Commemorating an Unknown Battle

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There are certain things that a New Jersey boy who grew up on the ocean will never understand. Within the context of Civil War culture it is the obsession that many have with commemorating and reenacting battles. I’ve never seen a reenactment and I remember feeling very uncomfortable during the one battlefield commemoration that I attended a few years back. I have great respect for this nation’s military and the people who serve, but when it comes to the Civil War I steer clear of any celebration – irregardless of whether it is directed at Union or Confederate themes. For me the war comes alive in the scholarship of a large and growing number of talented Civil War historians. From the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

An organization is seeking to bring attention to the Battle of Monterey, which they say was the second-largest battle fought in Pennsylvania during the Civil War and the only battle fought on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. John Miller, a Civil War historian for the Emmitsburg (Md.) Historical Society, said the tale of the battle largely was lost as the Blue Ridge Summit area was converted into a summer resort town, then became home to railroad activity and mining. Now, Civil War buffs, including Miller, are joining with the One Mountain Foundation and a Pennsylvania tourism initiative to better highlight Blue Ridge Summit’s role in the war. “This is an undeveloped (battle) site,” said Gary Muller, chairman of the One Mountain Foundation. The group hopes to draw attention to the area by listing Blue Ridge Summit in promotional paperwork for a three-day Civil War Trails Discovery Weekend in Pennsylvania.

Is this just an extreme example of appropriating a bit of local history or is it a matter of economic development. My guess is that Miller and others have a sincere interest in preserving their little corner of the Civil War. Still, I don’t really get it. Are there any other countries that obsess over their Civil War battlefields like we do? Is there a Western Front Preservation Society in France? Is there any reason to judge the actions of these devoted preservationists as going above and beyond what reason dictates as worth saving or is it a purely subjective choice? Seems to me that with the rate of development in places like northern Virginia we are going to have to address these questions.

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