72 years later. That’s like farther from the Civil War than we are from WWII. Dear Diary, (Voila! Instant history)—Are there eagles in Pennsylvania? I remember it as pretty flat, flat as Indiana, flat enough for fields and armies, anyway: 3,000 swollen horses and mules mixed in with those 7,000 soldiers. Six million pounds of rotting flesh if my math is right. Quite a stench. Vultures, more likely. Maybe that’s what that drummer boy saw. Doesn’t take long. Vultures, lots of them. And mistook them for eagles. Doesn’t last long. That’s why you got to write it down. Even then, people forget. Or get confused. I mean, maybe the squirt saw vultures and the geezer remembered eagles. It happens. Or maybe he saw it wrong and remembered it right. Just as common. Or saw it wrong and remembered it wrong or saw it right and remembered it right to the artist of the memorial who heard it wrong. Haven’t you ever played Winesburg telephones? How many historians does it take to screw in a light bulb? Shed a little light. Illuminate a subject so everyone can see. ‘One’—me—at least that’s what they seem to think when every historian before them (obviously) got it wrong. I mean, history is a special kind of memory, right? What I leave out is as important as what I put in, Hemingway—who was actually born in Winesburg—wrote about his war. Still, makes you wonder why historians have such faith in things written down: birth certificates, letters, memoirs, laws, deeds, treaties, documents, agreements, vows—Till Death do us part—histories (obviously) all flawed (obviously), speeches, memorials, all given meaning by the absences. The silence. The way sound without silence is just noise. Or print without gaps is just solid black—not the marbled page, not letters of the alphabet, which are important to poems, memoirs, histories, novels about wars, etc. Hemingway left Winesburg to join the Great War. The War to End All War as they called it before Wars to End All War had sequels—37 million killed —and needed numbers to tell them apart. Like Superbowls. 60 million in WWII. You can look it up in the Winesburg library: 263 tons of ammunition fired by U.S. soldiers each day. 42,500 aircraft destroyed; 5,151 warships sunk by U-Boats alone; 767 U-Boats alone (crew of 54 each) sunk in reply; 603,400 civilian deaths from air raids; 12,000 heavy bombers destroyed, but not before they dropped 3.4 million tons of bombs, obliterating 197 towns, too many pounds of rotting—or evaporated—flesh to even guesstimate—and that’s just some numbers from our side, the victors, the good guys whose records were written in places like Winesburg instead of places like Dresden or Hiroshima, the Great Cornucopia of America replacing all of those lost ships and planes, uniforms, helmets, shoes, canteens, playing cards, bullets—also chandeliers, chess sets, kitchen tables, board games, wallets, dog tags, filing cabinets, radios, cigarettes, boots, shaving kits, pots and pans and pens, libraries, churches, railroads, beer steins, schools, desks, dolls, bugles, clip boards, grenades, pogo sticks, pencils, typewriters, erasers…. Bowling balls too, no doubt. But not people. Not even family photos. In 1954 there were still six soldiers from the Civil War still alive, the last of them dying in 1956. On his 100th birthday they gave him a tee-shirt: I Survived the Civil War. The photo of him in that shirt in his obituary is what set off the war over who should have gotten the tee-shirt, a Confederate solider claiming in 1957 that he was the last civil warrior standing, until he died in 1958, whereupon a Union solider piped up from the Winesburg nursing home to claim the shirt. Then he died. And a different Confederate soldier hit the Raise-Head button on his hospital bed—The South Shall Rise Again! —to claim the title. A pride thing, etc. And so it went, Union, Confederate, Union, one old geezer after another claiming he was the last. The winner. None able to prove it. There not being any written records. No one ever wrote it down. Or they lived but their records didn’t. Sherman’s March to the Sea. Who can say? Maybe some of these geezers were just confused. Brain fade. Memory as roadkill along the march of time. Thought they were at Bull Run when they’d really been at Iwo Jima. And that’s not counting those who were there but didn’t want to talk about it.