The Confederate Congress passed resolutions of hope, and sent orators to the trenches and camps to tell the soldiers that “the darkest hour was just before day.” One of these blatant fellows I recall particularly. He had been a fire-eater, a nullifier, a secessionist, a blood-and-thunder orator, foremost in urging that we “fight for our rights in the Territories.” He was a young man, an able bodied man, and a man of decided ability. But never for one moment was his precious carcass exposed to danger. There was something inexpressibly repulsive to me, and irritating beyond expression, when I saw men like this, from their safe places, in a lull in hostilities, ride down to the Confederate lines during that awful winter, and counsel our poor soldiers to fight on. Even if it was right to fight on, they had no right to advise it. Old Jubal Early had opposed the war until it actually came upon him, but when it was inevitable, he fought. Things were turning out just as he had predicted they would. When these people, whose extravagant oratory had done so much to bring on the fight, and who had then contributed nothing of personal service to sustain it, came among his starving men to urge them to sacrifices which they themselves had never made, he treated them with undisguised scorn. He refused to attend their meeting. From the door of his hut he blistered them with his biting satire: –
“Well – ” he shouted; “still sicking them on are ye?” “Before you leave, tell them what you think of your rights in the Territories now.” “One day out here with a musket would help the cause more than all your talk.” “Don’t talk the men to death. You can’t talk the Yankees to death. Fighting is the only thing that talks now.”
“Old Jubal” had his faults, but skulking in bomb proofs was not one of them. The men had implicit faith in his unflinching courage. He punctured and embalmed the lip-service of these “last ditchers,” as he called them and his soldiers, taking the cue from him, hooted and derided them, and long resented their unwelcome intrusion.
John S. Wise, The End of an Era
It never changes, does it? The common men, along with their idealistic and fatalistic middle and upper-class officers, fight a war for the “Talkers and Takers.” Sometimes the common man wins, like in the case of the post-war era of posterity following the destruction of Europe and Japan. Sometimes they lose, like the cultural rot during and after the Vietnam fiasco.
But, the Talkers and Takers never leave. They’re always part of the problem. They instigate wars that leave widows, orphans, and ravaged cities. Then, they take what they want from both the victorious and the vanquished. They are not men of character by any stretch. And, you will find them in almost any setting, from the boardroom to the Pentagon.