Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Today in History

some thoughts on today in history by Ned Stuckey-French, author of The American Essay in the American Century

Today is the 138th (!) birthday of the great American novelist, short story writer and essayist Willa Cather. Here is the opening of A Lost Lady (1923): "Thirty or forty years ago, in one of those grey towns along the Burlington railroad, which are so much greyer today than they were then, there was a house well known from Omaha to Denver for its hospitality and for a certain charm of atmosphere. Well known, that is to say, to the railroad aristocracy of the time; men who had to do with the railroad itself, or with one of the “land companies” which were its by-products. In those days it was enough to say of a man that he was “connected with the Burlington.” There were the directors, the general managers, vice-presidents, superintendents, who names we all knew; and their younger brothers were auditors, freight agents, departmental assistants. Everyone “connected” with the Road, even the large cattle- and grain-shippers, had annual passes; they and their families rode about over the line a great deal. There were then two distinct social strata in the prairie States; the homesteaders and hand-workers who were there to make a living, and the bankers and gentlemen ranchers who came from the Atlantic seaboard to invest money and to “develop our great West,” as they used to tell us."

I love the ominousness of "greyer," the way the word begins to hint at decline and at a critique of American exceptionalism; the list of titles and "connectedness" that reminds us of the incorporation of America during the last half of the 19th century; the mixed and souring nostalgia for the railroad without mentioning explicitly that the Road is being replaced by the automobile and Fordism; the ironizing quotation marks and veiled dig at a nepotism that undercuts the meritocratic American Dream; and finally, especially, the subtle shift to a first-person plural in which that disembodied narrative voice is at least partially embodied and placed in an "us" that is talked to and at by that aforementioned ruling class of "connected" corporate managers and land speculators.

The photo is of Cather and her college sweetheart/friend Louis Pound, who would become a noted folklorist and the first woman president of the Modern Language Association.
Before FDR went to Congress to ask for a Declaration of War and brand Dec. 7 "a day which will live in infamy," Eleanor published her daily column: "WASHINGTON, DECEMBER 8, 1941 - I was going out in the hall to say goodbye to our cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Adams, and their children, after luncheon, and, as I stepped out of my room, I knew something had happened. All the secretaries were there, two telephones were in use, the senior military aides were on their way with messages. I said nothing because the words I heard over the telephone were quite sufficient to tell me that, finally, the blow had fallen, and we had been attacked.

Attacked in the Philippines, in Hawaii, and on the ocean between San Francisco and Hawaii. Our people had been killed not suspecting there was an enemy, who attacked in the usual ruthless way which Hitler has prepared us to suspect.

Because our nation has lived up to the rules of civilization, it will probably take us a few days to catch up with our enemy, but no one in this country will doubt the ultimate outcome. None of us can help but regret the choice which Japan has made, but having made it, she has taken on a coalition of enemies she must underestimate unless she believes we have sadly deteriorated since our first ships sailed into her harbor.

The clouds of uncertainty and anxiety have been hanging over us for a long time. Now we know where we are. The work for those who are at home seems to be obvious. First, to do our own job, whatever it is, as well as we can possibly do it. Second, to add to it everything we can do in the way of civilian defense. Now, at last, every community, must go to work to build up protection from attack.

We must build up the best possible community services, so that all of our people may feel secure because they know we are standing together and that whatever problems have to be met will be met by the community and not one lone individual. There is no weakness and insecurity when once this is understood."

Photo - Eleanor visits Pearl Harbor in 1943.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Author Spotlight

By: Sarah Mason, Sales Intern

The Press's December spotlight is author Nancy McCabe, author of Crossing the Blue Willow Bridge: A Journey to My Daughter's Birthplace in China.

What first got you interested in teaching?

I never really set out to be a teacher. I always wanted to be a writer. But I got a teaching assistantship to support myself through my MFA, and I realized what a privilege it is to be able to make a living just sharing what I love with others--words, images, sentences, stories, writing, literature. While many writers feel that teaching and grading papers drains away their energy for writing, when I was young and for many years teaching four sections of freshman composition a semester, I never felt that way; for me, teaching and writing seemed to feed each other. Teaching mostly creative writing and journalism these days, I still find there to be a symbiotic relationship between teaching and writing and gain a lot of inspiration from my students. But it also seems like there is never enough time to follow up on all of the writing ideas and book recommendations and intriguing conversations that arise from my work with students.

