Civil War Art

Winslow_Homer_-_The_Brush_Harrow_(1865)
The Brush Harrow 1865

Boys without fathers … some heroic men come home broken or not at all. Some battlefields are revisited from one year to the next. Veterans tease new recruits on spring campaigns with the bones of men left to winter over in thick forests.

About 625,000 men died in the Civil War. That’s more Americans than died in both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam combined. This amounted to 2 percent of the population at the time, which would be the equivalent to about 6 million Americans dying today. Battles weren’t as deadly as disease, however..

An estimated 40% of the dead were never identified.”[1]

A_Visit_from_the_Old_Mistress
A Visit from the Old Mistress 1876

Slavery is a human condition we have not come even close to eradicating. Sex trafficking in children is alive and well.  Where are the abolitionists now? There are some brave souls but mostly we are just as ignorant of human suffering as we ever were. Willfully so.

Civil War Art

The picture above is so ambiguous. Are the former slaves happy to see their former mistress? Are they ashamed that with freedom not much seems to have changed for them?  Were any of them house slaves who saw themselves as superior to field hands?

And what of the mistress? Is she visiting old friends? Is she discussing payment for field work? Did they once pray together? Are they all victims of a world system they did not create? I’ve often heard that impoverished people enjoy life more. I think people are people. We live in a spiritually impoverished world.

640px-Winslow_Homer_-_The_Cotton_Pickers_-_Google_Art_Project(1)
Cotton Pickers 1864

There is a war somewhere out there. There is a war in our hearts right here. Freedom is a wonderful but scary thing. Is this beautiful woman brooding about her present? Is she anxious about her future? Is she bitter? Will she forgive life’s unfairness? Choices we all must make.

prisoners from the front winslow homer
Prisoners from the Front 1866

Surrender. Surrender is not about giving up. At war are powers greater than humans can usually perceive. We are all slaves to a master. We choose the master no matter our place in this material world. Sometimes we are victims, but if we are honest with ourselves, we realize we are so often making war with others for our own selfish desires and out of a place of fear.

“There is no fear where love exists. Rather, perfect love banishes fear, for fear involves punishment, and the person who lives in fear has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

LOOK AT HOW THE FILM MAKERS PAID HOMAGE TO HOMER’S PRISONERS PAINTING:

 

3 REASONS WHY AMERICAN ARTISTS RARELY PAINTED THE CIVIL WAR

EMBEDDED WITH TROOPS DURING THE CIVIL WAR: WINSLOW HOMER

WINSLOW HOMER’S CIVIL WAR

12 STUNNING CIVIL WAR  FACTS [1]

 

Fiction: A Doctor’s Mistakes

Graham wiped his eyes. “That watch … the one I gave you … it was for Nathan—my younger brother first — during the war. You are the light of the world like a city on a mountain … Nathan was the light of my family. Something about him—we could all love him without embarrassment—he was soft and pampered. My brother Luce was the hero, but Nathan was the light.

“Seeing Fahy—my God! So many men just like him. I cut them apart—for their own good, but my stupid brother Luce! I was still so angry at him for taking my girl! And there he comes wandering into camp. He’d walked for miles! Thought I could keep his leg—thought I was a miracle worker. Did I tell you about the time he baled all the hay on three farms, saved a girl from drowning in the Hackensack, and won the turkey shoot all in one summer?”

Buck shook his head.

“Luce was a winner. He was a god to me and I was damned jealous. And there he was lying there on the table, his leg shattered, and he’s telling me no heroic measures—don’t take the leg. But it had to go! And I couldn’t find the bullet. I could barely stop the bleeding once it really got going. There was a bleeder, Buck. I found it and tied it shut.” Graham stared at Buck, but his eyes saw into an unknowable past. “When Luce woke up, he told me about a girl he had. Some other girl and Mai, his wife, home with his baby. That asshole had everything and screwed it all up.”

“We have a cousin?” Buck asked.

“Yes.” Graham mopped his forehead.

“So then what happened?”

“I was given time off—I was ordered to take some time. I left Luce at the hospital tent. Last I heard, Nate had taken ill—hadn’t made it into battle and I’d been glad—he was no soldier. I decided to go visit him, thinking he’d be with his unit, but he wasn’t. Nate left with a few other sick men to a makeshift hospital on a derelict farm. You should have seen the place. Flies—so many flies. And Nathan was dead.”

Buck stayed quiet.

“He died of dysentery. If I’d have got there sooner, I could have taken him from that God forsaken place. The surgeon in charge should have been hung for what he let those men go through. He said Nate helped the others till he got too weak himself. He handed me back the watch I’d given Nate for good luck. The watch I gave you.”

“I’m sorry, Father.”

“When I got back to camp, Luce gave me hell for not going to Nate as soon as I got word he’d fallen ill. We were fighting as I checked on the artery—the one I’d tied. I moved it only slightly, but something let go. I just couldn’t stop the blood and he just lay there looking at me and then he was gone. The other soldiers—they just looked at me like I was the worst sort of man.” Graham wiped his head again. “Buck, I wanted you to have a piece of me.”

“Father, it wasn’t your fault—about your brothers.”

“I’m sorry.” Graham ran his hand over his heart. “I lied when I said that only your mother wanted all of you. I did too. I wanted enough so if anything happened I wouldn’t lose all of you at once. Look at the unhappiness I bring into people’s lives. Look at your mother. Oh, look at you all!”

“But Father, it’s not up to you to make us happy. You did your best, I suppose. And you’re forgiven your mistakes if you have faith.”

Graham stared at his son. “I want to believe you. I’d like to have the assurance you suddenly have—but frankly your behavior frightens me.”

“Sometimes God’s hand in my life is very frightening,” Buck admitted. “I don’t know what He’s up to, but at times I feel—I don’t know—pulled into this perfect love beyond my comprehension. I can’t figure out how to say things yet. When I read the Bible now it’s as if I’ve stumbled upon long lost relatives and I’m happy.”

“So you like the saints?”

“I like all the imperfection. All the stumbling toward God. I like how God reaches first and knows our hearts and refines them if we let Him,” Buck said. “Father, it’s God’s hope that you’ll come when He calls.”

“I’m happy enough that you’ve softened your heart to me. Maybe that’s all I’m ready for.” Graham stood and patted Buck’s shoulder.

“I’ll keep praying for you, Father,” Buck promised.

Graham studied his son with suspicion, but Buck’s smile from beneath the tight bandage disarmed him.

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Featured Image: Home Sweet Home by Winslow Homer