Essay Contest 2012 Third Place, Junior Entry
Timothy Lotter, 7th Grade
Teacher: Mr. Paul Nelson
School: Endeavor Charter Academy
Preserving 150 Years of History: 1861-1862, the War Commences
A wave of blue-clad men sweep over a hill, hopelessly charging against a ridge. From that ridge, grey-clad men emerge seemingly from the ground and pour volley after volley of musket and rifle fire into the oncoming blue-clads. The blue men scatter, their morale broken, their dead left behind, as another wave of blue-clads sweep toward the grays. This can describe two well-known battles in 1862.
September 17, 1862. Antietam, Maryland. As the battle erupts with three main fronts, both sides prove their worthiness of victory. In the end, the Confederates scrape a draw due only the timely arrival of A.P. Hill from Harper’s Ferry. This is a very important battle, because it stopped Lee’s invasion and McClellan was fired and replaced by Burnside.
December 13, 1862. Fredericksburg, Virginia. Ambrose Burnside’s great mud march, followed by his clumsy crossing of the Rappahannock River, greatly gave his army a morale drop, and when the time came to attack Confederate positions upon Marye’s Heights, Burnside’s already obvious incompetence shines bright. Division after Division charged the wall, and Division after Division was cut down by over-powering Confederate volleys. Over twelve thousand Union men died in the assault, but only five thousand Confederates died in the defense.
These two battles have many things in common. One, they both get a Union commander fired. Two, they both had bloody, costly Union charges against hardened Confederates. However, these battles also have one big difference. Today, when you walk down the Bloody Lane, you see it roughly how it was back in 1862. However, when you walk down Marye’s Heights now and see where Burnside came from, two hundred feet in front of you is an area of modern development—houses, cars, roads and people—not at all what it was like in 1862. This development makes understanding how the battle was experienced much more difficult.
Why is this? The fact is, at Marye’s Heights, less than twenty acres have been preserved. At Antietam, over 10,000 acres have been preserved. The more acres that are preserved, the less modern development butts in and takes over the ground that our great-grandfathers and their fathers died on for the unity of this Country. Why should we protect this land? It is where thousands of men died valiantly to save the unity of this Country. It is a part of our heritage and without it things could be very different today.
Overall, we need to protect our battlefields and our history because they are our heritage. If your great-grandfather or great-great-grandfather died protecting something, wouldn’t you want to save that in memory of him and the others? It is our heritage and we MUST defend it.