Furl that banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently—it is holy–
For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not—unfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people’s hopes are dead!
–Father Abram Joesph Ryan
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, a war that began on April 12, 1861. It was just a month after the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln. He had not won a majority vote – far from it. He’d only won about 40% of the popular vote, and some states didn’t even put him on the ballot. He only scraped a victory thanks to a very close four-way race. But despite this unlikely beginning during turbulent times, Lincoln went on to become one of the country’s most revered presidents, and one of its best orators. His best-known speech is, of course, the Gettysburg Address. It’s often studied for its rhetoric, and deservedly so – there are gems of psychological persuasion hidden throughout.
“The real war will never get in the books.” This may be the most famous sentence ever written about the Civil War, at least by a writer of literary consequence. But what kind of reality did Walt Whitman have in mind when he made that claim more than 130 years ago? And considering the scores of thousands of Civil War books that have appeared since, how well has the prediction held up?
One member of the [West Point] class of 1828, Jefferson Davis, the future president of the Confederacy, had a history of being arrested or censured for leaving his post to drink at the taverns: he was the first student to be arrested for going to Benny Haven. Another time he drunkenly fell sixty feet down a ravine, his friends shouted after him to respond if he wasn’t dead. When a group of Davis’ friends suggested they flout the superintendent’s new law and throw a Christmas Eve rager the night of December 24, 1826, Davis was on board. Their choice of holiday beverage: the notorious eggnog.
I’m picturing this over the opening credits of my biopic. Needless to say, there’s a new track going into my regular rotation!
Source: Battle Of Kennesaw – 45rpm