Cynthia Wachtell on The Anti-War Impulse in American Literature from the Civil War to World War I
Next April, America will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. A few months later, in July, President Obama has promised to begin troop withdrawals from Afghanistan, signaling that war’s long awaited end. And, of course, just weeks ago, on August 31, the President declared an end to the long and costly war in Iraq.
These three dates invite a bit of reflection. What have Americans learned about war in the past century and a half, and what have we forgotten?
“The whole matter of war… smites common sense and Christianity in the face,” wrote Herman Melville long before the Civil War ever began. Melville was not alone in pointing out the immorality inherent to combat.
Visiting the freshly blood-soaked Fredericksburg, Virginia battlefield in December of 1862, Walt Whitman felt sickened by the bloated and discolored bodies that lay unburied days after the fray and appalled by the stacks of amputated limbs he encountered outside an improvised field hospital. Read full article at The Huffington Post…
Cynthia Wachtell is an assistant professor of American literature and director of the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program at Yeshiva University. She is the author of War No More: The Antiwar Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914 (Louisiana State University Press, 2010).