Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Civil war story

Today marks the 143rd anniversary of General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Seems like a good time to post one of my favorite essays. It was written by my dad, Paul Churchill, and appeared circa 1981 in the Howard County [Maryland] Times. He says it took about ten minutes to write, after about ten years of reflection. Enjoy!

The bearded President had guided his country through the war, had seen past the havoc of its division, had sought through the desolation he brought upon the South to restore the union of North and South, and had longed to experience the reconstruction of the land he had laid waste. How sad that the gentle man had not been able to live to see his dreams take shape in reality.

It was a long and bitter conflict, that civil war. Trite though it is to say, it was nonetheless a war between brothers, between fathers and sons, as much as it was a war of regional differences.

Now the land is quiet and the guns have been silenced, but even now so many years later, the memory of war is still alive in that South. The battlegrounds bear testimony through the remnants of the machines of war to the struggle which those two opposing armies carried on.

It was a noble experiment for the South: self-government, independence, the dignity of local control over local issues, the honest attempt to escape what the South viewed as the tyrannical despotism of that bearded President whom history has immortalized in more favorable aspect. But it was a failed experiment, and despite occasional rumors to the contrary, the South will never rise again, at least not through armed conflict.

How little count those early Southern successes in the field. How trivial seem the shows of pride. How fruitless were those seeds of independence, of flags and ballot boxes, of Southern currency and resistance to agrarian reform, of stubborn adherence to a feudal system of farm labor, of personal freedom over submission to national aims. They all matter but little now and seem so futile in retrospect.

The North had been able to contain most of the fighting to Southern territory and had never much feared invasion. Despite the foreign aid granted to the South, the North had never openly feared its own defeat, only the defeat of a reunified nation.

And so the Northern army marched south and saw the tattered remnants of its enemy fall before it. And what had taken so long was finally done in one final swift thrust. The Northern soldiers marched into the enemy’s fallen capital and renamed it Ho Chi Minh City.


Andy said...

Wow, that was fantastic!

Matt Mullenix said...

I didn't expect that.

Mark Churchill said...

Glad to hear it, Matt! The Appomattox intro may have set you up a little bit, but I think the essay surprises most people even without the help.