|"Guerrilla Depredations -- 'Your Money or Your Life!,'" Harper's Weekly, Dec. 24, 1864 (courtesy of sonofthesouth.net)|
All of this got me to thinking about the way we remember the Civil War in light of recent military history. How many of us have sometimes thought of our Civil War as different from the multitude of "civil wars" that have plagued other countries in modern times? Lawless guerrillas and the deaths of innocent civilians are somehow contemporary Latin American or African problems. Surely, FARC, machete-wielding fighters, the contras, civilian casualties, or right-wing paramilitaries are a world away from the glories of Civil War battlefields and those Kurtz & Allison lithographs? We all know that when our boys in blue or gray weren't giving water to dying enemy soldiers, they were exchanging coffee, newspapers, tobacco, and jokes with the other side. Sutherland's book makes you think twice. Our Civil War was every bit as brutal and unrestrained as the civil wars of recent times. We shouldn't expect any less when a fratricidal conflict unleashes passions and pent-up frustrations on both sides. Somehow we may like to think we are different. But the nature of civil war knows no boundaries.