restricted access November 15: A Great Civil War (Virginia Wade)

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[ Ω∏ ] n o v e m b e r 1 5 A Great Civil War (Virginia Wade) Imight have found a Confederate grave this afternoon. I had been looking for a place where a number of Southern boys had been buried together in a long trench. Those fellows had been mere victims, several regiments of men ordered by incompetent o≈cers into an unreconnoitered attack. In long lines they walked toward a stone wall until, at the last moment, they heard someone somewhere shout an order and a whole brigade of Union soldiers rose up in front of them and fired into their faces. Those Southern boys died by the hundreds for absolutely nothing, and for what Cause? Nobody else that I know of has found the exact burial site. The written records were not complete or precise. The best technology available has been used to spot the burial site—including helicopter overflights with infrared photography—but has turned up nothing conclusive. I walked over the ground. The familiar old scent of autumn rose from the rich field that morning. The ground felt soft but firm beneath my boots; it was lush with thick grass and moss. As I looked at the ground, a strange, overpowering electricity filled me; the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I felt that I was standing on the burial trench itself. a g r e at c i v i l wa r ( v i r g i n i a wa d e ) [ Ωπ ] Of course, my ‘‘find’’ can never be proved. It is known that the Confederate remains there—meaning only bones and personal items—were all exhumed and sent south a few years after the battle. Digging up the sod would reveal nothing, and would destroy what is left. There can be no proof, in today’s sense. We can find no material object. We have no documentary evidence. We have no conclusive photographic , electronic, technological data. But, as if I had stepped through a rift in time, my body could feel that I was on the place. We have a limited idea of proof, upon which we have become slavishly dependent. We need to think in wider terms about what is real. ‘‘Broader and deeper we must write our annals,’’ Emerson said. The important question is not where were those boys buried, but who were they? Why did they die? Why did they enlist in this great civil war? What design or conjunction led them to that place, and for what purpose, if any? Who were their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers; who were their wives and children? Was there any consolation for them? While flying to the British Isles six months before, we saw what appeared to be a darker landmass on the horizon. I pointed it out to my children. Was it Scotland? No. It was a solid layer of pollution in the atmosphere. It is a worldwide shadow we no longer even see from underneath . It is the Shadow of Death. We have made this shadow because we want money. We made slaves of people because we wanted money, and still do. We are encouraged to value things and people now according to their material worth in the great global market—the vast slave market. Almost daily, perhaps, we do something we feel is wrong, but reason steps in quickly and tells us why we have to do it. It might not be the same act as that which at Chernobyl killed, mutated, and condemned thousands of people and released poison upon all of us, but it is the same tyrannical principle. I will get for myself what I want. To get whatever I can is my right. Most causes can be reduced to this. The Union’s could not. That is why ‘‘Father Abraham’’ Lincoln and his children could be heroes. As I look into the wind that stings my eyes and makes them tear, I think of my children, each of whom I have brought to this place. Andrew Peter, little boy, not quite yet the Big Fisherman his name promises but already the maker of o√beat jokes and puns, a wordmeister; already an artist who puts his arm around me where I’m sitting and says, ‘‘Daddy, live a little.’’ Not a malicious bone in his body. Elizabeth, who had already been street smart and chic at age two, who has hardly ever raised her voice except in comedy; used...


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