Friday, September 21, 2012

A Bivouac of the Dead

Ambrose Bierce later visited much of the ground on which he fought. In "A Bivouac of the Dead" he finds a spot where his regiment fought its way up a hill only to find that it was indefensible; so his commander called it a "reconnaissance in force" and they went back down. But there were casualties and many of them, at the time of Bierce's visit, still laid buried near where they fell but the spot seemed to have been used for other dead as well:

"In these forgotten graves rest the Confederate dead -- between eighty and one hundred, as nearly as can be made out. Some fell in the 'battle;' the majority died of disease. Two, only two, have apparently been disinterred for reburial at their homes. So neglected and obscure is this campo santo that only he upon whose farm it is -- the aged postmaster of Travelers' Repose -- appears to know about it. Men living within a mile have never heard of it. Yet other men must be still living who assisted to lay these Southern soldiers where they are, and could identify some of their graves. Is there a man, North or South, who would begrudge the expense of giving to these fallen brothers the tribute of green graves? One would rather not think so. True, there are several hundreds of such places still discoverable in the track of the great war. All the stronger is the dumb demand -- the silent plea of these fallen brothers to what is 'likest God within the soul.'

"they were honest and courageous foemen, having little in common with the political madmen who persuaded them to their doom and the literary bearers of false witness in the aftertime. They did not live through the period of honorable strife into the period of vilification -- did not pass from the iron age to the brazen -- from the era of the sword to the member of the Southern Historical Society. Their valor was not the fury of the non-combatant; they have no voice in the thunder of the civilians and the shouting. Not by them are impaired the dignity and infinite pathos of the Lost Cause. Give them, these blameless gentlemen, their rightful part in all the pomp that fills the circuit of the summer hills."

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