Third Place, Junior Essay Contest 2009
Ian Durkin, 7th Grade
Teacher: Lelia Grinnan
School: Browne Academy, Alexandria, VA
"It’s Our Turn: Fight to Save Civil War Battlefields"
Only fifteen percent of our nation’s Civil War battlefields have been protected from development; twenty percent have already been victim to modern society and suburban sprawl. (1) What can we do to save the remaining sixty-five percent? We can do a lot and the reasons to do so are many.
One reason to save our nation’s Civil War battlefields is because they provide a window to our past. You can learn a lot about history by reading books, but if you really want to understand history, the best thing to do is to put yourself in the setting. Nowhere can this be done better than by visiting Civil War battlefields and seeing a reenactment. My history class recently did, and this was an incredible experience that I will always remember. It made the stories I had been reading about come alive as I experienced history all around me.
Another reason why we should stop development of Civil War battlefields is because maintaining them is less costly to the environment than it is to develop them. Civil War battlefields preserve the land as it was then and is now. Battlefields require much fewer roads, sidewalks and sewer systems than housing developments do. Creating roads, sidewalks and sewer systems disturb the land’s natural topography, which can create serious environmental problems such as erosion and drainage issues.
Finally, we should save our nation’s Civil War battlefields because they can be a source of valuable income to the surrounding communities. They attract tourists from around the world, who stay at local hotels, eat at local restaurants and buy souvenirs at local stores. A housing or retail development also brings revenue into the community through taxes. But by preserving the battlefields and telling the world about them so they come visit them, the community can actually reap greater benefits through tourism than they can get through tax revenue.
In summary, for these reasons and so many more, we have to save our Civil War battlefields before they are lost forever. If the Civil War battlefields had been destroyed, my class and I would never have been able to experience history first hand at the Gettysburg battlefield. Once they have been developed, they are lost forever and can never be fully restored. For the sake of future generations, we cannot let that happen.
(1) Civil War Preservation Trust www.civilwar.org.