I basically remember three things about the book. First, I remember the lack of antecedents for pronouns. The question that was getting asked in the hallways of my school, the day after we started reading the book, was "Who is 'he'?" Faulkner dropped you off in the story with "He did this" and "He did that" and we couldn't figure out who "he" was. I learned the importance of antecedents that day.
The second thing I remember was that Faulkner has a passage in the book that goes on for something like 36 pages without a punctuation mark. I'm not exaggerating. It goes on for thirty-something pages. I counted. That was the moment that I learned that there were no rules to writing. If Faulkner can go 36 pages without a punctuation mark, do we really need to be harping on comma usage?
Finally, I remember that there was a corpse that kept getting dug up and reburied. I had to look it up, while writing this, but it was the corpse of Vincent Gowrie. The teacher for this particular class was Mrs. Tucker and she was a tough old bird. She would give us a quiz every day asking specific questions about the material we had been assigned, just to make sure we were reading what we were supposed to be reading. Smart woman. But I remember that one of the questions on one of the quizzes had to do with the number of times Vincent Gowrie's corpse was dug up.
I mention all of this because I'm pretty sure that fifteen year olds aren't reading Faulkner anymore and they really should be. They should also be getting quizzed everyday to make sure they're reading it. I also mention this because the history of what happened to the remains of Edward Bredell has always reminded me of Intruder in the Dust and the corpse of Vincent Gowrie.
One of the men killed in the Blazer fight was Edward Bredell of St. Louis. He had been an officer in the regular army before he came to us, and his parents were very wealthy. Moreover, he was an only child. On the day of the fight the boys laid him to rest where he fell, but afterwards we brought his body over to our side of the mountain and buried it near Oak Hill, the former home of Chief Justice Marshall. Before the war ended young Bredell's father came down to Virginia and took his dead son's body home. When he reached St. Louis, owing to the bitter feeling there towards the Southerners, he was informed that the body could not be buried in any of the cemeteries. He thereupon had a grave dug in his own handsome grounds, and his son's body found its final rest in the shadow of his old home.
-Reminiscences of a Mosby Guerilla
Lieutenant Edward Bredell, from St. Louis, Mo., was killed at Whiting's house. He was a private in the battalion, and derived his title from a staff position which he had filled in the regular service. He was a brave soldier and his loss is much regretted in the command. Bredell had a midnight funeral on the island, a sand deposit in the Shenandoah, but his remains have since been removed to Cool Spring Church, near Piedmont.
-Partisan Life with Col. John Mosby
Arrivals at Rockbridge Alum From 16th to 22nd of August...Edward Bredell and wife, St. Louis...
-Daily Richmond Examiner, August 28, 1866
One of the saddest events in the Lafayette Square neighborhood in connection with the War was the death of young Captain Edward Bredell, Jr...Being an only son, his distraught parents had his body brought home and buried in the flower garden at the back of their home on Lafayette Avenue (where Simpson Place now opens off the Avenue). Then in 1871, after neighbors began building closer to the Bredell homestead, his parents had the body removed to Bellefontaine Cemetery.
-Lafayette Square: The Most Significant Old Neighborhood in St. Louis
We know that Bredell was killed near Ashby's Gap on November 16, 1864. It appears that he was buried quickly, "where he fell," in Clarke County, Virginia, perhaps on a sandbar or shoal in the Shenandoah River. Sometime later, most likely before the end of the war but certainly before 1867, when Partisan Life with Col. John Mosby was published, his remains were moved to a cemetery, probably at Cool Springs Church in Fauquier County, Virginia. Both Partisan Life and Reminiscences agree that Bredell's remains were moved to Fauquier County.
At some point, Edward Bredell, Sr., went to Fauquier County to get the body of his only child. Reminiscences states that this happened during the war but I doubt that. Bredell, Sr., was a well-known Confederate sympathizer. His wife was known to have been involved in a Confederate mail-ring, attempting to get mail through Union lines to St. Louisans serving in the Confederate Army. Also, travel was restricted in St. Louis during the war and I believe that passes, issued by the Provost Marshall, were needed to get in and out of the city. So I don't believe that the Bredells would have been allowed to travel to Virginia during the war.
But John Munson, in Reminiscences, states that he visited St. Louis "two years after" the war ended and Bredell, Jr., at that point, was buried in the grounds of his father's house, across the street from Lafayette Park. We know that the Bredells visited Virginia in August of 1866 and it was most likely at that point that they retrieved their son's remains and brought him home.
Finally, probably in 1871, Edward Bredell was buried at Bellefontaine. It is unknown whether or not a burial in the cemetery was originally refused because Bredell had served with the Confederate Army. That's something we can check and I'll have to talk to the folks at Bellefontaine to see if we can get an answer. But we know that he's there now and is buried next to his parents.
I am not making light of this when I say that Edward Bredell, Jr., was buried four times and dug up three times. I only mention it because of how it always reminds me of Vincent Gowrie and Intruder in the Dust. I am extraordinarily pleased that Bredell, after such an amazing journey in life and death, is at rest, next to his loving parents, in a beautiful part of Bellefontaine Cemetery.
One final thing. As interesting a story as this is, I don't believe that it is particularly unique. If you read This Republic of Suffering, you learn that the nation struggled, during and after the war, with the interment of the dead. As I read it, I was often thinking of Bredell. You see all the stuff that Drew Gilpin Faust was talking about in her fantastic book in the story of Bredell's death and numerous burials. I heartily recommend This Republic of Suffering as well as Death and the Civil War, the PBS documentary based upon it. But my point here is that the quick burial, the reburial in a cemetery, the parents coming to find their son's remains, the comrade visiting the parents to tell them how their son died - all of that was commonplace during and after the Civil War.
Whitman wrote of the infinite dead and the countless graves and that, too, has always reminded me of Edward Bredell, Jr., one of the pioneers of baseball in St. Louis, who died, violently, far from home, and was buried, quickly, in a sandbar in the Shenandoah River. But then I think of his father and John Munson sitting beside his grave, across the street from Lafayette Park, and I take comfort in that. We should all be so blessed as to find our final rest in the shadow of home, surrounded by those who loved us.