I’ve written a few posts about the big road trip I took with my friend Emily this summer, and I’m pretty sure that in one of them, I promised more photos. One of our stops on the way up to Maine was Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We stopped for pizza and to explore the monuments (of which there are many) to one of the deadliest battles of the Civil War. Having grown up in Charleston (land of the Hunley submarine, and the forts that fired the first shots of the Civil War, and a land where people still fly the Confederate flag on their porch, without irony) I spent my early years both steeped in and disinterested with the history of war. We Quakers aren’t so into glorifying war, nor are we huge fans of nationalism. I’ll confess that one of my frustrations with the way that history is taught is that it tends to focus on war, and to describe it in terms of glory and valor and honor, even though those aren’t exactly the words that soldiers returning from battle tend to use. They usually employ descriptors like bloody, and scary, and awful. The Civil War at Gettysburg was a bunch of scared men fighting each other, many of them there because they had been conscripted, and it’s a sad story.
I learned this recently: the Confederacy passed a law, mid-war, decreeing that any man called must serve (under the age of 35, I believe). With one exception…men who owned more than 20 slaves were exempt from service. Just think about that for a little while. A poor farmer with crops and animals and a family depending on him? Conscripted. Affluent slave owner? Exempted. I’d love to go back and share that fact with the folks in my home state who are still waving the Confederate Flag. War is not about glory and honor. It’s about violence and death. What’s cool about Gettysburg is that it somehow captures that. The monuments remember both sides – these real people who fought and died. It’s a real memorial, and we enjoyed the few hours we spent exploring it. (We were also a bit loopy from a full day in the car, which might be clear in the photographs below!)
What about you guys? Been on any cool trips this summer, or to any nifty museums or memorials?