A Memorial's Story

Posted without comment.
Dulce et decorum est

"Let me tell you a story. Once, there were two brothers, Milton and Calvin. Milton was eighteen and Calvin was sixteen, and they lived with their parents on a small farm in red clay country, a few acres of bottomland. War came. Important men in fine clothes made fancy speeches, and of course they were right because they had university degrees and they were important and anyway war was a grand adventure, so Milton joined up. He joined the Guilford Greys and he had a fine uniform and a great hat. Calvin wanted to come too. He begged and pleaded and threatened to run away until it was decided that Calvin would come with Milton, and Milton would keep him safe. And so the boys went to war.

"It wasn't fun and it wasn't shiny. It wasn't glorious and it wasn't neat. It was horrible and dark and scary and the brothers stuck together, and Milton took care of Calvin. And then there was a terrible losing battle called The Wilderness, a running awful messy battle in deep forest with enemies and friends strung out all over the place, and Calvin was shot. The enemy was moving in, and Calvin was shot, and figures with bayonets were moving through the powdersmoke, and they were retreating. The lieutenant ordered Milton to retreat but he wouldn't. His brother was wounded on the field, and he wouldn't leave him. And so he stayed with his brother's unconscious body, and put his hands in the air when they saw him.

"Milton and Calvin were captured, and they were taken to a POW camp at a place called Elmira. 12,100 men were sent to Elmira, and 2,970 of them died there in the next twelve months, 24.5%, a rate comparable with Andersonville and British held by the Japanese in World War II. (For comparison, the death rate of Germans held by Americans in World War II was 0.15%.) Calvin was one of the ones who died. He was buried in a mass grave in a long burial trench at Woodlawn Cemetery.

"Milton was one of the ones who lived. When the war ended, some of the POWs were given train tickets home. Not Milton. He started walking. He walked eight hundred miles. He got home. He explained to his mother and father that he had failed. Calvin wasn't safe. He was rotting in a trench. He died when he was eighteen years old. Milton hadn't taken care of him.

"But Milton lived. He was now his family's breadwinner. He got a job on the railroad as a brakeman. He moved into town. Eventually he married and built a little house with four rooms right near the railroad track. He had two sons, Calvin and Luther. And he told them the story, he told them about Calvin. His sons did ok. Calvin became a fireman, and eventually fire chief. Luther became a master plumber and pipefitter, and he installed lots of new flush commodes in houses in town.

"My father remembered as a child when his grandfather Luther contributed to build the Confederate Memorial in Woodlawn Cemetery. It's a bronze stele of a young man in uniform mounted on granite with an inscription that reads "In memory of the confederate soldiers of the war between the states who died in Elmira Prison and lie buried here." It stands over the old mass grave amid rows of white crosses, one for each of the 2,970 men. Milton was dead by the time it was erected, in 1937, but Luther contributed in honor of the uncle he'd never known. Calvin left no works of art, no good work, not even fine installed toilets or trains that reached the station safely. He left no children, no genes to pass down the ages. He left nothing but a brother's love.

"Now the Nazis have claimed our story, have claimed our statues, and protesters march with banners and shout to tear down these memorials, these horrific symbols of evil people which were raised in hate to intimidate and frighten. They've taken our story, and we will lose the statues too. We will lose Calvin, and all the young men like him. We can't even tell the story for fear of being reviled. I can't post this out of friendslock for fear of destroying my life. If I do, I'll be called a Nazi and a racist and an evil person who should be killed. They've taken our story.

"Maybe, when enough time has passed, when these Nazis too are gone, we can tell it again. Or maybe it will be lost forever, like so many stories have been. Or maybe someone who isn't American can tell it, someone who is free from this particular constellation of issues. But right now all I can do is grieve -- for what the Nazis have taken from us, and from my friends who are posting that only evil people would defend these memorials. These memorials don't belong to them. They belong to Milton and Calvin. Maybe one day, if I live long enough, I can say that."

