Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Age Of War

I'm reasonably knowledgeable about the War between the States. I'm no Shelby Foote or anything... I doubt Ken Burns will choose me to interview just in case he does a 2nd Civil War series... But I know more than most. I just realized an error in my thinking that has me reeling a little.

I always thought of the officers in that war as terribly old men. Ancient wizened warriors, with huge beards and flowing mustaches who held the knowledge of eons within their grasp.

What a shock it was to me, when just the other day I realized that I am older now than most of those men were at the beginning of the war. Sure, they had experience and schooling in the art of war... Sadly a lot of what they knew had been surpassed by the weapons they now possessed... But for the most part, they were very young men.

The venerable white haired old Robert E Lee was only 54 at the war's inception. Offered the command of first the US forces and then the Army of Virginia he was only 13 years older than I am now.

George McClellan was a much younger man than that when he accepted command of the army of the Potomac... In fact he was much younger than I... A young man of 35, he was intrusted with the military might to hold the union together.

Thomas Jackson was a professor at Virginia Military Institute when the war started. Only 37 years old, he never saw the end to the conflict and was accidentally killed by his own men at the age of 39.

Even U.S. Grant, eventually the President of the United States had yet to reach the ripe old age of 40 at the start of the war that he saw ended at Appomattox with the surrender of the Confederate forces in 1865.

James Ewel Brown Stuart, known to his contemporaries and thousands of history buffs since as Jeb, was a mere lad of 28 when he donned the grey and led his cavalry on exploits that became the stuff of legends... And only 31 when he was killed in combat.

And lastly my own kinfolk... My Great Uncle Brig. Gen. Lawrence S Baker Namesake of his grandfather, a Revolutionary War General was only 31 at the beginning. My Great Grandfather enlisted at the age of 31 (Sadly no picture in uniform) and turned down the position of captain in the infantry to be a private in the 4th NC Cavalry. And, here I am... An old man at 41... Advanced beyond the age when these men fought great fights and did great deeds... Deeds that shaped a nation. Fights that I, and thousands of others don uniforms and reproduce en masse for they were that important and wonderful and horrible no one should forget. And I still think of them as old men. Maybe they were made old by their fights and deeds... maybe I feel young because I haven't been through the fire.



At November 19, 2010 2:32 PM, Blogger Walrilla said...

Nice sky-blue Federal trousers. Mounted or Infantry pattern? Loot 'em off a dead Yank?


I'm just yanking your chain. I wore a much raggedier pair the same color when I re-enacted as Dismounted Cavalry with a butternut color Sack coat uniform jacket. I'll have to find some old pictures of my stuff, or break them out and see if I still fit.

At November 19, 2010 4:37 PM, Anonymous Bou said...

War is and always has been... a young man's deal. It is sad.

Spending my teen years in Pensacola, there were always men in aviation training. Hell, my DAD was CO of a squadron, made Captain there, eventually retired and trained some of the young guys, including a then boy friend of mine, in simulators. That's what I knew... go out and about, men my age in flight training.

Then about 10 years ago, I was out and about and I realized... the instructor pilots were my age. That made me feel kind of old...

... but not as old as I feel now as I realize I'm as old if not older than the COs of the squadrons and probably as old as the CO of the base.

That is humbling. The pilots of today going through training, are old enough to be my son. Blech.

At November 20, 2010 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

.... 41 ain't old, man...... you're in your prime!......

.... but, yeah..... the military is a place for young men... hell, I was already out of hte Corps after doing my five years by the time I was 22.....


At November 20, 2010 9:01 AM, Blogger K-nine said...

All these things I know... My pop was 22 at pearl harbor during the attack.
It's a perception issue. A perception I can't shake even when the facts have been in my grasp the entire time.

Oddly enough, I don't feel as old as I did just a year or so ago. Happiness will do that.

And Donnie, kersey blue cavalry cut trousers were issued to both sides early in the war... But I do tend to tell folks I pulled 'em off a dead bluebelly. Ha! Good eye. You need to jine back up. You'd be a hoot in the medical tent...


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