Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Searching For Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier

One of the most fascinating and long-lived subtexts to the Battle of Gettysburg is the story of Amos Humiston, the unknown soldier of the battlefield. It is a massive story even today, living on in books, tours, and stories, but was an even bigger story after the battle itself.
In brief, a body was found on the field with no identification, no regimental markings, nothing save an ambrotype of three children. The subsequent dissemination of this picture and the tremendous popular outcry to find the family of this unidentified slain warrior was as big a story on the homefront as the war would generate.
The story lives on and is the subject of a wonderful study by filmmaker Errol Morris. It's being presented in a serial format, one section per day, each day of this week, today being part III. Click here to read the first part, then you can move through each one. This is one of those incredible special pockets of our history that, when reopened, releases a staggering tale of sacrifice, tragedy, and mythmaking.


Anonymous said...

It's really moving to think about unknowns. I've located about half-a-dozen graves of unknown Union soldiers in my home county and can't help but wonder what the impact was on the families back home. It is especially difficult when you think that the families knew a son, husband, brother, or father was missing, but to never know their fate or where they were buried, that just gets to me in a huge way.

Robert at Cenantua's Blog

Mark said...

Hi Robert,
Good to here from you again.
Aside from Morris' incredible talent, this story is even more jarring when the idea of an unknown fate is considered. That's really amazing that you've found graves of unknown soldiers. Is there a reporting body that you inform when you find them? Is there anything at all to be done?
The discussion of this same subject in "This Republic of Suffering" is also absolutely staggering; that was an upsetting book to read.
Are you reading anything good right now? I'm finishing up Coski's "The Confederate Battle Flag", my reading has been slow because of other commitments (and the fact that I read Watchmen on the side)