What is your favorite thing about China? Any advice for new travelers to China?

I love seeing China through my daughter’s eyes. She feels so comfortable and happy there and is always willing to give other people the benefit of the doubt, which is an important lesson in the fascinating and exasperating attempt to bridge the gap between two vastly different cultures and languages.

Any advice for new travelers?

The differences in Chinese languages and English, particularly the way we use tone, mean that we even express emotions differently so there is so much potential for misunderstanding. Sometimes Americans translate differences in the ways we use tone as hostility. For instance, many adoptive parents travel to their children's orphanages and are sure that their requests are being ignored or turned down when in fact they are often not being understood. Last summer, we returned to my daughter’s orphanage for a second time, and I had a very specific request. I kept getting answers that sounded like “no,” but I kept rewording, pantomiming, re-enacting, whatever I could do to get the question across because I wasn’t sure that I was being understood. Sophie wanted me to give up, but I asked about 24 times in 24 different ways, and suddenly someone got it and once that happened, everyone was eager to help us. Sometimes people will seem to be saying no because they don’t understand and they’re embarrassed and want to save face, and you have to be persistent and keep your sense of humor if you want to communicate.

Do you plan to write again about the opportunities and challenges of your adoption experience?

To me, the joy of creative nonfiction is the chance to explore subjects that nag at me, about which I have questions, not pat answers or resolutions. So it's natural that, as an adoptive parent, I've found myself writing about the subject quite a bit. I've always loved learning new things, and creative nonfiction is a way to do that--to ask questions and do research and share the process and the results with readers. So I don't really consider myself an adoption writer or an adoption expert, but just someone who uses writing as a way to explore the challenges I face. My daughter is thirteen now, and I’ve got a lot of other projects in the works, and I’ve vowed not to write any more about us or adoption—but I’m working on a couple of essays about our time in China last summer. And there’s an adoption story in my family history that I’d like to write about at some point. In the end, subjects choose you more than you choose them, so who knows?

What are your hobbies/interests outside of your profession?

As a single parent with two jobs, my schedule is almost always maxed out, and my survival strategy is to not compartmentalize, but make everything a part of everything else—all that to say that there aren’t a lot of boundaries between my professional and personal life. I’m a parent and I’ve written a lot about parenting, and when I’m obsessed with something, say, fiction about time travel—I can create a course in time travel fiction. My daughter is a gymnast and I spend a lot of time at meets, so I find myself immersed in a world and a language that at first felt foreign to me, but I enjoy learning about it and imagine writing about it someday. Other hobbies and interests (all of which I have also written about) include travel, music, and dance (I was part of a tap dance group for several years.) I read voraciously—fiction, memoir, psychology, children’s and young adult literature, poetry. My daughter and I read a lot of the same books at the same time on our Kindles when we were in China last summer. I’d laugh and she’d say, “Oh, you got to THAT part” or she’d groan and I’d say, “Oh, I know, I thought so too.” It’s one of my favorite memories of our trip.

Why did you decide to write about your experiences, instead of sticking to fiction?

I started out as a fiction writer. I preferred the disguises of fiction even when what I was writing was autobiographical. So I wrote a story about a 20-year-old who honeymoons in the Lily Tomlin Shrine Room of Rosalea’s Hotel in downtown Harper, KS, and questions her ill-conceived marriage and her whole existence. I wrote another story about a woman’s terrifying experience of being awakened by an intruder shining a flashlight in her eyes. I wrote another story about a burnt out crisis counselor who has what feels like a psychic experience.

