Civil War – 22 April 1862 – a visit from Uncle

The Battle of Shiloh was fought 06-07 April 1862 and was the first truly massive battle in the Western Theater and up to that point the largest of the war.  Its ferocity must have shocked the civilian population on both sides who even though the war was almost a year old probably still assumed somehow that massive bloodshed could have been avoided.

Instead, the stakes of the war and how strongly the individual soldier believed in their view of it shone through.  Entire units would fight nearly to the last man rather than retreat.  Men who were exhausted from the worst day of their lives yesterday, would show up today and do it all over again.  It wouldn’t be for the last time.

Two weeks later the Union Army remained encamped on their victorious battlefield at Shiloh.  Private Lucius Barber, then 22, was in Company D of the 15th Illinois Volunteer Infantry:

I was agreeably surprised one morning when I awoke to find Uncle Washington in my tent.  My friends had sent him down to see if anything was needed.  Although his services were not required, his company was very acceptable.  He stayed a couple of weeks with us and then returned home.  The roads were in an awful condition at the time and it was impossible for the army to move…

You’re in the bloodiest war in American history (though nobody knew that yet) and your Uncle shows up just to check on you.  Note a few things from this short passage:

– A walk (or he could have rode) from Illinois to Shiloh and a multi-week stay is not a minor amount of time, one wonders what, if any, employment Uncle Washington had

– Note that his friends, undoubtedly shocked by what they had read of the battle, sent Barber’s Uncle to check on him

– His friends were still at home, not yet enlisted in the Army, over the years this would have changed as the war turned into mass mobilization for both sides

– The roads were impossible for movement by armies, but apparently not by one Uncle checking in on his family

In wouldn’t be the last the war would hear from Private Barber.

work is an intrusion to home

Every human needs a sanctuary, a place where they can unplug and not be accountable to anybody but themselves or their immediate family.

For the white collar worker this evil virus has eviscerated that line.  Yes, it’s been dulled for years as high fliers or big shots checked their work e-mail at 12:31 in the morning just to keep themselves in the game, but now it’s in overdrive.

For blue collar workers who are either out of a job or have to expose themselves to the virus every day on the jobsite this is a good problem to have though.

I’m now on week two of online conferences and courses for work at home and it’s extremely jarring.  I don’t want to hear big shot #43 run his mouth about how awesome he is while I hear my washing machine go.  It’s an intrusion on my castle.  It feels odd.  It feels wrong.  Honestly, I’d just rather be at work.

A few publications that aren’t busy (still) playing politics have begun to ask very important questions about where society will be after the first global pandemic in a century.  My worry at this particular moment is the work world and the your world will be essentially blended from now on.  You did it for months, so why can’t your boss ask you do to work at home whenever the hell they want?  At whatever time they want?

This isn’t normal and it isn’t human.  But whether we like it or not, maybe it will become the new normal?