I’ve been at Gettysburg for a week now, exploring the battlefield (as well as making a quick trip to visit sites at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania NMP and Antietam), There have been a few business meetings here and there as well, and wet weather conditions (as well as a trip to Baltimore to see the Yankees prevail over Baltimore in a 15-inning contest highlighted by meeting Boog Powell) have cut down on a few opportunities or made other ones a bit more challenging. When I have been out on the field, however, I have made an effort each day to explore something I really haven’t looked at very carefully before, and I’ve found that has kept the visit fresh.
All of this leads to a simple question: why do you visit battlefields? For me, they are texts, both in terms of helping me to understand the course and conduct of a battle as well as the way in which people have attempted to commemorate and relate what happened and why. Yes, in some cases there’s an added awareness that I’m walking across areas where an ancestor once stood, but if that was the only reason (or even the primary reason) why I went, I’d ignore the rest; in other cases it’s a little odd revisiting some place you visited decades ago (I’ve rewalked areas I first walked as a nine year old boy back in 1967, including what remains of the old Cyclorama Center in Gettysburg). But exploring these fields primarily helps me understand what happened and why.
So why do you visit battlefields?