Question for Colin Kaepernick

My cousin Bob Foote has a question for Colin Kaepernick and other athletes protesting the American flag because of how this country treats black people:

During the Civil War, some 500,000 men gave their lives to end slavery.  They fought and died under what flag?

“Bring to his work a mighty heart”

In observance of today’s holiday, the Daily Oklahoman printed excerpts of a Memorial Day address by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in 1889, when the memory of the Civil War was still fresh.  You’ve got to read this speech.  It features an eloquence and a depth of sensibility that we almost never hear today, certainly not from politicians or other public figures.

He talks about the honored dead, of course, but he also makes applications about what the generations that follow can learn from them and from observing Memorial Day.

I give a brief sample after the jump, but please click the link and read the whole thing. [Read more…]

Two kinds of masculinity

Imagine my surprise and my pride in seeing my cousin’s daughter quoted by David Brooks in the New York Times.  Lorien Foote is a Civil War historian at Texas A&M.  She is utterly brilliant and a true expert in her field.  (When she visited us in Virginia, we took a drive through Loudon County, during which time she explained what happened during the war at nearly every turn of the road.)

Anyway, she wrote a much-acclaimed book called The Gentlemen and the Roughs:  Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army (New York University Press).   David Brooks uses it as a jump-off point to criticize Donald Trump’s treatment of women.  But her book has far more applications than that. [Read more…]

Civil War photos online

The Library of Congress has acquired thousands of Civil War photographs and has put them online.  Here is a slide show sampling.  My favorites are from the Liljenquist Family collection of individual and family portraits., which the Library of Congress is making available freely, with no copyright restrictions.

These put a human face, literally, on history and on the Civil War, and I find them very moving.  (The custom was to have a picture taken in your uniform before you set off for war, knowing that you might never be coming back.  Some of the pictures of boys still in adolescence show a fierce bravado that is belied by their baby faces.  The pictures of the men with their wives and children show both courage and sadness.)  I post one after the jump.  (Notice the emotion in this formal pose in the way the husband and wife are holding onto each other’s hands.) [Read more…]

The youth who stopped Pickett’s Charge

President Obama will reward the Congressional Medal of Honor to two  Viet Nam War vets, Sgt. Maj. Bennie G. Adkins and, posthumously, Specialist Donald P. Sloat (who jumped on a grenade to save three comrades). Also winning the nation’s highest honor posthumously is Lt. Alonzo Cushing, a 22-year-old who commanded an artillery battery that took the brunt of Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg.  Read what he did after the jump.

 

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_oNrGEbZjtPo/S_QHIz7FdtI/AAAAAAAADvY/mCiUnPbXBdI/s1600/Cushing.jpg
[Read more…]

The etiquette of dueling

David Mills has come across a fascinating text online,  The Code of Honor;, by John Lyde Wilson.  It’s a booklet from 1837 giving the proper etiquette for dueling.

It gives the different kinds of insults that require satisfaction, the note the insulted party sends demanding an explanation, the way to issue challenges, the quite considerable role of seconds, and more.  Here is the section on proper conduct on the field of honor:

1. The principals are to be respectful in meeting, and neither by look or expression irritate each other. They are to be wholly passive, being entirely under the guidance of their seconds.

2. When once posted, they are not to quit their positions under any circumstances, without leave or direction of their seconds.

3. When the principals are posted, the second giving the word, must tell them to stand firm until he repeats the giving of the word, in the manner it will be given when the parties are at liberty to fire.

4. Each second has a loaded pistol, in order to enforce a fair combat according to the rules agreed on; and if a principal fires before the word or time agreed on, he is at liberty to fire at him, and if such second’s principal fall, it is his duty to do so.

5. If after a fire, either party be touched, the duel is to end; and no second is excusable who permits a wounded friend to fight; and no second who knows his duty, will permit his friend to fight a man already hit. I am aware there have been many instances where a contest has continued, not only after slight, but severe wounds, had been received. In all such cases, I think the seconds are blamable.

6. If after an exchange of shots, neither party be hit, it is the duty of the second of the challengee, to approach the second of the challenger and say: “Our friends have exchanged shots, are you satisfied, or is there any cause why the contest should be continued?” If the meeting be of no serious cause of complaint, where the party complaining had in no way been deeply injured, or grossly insulted, the second of the party challenging should reply: “The point of honor being settled, there can, I conceive, be no objection to a reconciliation, and I propose that our principals meet on middle ground, shake hands, and be friends.” If this be acceded to by the second of the challengee, the second of the party challenging, says: “We have agreed that the present duel shall cease, the honor of each of you is preserved, and you will meet on middle ground, shake hands and be reconciled.”

7. If the insult be of a serious character, it will be the duty of the second of the challenger, to say, in reply to the second of the challengee: “We have been deeply wronged, and if you are not disposed to repair the injury, the contest must continue.” And if the challengee offers nothing by way of reparation, the fight continues until one or the other of the principals is hit.

8. If in cases where the contest is ended by the seconds, as mentioned in the sixth rule of this chapter, the parties refuse to meet and be reconciled, it is the duty of the seconds to withdraw from the field, informing their principals, that the contest must be continued under the superintendence of other friends. But if one agrees to this arrangement of the seconds, and the other does not, the second of the disagreeing principal only withdraws.

9. If either principal on the ground refuses to fight or continue the fight when required, it is the duty of his second to say to the other second: “I have come upon the ground with a coward, and do tender you my apology for an ignorance of his character; you are at liberty to post him.” The second, by such conduct, stands excused to the opposite party.

10. When the duel is ended by a party being hit, it is the duty of the second to the party so hit, to announce the fact to the second of the party hitting, who will forthwith tender any assistance he can command to the disabled principal. If the party challenging, hit the challengee, it is his duty to say he is satisfied, and will leave the ground. If the challenger be hit, upon the challengee being informed of it, he should ask through his second, whether he is at liberty to leave the ground which should be assented to.

The violence is ritualized, thus held under a strange control.

Which reminds me, the daughter of my cousin has become a noted Civil War historian.  She has written an award-winning book on the codes of honor–followed not just in dueling but on the field of battle–followed by the “officers and gentlemen” who fought in the Civil War.  It’s a fascinating read, shedding great light on the ideals of manhood, the nature of a “gentleman,” and the strong sense of honor that animated our recent ancestors.  She shows the nobility of it all, but also how it can go terribly wrong, as in dueling.

The author, a young professor (at the University of Central Arkansas) of whom I am very proud, is Lorien Foote and her book is The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army.