Everything for Your Home's
Beauty, Comfort & Convenience 384-2123
704 Jamestown St, Columbia
Dr. Ronald P. Rogers
Support for your body's natural healing capabilities
Click here for details
Click here for information
Real Estate & Auction Co.
Duo County Telecom
Now Available Through
Your Cable Service!
GUN & PAWN
What's Going On
Info about the
Janice Holt Giles
and Henry Giles Society
Columbia Gas Dept.
GAS LEAK or GAS SMELL
24 hrs/ 365 days
270-384-2006 or 9-1-1
Call before you dig
Directory of Churches
phone numbers and more
for churches in Adair County
Tom Chaney: Not As Seen By God Looking Down
Of Writers And Their Books: Not As Seen By God Looking Down. Tom says surely Shiloh stands among the finest novels about the Civil War, or any war for that matter. This column first appeared 5 July 2009.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column: Kudzu and Thistles
By Tom Chaney
Not As Seen By God Looking Down
Were it not for the Civil War neither the South nor the nation at large would have so rich a literature. According to William Faulkner the pivotal point in southern history was July 3, 1863 at Gettysburg just before Pickett's fatal charge with hope not yet dashed -- all yet possible.
Many writers from all regions have tried to deal with that war in fiction and have found it hard to do. Many fail in the squishy swamps of sentimentality. More fail, it seems, because they try to see the battles and the war from the top down as though the novel or the historical work (are they not the same?) were to be read by God Almighty, because no one but God ever saw the war or the battle that way.
I am drawn back to the work of Shelby Foote, especially his short novel, Shiloh .
Every time I read that fine work about that horrible battle in April of 1862, I am revolted anew by the modern day "re-enactors" who seem to treat the serious business of slaughter as a weekend diversion.
In Shiloh and in his monumental, three volume history, Civil War: A Narrative Foote is able to show bodies askance in mud and blood beyond political considerations. At one point in Shiloh he has General Ulysses Grant respond to the political issues of war, "I have nothing to do with opinion. I shall deal only with armed rebellion and its aiders and abettors."
We see the battle of Shiloh through the prism of individual experience. Foote can combine objective data with subjective experience. As the confederate army crawls toward Pittsburg Landing, Palmer Metcalfe, an aide to General Johnston, observes in Chapter One that at a distance "it was impersonal: an army in motion, so many inspissated tons of flesh and bone and blood and equipment: but seen from close, the mass reduced to company size. . . . It was not that way at all. I could see their faces then, and the army became what it really was: forty thousand men -- young men mostly -- out on their first march. . . . This was their third day out, and their faces showed it. Rain and mud. . . . Their faces were gay now in the sunlight, but when you looked close you saw the sullen lines of strain about the mouths and the lower eyelids etched with fatigue."
Many folks got their first taste of Shelby Foote from his deft appearances in Ken Burns eleven hour television epic, The Civil War. Others of us were pleased to encounter in that series the gentle southern voice we had been fond of for decades.
The seven chapters alternate between south and north ending, as it began with Metcalf. In defeat he is tending to a delirious amputee in a wagon.
Soldiers are valued by their desire to fight -- and their growing ability to do so. Yet we also see the shirkers who succumb to understandable fear and retreat to river's edge under a bluff.
Surely Shiloh stands among the finest novels about the Civil War, or any war for that matter. It has earned its place right there next to Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage in which individual suffering and relationships are paramount -- political issues are beside the point.
Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, planning his next meal, and occasionally selling books at
Box 73 / 111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney
This story was posted on 2014-07-06 04:03:37
Have comments or corrections for this story? Use our contact form and let us know.
To sponsor news and features on ColumbiaMagazine, please use our contact form.
More articles from topic Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books:
Tom Chaney: Kudzu and Thistles
Tom Chaney: A Lincoln Friendship Transformed
Tom Chaney: A Snell Wind and Occasional Smirr
Tom Chaney: 1876
Tom Chaney: What we need is here
Tom Chaney: So Open to Infinity
Tom Chaney: Robert B. Parker Yet Again
Tom Chaney: A Frisky Little River
Tom Chaney: Confluence of Memory: Continuity of Love
Tom Chaney: Catching a Ballad
View even more articles in topic Tom Chaney: Of Writers and Their Books
Click for Info
Bank of Columbia
Let Us Do the Yelling
Principal Broker & Auctioneer
Burton Real Estate
& Auction Service
Call Us For Appraisals
Click for Listings
On This Site
or Click Here
Columbia in the Movies
from the archives of
Click for Stories
The Best of
Local Stories of
The Greatest Generation
Order Book or e-Book
See who's celebrating
Birthdays and Anniversaries
Special Events List
Find Great Stuff in
Antiques, Help Wanted,
Autos, Real Estate,
Legal Notices, More...