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Interviewing Civil War Soldiers

Interviewing Civil War Soldiers

 

Last week I got the awesome opportunity to attend a Civil War Reenactment in my family’s hometown Hartville, Missouri. Knowing that I was going I asked readers what questions they’d like me to ask the soldiers. First off, let me say that the reenactors I met were AMAZING! These men are passionate about history and about their country. I’m so grateful to them for presenting our history in such a tangible way and making it accessible to the youngest participant. And at the same time, they aren’t just dressing up and playing war. The men I spoke with had done extensive research into the character they were portraying. They could tell you their troop’s movements, battles, and commanders as if they’d really lived it. And they spoke passionately in characters about their reasons for fighting, their families and what their country…or their state, as the case may be…meant to them.

A brief disclaimer…I jotted down their answers long hand as they spoke and I missed a lot. Any historical mistakes are 100% my fault. It was rainy, muddy, and I had children afoot. Next time I’ll bring a recorder. Disclaimer #2 – My conversation in the Confederate camp was with two officers. They both contributed to the conversation.

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Reader Question #1 – How do you feel fighting against your fellow Americans?

Union Soldier (1st Lieutenant Michael Mandrick, 30th Missouri Volunteer Brigade a/k/a The Missouri Irish Brigade) – I am fighting to preserve the Union. These miscreants don’t understand that the Constitution must be protected and if they can’t be persuaded by logic, then we must use force. I took an oath to apply all laws equally, not pick and choose which ones I’d like to apply.

Confederate Soldiers (Or more accurately the 1st Regiment of Missouri Volunteer Militia – Captain Robert Jackson and Lieutenant Patrick O’Brien) – I’m fighting a foreign invader and I’ll defend the State of Missouri to the end. President Lincoln promised that Kentucky and Missouri could remain neutral, but then he moved against Virginia and we believe he will send troops against us as well. General Lyons has disregarded the wishes of the people of Missouri and chased our elected officials from the capital. He illegally armed Dutch immigrants and marched on St. Louis where he opened fire on civilians. That is an attack against my state and my people. How could I not respond?

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Reader Question #2 – Considering the loss of life you’ve seen, do you think this struggle for/against slavery is still worth it?

Lt. Mandrick, U. S. Army – I’m fighting to preserve the law of the land. The Bible teaches about slavery and doesn’t condemn it, so I’m not sure whether God doesn’t allow it in certain circumstances or not. President Lincoln has issued a proclamation of emancipation and that’s good enough for me. If that’s the law, then it should be honored, but truthfully I’m not fighting for the abolition of slavery, but for the Union.

Lt. O’Brien, Missouri Militia – If the Federals lose, they will go home and their world will not change. If we lose we lose our whole way of life, our freedom to chose our own government.

Captain Jackson, Missouri Militia – The Federal Army likes to report that they are freeing Negroes. I know the men in my unit. Most cannot afford a single Negro. If they had that money they would buy more farmland for their family, not a slave. But I think we should be able to conduct our trade freely, uninhibited by the federal government. We must stand up for our rights to self-govern and not be dictated to by Washington.

Lt. O’Brien, Missouri Militia – I disagree with slavery, but I will not walk away from my family. I will fight to protect them.

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Reader Question #3 – Why are you fighting?

Lt. Mandrick, U. S. Army – Many of us in the 30th Missouri Volunteer Infantry are Irish and German immigrants. We know how bad the situation was against us at home. This country has been good to us and we want to defend her.

Capt. Jackson and Lt. O’Brien, Missouri Militia – We are fighting because Lincoln has broken the Constitution. He has not honored the rights guaranteed the people by the Constitution. The federal government has usurped the states’ rights that were intended by the founders.

Not only that, but many of the soldiers fighting against us are mercenaries. The U.S. Army meets the ships of immigrants at the docks and offers them $12 and a gun if they will take up arms against us. We are supposed to be brothers, but they are arming foreigners to march into our land. In Missouri, they’ve conscripted every man between 17 and 45 and forced them to aid the Union. They allow for no neutrality. We are forced to fight and actions such as these should make it clear why we must fight against the Federal Government.

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In Conclusion:

I can’t exaggerate how impressed I was with the historians I spoke with. This is their passion and they are serious about preserving history. They roughed a very cold, wet and MUDDY weekend to educate and entertain us and no matter which camp I visited, Union or Confederate, I met people who cared deeply for the Constitution and their country.

I’m grateful.

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3 Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I would love to see a Civil War reenactment. I think it would be fun to watch and see history replayed

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  2. Just received your book news and had to check out the new website! Very nice indeed!
    Your Civil War Reenactors post was excellent! For a foreigner like myself, there remains a puzzlement to the reasoning behind the Civil War. No one can deny though each side believed to be right and that there will be always questions unanswered or ghosts haunting battlefields such as Gettysburg.
    Thank you for sharing and God bless,

    • It’s amazing how relevant the issues still are today concerning the role of state government v. federal government. How far can the federal government go if the majority of the country disagrees with the decisions of one state? (Or Eleven states?) Another thing I find interesting from journals and research is how varied the individual soldier’s reasons were for going to war.

      Thanks for commenting, Noelle.

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