Going to Gettysburg – Part 3.

By Paul Comrie | November 15, 2018

I like to do things in threes.  It makes sense to me.  Even though today was the third day away from Gettysburg, I like to think the further I get away from the place, the closer I come to some understanding of what it means to me.  In the Ken Burns documentary they talk about ‘acoustic shadows’, which was a phenomenon that many observers of the Civil War battles remarked upon.

The idea was that you could not hear a battle from up close, but could only do so from further away. This is a documented phenomenon – I won’t say it is factual, I will only say it was reported upon – and that it was mentioned by numerous correspondents.

Sitting as I am tonight in Memphis – in country music country, not far really from Nashville – I have to say I keep thinking back to Gettysburg. It almost felt to me like a silo, as though the land of the battle sites themselves were conduits back to some other dimension. Appomattox Court House too had that feeling, but it was much quieter, tranquil and at peace.  In Gettysburg I could still feel the tension of the monuments and the jockeying state-wide forces which have worked so hard to ‘out-monument’ the others in their race to depict the ‘Lost Cause’ mythology in stone, mortar and monument.

Not so with Appomattox. Here the great conflict came to its sad, soft end – and here I would argue a ‘complicated kindness’ on Lincoln’s behalf began to demarcate the American character in relation to peace treaties – but also enshrined a kind of behaviour that would be used to enable white supremacy throughout the decades to come.

Going to Appomattox was strangely eerie – because it’s so far lost into the trees, the bush really, and the blue mountains that cover the horizon. It feels far away from anything, as though the nightmare that hit full fruition in Gettysburg, woke up to a still peaceful room in a quiet, safe place. Appomattox feels that way, protected, safe – but I could swear I could still hear the sound of the guns from Gettysburg.

This is the myth of how it went down. I have my reservations about this but I am sure it must be mostly true. My questions are reserved for what was going on inside the heads of these men.