SAY IT AIN’T SO SAM…
“When your secretary invited me to this reunion of the Union veterans of Maryland he requested me to come prepared to clear up a matter which he said had long been a subject of dispute and bad blood in war circles in this country – to wit, the true dimensions of my military services in the Civil War, and the effect they had upon the general result. I recognise the importance of this thing to history, and I have come prepared. Here are the details.
I was in the Civil War two weeks. In that brief time I rose from private to second lieutenant.
Mark Twain: Staunch Confederate? Once Upon a Time, 150 years ago, Baylor Professor Says
“The war was the defeat of everything Twain had grown up believing,” Fulton said. “While he was growing up, he had learned from the pulpit that slavery was ‘right, righteous and sacred.'”
When scholars sparred recently over one professor’s decision to ditch the “n-word” and replace it with “slave” in a revised edition of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, one issue was never in question: that Twain spurned racism.
But what scholars have overlooked is the bone — or rather, bones — Twain had to pick with the Union, despite his speeches celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s call for racial justice, said Dr. Joe B. Fulton, an award-winning professor of English at Baylor University, in a new book published during the sesquicentennial of the Civil War’s beginning.
What Twain witnessed during and after the Civil War turned him into a skeptic of “truth, justice and the American way” for the rest of his life, says Fulton in his latest book, The Reconstruction of Mark Twain: How a Confederate Bushwhacker Became the Lincoln of Our Literature.
If the Confederate Army had fought, as young Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) did, the Civil War would have lasted but a matter of weeks. Clemens was not a disinterested soldier; he was keenly interested in how to escape from Confederate service.
After growing up in Hannibal, Mo., young Clemens worked as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River. The outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861 brought a halt to steamboat traffic. Without a job, Clemens joined a Confederate militia, the Marion Rangers.
In his 1953 book The Civil War, the southern writer James Street counter-intuitively selected Mark Twain as “My Favorite Confederate.” Few others have made strong connections between Twain and the Southern Confederacy. Now, in a refreshing monograph, Joe B. Fulton, a Twain scholar who is a Professor of English at Baylor University, takes Samuel Clemens’ brief 1861 service in the Missouri Confederate militia as his point of departure for a study in intellectual biography. He traces Clemens’ thinking about the sectional conflict, race, and politics through the 1860s, to trace stages by which the young Confederate came, as Mark Twain, to adopt a Unionist, non-southern, and racially enlightened identity. Along the way Fulton offers many informative and thoughtful details about different stages and aspects of Twain’s career.