This is how war looks. No matter the cause, no matter how far off in the grainy past. Courage isn’t a cheap thing. What is that quality in men that asks so much of them physically and emotionally but still they take it on? There are some women warriors, I know, but the lion’s share of heavy, dangerous warfare has been taken on by boys like this one–you see him don’t you–the second one in from the left. He’s no black and white caricature of a soldier. This boy lived, leaning up on his elbow, hungry and maybe dying.
Look closer still . . .
yes the photo isn’t crisp enough for us to be sure he’s old enough to shave, but we see that willow branch leg with the sock slipping down and think how the hell did they get on in life? And when you read about them drinking, carousing and singing on the march, when you think about how funny and stupid boys are at that age and when you stumble upon one nameless, sad and lonely face you wonder . . . what was he thinking way back in the unknowable past?
Photograph courtesy of The Photographic History of the Civil War