Celebrating a War?

How is a war something of celebration? That question can become hard to answer.  However, one of the Civil War is the most memorialized war. Walking through battlefields, such as Gettysburg and Antietam, you can not go far without seeing a monument to the different soldiers who lost their lives.  Most of these monuments are erected for the Union states, rather than the Confederates, mainly due to not having the money.  Being that the Civil War is at its 150th anniversary, it is hard to "celebrate" a war that is the bloodiest battle Americans ever fought.  One of the incidents that lead towards the Civil War, was the raid, started by John Brown at Harper's Ferry.  John Brown's words on his last day, December 2, 1859, according to the National Park Service website,  "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away, but with blood..." Then, once Abraham Lincoln was elected, the southern states started seceding, then becoming the Confederates States of America.  Thus when Fort Sumter, a Union fort in the southern states, needed supplies, and the President decided to resupply, the south started firing at the fort.  This is when President Lincoln calls for troops, which leads to the beginning of the Civil War.
Inside John Brown's fort.
Harper's Ferry was the first stop on our Civil War trail. This was where John Brown raided the U.S. Arsenal in 1859. John Brown was a radical abolitionist who believed that slaves should rise up, start a rebellion, and claim freedom for themselves. This raid ultimately cost him his life, however this would just be a small portion of what was yet to come for the divided nation. Walking around Harper's Ferry today, there are museums about a variety of topics and sites, such as the Lewis and Clark exhibit, the Confectionery, the gun shop, the African American experience, and John Brown. All of these places were connected in some way to the Civil War, making it known that this place had a major role in the Civil War.
Fort Sumter
After the southern states seceded and formed the Confederate States of America, this fort was still a U.S. fort. In 1861, as sectional divisions intensified, it was badly in need of supplies. When President Lincoln called for the resupply during first official days of his presidency, the Confederates saw this as an act of aggression by the North. The Confederates demanded surrender and when that did not happen began to fire on the fort. And with these shots came the Civil War, the first battle of the war, and the first Confederate victory. President Lincoln responded to the loss of Fort Sumter by asking for volunteers to suppress the rebellion.
Burnside Bridge in Antietam.

Antietam National Battlefield was the first time the Confederate General, Robert E. Lee tried to move the Confederate troops into the North.  One day in Antietam was the bloodiest day in battle, with 23,000 dead, in a place now called Bloody Lane.  It’s hard to imagine places like this, with corn fields taller than the average man, fighting with someone he might not even be able to see.  The feel you get from places like this, is very eerie.  In Antietam you can’t go far without seeing a monument, most Union states were able to erect one for their soldiers who fought and died. 

Little Round Top at Gettysburg
The battle at Gettysburg was a turning point in the war for the Union, who had not been winning many battles. Gettysburg National Military Park also has many monuments throughout the park dedicated to those who lost their lives.  In order to “celebrate” the Gettysburg 150th anniversary, many people came out to walk Pickett’s charge, which there were more people there to walk it then there was the day of the actual charge.  It’s hard to celebrate something that was such a bloody battle.  Many people died on these lands, and it’s hard to imagine how people feel towards using this as a “celebration.”  This battle was a turning point in the war, where the Confederates did not win and it was General Robert E. Lee’s second attempt to go into the North, to bring the battle out of the South.  
Representation of how Andersonville was set up, and how people lived.
Andersonville in Georgia, which is the prisoner of war camp for the Confederacy, is also a place people come to get a better understanding of the Civil War.   The hardships that were encountered here are hard to even imagine.  Many men died on these lands, rather it be from starvation or disease.  Andersonville took over double the prisoners it was made for.  There are also monuments erected here in honor of the Union soldiers who were held captive and died here.  Using this place as an example of what shouldn’t be done when at war, is a good way to show people the differences between then and now.
Stone Mountain during the laser show.

 The Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Carving, which is a giant carving in granite, remembering the “heroes” of the Confederate army, which is located in Atlanta, Georgia.  These three men were President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee, and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.  These “heroes” were the very important players in the Confederate side of the Civil War.  Many people wouldn’t agree that these men are heroes, simply because of the principles they were fighting to keep intact.  Spanning about 56 years, the finishing touches were finally complete in 1972.  According to Stone Mountain Park.com, “The entire carved surface measures three-acres, larger than a football field and Mount Rushmore.”  This giant monument to the Confederacy is a good way to remember the men that fought for the South, no matter what they were fighting for, they were fighting because they believed in something.

The Civil War is hard not to think about, especially in the southern states.  Having monuments in every battlefield for each troop, whether it be Union or Confederate, it’s still a memory of those who fought there and died for what they believed in.  This is a good way to remember the war, even though it was such a horrid experience for those who lived during that time.

Sarah Cruth

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