First Place, Senior Essay Contest 2009
Brandi Oswald, 12th Grade
Teacher: Scott Denniss
School: Bedford High School: Temperance, MI
"It’s Our Turn: Fight to Save Civil War Battlefields"
“Generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream…”
When Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain spoke these words at the dedication of the 20th Maine monument at Gettysburg in 1889, he was speaking about us. The men who fought on the fields at Gettysburg and other battle sites knew the importance of preserving these sites for future generations. Preserving Civil War battlefields remains just as important today.
With each passing day, more historical sites are lost and many others are threatened. When battlefields are destroyed by construction, industry, and urban sprawl, these sacred sites are gone forever. Wal-Mart plans to build a supercenter at the Wilderness battlefield. Construction of this sort brings traffic and other development, having even farther reaching consequences than the initial loss of historic ground. As it is, one line of trenches at the Wilderness battlefield leaves the park and disappears into an upscale neighborhood, lost to the visitor. The pristine fields of Spring Hill around Rippavilla Plantation are now threatened by development too as General Motors prepares to sell the land.
People visit battlefields today to honor the memory of their ancestors, to teach their children about America’s history, or to learn about the Civil War themselves. Battlefields are consecrated ground and need to be preserved to teach future generations about history. Learning history from a book is one thing; learning history on a battlefield where thousands of people lost their lives is quite another. Seeing the monuments at battlefields and the rows of graves at National Cemeteries makes a much greater impression than reading statistics in a book, especially to a child. It’s our turn to fight to save Civil War battlefields. If we don’t act now, these sacred sites will be lost forever.