saturday May 30; the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle.[22] According to the White House, the May 30 date was chosen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom.[23]

”Specifically, on April 25, 1866, women in Columbus, Mississippi laid flowers on the graves of both the Union and Confederate dead in the city’s cemetery.”[38]Memorial Day

To all those families whose loved ones have died while in service to our country, I wish to express my gratitude and heartfelt sympathy for your loss.

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Those of you who’ve been following EverWriting for a while may remember my blogs about growing and nurturing a pomegranate plant which I related to the process of writing Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls.

I’m back at it.

I actually had not eaten a pomegranate for years and years! When I was a girl, my first taste of this wonderful fruit (some believe to be the original ‘forbidden fruit’ of the Garden of Eden variety) gave me hives! As the ruby fruit was the only oddity in our daily composition at the time, pomegranate got the blame. I stayed away until I was well into adulthood.

My next encounter was after I had three children with no untoward results at all. Since I had already had good luck with growing apple trees from seeds germinated from the Braeburn variety and oaks from acorns my children had gathered at school, I threw some pomegranate seeds in potting soil and behold, I was the proud horticulturalist of a plant usually only grown in mediterranean climes.

This year, I bought and ate my first pomegranate after another long long dry spell and, though Iimage of pomegranate seedling have only a balcony and a few potted plants, I attempted to repeat my previous effort. As far as I know my first pomegranate is still growing in my daughter-in-law’s care but having one of my own again felt right. I have a number of lemon bushes from seed and a pomegranate was a natural step.

Of the twenty or so seeds I planted, three sprouted and one survived and the secondary leaves have sprouted.

In many ways, at least in my quirky mind, there are similarities between storycraft and horticulture/gardening. If we think of an idea for a story, we often think of it as a seed. We nurture the idea/seed with effort in the way of research in the process of germinating the story, as the seedling has germinated from its pod and thrown out roots below and first leaves above. Those first leaves and roots provide the nourishment to grow in the same way our stories grow from experience (roots) and imagine (leaves).

My previous experience with pomegranates coincided with the writing and successful publishing my multicultural, interracial novel Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls.

This tiny plant coincides with my first American history novel, Pavane for Miss Marcher, which examines the aftereffects of the American Civil War on those who fought, those left behind and process of healing the divisive wounds.

 

 

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Since writing this article, I have had the opportunity to read more about the War Between the States.  I now caution anyone setting a work of fiction during this period to research both sides of this tragic conflict.

This post was written a few days before it was scheduled to appear. The fourth blessing mentioned below made his appearance on the day this post was originally published. And now there is a fifth – a star in her own right!

November 23, 2012

4blessingNearly every culture has a ritual for giving thanks for life and blessings. We celebrate thanksgiving in the Fall of the year particularly because of the abundant harvest the Summer months have provided. In the United States, this celebration has taken on a mantel of national enormity but where has this holiday come from?

3blessingBut Thanksgiving is something else. Most of us in the United States have grown up with the legend of the Pilgrims and their wretched struggles in the first year of their life in North America. As the story goes, after over half their number starved to death, they were helped to survive through the kindness and generosity of the established inhabitants, whose own journey to this continent was taken thousands of years before.In most religions, thanksgiving is a spiritual recognition of the blessings bestowed upon the faithful, again usually around the time of the harvest.

In ancient times, people made sacrifices of living creatures and this practice is still in evidence today with turkeys, lambs, goats. In religious establishments, there are formal offerings, services of appreciation, shared meals to celebrate the bounty of the earth.

5blessingThis story may be true in its essence but it isn’t the origin of Thanksgiving as we know and celebrate it today. (Let’s assume we’re not talking about the folks who’ve formed tent-communities outside mega-stores in lieu of having a meal with their families.) The Pilgrims were most probably celebrating the religious thanksgiving, toward the middle of October with a religious service and a long sermon, rather than the more pagan celebration of life and all the bacchanalia surrounding a day of feasting, football and family feuds.

cad2Thanksgiving began its journey to becoming a National Holiday in the United States only in the 1860s, during the American Civil War. The author, Sarah Josepha Hale, promoted the idea of a national day of thanksgiving to politicians for over forty years. At the time, a day of thanksgiving varied from state to state. A few months after the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863, in part as an attempt to unify the northern and southern states, Lincoln declared a national day of thanksgiving for the last Thursday of November in that year.

LDFor seventy five years, subsequent Presidents kept the tradition by declaring a national day from year to year but not until December 26, 1941, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the law, did Thanksgiving become fixed on the fourth Thursday of November by federal legislation. For nearly 400 years, people living on this continent have celebrated their good fortune and the blessings bestowed upon them through the observance, religious and secular, of a day of feasting.

This is one of my favorite holidays and it seemed only natural to include it as a pivotal point in my Avalon Romance, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, now published by Montlake. I sincerely hope all your days of thanksgiving are exactly that and may we continue to celebrate in the way that most fittingly shows our gratitude for our many blessings as a nation.

