There has been much in the news lately about preservation efforts to save historically vital and important portions of the battle-fields of Franklin and Stone’s River in the Western Theatre. New stories about saving vital portions of the Manassas battle-field (yes, "that" Manassas!) along with preserving key terrain at Harper’s Ferry (site of the Confederate siege of the Union garrison during the First Maryland Campaign of 1862), South Mountain (Turner’s, Fox’s and Crampton’s Gaps, with Fox’s Gap being the most threatened) in the Eastern Theatre have also aired lately.
As a person with a life-long interest in the American Civil War and a recent recruit in the ranks of the reenacting community, I personally am glad to see my fellow reenactors taking the time and energy to do their part towards fostering battle-field preservation. The fields where the boys of Blue and Butternut fought, suffered and died for the causes they held so dear are indeed sacred ground. It is an honor for this writer to be able to do his small part to bring the life, sufferings and experiences of the common Civil War soldier to his contemporaries in this 21st Century of ours. But reenactors can not and should not have to bear the burden of battle-field preservation alone. There are excellent national, regional and local groups dedicated to the preservation of those hallowed fields. Personally, I belong to the Civil War Preservation Trust and the Save Historic Antietam Foundation. Both groups are an example of a national focus and a regional/local focus. The CWPT has as its mission to preserve and protect as much as possible of the daily dwindling acreage over which so much blood was shed 140 or so years ago. Additionally, the CWPT educates the American public and our legislators of the importance of such fields and why they deserve increased funding. The Save Historic Antietam Foundation is a largely regional/local organization which works with the Antietam National Battlefield Park and other like-minded groups to preserve as much of the ground over which America’s bloodiest single day was fought. SHAF also endeavors to return, as much as possible, the acreage under National Park Service control to its original 1862 appearance.
Civil War buffs individually, as well as members of Civil War Roundtables, and even all the Civil War reenacting community should pull together with making battle-field preservation a number one priority, irrespective of political sentiments or creeds. We all have our own reasons for being passionate about Civil War history, just as we all have our favorite aspects of the War and maybe even our favorite battle-fields. I certainly hope all my fellow Civil War enthusiasts can make common cause around the flag of battle-field preservation before these fields are lost forever.
(Gerry Mayers is a member of the Civil War Discussion Group as well as being a participating member of CWPT and SHAF. For more information on CWPT, go to their website at www.civilwar.org; for more information on SHAF and its mission contact its president. Tom Clemens, by writing to him care of P.O. Box 550, Sharpsburg, MD 21782.)