Colin Rafferty
Digging In

Colin Rafferty - Digging In

Creative Nonfiction
Colin Rafferty teaches nonfiction writing at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Other recent essays can be read… Read more »
Bram Takefman
The American House

Bram Takefman - The American House

Creative Nonfiction
Bram Takefman is a retired international trade executive who has spent much of his adult life overseas, living in places… Read more »
Lockie Hunter
The Witness of High Hats

Lockie Hunter - The Witness of High Hats

Creative Nonfiction
Lockie Hunter is from a town in Appalachia where oral storytelling is vital to the community. She holds an MFA… Read more »

Digging In

Colin Rafferty

There’s a part in Tony Horowitz’s Confederates in the Attic where he talks with Civil War re-enactors about what it’s like to “die” on the field. No one wants to die, they complain. The first volley of shots from the other side, and it’s like everyone’s got bulletproof vests. Once you die, you’re dead, they say, and that means you can’t move, that you have to lie there on the field while everyone else continues to fight.

For once, I’ll admit that the re-enactors are right; no one wants to be the dead body. It’s the part of the war that all of us think about in the most abstract of ways: noble sacrifices and glorious valor and all that. Lines on a map and numerals on a page don’t reveal the reality of corpses on the battlefield, or the fact that something has to happen to those bodies, that they have to be buried, one by one.

I don’t know if you’ve ever dug a grave, but it’s difficult work. You know how in crime shows and Lifetime Network movies, a small woman will dig a grave large enough to hold a full-grown abusive husband, not to mention fill… Read more »