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by seanfarragher 

Posted: 11 April 2005
Word Count: 1129
Summary: Adapted from original Diary of Eugene Goodwin (American civil war era diary)
Related Works: “Facts Are Stubborn Things” -- Revised 3 • Books from the Bible • Broken Photographs, Dutch Art and Time Machines • Fountain of Youth • Stations of the Cross • Tsunami 12/26/2004 • Wonderful History -- • 

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

NOTE: ITALICS are words added to the original Goodwin diary I found
by chance having watched the PBS Civil War Marathon yesterday.
I adapted the diary to create a poem. I often embellish diaries.
I have done this before with earlier historical poems.


Balloon Ascension to Spy

August, 1861

1 Another warm day, but a little rainy toward night. Went into the fort again today.

I watched the heat melt my skin. I felt it as I “went into the fort again today.”

2 A very warm day. Stood guard today. It was very fatiguing in the hot sun. And instead of being relieved so as to only stand 8 hrs. I had to stand about 10 hours.

Time is a fucking waste if you think about it. It never ends. It always keeps it mark and stops your heart. My Uncle Rufus died from a heat stroke, but he was hard at work wrestling a young woman to his bed with all the might of God in his thigh. She killed him quick.

3 Another warm day. Sent a letter to my brother Thomas in Kentucky and one to the Belvidere Intelligencer, N.J. Saw La Mountain ascend in his balloon and was towed by a steamer near Sewall's point so that he could examine that point. He ascended about 1000 ft.

Imagine the eye traveling like a bird. It was a close argument to travel and keep our feet about us. I will do this.

4 It still continues very hot. Had an inspection of arms and accoutrements this morning. Went to the Seminary to take dinner and supper to some men on guard. Dress parade in the evening.

Imagine how we have to prove our manhood and our right to defend what. Does war do that? Can we forget that we begin naked.

5 Another very warm day. Cool nights and evenings. At ten o'clock the regiment mustered on the parade ground to answer to the pay roll. The paymaster was present. The articles of war were read to us last night and this evening.

War is righteous. It means we can kill without fear of trial and rope. Oh, yes, we fear weapons pointed at our heads. Everything happens at once in seems.

6 Nothing unusual occurred today. Very warm.

7 Very pleasant today. I and another took the job of cooking for the company. I would not think of doing it but in this regiment there is no chance for a man to get promoted unless he lies, swears, cheats or steals. Then again I can cook quite well, and food well cooked is very necessary for soldiers.

How does a righteous man live in this world? He lives by his own contempt. He lives by greed, guilt and fornication. He lives in his war so God will admit him, but how does a whore enter heaven. That is what soldiers are. We are whores of a new kind as we wait for promotion and honor breaking most commandments as we pretend to a godly nature.

8 Another fine day. Last night all hands were turned out, for the secessionists came into Hampton and set fire to all the houses. All were burned to the ground. An Episcopal, two Methodist, and one Baptist. They fired on the Dutch picket but killed no one. But we think the Dutch shot some.

No slave can sleep tonight. His place of rest taken by fire, and now not a slave, he fights for crumbs or sells his daughters for degraded sin.

9 Another fine day. 200 of our men went out on picket today. I had to boil meat for them last night. A steamer from Sewell's point came out with a flag of truce. The Adriatic went to meet her.

The drumbeat of war has its own noise. I am held in contempt I fear by my own demons. They are artful in their designs as I am taken down with them to the basement of my own terror

10 Another fine day. A fine thunder shower this afternoon. The balloon went up yesterday.

I rode in it and held my arms up as I ascended with the master. It was a huge balloon, as it was one he used to train balloonist, as he said. As he said, at the end, “You a clever lad, and perhaps brave, and I will ask for your service from your colonel.

11 A very warm day. Nothing unusual occurred today. Another balloon ascension.

I took the smaller one up alone, and I was tempted never to return when I spied Secessionists about 200 marching into their camps. Several shot at me as I passed too close. One round just missed as I felt its art on my cheek or perhaps it was imagined. Otherwise, a pleasant but hot day. Nothing unusual occurred. Dying seems easy. I am hungry when I do not boil meat cut from the legs of horses dead or the men who leave their pleasure without compensation or reward.

Company Report: Sgt. Goodwin died, his face smashed by rocks, when his balloon shot down by Secessionist’s sailed too close to their camp.


A poem inspired by the diary:

Balloons Driven towards Dead Wind
By Sean Farragher

Simple how flight ends
at the edge of our fingers
we cannot move nor stand
as we witness it with an open
eye for the terror of the fall

The stomach fails, our mind
rides without self embrace.

I am calm of course. I am easy
in the sacrifice of life even when
there is excuse or rant or preacher
with a dirty eye loose in my books

I can read myself. I need no Priest
to tell me death or life, or how
the nation riding past the rain
falls down quenched by lust
but I am sad myself. I am risen.
I lie too easily you see. My
false witness bargains with my will
for the easy future and sad life
with my wife at my bed rising
as spring flowers resting at shoulder
the last breath I utter shot to bits
as my balloon will fail, and I descend
from the light and sad reflection
of this diseased man I am.

No one escaped the nigger trail
and yet we prove ourselves wrong
No one can watch the thousands
die as I dream of settlement
when my skull crushed by fall
I am light on God’s face --
I am not Greek hero at all.
How can I make up my death
I have no art for it.
It tumbles me to kingdom come
I am lost before I rise again somehow.
Do we lie even as we’re born?


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