Welcome Wednesday guests for November:
11/05 Maya Corrigan's Five-Ingredient Mystery, By Cook or By Crook.
11/12 Death by Blue Water, a scuba-diving adventure-mystery by scuba-diving author, Kait Carson.
11/19 Susan Van Kirk--Three Can Keep A Secret.
11/26 Tagged for Death, a garage sale mystery by Sherry Harris.

Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.

Don't miss this month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.

KM Rockwood's
short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Civil War Writers

As I drive down the street near my house in the Washington, D.C. suburbs I see reminders of the Civil War interspersed with modern buildings. On the right is a branch of a bank that funded the Confederacy. Further down the road next to my hair salon is an old church that was used as a hospital and horse stable during the war. One gravestone still has a chunk missing – the result of target practice by Union soldiers. On the left near the Ford Dealership is a placard marking the site where military aerial reconnaissance and attack missions took place using a hot air balloon.

These historic sites remind me that this month marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Given that, I thought it would be fitting to review the greatest contemporary literary books published during the war. To my surprise there wasn’t one exceptional novel published during this time.

Perhaps the most influential book of its time, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe, was written prior to the war. When she first met Abraham Lincoln, he reportedly greeted her with some version of, “So you are the little woman who wrote the book that started this Great War.” Another famous classic, “The Red Badge of Courage,” that many people think was contemporary was actually published 30 years later. And author, Stephan Crane, wasn’t even born until about seven years after the war ended.

A recent Boston Globe article puzzled over why the Civil War did not produce any great works of contemporary literature. Present and past critics agree that there wasn’t a poem or novel that captured what the war truly meant and felt like. However, one scholar now theorizes that the war eventually changed what American authors such as Whitman, Emerson, Hawthorne, Dickinson and Melville believed and how they wrote.

While not a novel, I believe one of the most famous contemporary written pieces was a speech that became known as the Gettysburg Address. On November 19, 1863 Abraham Lincoln began, “Four score and seven years ago…” and with approximately 272 words stated that the people who died did not die in vain and reaffirmed the notion of equality. Sometime later while reflecting on his speech he said, “I failed, I failed, and that is about all that can be said about it.” Perhaps we can only understand the impact of what we write in hindsight.

So, it seems to me that the writers who captured the many facets of the Civil War were not well-known authors but a diverse group of people: slaves, women, men, camp followers, generals, nurses, Underground Railroad workers, the president, soldiers, spies etc. They recorded their experiences and feelings in diaries, letters, songs, speeches and newspapers. Unfortunately, a number of people were illiterate so we will never read their stories.

I think we owe all of these writers a debt of gratitude for allowing us insight into their world – a world that was to become ours.

5 comments:

Pauline Alldred said...

I agree about the debt we owe to writers who never became famous but certainly had a story to tell. War seems to bare the human pysche and, with civil war, emotions surely run deeper still.

Kara Cerise said...

That's a good point about emotions running deep, Pauline. Some members of the neighborhood church I mentioned are still upset about the soldiers shooting gravestones.

E. B. Davis said...

Many people were illiterate. During war, literature was not a priority. The Civil War was a particularly emotional war. For that reason, I think, the people who could write used journals to express their feelings. They couldn't do anything to change the war. Their diaries and journals were outlets for their frustrations.

Except if you were my ancestor. He used his diary, which we now possess, to complain. The Union evidently gave him the boniest-backed horses in the army. Going back and forth loading supplies over the Susquehanna River was a drag. And he must not have seen anyone important because he doesn't mention who led his division. He had to have been near Gettysburg--but then, I've a feeling, he probably made sure he got lost that day--the Union must have given him a bad map.

Kara Cerise said...

That's very interesting what your ancestor chose to put in his journal. I guess the mundane stuff of war can be a drag and your ancestor's diary adds to the picture of what life was really like.

John Guzlowski said...

I think there is some great writing that came out of the war. Much of it is by Whitman. His book of poems Drum Taps and his book of essays Specimen Days both deal extensively with the war. If you want to real about the war it's a terrific place to start and both works are online for free.