Archive for June 2nd, 2012

One of the more challenging aspects of wrapping your head around how people lived and thought in a different time is dropping the sense of inevitability and to some extent, labels. We tend to label and organize and categorize things, but that’s much easier to do with hindsight. People living in the thick of things aren’t always conscious of what will be essential to remember or what it will someday be called. One of the best examples I’ve heard of is the Battle of Gettysburg. When the soldiers marched into the little Pennsylvania town in late June and early July, they had no idea that this battle was going to be on of the most remembered. Some might not have even known the name of the place where they fought, and historians note that letters and diary entries from Gettysburg have to be identified through context because the soldiers, rather than calling it the Battle of Gettysburg, just mention things like having fought in a wheatfield or in a peach orchard. And so this tombstone is labeled not with our modern naming for this war, but as the War with Spain. The appellation the Spanish-American war must not have become standard until after this veteran’s death.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: