Listening to Civil War Voices
Here are some voices from the past that I'd like you to hear.
Sam Watkins, private, First Tennessee Regiment, was in every battle his company fought, a list that includes some of the bloodiest in the Civil War: Shiloh, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Atlanta. He survived—one of seven men remaining alive from an original company of 120—to write his memoirs. At one point he describes walking through a forest and standing upon something he suddenly recognizes as a decomposing corpse: "I recollect of saying, 'Ugh, ugh,' and of my hat being lifted off my head, by my hair, which stood up like the quills of the fretful porcupine."1 (1)
Sometime later, Watkins was involved in a dispute with an officer who threatened to arrest him, even though he was wounded and being taken to the hospital. "Turning back I said, 'Sir, aye, aye, you are clothed with a little brief authority, and appear to be presuming pretty heavy on that authority; but, sir'—well I have forgotten what I did say." (2) Note that he forgets (or pretends to forget, diplomatically) what he said to the officer, except for the phrase from Shakespeare.
Library of Congress
(1) The Ghost: "I could a tale unfold whose lightest word / Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, / Make each particular hair to stand an end, / Like quills upon the fearful porpentine." Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5
(2) Isabella: "Man, proud man, / Dressed in a little brief authority." Measure for Measure, Act 2, scene 2