© Heather Cox Richardson
KAYAKER'S VIEW ~ MAINE COAST
CORONA NUMBERS UPDATED
WORLD: OVER 229
DEATHS - OVER 4.7 MILLION.
U.S.: 42 MILLION.
DEATHS - 674,000.
CANADA: CASES - OVER 1.57 MILLION.
HCR LATEST REPORT
IN 160 YEARS, DESPITE THE CIVIL WAR, SOME BASIC THINGS HAVE NOT CHANGED
One hundred and fifty nine years ago this week, in 1862,
75,000 United States troops and about 38,000 Confederate troops massed
along Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland.
After a successful summer of fighting, Confederate general Robert E. Lee
had crossed the Potomac River into Maryland to bring the Civil War to
the North. He hoped to swing the slave state of Maryland into rebellion
and to weaken Lincoln's war policies in the upcoming 1862 elections. For
his part, Union general George McClellan hoped to finish off the
southern Army of Northern Virginia that had snaked away from him all
That slaughter was brought home to northern families in a novel way
after the battle. Photographer Alexander Gardner, working for the great
photographer Matthew Brady, brought his camera to Antietam two days
after the guns fell silent. Until Gardner's field experiment,
photography had been limited almost entirely to studios. People sent
formal photos home and recorded family images for posterity, as if
photographs were portraits.
Taking his camera outside, Gardner recorded seventy images of Antietam
for people back home. His stark images showed bridges and famous
generals, but they also showed rows of bodies, twisted and bloating in
the sun as they awaited burial. By any standards these war photos were
horrific, but to a people who had never seen anything like it before,
they were earth-shattering.
White southern men had marched off to war in 1861 expecting that they
would fight and win a heroic battle or two and that their easy victories
over the northerners they dismissed as emasculated shopkeepers would
enable them to create a new nation based in white supremacy.
In the 1850s, pro-slavery lawmakers had taken over the United States
government, but white southerners were a minority and they knew it. When
the election of 1860 put into power lawmakers and a president who
rejected their worldview, they decided to destroy the nation.
Eager to gain power in the rebellion, pro-secession politicians raced to
extremes, assuring their constituencies that they were defending the
true nature of a strong new country and that those defending the old
version of the United States would never fight effectively.
On March 21, 1861, the future vice president of the Confederacy,
Alexander Stephens, laid out the world he thought white southerners
should fight for.
He explained that the Founders were wrong to base the government on
the principle that humans were inherently equal, and that northerners
were behind the times with their adherence to the outdated idea that
"the negro is equal, and...entitled to equal privileges and rights with
the white man."
Confederate leaders had corrected the Founders' error. They had rested
the Confederacy on the "great truth" that "the negro is not equal to the
white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his
natural and normal condition."
White southern leaders talked easily about a coming war, assuring
prospective soldiers that defeating the United States Army would be a
matter of a fight or, perhaps, two. South Carolina Senator James Chesnut
Jr. assured his neighbors that there would be so few casualties he would
be happy to drink all the blood shed in a fight between the South and
the North. And so, poorer white southerners marched to war.
The July 1861 Battle of Bull Run put the conceit of an easy victory to
rest. Although the Confederates ultimately routed the U.S. soldiers, the
southern men were shocked at what they experienced. "Never have I
conceived of such a continuous, rushing hailstorm of shot, shell, and
musketry as fell around and among us for hours together," one wrote
home. "We who escaped are constantly wondering how we could possibly
have come out of the action alive."
Northerners, too, had initially thought the war against the blustering
southerners would be quick and easy, so quick and easy that some
congressmen brought picnics to Bull Run to watch the fighting, only to
get caught in the rout as soldiers ditched their rucksacks and guns and
ran back toward the capital. Those at home, though, could continue to
imagine the war as a heroic contest.
They could elevate the carnage, that is, until Matthew Brady exhibited
Gardner's images of Antietam at his studio in New York City. People who
saw the placard announcing "The Dead of Antietam" and climbed the stairs
up to Brady's rooms to see the images found that their ideas about war
were changed forever.
"The dead of the battle-field come up to us very rarely, even in
dreams," one reporter mused. "We see the list in the morning paper at
breakfast, but dismiss its recollection with the coffee. There is a
confused mass of names, but they are all strangers; we forget the
horrible significance that dwells amid the jumble of type." But
Gardner's photographs erased the distance between the battlefield and
the home front. They brought home the fact that every name on a casualty
list "represents a bleeding, mangled corpse." "If [Gardner] has not
brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he
has done something very like it," the shocked reporter commented.
The horrific images of Antietam showed to those on the home front the
real cost of war they had entered with bluster and flippant assurances
that it would be bloodless and easy. Southern politicians had promised
that white rebels fighting to create a nation whose legal system
enshrined white supremacy would easily overcome a mongrel army defending
the principle of human equality.
The dead at Antietam's Bloody Lane and Dunker Church proved they were
wrong. The Battle of Antietam was enough of a Union victory to allow
President Abraham Lincoln to issue the preliminary emancipation
proclamation, warning southern states that on January 1, 1863, "all
persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State,"
where people still fought against the United States, "shall be then,
thenceforward, and forever free; and the…government of the United
States...will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons...."
