Educator's Guide: Miscellaneous: And in the End...

"Shortly after Appomattox, Walt Whitman, a Brooklyn journalist and sometime poet who worked in the appalling Union hospitals, warned prosperity of what he had seen. " "Future Years will never know the seething hell and the black infernal background, the countless minor scenes and interiors of the secession war; and it is best they should not. The real war will never get in the book."In the century and a quarter since the war's conclusion more than fifty thousand books have been published on the Civil War; countless personal diaries and regimental histories, biographies and military narratives, pictorial essays, social analyses, works that have treated the causes and effects, demographics, crop statistics, and even the weather. There have been books of maps, books of letters, books of orders, books of books, philosophical essays, novels, poems and music. Each year dozens of new titles appear, offering to revisit the war, to reinterpret or rearrange those strange days and hard events."

And yet Whitman's words retain their force. The "real war" stays there, outside all the books, beckoning to us. Why did Americans kill each other? How did it happen? Who were these people who fought and killed, marched and sang, wrote home, skedaddled, deserted, died, nursed, lamented, persevered? What was it like to be in that war? What did it do to America and Americans? Why are we still so drawn to this tale of suffering, catastrophe, valor and death?
Geoffrey C. Ward, Ken Bums, Ric Bums
PBS Series "The CIVIL WAR"

"Any understanding of this nation has to based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. It defined us. The Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. Its was the crossroads of our being; the suffering the enormous tragedy of the whole thing. Its what made us a nation. Before the war, people had a theoretical notion of having a country, but when the war was over, on both sides they knew they had a country. They'd been there. They had walked its hills and trampled its roads. They saw the country. And they knew the effort that they had expended and their dead friends had expended to preserve it Before the war, it was said "The United States are..." After the war, it was always United States is....
Shelby Foote

"the sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains, the compass just points up and down, and we can now laugh at the absurd notion of there being a north and a south... We are one and undivided
Sam Watkins Company H 1st Tennessee Regiment

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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