Monday, September 17, 2012

"this mighty scourge" ... 150 years later

Today is not only Rosh Hashanah (and beginning of the year 5773), but also the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War's Battle of Antietam. While growing up in central Pennsylvania, I became a child Civil War-buff though visits to Gettysburg battlefield, reading Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels, and repeatedly watching the Ken Burns' The Civil War documentary as well as the films Glory and Gettysburg. My friends and I would plan and enact ongoing battles at recess; for Halloween I dressed up as a soldier three times; and I even had birthday "parties" at both Gettysburg and Antietam battlefields. Needless to say, I was a strange kid. So strange that this fascination even continued into college. Combining creative and research elements, I developed a project on Civil War battlefields using my own photography and historical accounts of those battles from the soldiers themselves. It turned out well, and you can check it out here:*gYnPw

Later I wrote a thesis on the experience of the war in southern Pennsylvania, featuring the first U.S. draft, local politics, and two invasions by Confederate forces. It turned out less-well, and I will spare you from this academic travesty. After that experience, I essentially purged the Civil War from my interests. It may yet again play a small role in future projects, but in the last four years I have only read one book on this subject. (However, it was a very good one that combined social and military history while attempting convey to a modern reader the unprecedented scale of death and destruction the American people had enacted upon themselves, and how society dealt with it. If you're going to read a book on the Civil War not called The Battle Cry of Freedom, I would recommend This Republic of Suffering.) And since it is the sesquicentennial of this war, the New York Times has been doing a weekly series on its events, characters, and lingering impact. Today's entry is on Antietam, of course.

I'm not entirely sure why I felt compelled to write this post. Probably because I haven't posted anything in over a month; not that nothing was going on then ... but blog-writing just didn't fit. Maybe it will from now on.