The Civil War Preservation Trust has recently released their top 10 most endangered list and it includes Antietam, in part, because of a proposed cellular phone tower that may go up just south of the battlefield. I sincerely hope that this does not happen, although I have no ill-feelings towards the company responsible for such an eye sore. After all the residents of Sharpsburg weren’t engaged in battlefield preservation following the war. I love visiting Antietam. It was where I was introduced to the Civil War in 1994 and it is one of the few battlefields where I can walk and actually contemplate the bravery of the men who fought there as well as the broader meanings of the war. This spring I will have the opportunity to bring around 15 students to the battlefield as part of a 2-day bike tour. In short, for me Antietam is the closest thing to “sacred ground.”
I have never felt the same about Gettysburg. Although I was against the push to bring a casino to Gettysburg I never viewed it as a moral question, and when the observation tower came down I never thought of it as bringing us a step closer to some notion of battlefield purity. And I am probably one of the few who would hate to see the Cyclorama Center torn down. Whenever I travel to Gettysburg (it’s not that often) I find it close to impossible to think about the battle itself apart from the distractions of the town and the ways in which the battlefield was utilized following the war. I guess too much has happened to simply see it as a battlefield where men fought and died. Yes, you can find a battle at Gettysburg and much to contemplate, but you can just as easily find overweight white male reenactors, white tourists, ghosts [I assume most of them are white.], cheap hotels, and trinkets galore. Please don’t blame me for holding such a view as Americans made the decision to commercialize and sell it long ago.
Rally on the High Ground and keep the cell phone tower away from Antietam.