Some Thoughts on the Opera House and Col Suman
As I sit here on this beautiful fall day, I cant help but let my mind wander to days of the early 1900's. The war was long finished, so was the Spanish American War, and we were o n the brink of WWI. But people were still talking (much like today) of the Civil War.
In a sense they were re-fighting the war. They wanted answers to so many questions about engagements, battles, orders, etc. Veterans, especially the officers, were often contacted to tell of what happened in a certain battle. With their years winding down, they often got together with those still around to tell the tales, and respond to letters, and questions presented to them,
While spending the early morning hours on the Internet Archive, I came across a book that I had never come across before. I found the Book- The Truth about Chickamauga by Col Archibald Gracie . I haven't read the entire book, but I did search for Col Suman, and came up with many entries. With Col Suman
one of the founders of the old GAR Chaplain Brown Post in Valparaiso IN, I was fascinated by what I read.
First of all, there are many accounts of what happened at Chickamagua, and many are conflicting. But what I am writing is not about who is right, who ordered whom into what or where, its not about who won or lost (yes I know that the Union Sustained HEAVY losses).
While reading the accounts from COL Suman and his ADJ General Hodson, I couldn't help but let my mind imagine them sitting and writing the responses to the questions posted by the Author- Col Gracie.
Just some background- Col Gracie, wrote Col Suman asking questions about why he ordered his troops to the location he did, how he came about getting captured, how he was released, and others. Col Suman got his then Adj Gen, Hodson, together and put together a response to these questions and others.
As I sit here, I cant help but imagine what the scene was like. Both about 70 years old, the war had ended roughly 40 years prior, and here they were, still answering questions about a battle that the Union Army Suffered Heavy Losses. I imagine when Col Suman got the letter, his first stop would have been the to meet up with Hodson. Both were very active in the Chaplain Brown GAR Post in Valparaiso. I cant help but wonder if they wrote their responses from Memorial Hall (Memorial Opera House- today). It was in the Opera House, that housed the 127 Volumes of the War of the Rebellion- Official Records.
It had to be there that they sat, Up the Steep Stairs, under the Red, White and Blue Windows, Under the watchful eye of the Portrait of Lincoln, they sat, and read the official records, read the correspondence and orders for the first time. It was there they put together a defense of sorts, an explanation of why so many men died.
It was there, in the same room that our SUVCW Camp sits every Second Saturday,
the same room that brides get ready for weddings in the opera house. The same room, that funerals were planed for so many of the veterans of the CW. The same room, that Sousa and Bondi sat so many years ago.
The same rooms, that the Directors and actors have sat planned out shows, sewed costumes, gotten ready for performances, or just went over lines in a quiet place.
The history that this building holds is immense. The conversations that have happened over the years are too many to count. As we come upon the 124th anv of the Opening of Memorial Opera House, we have to stop and take stock in not just the age of the building- but who sat in those chairs, who roamed the halls, and who spent so much of their lives there. I believe that those voices guide us today. We stand in their shoes, and every decision that is made there is a reflection not only on the past, but on the next 125 years.