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Monday, July 04, 2005


Independence Day 2005 and "A Stillness at Appomattox"


Another July 4th

Don't hear the sound of fire crackers....yet but it will begin soon.

Just got back from a long hike and a picnic in the foothills. Thought I'd share the e-mail that I received today from friends traveling through N.Dakota:

"Hope you are doing something you enjoy, being with someone you love, eating something you "love" and are content with life in general.

We will use this as a travel day, but not far. About 145 miles South to Menoken, which is close to Bismarck. We will miss these beautiful rolling hills, wonderful roads almost empty of traffic and volatile weather. A young waiter we talked to in St Cloud, MN told us he was going to move to Seattle next year to finish school. Elizabeth told me she bet he would be sorry he made that move. "How could one go from having skies of blue, clouds of white, gray, black, rain and hot weather, all in the space of a few hours to mostly gray skies day in and day out?" She has a point. We never know what the weather will do here, except that it WILL have lots of thunder storms, but it is fun to watch the sky change and not know for sure if the storm will pass by on the North or South, if the wind will get fierce or not, or if it will get you wet or not. Sure is interesting.

Also interesting is that we 'Amuricuns' celebrate our independence and defend it so vigorously and yet we seem to have a reluctance to let other countries do the same. Hmm. Must be something wrong with this picture.

Elizabeth told me that something she read yesterday, "Historically,when the needs and desires of a smaller group-any group-are different from the needs of the majority, our individual and collective fears are often times projected on those in the minority." This could true of a nation, a City, even a family. Wonder what fears we are projecting on whom today?

Enjoy your independence. Think about allowing others to enjoy theirs. Be all you can be; but don't join the army

That says it all. Stay well, my visitors in cyber space.

Let's not forget Bruce Catton (1899-1978)

Death of the eminent Civil War historian Shelby Foote has received a lot of coverage in the media. He deserved it.

It was Ken Burns' documentary about the Civil War that made Mr. Foote familiar to a broad segment of the American public. There are more people who watch TV than there are readers who have interest in books about the Civil War. I remember the pleasure I experienced pulling out the volumes of Mr. Foote's three volume set and following the series on the local PBS station. Ken Burns and Shelby Foote produced masterpieces for generations.

Reading about Shelby Foote reminded me of the late Bruce Catton, another great chronicler of that important part of our nation's history. His name is not well known except among Civil War history buffs. In 1954 he was awarded the Pulitzer for "A Stillness at Appomattox". Superb piece of writing.

It was at Appomattox that General Lee surrendered to General Grant. That meant the end of the Confederate army although the war didn't officially end
until May 26, 1865, when General Kirby Smith surrendered Confederate forces west of the Mississippi.

"From U.S. Grant To R.E. Lee
Appomattox Court-House, Virginia April 9, 1865.

In accordance with the substance of my letter to you of the 8th instant, I propose to receive the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia on the following terms, to wit: Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate. The officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander to sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them. This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers nor their private horses or baggage. This done, each officer and man will be allowed to return to his home, not to be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside."

U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General"

"From R.E. Lee To U.S. Grant
Head-Quarters, Army of Northern Virginia April 9, 1865.

I received your letter of this date containing the terms of the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia, as proposed by you. As they are substantially the same as those expressed in your letter of the 8th instant, they are accepted. I will proceed to designate the proper officers to carry the stipulations into effect.

R. E. Lee, General"

Source: Harvard Classics series, 1909.
Note: This post edited and corrected on July 10,2005.

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