Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rock Star Summer

All most people know about Elmer Ellsworth is that he died. He actually did a lot more than just that--during the summer of 1860 he headed a group of Chicago-based men called the US Zouave Cadets. They were just over 50 in number, and toured over twenty Northeastern cities presenting their Zouave Drill to crowds of what quickly became adoring fans. When I read 1861, by Adam Goodheart, he talked about Ellsworth's tour: It would be more than a century before New Yorkers would swoon like this for a few out-of-town boys newly arriving in the metropolis.

I laughed out loud! The Beatles and Ellsworth's Zouave Cadets--just brilliant! (as is 1861--read it!! NOW!!) This sentence forms the central idea of the First Fallen chapter about the Cadets' tour. There is so much detail concerning this tour that it was difficult to write and be correct. I think it is important to have dates and times, and their schedule was pretty busy. When I wrote it the first time, the structure was what I was concerned with. Rereading it for a second writing is very daunting. Now I have to get all those details to mesh nicely with a light-hearted voice that lets a reader see the tour as important, fun, long, hot, tiring--and did I say fun? No trashed hotel rooms or hookers, no mirrors of coke or bottles of Jack Daniels, but for these men, it was a chance to see much of the world as they knew it, to be feted and adored, and to be famous for a moment or so.

I am not exactly sure when the 60s Summer of Love was--maybe 1967? But 1860 was the very last Summer of Peace that America would see for five brutal years. A rock star tour seems an appropriate way to commemorate it.

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