Monday, October 31

"The Last Full Measure"

A fellow blogger and friend, John Coffey, graciously presented to me a couple of years ago the Civil War Trilogy authored by the late Michael Shaara and his son, Jeff, who today continues to be recognized and acclaimed as being among the best councilors of Civil War history. John and I share an impassioned fondness for this unique period in America's history, being enthralled with the individual accounts of the hundreds of persons whose stories gave greater depth and meaning to this epic struggle of ideologies that transcends the mere recording of the bloody battles fought upon our country's landscape.

Of the three volumes, The Killer Angels, Gods and Generals, and The Last Full Measure, the latter book proved to be the most enthralling to me, as it captured the slow but steady death throes of the Confederate cause in the final two years of the war. The opening paragraphs recount General Robert E. Lee dejectedly retreating from the Waterloo of the Confederacy; Gettysburg. Staring southward across the swollen Potomac, Lee was heartsick that his brave army of Northern Virgina had been so severely repulsed by the Union forces. Once again, Lee realized that the fight would again have to waged to a bloody conclusion on his beloved Virginia soil if the south was to have any chance of establishing its independence.

The book culminates principally with Lee's surrender on April 9th, 1865 of the remnants of his beleaguered but still defiant army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. Soon to follow, President Abraham Lincoln would die form a confederate sympathizer's gun shot and the hope of a peaceful transition from war to peace - "with malice toward none" - would die with Lincoln's last breath.

Having been so enmeshed in the book, where the author so purposefully and eloquently thrust me as a silent observer into the midst of the competing generals conversations within the confines of their respective field headquarters, as a noncombatant on each side of the many battles that left thousands dead and dying on a dozen fields of conflict, and as a humbled participant watching reverently as the ragtag soldiers of the confederacy stacked their arms a final time to return at long last to their loved ones left behind so many years before, I now wish to add to my personal "bucket list" a trip to northern Virginia where I may begin to trace the footsteps of the retreating Confederate army as they valiantly repulsed with ever dwindling odds the steady and unrelenting advance of the Union army's tide of victory.

I wish to begin my nostalgic journey on the northern side of the Rappahannock River, then cross over into Fredericksbug, where the confederate army unveiled victoriously again its fighting determination; then to Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg and all way stations in between until I come again to the Appomattox Court House where I will stand in reverent awe in the very room where a host of gallant and determined men brought to a final conclusion a most unique era of honor and pride in conflicting causes that ultimately made our nation the envy of the world.

I thank my friend John for his gift of these books that presented this small yet significant slice of our nation's history in a manner that stirs the soul and elevates the lesson of human history as best taught by those who endured the making of that history.