Archive for September, 2008

The Diary of Alvin York

Monday, September 29th, 2008

     The Diary of Alvin York gave a brief look through the eyes of a World War one sharpshooter.  In his diary, he told stories of great feats which included his amazing skill and bravery.  His achievements during the war earned him celebrity status across the nation as he was greeted with blizzards of confetti and treated to delicious meals.  This made me think that maybe America, after two failed attempts, has finally learned how to treat veterans after they return home.  Almost sounds too good to be true.

     Don’t get me wrong, his inspirational tales of faith and valor made him a hero and desirably so.  However, his diary wasn’t complete as the other passages we have read so far this class.  Where’s the stories of camp life?, where’s the stories of guts, brains, and eyeballs?  Was war really that easy for him that he never complained at all?  It is great to hear a hero story but what was the war like for the average joe who never got around to capturing 132 German prisoners?  This diary seemed more like a captain America comic than a diary that can be used to study the life of a World War one veteran.  I did like reading it and I enjoyed how everything was in chronological order but it just seemed a little bit cherry for a diary about war.

Wages of War 9, 11, 12

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

    

Wages of war chapters 9, 11, and 12 gave a look into how veterans of the civil war were treated after the war. While I was reading these chapters, I had the feeling of deja vu come over me because I had a strange feeling I read this before. I don’t know if it was the same journalistic writing style that triggered this phenomenon but I found myself reading the same themes and stories as I did earlier when we read about the revolutionary soldiers problems after the war.

The civil war veterans, just like the revolutionary veterans, had a very hard time coming back into society. Now that there are two very common examples of how soldiers are received by society after a war I think it is safe to say that there is a stigma about being a soldier. Society views soldiers as they would outlaws after they come home. After hearing stories which told how soldiers killed, gambled, stole, and drank to excess, it would be hard to want to hire them and help them get back into society. Another problem that became a epidemic for soldiers was addiction to opiates. Many soldiers came home addicted to these drugs after being treated by them during the whole war. Soldiers began to represent the drug problem because they were visible on the streets as addicts. They began to represent the crime problem too because they filled prisons in every town after the war. With all this negativity surrounding the veterans it would be easy to see why getting them pensions would be a very hard task. It would take a lot of time and the work of ruthless progressives like Tanner before veterans would be viewed as they should and given their pensions.

Co. Aytch 2

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

     Chapters 13 through 17 kept up it’s entertaining pace with more battles, more humorous stories, and more gruesome details.  However, unlike previous chapters, the direction of the war was going south for Sam Watkins and the confederates.  Along with the demoralizing losses Watkins had to witness, he also had to see his friends be cut down or incredibly maimed in combat.  Sam Watkins started to miss life back home with his beloved Jenny too.  However, the tragic events he had to witness everyday did not phase his patriotism or thrust for adventure.

     There were many stories in the last five chapters of Co. Aytch that I found very interesting.  The first story I enjoyed was the story of his promotion to fourth corporal.  Normally someone earns a promotion through consistently great service but in Sam Watkins case picking up a Yankee battle flag that had been trampled by thousands was all he needed.  I think it’s funny that a man who fought bravely in all the battles he had been in only gets rewarded by accident and not for real reason why he should be promoted.  I also enjoyed the story of how Sam Watkins chooses to be a scout just because he thought he earned the extra adventure.  I don’t understand why he did because of the numerous stories we read about scouts and spies being caught and shot but he went on and did it anyway.  He did later get caught and shot at but lucky for him bullets always seem to miss by a fraction of an inch.  It was very sad at the end when he described his sentiments for the dying confederacy.  He was a very patriotic man and you could see it in his last couple of paragraphs.

Co. Aytch

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

     I want to first start out by saying that I found it refreshing when the author started out by admitting that he was old and his memory wasn’t what it used to be.  That created a sense of credibility in a weird way because he established where he was coming from and how his accounts would be told throughout the story.  I also liked when he told us to consult the history books if you want the statistics of what happened.  That went along with his format which was not complete fact but just his experience and emotions during the time.  From what I read, I trust that his story was for the most part un-biased and agenda free.

     Along with being credible, Co. Aytch was very entertaining to read.   I liked how he went into gruesome detail of how war is really like.  I don’t know why but nothing keeps pages turning like severed eye balls or soldiers with thier guts spilled out everywhere.  Also, I enjoyed how he went to great detail to describe what soldiers would do for fun while they were not fighting.  I found the story of the larking pretty funny because it gave me a sense that they were young adults just like us.  He also wasn’t shy about saying what he really felt about generals and higher officers; especially General Bragg.  That showed that war can reveal the greatness in others and the cruelity in some too.  Lastly, I found it funny how he went in great detail about all the beautiful women he saw throughout his experience.  If he went into the same amount of detail about the battles as he did the women he saw, then Co. Aytch would be regarded as the best civil war book of all time.

Suffering Soldiers

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

After reading Suffering Soldiers, I am a true believer that time heals all wounds.  A lot changed from the dark description of post war life that we read in Wages of War.  Once 1812 rolled around, a new found nostalgia took over a young nation and changed how veterans were perceived and how they were to be treated.  The spirit of 76 gave birth to many monuments, many bills that were in favor of giving veterans benefits, and many heartfelt speeches from orators on the fourth of July.

