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Memories of Antietam

child of the corn by imagecarnival
child of the corn, a photo by imagecarnival on Flickr.

Little Jehoshaphat was born in 1832 to a family of carnival performers and technicians that roamed the Americas.

From Georgia up to New England, as far west as the Mississippi and all along the east coast, Dr. Prognosto’s Travelling Circus entertained with clowns, freaks, burlesque and the “Wonder of the Modern Age”, the Magic Lantern Show that Jehoshaphat’s father ran. The Magic Lantern was able to project enlarged images of photographs onto a flat surface, and was nothing short of remarkable for the age. A clever manipulator of the technology could create effects like ghosts and spirits, and the show of Jehoshaphat’s dad was the undoubted highlight of the carnival.

Jehoshaphat’s childhood was a happy one, though his mother had died while giving birth to him. The rest of the carnies took him under his wing, and he had an entire community to help raise him. He was, by all accounts, a happy child, up until just after his eighth birthday.

Shortly thereafter, the images his dad projected at night became disturbing representations of dead Americans, wearing uniforms of blue or grey. They portrayed the agonized endings of thousands upon thousands of men, killed in a battlefield that could only be American. They were horrifying. Electrifying. The show became even more popular than before, though only a “certain kind of person” would be willing to admit they had seen such a show. But flocks of rubes paid their 2 cents to see the show. His father became a celebrity, and Jehosaphat became withdrawn, sullen, a teenager before his time.

The images became progressively more disturbing, showing all kinds of horrors that were beyond anything that the average American could imagine on their own. But it was all a phantasm, wasn’t it?

Of course it was. No human being was capable of such cruelty. What Christian would ever do such a thing, particularly to another Christian?

It was unthinkable.

At age 10, Jehosaphat ran away from the circus, but he never escaped the memories of Antietam, not until he fought there, 20 years later.

Alltop didn’t find that funny. Not one little bit. In fact, it was kind of disturbing. Originaly published, March, 2012.