Thursday, August 21, 2014

the last book I ever read (Shelby Foote's The Civil War, Volume One, excerpt ten)

from The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume One: Fort Sumter to Perryville by Shelby Foote:

It was. Saturday, after an early start, Ewell’s division stopped just beyond the hamlet of Cross Keys, six miles from Harrisonburg, to stand in Frémont’s path when he came up. Jackson’s plodded another three miles and went into the position on the heights above the confluence of the rivers at Port Republic, overlooking the low-lying opposite bank of the South Fork, where the road wound southwest from Conrad’s Store; this would be Shields’ line of advance, and the guns on the heights would enfilade his column at close range. Neither of the Union forces was yet in sight, however, so the Valley soldiers had time for reading their mail, which had just been forwarded along with the latest newspapers. Elated by their victories, the editors had broken out their blackest type. The Charleston Mercury called Stonewall “a true general” and predicted that he would soon be “leading his unconquerable battalions through Maryland into Pennsylvania.” By way of contrast, gloomy reports from the northern press were reprinted in adjoining columns, and the Richmond Whig combined a mock protest with a backhand swipe at the Administration: “This man Jackson must be suppressed, or else he will change the humane and Christian policy of the war, and demoralize the Government.” The men, of course, enjoyed this flood of praise. Jackson, too, had an ache for fame—“an ambition boundless as Cromwell’s,” Taylor called it, “and as merciless”—but he considered this a spiritual infirmity, unbecoming in a Christian and a deacon of the Presbyterian Church. Also, he was pained that the glory was not ascribed to its true source: God Almighty. Members of his staff observed that from this time on he gave up reading the papers—perhaps for the same reason he had given up drinking whiskey: “Why, sir, because I like the taste of [it], and when I discovered that to be the case I made up my mind to do without [it] altogether.”

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