Susan Higginbotham/History Refreshed/Comments on Guest Post by Jeffrey Stayton, Author of ”This side of the River”

HOWEVER TRAGIC THE PTSD SOLDIERS WAR SYNDROME,
WE MUST NOT FORGET THAT THE WARCRIMES VICTIMS,
THE CIVILIAN POPULATION, PAYS THE HIGHEST PRICE
IN WARS
PHOTO’S OF WARCRIMES IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR,
AS US WARCRIMES IN THE VIETNAM, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN
WARS ARE PICTURED HERE, SINCE THE ARTICLE ON SUSAN
HIGGINBOTHAM’S BLOG ”HISTORY REFRESHED” REFERS TO THOSE
PERIODS OF WAR
[EXCEPT VIETNAM]
CIVILIAN  VICTIMS OF WARCRIMES
File:Battle of Lawrence.png

WAR CRIMES IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
THE LAWRENCE MASSACRE
US WARCRIMES IN VIETNAM
Daily Casualty Count of Afghan Civilians Killed in U.S. Bombing Attacks

WARCRIMES
US BOMBINGS IN AFGHANISTAN
WARCRIMES
US BOMBINGS IN IRAQ
SUSAN HIGGINBOTHAM/HISTORY REFRESHED/
COMMENTS ON GUEST POST BY JEFFREY STAYTON,
AUTHOR OF ” THIS SIDE OF THE RIVER”
Dear Readers,
Knowing Susan Higginbotham as the author about
Medieval history and often blogging about that period and
shortly thereafter, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about a
Guest post, referring to the American Civil war.
Guest poster is the writer Jeffrey Stayton, who wrote a novel
about the Civil War, focusing on a sort of soldiers shell shock,
PTSD.
His book is titled
”This side of the River”
See the Blog
Perhaps she welcomed his Guest Post because of her yet to be published
novel on the aftermath of the American Civil War ”Hanging Mary”, which
actually refers to the president Lincoln murderer William Booth
However interesting, I had some comments on Stayton’s post and approach.
For I acknowledge the suffering of soldiers because of the horrors
of war, but comparing to that, the suffering of the thousands and
sometimes 100 000 civilians is seldom counted, at least not as individuals.
Therefore I wrote the following comment under Jeffrey Stayton’s post,
for remembering everyone, that the common civilians mostly pay
the highest price in wars.
A TRAVEL TO THE PAST AND PRESENT

Astrid Essed
”GUEST POST BY JEFFREY STAYTON, AUTHOR OF THIS
SIDE OF THE RIVER”
See for full text below
MY COMMENT
THIS SIDE OF THE RIVER/PTSD SYNDROME OF
SOLDIERS, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CIVILIANS,
WHO SUFFERED FROM THEIR WARCRIMES?
SOME REFLECTIONS
 I was pleasantly surprised, that historical novel
writer Susan Higginbotham also pays attention to
the major 19th century events like the American
Civil War and I  read this announcenent of a novel about American
Civil War’s soldiers syndrome with great  interest.
I am glad to learn, that  Jeffrey Stayton doesn’t
focus only on  the ”heroism” in war, but reveals the underlying
psychic problems soldiers encountered after the war.
In World War I there was something called ”shell shock”
See also
World War II soldiers, Vietnam soldiers, the soldiers
of the Iraq and Afghan wars  as others, suffered their share of
psychic pain, caused by the horrors of war and their
own often loaded conscience because of war crimes they
committed or saw commit.
Or simply for killing other human beings, even when they
were ”combatants” [soldiers]
It’s good to pay attention to that.
For whatever war in history, whether in ancient times,
Middle Ages or modern or future times, soldiers will suffer
from the horror, which will never go away.
WAR CRIMES
But what strikes me here [although Jeffrey refers to
the warcrimes of the Civil War here, by mentioning
the lynching like Shannon’s Scouts], is the
neglection of the suffering of the actual victims,
the civilians, who always bear the brunt of the war.
See here for some Civil war warcrimes
 
And what about describe the anxieties of the ex slaves and their suffering
of Ku Ku Klan attacks, also during the Civil War?
 
More strikingly [because in this time there are human regulations
treaties about warfare, as the Geneva Conventions] in the
times we live in.
 
Of course the psychic anxieties of the soldiers of the Afghan and Iraqi 
wars deserve attention, but what about the civilian victims
of the two attacked countries, Afghanistan and Iraq?
 
Reports and human rights organisations count thousands of
civilian deaths due to bombings [often
with forbidden clusterbombs  etc] and other horrors.
Who describes their anxiety.
Often they disappear in history
anonymously.
 
Here some figures about their sufferings
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I want civilian victims to count in history, so I would
appreciate  a novel that focuses on their sufferings too.
Defenseless as they are, they  always pay the highest price.
 
 
Astrid Essed
Amsterdam
The Netherlands
 
 
TEXT OF 
”GUEST POST BY JEFFREY STAYTON, AUTHOR OF THIS
SIDE OF THE RIVER”

Today I’m happy to be hosting Jeffrey Stayton, who’s written a novel set in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War called This Side of the River. Over to Jeffrey!

