First Place, Junior Essay Contest 2009
Rachel Stroder, 9th Grade
Teacher: Joseph Bellas
School: Greenwood Laboratory School, Springfield, MO
"It’s Our Turn: Fight to Save Civil War Battlefields"
Franklin Tennessee. November 30, 1864. Union soldiers, firmly entrenched, are shooting down the approaching enemy, a long line of over 19,000 Confederates. They fire again and again, watching the line melt down before them, men dropping like stones. Their attack will be known as the “Pickett’s Charge of the West.”
Same spot, 2008. There’s no sign of war, only people eating at a Pizza Hut. You can be sure that the dead that once lay on this ground, beneath the pavement, are far from their minds.
What happened to remembrance? What happened to our hallowed ground? What happened to history?
The preservation of battlefields is incredibly important. Preservation is the first step to remembrance and remembrance is necessary for respect. Unless we hold a high degree of respect for our past, as a nation, our future is less sure. Many underestimate the value of Civil War battlefields and seek to pave them over with urban sprawl, to all of our loss. Over 620,000 American soldiers in blue and in gray didn’t fight for their descendants to forget them. They didn’t lay down their lives to be buried under a subdivision or a fast food restaurant. Some fought for their rights and some fought for their Union, but either way they fought in one of the gravest times in American history.
“It is well that war is so terrible. We should grow too fond of it.”
-- Robert E. Lee
By this statement, General Lee’s point is clear, and it is important for us to remember as well. Whenever Americans as a people think about war, we should remember how terrible it is and recall that war, civil or otherwise, is something that we want to avoid. We need to remember the Civil War and the battlefields it was fought upon.
If the fate of all battlefields is truly to be decided within the next five to fifteen years, now is the crucial moment. We can’t allow such important places as historic battlefields to slip away under the expanding pavement. Hallowed ground is disappearing at an alarming rate of thirty acres per day. It’s now or never, so let’s get going. It’s our turn to fight!