My father collected comic books. Mostly Belgian and French series. There are still several thousands of them in the attic of my house back in Belgium. We kept all of them.

The Bluecoats is what motivated me to read. I developed an inexplicable fascination for the American Civil War as a small child. Amazingly there is a Belgian comic books series that sets most of its adventures against the background of this conflict. It still exists and new episodes keep appearing. One of the latest deals with the battle of the crater during the siege of Petersburg. The series bends and twists history for plot reasons and comical effect, but there are always some facts in every story as well.

I picked the episode that deals with the Battle of Bull Run – Manassas as the Confederates called it – because it happened exactly 159 years ago today, on the 21st of July 1861.

This was the first major battle of the Civil War, but that is not the only thing that makes it special. It was an example of how ridiculous people can be. During the battle all the big wigs of the Washington high society came out to see the battle. Along with their families. They made a pick-nick out of the event…. When the tide of the battle turned against the Union’s side all these civilian onlookers panicked and started streaming back to Washington along with the army. Bye bye festive mood. Doesn’t that tell you a lot about humanity? About how easily we underestimate the seriousness of a situation? Pride always comes for the fall.

I suppose this story was one of my earliest reminders of that truth.

And no, not everything that changed my life has something to do with the American Civil War, but the history of this conflict has undeniably played a huge part in my life. Perhaps when I finish this 366 long series I will finally understand why.

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