Tag Archives: stonewall jackson

I’m so confused over religion and war

Halls of History

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.

Rebel YellIn 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.

Say what?

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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Creepy, just creepy

Halls of History

When I was 10, I wanted to be an anesthesiologist, but only because I could spell it. What I really wanted to be was a history teacher. Fifty years later, I still want to be a history teacher. Alas, I teach chess in after-school enrichment programs………

Rebel YellI just finished reading an Advance Reader’s Edition of “Rebel Yell—The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson” by S. C. Gwynne. Advance Reader’s Editions usually are full of typos and errors, and this one was no exception, including it noting that Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) signed the Constitution in 1887…….

Notwithstanding that, though, I learned about a horse that is 165 years old! Its name is Little Sorrel (1850-1886) and it was General Jackson’s horse from the Civil War. “How,” you might ask, “is General Jackson’s horse 165 years old? Well, I’m glad you asked!

The Appendix, titled “Other Lives, Other Destinies,” includes this bit about Little Sorrel:

Lost after the Battle of Chancellorsville [which is the battle where General Jackson was wounded, wounds which eventually caused him to contract pneumonia, from which he died about nine days later] the horse Jackson called ‘Fancy’ was eventually recovered by a Confederate soldier and sent to Virginia governor John Letcher, who in turn sent him to live with Anna Jackson [Stonewall’s wife] in North Carolina. The horse became a much-loved pet, famous for using his mouth to lift latches and let himself out of his stable. In Anna Jackson’s memoir she said that he would ‘go deliberately to the doors of all the other horses and mules, liberate each one, and then march off with them all behind him … to the green fields of grain around the farm.’ Fences proved no obstacle to him, either. He would use his mouth and muzzle to life off fence rails until the fence was low enough to jump over. He later lived at VMI [Virginia Military Institution, where Jackson taught before the War], where he grazed on the parade ground and was a favorite of cadets, and spent his last days at the old confederate Soldiers’ Home. His hid was stuffed and mounted and can be seen today at VMI.”

Of course, I had to search the Internet to see if Little Sorrel still was at VMI. Indeed, he is:


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Personally, I think that’s creepy.

My dad killed an 18-point deer when he was very young. Granddad had the deer head stuffed, and it hung on the wall of the living room. I despised that thing. In 1968, my oldest uncle from Los Angeles, California, came home to visit Kingsville, Texas, for Christmas. He took the deer head back to L.A. with him. I was never so happy to see something gone.

Stuffed heads and animals are common interior decorations, especially in the South. Unfortunately, my favorite restaurant here in San Diego County, Famous Dave’s BBQ in Vista, has some stuffed animal heads in their restaurant. Fortunately, when I go with Jim and his mom and boyfriend, we always get seated far, far away from those stuffed animals.

Maybe I’ll have Zoey the Coot Cat stuffed when she dies….


Creepy, just creepy.

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Doomed to a continued existence of fighting and killing each other


Rebel Yell by S.C. GwynneI have always been fascinated by history, particularly the history of wars. Right now I am reading Rebel Yell by S. C. Gwynne, subtitled “The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson.” It’s a serious tome—575 pages of reading, 45 pages of notes, and 13 pages of bibliography. The copy I have is an “Advance Reader’s Edition.” Sadly, I seem never to read these privileged editions until well after the book has been published, in this case October 2014. Nonetheless….

Mighty Stonewall by Frank VandiverStonewall Jackson was one of the Confederacy’s greatest generals during the Civil War. The first book I ever read that was dedicated solely to Stonewall Jackson was Mighty Stonewall by Frank E. Vandiver (1925-2005), published in 1957. Dr. Vandiver was president of Texas A&M University from 1981 to 1988.

When I heard that a history professor had been named president of my alma mater, I was fascinated and immediately turned to finding out more about him. That was when I discovered his Mighty Stonewall book. Dr. Vandiver was a foremost authority on the Civil War, and he is mentioned several times in the notes and bibliography of Gwynne’s book.

I am barely halfway through Gwynne’s book, but it is obvious what the “violence” and “passion” in the subtitle mean. Jackson was extraordinarily violent, even going so far as to shoot his own men when he deemed it necessary. The passion comes from his dedication to “Providence.” He had a firm belief that he was fighting for God. Since I haven’t finished the book, and Jackson died two years before the end of the war, I don’t know where “redemption” comes from.

Jackson died on May 10, 1863, of complications from pneumonia which set in after he had been wounded at the Battle of Chancellorsville. I would have liked to have heard how he reconciled losing the war if God was on his side and the side of the Confederacy.

Therein, though, lies part of the problem that still exists in the world, a problem that has existed forever and probably will exist forevermore: a belief in a magical guy in the sky who wants humans to fight for him. If only everyone could believe in the same magical guy, no one would have to fight. Of course, we could also ask, “If that magical guy is so all-knowing and all-powerful, why can’t he fight his own wars?”

religion was our first attempt stampReligion was humanity’s first attempt at explaining the world and universe. Mankind’s first attempts at doing anything are bad, some of them notoriously bad. Religion was not very good at explaining things, relying on myth, superstition, magic, mind control, etc. It’s not religion’s fault. Humanity and science simply had not evolved to the point where the universe could be better understood without making up things. It is religion’s fault for not getting with the times.

science and religionAs long as there are people willing to believe religious dogmas written thousands of years ago instead of using logic, reasoning, science, facts, etc., to understand the universe, and to kill in the name of that religion, humanity is doomed to a continued existence of fighting and killing each other.

A few more of my favorite memes collected from the Internet, and I make no apology to my Christian friends. That’s what’s wonderful about America—people are free to believe what they want, or not to believe at all, and to criticize each other for their beliefs, or lack thereof.


the dark ages



left-handed sin

imaginary friend

fabricate supreme being

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