The Unknown Soldier and our Unknown history of Slavery

Today in class, we started an interesting conversation when discussing the Miller’s play Stragglers in the Dark. The play brings up the controversial idea of who has the right and honor to be buried there and how the play challenges the idea that a black soldier in the tomb would not be “a terrible joke on America!”. We were each able to reflect on how the history of slaves and people of color were not and are still not memorialized or taught within our school systems. Too often we whitewash history but with our generation, we are able to have conversations about what we could do to challenge and even correct how we remember history.

Today I wanted to share with you all something that is very interesting to me. Monticello Foundation has started a program called Getting Word, an oral history project to retrace and include the enslaved narratives by tracking down the descendants and changing how they present the history of Monticello. Although I see that this effort has long awaited, I recognize the step forward for this Historical Plantation and foundation to challenge other historical parks and memorials to make the same efforts. By simple changes from changing how guides will change there term of “servants” to “slaves” and gaining the oral histories of slaves who lived at Monticello through their descendants, they have promised to make Monticello a place that no longer whitewashes history. This project is the first of its kind for remembering the true people who built our most memorialized buildings and memorials. I believe that by teaching their guests and students who come to Monticello about the slave narratives, this will then, in turn, could challenge the narratives our teachers, and communities teach future generations about Slavery and race relations in the United States.


Here are links to the Getting Word Article by and the Monticello Website.


Sycamores trees commemorate World War I vets

In this article, among other historical documents, Sycamore trees are planted at the Susquehanna Trail, to commemorate WWI vets who died, and to honor soldiers of Civil War as well. It is very interesting to think that these soldiers now are remembered by living memorials. The trees were planted in the 1920’s to honor the county’s dead in World War I. The article states that the 25-mile planting along Routes 462 and 30 is part of a well-publicized “Road to Remembrance” program.  Another article states, that the trees are now have sadly fallen victim to disease, neglect, wider roads and fast-moving cars. There is a pure irony that the intention was to remember the soldiers of WW1 and now are dying from neglect, and removal by humans like the soldiers who died at the front.

Susquehanna Trail WWI Memorial Sycamores

 (170-year-old eastern sycamore tree witness to Civil War.)

Plunging Limbers in Rosenberg’s Dead Man’s Dumb

To say this poem is brutal is an extreme understatement. This was one of the most vivid poems out of the list that was read for today. Rosenburg uses his vivid imagery to the max to hit across the point of the horrors of war. For example, “ a man’s brains splattered”, is very intense. I was interested in what “plunging limbers” was and the meaning it had in the poem. I first imagined, soldiers, plowing the fields that were once a battlefield with barb-wire and dead bodies. After looking it up, I found that Limbers were led by soldiers with mules or horses pulling carriages of tools, food, and equipment. In the poem, the carriages were there to reset barbed wire and stakes in dead-mans land and while doing so ran over the dead, and living wounded soldiers. For example, the final line in the poem said: “we heard his very last sound, and our wheels grazed his dead face”. To add to this post, I included this picture below of a horse-drawn limber takes ammunition along the Lesbeoufs Road to the front, November 1916, pictured in the Somme, during WW1.

Image result for limbers in ww1 dead mans land  

Jamie McGuire’s review of The Lost Battalion (2001)

The Lost Battalion (2001), directed by Russell Mulcahy, was aired on television’s A&E network in 2001. This historical film is based on a true story of the brave and dedicated actions of the former New York lawyer, Major Charles Whittlesey and his battalion of 500 American soldiers and immigrants.

The movie takes place on October 2, 1918, in the Meuse-Argonne Sector in France. The main character, Major Whittlesey played by Rick Schroeder, is assigned to what seems like a suicide mission by General Robert Alexander. Though he voices objections and reasonable concern, he is silenced by his commanding general who claims that they must make  “acceptable losses”. This movie is an excellent re-enactment of the intense struggle to survive in the horrors of WWI.

Being one of the few war films I ever watched, during this, I was at the edge of my seat and stopped it several times as if watching a horror movie. However, unlike horror movies where I can tell myself it is not real, this movie reflects the real struggle of repeated German attacks with no support and occasional hindrance from their own artillery.

Not only was this film an intense and suspenseful look at a real case of hardship and grueling nature of combat, but it also focused on the United States involvement in the war. Up until the U.S. declared war in 1917, the U.S. has desperately tried to stay neutral. In the film, the commanding officers had stated that it was because of the Woodrow Wilson, that the U.S. military and troops were unprepared for the war, thus leading to a lack of funds, ammunition, and resources for the soldiers. Without the proper resources, the U.S. military depended on French weaponry and supplies which were not only a few to come by but also they were not as advanced as American or German weaponry. The U.S. reliance on French weaponry and lack of U.S. resources left soldiers at odds against the Germans.

I think the film did a good job of depicting this throughout the movie. The soldiers were without good weaponry, lack of food and medical supplies but through Major Whittlesey leadership, he and his men overcome the most impossible odds.

Major Whittlesey, like his soldiers, was not only at odds against the Germans but also his own commanders doubted his strength and devotion due to his previous career as a lawyer who volunteered to enlist. Similarly, most of the enlisted men were American immigrants or poor working class from the streets of New York. There is a very strong ethnic presence of the soldiers from New York, and that is quite an accurate representation of the era. Immigration between the 1890s and 1930s brought many to America through New York City, and as film shows, men clash when cultures blend. There is a lot of unsavory banter between the Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Polish in the film. These men, from ethnic groups that would otherwise be hostile to one another in the great melting pot of the USA, learn to work together as brothers in arms.

One of the best scenes in the entire movie is when Lt. Leak was captured and brought to German headquarters.  The lieutenant refused to eat, drink or smoke with the German major who questioned him and even try to lead the major on by claiming to have more food and soldiers then they expected. The Major wants to know why the Americans refuse to surrender and Leak tells him his men are different than his Germans. He says that what the major is up against is a bunch of Mic, Polack, Dago, and Jewboy gangsters from New York City and they will never surrender.
Throughout the movie, the iconic patriotism of the American soldiers persisted leaving the Germans unprepared to hold their position. Even at the end of the film, when the American battalion is out of food, water and are repetitively looking for food and ammunition from the dead soldiers, the soldiers are still prepared to hold their position at all costs.  

The movie is an excellent recreation of this intense struggle to survive. I love how this movie also depicts the civilian-turned-soldiers coming together as brothers while being blood covered, starving, hurt, and homesick. Although this movie was made for television, it is sad that more films of this nature are not out in theaters for the masses. Too many war movies end up getting ruined by Hollywood changing what really happened and adding unneeded romantic mushiness. This film sticks to history.

Word Count 770

I pledge.

The Borden Perspectives

In class today, we described the Borden Perspective, Mary Borden seems to be an omniscient character who describes the war as she if she is only observing it. Here our classmates drew two pictures describing Borden perspective. 

The first picture above resembles the captive balloon looking over the battlefield, towns and how it is tethered to the cabbage field. Here we presented that Borden is the man who lives in the ballon, watching over everything from the sky.

This picture resembles a pair of eyes, In one eye we can see the captive balloon and how it is described as an oyster in the sky and the other eye resembles the bombardment. Borden as a narrator does not often put herself as a character in her book and as depicted here she is the observer in both pictures.

What is your thought on Borden’s perspective or the pictures here?