Oliver Wendell Holmes discussed on John Batchelor


But without the irony without the depth without the conviction of oliver wendell holmes who survived the war ambrose beers who survived the war charles francis adams who saw a great deal of violence and others why not why didn't custer have their death he certainly saw the killing well he went into the war with a sort of romantic idealism but so did many other men but there are two things about custard that that stand out one is that he he became a staff officer in general at a very young age he was twenty three when he became a brigadier general in the us volunteers in that means he had command of his fate he was not simply a soldier who was pushed out in the front line who i do wait out fighting in the trenches at at petersburg this is a man who not only a command of his state but he fought in this narrow slice of the war in which he may be the last american general to kill similar to sort fight this is the kind of warfare that young men imagined when they went off to war in eighteen sixty one it actually reinforces custer's illusions at a time when infantryman in more discerning officers are seeing the debris talapity irony of war that we know so well from for example catch twenty two or more modern writings about war and you read ambrose beers this is a man who is become dark to the point of cynical who believes that death is coming for all of us and it's random and it's brutal and it's a practical joker on us and custard does not have that sense today he looks like an antiquated figure editor of madeira ties birth but at the time americans many americans were cleaning since that their nation was changing the ways they did not like and custer representative in earlier america that many people still cherished i note that he want he very much was close to actors thanks to one particular actor he met in saint louis but he admired edmund he admired boosts brother edmund booth edwin booth he went to the theater all the time and if i look at the theater of those days and the shakespeare plays they enjoyed it was sentimental to a degree i we have this word saccharin it would apply to that because does just custer right with saccharin tj i think so i was capable of sarcasm neva certainly capable of sense of irony in yet it is far from the dominant theme in his his narrative you know an example is when he wrote in his memoir about that final confrontation with the cheyenne's and in eighteen sixty nine when he he basically courses the syrians into giving up two white women they'd taken as prisoners yes and also into agreeing to surrender and he wrote about this is a wonderful moment of very sentimental moment when these two young women are reunited with their families and everyone's crying and happy in fact they were deeply traumatized by their experience and you know we we don't have to take a hostile view of native americans to realize that they saw warfare is is a very ruthless thing in these two young women were subjected to terrible trauma and other people voted them as being deeply traumatized looking like they were twice their age but custer he projects it in a very romantic very sentimental style in that was his outlook i think that's true to the way he saw the world we're back to the indian fighter custer's trials those that's the title of the book a life on the frontier of a new america tj.

Coming up next