Williams Family from Evansville, Indiana

 

This narrative has given a glimpse of the war but it is deceiving because it leaves out the key ingredients the soldiers felt. The pain, extreme discomfort, mental anguish, grinding uncertainty and seeming lack of a strong reason would envelop the men almost daily. Yes, there were relaxing times and even pleasant times. But they were away from home and with the knowledge that you would likely suffer some horrible fate any time in the future. Cannon balls, bullets, grapeshot, bayonets, swords, typhoid, dysentery and pneumonia are only a partial list. And even if you were the luckiest of the lucky, you lost 3, 4 or 5 years of the prime of your life. Medical help was still as it was almost in the 18th century.

On the other hand the weapons and tactics of war are a leap ahead. They are devastating in their power. Rifles can kill from a half-mile away. Grape shot from cannon balls can kill dozens in one shot. Tactics in the early days often included fighting while standing in ranks. But these men were mostly as tough as America produced. They had a sardonic humor and devotion to their cause to help them along. They didnít talk much about the cause. That was done in the cities and didnít make as much sense in the field. These soldiers not only didnít use flowery language, they disdained it. It didnít carry any weight. A war so brutal and pervasive has a way of making the superfluous even disgusting. But they were very sentimental and homesickness was pervasive. Writing letters, praying and singing songs were the only way to spiritually get away for a minute or an hour. It isnít documented but it is very likely that these soldiers, who knew some of their comrades from childhood, spent whatever time they could talking about the people at home and of home itself. Unless it was just too painful it was one of the few outlets for them. It also helped them to bond even closer to each other. In every war, they say when men are in the thick of the battle they fight for their buddies and their regiment and their corps mostly. Patriotism and cause are secondary. As seen in the Ken Burns video series Civil War, their songs were somewhat melancholy and sentimental. Some of the favorites included: "Tenting Tonight, Lorena, Amazing Grace, Beautiful Dreamer, Annie Laurie, Home Sweet Home, Just Before the Battle Mother, My Old Kentucky Home, Old Folks at Home, Who Will Care for Mother Now?" and many others. Not all were melancholy. Some were of a more light-hearted nature.

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