“The volcanic upheaval of the nation, after that firing on the flag at Charleston, proved for certain something which had been previously in great doubt, and at once substantially settled the question of disunion. In my judgment it will remain as the grandest and most encouraging spectacle yet vouchsafed in any age, old or new, to political progress and democracy” , stated Whitman in this text.  Whitman described this experience as National Will finally surfacing for Americans.  Whitman said out of all the days of the war, two stick out immensely to him.  Those occasions were the battle of Bull Run, and Abraham Lincoln’s death.  He says his mother and him barely said a word and could not eat, only silently pass the paper between one another.  The war all in all, was difficult for Whitman.  He sat by bedsides, he visited hospitals,and saw the destruction these battles were actually doing to families.  Whitman visited particular hospitals to soothe patients, a truly kind man at heart.

July 4th, Whitman tells us how he visited more patients.  “I walk’d on to Armory hospital—took along with me several bottles of blackberry and cherry syrup, good and strong, but innocent. Went through several of the wards, announc’d to the soldiers the news from Meade, and gave them all a good drink of the syrups with ice water, quite refreshing—prepar’d it all myself, and serv’d it around.” He reaccounts how he heard the Washington bells ringing in the background.  More weeks pass, the weather becomes more unbearable, and Washington believes they have seen the worst.  “So here she sits with her surrounding hills spotted with guns, and is conscious of a character and identity different from what it was five or six short weeks ago, and very considerably pleasanter and prouder.”

On October 20th, Whitman talks of the stars and a long walk after a long visit to the hospital.  Its remarkable how such things he can still take notice of after all the awful and morbid things he sees during his days.  “Somehow it look’d rebukefully strong, majestic, there in the delicate moonlight. The sky, the planets, the constellations all so bright, so calm, so expressively silent, so soothing, after those hospital scenes. I wander’d to and fro till the moist moon set, long after midnight.”

“During those three years in hospital, camp or field, I made over six hundred visits or tours, and went, as I estimate, counting all, among from eighty thousand to a hundred thousand of the wounded and sick, as sustainer of spirit and body in some degree, in time of need.” Whitman considers these three years the greatest of his life.  These experiences taught him the most profound lesson of his life.  Whitman, during this time, slighted not a soul.  Whitman comments on the thousands of “unknown” graves, this passage simply gave me goosebumps.  One can tell through his writings that he truly was affected in every way by these battles.  “–it is best they should not—the real war will never get in the books.” Whitman believed a race was determined by how it faced death and anguish. “– in the glints of emotions under emergencies, and the indirect traits and asides in Plutarch, we get far profounder clues to the antique world than all its more formal history.”

Trachtenberg argues in the other text we had to read for todays blog, that “how each of these albums (Brady & Gardners) of war confronts this intractable power to depict war as an event in everyday life.”  These illustrations really show us what war was.  Photographs represent actuality.  They show more than an artists hand at work.  “They appear as tokens of a remembered horror, ” states Trachtenberg.  Photos of this war represent the unthinkable, the unimaginable.  “The real war will never get in the books.” -Walt Whitman.  “We think of Whitman’s words as a lament, a loss for which, however, we can find consolation in photographs” says Trachetenberg.  We know that there is different relation between image and text.  However, in Gardners work, he places text under each of his images, along with dates.  The real war, lies in images and texts.  Both tell us of a history we were not present for, but can relive throughout others words and photography. For Whitman’s sake, we can see the real war throughout photos.

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One Response to ““The real war will never get in the books””

  1.   Dominique Zino said:


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