"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
The story goes my Acadian grandfather had a cousin whose brothers -- it may have been as many as five -- all were killed in the Great War. She was the remaining sister. Her name was MacDonald and she lived in Sydney, Nova Scotia. My grandmother used to correspond with her.
That's all I know. A cursory investigation on the Web shows there were quite a few MacDonalds who served.
Not nearly as well known as Vimy or the Somme, Passchendaele nonetheless deserves considerable attention because it is one of the greatest symbols of the futility and pity of war this country has. The scene at the small Belgian village was so awful that after the battle one British General asked, "Did we really send men to fight in that?"
There is no shortage of descriptions of the conditions at Passchendaele. Students today have it drilled into them that the battle means one word: mud.
Indeed, the battlefield was beyond the imagination of anyone living today. Two years of shelling in the area churned up the surrounding fields. Heavy rains that autumn turned them into an indescribable quagmire in which guns, men and animals could be swallowed up whole. And they often were.
Shell holes were filled with slimy water; soldiers who ended up in them, wounded, often drowned or found themselves sharing a hole with dead bodies. The dead often stayed where they fell. This was Passchendaele.
Here is an account of the 85th Nova Scotia Highlanders after the taking of Passchendaele, November, 1917:
The next day everything was quit, there was no exchange of fire, both sides collecting their dead and wounded as had not disappeared in the mud. Relieving units made their way forward and a couple of days afterwards the battered remnant of the once splendid Regiment was assembled at a ruined village a few kilometers in the rear. The Brass Band was brought up to play them off the field. Major Ralston supervised the roll call, 65 answered their names. 492 failed to do so. The Piped Band went in as stretcher-bearers, and had fallen to the last man. "Standing easy" in the street of this little Belgium Town, they awaited the arrival of their Colonel. In dew time he appeared. They smartly snapped to” Attention”. Where are the rest of them? "Inquired the Colonel?" This is all that of them, Colonel, "this is all that left of the 85th" , was the reply in a voice that was not too steady. For a few minutes Borden sat frozen in his saddle, speechless. With out a word he turned his horse's head around, and moved off at a walk; not an officer remained on his feet except Borden, Ralston, Col Hayes the Medical Officer and Father Ronald Mac Donald, the Chaplain.