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Life IS history in the making. Every word we say, everything we do becomes history the moment it is said or done. Life void of memories leaves nothing but emptiness. For those who might consider history boring, think again: It is who we are, what we do and why we are here. We are certainly individuals in our thoughts and deeds but we all germinated from seeds planted long, long ago.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Stuck in the Mud

This Day in History: January 20, 1863

With today being celebrated as Robert E. Lee Day along with Martin Luther King Day, it seems most fitting to include a little story about mud and an event of the American Civil War. This, in turn, leads to a personal childhood mud story.

The Battle of Fredericksburg by Kurz and Allison.
Source: en.wikipedia.org
The year: 1863. Weather conditions: a dry January, point of which becomes apparent later. The Union Army is rocking and reeling from a disastrous blow impounded upon them during the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, on December 13, 1862. Union General Ambrose Burnside's Army of the Potomac has suffered enormous casualties, more than 2 1/2 times that of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. That leaves General Burnside in a very bad mood with troops experiencing extremely low morale. The fact that winter is setting in does not help ease the situation either. A little sunshine at this point certainly would ease some of the tension.

General Burnside is itching to get the best of General Lee. He devises a plan to draw Lee's Confederate soldiers away from their defenses, thus out into the open. A perfect plan as long as the weather remains dry, a necessity to the success of the plan. Did the weather remain in Burnside's favor? Absolutely not! Several days of heavy rain turn the roads of Virginia into a muddy quagmire bogging everything down.
Logistical problems delayed the laying of a pontoon bridge across the Rappahannock River, and a huge traffic jam snarled the army's progress. In one day, the 5th New York moved only a mile and a half. The roads became unnavigable, and conflicting orders caused two corps to march across each other's paths. Horses, wagons, and cannons were stuck in mud, and the element of surprise was lost. Jeering Confederates taunted the Yankees with shouts and signs that read "Burnside's Army Stuck in the Mud." Source: History.com
Civil War: The Mud March
As a result of being 'stuck in the mud', the campaign was abandoned three days later. To add insult to injury, General Burnside tried to raise moral by supplying liquor (whiskey rations) to the Union soldiers. His intent was to lift the soldiers spirits but the only spirits realized in this aftermath were the ghosts of the nasty hangover. Brawls ensued among drunken troops with entire regiments joining in on the fighting among themselves.

On January 23, General Burnside gave up his attempt to, as he put it, "strike a great and mortal blow to the rebellion." That was it. Enough. A total fiasco! So disastrous, Burnside was removed as commander of the Union Army on January 25.

A Personal Reflection...

What is history without a story from childhood? Each of us has a fond memory that perhaps either directly or indirectly connects our lives in some way to past historical events.

Mine is a story of mud. . .

When I was a little girl
I loved to eat dirt
My favorite recipe, mud pies—
One cup water, two cups Mother Earth

When I think about it now
"Was I completely insane?"
If asked to eat it today
I would say, "Never again!"

One memorable day at school
My teacher read a story out loud
A story about a soldier
That made me grin both inside and out

His story was a story of mud
"Reddish brown mud, blackish mud, gray mud
Soggy mud, dried up mud, hopeless mud
Even suck-your-shoe-off-your-foot mud. . .

Mud all over his pants and his boots
Mud in his water and mud in his food
Woolen blankets coated with caked mud
So stiff they wouldn't do anyone good. . .

Mud so think guns sand to their axles
Mules disappeared without a trace
Once a soldier stuck deep in the mud
Used his musket to mark his place"

This soldier fought
Alongside many who died
In civil war
Filled with hardship and pride

Now as I reminisce of my days with mud
On my face, clothes, socks, even shoes
I think about this lonely Union soldier
With his mud pies amidst the blues

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