None of those stories felt like they were quite working, and eventually I realized that they made a lot more sense when I admitted that I was the 20-year-old in the Lily Tomlin Shrine Room, a place that became even more bizarre and surreal and less a seemingly strangely placed symbolic element when it was clear that it wasn’t a creation of my imagination but something that had really existed. I was the woman who had encountered the Flashlight Man, and I was the exhausted domestic abuse counselor who woke in the night at the moment a neighbor’s husband set her bed on fire. I came to understand that fiction was actually pulling me away from the stories I needed to tell. Casting those stories as fiction was like observing them through gauze; stripping that away, and addressing what had really happened, and why, restored the drama that fiction had drained away. But I still write fiction, too. It’s freeing to be able to make stuff up sometimes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good Books for Traveling

by Sarah Mason, Sales Intern

As the holidays approach, we are all busy planning our highly anticipated trips to visit our friends and family. During those long rides in the car, plane, bus or train, we all look for something to entertain us to avoid just looking out the window as the buildings or clouds roll by. I'll be book shopping for a few flights I have and wondered what others have enjoyed. I asked a few of the Press's affiliates what kind of books they enjoyed reading during their many travels, and here's what they recommended:

I've been particularly impressed with the beautiful The Art of the Missouri Capitol: History in Canvas, Bronze, and Stone by Bob Priddy and Jeffrey Ball.  While this might not be a convenient book to throw in an overnight bag, it will inspire readers to travel to Jefferson City to visit one of Missouri's architecture and artistic treasures. Priddy and Ball do a wonderful job of telling the story of the building's completion and Lloyd Grotjan's photographs are stunning.
--Greg Olson, author of The Ioway in Missouri

I like some light reading while traveling. On a recent weekend trip, I read the Hunger Games trilogy, which was a fabulous quick and action-packed adventure. Well-written thrillers are also a favorite; I just finished The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams and am eagerly awaiting the next Dublin Murder Squad installment.
--Jennifer Gravley, publicity manager

I'd recommend Melissa Coleman's memoir, This Life Is In Your Hands; it's a raw and moving account of growing up the child of back-to-the-landers in Maine in the 1970s. Sad and startling and redemptive, it is the best sort of memoir to my way of thinking: a personal story that illuminates our collective history. 
--E.J. Levy
, author of Amazons: A Love Story

One of the books I always highly recommend to folks is River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard. It's a true adventure story about a little-known part of Roosevelt's life. Both men's and women's  book clubs in our area have read it and the book gets accolades from all. Read it when you're traveling and I guarantee that no matter how many inconveniences you experience, they pale by comparison with Roosevelt's trip down the Amazon River.
--Bob Plumb, author of Your Brother in Arms: A Union Soldier's Odyssey

I have a pretty full plate of literary and non-literary activities, so my casual reading is catch-as-catch  can.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) my wife and I travel a good deal so I have some airplane-and-motel time to catch up.   The novels of Alan Furst about spies and expats in late 30's and early World War II Europe are always fascinating.  The author has researched time and place exhaustively and it shows to great effect.  Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a marvel and a delight to read. Equally informative and well written is any book by Simon Winchester who outdoes himself in his latest effort, Atlantic.  Erik Larson's In The Garden of the Beasts is also well-worth a read.
--Lisle Rose, author of Explorer: The Life of Robert E. Byrd

Usually, around this time of year, I read Hilaire Belloc's essay, "A Remaining Christmas," a really wonderful essay with Belloc at the height of his power.  This year I am also tackling a new biography of Jacques Barzun and the new edition of Eliot's letters.
--Gerald Russello
, author of The Postmodern Imagination of Russell Kirk

The new edition of Eric Voegelin's Autobiographical Reflections should be on every American's bookshelf.
My addition would be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen because I enjoy Elizabeth Bennet's strong character. 

No matter if you're in to sci-fi, current events, history, psychology, or a good romantic novel, there's nothing like picking up a great book that draws you in that you just can't put down. Happy reading! And happy traveling!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shades of Blue and Gray, Part II

By Pamela Chase Hain and Robert C. Plumb

This is the second installment in a series of posts about the Civil War experience from the perspective of two soliders, George McClelland from the Union and Thomas Wragg from the Confederacy. To read the first post, please scroll down to the September 28 posting or simply click here.

