Before there were cameras to document warfare, there were sketchbooks. So imagine then sketching a battlefield and, as smoke filled the air and bullets zipped past, trying to keep your pencil straight. This, though, was the experience of many artists, including Elijah Evan Edwards (1831-1915), who served as chaplain of the 7th Minnesota Infantry during the Civil War (1864-1865). The Minnesota Historical Society has three volumes of Edwards' journals, including a 1910 typescript he wrote synthesizing his pocket diaries from the war. In it he discusses daily camp life, the people he met, different battles, and so on. Besides being an invaluable, firsthand account of the Civil War, what makes the text rich is its being accompanied by several dozen sketches made from "hasty outlines finished from memory when I had leisure." "This is especially true of the battle scenes," he added, "since I had during the critical moments of the conflict neither leisure nor opportunity to make sketches." (p.1). It's these that distinguish Edwards' written account from others.
Recently, I subscribed to Midwestern Gothic, a quarterly print literary journal out of Ann Arbor, MI. Before subscribing, I'd stumble occasionally over their work and and was always impressed by what I saw. In a region of the country that many dismiss as "flyover territory," MG is evidence that even if there are planes in the sky, there are feet on the ground and stories in our heads. This is where the next generation of Midwestern writers are publishing. I was excited then when, last month, the Summer 2014 issue arrived in the mail. Of the 37 stories and poems, several stood out that I recommend. These are worth the price of admission alone, and I suggest you check them out.