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

1437 Words Sep 20th, 2010 6 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
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An excerpt of his speech again reads, “I slipped out of Hannibal, Mo., by night, with a friend, and joined a detachment of the rebel General Tom Harris' Army up a gorge behind an old barn in Ralls County. Colonel Ralls, of Mexican War celebrity, swore us in.” In addition to the Hannibal, MO reference, Tom Harris, Ralls and the Mexican War celebrity all make an appearance in Twain’s story. This evidence leads one to believe that Twain’s Private History of a Campaign that Failed is simply a transcription of his actual war experiences. Therefore, the narrator and its author can be viewed as interchangeable characters.
Just as the narrator’s positive attitude dwindles, Twain’s innocence would too be lost as the true nature of war would finally reveal itself. The narrator in Twain’s story begins to lose his playful spirit as the war drags on. He says, “The steady drudging became like work, the play had somehow oozed out of it, the stillness of the woods and the somberness of the night began to throw a depressing influence over the spirits of the boys…” The militia comes to a sudden realization when they are actually faced with their first conflict and possibility of battle. The narrator continues, “he began to whisper a plan of assault upon the house, which made the gloom more depressing than it was before. We realized with a cold suddenness that here was no jest—we were standing face to

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