Wednesday, November 19, 2008

civil war photos

the ruins of Charleston, S.C.

via metafilter.

I ran across this link to some civil war photos that are really stunning in the stories they tell. The brutality of war, the faces of these men and the horror reflected in their eyes over what they had seen, and the sheer scale of the destruction that was wrought by Americans in America. And they are a reminder of the fearsome power that we humans are capable of unleashing on one another.

And consider too that these photos were taken nearly 150 years ago. Clearly war technology has made leaps and bounds since then, but even with canons and other iterations of early artillery we were able to do this to one of the greatest cities of the South. One can only imagine what the modern destruction wrought by American soldiers in our name in foreign countries might look like, were our military not so averse to releasing images of it. Especially because this destruction took place here at home, the above shot brings to life the sense that this is no intellectual exercise. Actual people lived here, worked here, got married and raised families. The crumbled brickwork of their buildings and shattered streets, and the stink of rotting corpses is all they are left with after their lives have been brought to this moment of bleak hopelessness.

I am also struck by the odd column standing in the center of this shot. Beyond the obvious, the scene is reminiscent of the fall of Rome--a once-mighty power brought down to the harsh reality of time, decay, and death that hunts all of us.

(FYI: I am not attempting to glorify the South or its position in the Civil War in any way, merely to point out that the destruction of war, and what it does to people and the great works we build is universal in its horror. Seeing this decimation on American soil brings it home, literally and figuratively.)

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