What was the soldier’s attitude toward generals and other officers?

Blue- George McClelland

The further up the chain of command that officers were, the more critical George McClelland seems to be of them. At the company level, the lowest rung of the officer command level, McClelland finds his F Company commander, Edward E. Clapp, “The noblest soul I ever met.” (July 3, 1864)

On the other hand, the officers commanding the Army of the Potomac are generally scorned by McClelland. “McClellan’s strategy is played out. Pope is not much better. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson is a match for the whole of them.” (August 1862) “Joe Hooker is in command now. Well, my opinion is that he is not the man.” (February 14, 1863) “A soldier can see a great difference or change since Meade was placed in command. Short rations – one day we marched 28 miles without bread, meat or coffee.” (July 19, 1863) “Meade was afraid of a few rifle pits and let [Lee] escape without loss …. The fact of the matter is Meade was afraid of Lee.” (July 21, 1863) “The Army has no confidence in Meade since that slip at Williamsport [following Gettysburg].” (July 31, 1863)

Early in his tenure as general in chief, Grant does not generate an unfavorable or favorable opinion from McClelland. The soldier is ambivalent when Grant first takes command. “I can’t get it into my thick noddle that Grant is the man. I want to believe and hope he is, but there it is. I cannot explain it.” (April 23, 1864) As the war moves into 1865, McClelland does not write a negative opinion of Grant. By the absence of an unfavorable judgment, we can assume that McClelland is neutral or even slightly positive about Grant. His later references to Grant suggest that McClelland and Grant will win the war together as they wear down the Rebels. McClelland never questions Grant’s competence.

McClelland does soften his opinions of McClellan and Hooker over time. Perhaps this change in his impressions of the two generals is influenced by camp gossip and the opinion of his peers. Soldiers in the Army of the Potomac generally have move favorable opinions of McClellan and Hooker after the generals have left their positions of leadership.

Gray- Thomas Wragg

Following the Battle of Bull Run, in August 1861, Wragg said that the troops preferred Beauregaard over Johnston, since when the Army was in or near Martinsburg, Johnston retreated to Winchester instead of attacking the enemy there. Wragg, however, felt that Johnston knew what he was doing and said he would follow Johnston was well as Beauregard or anyone else. His greatest complaint about his superiors was in their failure to pay the troops and for the poor rations.The end of August he wrote: It is very strange that we have not been paid one cent since we have been in the service of the C. S. and it is going on to 4 months from the time we enlisted, our officers have been paid up for the last 2 months and it is my opinion that they don’t bother themselves about us or our pay. It would be a great help to us, but they don’t seem to care whether we get it or not." Wragg's first earnings were in September when he was only paid up to 1 July.

The 8th Georgia, in which Wragg served, saved their greatest dislike for Thomas L. Cooper, who, in August 1961 was placed in charge of the regiment and promoted from Major to Lt. Col.. The entire regiment, both officers and men, signed a petition to have him resign as their commander. They gave their petition to Cooper, who refused. Then, the end of December, Cooper was thrown from his horse in an accident, and died. Cooper's hometown newspaper, contrary to Wragg's report, stated that Cooper was a man of "great personal worth and popularity." Wragg felt that, although no one liked him, they were sorry to hear of his death.

What was the food quality and quantity that soldiers ate while in the field?

Blue- George McClelland

The availability and quality of food significantly improved as the Army of the Potomac’s logistics and commissary capabilities were enhanced as the war progressed. At the beginning of George McClelland’s service, the food provided by the army was supplemented with items foraged by the soldiers. “We go to an adjacent cornfield, get some corn. Next get a tin plate …. then grind our corn into meal, boil it and, for a change, fry it…. Had to kill a couple of hogs and dress them. I, in company with three others, went down to a house and bought a couple of chickens, got some potatoes and corn, borrowed a sauce pan, built a fire and had a nice chicken pie.” (Near Shepherdstown, VA [later West Virginia], September 25, 1862)

Resourcefulness in supplementing their army-supplied fare with local fish also occurred. “The mess dined on fresh fish – caught with pin hooks – and fried mush.” (October 14, 1862)

