What in the world was he thinking?


I know I tend to take things personally, but sometimes I just don’t understand people!  They mystify me!  How can people do some of the stupid things they do?  I just don’t get it!

Now, you’re probably asking what would make me get so upset.  Well, I am extremely upset with my great-great-great-grandfather, Jesse Skipper.  He was so stupid!  In June of 1862 he decided to enlist in the Confederate Army.  I’m not upset that he wanted to fight.  What irks me to no end is the fact that he left his wife and FIVE children (under the age of eight) to go fight.  What kind of irresponsible idiot leaves a woman to deal with a farm and five children, especially when she has no family around to provide emotional and physical support?  My 20th-century sensibilities won’t allow me to understand how he could have done this.

I am sure Jesse thought he was doing the right thing.  I can understand why he thought the war was right.  He was trying to make the world a better place for his children.  I believe he listened to the fire breathers, and somehow they convinced him that he was fighting for a better world.  They told him that the Federal government had no right to decide how the south should live.  In theory, this sounds plausible.

I don’t know if Jesse believed in slavery.  I’m reasonably certain he had no slaves, but that could have just been because he didn’t have enough money to buy a slave.

I’m assuming Jesse was a religious man also.  I feel that most people who believe in the absolute rightness of any given situation often believe they’re right because they believe their idea is divinely inspired.  They believe it is their God-given right because a minister has taught them it’s their right.

Whatever Jesse’s thoughts were, I cannot see how he justified leaving his wife to deal with a farm and five children.  That seems so irresponsible to me.

Whatever his thoughts were, these thoughts and ideas led to his death…Jesse joined the Army on June 14th, and some time in August he died.  I believe he died of measles, but I have no proof of that.  I do know that his unit was stationed at Camp Nelson, Arkansas and that there was a horrible outbreak of measles.  Most of the research I’ve done has said of the 10,000 men that were stationed at Camp Nelson that fall, about 1,500 of them died from measles and other diseases.  More men died of diseases than died from wounds suffered during the war.

Now I feel like an idiot.  After judging Jesse so harshly, I stopped ranting and did some research.  I have a new opinion of Jesse.

The year that Jesse went into the army, there was a horrible drought in Arkansas.  It was so bad that the army turned cavalry units into infantry, because there wasn’t enough grass and grain to keep the horses.  The army sent the horses home.  Since the drought was this bad, I’m sure Jesse’s crops had failed also.  There was a civil war going on, so work was hard to come by, and he lived far away from any town where he might have picked up some work.  I feel he went into the army more as a way to support his wife and children than he did out of some conviction that it was OK to leave a family at home to fend for themselves while he went and fought..

I will never know for certain why Jesse chose to go into the army, but these are my opinions.  However, after finding out about the drought, I felt guilty because I had judged Jesse so harshly.  I walked outside, looked into the stars and said, “Jesse, I’m sorry I judged you.  Please forgive me, and know I understand your actions.”  I can leave Jesse in peace now, and hope he is in peace.

This little rant has helped me realize, again, that I should be more careful about how I judge people.  I cannot know all the circumstances in their lives, so I need to be more careful about what standards I hold them to.

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