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Jacob Hatcher

In shadow of Shiloh 

By Jacob Hatcher 

Community Columnist  

I was tuning my banjo in a church in Kentucky when someone asked, “Where are you from again?” I chuckled and said, “I was born in Georgia and raised in Nashville, but I spent my summers in Alabama.”  

He laughed and said, “So you’re just from the South.” 

I’m just from the South. There’s no denying, escaping or forgetting it.  

It’s something I’m proud of. The music, the food, the literature – it’s a region so rich with culture and identity. It’s a place where graying men sit in dimly-lit dens and chew on every word they speak as they tell an old familiar story.  

The stories I heard were about life on the farm and GI bill education. I heard about stubborn mules and hot, sticky days in tobacco patches, and I heard about what Shelby Foote called “That War.” It’s known by many names, but no matter what it’s called, it’s the thing that’s defined us most.  

Stories of “That War” led me to Shiloh, Tenn., this past week, where I wandered fields on which thousands of men died 160 years ago. I’d been there before, but it’s been many years.  

I stood behind cannons and at the edge of tree lines and imagined what had happened there; I shuddered at the carnage of so many dying for a small railroad crossing a few miles away. I stood beside mass graves and mourned for the men buried there.  

Just like the clouds overhead, the shadow of it all fell over me as I stood in the rain. How do I reconcile it all? How do I wear my Southern-ness with pride, knowing what I know?  

There are no easy answers. There is no simple solution.  

We are a complicated people with a dark, shadowy history. We can bury our heads in the sand, but eventually the tide rises, and we’re exposed yet again.  

I might never know how to reconcile these things. I might go to my grave with “That War’s” shadow hanging over me, but I’ll try every day to shine a little more light, and just maybe, the darkness will move further into the corners.