National Geographic : 2005 Apr
Civil War Battlefields Threat from development ®Fragmented or lost * High * Moderate * Low 0 Partially to substantially preserved / SOURCES:CIVILWARPRESERVATION TRUSTANDAMERICANBATTLEFIELD PROTECTION PROGRAM, NATIONALPARKSERVICE NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC MAPS aner Fort agner 0mi 125 0km 125 HISTORY RECORDS more than 10,000 Civil War battles. In 1993 a government com mission identified some 400 battlefields it deemed worthy of protection. Since then more than 50 of those have been preserved to some degree, while 65 are fragmented or lost. Many of the rest remain threatened. assault, the 21st century dissolves and we are all inhabiting another century, another America, wild and strange-a place of blood and thunder, reeking of burned powder and churned mud. I try to carry those sensations with me later in the day as I leave the reenactors' camp and drive some ten miles to the place where the actual Battle of Spotsylvania was fought, but it isn't easy. Still dressed in my faded uniform, I sit in backed-up traffic along Route 1, a fumy strip of asphalt lined with gas stations, fast-food joints, and car dealerships. As I enter the once sleepy, now suburban village of Spotsylvania, my first glimpse of the battlefield is of the neat head stones of a Confederate cemetery-behind the parking lot of a 7-Eleven. Traveling among the nation's Civil War bat tlefields today is a disorienting experience, con stantly beset with such slippages between the present and the past. From New Mexico to Penn sylvania, many of the places where the Union and Confederacy clashed are now caught up in another struggle between a quickly vanishing 70 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC * APRIL 2005 America of small farms and crossroads vil lages and a newer landscape of megamalls and sprawling McMansions. Places that were at the front lines 140 years ago-Manassas, Antietam, Gettysburg-are at the front lines again today. Exactly at a moment when Americans seem more interested than ever in finding connections to the wartime past, much of that past is in danger of being lost. Nowhere is this more true than in Spotsylva nia County, a place whose location has cursed it before. After the South seceded, this bucolic region found itself dead center between the warring capitals of Washington and Richmond. In all some 108,000 soldiers were killed, wound ed, or captured in this one county, more than ten times as many as on the D-Day beaches in World War II. By the end of the war in 1865, the land was furrowed with earthworks, the inhab itants scattered, and the battle dead lay buried in cornfields and farmyards. It took Spotsylvania almost a century to regain its prewar population of 12,000 residents.