Dec

16

 Thanks to Stephen for recommending the book The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara, which is such a rewarding chronicle of the civil war through the eyes of one of the bravest, coolest and toughest regiments in the union army. From their volunteer start from the "western frontier" to their valiant and heroic participation nearly three years later at Gettysburg in the east–the book is woven with soldiers viewpoints via letters, diary accounts, and excellent narration from Moe. Not a book that bogs one down with dates or with the gore and carnage of war– although its difficult to not present it, the story marches through in such a way as to the tell the real story from the soldiers perspective.

Some themes:

–the respect of officers from the men even though the leaders (union) were timid and not bold enough to take the south out early.
–the lost opportunites in terms of leadership of the union during the first two years.
–the hell of marching and the moving around of the troops from place to place, retaking ground lost before, etc.
–the righteousness of the union soldier's mindset of his cause.
–the idiocy of fighting each other, why this bloodshed?
–morale was a real factor in many ways: camp morale, pre and post battle, etc. Not getting paid.
–there seemed to be a very effective postal system for the union.

Some items of note:

Chess, eucher, poker and baseball (this shocked me) were mentioned as games played in camp. After July 2nd, 1863 the day of the big battle including a 2 hour cannon shelling many men lost their hearing for a few days. The bayonet charge usually made the enemy run or break since guns and muskets took time to reload and if you were in a defensive fire position then you had to exit. Information was key and Lee seemed to have more of it from spies and spotters. Skirmishers were troops who held the buffer areas between troop concentrations and usually plinked away at each other in probing type engagements. Men improved their writing skills through letter writing over time. Coffee was big, hard tack was staple. Meat was scarce. Men could sleep at the drop of a hat. The way these troops survived day to day was unreal. Fighting in warm weather much harder then cool. Throwing away a coat (due to weight and burden) that only weeks before you would kill for. Heatstroke. The rebel yell really was the south's war cry and the northern soldiers didn't say it affected then much. The soldiers were never inspired before a battle, like governement employees they just did their job. They were given a speech once and they liked it from a general. The soldiers had a rubber backed blanket that they used in the field to sleep on (what is this item?).

Trading/trickery related? (as best I can here):

Gold was best, some men tricked by currency changers. Inflation of prices for foodstuffs. One soldier spent a lot of money on an apple pie and when the pie was cut into there was nary any apple. Armies usually were followed by sellers of food, liquor, etc. (profiteers–necessary evil to some degree) Whiskey for officers only was watched closely by the enlisted. Whiskey used as medicine. I took a double measure of whisk, and up it came. Never drink on an empty stomach. They came upon an earthworks with heavy cannon, upon closer inspection the cannon were stove pipe. Inside the work were some pitiful secesh (rebels). In order to not to miss high, the men were charged to aim for their feet.

In ending I have not read a civil war book in quite some time and decided to refresh the mind about it. Many emotions are kindled by reading about the war and what the country went through. The first Minn. as a model of coolness, obedience, level-headedness, bravery and tenacity to name just a few qualities is worth one's time to get acquainted with.


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