You may have noticed that I’ve added a new piece of text above the “About” widget on the right. “Dulce bellum inexpertis” is a Latin phrase which loosely translated means “War is delightful to those who have not experienced it”. The quote has been variously attributed to Erasmus (1466 – 1536) and Pindaros (c520 BC – c440 BC). This used to be my signature on several online bulletin board discussion groups back when I was an active participant on them. I started using it when folks on these groups would ask “If you could be present at any event of the Battle of XYZ, which one would it be?” The first time I saw this question all I could think of was Max California (Joaquin Phoenix) in the film 8 MM: There are some things that you see, and you can’t unsee them. Know what I mean?
It’s easy to view the Civil War romantically. The portraits, the clothes, the nostalgia for a simpler time. To fight off such temptation, I keep The Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries within easy reach. It fixes me right up. Every time.
Rowland E. Ward, a 46 year old private in the 4th NY Heavy Artillery, was struck by a shell fragment during the fight at Reams’ Station on August 25, 1864. The result was the complete destruction of the floor of his mouth. The above is a photo taken before two surgeries to reconstruct – somewhat – his face. That’s not a salt-and-pepper beard or a defect in the negative; it’s a gaping hole where the lower portion of Ward’s face once was. By the standards of the day, the operations were successful. See the Photographic Atlas of Civil War Injuries, pp. 150-151, 164.