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American Civil War in “Classmates Divided” Essay (Article Review)

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2022

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The article “Classmates Divided” by Elizabeth Sergent talks of the civil war of 1861-1865 between the confederate states of America in the south and the Union. It mainly talks of the class of 1861 from West Point Military Academy that graduated and soon went into battle; of how classmates were divided as they went to fight for their respective states and how some did not even graduate in May with rest. Some of the soldiers resigned and” war was on them and the war department ordered these men dismissed for tendering resignation in the face of the enemy.”

It would also be written in one’s records “joined in the war against the United States” (Sergent 220). This article covers the story of the soldiers before, during and after the war, “the cadets were almost completely dependent on their classmates for companionship, and the friendships they formed would last a lifetime of dreary, lonely and frontier duties” (Sergent 221). It talks of their friendships together and apart; of their pride in each other’s accomplishments. As Adelbert Ames wrote of Alabama’s John Pelham, “I am not disloyal when I tell you we heard with secret pride of his gallant deeds on the field of battle.”

As I read, I ask myself, where did she get this information and personal thoughts? What was the purpose for this writing? Was her motive to show how brave our soldiers had been on the battlefield or was it how patriotic they were? Still fighting on even when seriously wounded, giving orders as they took their last breaths. In addition, was it to show how the government appreciated their sacrifice by promoting them and giving them higher pensions and even having Abraham Lincoln visit them in hospital? For example when he saw little Edmund Kirby in 1863 on his deathbed in the hospital in Washington. The author should thoroughly proofread her work to make sure there are no mistakes as can be seen by “…Albert Ames….And in 1803 the government got around to giving him the Medal of Honor for his conduct on 21 July 1861” (Sergent 223).

Mary bases her story on old and impersonal records and letters. With no cited references, are the accounts she bases her story on really enough to say what actually happened? We would not be sure why people said the things they said as during a war everyone’s senses and emotions are heightened. Also, are we sure, if they saw and knew some of these accounts or did they hear stories that had been told over and over? For example in the case of Jefferson Davis, “Davis was almost killed one night when he fell down a cliff while making a successful escape from Benny Haven’s place during a raid” (Sergent 224).

This article mainly talks about General George Armstrong Custer and his good friend Thomas Lafayette Rosser. They together with their friend John Pelham (he was very much liked and had many people all over name their children after him) were good at horse riding (Sergent 226). They were very committed to their cause, which made some people revere them and sometimes hate them.

For example, when Thomas Rosser together with his friends Fitzhugh Lee (class of 1856) and Joseph Wheeler ( class of 1859) made peace with the Union, some people wished they would go to hell instead of heaven to see how the devil punished them. All in all, they were all known to be excellent soldiers, very brave and smart as they went out of their way to study more than they had gone to WestPoint for. On the surface, the story talks of the war that went on between the two and the military school but intimately it talks of the friendships forged, of individual strengths and especially fighting for what they believed in and of great men in the making.

My opinion

I truly enjoyed reading this article, as it was very interesting with thoughts flowing beautifully. The book’s name brought out well its contents. I think most of what was written in the book is truthful though her portrayal of all the characters was too angelic and over selfless. Of all the options available, I chose to review this article as it is on the history of our country. It talks of the soldiers and people who helped build this nation to what it is today. It helps me appreciate where my country is today and all the things I am able to do in this peaceful country. It makes me look, evaluate what I am doing for my community and my country, and ask how selfless I am. I am very interested in rights of the children and this article gives me motivation to help them leave without much struggle and trauma from abuse.

Work Cited

Sergent, Elizabeth. “Classmates Divided.” Todd Houck, Ph.D. Faces in the Crowd. 4th Ed. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2006.219-226.

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