Thursday, September 16, 2010

War is Hell...and Ultrarunning

(William Tecumseh credit here)

As usual, the Writer's Almanac does not disappoint (you really should subscribe). From a couple days ago:

On this day (12 Sep) in 1864 Union General William Sherman had just captured Atlanta. Along the way, his soldiers had taken part in something known as 'total war': They'd burned down crops, confiscated millions of pounds of corn and feed, and destroyed thousands of horses and mules and cows. They'd wrecked bridges, torn up railroad tracks to make train transport unusable, and they'd destroyed telegraph lines. In late August, they'd forced the surrender of Atlanta, occupied the city, and demanded that it be evacuated.

From Atlanta, General Sherman marched to Savannah, the infamous March to the Sea, where his troops caused about $100 million worth of damage with 'total war' tactics.

In 1879, he spoke to the graduating class at Michigan Military Academy. He told the young cadets trained for battle:

I've been where you are now and I know just how you feel. It's entirely natural that there should beat in the breast of every one of you a hope and desire that some day you can use the skill you have acquired here. Suppress it! You don't know the horrible aspects of war. [...] I've seen thousands of men lying on the ground, their dead faces looking up at the skies. I tell you, war is Hell!

Ultrarunning surely enriches our lives, but it pales in comparison to dead soldiers. Seems that every generation grows up with dreams of battlefield glory, then if they have the ill fortune to actually go to war, the glory is suddenly over.

While on the topic of Sherman, I loved another of his quotes: “Grant stood by me when I was crazy, and I stood by him when he was drunk, and now we stand by each other.”

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