Friday, November 11, 2016

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month...

The American Civil War is viewed differently in the North and the South in large part because most of it happened in the latter. It was a war that Hoosier and Buckeye boys marched away to fight, but it happened right in the front yards of Tennesseans and Virginians. Southerners of my grandparents' generation would have learned about the war from men and women who, as small children, had watched their homes burn, and anybody with a metal detector can still go looking for Minie balls and shell fragments near the historical markers that dot the roadsides.

Similarly, I don't know that we as Americans really get the Great War. Sure, we sent some troops there at the end, but the sheer scale of the thing...

Consider this: During the invasion of Normandy, V Corps suffered ~3,000 casualties total; killed, wounded, and missing. Antietam, the bloodiest single-day battle of the Civil War, saw over 3,500 KIA for Union and Confederate forces, combined.

By comparison, on the opening day of the Somme Offensive the British army took almost 60,000 casualties, over nineteen thousand of whom were killed outright. The Battle of the Somme in its entirety dragged on for another four and a half months and accounted for a million casualties between all the participants. In the kindermord, the 'Massacre of the Innocents' of the first battle of Ypres, the Germans lost almost 20,000 KIA, a third of them practically children. The bones of more than 130,000 unidentified Frenchmen and their German foes are piled in the Douaumont ossuary.

And this awful corpse-furnace burned in one place for four years as Europe stoked it with the better part, literally, of an entire generation.

It's little wonder that the day on which the guns fell silent on the Western Front is still commemorated.

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