The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

July 21, 2013

Musings on modern mail, Civil War

Random thoughts:

— Modern “communication.”

A co-worker recently complained that she sent business-related emails to a young man, but never heard back. When she finally called him, he blithely noted that he has 200 unopened e-mails in his inbox. He told her to either text him, or call and let him know that she sent an e-mail.

TWO HUNDRED unopened (and unanswered) e-mails?

“Can you imagine having 200 unopened letters at home?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “but kids think e-mail is old-fashioned.”

A couple of days later, I happened to find a three-page, single-spaced, typed letter that a good friend wrote to me in May 1980. It’s filled with news, frustrations, dreams and humor. Thirty-three years later, it still speaks.

In 1980, I opened it, read it and wrote back. That’s called “communication.” How old-fashioned.

— Civil War re-enacting. A couple of weeks ago, herds of re-enactors gathered at Gettysburg, Pa., to re-enact the battle fought there 150 years ago. It must have been thrilling and chilling.

I understand the appeal. You’re educating, reliving history, learning, dressing up, firing blanks, having fun and raising money for charity. A friend once invited me to join his re-enactment group, but I didn’t.

I can see myself portraying a 19th century printer, farmer or blacksmith, but never a soldier. I agree with General Sherman: the glory of war is all moonshine … war is hell … war is cruelty, and you cannot refine it.

“I saw in one of the corners a man sitting down and looking up at me,” General Longstreet’s chief of artillery wrote after Gettysburg. “A solid shot had carried away both jaws and his tongue. I noticed the powder smut from the shot on the white skin around the wound. He sat up and looked at me steadily, and I looked at him until the guns could pass; but nothing, of course, could be done for him.”

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