Observing Kristen
a qwriting.qc.cuny.edu blog
The Real War
Posted on February 22nd, 2011 at 11:02 am by kristen88 and

I have previously read a few excerpts from “Specimen Days” by Walt Whitman, in my American Literature class. Reading from the, “Opening of the Succession War” through “The Real War Will Never Get in the Books,” I was able to get a full taste from start to end of the brutality. Whitman writes with such great detail and description. He writes and tell us about the gruesomeness of the war. These poor men, enlisting, fighting for the cause, now wounded and dying if not dead already. A line that sticks out to me is, “the Bravest Soldier crumbles in mother earth, unburied, unknown.” It is a true statement and a painful one to accept. Many of the soldiers had nobody.

All the bloodshed, all the wounds, all the death, I don’t know how he was able to stomach it all. “I saw the other day a gentleman, a visitor appraently from curiosity, in one of the wards, stop and turn a moment to look at an awful wound they were probing. He turn’d pale, and in a moment more he fainted away and fallen on the floor.” That would definitely have been me. Whitman, was very strong, and not afraid, seeing what death looked like.

When you read about the wars and battles of the past, you don’t get the stories like Whitman tells us. You get, who won, who lost, what battle, when the battle was, where the battle was, why and how. You get the celebration of victories. You get the painted picture of how things were good. During war, there is nothing good, unless there is none wounded and none dead, but this is not the case. Through the vivid details, you can picture the poor soldiers. You can only imagine the severity of their wounds; you can only imagine their pain.

I found it interesting how Whitman was also very descriptive of the environment, the room, the building, the grass, the woods, the sun, the moon, and the weather. “The night was sweet, very clear, sufficiently cool, a voluptuous half-moon, slightly golden, the space near if of a transparent lie-gray tinge.” What a beautiful image he sets into our mind. A soothing scene like a breath of fresh air. And then he would mix the gruesomeness of war with something pleasant, “the red life-blood oozing out from heads or trunks or limbs upon that green and dew-cool grass.” Picture that.

“I have noticed through most of the hospitals that as long as there is any chance for a man, no matter how bad he may be, the surgeon and nurses work hard, sometimes with curious tenacity, for his life, doing everything, and keeping somebody by him to execute the doctor’s orders, and minister to him every minute night and day.” This shows incredible dedication by the doctors and those who helped the soldiers. Women who were mothers of children made the best of nurses, because they would talk care of the soldiers as if they were their own children.

On page 314, figure 17, in Alan Trachtenberg’s “Albums of War: On Reading Civil War Photographs,” the caption of the picture greatly disturbed me. “A Burial Party, Cold Harbor, Va., April, 1865” During a time of war and bloodshed and death, how can anyone even thing about “party.” It truly makes me sick to my stomach, how such a caption can be put. It is truly something dark and disturbing.

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Link Here | March 29, 2011,

What’s Trachtenberg’s argument about the relationship between photos and their captions in the albums he discusses, Kristen?


  Dominique |

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