Rushville Republican

Columns

September 3, 2013

Is wordsmithing a lost art?

I have always enjoyed good writing by those few who excel at the art of putting words together in exceptionally readable ways. Not that I can do it, but I like to think I can recognize it when I read it. I just finished reading a rare book, published in 1904, by General John B. Gordon. What is particularly interesting, at least to me, is that Gordon was a Confederate General who wrote “Reminiscences of the Civil War.” The book is an extraordinarily well-written narrative about his Civil War experiences.

Prior to the war, Gordon attended the University of Georgia and later studied law in Atlanta and was admitted to the practice of law after passing the bar exam. During the war, Gordon rose to the rank of major general, was wounded five times, but survived to lead the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

After the war and Reconstruction, he served as a United States Senator from Georgia from 1873 to 1880 and again from 1891 to 1897. He also served as the Governor of Georgia from 1886 to 1890.

As I mentioned, his writing style is very readable, but it also fits the times in which he lived. This week I’m going to share a little of what he wrote over 100 years ago, and I think you’ll find his style engaging and easy to follow. The “Introduction” to his whopping 465 page narrative is only about two pages long. I think you’ll enjoy this backward glance to a time when the nation, particularly the South, was still recovering from the effects of the Civil War.

“For many years I have been urged to place on record my reminiscences of the war between the States. In undertaking the task now, it is not my purpose to attempt a comprehensive description of that great struggle, nor an elaborate analysis of the momentous interests and issues involved. The time may not have arrived for a full and fair history of that most interesting period in the Republic’s life. The man capable of writing it with entire justice to both sides is perhaps yet unborn. He may appear, however, at a future day, fully equipped for the great work. If endowed with the requisite breadth and clearness of view, with inflexible mental integrity and absolute freedom from all bias, he will produce the most instructive and thrilling record in the world’s deathless annals, and cannot fail to make a contribution of measureless value to the American people and to the cause of free government throughout the world.” (Now, that’s a lengthy sentence, but one well worth reading!)

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