When supply wagons lagged behind the troops on the march, regular meals suffered. “Short rations – one day we marched 28 miles without bread, meat or coffee. Reason? Supply train wasn’t up.” (July 19, 1863)

Occasionally food from home was sent along with personal items to McClelland as was the case with many soldiers in the Army of the Potomac. “I’ve received in a box some nice underclothing, a can of delicious peaches and a box of sardines, together with a pair of boots.” (November 3, 1862) However, due to irregular mail service, some food boxes from home with perishables did not fare well. “Lizzie, I got that box which was sent from Pittsburgh. The eatables were pretty badly spoiled being almost a month on the way.” (December 19, 1863)

One staple in the Union soldier’s diet – hard tack crackers – drew a sarcastic report from George McClelland: “It is astonishing the variety of dishes we have. Had hard tack plain, crackers ala mode, ‘tack Americanaise,’ cracker scouse [stew], crackers roasted, fried and boiled.” (January 10, 1863)

Gray- Thomas Wragg

Almost from the beginning of Wragg's service in the Confederate Army he complained about the food, or lack of it. In June 1861 he wrote his father that he was getting tired of military life, but that he didn't think he would if they gave them enough to eat. He complained that the food was not fit to be eaten by a dog, the "fatest kind of bacon and spoiled at that." Coffee was supplied once a day and was "not fit to drink." On June 17 he wrote his brother that there were orders, no food could be sold in camp due to their fear the food might be poisoned. Instead, one man sold eggs and butter at 12 1/2 cents per dozen and pound. Another man sold 800-900 eggs every day. In a name that said it all, their camp near Winchester on July 9 was named Camp Starvation.

Wragg was continually asking his father for money which he needed to buy extra food. He explained that they only got a small allowance of molasses to sweeten their coffee which they received once a day or not at all. If they had a little change, they could buy brown sugar or milk. Their rations included a piece of salt meat, some flour and water mixed (and made) into bread. The three days they were in Martinsburg they had nothing to eat but a piece of meat and bread in the morning at 4 a.m. and nothing until the next day. Many a night he said he went to bed with nothing to eat.

By the end of July, he told his sister that the money she sent was of no use as there was nothing to buy. It was only rarely possible to send to Richmond for food. Instead he started asking his family to send him a trunk with food: ham, smoked beef, sardines, sugar and coffee. He saw one soldier with a watermelon and he couldn't get it out of his mind for several months, repeatedly asking his family to send him one. In October Wragg told his sister that "the Confederate States gives us in place of coffee one gill of Whiskey a day," but as he didn't drink he exchanged it for molasses. In October, the trunk Wragg asked for finally arrived. Based on what he asked for, it contained food, a pair of boots, pants, and other clothes--all carefully provided and made at much effort and sacrifice by his grandmother and sisters. Sadly, however, the Eighth Georgia was forced to send all their surplus clothing to the Station, including his trunk, clothes, and two blankets, a box of "eatables" from his grandmother, where it was later burned along with quantities of provisions and baggage of all sorts that could not be brought with them when the army evacuated Manassas Junction and moved back to Winchester.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

In honor of the spookiest day of the year, we've collected a few of the staff's memories of books that had them checking under the bed at night. Have you ever been spooked by a story? If not, there's no better night to have the hair on the back of your neck raised!

"When I was younger (middle school) I was really into Stephen King’s short stories. But I couldn’t read his novels because they were too violent. That kind of encounter scared me more than one with ghosts or unseen creatures. Probably because by that age I understood just how violent the world really was and how that type of brutality could really happen. Now, I can’t pick up a scary book. The most creepy thing I read is US Weekly!"
-Beth Chandler, Marketing Manager

"When I was in an education class in college, I had to read a Fear Street book. The elementary ed students had to read a Goosebumps book, which didn’t seem fair at all. I wasn’t jealous of the word count or reading level—I was afraid that R.L. Stine’s YA line might be too scary for me. Somehow I made it through the book in the end, even if I had an elevated heart rate the whole time."
-Jennifer Gravley, Publicity Manager

