Essay Contest 2012 Second Place, Senior Entry

Joe Stephan, 11th Grade

Teacher: Mr. Miserendino
School: Calvert Hall College High School

Preserving 150 Years of History: 1861-1862, The War Commences

Following Lincoln’s election, the South foresaw a threat to fundamental aspects of its lifestyle and livelihood.  The secession of the Southern states and formation of the Confederate States of America that followed would change the course of history and lead to the only major domestic conflict in American history.  Directly after his election, President Lincoln was faced with a variety of difficult situations, particularly the challenge of preserving the United States of America.  In the early years of the Civil War, the Confederacy demonstrated a degree of legitimacy in their successes in battle.  The preservation efforts that have aimed to protect the memory of this defining period in history have maintained the legacy of the war so it can be analyzed and studied.

The early battles of the Civil War were a confirmation of the legitimacy of the Confederacy.  Their secession and the outbreak of the war were no petty matter.  This became evident early in the war through battles such as Fort Sumter.  The battle concluded with a decisive Confederate victory, which provided a sense of authenticity to the Confederacy and marked the commencement of the Civil War.  It showed that the war was real and the Confederates were serious.  In the early battles, the South reaped the benefits of great military leaders and fighting on familiar terrain, but had to compete with the North, which had a higher population, better supplies, a naval advantage, better industry, and better food resources.

"The past reminds us of timeless human truths and allows for the perpetuation of cultural traditions that can be nourishing; it contains examples of mistakes to avoid, preserves the memory of alternatives ways of doing things, and is the basis for self-understanding..."  This quote from Bettina Drew summarizes the importance of preserving history.  It is crucial for generations after the Civil War to have access to information about the battlefields, legacy, and significance of such a defining period in American history.  Battlefield preservation is an irreplaceable supplement to general knowledge because it provides essential context and other information that cannot be properly conveyed with words alone.  The ultimate importance of preservation efforts lies in the fact that the efforts provide a basis for how American life developed into what it is today.

Works Cited

Drew, Bettina. "Quotations on the Importance of History and Historic Preservation." National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. Web. 24 Apr. 2012.

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