     What really created this phenomenon was the image of the suffering soldier.  This image quickly became part of the America’s political culture.  The two major parties of the time, the Federalists and the Republicans, both used the image of the suffering soldier and the spirit of 76 to back any issue they were supporting.  One example of this was the issue of whether or not there should be a standing continental army.  The party that was against a standing army, the republicans, used the spirit of 76 to say that the patriots of the revolution were citizen soldiers not paid soldiers.  The federalist, the party for a standing army, used the spirit of 76 to say a stronger army is necessary to keep our country’s fighting spirit.  Both parties also used the image of the suffering soldiers to back whatever benefit bill for veterans.

     I think this instance gave us a future look into how politics will cater to veterans after a war has been accepted by the public.  Both political parties used the revolutionary war to back completely different stand points on issues.  Once a war becomes popular enough, politicians will jump on the bandwagon and give the veterans the support they didn’t get when the war was just over or still going on.

Knox vs Shays

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

     Henry Knox and Daniel Shays were great men that served their country honorably during the American Revolution.  They both received an elegant sword from Col. Humphreys in recognition of their heroism and valor.  They were both officers that were valued enough to be a part of the exclusive society of Cincinnati.  During the war Knox and Shays were both on the same fast track to fame and glory; however, after the war they took completely different paths.  Henry Knox would become a successful businessman and politician and Daniel Shays would become a poor farmer and a public enemy.

     I think the reason these two heroes went in different directions after the war was not mainly because of their different beliefs but because they represented two different economic classes.  Daniel Shays represented the large group of veterans that went back to farming after the war and suffered because of taxes and debtors.  Henry Knox on the other hand represented a rich merchant who had many successful businesses and many connections.  The merchants had it a lot easier coming out of the war than the farmers.  The Government taxed small farmers more and big farmers less, the courts would take the side of creditors and throw farmers in debtors prison, and along with all that they were never paid anything for their time in the war.  Henry Knox however was pretty content with the post war conditions just as long as his idea of the Cincinnati was accepted by congress.  Honor was enough to please the rich, but poor veterans like Daniel Shays needed what they were promised to survive.

    Daniel Shays was very disgruntled and he was unfairly cast as a public enemy by the Government and media.  He stood up for his beliefs and refused to take any gift from the government that wasn’t what they promised.  The Government tried to take the easy way out by passing out honors to veterans instead of coin money but Daniel Shays didn’t stand for it.  He was simply a farmer after the war and he needed money to survive like many suffering veterans during this time.

Wages of War

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

    

     After reading chapters 1 and 2, I think it’s pretty funny that the title of the book is “Wages of War” when one of the most important themes of this book is the failure of wars to produce wages for the people who fought in it.  The first two chapters clearly stated the soldiers who risked their lives for were forgotten and mistreated.  They were promised wages and a chance to move up in society; however, they ended up in a hole that they would not get out of until the 19th century.  In this hole they would not be able to get a decent job, they would not be able to escape creditors, and they would not receive any help from the Government they fought for.

     The Government was incapable of giving the soldiers what they deserved because it had the hard task of nurturing a new country.  The Continental Congress was just as useless as the money they printed.  They could only raise $500,000 from the states a year and that happened to price it would cost to pay the veterans.  They also had the issue of who to pay first.  The Government was already in debt to other countries and they had to repay them in order to keep good credit with the world.  The Government had to do what was most important before they could help the veterans.

     I was inspired at the end when George Washington was faced with a possible mutiny from his officers.  The officers knew that they were most likely not going to be paid at all and they sent George Washington a letter stating that fate had a limit and the army has an alternative.  George Washington responded by telling them that he was suffering as much as they were and by warning them not to do something that would jeopardize the honor and dignity they earned by fighting for freedom.  The officers decided to keep their honor and decided to keep faith in Washington.  This showed that even though the conditions were rough, there was a strong belief that kept these soldiers going and made them real patriots.

Reaction to Joesph Plumb Martin’s diary.

Monday, September 1st, 2008

   Joseph Plumb Martin’s diary was a very compelling look through a revolutionary soldier’s eyes that was very descriptive and interesting.  However, as much as it was entertaining to read, I have to wonder how much was exaggeration and how much was fact.  I first took notice of the terrible living conditions that Joseph Martin said he had to face.  He said that in the month of November he said that he had no provisions, no clothes, and no shoes on his feet.  Under those conditions it would be a miracle that he would not die of frost-bite let alone a British siege.  Also, his descriptions were pretty vivid for being told 55 years after the fact.  Many things could have changed during that time span; his views, his agenda, and his story.

     After reading Joseph Martin’s reflections on his enlistment and discharge, I noticed he wasn’t too pleased with how he and other soldiers were treated after the war.  I was appalled when he said he only received one payment of six dollars and two thirds.  After all the hardship Martin said he had to go through, it would be understandable if he was severely disgruntled.  His disappointment with the government could have caused him to embellish the truth to make the injustice seem even greater than what it actually was.  I’m not going to say he completely fabricated his experience as a veteran but after 55 years of being treated unfairly it would be easy to write with the agenda to receive what he thinks he deserves.  Joseph Plumb was known for his exaggerations and his memoir has lost credibility because of them.