My New And Very Dead Friend Hiram - Part IISunday, November 03, 2013
I have been giving a lot of thought to aging as I see in myself a prime example. I sometimes wonder what would have been of my life if I had prematurely become bald at 50. Would I have worn a toupée? Not too long ago I photographed a beautiful (undraped) woman in her mid 50s. Her body has handled time just right but stuff did appear under her chin on her neck. She was lightly upset and told me she might need (I am sure it was in jest) some corrective surgery.
Fortunately, for me, even in this 21st century we live in an era where the idea that on old man with wrinkles is an old man with character while a photograph of a woman showing wrinkles is seen as character assassination.
My friend Paul Leisz, he of fantastic digital proclivities, (and I don’t mean that he may be good with his hands as I am not his partner) has advised me to write down my various passwords, mostly related to the names of my long-dead-and gone cats, on a piece of paper and to stick it in the bottom of my desk drawer. He further advised me, “When you cannot get on your knees to see it then you are too old and you no longer need passwords.”
Just yesterday I called up my 90-year-old godmother/first cousin in Buenos Aires and asked her how she was now that she is 90. In her perfect British English she answered, “I feel 90.” And then in a curious turn of events (I am perceived as a doubting heathen by her family) and considering that as my godmother she has the obligation to see to my spiritual well-being she asked, “You still have the chronic respiratory disease, do you want me to pray for you?” I immediately answered, “Yes!”
She, Inesita is the only person that I now know who is older than I am. I have always respected my elders and I have always had a few in my pocket that I could consult for advice. They are all dead. What older person can I now count on? It has become patently evident that the person in question is one that will have to dole out pithy advice at his reflection on his guest bathroom mirror.
My New And Very Dead Friend HiramFriday, May 24, 2013
In the last five years I have noticed the inexorable disappearance of my friends. I remove them from my diary (my last one is two years old and I have not bothered to purchase one for 2013). Some die, some worked for companies that are gone and I have lost track to where they went. With some friends I have arrived at the conclusion that we have nothing in common anymore and making the motion of having a friendship is perhaps worse than terminating one.
My friends abroad don’t seem to use email and few want to Skype.
To add to this jarring turn of events my very good friend Abraham Rogatnick died three years ago and this year both my mentor/father surrogates, Raúl Guerrero Montemayor and Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. Left for perhaps a better place.
My oldest granddaughter who was my constant companion until what seemed only a while ago had found boys and more dangerous pursuits. My garden of roses cannot compete. Luckily her sister Lauren who is only 10 has picked up the mantle of the one person in my current life who can make me smile, entertain me and even share with me my passion for Star Trek. I believe she might even agree with me that the whole Star Trek Next Generation was one big aberration.
But not all is doom in gloom. I have found a new friend called Hiram. He is dead. He departed this world on July 23, 1885.
It was sometime around 1956 that I chose to review a book about the battle of Shiloh. My friend Hiram was in command of one of the forces. Let me explain.
After a family conference and vote by the relatives, the name Hiram Ulysses was chosen for the new baby [born April 27, 1822]. He was known as “Lyss” while a boy. Rep. Thomas L. Hamer in filling out Grant’s application for appointment to West Point, forgot that he usually used H. Ulysses and, knowing that his mother’s name was Simpson, Hamer wrote in “Ulysses S. Grant,” the name he was to known by thereafter. When registering at West Point, Grant did try to have it corrected. He signed the register “Ulysses Hiram Grant” as he was afraid if he used his correct name he would be nicknamed ‘Hug.” However the authorities would not allow it to be corrected and while at West Point he was often called “Uncle Sam Grant” and later just “Sam.”
Lloyd Lewis and Dictionary of American Biography
My interest in the American Civil War began when I was around 8 or 9 and in the USIS library, the Lincoln Library in Buenos Aires on Calle Florida. My mother had gone to visit her friends in the Philippine Ministry which was adjacent to the U.S. Embassy in the same building as the library. In those days Filipinos celebrated their liberation from the Japanese and their independence from their formerly colonial masters, the Americans, on the 4th of July.
I opened a book or magazine called American Heritage and it was there that my eyes were transfixed by photographs of live and dead soldiers of the American Civil War taken by a couple of photographers called Timothy O’Sullivan and Alexander Gardner.