10 comments:

Vicki said...

Wow

Eric Blair said...

Sad.

raven said...

This is a wonderful story. And a superb piece of propaganda too, be it deliberate or inadvertent.

The application of blame is conceptually similar to the rape protestations- "she shouldn't have dressed like a whore." "we couldn't control ourselves." "she shamed the family by dating a infidel so we had to kill her".
" It's not our fault you can't say what you want to say on social media, because nazi's blah blah blah." "they made us do it".


It is not a handful of national socialists, spewing hate. They are not the ones that will shame this person for defending their ancestors. If the 27 nazi's left the US did not exist, the communists would invent them.
They are practically doing it, because the nazi's are so few. This (the actions of the left)is a smear, and an attempt to blame a third party for transgressions of the principals.

Does anyone reading this seriously think for one second the response from the left would have been any different if there were no nazi flags in evidence? This is not about Racism tm., or the Confederacy, this is about a power struggle and an attempt to paint any political opposition as horrific, backward, and deserving of no voice at all, and identifying and othering the opposition to the point where violence is "justified" against them because of their sub-human beliefs. This shit has been played so often in history we ought to have it engraved on our eyeballs by now.

douglas said...

We act as though the far left cares about any of this. They don't. That's the problem. If they did, they wouldn't be yanking down statues put up to memorialize the child conscripts of the Confederacy, but they did. If the left is going to protect the far left, then they're complicit, and they've been protecting the far left for decades.

The gloves are off, and not because it's what we wanted.

Man, I picked the wrong week to pop back into civilization from six days on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Krag said...

Again, raven, well said. I've got nothing to add, that was spot on.

Anonymous said...

The left is blinded to truths that we as a nation have long held. They are blind automatons leading the blind. There is no reasoning with them. Their minds are closed.

Raven said...

Douglas,
That sounds like a nice vacation. I felt much the same coming back from the Alaskan Peninsula. Out near here-

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Pavlof

douglas said...

Indeed it was, though going over Forester Pass (13,153) with a full pack (some might say overloaded, including me) was one of the toughest physical things I've ever done. Where you were looks absolutely amazing- I'd really like to get to Alaska some day, before I'm too old to really enjoy it.

raven said...

Alaska is a wild and beautiful place, with terrain changes wide in scope- from the lush forests and rocky coastline of the south east, the high mountains and wooded rivers of the interior, the largely tree -free northern slope of the Brooks Range, the volcanic mountains and black sand beaches going down the Alaskan Peninsula, it could take a long time to see it all.
I have been fortunate to have fished, commercial and sport, and rafted hikes and flown over wide areas of the state. Dad's ashes are scattered in a particular favorite place we shared, well north of the Arctic circle. Once when he was in his 80's, (he was a tough old codger) we had a raft upset on a remote river flowing north into the Arctic ocean, out of the Brooks range. Most all the food was lost, along with the cooking equipment- dinner was a couple cans of beans over an fire, heated in the can and opened with a knife. The look on his face when I produced a small bottle of Bourbon out of my kit will stay with me forever. Morale counts!
The older one gets, the more it costs, as the services of a guide can be required to help with the heavy lifting.
The very best part of the state are the rural people- once out of the city there is a refreshing "get it done", no BS attitude.

douglas said...

"The look on his face when I produced a small bottle of Bourbon out of my kit will stay with me forever. Morale counts!"

Ha! Now that's a great story, and what a moment it must have been. I was out on PCT with my son, and that alone was worth it- Being a now 15 year old, he's your typical surly teen, and a quiet one- but he listens. When things got a bit tougher, I didn't hide when I was struggling, but I did make a point to always keep on the up-side of things- as you say, morale counts!

I tell you, as I get to liking the masses of people less and less, I think I'd seriously consider moving to Alaska if my wife would consider it. I think that's out of the question though, she's not much for the cold. But, I've got to visit some day. Thanks for the second hand glimpse at it.