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 Posted: Sat Feb 4th, 2006 02:49 pm
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javal1
Grumpy Geezer


Joined: Thu Sep 1st, 2005
Location: Tennessee USA
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   Recently we found an old computer lying in the deep recesses of one of our closets, having long since crashed. I decided to try to hook the hard drive up to a working computer and see what was there. It was a gold mine. We have recovered dozens of articles that appeared on CWi over the last 10 years, many of which we thought were lost forever. We're in the process of bringing those articles back.

   We also used to write a lot more editorials than we do now. On the hard drive, I also found the first editorial ever to appear in the pages of CWi, in January 1996. Some may remember it, some may not, but it holds a special place  in my heart. BTW, don't think you can date me by the fact that I was in college... I has already served in the Navy and been married once when I entered college :shock:. Here it is...


The Long Walk
by Joe Avalon
  

   It was a crazy idea from the start, I suppose.

   Having just found out that my descendents had fought in the glorious war, I was looking for a way to understand their plight better. Being a college student in western Tennessee, a Yankee student no less, I was located a short distance from the battlefield of Shiloh. While my locale made it impossible to literally walk in my ancestors steps, as they were veterans of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, it allowed me to do the next best thing.

   I thought.

   I should know better than to think. The times in the past when I decided to think are the times I now look back on with a rather dazed and lost look on my face and wonder why. But what could be so innocent, so damn near noble, than to want to live the life of the Civil War soldier, if just for a moment or two?

   What could be so damn stupid should have been the question.

   So that was why, in a small Tennessee town in 1982, a determined northern adult college student decided to make a march. A long march. Twenty-two miles to be exact. From Corinth, Mississippi to Pittsburg Landing, Tn. I would use only the routes that the valiant southern soldiers used, through woods and thickets, making paths where need be. Eat only what they ate, to the extreme of making my own hardtack. Wear what they wore, or at least as close to the material and weight as I could get.

   What a way to bond me at a level never before reached with the souls of those that had taken the path before.

   No, not really. Actually a real good way to die in ways that I never thought about before.

   Since I was determined to be as realistic as possible, meaning avoiding paved roads, I spent two weeks contacting farmers along the route. Permission to tromp through their woods and fields was one step necessary in preventing this from being a little too realistic. I preferred to keep the gunfire in my imagination.

   Did I mention that my ancestors fought for the Union army? Imagine if you will the scene: a northerner in the deep south asking a southern farmer to help honor his northern ancestors by permitting him to trespass on his land while re-enacting the southern armies route on their way to attack the northern army. Although it made perfect sense to me, many of them looked at me the same way that guy in Deliverance did right before he made Ned Beatty squeal like a pig.

   The march occurred on a hot summer day in June. A pathetic figure was enveloped by the woods outside of Corinth, swallowed instantly by a land that still stands untouched by the passage of time. It was a matter of mere minutes before I realized that I was in deep shit. It soon became evident that nature doesn't heed the words "time out". Sense of purpose sent me further into the now darkening woods and a sense of panic began to set in. Having seen several snakes, some of them moccasins, and being set upon by untold ticks and chiggers, the truth set in.

   This was real. I hadn't cheated - and right now that wasn't good news. No cell phone or compass. No one to help. Nothing but dark ominous woods filled with things that could kill me. And a warped sense of pride (or foolishness) that prevented me from turning back. It was at that moment that I came to posses an almost worshipful view of the Civil War soldier.

   In April of 1862, tens of thousands of young southern men had made this same trek. And though they were surrounded by thousands of comrades, everyone of them, on that night, was as lonely and scared as I was on this night 120 years later. Still I tromped, closer to what I thought must be Shiloh. Blind to the left and right, feet soaked in swamp, carrying a 50 pd. backpack for realism, the original noble reason for this trek had long been forgotten. Like those in the last century, I carried on only because there was no other choice.

   Eventually I did make it to Shiloh (I knew I was close when I passed Buford Pusser's boyhood home). As I sat along Bloody Pond with torn clothes, exhausted, with nasty bites covering me, I began to cry. Not for me, although I may have felt bad enough to.

   I cried for them.

   They had made this journey too. They were probably in worse condition when they arrived. But once here, they could not sit on the banks of the pond and reflect what they had been through. Their journey through hell had just begun. In the next two days they would witness scenes not imagined by Dante. And if they made it through alive ,as some did, they would be told they were defeated and had to make that nightmare walk again.

   The point of recounting this is simple. When you read of this or that happening during the Civil War, whether it be a battle or skirmish, never think you understand. You don't. We never will, and they can never tell us. To learn the war, learn the men. Let the scholars study the battles and tactics and strategy.

For your part, remember the soldier. We owe it to them.

Last edited on Sat Feb 4th, 2006 05:41 pm by javal1

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