Lincoln's proclamation meant that anti-slavery England would not
formally enter the war on the side of the Confederates, dashing their
hopes of foreign intervention, and in November 1863, Lincoln redefined
the war as one not simply to restore the Union, but to protect a nation
"conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are
To that principle, northerners and Black southerners rallied, despite
the grinding horror of the battlefields, and in 1865, they defeated the
But they did not defeat the idea the Confederates fought, killed, and
died for: a nation in which the law distinguishes among people according
to the color of their skin.
Today, once again, politicians are telling their followers that such
a hierarchy is the best way forward for America, and today, once again,
those same politicians are urging supporters to violence against a
government t hat defends the equality before the law for which the men
at Antietam --and at Gettysburg and Cold Harbor, and at four years worth
of battlefields across the country—gave their lives.
Heather Cox Richardson
Letter from an American
THOUGHTS ABOUT DEALING
WITH CUBA TODAYFRED'S COMPLETE
SHAWVILLE, QC | A
good many of us in the Pontiac do travel south each winter -- in
non-pandemic times. A big percentage head to Cuba, probably the nearest
tropical state. But, as we are constantly reminded, Cuba is a socialist
state. And Canada is not.
Just Outside Washington
My friend Janie, who lives in San Diego County, recently
complained that her old California is gone, which she attributes to
illegals and great wealth. But for me, I think nothing ever stays the
FRANK'S COMPLETE ARCHIVES
SHAWVILLE, QC | We are
learning more than expected from the pandemic -- from scientific
insights to generalizations about well-being and good mental health. As
we slog through levels of lockdown, mental health problems seem only to
grow. Our kids, for example, feel isolated and stressed, struggling to
focus on their on-line lessons. FRED'S COMPLETE
THE TROUBLE WITH
SHAWVILLE, QC | Lend me
your attention for a moment. This is not about local -- only issues, not
about Covid, hockey, nor low moisture in our crops. This is about money,
and money is the Trouble with Democracy.FRED'S
LOOSE TONGUES ENDANGER
SHAWVILLE, QC | The two
world wars past gave us plenty of public messaging about "idle talk"
which might reveal secrets to under-cover enemy agents. Every subject,
from call-up notices to departure times -- anything which might give our
enemies an edge -- was included. "Loose tongues endanger lives" was a
common public message.
Just Outside Washington
THE FRENCH HAVE FIGURED OUT A
BETTER MED WAY
As one gets older, it seems like we spend
more time at the doctor's offices. Even when there is nothing
specifically wrong, there are visits, periodic general practitioner
checkups, lab visits for blood extraction, dental cleanings,
dermatologist examinations, and more.
MEMORIAL FOR THE VICTIMS
OF . . . WHAT?FRED'S COMPLETE ARCHIVES
SHAWVILLE, QC |
Among the surprises of this month's federal budget was a doubling of
funds for Harper's "victims of communism" 2010 memorial in Ottawa. With
a total of near $7 million, this should be one heck of a memorial.
LCC WRITER: HI-5! TO
COVID VAX TEAM IN VIRGINIA
This morning Kathy and I received our second dose of the Pfizer
COVID-19 vaccine. Hooray!
PROTEST ... WHERE IT
SHAWVILLE, QC | Two street
protests against pandemic restrictions in Quebec, in Fort Coulonge and
Shawville, have stimulated public comment. And criticism -- many
participants, generally, were not following the health rules (masks and
a two-metre distance). The SQ were careful to warn protestors of the
rules, without aggravating emotions and stimulating further
STOPPING COVID-19 ~ WITH
SHAWVILLE, QC | One of the
lesser-noted effects of Covid-19 and its lockdown is the sudden and
widespread proliferation of scientific expertise. There's a touch of
Zakaria celebrates America's resilience, which he says gains
strength through chaos and crises. He also downplays the idea that
despots like China's Xi Jinping do better than democratic leaders
pointing out covid-19's leap around the world was due to China's
suppression of lifesaving data. Also, that authoritarian regimes
including Khamenei's Iran, Erdogan's Turkey, and Bolsonaro's Brazil,
ruled did badly.FRANK'S COMPLETE ARCHIVES
I'm writing this on the day of our 30th
wedding anniversary. Deb and I were married on December 15, 1990 in
Sherbrooke. That wasn't the original plan.
ON KEEPING WITS ABOUT
SHAWVILLE, QC | Lesson
number one: The pandemic's lockdown may be teaching us a thing or two,
despite it's costs. One lesson is obvious: how deeply we all depend upon
contact and communication with others. The opposite side of that coin
may be that we also are learning to live with our own selves, without
the contact we took for granted in the past.
WHY ENVIRONMENTAL REGS
As many as 12,000 children were exposed to drinking water with
high levels of lead, which cause long-term health problems. The water
supply change also caused an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease that
killed 12 people.FRANK'S COMPLETE ARCHIVES
WHAT'S WRONG WITH
SHAWVILLE, QC |
American friends are certainly now on the road to a healing presidential
term. The Republicans may rant about individual counts, but we can also
be certain that they are busy studying their playbook, "How to Sabotage
a Democrat President."
JANE DOES THE
This is one of 30 short
poems in the chapbook Placing No Markers by Jason Krpan. You can
download the book for free at Bookfellows.