civil war

My birthday was on Monday, and so I am now the proud owner of two DVD Box sets. The First, given by my girlfriend was Band of Brothers, the World War II HBO miniseries that was made a few years ago and is always shown on veterans and Memorial Day. The second was procured with help from my mother. She gave me a check, which equaled the Civil War Ken Burns documentary.

I realize that I may love history more than most do. And I have often thought that maybe I should go back to school and get a degree in history. And I may do so. I’ve been researching how much it would cost and what schools I should go to and if my already present degree would eliminate the unnecessary courses like science and math. Or if it would be possible for me to take some kind of test in which I could be placed in an advanced class or maybe just audit enough for me to get the degree without having to be admitted to a four-year school. Because I think I would love a history degree for many reasons.

I’ve been tooling around with a book idea, which I plan to first publish here for the sake of just getting my thoughts out there. The title I have come up with is “Thoughts on the Government of the United States of America” based on John Adams Thoughts on Government, and Thomas Jefferson’s Thoughts on the Stet of Virginia. Plus a bunch of anarchist doctrine from Thomas Paine.

But while thinking of all this, I thought about what would have happened if Jefferson had gone with the original John Locke phrase “Life, Liberty, and Property” as apposed to paraphrasing the “Life Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” phrase he got from George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights in which he stated that “all men are by nature equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights of which…[they cannot divest;] namely, the enjoyment of life and liberty, with the means of acquiring and possessing property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety…”

I wonder if Jefferson just said property as apposed to the pursuit of happiness whether or not we would have had the Civil War. Slavery would than be arguably protected by the declaration of independence and would have been argued more fiercely at the constitutional convention and argued into law. Thank god Jefferson didn’t want to plagiarize, just paraphrase…


One of the key arguments I have heard as to why Barack Obama should not be president has been his lack of experience. But what I find so odd is the idea that any one has experience at being president. Out of our first five presidents, one had experience leading men. Washington was a General, Adams lead committees in congress and was a third of the diplomatic team in Europe, Jefferson was a farmer, architect, scientist, writer, lover, jerk, and a horrible wartime governor of Virginia. Madison was a congressmen and writer, Monroe was the same. None of these men, with the exception of Washington had significant experience leading men. Or any before the country’s creation.

But another example sticks out in my mind, which I think is more relevant towards the experience question.

There was a man from Illinois who was awkward, considered two-faced, and only served 2 years on the national level as a lame-duck one-term congressman who could not win re-election. He retired from politics until a major political and social issue arose and required, in this man’s mind, a sudden and determined change. The issue was Slavery, the man Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln can arguably be called our greatest president.

Now, I have no idea what kind of president Obama would be. I haven’t even made a choice on whom I’m voting for, but I will say this, the people currently with the greatest resumes are Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. And look at the good job they’re doing….

Gothamist reports on a new initiative to commemorate the abolitionist movement in Brooklyn. A panel of community leaders will make proposals for how to commemorate.

The Brooklyn Public Library has a great site on the Civil War and Brooklyn. Check it out.

On this day in 1863, one of the most important battles of the American Civil War ended via a charge across an open field ordered by Robert E. Lee, known as Pickett’s Charge. It’s worth watching the video if only because of the peppy music juxtaposed over some of the famous Alexander Gardner shots of dead soldiers on the battlefield.

Also on this date, Jim Morrison died, Tom Cruise was born, and Idaho became a state.

Today in 1864, plans for an underground tunnel were approved. Not to clear up congestion during rush hour. Not to add another train line, or to expand public trasnportation. It was going to be built to put a bomb under enemy lines…

…In Virginia. said this:
“On this day, Pennsylvania troops begin digging a tunnel toward the Rebels at Petersburg, Virginia, in order to blow a hole in the Confederate lines and break the stalemate.
The great campaign between Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia and Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac ground to a halt in mid-June. Having battered each other for a month and a half, the armies came to a standstill at Petersburg, just south of Richmond. Here, they settled into trenches for a long siege of the Confederate rail center.
The men of the 48th Pennsylvania sought to break the stalemate with an ambitious project. The brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Pleasants, the plan called for the men of his regiment—mostly miners from Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region—to construct a tunnel to the Confederate line, fill it with powder, and blow a gap in the fortifications.
On June 24, the plan received the approval of the regiment’s corps commander, Ambrose Burnside, and the digging commenced the following day. Burnside’s superiors, Generals Grant and George Meade, expressed little enthusiasm for the project but allowed it to proceed. For five weeks the miners dug the 500-foot long shaft, completing about 40 feet per day.
On July 30, a huge cache of gunpowder was ignited. The plan worked, and a huge gap was blown in the Rebel line. But poor planning by Union officers squandered the opportunity, and the Confederates closed the gap before the Federals could exploit the opening. The Battle of the Crater, as it became known, was an unusual event in an otherwise uneventful summer along the Petersburg line.”

This is a watered down version of the truth. What actually happened was that George Meade, who disapproved of the plan before being vetoed by Grant, wanted his White, poorly rested troops to go into battle, instead of the black regiments who were not battle tested, but where well supplied and well rested. The plan failed for two main reasons. the first being that instead of going around the gigantic crater in the middle of the line, they went right down into it. And two, they waited an hour before sending those very tired troops across the field.

Within the crater, the fighting turned to hand to hand combat. The federals and confederates shook off the guns and bullets and went to clubs and fists. The fighting was so bloody because of the sheer hatred of the situation. The war had been raging since 1861, and the feelings between the two sides had been boiling over since 1776.

The issue of slavery, as Benjamin Franklin put it, “was the snake under the table that the constitution was written.” And at this point in time (1864) the issue of slavery was not what was driving the armies. The issue of pure and absolute hatred of the enemy was driving them towards oblivion. The confederates had no food, very little supplies, and even fewer men. The union was trying desperately to break their lines and couldn’t. Not even with a bomb. After creating a huge gap in the line, the confederates re-routed and held them off. And that pure rage and frustration met in a crater in a battlefield in Virginia.

Less than a year later, the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered, effectively ending the war. The slaves were emancipated. The union persevered. And the south was beaten and bruised.

The Crater is still there at Petersburg. Only now, the hole is less prominent, and covered in grass. Nature has continued and even covered up that horrifically violent moment. And if that’s not a metaphor for something, I don’t know what is.