Don't Marry A Writer

Last night me and Kenyatta went out for dinner with some of our closest friends. At the end I realized something--it was the first time, in two weeks, that I'd gone more than a couple waking hours without making some note about the Civil War.

I've been listening to these David W. Blight lectures, courtesy of Yale, like nonstop. Kenyatta says that every time she comes in the room all she hears is "Blahblahblah KANSAS blahblahblah JOHN BROWN blahblahblah KNOW-NOTHINGS blahblahblah WILMOT PROVISO." Hilarious. I'm in one of those moments--totally overcome by this period of history.

And now for today's random Civil War/Reconstruction observation: U.S. Grant was kind of a bad-ass. Yesterday I was reading McPherson's appraisal of the dude and he talked about how Grant, having failed so much in his earlier life, was a fearless, offensive general. McClellan, on the other hand, who'd experienced so much success, lived in permanent fear of another Bull Run. So much of that resonated with me.

He quotes Grant, in his first major command, leading the 21st Illinois to attack a rebel camp in Missouri. Grant talks about how scared he was. But when he arrived at the battle-field the enemy had fled, and he realized that the opposing general held just as much fear in his heart as Grant.

There's something almost bluesy, and anti-heroic about his whole style, something deep, very human, and of course, ultimately tragic. But it's beautiful. Especially given that generals charged in with the troops and tended to die at astonishing rates.

This whole business is in my skin. I think about it all the time.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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