Looking at pictures that were brutal and realistic in their sharp b+w reproduction, the men looked very much like the Argentines walking on Calle Florida. I was also affected by the idea that I was gazing at people who had been alive when they were photographed but they were now long dead.
The memory of those photographs may have become embedded somewhere in my brain and finally inspired me to become a photographer of people.
When in the 8th grade and with my mother as the teacher in a one room schoolhouse in Nueva Rosita, Coahuila I chose the book about the Battle of Shiloh for my book report assignment. It was in the book where I first learned and became interested in Ulysses S. Grant.
For some years now I have wanted to read Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant published May 23, 1885. It never occurred to me until the last few months to see if the Vancouver Public Library carried copies. They did and until a week ago they were all out! The library has a beautiful (but not well preserved as someone has repaired it with duct tape) second edition in two volumes that they will not let out of the building. I leafed through it and made the determination I would return as soon as they had a copy available.
Now as the evening becomes so in our longer days I savour getting into bed to open the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant whom I have come to know quite well. His writing seems to have a voice that I can almost imagine. He seems to be a dependable, kind man who rarely has ill to say about anybody. This is one of the first books I have read in a long time where I feel that I am with a friend who is conversing with me.
I am currently reading his account of the Mexican-American War of which the young second lieutenant was most opposed but followed orders, nonetheless.
Consider his account to the events leading to the Battle of Camargo in what is now the state of Tamaulipas. Zachary Taylor’s army of invasion had to cross rivers and move from one evening’s camp to another. Grant was detailed as quartermaster and commissary to the regiment (the 4th).
The teams that had proven abundantly sufficient to transport all the supplies from Corpus Christy to the Rio Grande over the level prairies of Texas, were entirely inadequate to the needs of the reinforced army in a mountainous country. To obviate the deficiency, pack mules were hired, with Mexican to pack and drive them. I had charge of the few wagons allotted to the 4th infantry and of the pack train to supplement them. There were not men enough in the army to manage that train without the help of the Mexicans who had learned how. As it was the difficulty was great enough. The troops would take up their march at an early hour each day. After they had started, the tents and cooking utensils had to be made into packages, so that they could be lashed to the backs of the mules. Sheet-iron kettles, tent poles and mess chests were inconvenient articles to transport in that way. It took several hours to get ready to start each morning, and by the time we were ready some of the mules first loaded would be tired of standing so long with their loads on their backs. Sometimes one would start to run, bowing his back and kicking up until he scattered his load; others would lie down and try to disarrange their loads by attempting to get on the top of them by rolling on them; others with tent-poles for part of their loads would manage to run a tent-pole on one side of a sapling while they would take the other. I am not aware of ever having used a profane expletive in my life; but I would have the charity to excuse those who may have done so, if they were in charge of a train of Mexican pack mules at the time.
Still in his account of the Mexican war Grant cites how Mexican still celebrate two battles they lost, one in Chapultepec and the other at Molino del Rey. He writes:
With us twenty years after the close of the most stupendous war ever known, we have writers –who profess devotion to the nation – engaged in trying to prove that the Union forces were not victorious; practically they say, we were slashed around from Donelson to Vicksburg and to Chattanooga; and in the East from Gettysburg to Appomattox, when the physical rebellion gave out from sheer exhaustion. There is no difference in the amount of romance in the two stories.
I would not have the anniversaries of our victories celebrate, nor those of our defeats made fast days and spent in humiliation and prayer; but I would like to see truthful history written. Such history will do full credit to the courage, endurance and soldierly ability of the American citizen, no matter what section of the country he hailed from, or in what ranks he fought. The justice of the cause which in the end prevailed, will, I doubt not, come to be acknowledged by every citizen of the land, in time. For the present, and so long as there are living witnesses of the great war of sections, there will be people who will not be consoled for the loss of a cause which they believed to be holy. As time passes, people, even in the South, will begin to wonder how it was possible that their ancestors ever fought for or justified institutions which acknowledged the right of property in man.
One of the more interesting but curious fact about these memoirs is that Grant was not a very good judge of men re their ability to be dishonest. He was taken by many and his administration as President of the US was rife with imbroglios of graft of which Grant was not aware of. When Mark Twain found out how much money had been offered to then now bankrupt ex-president he interceded for him. They became friends.
No streaming video of Lincoln in my head
Amdrew Taylor, Esq.
Evil can seem beautiful if the uniforms are just right
Abraham Lincoln and General Don José de San Martín