Like the relentlessly advancing Union army, the Civil War discussion series continued this past Wednesday with its monthly meeting. The topic: Ambrose Bierce's well-known short story, "Chickamauga."
The story refers to the Battle of Chickamauga, in southeastern Tennessee and northwestern Georgia in September 1863. The actual battle was a bloodbath for both sides - the second-highest casualty count of any Civil War battle (behind Gettysburg) - and resulted in a Confederate victory of sorts, driving the Union forces away from the battlefield, retreating to Chattanooga. Because the bulk of the army was able to escape, however, the Confederates were unable to take advantage of their victory.
Bierce's story describes a young boy, six years old, playing in the woods behind his family's farm. The child held a toy sword and waged imaginary war, unaware of the real war nearby. The child loses his way in the woods and, frightened, falls asleep. When he wakes, he encounters the retreating Union army, the wounded and dying men surely wondering how this boy appeared in their midst.
Bierce contrasts the mock war (and, even more mocking, the glorious warlike heritage of the child) with the grim realities of the real war. Seen through the child's eyes, the wounded men were playing games; seen through the narrator's eyes, the scene is a horror show. As the story nears its end, the child's "little world swung half around; the points of the compass were reversed," both literally and figuratively.
We had nearly a dozen attendees - an even dozen, if one includes the gentleman who materialized in our midst without a stitch of clothing and fully anatomically correct; he left when Sir JJ Drinkwater politely noted that the covenant forbade open nudity - and a good discussion, led by Sir JJ and Dame Kghia.
Sir JJ Drinkwater and Mr. Johnny Avon
Dame Kghia Gherardi and Miss Merit Coba
Miss Maria and Miss Herndon Bluebird
Mr. Jorge Serapis, looking quite dapper
Your humble scribe and Miss Jai LaSalle