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Old 12-24-2014, 04:54 AM
 
Location: Glasgow Scotland
18,526 posts, read 18,738,593 times
Reputation: 28767

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Midnight Scenes and Social Photographs streets, wynds and dens of Glasgow.. 1858
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Old 12-24-2014, 05:26 AM
 
Location: north central Ohio
8,665 posts, read 5,844,099 times
Reputation: 5201
Quote:
Originally Posted by banjomike View Post
I get on a history bent every few years.
My latest book is not for the faint hearted nor those with a weak stomach, but it's a very compelling read.

It's called Living Hell- The Dark Side Of The Civil War, written by Michael C.C. Adams, Professor Emeritus of Northern Kentucky University.

While I'm not exactly a Civil War buff, the war was one of the most important events in our history, and has had a veneer of romance and glory covering it all my life. At the same time, whenever the romance is foremost, there is always a lot of relatively vague mentions of it's horrors in both fiction and non-fiction.

This book is specifically about those horrors. In great and gut wrenching detail, taken from letters, documents and reports written during the war. Adams' research is impeccable, and by the end of the first chapter, all my notions of glory disappeared forever.

The book covers a lot of stuff that isn't considered when thinking about the war; each chapter deals with a specific subject. It begins with the reasons why the soldiers enlisted, what they expected, and the changes that made the war so bloody.

Then it proceeds to how life was in the encampments on the march, the horrors of close-order combat, clearing the battlefields, the effects on the solider's sanity, etc. It's a fast read, but I can't handle more than one chapter at a time.

A few of the less gory discoveries in the book:

As much as 2/3rds of both sides were very ill, dehydrated, and exhausted going in to every major battle. At any time, dysentary and pneumonia incapacitated half the men. They went into battle with foul uniforms stiffened from loose bowels hacking up blood from the dust or mud of the encampments, dry as a bone and half starved.

The lack of clean water caused as many battles to be lost as any single cause. Men died on the road when their mouths and throats plugged solid from the dust and they had no water to wash the dirt down. Dirty water was most often the only water, and it was incredibly dirty. Technology allowed fast supply for the first time, but when supplies couldn't arrive by rail or riverboat, the troops often had to wait for days for food to arrive. Ammunition was always the first thing to arrive, and food and medical supplies were always slow. Most of the best food never reached the troops, so they were prone to diseases like scurvy during some periods of the war.

It was the first trench war in history. Some siege entreatments lasted for over a year, and trench lines were always dug in almost every battle. The trenches were used as graves afterward, and most of the dead were buried in shallow mass graves. The Europeans in WWI used the Civil War's developments in entrenchment, a cause of that war's stalemate.

The amount of ammunition expended is staggering- after one battle, Confederate troops, sent back to the field to glean the expended bullets for re-melting and re-use, collected over 2 1/2 tons of rifle bullets. The lead bullets oxidized upon discharge, leaving battlefields looking like they were covered in snow.
At times, the cannon barrels of the gun batteries became so hot they created convection currents in the air. These currents were so strong they carried body parts of men and horses up into the air, where they rained down on the fight below.

There were heavy rainstorms after the major battles. These storms are thought to be the result of all the heat and dust that rose, and the rain and mud that followed further crippled both sides as they advanced or retreated.

Fights were often so thick with white smoke that both sides were left blind. The battles in timber were the most dreaded, because they created forest fires and cannon shot hitting trees was more lethal than the cannon balls. The trees would explode in deadly splinters.

There were more horses lost than men, and men died because their horses died. Both sides buried the horses to keep the putrefaction down, but many went unburied, making the battlefields terrible for months afterward. The crowd at the Gettysburg Address could barely stand the smell long enough to listen to the speeches, and many had left before Lincoln spoke due to all the dead horses.

The officers suffered much more damage than the men, and the Generals suffered the most damage of all in their small numbers. Both sides lost the majority of their Generals to death, wounds, disease, and mental breakdown. Officers were often wounded severely, but went into battle, wounded or not. Many of the major problems that dragged out the war were due to the mental and physical debility of the major Generals. McClellan's hesitation to fight was due in large part to his horror of seeing his troop's damage.
Other Generals became foolhardy in response to their fear; Confederate General Hood, who lost both legs and one arm, and also bore several wounds to the torso and head, led his troops into mass suicidal charges before he was finally killed in battle.

