I love RRs that combine riding with some introspection....so your's is now one of my favorites. I read a very interesting book a while back dealing with the Civil War from the perspective of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. I can't put my finger on the book just now but I think it was "Lincoln at Gettysburg" by Garry Wills. In it, the author explains how Lincoln's words indicate his beliefs about what America was. For example, IIRC, the opening words "Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation" refer to the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and as far as Abe is concerned, that is when the individual colonies forged themselves into a nation, not from later documents like the articles of confederation or the constitution. And he believed that in forming this new nation the colonies had each given up their right to form individual nations; thus, references to "the insurrection" (not in the Address, but elsewhere). The book also goes into quite a bit of detail about it being Lincoln's vision of a government "by the people, etc" and that this was actually a fairly radical departure at that time. And to top it off there is a discussion of the "rural cemetery" movement of the 1840's or so that grew out of the Greek Revival. Prior to that time people were buried in graveyards, usually on the grounds of or near the church they had belonged to. But the ancient Greeks had a tradition of burying their dead in beautiful countryside settings, and of visiting the graves of the deceased and spending some time there in contemplation.
I have often wondered how men willingly went into battles where they must have known only a minority would survive without physical wounds or death. There were examples on both sides of units taking over 80% casualties in a single battle, or even in just a few minutes of a single battle. I wonder whether, given that many Americans at that time believed in eternal life, soldiers believed that although their bodies might be killed their souls or spirits would live on in the other world. Perhaps this could account for so many acts of almost superhuman valor that permeate that war. As a "Torchwood" character once said "there is nothing more dangerous than a man who cannot die."