Monday, January 26, 2009

But O! How I Would Love To Be a Citizen


I was actually reading some comments on another forum today discussing soldiering in the American Civil War versus the relatively "new" idea of us Civil War Historians feeling the need to really understand the "citizen" before becoming the soldier in the ranks. While thinking about this, The Civil War Letters of Joshua K. Callaway came to mind. Callaway enlisted in the 28th Alabama as a first sergeant in March 1862, was promoted to second lieutenant in October 1862, and was killed on November 25, 1863, during the fight on Missionary Ridge. One of the most interesting aspects of Callaway's term of service is his outlook on serving in the Confederate Army and the 180 he pulls in less than a year. On April 25, 1862, Joshua writes to his wife, Dulcinea, concerning his love of military service.
You need not be afraid of my suffering from exposure: our tents are very comfortable. In short I am enjoying myself finely. I had much rather be here that teaching school. And then, in addition to my fun, the Yankees are advancing upon us, but what kills my fun from that quarter is, we can't get into the fight (8-9).
Less than a year later, on March 17, 1863, Callaway writes home again. This time, his story has changed from an excited boy, itching for a fight, to a somber man, longing for hearth and home.
The Regiments are filling up considerably and I think they will be sundered soon. I don't know though that it will do me any good. I don't care anything about promotions. I wouldn't give a fig to be a Lieutenant general, if it were not for the sake of the big pay. But O! How I would love to be a citizen-- a school teacher (75).
I believe we all can learn a thing or two from Joshua Callaway's letters of life. Although there were some who longed to serve the Confederacy until its dying day, most soldiers were like Callaway. They longed for action, but once "the elephant" and camplife became an everyday reality, they longed to go home and take up their previous trades.

3 comments:

Will said...

I came across your blogs in one of your posts on the Authentic Campaigner site. Excellent work. Apparently you work in the history field. Here's a thought: write a book about the real story of "Co. H."

By the way, in one of your older posts about "the Brothers' War" you mention a Confederate who had received a letter from Union POW Leroy L. Key and declared "you are not my brother." In case you weren't aware, Leroy Key is a character in Mackinlay Kantor's novel "Andersonville." For a war with 3 million troops engaged, it is interesting how often familiar faces pop up.

Christopher Young said...

I believe I speak for all of the blog authors when I say, "thank you." We are all involved in the history profession in one way or another and have all spent many years researching various aspects of the Army of Tennessee and the Western Theater of the American Civil War. Continue to check back for updated blog posts!!!

Will said...

Color me stupid but I never caught on that your blogs have multiple authors. Inevitably many CW blogs have an eastern theater focus and it's refreshing, not to mention fascinating, to read discussions of something I know little about: life in the Army of Tennessee. It's a hard thing to admit but I've only recently started to study "the West" in depth, thanks to reading Woodworth's "Nothing But Victory" in school and revisiting the stories of Ambrose Bierce.