Essay Contest 2012 First Place, Senior Entry
Seth Larson, 8th Grade
Teacher: Mrs. Jean Larson
School: Renaissance Home School Academy
Preserving 150 Years of History: 1861-1862, the War Commences
Abraham Lincoln once said, “If [danger] ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide” (Lincoln, 2010). What he didn’t know was that in the coming years, the very foundation of the United States would be shaken by the cry of war. Now in 2012, that foundation is again being shaken by the commercial development of the battlefields that helped preserve our country.
In 1861, the dark clouds that had gradually gathered over the United States finally burst into storm as the First Battle of Bull Run marked the commencement of the Civil War. In the months that followed, newspapers all over the nation screamed names like Antietam, Richmond and Shiloh. Husbands, brothers and sons who had promised to return home became unnamed bodies in unmarked graves. This conflict was no longer a skirmish with the rebellious South; it was war.
Many believe that the American Revolution was the most important war in our history. Though the Revolution won the right for liberty and equality for all, it was the Civil War that put those principles and beliefs to the test. The years 1861 and 1862 were instrumental in shaping the great country we now live in. However, a new battle is raging today; a battle against commercialization of historic and significant battlefields of the Civil War. What should be seen as hallowed ground is seen by a business tycoon as the perfect location for a chain restaurant. What was once a scene of sacrifice, defeat and glory might soon be a shopping center. Can we let this happen? Can we let the almighty dollar erase the battlefields of our noble heritage? History is not just for books; as President Woodrow Wilson stated: “A nation which does not know what it was yesterday, does not know what it is today, nor what it is trying to do” (What is history, n.d.). By preserving yesterday’s sacred ground, we can hope for a better tomorrow.
Lincoln, A. (2010). Lyceum address. Retrieved from http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative /lincoln/speeches/lyceum.htm. Lincoln speaking before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill, January 27, 1838.
What is history. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.unf.edu/~clifford/craft/what.htm