Saturday, September 26, 2009

Living Memory

Today's will be the first in a running series of posts dedicated to extra-ordinary memorials I've stumbled across in my Civil War travels. Various aspects make a memorial atypical, such as its design, location, and subject. Also helping a memorial to stand out are the answers to important questions: Who funded and raised the monument? Why did they choose this subject? In what context was it completed? In this sense, a memorial adds much historical value to its many stories it shares. Please join me in exploring this unique side of Living Memory.

Visiting Frederick, Maryland's Mount Olivet Cemetery is always a moving experience. In fact, that will be the subject of an upcoming post. For now, let's just walk towards the crowded crest in the center of the grounds. We'll pass a row of tombstones to our right that seems to extend for miles. These are Confederate soldiers killed mostly in the nearby battles of South Mountain, Antietam, and Monocacy. Turning south, we view the Monument to the Unknown Southern Dead. It would be easy to end our visit here; however, we'll follow the circle walkway until we find this "Living Memory" lying low to the ground.

So far, this is the only memorial I've seen that chooses to honor the children who "served and died in the Civil War."

Here is a close-up of the artwork. This nonpartisan lament depicts a drummer boy with Union and Confederate flags spread as angels' wings.

Loving hands recently visited as evidenced by the offerings placed before the memorial.

Brian Downey's highly regarded site, Antietam on the Web, provides the example of Johnny Cook (1847-1915), a former paper boy from Cincinnati, Ohio. This fifteen year old bugler of Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery earned a Medal of Honor for his brave actions at Antietam. His medal citation explains that after many of his comrades were killed or wounded along the Hagerstown Pike Cook "volunteered to act as a cannoneer, and as such volunteer served a gun under a tense fire of the enemy." Here is the site of this action.

As the memorial attests, not all child volunteers survived the war. In fact, while viewing this tribute I thought of the fact that many of the soldiers on both sides were children themselves. Those on the homefront suffered tremendously, too. For an intriguing study of the effect of the Civil War on our nation's youth, read James Marten's The Children's Civil War. In addition to a thorough study, Marten includes an excellently detailed bibliography that provides an ideal starting point for further research. Next time I visit the children's memorial at Mount Olivet, I'll try to remember Marten's words: "There may be no statues . . . [to] children among the tens of thousands staring out over old battlefields, no tarnished medals on frayed ribbons lying in velvet-lined museum displays. But Civil War children will be remembered; their stories are their monuments" (Marten, 5).

Friday, September 25, 2009


October promises to be an exciting month. I plan to make my first visit to Ball's Bluff, a battlefield I've been meaning to see for a long time. Lincoln lost his good friend Edward Baker here (he named a son after the senator), as Union troops were embarrassingly pushed across the field, down the bluff, and into the river. I find it interesting to visit battlefields from 1861, when idealism still reigned supreme and both sides still felt victory was the next battle away. Also, I haven't visited too many sites where autumn provided the conflict's backdrop. This should prove a sensual environment for reflection.

Competing with Ball's Bluff for my enthusiasm is my personal kick-off to the sesquicentennial commemoration! The next six years (if not more) will be an exciting time for CW students, as each 150th anniversary earns special attention. I plan to begin with John Brown's raid of Harper's Ferry. First comes a presentation at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, where David Shriver Lovelace will present "John Brown's Raid, October 1859 - the Frederick Militia" to the Frederick County Civil War Roundtable. The following evening, I hope to join other trekkers for a five-mile procession from Brown's staging area at the Kennedy Farm (MD) to Harper's Ferry (WVA). I'll definitely bring my notebook and camera, as my intention is to document as many of the sesquicentennial events as possible. Regrettably, I probably won't be able to make any of the exciting symposiums, plays, and tours planned for Harper's Ferry and Charles Town that weekend. But I'll get my fix, that's for sure!

For more information on events during the John Brown's Raid sesquicentennial commemoration, click here.

The Language of Place

By way of introduction, I'm posting a photo of one of my favorite spots on any Civil War (CW) battlefield. For such an incredibly serene place, the air is pregnant with the myriad of emotions soldiers left here almost 150 years ago. I feel the fear and desperation of troops huddling under the bluffs, and I sense a blend of anxiety and confidence from incoming reinforcements. The shoreline still remembers cradling this springtime scene - it's obvious when one takes the time to listen to the language of the place. Can you name this spot?
We have a winner (Adam): The Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing, Shiloh National Military Park (TN).