Posts Tagged ‘Ken Burns’

Timeless Reminder: A Soldier’s Letter Home From the Civil War

July 24, 2011

Can you tell from the frequency of my posts that I have turned into an agoraphobic, due to the heat wave we are experiencing?  Temps are reaching 105 and heat indices are approaching 115.  I remain housebound and finally have some time to comment on some of my favorite things.

This past week marked the 150th anniversary of the first major battle of the Civil War at Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have married the love of your life, for those of you undying patriots and for those of you who are just plain old bleeding hearts, I present to you an extremely moving video.  It is from Ken Burns “The Civil War”, a dramatic and musical masterpiece in and of itself.

While the audio of the following clip is taken from “The Civil War,” the video are scenes from the movie “Glory:”

This excerpt is of a letter written by Major Sullivan Ballou, a Union soldier from Rhode Island.  The reading, by Paul Roebling,  is another amazing story, which is detailed in the Washington Post article linked below.  The accompanying music is titled “Ashokan Farewell” and was composed by Ken Ungar.   It is funereal, based on a Scottish lament.  Nevertheless, if I had my life to live over again and was able to pre-pick accompanying music,  to musically score the important events, this would be the song I would choose for my birth, marriage and death.  All of these three elements, the letter, the reading and the music, combine to result in a most hauntingly beautiful tale of patriotism, love of a soul mate and a lasting legacy left for the  children.

Enough said.  Have a listen and cry your heart out about an atrocious war that almost split apart our Union, not to mention the personal, destructive toll it wrought by its outright savagery.  Following is the the link for the fantastic Washington Post story, that inspired me to write this post,  on this heartbreaking letter:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/civil-war-soldiers-heartbreaking-farewell-letter-was-written-before-death-at-bull-run/2011/07/11/gIQAFe3MQI_story.html

Was Sullivan Ballou’s plaint more a love letter or more a statement of patriotism?  In the end, it doesn’t matter.  Senseless wars (and is there a war that makes sense?)  undeniably annihilate every form of love.  If at any time you feel the need to fight, turn around, look at your family, listen to this agonizingly lamentable letter and magical music —- and then retreat.  To engage is to lose.  Rise above the rhetoric, even though the principles may be correct.  Our methods in battling for good causes must be re-evaluated and altered.  What good is a new bloodbath used to end a previous bloodbath??  No good at all.

So take a few minutes of solitude to listen to this piece of history accompanied by this spiritually moving score.  Its beauty and lasting impression has stayed with me for over twenty years.  For me, this small piece of “The Civil War” documentary has yet to lose its meaning and impact.

MORE INFO ON “ASHOKAN FAREWELL” AND SULLIVAN BALLOU’S LETTER TO HIS WIFE:

http://www.nellaware.com/blog/sullivan-ballou-letter.html

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