2013 Essay Contest First Place, Senior Division
Irfan Ansari, 8th Grade
Teacher: Michele Rowley
School: Robinson Middle School | Kansas
Preserving 150 Years of History: 1862-1863, Shifting Tides
In 1862, in his second State of the Union Address, President Abraham Lincoln said, “A nation may be said to consist of its territory, its people, and its laws. The territory is the only part which of certain durability… It is of the first importance to duly consider and estimate this ever-enduring part.”
While President Lincoln was speaking about unifying the people of the United States during the trying and devastating Civil War, his words carry an additional meaning in today’s times. Because of modern business and urban development, the land upon which the Civil War was fought, or rather, the very territory that President Lincoln referred to as durable, is under siege and its ever-enduring nature is uncertain.
The Civil War began as a debate over the issue of slavery between the Union and the Confederacy, but many Northerners battled for the preservation of their nation and refused to let their country become disjointed and divided. For example, in September of 1862, during the Battle of Antietam, Union forces defeated Confederates in the single bloodiest day of American history. This victory was important for the Union, because it discouraged Confederate General Robert E. Lee from invading the North. Another similar turning point occurred the next year, in the Battle of Gettysburg. After three days of fighting, the Confederate army retreated and conducted no further strategic offensives.
Battles such as these shifted the tides of the war in favor of the Union and brought the Northerners closer to their goal to preserve and unify the country. Today, the United States is comprised of unified states, and we owe that to the brave people that fought in this war. Yet today, we are forgetting the importance of the battles of the Civil War and its battlegrounds are in danger of demolition in the name of development. It is truly horrifying to think that the hallowed grounds that President Lincoln spoke about in his Gettysburg Address could soon be replaced by casinos, grocery stores, or shopping malls.
History does not remain in the past – it has implications for the present and the future. It is our responsibility to keep history alive, not just for textbooks, but for future generations to see, walk through, and live. As our ancestors fought to preserve the nation, we must preserve the legacy of their efforts.
1. Lincoln, Abraham. Speeches and Writings, 1859-1865. Ed. Don E. Fehrenbacher. New York: Library of America, 1989.
2. Gallagher, Gary W. The Union War. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.