"Growing up, my mom wouldn't let me read the Goosebumps series (see Jennifer's post) because she knew I'd get too scared. By the time I reached middle school, though, I had autonomy over my book selection. I wanted to read a thriller, so I picked out a Mary Higgins Clark novel and it definitely delivered. I can remember looking over my shoulder and double checking the locked doors for quite a while after finishing it. I guess that goes to show you that mother knows best."
-Emily Ronco, Publicity Intern

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shades of Blue and Gray: A Civil War Comparison

By Pamela Chase Hain and Robert C. Plumb

This blog post is an ongoing examination of the differences between a Confederate soldier/sailor and a Union soldier by the authors of A Confederate Chronicle: The Life of a Civil War Survivor (Pamela Chase Hain) and Your Brother in Arms: A Union Soldier’s Odyssey (Robert C. Plumb.) Both books are part of the Shades of Blue and Gray Series on the Civil War published by the University of Missouri Press.

This discussion will explore the differences (and similarities) of two active participants in the Civil War over a number of issues as they fought on opposite sides of what became one of the bloodiest and most transformative periods in American history. The content of this blog post represents the experiences of two individuals and their environments. While these comparisons may reflect the situations of many members of both the Confederate and Union armies, they are not meant to be extrapolated or generalized. Thomas Wragg and George McClelland are not archetypes or prototypes. They are two bright, independent young men who were drawn into a conflict that tested them beyond any measure that they had ever been tested before.

Readers are encouraged to post their comments, observations and challenges to what is written here.

George Pressly McClelland – Enlisted in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and served with the 155th Pennsylvania Infantry, Army of the Potomac, from August 1862 until his discharge in June, 1865 when the Union army was demobilized. Rising from private to brevet major, he participated in nearly all of the battles fought by the Army of the Potomac during the time of his service from Gettysburg to Petersburg and dozens of places in between. He was wounded in action twice; his second wound, at Five Forks, Virginia in April 1865, was disabling and he spent the remainder of his service in hospitals in Petersburg, Washington City and Pittsburgh.

Thomas L. Wragg -- Thomas Wragg, a Savannah resident, fought as a private with the 8th Georgia Regiment for a year and then returned to Savannah where he joined the Confederate Navy, becoming a Master in the Savannah River Squadron. He studied ordnance and gunnery under a former Federal naval officer on board the CSS Georgia, but was captured on his first venture out to sea on board the CSS Atlanta, an ironclad ship. Wragg spent eighteen months in prison on Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, was paroled and returned to fight with the James River Squadron until the War ended.

1. Why did they go to war? What outside pressure was there to join?

Blue - George McClelland

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a hot bed of Union sentiment before Lincoln won the election of 1860 and only became more intense after he was inaugurated. Signs were placed on lampposts in the city after the surrender of Fort Sumter that read: “Death to traitors.” Recruiting posters appeared throughout Pittsburgh starting in April 1861 and the political, business and religious leaders of the city became active spokesmen encouraging young men to enlist in the regiments that were being quickly formed in Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County. The governor, local judges, professors, clergy and prominent businessmen alike urged the city’s young men to enlist for the sake of the Union.

Speakers often recalled the Revolution and the need to sustain the work of the founding fathers in establishing the Republic. The thrust of most speakers was a strong appeal to the supremacy of constitutional law and the preservation of the Union. By spring 1862, it was very difficult for a young man, such as George McClelland, to conduct his daily affairs or walk down a city street without being exposed to calls to enlist to save the Union. There is scant evidence to indicate that Pittsburgh leadership or the average citizen in the city saw the abolition of slavery as a primary rationale to enlist or fight the Secessionists. George McClelland never mentions slavery, abolition or emancipation in the letters he wrote to his family from the front lines of the war.

