In any event I thought it one of the best submissions I had perused out of about a thousand read entries. As a matter of fact I gave it third place overall, and Randy may be learning this fact for the first time right here.
After the contest I started reading more of Randy's work and we became friends. It can truly be stated that Randy is of a vanishing breed called the True Southern Gentleman. He comes from a part of Georgia were a man's word and handshake still stand for something. By the way, Randy is also married to a lovely lady named Beth, who keeps him in line on the rare occasions it becomes necessary, so she says.
With that, dear readers of the Carolinian's Archives, it is my humble pleasure to introduce you to the first guest post of Randy's here. It seemed an excellent companion to a Civil War story honoring the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg; in which Randy's brother usually participates as a re-enactor, and did participate this year of 2013.
By the way friends, Randy Godwin at Hubpages.com has a fantastic variety of stories covering many subjects such as his awesome collection of S Georgia Amerindian artifacts and the mysterious "Carolina Bays" that cover the SE from his area to the Carolinas.
Images of Valor Dying, by Randy Godwin
I cannot blame them though, cannot feel any animosity for their looks of distaste thrown my way when I erect my equipment of light gathering. I am not their enemy, but still they shake their heads as I approach them as if a mere word to them would seal their fate, would forecast a certain death captured for all to see back home where they lived. No, they have the right to think so, these poor lads in arms.
Especially after today they may believe I am somehow responsible for their fate, somehow complicit in the whole disaster of trying to route the Rebs from behind the old stone wall below Marye’s Height. I’d prepared my glass plates with care early that morning and finally, after the fog lifted around ten, used them all. And yes indeed, I captured the faces of dead men, caught their last smiles and tears before they took the deadly walk towards the confederate lines.
Acts of Mortal Gods
Somehow it doesn’t seem like war to me, and I suppose it really isn’t. Sure, I could catch a stray bullet, or perhaps an artillery round could go awry, but there is always a chance of death in our short lives no matter the circumstance. I cannot see myself dying near the scene of a battle, but I suppose it could happen easily enough.
I never dreamed when I was serving an apprenticeship to the famous photographer, Matthew Brady, that I would be here now, making visual records of this sad American struggle. I never thought we would actually do it, would kill our fellow citizens, all for such silly reasons.
My job is not to figure the why of it, but to simply get it down on glass. Somehow it seems shameful for it to be, so I cannot say different now.
Burning the Glass
They sometimes give me vegetables from their gardens or perhaps even a chicken or smoked ham in exchange for taking pictures of their family members. They too gaze in wonder at me, as if I am indeed somehow special to this angry world. But special I do not feel, not at all my friends.
Sometimes I meet with my peers, other men much like myself, living their lives while they record the demise of other not-so-fortunate warriors. Their guilt at such is similar to mine. I can see it in their eyes too; can tell it from their words and actions, even the way they move slowly about their tasks tell a tale of dread and misgiving.
Waiting to Bury the Dead and Gaining Ground to Rest In ...
I wonder will my work actually make a difference in the lives of those who will eventually lay eyes upon the long dead warriors. It is hard to look a upon these colorful scenes through the camera lens and imagine the picture as it turns out in shades of gray, black, and white long after the battle is over. It’s almost as if the drabness of the finished product somehow purposely needs the cold gray light to lend sobriety to the scenes of war. And, perhaps, it does.
So off I go, setting up my camera, finding a spot to work unencumbered with danger or guilt, of not being a main character in this unhappy charade. No, it isn't an easy job to remain so detached from the conflict, but then, there are always such men attached to these wars.
Those who make the important decisions to attack or defend are often in same situation. I cannot but wonder if those men had to fight their own battles if there would ever be any. Somehow I think not.