A Gruesome Relic From Battle of Fredericksburg

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This is one of the most gruesome artifacts I've seen from the war and is on display at the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor's Center. This was found on the battlefield after the war and is a bayonet thrust through a shoe. The card says the bones of a foot were found inside this shoe when recovered. Bayonet wounds were very rare during the war, despite what is s often depicted in fanciful paintings. I imaged bayonet wounds would mainly be in the body, but for some reason a bayonet thrust through a foot seems extremely savage and barbaric to me. Only those who served in this war knew the true horrors it entailed. The stories we read today are largely sanitized, as it was thought impolite to write of the true horrors of the war, these accounts exist, but were rarely mentioned in letters or histories written by the soldiers on either side.

As Walt Whitman famously said, "Future years will never know the seething hell and the black infernal background of countless minor scenes and interiors., (not the official surface-courteousness of the Generals, not the few great battles) of the Secession War; and it is best they should not—the real war will never get in the books. In the mushy influences of current times, too, me fervid atmosphere and typical events of those years are in danger of being totally forgotten. I have at night watch’ d by the side of a sick man in the hospital, one who could not live many hours. I have seen his eyes flash and burn as he raised himself and recurr’d to the cruelties on his surrender ’d brother, and mutilations of the corpse afterward. (See, in the preceding pages, the incident at Upperville—the seventeen kill’d as in the description, were left there on the ground. After they dropt dead, no one touch’ d them—all were made sure of, however. The carcasses were left for the citizens to bury or not, as they chose.)

Such was the war. It was not a quadrille in a ballroom. Its interior history will not only never be written—its practicality, minutiae of deeds and passions will never be even suggested. The actual soldier of 1862-’65, North and South, with all his ways, his incredible dauntlessness, habits, practices, tastes, language, his fierce friendship, his appetite, rankness, his superb strength and animality, lawless gait, and a hundred unnamed lights and shades of camp, I say, will never be written—perhaps must not and should not be. . . ."

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