The balloon franchise

The Civil War history plaza is filled with happy, smiling vendors of inflatable balloon toys. Collectors of Civil War information can fill their arms with these to a point where it becomes difficult to see over or through them, much less collect actual information.

I dread talking about the Civil War with strangers because I expect them to begin handing me for inspection and approval their various beautiful balloons, as if these inflates were history lessons.

Remember, for a moment, this documented (non-inflatable) history. Savor the dialogue:

Secretary of War: "Your petulance, characteristic egotism, and recklessness of accusation have imposed on me the task of unveiling some of your deformities. Your military fame has been clouded by groveling vices and your career marked by carelessness, insubordination, greed of lucre, and want of truth."

General commanding: "Your new letter is a new example of chicanery. My silence under the new provocation has been the result first of pity and next of forgetfulness. Compassion is always due to an enraged imbecile who raves about him in blows which hurt only himself and who at the worst seeks to stifle his opponent by dint of naughty words."

How do you like those civil/military relations? The astute reader immediately recognized Jefferson Davis exchanging compliments with Winfield Scott during the Pierce administration.

Publicly and privately expressed feelings of this sort do not impinge on the balloon trade, however, for when the Civil War came, "Scott refused to fight against the United States flag under which he had served for more than fifty years." He did not leap at the chance to betray his oath and work closely with Davis; what a fine sacrifice of self interest. The pain he must have suffered separated from Davis during the long years of war that followed...

Scott "stayed loyal to the United States" and, might one add, to New York City, his home of many decades, and to his New York friends, and to long-time political backers Seward and Conkling; how utterly selfless this man was.

"A Virginian whose services and prestige the South hoped to attach to its cause, Scott remained loyal to the Union," with hardly a thought about earlier "Failing to inherit the family wealth through legal technicalities" when younger. He left everything, which was absolutely nothing, behind: extraordinary. Unique.

"Scott remained loyal to the U.S.--though a Virginian by birth--when the Civil War began," and thus he remained loyal to the successors of the Whig Party which he once headed; and loyal to the president who had given stump speeches during Scott's presidential race in 1852; and loyal to Lincoln's cabinet which included Scott's supporters from nine years ago. Quite a twist, quite the marvel, a man following the section to which his personal interests are tied.

Oh yes, no doubt Scott was loyal to the flag as well. That might actually be the colorful outer skin of this particular balloon.

Enjoy your toys, share your toys, but not with me please.