The Civil War and World War I: Comparing historical narratives

To the editor: I was impressed by Jay Winter's comment that "the violence practiced on African and Asian colonies came home to roost." White Europeans were fighting one another in World War I with the brutal weaponry available at the time. ("Historian Jay Winter: The five things Americans should know about the Great War," Patt Morrison Asks, June 24)

I would like to add a parallel American experience: Our Army ran roughshod over the Native American population and over Mexico in our war with it. But our violence also came home to roost in Manassas, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Antietam, Atlanta and other U.S. locales.

White Americans for the most part fought one another in the Civil War, and the casualties from both sides of that conflict still outnumber American casualties of all other wars combined.

As to abrupt cultural changes following each of those wars, European reflectiveness led to myriad artistic and architectural movements depicting and symbolizing the horrors and destruction of World War I, and moving beyond stringent nationalistic sentiments. American newness perhaps led to a more outer-directed push toward industrialism rather than reflectiveness.

Alan Rosenstein, Santa Monica

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