Saturday, May 23, 2015
May 23, 2015: Not So Neat and Orderly
Take a look at these two photos. They both have something in common. On this Memorial Day week-end, we take a moment or two and remember all the soldiers who have served and have died in that service. Often we see photos of those symmetrical battlefield cemeteries with row upon row of graves laid out in precise order. Amazing in their perfection, poignant in the shear numbers, but we also know that is not how it was at the moment.
The upper photo, the battlefield along the Greasy Grass, also known as The Little Big Horn is a different kind of military cemetery. Scattered across hundreds of acres, along a nearly 3 mile ridge are simple white markers, showing where a member of Custer's 7th Calvary fell. Interspaced with them, added later, are markers also showing where the last free roaming plains tribesmen also fell, although their numbers are few.
The lower photo is every much a battlefield cemetery like those neatly arranged monuments seen so often in photos this week-end. It is even more-so like the cemetery that is the ridges and ravines of the Little Big Horn. A lot of soldiers fell in this nondescript patch of woods. Their bodies were scattered where I was standing to take the photo. They were bent over the makeshift stone wall that can be seen in the distance. They were piled one on top of the other on the sloping ground beyond that wall. This is where Chamberlain and his handful of men from Maine made their stand on the Union left flank, Little Round Top, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
It's not the neat, tidy, orderly military cemeteries I think about on Memorial Day. It is places like these I think about. The Little Big Horn and Little Round Top, nearly a continent apart but have one thing in common. Here is where you can sense and feel the horrible randomness and mayhem that is war.