Volume II of Words, Words, Words is focused on forgiveness and it begins with me.
Hi there, friends! It’s Wednesday!
I know I mentioned I would have an Even More Okay edition, but I apologize; it’s actually a Words, Words, Words edition, which means, like Even More Okay, the content is a thank you to those who financially support Okay History.
Please forgive my mix-up.
Okay History is a reader-supported publication. You can manage your subscription here if you want additional content.
As a reminder, Words, Words, Words is my take on book reviews. The first volume you can check out here, where I read like crazy on my honeymoon. And like all honeymoons, my intense reading ended abruptly.
But I finally have compiled three books I’d like to share. Forgiveness is a running theme in each. One is how we treated the dead during the Civil War, so if you want to be grossed out, that one is above the preview. There’s one beautiful story of forgiveness in that one.
Then I look at the Church Fathers from the view of an Evangelical Theologian I began reading in 2016. I forgave myself for taking so long to finish.
Finally, I write about a book on Abraham Lincoln’s faith journey. Lincoln and God work out their forgiveness of each other.
Before we begin, the rating system has changed a bit since the inaugural volume. Ratings will now be based on three stars, like the three stars of my home flag, Washington, DC. Plus, my designer made the logo with three stars, so there you go.
Okay, let’s dive in!
1. The Aftermath of the Battle: The Burial of the Civil War Dead. Written by Meg Groeling
Year Published: 2015
Number of pages: 169
Nobody likes dead bodies lying around, but Meg Groeling does an excellent job of guiding you through the horrors of war and what to do with the fallen.
Approximately 750,000 people died during the Civil War, but it could have been a lot worse had it not been for the work of Major Jonathan Letterman, a surgeon considered the Father of Battlefield Medicine.
Up to thirty percent of the army spent time on sick leave at any given time. At the start of the war, the disease killed more soldiers than battlefield injuries, and when Letterman was assigned to the Army of the Potomac, he quickly improved standards, whereas the by the end of the year, the disease rate declined by a third.
He did this by improving sanitation, providing vegetables to prevent scurvy and proper food preparations.
Good job, Jonny!
There are so many bad things throughout this book that it’s hard to distinguish the bad from the ugly.
So I’ll share a little of the story of a runaway enslaved person working at a Union prison camp in Pennsylvania. When Confederate prisoners died, John Jones became in charge of properly burying the dead that the Government refused to pay to ship home. He did an excellent job in a bad situation.
One that saw him arrange to have the body of the son of his former master returned home.
So many battles were fought in Spotsylvania and Orange County, Virginia, during the war. When The Battle of the Wilderness was fought over a few days in May 1864, soldiers were camping next to and walking through skeletons of fallen compatriots from just a year earlier.
There was no formal coordinated effort to clear fields, and skirmishes and more extensive engagements began so frequently that soldiers would get sick from the stench of rotting corpses before charging into battle.
That’s just one thing I think I could share without you being even more disgusted.
I mean, the entire book is U-G-L-Y.
This is a challenging book to take in. But each chapter takes you across many battlefields that ultimately turn into cemeteries.
There are chilling tales of digging up enemies, body parts piling up, and even the fates of horses that are written so delicately as to reflect the service they gave in a war they had nothing to do with.
Groeling is a gifted storyteller who also provides insight into how to visit these solemn places. You would never know she teaches middle school history if you didn’t read anything about her.
I picked this book up when I went to Arlington National Cemetery and highly recommend it if Civil War history is a particular interest. This is a unique perspective that isn’t written about enough.
3 out of 3 stars