The Private History of a Campaign That Failed: Twain's War Diary

1467 WordsSep 25, 20106 Pages
The Private History of a Campaign That Failed: Twain’s War Diary “We pierced the forest about half a mile and took up a strong position with some low and rocky hills behind us, and a purling limpid creek in front. Straightaway half the command was in swimming and the other half fishing,”and so Mark Twain’s short story: The Private History of a Campaign that Failed is summarized—but was Twain swimming or fishing? Published in 1896, Twain’s piece follows a band of youthful Civil War rebels through the eyes of their 24-year-old ‘leader’. Instantly one can distinguish the inadequacies of the “Marion Rangers” as Twain depicts both their cowardice and inexperienced war tactics. Through a closer examination of textual evidence, along with…show more content…
Twain recounted his war experiences for an audience in October of 1877 at a dinner for the Boston Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company. He spoke before the dinner recounting his actual Civil War experience. Twain said, “I was made Second Lieutenant and Chief Mogul of a company of eleven men, who knew nothing about-war - nor anything, for we had no Captain. My friend, who was 19 years old…and just out of the infant school, was made Orderly Sergeant. His name was Ben Tupper. He had a hard time.” Important from his statement is the confirmation that Twain actually held the exact position of the narrator of his story and also the consistent youth and inexperience of the troops. The theme of inexperience is continued in his story many times over. An example of which can be seen when the narrator describes the daily activities of the men, “afternoons, we rode off here and there in squads a few miles and visited the farmer’s girls and had a youthful good time…” These are not the action of hardened killers. Rather, they are those of innocent and ignorant boys that have the misinterpretation that they are fighting a war. This very innocence could be that which Twain shared with his “narrator” at an actual time in history when he too was playing war with the Marion Rangers. Further evidence from his 1877 speech leads one to believe that Twain’s real life experience and his story have far too

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