I remember the day I realized that the Civil War is not “just history.” I was in my early 30s, still on active duty and based on the East Coast. Being a born explorer, I began to explore the many battlefields in the area — not because battles interest me but because history does. I’d just returned from duty overseas, and living overseas can do that … awaken you to world and international history and how it’s all tied together.
Those East Coast battlefields, and living in Virginia, woke me up to U.S. history. I saw that the impact of our Civil War still exists. It’s not “just history.”
Then I learned that my grandfather, Mom’s dad, was alive during the Civil War. The history got closer. Several good movies and the excellent PBS series brought it even closer.
In the past several years, I’ve wondered many times if we are headed for another Civil War of some sort. There were days and months when it certainly sounded, and felt, like we were. I’m still not sure.
All this was on my mind during today’s visit to Shiloh National Military Park in Tennessee, near our port in Grand Harbor. The park is a recommended stop on The Great Loop, and was on my personal “must-do” list when we got close enough. We used the marina’s courtesy car, picked up our Looping friend Michael from a nearby marina, and learned of the human carnage that happened here in 1862.
So much of Civil War discussions focus (naturally) on the east coast and give scant attention to the west … sort of how WWII discussions tend to focus on Europe and not the Pacific. Shiloh was the site of one of the first major battles in the western theater. Nearly 110,000 American troops clashed in a bloody contest that resulted in nearly 24,000 casualties. In two days.
Over what, exactly? The answer you hear depends on who you ask. Since I’m in the south now, the first answer tends to differ from what I hear in the north. Nobody I’ve met defends the South’s former economic dependence on slavery — but, as one local on the dock said, the South was also “defending their homes.”
So, the “over what” discussion continues!
Conflict may be inevitable, but resolution is always possible. That’s how I prefer to think about it. Immersed now in the cooperative Looping culture, I tend to forget about the national divisions that still exist. That’s probably a good thing. Perhaps the Looping culture can become an example for the nation…?