Sunday, March 29, 2015

Civil War Sunday - One Last Look Back

This is a post I originally made in April of 2014, with some minor edits.

As we approach the 150th anniversary of the official end of the United States Civil War, I wanted to repeat these thoughts.  In the past week, I've gone to a Civil War battle reenactment (Bentonville, near Raleigh, North Carolina), visited the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia (nearly destroyed by Union troops, along with much of the rest of the city), and a "minor" Civil War battlefield elsewhere in South Carolina. My spouse had some discussions about the war with a native of the South.

In many ways, the country we live in today, here in the United States, was shaped by that war, and its aftermath.  So, before commemorating the events of April, 1865, it is well to look back one last time.

Here's my post from last year.

 April 12, 2014, marked the 153rd anniversary of the start of the United States Civil War, as Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter on an island in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.

I was in Charleston this past week, and the car trip down from my home in upstate New York was a fascinating experience.  It gave me a lot of time to think.

Gettysburg, PA - the site of perhaps the most famous Civil War battle
On the way, we passed exits for a number of Civil War battlefields and related sites, starting in Pennsylvania.
Spring still hadn't reached Gettysburg as my spouse and I passed near to a site where 51,000 people had been either killed, wounded, or captured in the battle that represented the Confederacy's greatest northward penetration into the Union.
Moving into Maryland, we passed near Andrews Air Force Base.  When we passed from Pennsylvania (a free state) into Maryland (a slave state that stayed with the Union), we had also crossed the historic Mason-Dixon line.
Then we crossed from Maryland into Virginia over the Potomac River on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  Such a simple act, but in 1861, if the bridge had been there, Virginia certainly wouldn't have been welcoming a couple of Yankees.  This was the border between the Union and the Confederacy.  In fact, a small portion of the bridge is technically in our capital, Washington, DC.

I didn't take any pictures of road signs at that point, but there were several road signs which had both Washington, DC and Richmond, Virginia listed on the same sign.  So simple - two cities, some 106 miles apart. But, during the Civil War, they were the capitals of two countries at war with each other.
Fredericksburg - near to four major Civil War battles, two of which will be commemorating 150th anniversaries next month.  Now, a city connected to other cities, north and south, via Interstate 95.

How many people give thought to history when they travel this road daily?  Things could have been so different if history had worked differently.  We can play the "what if" game - some people who enjoy something called "alternate history" do that and write some pretty interesting books based on "what if".
This photo was taken from the Ravenel Bridge that connects Charleston, South Carolina with another South Carolina City, Mt. Pleasant.  Permanently docked in Mt. Pleasant, and now a museum, is the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Yorktown, in a living museum called Patriot's Point.

If you look behind the green area to the left of this aircraft carrier which proudly flies the flag of the United States, you will see a distant, small island.  On this island sits Fort Sumter.

This is what the view of Charleston Harbor looked like after sunset on April 12, yesterday evening the 153rd anniversary of the start of the Civil War. So peaceful.

I offer no deep thoughts. Instead, what I feel is sadness. 150 years ago today, the war was close to its end, but there was going to be no end to the sufferings of our nation.


  1. Thanks for your reflections. The civil war was a difficult period which also marked a turning a non-native of the United States, I can never claim to understand all its aspects. But I believe that it was a painful period that divided, just as it later, through another difficult process, united.

    1. I enjoyed your thoughts. I don't think many in the United States totally understand it, either.

  2. We drove through Gettysburg couple years back, didn't think anything of it than but we should have stopped and took in the history, great share thanks!

    1. There is a lot to the Gettysburg battlefield. We only spent a day there (years ago) and it's best to take time to really appreciate it. Maybe one day.


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