Nostalgia

One of the most difficult aspects of writing historical fiction, especially about the Civil War, is the fact that too often the language of honor and glory from the era works its way into these narratives at the expense of portraying the actual horrors of war. Although This Side of the River is a work of fiction (and speculative history at that), I ruthlessly researched in university, state and county archives for years before even formulating the first drafts. What I found most important to me was not so much the dates, the names, nor even battle descriptions so much as how each writer expressed himself or herself in their respective memoirs, letters-to-home and war-journals and diaries. I soon created a document where all of these interesting words, mispronunciations and unusual turns of phrase were placed for safekeeping. It was important for me to know that if you though a road was passable back then, you more likely than not said it was “practicable.” My favorites were fun expressions, such as the oath, “May rosined lightning strike me dead” if I tell a lie. Those details found their way into the final draft that is nowThis Side of the River.

What struck me next came much later in drafting this novel. Not long after the Afghan and Iraq Wars were waged, we began seeing men and women return from battle suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) syndrome. They returned in large numbers because our medical science is advanced enough to allow more dying soldiers to live, yet our civilization has not yet advanced to where we recognize that war is not simply “all Hell” as Gen. William T. Sherman famously put it: war is waste. It is a waste of “blood and treasure” and more often wars beget wars, setting the stage for the next conflict with similar bloody outcomes. So I grew interested in how Civil War soldiers suffering from PTSD dealt (or couldn’t) deal with the trauma. I learned that the term for this syndrome was often called, “nostalgia” or “soldier’s heart,” though many still regarded such things as an expression of simple cowardice. At the same time, my novel, which had been an 1861-1865 narrative, was turning into a post-Civil War story set in the summer of 1865. I felt like the post-apocalyptic South was a better environment for expressing “nostalgia” not only in soldiers, like Cat Harvey, but also the civilians who survived Sherman’s March to the Sea, like the warrior-widows who advance my story.

All of this I obviously found fascinating, though I had to look for other source material than simply Civil War documents. I began reading war-stories from many 20th and 21st Century conflicts to access the horrors of warfare without the veiled language of honor and glory getting in the way, whether this was Tim O’Brien’s Vietnam War story-cycle The Things They Carried or Ishmael Beah’s account of being a child soldier in the Congo in A Long Way Gone. What is clear is that the adults who should have protected their children from such bloodshed nonetheless insist on enlisting these boys, many literally children, into their wars. And then we expect them to somehow metabolize those horrors for the rest of their lives and grow to become good citizens. It is simply sick.

Finally, This Side of the River went through thousands of pages (I’m not exaggerating here) before I found page one of what would become my novel. By then I knew I was telling the story of Cat Harvey, a nineteen-year-old who had committed war crimes with a Confederate black-ops unit known as Shannon’s Scouts. What little we know of them speaks to the dark heart of the matter—pointblank shootings, reenslavement of recently freed slaves—and those were the things documented. I imagined even worse crimes primarily for two reasons. Whenever Gen. Joe Wheeler rode with Col. Shannon and his scouts, he rode under the alias, “Priv. Johnson.” Why did he do this? What were they doing that required this name change? Moreover, I was struck by the fact that Col. Shannon himself declined a Texas newspaperman’s encouragement to write his memoir about the Scouts heroic deeds. Shannon declined, citing that some Confederate sympathizing Northerners would be punished for their involvement. This somehow rang false to me as I read it. In a time when every soldier, especially colonels and generals, wrote of his heroic deeds in the Civil War, why not Alexander Shannon? This is where historical record ends and speculative historical fiction begins I suppose. So I found that I not only needed to explore this heart of darkness in Civil War lore, I needed to tell it in a style that dramatized it: the mosaic narrative. Once I began letting the various Georgia war-widows tell their stories, a shattered, cubistic portrait of Cat Harvey emerged that I felt worked.

I’ll leave it for the readers to decide on that one.

Synopsis:

This Side of the River is a novel set in in Georgia in the summer of 1865, after Confederacy has collapsed. A contingent of war widows who have survived Sherman’s March have armed themselves and rallied around a teenage Texas Ranger named Cat Harvey in order to ride north to Ohio and burn Gen. Sherman’s home to ashes. It is a story about trauma, revenge and redemption. What happens when they light out for Ohio is a terrible, doomed odyssey that forces these young women to ask the darker questions of the human condition.

Bio:
Jeffrey Stayton grew up throughout Texas and lived in Mississippi before landing in Tennessee where he’s lived with his wife in Memphis for the past four years. The southern author releases his first literary noir novel in February 2015, the 150th anniversary year of the Civil War’s end. This Side of the River was inspired by his question of what would have happened if the war-widows of Georgia took up arms in the aftermath of the Civil War?

He earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Mississippi and specializes in 20th Century American literature.

He writes poetry, has written book reviews for the Missouri Review and has published stories in StorySouth, Lascaux and Burningword Literary Journal. His original story “Pepper” won the Bondurant Award for Fiction, and his story “Chisanbop” appeared in the Best of Carve Magazine.

He is a scholar and teacher of Modernist, Southern and African-American literature, often teaching women’s literature courses as well. His passion for Latin American literature brought Stayton and his wife on a hike across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago where he brushed up on his Spanish.

When not writing and teaching, he’s in his studio working on oil paintings.

Having at one point performed standup comedy, Stayton embarks on a unique book tour in Winter 2015 gearing up to be as entertaining as the pages within his literary fiction.

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