3 February 2015
“The Few, The Brave”
Samuel Clemens’s “The Private History of a Campaign that Failed” explores the true sentiment behind war and its consequences within American society. Using his war time experiences,
Clemens’s short story exposes how truly underprepared soldiers are for battle, and focuses on the idea of war being a product of propaganda and its ability to corrupt mankind’s innocence.
Throughout the mid eighteen hundreds and even now, war and one’s duty to fight for their country has been surrounded by a great deal of propaganda. From magazines, to commercials, to recruiters at school campuses, it has always been considered both honorable and righteous to join some branch of the armed forces in an attempt to protect what we call the “land of the free, and the home of the brave”. However from a more liberal standpoint it seems as if those who have signed up for this duty are not always aware of the world they are stepping into, and rather have joined simply with the mindset that they will be “protecting our country”. Clemen’s states, “Out west there was a good deal of confusion in men’s minds during the first months of the great trouble, a good deal of unsettledness” (298). Twain’s commentary hones in on the truth of how convinced we as Americans are that loyalty to our country, regardless of the method in which we achieve it, is one of our utmost priorities. The story speaks of a group of inexperienced militiamen, the Marion Ranchers, who joined the ProConfederate Missouri State Guard. Upon arrival at their socalled base, they spend the first few days attempting to learn the ropes of what
is now their entire world, however fail to get along with each other, arguing over whose father owned slaves, and whose didn’t. Though this argument was small, its impact is grand; revealing how blinded citizens are by the goals of victory that they fail to see that those they are arguing with have the same goal in mind as them. Propaganda was one of many things Clemens’s hinted at within his short story. Following the misadventures of the Marion Rangers also reveals how underprepared soldiers are when it comes to war. As the rangers traversed up a rocky hill to set up for the enemy, the night fell and it began raining, and with that they stumbled down, causing
“The keg of powder [to be] lost, and the guns too” (302). This is one of many examples within the story that shows how little the rangers know of surviving in what they believe to be the war zone. Not only are these soldiers blinded by the propaganda convincing them of protecting their