Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Round Table And Battlefield Preservation

Wow, sorry for the delay between posts! Busy, busy, busy!
Last night I attended the monthly meeting of the San Diego Civil War Roundtable, and what a treat it was; not least because The Jess was at my side. The lecture had a nautical theme, so my wife was totally into it. We heard a fantastic lecture by one of the members on the battle between the USS Kearsarge and the CSS Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France on July 19, 1864.
Our lecturer didn't just dryly recite the facts of the battle and persons involved; he had a fascinating take on this sea battle as a classic duel. There was the challenge issued by Alabama to the Kearsarge as the Kearsarge lurked offshore. There were the seconds (French ships) standing by to ensure the fight took place in international waters, and there was the British ship standing by to aid the injured and rescue survivors. An excellent and unique spin on this well-studied battle.
Before we got to the discussion, there was a discussion about issues pertinent to the group: lectures, upcoming talks (including mine in October, which will be blogged about in detail in the near future), and battlefield preservation. This is a large component of what the SDCWRT is about, as all funds raised through raffles, membership, and book sales go to the Civil War Preservation Trust. Last year alone, we donated over $2000 to help with this worthy endeavor.
I learned earlier today about a threat that will certainly be discussed at the next Round Table, and that is the news of a proposed Wal-Mart Superstore on the Wilderness and Chancellorsville battlefields in Virginia. Thanks to Eric Wittenberg at for the info!
I will hold my tongue on my opinions of Wal-Mart here, but I am most resolutely in favor of protecting these battlefields! For one, I have not yet been able to visit them (they share large portions of the same ground, Chancellorsville taking place in May 1863, the Wilderness occurring one year later, almost to the day) and they are a priority for when The Jess and I sojourn east. Second, Gordon Rhea's incredible series of books on The Battle of the Wilderness and the Overland Campaign helped re-launch my interest in the Civil War several years ago. Lastly and most importantly, this is land made sacred by the tens of thousands of men who died on that ground, many of whom are still buried there.
In California, we don't have any Civil War battlefields, so it's easy to feel a bit detached; however, it is vital to remember that once these lands are paved over and defiled by golden arches or megamalls, they're gone. Please take some time and decide if this is an issue that might strike your interest, and keep in mind that these parks are always free to anyone who wishes to visit. I'll close by providing a National Park Service link to the Wilderness.

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