Saturday, January 3, 2009

jenna hearts grant

I'm turning into quite the Civil War buff, thanks to the influence of my friend Heather, who originally sparked my interest when we lived together in Tennessee. Her excitement for the history, music, and culture of the war got me hooked on it. Over the past three years I've studied it here and there, the occasional documentary or book, but recently I can't get enough of it. It all feels like it just happened. There is no "long ago" to it for me. The peoples' faces in the photographs look as if I could be waiting in line behind them for coffee. The places where once thousands died, are places I've walked across, driven across, or have had touching memories with friends at. The fact that I sat under a statue of Warren at the Little Round Top, and was there with some of my favorite people to catch fireflies at sunset (till the park rangers made us leave) goes to show all their efforts and suffering created something. That it let something breathe. The more I learn about it the more upset I get that I missed it. That I missed the most exciting time to be alive in American history.

Surely, that is pure ignorance. Since who wants to live through a war in your backyard? But the more I read, the more I digest, the more I wish I could've heard the conversations and been there to see it. To see Grant (who I am getting kind of a crush on to be perfectly honest) on the night before a battle where 6,000 men would die—admonish a teamster for beating a horse and then tying him to a post for 6 hours - now that's something I wish I could've watched. The little things that happened behind the scenes engage, no addict me, to learn more. That man was a failure at everything in life except love, war, and writing - He was horrible with money, with jobs, with even his wardrobe - which to me, speaks of this deep passion for things that actually matter, and I can't not think about that everytime I read about him. What a guy.

Grant hated the marching bands that followed him around. He didn't like contrived music. He used to say, "I know two of those songs. One is Yankee Doodle - and the other one isn't." Which shows he was kind of a smartass, which makes me love him even more. What a beautiful, miserable, intense, and complicated mind. That photo up there, probably the second worst day of his life, was taken at the battle of Cold Harbor. That same day, 7,000 men died around him in less then twenty minutes. My god, I can't even understand that. I can only try to make sense of it with recent events.

Now, let's think about this. A few years ago 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center attacks and it nearly brought us to our knees. I am not in anyway, at all, saying that event wasn't epic, or belittling the suffering of those who lost loved ones. But keep the intensity of that day, what you felt as someone watching it all happen, in your mind when you look at that picture above. There Grant stands after watching double the carnage of 9/11 in less time then it takes us to watch a standard sitcom. But he had to watch people die one at a time and all around him, in person, under his command, and yet he still stands. I would be shaking, throwing up, falling apart and yet somehow he still manages to stand... He looks like the world might swallow him, that if he lets go of that tree he might collapse from the weight of it all. Who could blame him if he did?

I can't see these photos without wanting to know what people went though that day - what they ate, where they slept, what they hummed to stay awake the night before they died. I think I may know more about 1863 than I do about 1982. I mean, I know E.T. lost best picture to Ghandi at the Oscars, but the rest is kind of a blur...

I'm telling you, that is when men were men. Now most of the guys I meet would rather play video games than pick up the reins of a horse. I would give anything to sit down and have coffee with him. I bet he'd like Sigur Ros's album Parenthesis, or if he didn't like it, he'd be relieved to hear it instead of those marching bands. The quiet piano, cellos, and bass sounds of it. When I look at that picture of him, all I can hear is track three off that album. Of course he'd like it. It's a far cry from Yankee Doodle.

I wish I could've seen him ride past my house. I would've given him a high five. Or something more appropriate to the period, like a kiss on the cheek or a shot of brandy. Or both. Grant was a man who deserved all three.

10 Comments:

Blogger sara amber said...

i just re-watched the ken burns documentary straight through and i've been totally consumed since. i'm planning a long weekend trip out to gettysburg with my mom and i cannot wait.

January 3, 2009 at 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm wondering now if you've got my computer hacked or something, because I'd become very interested in Grant again (he's been one of my heroes since I read his Memoirs as a kid) literally a day or two ago, and had been reading through everything at this site

http://www.empirenet.com/~ulysses/index.htm

and just loving it. He is definitely one of my heroes. Good taste, here.


(this is paul, btw)

January 3, 2009 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger EJ said...

You may still live through one of the most exciting times to be alive in American history. Heres a blog that foresees plenty of exciting times: http://jameshowardkunstler.typepad.com/clusterfuck_nation/

If you had lived during the civil war you may not have had all the luxurious opportunities to participate you have now - you may have been: working too hard, too may kids, sick, uneducated, living in an isolated area.

But i certainly agree that history is interesting and we have lots to learn. My affinity is for even older, harder to fathom times - prehistoric.

January 4, 2009 at 4:07 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

sara - i got it for christmas! the whole thing, from my brother. It's on a general loop here in the background while woring on other things. Also, I got your music but anything over 300k dial-up can't handle. I had to delete it... sad.

paul - oh, paul.

EJ- i did say it was pure ignorance on my part to want to live through a civil war, but I am very much interested in the time period.

January 4, 2009 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

oh and paul, could you email me your e-mail address? jenna@itsafarwalk.com

January 4, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger HEATHER said...

thanks for the shout out! i'm proud my influence got you into all this. i'm sure it will be a lifelong addiction for you. i'm trying to find a local reenactment unit i can join, but the only ones in knoxville are confederate (ironic, since east tennessee was mostly union in the war..)- and i've still got my yankee accent so they'll find me out.

the next gettysburg reenactment my family is going to is the 150th (in 5 years), we were at the 145th this year. major anniversaries are the best years to go, the reenactments are 10 times as large. i'm booking our hotels next month, you should come!

-h.

January 4, 2009 at 8:17 PM  
Blogger sara amber said...

oh man, consider me officially jealous! it's on my list of "stuff" i'd love to have...right after the wide angle lens i've been drooling over for months now.

i had a feeling the music would be too much. looks like i might have to get to mixing.

(a cd, that is. i can't help myself - i love sharing music.)

January 5, 2009 at 10:20 PM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

E.T. should have never lost to any movie, ever, dammit!

January 6, 2009 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Late I know, but I thought this interesting. Seeing how Lee has always been one of my personal heroes. I never could get into Grant. Don't get me wrong, I am from East TN, and I am a son of the South, and of the Union. I had family from Morristown fight against each other. Lot of history there, that I wont bore anyone else with, just wanted to put my 2 cents in for Lee.

October 26, 2009 at 5:34 AM  
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