When I was 10 and told my wise old grandmother that I wanted to be either an anesthesiologist or a history teacher, she advised me to become a history teacher. “How come?” I asked. “Because I don’t know what the other one is, but I know that if you study history, you won’t have to repeat it.”
She had been born in 1911, so she suffered through the Great Depression and World War II, and saw her oldest son go off to the Korean War and youngest son go off to the Vietnam War.
I quit wanting to be a history teacher once I found out how much money teachers made in Texas. I knew being a teacher and making that kind of money would not allow me to escape the poor and low-income families that I had been with for my first ten years of life. Yes, at the age of 10 I was able to determine that one needed money in life….
Nonetheless, I always have enjoyed reading about, and studying, history, especially war history. I find it fascinating what people will do to other people in the name of patriotism and religion…. crucifixions, beheadings, drawn and quartered, iron masks…. all sorts of unique ways to torture and kill.
Ever notice, though, that the sons and daughters of the wealthy and privileged never go off to war. There’s always some sort of exemption for them.
In the book that I just finished reading about Confederate General Stonewall Jackson (►), one of the themes that ran through the general’s life was his religion. He loved his war, though, believing that everything he did in his life, including killing people, sometimes even his own soldiers after he judged them guilty of whatever sin they had allegedly committed, was directed by God. His god, of course.
So I found the beginning paragraph in Chapter 43 quite interesting. It’s a long paragraph so I have broken it up here to make it more readable:
“Eighteen months after the first shot at Fort Sumter, there were certain truths that the soldiers had come to know. Death in war was neither picturesque nor peaceful, and dying bravely didn’t make you any less dead, or mean that you would not be dumped into the cold earth of a mass grave with everyone else, brave and not brave. Nor was there likely to be anyone to hear your last miserable words.
“People of the era cherished the idea of a ‘good death’—a peaceful, dignified passing wherein God was embraced and sins repented and salvation attained, preferably in your own bed with your family gathered devotedly around to hear your last murmurs of Christian resignation. War made a mockery of all that. War made a mockery of the idea of a benevolent God. It replaced the family home with the rank, power-scorched horrors of the battlefield. These were the new truths.
“In war you lived outdoors like a wild animal. You lived in blistering heat, drenching rains, and knifelike cold. You were exposed and vulnerable. The majority of men who died did not even have the honor of dying in a fight. Two out of three were carried away by diseases that killed them just as surely as minié balls. Those who survived did so on a quarter pound of bacon and eighteen ounces of flour a day—one-third the regular meat ration—with the infrequent small issue of rice, molasses, or sugar. (The rice ration was an ounce.)
“Men lived without shoes or coats or blankets. Food was short all over the South. Soldiers hunted up sassafras buds and wild onions to ward off scurvy. Horses died for lack of forage. In Richmond, where much of the eastern army’s far was gathered and transshipped, there were bread riots.“
I have never understood why an all-powerful, all-knowing God needs men to fight wars for it. That certainly does not sound like a benevolent God. Wouldn’t a benevolent God make sure that his warriors had shoes and food, the basic necessities? I’m so confused over religion and war.
And yet, get this, the beginning of the second paragraph:
“In spite of these hardships, which seemed to multiply as the war dragged on, many of the men in the Confederate States Army remembered the winter of 1862-63 as one of the most extraordinary times of their lives.“
People are weird, which is probably why there never will be peace on Earth, not unless country boundaries and religion cease to exist.
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