SOL14: Digging into History

ImageTuesday is the day to share a “Slice of Life” with Two Writing Teachers. Check out the writers, readers and teachers here. 

 

Where do you live?  Do you consider your hometown to be the BEST in your state?  Or that your state of residence is the best in the country?   I often joke about the fact that I live in Iowa and literally in the “boonies” – out in a rural area, literally surrounded by a state forest on three sides.  My background includes being a “farmer’s daughter” and more specifically a daughter of a “porcine production manager”. (A story for another day about the fact that the pigs who were MONEY had air conditioning long before the family!)

But I must admit that I often have to suffer through bad jokes or questions about being from “Ohio” or “Idaho” as some folks just struggle with knowledge of the Midwest.  Iowa claims:

      • the first in the nation – Iowa Caucus;
      • the birthplaces of John Wayne, Donna Reed, and Johnny Carson;
      • the home of Olympian Shawn Johnson;
      • the birthplace of President Herbert Hoover;
      • Ashton Kutcher who is often seen at sporting events in Iowa;
      • The Bridges of Madison County and
      • The Field of Dreams.

This weekend I was looking for information about the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell.  I’m not sure that I really even knew what “Airborne” meant in military terms but my research was fascinating and highlights from the Army can be found here.

220px-Saving_Private_Ryan_poster

 

Do you remember “Saving Private Ryan”?  Do you remember where Private Ryan was from?  (clue – my state!) Private Ryan was a fictional character. (But Iowa did also have a basis for a family with multiple members killed in the line of duty  – The Sullivan Brothers from Waterloo, IA serving on the Juneau during World War II.)

 

The screenwriter for this movie, Robert Rodat, saw a memorial to eight soldiers who died in the Civil War and began to write this story  about one week during World War II that began with the assault on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, where three brothers in the same family were killed. (70 years ago last month)

 

Lincoln’s “Bixby letter” was used in the movie as a reason to search for and send Private Ryan, 101st Airborne Division, home to Iowa.  That letter is referenced here and is often recognized in the top three of President Lincoln’s epic writings.  (Although there is some debate about the authorship)

The text of the letter  -

“Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864

Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:

Dear Madam: I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln” (Fordham University, Modern History Sourcebook and a lithographic facsimile is available here at Wikipedia)

 

 

Draft Found poem:

Mrs. Bixby
your five sons
have died gloriously.
Weak and fruitless
to beguile you
in your grief
so overwhelming;
consolation
in the thanks
of the Republic
they died to save.
I pray
our Heavenly Father
may assuage the anguish and
leave you the
cherished memory of
the loved and lost
and pride for so costly a sacrifice
upon the altar of freedom.
Respectfully, Abraham Lincoln

(Did you click on any of the links?  Interested in learning more?  Go back and check them out!   Did you learn anything new? What questions remain?)

Many historic events have become the subject of movies and Steven Spielberg has produced some epic films.  What is the attraction to a movie?

Is it the characters?

Is it the stories?

Is it that “kernel” of truth that serves as the basis for the plot?

 

Why do you watch “historical movies” or read “historical books”? 

I love “history” when it includes a factual base with well-developed characters and a fascinating story!

 

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8 responses

  1. It’s so interesting to read your post this morning as I have been DEEP inside my own historical fiction writing this summer! I too find it fascinating to go back in time and reflect on how decisions made long ago forever touch the future.

    1. Thanks, Anita!
      I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE history so this has been quite fun for me to consider!

      Thanks for commenting and I look forward to reading your work soon!

  2. I read a lot of historical fiction and fantasize about writing something one day. I just read “A Mad, Wicked Folly” by Sharon Biggs Waller. she did a wonderful job packing in a lot of info about the Women’s suffrage movement in England without making it sound didactic or preachy. It felt very natural.

    1. Adrienne,
      I must put that on my list! I think the more “factual” the story is, the better I like it! Thanks!

  3. I love the draft found poem Fran. Wow- you have so many interests and pursuits. Must be great fun to be one of your students. Of course I want to know more about your experiences growing up on a pig farm. (:

    1. Lisa,
      First of all thanks for your comments. It’s so great to hear from those we “know” both online and face to face!

      I am very eclectic – jack of many trades/interests and master of non! I love my farming background. Helps me keep focused on the right things (most of the time!)

  4. Lincoln’s letters are astonishing – beautifully succinct, and always so heartfelt. love the found poem, Fran – you have given me ideas for next year! I teach history, so I am a sucker for a good history-based movie – especially those that give me insight into the way people struggled through events.

    1. I was listening for where I heard the “101st Airborne and Iowa” – the opening of Saving Private Ryan is confusing with the “now” and then the flashback to the war – very graphic scenes with literally “real” people with amputated limbs, so I don’t remember the rating on the movie.

      I think the “ideas” are what captured me . . . and the fact that no one “told me” that I had to look this up. I just wanted to know more about the “Screaming Eagles”! Interesting how long I spent when it was “my time” and “my wonderings” that I was exploring!

      Thanks so much for commenting, Tara!

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