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A few months ago, I mentioned to a fellow member of a writers’ group that I was working on a post-Civil War manuscript. Her immediate comment was “You’d better be on the right side of that conflict.” My immediate reaction was a silent grimace, and a sense of foreboding.

As an amateur historian with a bias toward my own Yankee heritage (20th Maine, Gettysburg), I’ve done my homework on the War Between the States, from both sides. And, as I wrote in a recent post, there is very rarely a ‘right’ side of any war. The war fought in America in the 1860s had many causes and many tragedies.

I think one of the best authors to examine the complexities of this American conflict, Michael Shaara, does an excellent job in his novel, The Killer Angels, of presenting how the commanders and soldiers on the Union and Confederate sides saw their roles and their respective positions in the political and social argument. Neither side was innocent nor entirely right.

Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetary design by Moses Ezekiel one of 12,000 Jewish Confederate soldiers, depicting one of over 300,000 African American soldiers fighting for the Confederacy.

Confederate Memorial at Arlington National Cemetary design by Moses Ezekiel one of 12,000 Jewish Confederate soldiers, depicting one of over 300,000 African American soldiers fighting for the Confederacy.*

What concerned me most about the above comment from my colleague was the dictatorial nature of her statement. Writers must be at liberty to explore and express, as only they themselves see fit. If we write to dictates, we are not fulfilling our potential to give another point of view, to show another experience. If we only regurgitate what is ‘accepted’ history, we allow truths to remain hidden and lies to flourish under the guise of ‘so many have said this, it must be true.’

As we all recognize, a lie repeated often enough becomes the truth and many ideologically motivated historians, journalists and activists depend upon that to spread their dogma as fact. Regardless of our own personal preferences, we owe ourselves and our readers our own interpretation of our research, however contrary or uncomfortable that may be.

If we self-censor for fear our discovery of another truth may bring unpleasant consequences, censorship of knowledge and opinion will eventually govern and any claim we may make about our honesty will be fundamentally flawed and hypocritical.

Writers are substantially courageous souls. After all, who but the brave put their thoughts, opinions and emotions on public display? We may be writing for entertainment, but false, shallow and stale effort will be recognized for what it is.


With thanks to Lerone Bennett Jr., Nelson W. Winbush and his grandfather, Pvt. Louis Napoleon Nelson, Company M, 7th Tennessee Calvary, Army of the Confederacy.

For further reading: Forced into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, Lerone Bennett Jr.; Everything You Were Taught About the Civil War Is Wrong, Lochlainn Seabrook; * image from Seabrook; The Civil War: Volumes 1-3, Shelby Foote; Civil War Hospital Sketches, Louisa May Alcott.

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I do not know why we allow it nor why so many men and women offer their lives in sacrifice to it but it seems that war is always with us.

What are we fighting for?

I am one of the Vietnam War generation. My parents and siblings were products of the two World and the Korean Wars.

There was never a brief suspension where we might begin to hope there would be fewer conflicts until this way of settling differences was eradicated.

I lived in Europe at this time and if the IRA wasn’t planting bombs in public places where they slaughtered and maimed children, the Serbs, Bosnians or Croatians were. Those were only the wars I knew about. There were and are so many others. There will be another and yet another.

What are we fighting for? Freedom, ideas, power? Land, food, dominance?

Is it foolish to believe that all of these are pitiful excuses for causing misery, suffering and decimation?

This morning, on my way to work, I read this from Louisa May Alcott’s Civil War Hospital Sketches:

“…John looked lonely and forsaken just then, as he sat with bent head, hands folded on his knee, and no outward sign of suffering, till, looking nearer, I saw great tears roll down and drop upon the floor. It was a new sight there; for, though I had seen many suffer, some swore, some groaned, most endured silently, but none wept. Yet it did not seem weak, only very touching, and straightway my fear vanished, my heart opened wide and took him in, as, gathering the bent head in my arms, as freely as if he had been a little child, I said, ‘Let me help you bear it, John.’ …”

 Today’s wars, as with Vietnam, are far away, in foreign lands brought to us by television, distant and unreal. Yet, the power of Alcott’s few words written 150 years ago, the suffering of this one wounded soldier draws our admiration for his fortitude and compassion for his pain from our hearts. We are not immune or indifferent.

Whatever we think of war, its causes and its consequences, the experience of any one individual is a test of our own humanity. Although we cannot go about everyday in constant distress and heartache, we can stop a moment and share the suffering of our fellow men and women, however much we wish we didn’t have to.

 

 

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The Killer Angels
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there is a lesson to be learned from any war it must be that no side is entirely right and no side is entirely wrong.

Michael Shaara succeeds in making this abundantly clear in his novel about the battle of Gettysburg. Although this work is a fictional account, I believe Shaara captures the essence of the conflict, the passions that led to its ultimate tragedy and the fundamental truths that have, for too long, been buried beneath an avalanche of preferred myth.

Above all, Shaara makes painfully human all that has become legend, giving every character in this American tragedy a voice, a cry for understanding.

The Killer Angels is one of the few books that I have no hesitation in recommending. This novel is superb history and emotive fiction.

View all my reviews

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