Things could be worse. Yes, there have been layoffs. Yes, the stock market is hacking up another hairball, and companies are closing, and we're billions more in debt. This has been a long, hard winter.
Things could be worse.
Yes, there have been layoffs. Yes, the stock market is hacking up another hairball, and companies are closing, and we're billions more in debt. This has been a long, hard winter.
But it could be and has been worse. There have also been long, hard, bloody winters.
If you want to put these days in perspective, page through former Peorian Don C. White's recently published labor of love. He's been compiling this perpetual calendar he calls "Facts, Quotes and Anecdotes of the Civil War" since the turn of this century.
"It took eight years to do the book," he says. "It took four years to fight the war."
In the notch between Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday this month and the 150th anniversary of the war's beginning, in 2011, the book already is timely. It's not exactly cheery reading. But squabbling over the last deals as they close Circuit City doesn't look as bad compared to 620,000 deaths when Americans really fight each other.
Here's an example from Feb. 22, 1861:
"Assassination threats against President-elect Lincoln caused a change in his travel plans. On the advice of Norman Judd and Allan Pinkerton, a special train took Lincoln from Harrisburg, Pa. to Philadelphia where he boarded the New York to Washington train without any problems."
That was an entry for the "Blue," or Union perspective. White differs from many other Civil War books by offering an equal number of details on the "Gray," or Confederate side, as well.
"That was my concept. There are a lot of day-by-day books out there," he says. "They're very well done, but they're not balanced."
On that same day, the "Gray" version offers up the relatively dry background that it was the 42nd birthday of a Confederate naval lieutenant credited with the capture of 22 merchant ships. Three years later, Feb. 22 was far more costly for the South.
"The Meridian Campaign - Near Okolona, Miss., the troopers of Gen. Forrest brought on an engagement with Gen. Sooy Smith's cavalry. Smith was badly beaten in this running battle. In action 7 miles northwest of Okolona, Col. Jeffery Forrest, a brother of Gen. Forrest, was killed."
There is probably more detail in this book than anyone who is not a Civil War buff cares to read in depth. Deaths. Birthdays. Sorties. White owns more than 150 books on Lincoln and the Civil War, not to mention some of the official records. He said another way he tried to differ his book from some others on the subject is by including more information about the lives of women and what was going on at home. Somebody had to keep the farms going, nurse the wounded, bury the dead. (Or, in more exotic cases, get caught spying and nearly hung before you are rescued by Union troops.)
"Times were tough for many people," he says. "They lost their homes. They lost their loved ones. It was a tough, tough time."
White has sold a couple of hundred copies of the 1,040 books he self-published. He is being asked to give presentations and may have some near here. (If you want to get a copy, it costs $16.95. Don can be reached at 10216 S. 78th Ave., Palos Hills, IL 60465.)
These days, it's worth a reminder that things can be much worse. It's not like you can make a living writing such books. Don saved this for his retirement, worked part time at a hardware store to pay the costs and just hopes to break even. But these days, it's bracing to see someone follow a dream.
Terry Bibo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (309) 686-3189.