The Past Isn’t Dead . . .

I wrote a little about the Hanlin Novels, their titles, and WWI a few days ago. Well, it goes both ways with the Civil War – William and the war as tethered to the past as they are precusor to the 20th Century. In April 1862 William and the Army of the Potomac besieged Yorktown – in some cases they used trenches and redobts left from Washington and Rochambeau’s seige of Cornwallis.

From The Falcon

We sat before the redoubts of Yorktown, a modern army occupying the same ground our grandfathers and great grandfathers had eighty-one years before. A modern army armed with rifles and artillery that while recognizable to our forefathers on the banks of the York would have astounded them with their range, accuracy, and lethality.

For all that, though, we were just another of history’s great hosts camped before the walls of our enemy, not all that different from the Greeks before Troy.

siege of yorktown

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The Hanlin Titles

Now that The Falcon is out, I’ve been asked a few times about the titles of the Hanlin series. I wasn’t going to answer right now – until I read Drew Gilpin Faust’s article yesterday in The Atlantic.

In Two Wars and the Long Twentieth Century she compares the Civil War and World War I, finding that the Civil War was more than just a precursor. It’s a good article, if you have the time it’s more than worth it.

It also gets deep into the heart of what I’m trying to do with William Hanlin’s Civil War – it’s no coincidence that the prologue starts in April 1917 when Woodrow Wilson went before Congress to declare war on Germany.

The Civil War was the first industrialized war . . .  which came as quite the shock to everyone involved in it with the possible exception of Herman Melville (later). It started with volunteers, became a war of conscription, hundreds of thousands of troops were introduced to the effectiveness of rifles and rifled artillery.

Leach-5It was ugly and only got uglier until itPetersburg_crater_aftermath_1865 ended with the trenches of Petersburg (right) and a landscape that anyone associated with Ypres, Passchendaele (above), and the Somme would recognize in a heartbeat.

Which is why (okay, there’s more but, well, later) I used William Butler Yeat’s poem The Second Coming for the Hanlin Series titles:

titles

The highlighted text are the seven titles of the Hanlin series, all really do have special meaning . . . as I hope is self explainatory for the first book, The Ceremony of Innocence and The Falcon once you recognize George B. McClellan on the cover.

Sorry, Virginia, There’s No Such Thing as President’s Day

washYup, there’s no such holiday as President’s Day – at least officially. It’s just Congress’ way of making Washington’s birthday fit a three day weekend.(Really – see Section 6103(a) of Title 5 of the United States Code).

Washington’s birthday was a major holiday in the U.S. long before the Civil War, it was formalized as a Federal holiday in the 1880’s, it took an act of Congress in the late 1960’s to muddle the waters.  When the push started to have national three day weekend holidays, Illinois tried to roll Lincoln’s Birthday into Washington’s with the 2 President inclusive label of ‘President’s Day’. Unsurprisingly -it being only a hundred years or so since ‘the late unpleasantness’ – Virginia blocked it in the House of Representatives. The third Monday of February holidayremained Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s Birthday remains as it was – a state by state optional holiday, never a Federal holiday (for obvious reasons- see the Lost Causers, Andrew Napolitano-type Lincoln as war criminal, etc).

Interestingly, Presidents since the 1968 Act don’t seem in a hurry to correct those who refer to President’s Day, opting instead to embrace the all inclusive, let’s celebrate all the Presidents Day.

Which would pretty much be the equivalent of ‘every kid gets a trophy’ – except the kids deserve it. Take, for instance: warreng

Warren G. Harding, he gets a trophy even though he wandered around behind the bench picking daisies while the others played;

ANDwhenryh

William H. Harrison, he showed up for two practices and one game, but he wanted to be there; 

OR

john_tyler

John Tyler …. even though after election he was the other team’s most valuable player . . .

Could do this all day…. but that would be a waste of a nice, sunny, Washington’s Birthday . . .

Happy Birthday Johnathan Swift

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It’s Jonathan Swift’s birthday …. We could use a crazy Irish writer like him right now to offer A Modest Proposal on everything from Ferguson to, well, everything.

“It is a maxim among these lawyers, that whatever hath been done before may legally be done again: and therefore they take special care to record all the decisions formerly made against common justice and the general reason of mankind. These, under the name of precedents, they produce as authorities, to justify the most iniquitous opinions; and the judges never fail of decreeing accordingly.

The Eleventh Minute of the … Have You Forgotten Yet?

Perhaps if we take  a moment to remember that today is Veterans-Armistice-Remembrance Day; that at eleven past eleven this morning in 1918 The War to End All Wars ended; and then take another to really read Siegfried  Sassoon’s poem – written in the trenches – we would stop churning out veterans.

HAVE you forgotten yet? …
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow

Like clouds in the lit heavens of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same — and War’s a bloody game. …
Have you forgotten yet? …
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.
Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets.
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, “Is it all going to happen again?”
Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads – those ashen-grey
Mask of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?
Have you forgotten yet?
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.

Halloween Thoughts From William Hanlin’s World

In glades they meet skull after skull
Where pine-cones lay–the rusted gun,
Green shoes full of bones, the mouldering coat
And cuddled-up skeleton;
And scores of such. Some start as in dreams,
And comrades lost bemoan:
By the edge of those wilds Stonewall had charged–
But the Year and the Man were gone.

Bones in the Wilderness

Bones in the Wilderness

When William Hanlin and the men from Connecticut step into the Wilderness on May 5, 1864, they step into an almost impassible snarl of secondary growth – briars, thorns, brambles – under a heavy tangle of budding tree branches. Worse, the armies had fought in the same area almost exactly a year earlier, as Herman Melville points out above, skulls and mouldering coats were scattered everywhere.

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Ebola, the Eastland, and Government

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I Love These Guys

I think its safe to say governments, particularly in the form of the lower houses of law-making bodies, are usually reactionary, very rarely proactive. For the simple reason that being reactionary is a very public way of ‘solving a problem’ while proactive measures are pretty damn hard to trumpet after they work.

“Hey, the bill I sponsored, fought for, sold out my principles and friends for, stopped the sentient space zombie pig invasion before it could be launched!” Sounds great, but absent video evidence of the cruelty of said swine, a graphic outline of what they planned to do when they got here, and/or the largest pig roast in human history, everyone will simply shrug, say that was Congress’ job anyway and go on with business.

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