Gray – Thomas Wragg

There has been much debate as to why Southerners were compelled to go to War. Was it "states rights" or was it slavery. Even in the last year the arguments either way rage on in the local paper. In my book, A Confederate Chronicle: The Life of a Civil War Survivor, I have concluded that my great grandfather, Thomas Wragg did not go to war for either reason. He went to war for the same reason that Robert E. Lee went to war: it was his duty. In Lee's case, it was duty to his State. The understanding of the word duty in the mind of a 19th century individual is different from today. It held a great deal more meaning. Duty was compulsory for a man of "honor"--another 19th century word that held a lot more sway that it does today.

Thomas was 18 years old when the war began. His father was a respected physician living in an elegant town house near the Savannah River. They, no doubt, had a few slaves to keep house, cook and take care of the horse and buggy the doctor used to travel to see patients. Those few slaves were not his reason for going to war. What compelled him to go was the emotional and indignant outcry from the populous claiming that it was every mans' duty to fight against the northerners--for every variety of reasons. I could imagine the young, recent high school graduate asking his father why he should join the Oglethorpe Light Infantry, later to become the 8th Georgia Regiment, and go to fight the north, and his father saying: "It is your duty." That was enough of a reason. He didn't need slavery or states rights. One statement Wragg made at the beginning of the War convinces me that he did not have a clear ideological reason for going to war. He said: "I wish they would fight and be done with it so we could live." Those words would not have come from a man committed to a cause. When he found out that his older brother was joining a regiment in Charleston, SC, he wrote to his father: "I wish I could do his duty as well as mine."

2. What was the soldier’s attitude toward the enemy? Did it change?

Blue - George McClelland

McClelland occasionally characterizes the Confederates as “traitors” – in some cases as “foul traitors” – in his letters during the duration of his service. Usually, however, he refers to his foes simply as “Sesech” or “Rebs,” terms that are more an acknowledgement of misguided opponents than despised enemies. He has admiration for Robert E. Lee and “Stonewall” Jackson as brave and talented military strategists reserving his dislike for the Confederate political leadership: e.g. Jefferson Davis and his “hell born Confederacy.” (April 1864) Even stronger is McClelland’s dislike for northern Democrats when he refers to the “ravings of the traitorous Copperheads.” (April 1864)

Overall McClelland has a conciliatory attitude toward his enemy and recognizes that the “Rebs” will become brothers once again in the future when the war is over and the Union made whole once again. “[E]ven if the Union is again restored whole, generations will have come and gone before the bitter recollections of the war will perish and brotherly concord intervene between the two sections.” (January 1863) This attitude of reconciliation after the war and “brotherly concord” are very different from the perceptions and descriptions of enemies in wars fought by the U.S. since the Civil War. In these later conflicts, vilification of the enemy – including exaggerated stereotypes – have been common. McClelland’s dislike for his enemy is primarily philosophical and institutional and not usually directed at the individual Confederate soldier. This attitude did not change during the course of his service throughout the war.

Gray – Thomas Wragg

When Thomas Wragg first arrived in Harpers Ferry with the Eighth Georgia Regiment, he was more interested in thinking about his girl friend back home, food and other creature comforts . He referred to the Federals as the "Yankees,"and showed little interest in engaging in battle with them. Following the first battle at Bull Run and the death of his commander, Col. Francis Bartow, and so many of his hometown friends, he called the Federal troops "the enemy" and his feelings hardened. He spoke of seeing the "once Glorious Stars and Stripes" in the distance. And yet, although he fought for almost eight hours at Bull Run, he was shooting blind, and appeared not to connect the shooting with killing. His father must have asked him how many Yankees he had killed. He responded: "I can only say that I am certain of one". This was a man who rode in front of his forces waving a sword. "I took good aim and fired, he fell. I did not wait to see more but got out of their way." Following the battle, the Confederates took every possession from the Federal dead including their clothes and buried the dead in shallow graves. Wild hogs dug them up, ate the flesh and scattered the bones on the ground. With a clinical, unemotional voice, Wragg wrote to his doctor father that he wanted to bring him home a man's skull, no doubt to display in his medical office. However, having no way to send it home, Wragg did not take it. But other Confederate soldiers, he confided, took home fingers and toes as souvenirs. To them, the Yankees were not humans--they were alien hordes come down to destroy life as they knew it.