Friday, March 27, 2015

Inspiration From the Battle of Gettysburg

You should know that I'm not a fan of reading nonfiction. I much prefer my fantasy worlds that keep reality away, thank you very much. But recently, I've had to research the Battle of Gettysburg for a school project, and that involves doing a little bit of nonfiction reading. For those of you who somehow haven't yet heard of Gettysburg (if you live outside of the U.S. it's excusable, but if you're in the U.S. and are out of grade school . . . you should be paying more attention in school), it was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. A lot of heroes were discovered that day. Real heroes, not fictional ones.
A memorial to Maj. Gen. John Reynolds, who died at Gettysburg
You see, I've been reading several short biographies of officers that fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. A few of them are Daniel E. Sickles, Joshua L. Chamberlain, James E. Longstreet, Henry Heth, John Buford, Robert E. Lee, and George G. Meade. I thought I'd find this part of the project boring - I'd rather research the battle tactics. But it turns out I was wrong. I've enjoyed reading these short little biographies very much. Why? Because I found that they are stories, with real, interesting characters and plots worthy of novels.
Take James Longstreet, for example. While reading his biography, his "coolness under fire" was mentioned several times. Everything painted a picture of a cool, cautious, unflustered man who wasn't scared to tell Robert E. Lee when he thought that the battle plan was a little ill-advised. His reputation suffered because he was outspoken, and yet I think he sounded wise. Through his life he had three children die in rapid succession, his first wife died after the Civil War, and his relationship with Robert E. Lee degenerated after Gettysburg. The South hated him for supporting the Republican party and Ulysses S. Grant's campaign for President, and then for accepting a political office under Grant. But, Longstreet went to West Point with Grant. They were friends. What kind of emotional roller coaster must it have been for this man to endure all that? Warring against his friends, watching his family die, losing the trust of his home? And through all that he was still noted for being able to inspire the men under him. Heroic? I think so.
Another character I discovered was Daniel E. Sickles. This guy is single-handedly responsible for some of the bloodiest fighting during the Battle of Gettysburg because he moved his men out of line against orders. Yet the guy still got a Medal of Honor because of how well he fought and encouraged his men, even after losing a leg in the fighting. Oh yeah, plus he donated his amputated leg to a museum with a card that said, "with the compliments of Maj. Gen. D.E.S." And what do you know? The museum still has it on display (ew). So the guy had issues with authority but was still a brave man and a good leader. I got the impression that he was a sort of rogue. Imagine trying to write that kind of character realistically!
Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles - I don't think he really LOOKS like a rogue . . .
My point here is that sometimes the best stories and characters are from real life. If you pay attention in history class, who knows? Maybe you'll find your next story inspiration, or that character you've been looking for. Nothing is better inspiration than real life.
And did you know that some Civil War soldiers reportedly found a pterodactyl? There's a photograph. Beat that for story inspiration.

Where have you gotten real-life inspiration from?

7 comments:

  1. Dudeeeeee. I always love reading about the Civil War (which actually wasn't all that much of a civil war, but eh) because there were SO many interesting people and stories, and I spent most of my life in the Deep South so it was something that people there were still rather close to. It's always so interesting to go deeper in. And I LOVE your point that "some of the best stories and characters are from real life" because it's easy to get sucked into the thought that those boring old history people aren't relevant, but they were very much alive and a lot of them were much more unique than you'd think. Like, did you know that Bach was known for being a loud troublemaker a lot? Because I didn't, and that made things way more interesting for me once I found that out. xD But anyway. I really like this post.

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    1. No, I didn't know that. But haha, that does make you think of him differently. But yes, it's true! You often find these hints of people's character if you look at their stories. Churchill is a good example - he wanted to land with the troops on the beaches for D-Day, and his advisers had to call the king to order Churchill not to go! Thanks!

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  2. I've found inspiration can come from anywhere especially history. Some of my favorite historical stories are about Leonardo DaVinci (my favorite historical figure besides Jesus of course) and events surrounding World War II. That's so cool you found some while doing research on the Gettysburg. I live near Kennesaw Mountain where the battle for Atlanta, GA was fought and there's a museum and such on the mountain and it's so cool to read about all the stories there. I love history. ^ ^ And lol about the pterodactyl. I wonder if that's totally legit ... I'm always skeptical because of the poor Nessie let down. XD

    Stori Tori's Blog

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    1. I don't know much about DaVinci, apart from the usual. And he wrote from right to left, didn't he? But it is true! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got part of the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes from one of his professors. Which is extremely cool.
      Yes, well I'm personally hoping for some evidence that dragons once existed. ;)
      Thanks for reading!

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    2. I don't know much about DaVinci, apart from the usual. And he wrote from right to left, didn't he? But it is true! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got part of the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes from one of his professors. Which is extremely cool.
      Yes, well I'm personally hoping for some evidence that dragons once existed. ;)
      Thanks for reading!

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    3. I'm not sure about the handwriting but he could write and draw with both hands. Wow I didn't know that about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but that's really cool!
      Lol about dragons. XD

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