Thursday, November 7, 2013

Camden War

The soldiers ran in the open field, firing old muskets and rifles, dressed in their revolutionary garb, the militia in their ragtag uniforms and the continental army dressed in blue uniforms, battled the British soldiers in their red coats as cannons ablaze and smoke arose from the battle ground as the sound of mortars and gun fire reverberated in the old town. Long ago, the revolutionary army lost against Lord Cornwallis with General Gates leaving the field of battle in disgrace, today an actor galloped here and there across the grassy meadow as spectators gaped and a film crew filmed his every movement, his beautiful horse galloping elegantly amidst the battle and running soldiers; tech crew speaking in radios as they arrange fake explosions and orchestrate the soldiers’ movements. It was the worst defeat in the South, after the fall of Charleston and Savannah, though paving the way for the victories at King’s Mountain and Cowpens and eventually leading to the surrender at Yorktown as the Southern strategy collapsed. On the way to Camden, I listened to Barbara Tuchman’s ‘The First Salute’ to get the historical context of the encounter.

The oldest inland town in South Carolina said the sign, staging the annual battle re-enactment in a historical park, with old houses scattered along rolling hills and former parade grounds, tents sprung up with mock stores and supplies, soldiers walking about, women and children playing, shop keepers selling period ware and engaging spectators in conversation. I walked around the makeshift tent town, entering the old houses and enjoying the exhibit and the mock battle in the open ground. Later I walked through the nature trail, surrounded by tall trees, walking beside a small pond and an old armament ruin, leaving after the battle and driving around the old town, laid out in a straight grid, no modern confusion of curving side streets, all geometrically square like some huge chessboard. I made the 2 hour journey back home, a Sunday well spent under the beautiful blue sky where the day previously I had tried mountain biking in the nearby park close to home, going up the asphalt road and going back through the forest trail, swerving into twisting earth and trees, finally emerging into the road and heading back to the car park. A hectic day with the evening spent remotely meeting with my relatives via the internet, enjoying his presence after the near death experience on Saturday night.

On Monday, the work week began,  bewildering again, deciding to go back to work sitting down instead of standing, raising the laptop with the screen  at eye level  and resorting to standing only when needed, trying to work through my backlog and to do list. At the same time, I had resolved to help my relative in any way I can, to chisel away at the huge financial burden they face, calling hospital administrators in California long distance to discuss, cajole and plead for help and in the evening calling him to discuss strategy and next steps, trying to find a way out of the distorted mess that one’s father had done in the goodness of his heart plus ill decisions made in one’s youth coming back to haunt us. This will be the significant event of my life (as well as my relative), giving meaning so I could put my efforts to help resolve this family tragedy; the sins passing along generations; there is nowhere to run, no one to turn to, a destiny where one realizes that blood is the most important thing, and the character flaw of escape, distraction and frivolity still plaguing the next generation. But it is the children that are one’s salvation, to raise above this tragedy so the offspring will live a better life; to struggle in hardship so the next generation can break free into a better life. A lesson of the revolutionary war, too.

No comments: