Wednesday, April 06, 2011
A FEW REMARKS ON HEROISM
By Clifton Palmer McLendon
The more I think about it, every Confederate — no matter how obscure — was a hero.
Here we were. Our country had been invaded by a mighty nation. We were outnumbered. The enemy was better-fed, better-equipped, better-paid, and largely better-trained. While we fought with decorum, they made war as bloody a business as possible both on our soldiers and our civilians. They made such a business out of atrocities that I am surprised that they didn’t roast us and eat us.
Against these overwhelming odds, our men — young and old — rose to the challenge. We did everything we could to tell the enemy "Go home and leave us alone." We endured poor food, very little food, and often no food at all. We drank whatever water was available, with predictable results. We endured sickness. We took our pay, when there was pay to be had, in largely worthless paper. We often fought barefooted and in rags. We endured all these hardships and more, and we soldiered on.
In the end, the enemy had their way with us — but it cost them 300,000 dead, thousands of wounded and maimed, and several billion dollars in the days when a dollar was worth more than the paper it was printed upon.
It has been said of some leaders "If he called for volunteers to charge the gates of Hell armed with wet mops, I would follow him." Given the lopsided odds we faced, we did charge the gates of Hell armed with wet mops, and we threw Pandemonium into pandemonium. Although we never managed to tie a knot in Satan’s tail, we gave it such a twisting that he screamed loud and long.
Consider the story of David and Goliath with a different ending. David slings the stone and catches Goliath in the eye. Goliath casts his javelin and skewers David, then hacks him in two with his sword. David lies dead, and Goliath goes staggering back to the Philistine camp screaming, with blood gushing forth from his useless eye-socket.
I say David is no less a hero with that ending than he is with the actual ending as recorded in the seventeenth chapter of First Samuel. The moment he faced Goliath, with everyone else hanging back, he cemented his claim to the title.
Even so, our ancestors’ brave stand made them heroes.