The soldiers did not become more battle hardened over time. The dread of marching into another battlefield became so oppressive that it paralyzed them all, from privates to Generals. This paralysis was one of the reasons why Lee's forces failed at Gettysburg.
The officers did everything they could to urge their men forward, but the fear was so great many could not will themselves to move, and either fell flat or marched in place, thinking they were going forward. The officers had to lead from the front in order to see what was going on. Many were blind drunk, the only way they could numb themselves enough from the fear of death to lead.
But once the battle closed, everyone either fought with fury or 'skedaddled'. The word was invented by the troops- for them, it defined the break-and-run that could happen to anyone at any time.

The lingering physical toll of the battlefield caused terrible mistakes to be made. Officers who had lost a leg weren't excused for further combat, and they often fell off their horses several times during a fight. By the surrender, many had been wounded several times, with several lost limbs.

They all went into battle standing straight. If a solider crouched, a mini ball would go clear through the length of his body, most often entering at the collar bone and existing around the buttocks or hips, striking every major organ along it's path. By standing straight, they faced less damage, but in close ranks, a single bullet could kill up to 4 men.

The book will certainly remove any notions of glamor and glory from the reader.
But as an account, the thing I've taken away is admiration for them all. Even the weakest among them was a very brave man, and those who survived with minds and bodies fairly intact had a nobility to them. It is very easy to understand now why the vets of both sides grew to see their old enemies as brothers. Only they understood what they all endured.

War talk is cheap. Reading this book gives an honest picture of what war really is. Tactics and technology don't change anything.
WOW,that certainly shows just how insane and sub-human war is, and what it does to the participants!
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Old 12-24-2014, 03:01 PM
 
4,046 posts, read 2,130,139 times
Reputation: 10985
Quote:
Originally Posted by cloven View Post
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk (2014).
I'm 4/5 through it, very slow going as the material is dense in places, and I have to re-read.

Plus, I'm typing up notes on it (quotes from the book) to mail my aunt, which she appreciates but adds to the effort to get somewhere in my reading.
I type up notes for myself, I just send a copy to her which gives her a shorter overview/sampling of the writing without her having to read the whole thing herself.

Here's a brief passage:
Loved the quote. We are often told that in yoga. Would be nice to have a book that supplements what we learn and experience on the mat. Thanks!
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Old 12-24-2014, 06:59 PM
 
10 posts, read 7,796 times
Reputation: 26
I finished Wonder by R.J Palacio and Charlotte's Web by E.B White, following the reading steps of my son.
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Old 12-24-2014, 10:23 PM
 
3,943 posts, read 6,372,071 times
Reputation: 4233
I'm just starting The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield. Just read The Good Girl, which was supposed to be similar to Gone Girl, with a twist at the end. But, it was very easy to know what was going to happen, and I thought the book was lame.

I'm on the waiting list for A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash, and Revival by Stephen King.
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Old 12-25-2014, 12:42 PM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
5,299 posts, read 8,253,049 times
Reputation: 3809
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jess5 View Post
I'm just starting The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield. Just read The Good Girl, which was supposed to be similar to Gone Girl, with a twist at the end. But, it was very easy to know what was going to happen, and I thought the book was lame.

I'm on the waiting list for A Land More Kind than Home by Wiley Cash, and Revival by Stephen King.
I finished The Good Girl last week. I highly Do Notrecommend this book. It's nothing like Gone Girl. I hate myself for reading to the end.
I have the Wiley Cash book, but haven't started it yet.
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Old 12-25-2014, 12:45 PM
 
Location: Los Angeles>Little Rock>Houston>Little Rock
6,489 posts, read 8,810,279 times
Reputation: 17514
I'm reading the new Patricia Cornwell and not liking it much.
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Old 12-25-2014, 02:20 PM
 
Location: Montreal -> CT -> MA -> Montreal -> Ottawa
17,330 posts, read 33,018,915 times
Reputation: 28903
Quote:
Originally Posted by tigerlily View Post
I finished The Good Girl last week. I highly Do Notrecommend this book. It's nothing like Gone Girl. I hate myself for reading to the end.
Oooohhhh, The Good Girl is on my "to read" list. Good to know that it's not good! I probably won't even bother trying it now.
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Old 12-25-2014, 06:15 PM
 
Location: Kirkwood, DE and beautiful SXM!
12,054 posts, read 23,341,957 times
Reputation: 31918
Just started Letters from Wishing Rock.
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Old 12-25-2014, 07:56 PM
 
9,153 posts, read 9,486,905 times
Reputation: 14039
Having a hard time getting into anything. Started The Adventures of Augie March by Bellows.
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