Names From The War

PrintPrintEmailEmail … Maybe we won’t have a big fight I or a day or two yet … And sometimes llie news from the battle front reached home before the letters did, so that what the writers said came from beyond the grave, And the people back home looked at the postmarks, reading the names that meant fear and heartache and undying loneliness. Those strange country names from the war— Sharpsburg and Spotsylvania, Pittsburg Landing and Brices Cross Roads, Chickamauga and Games’ Mill, Milliken’s Bend, Olustee, Bentonville, Gettysburg, Corinth, Manassas, Cross Keys, Mechanicsville, Chattanooga, Franklin, Resaca, Dover— Quiet names of doom, stamped on soiled envelopes, going across all of America, iveaving a crimson thread into the nation’s memory, names that many families would never dare say again— Not until years and the growth of quiet pride had done their work.
There were other names that did not get on the postmarks, Names given to stray bits of landscape, groven equally grim because death and anguish lay upon them— Missionary Ridge, the Wilderness, Cemetery Ridge, Malvern Hill, the West Wood and the, East Wood, Snake Creek Gap, Cedar Creek; And the names that came straight from the battlefields, coined by the men wlio fought, Names like Bloody Lane and the Bloody Angle, the Round Forest, Battery Wagner, the Peach Orchard, the Sunken Road, Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield and the Cornfield; Names of churches—Shiloh, New Hope, Dallas, and the Dunker church; Names of the houses people had lived, in—Widow Tapp and Widow Glenn, tlie iMnmma House and the Henry House, Chantilly; Names like the Emmitsburg road and the Valley Pike, and at last the haunted road that led past Sailor’s Creek to Appomattox; Names tliat will live as long as America remembers.
The agony is gone, the grief and tlie loneliness are over, with those who grieved going to join lhe men they mourned; The bitterness and the hot bewildered fury liave faded out; The last of the tragic overtones has echoed off to stillness beyond the horizon. But the names remain, never to be forgotten, never again to be simple place names from a land history had passed by. What America was is in them; What America is greio out of them; What America finally will mean rings through them. They still clang when we touch them. They are transmuted by what they say of America’s greatest experience, America’s most, profound and touching mystery.