I realise now why I have been so aggressively devouring the books and texts mentioned in the videos of Ken Burns The Civil War documentary as I find it on Youtube and find their excerpts online. It is not through any sort of strange love or passionate interest in the war itself, though I am glad to put my life in a greater historical context, and equally glad to look at the dates of a nation founded and built on the backs of slaves, and recognise that genocide, slavery, degradation and death is the legacy of us all in this strange gamble we call civilisation, but rather because of the words used in the detritus of the normal man’s speech.
There are letters from generals and fighters, men who are not themselves classically educated, nor are their collected letters meant to in any way reflect a historical context themselves. Even men like Sherman and Lee, the generals of the war are not trying to be orators; they send letters to their homefronts to serve practical purposes. What makes them all the richer, then, is how these men communicate when communicating practically. A common thing I’ve found is that similes are designed to be explained; “like shovelling fleas from one side of th’barn to another – barely half of them go where they’re goin’,” for example.
I also am kind of a Sherman fanboy, enjoying his rhetoric and his depiction of war as inglorious and cruel in a way that I fear is reminiscent of a 12 year old boy being edgy.