Thursday, May 01, 2008

Letters from The Corn Rebellion

Antietam, Maryland
June 17, 1864

Dearest Willamina,

There is no news from the front to-day. We held strong against the insurgency yesterday, though we were assailed by the enemy from mid-day till dusk, and our regiment lost about half its strength in men by the time we cleared the wounded and dead from the field of battle. Rain came in last night, and by daybreak today, only twenty-eight of us were fit enough to answer the muster call.

I am beginning to believe that war is not the noble enterprise it was during the time of our fathers' fathers, when this nation, now divided, fought for its very existence. The differences that separate us seem so slight as to merit little more than supper table conversation. To think that this country, and all these men, could be so torn apart by something as trivial as corn sometimes strikes me as utterly ridiculous. I would scarcely even believe it if, in fact, I had not seen with my own eyes the sight of grown men swearing blood oaths about their corn preferences before sticking each other with their bayonets. Indeed, my love, even you and I have been philosophically separated on this rather pivotal point, and so it pains me greatly to have to confess some of the deeds I have done in the name of defending the free eating of corn, as I am sure they will disappoint and disgust you.

Nevertheless, my dear Willamina, whose hair is as yellow as the silk of the vegetable at issue, I must admit that I have partaken of several corn-only meals during the course of this war, and that I have, in many cases, thoroughly enjoyed them. Why, just yesterday, the regiment cooks prepared for our supper a meal of corn bread with corn soup and a side plate of corn. The day before that, we set to a table of corn pone and corn cakes. Worst of all was the evening, now a fortnight past, when we drank corn liquor from sunset till long hours into the dark. I got out of my wits and tried to heat corn in oil in a metal pan over our camp fire, to see if the corn would pop, as some of the legends say. My hand was gravely burned so that I could not properly lock the flint of my rifle for nigh on a week.

Of my adventures with corn, I know it must give you great distress to read them, and I am great pains to write them to you. But though many foods have crossed the transom of our national discourse during the long years of our troth, none have been so hard on us as corn. Because I have sworn an oath by God himself to defend the Republic, President Lincoln, and the freedom to eat or not eat corn as any individual may see fit, it would therefore be wrong of me not to confess all to you; for if and when I come home, you may find me a different man, a man changed by the ravages of combat, and by a diet that consisted mostly of those delicious yellow orbs which you find so detestable and loathsome.

I am not wholly unsympathetic to your point of view, Willamina, my love. Indeed, privately, there have been days during the recent past when I have come to despise corn for the bloody toll it has taken on the sundered brothers and cousins of this land. I hope to come home to you very soon, so that we can prolong our corn-fed rivalry in the comfort and confines of our own bedchamber, even upon pain of being barred from that room if the argument should get too stiff. Until such time as my return may be orchestrated, I shall remain

Yours faithfully,

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