Tag Archives: Civil War

Ghosts of Gettysburg

Through early morning mists they march
across the fields of green,
fields red-stained by their life blood
when they were young.
No long range kills,
no smart bombs then;
just frightened, courageous
too-young men
who,
for cause
country
comrades,
engaged each other
face to face
and
hand to hand,
performing acts of
unspeakable horror,
incredible valor,
absolute futility
until the arms of Mars
did embrace and claim them.

23 August 2002
The Shire, Louisville

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Stones


Nashville, TN

I am not attending the meeting of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators. I am hanging out with Tricia – doing some minimal work around the edges – but actually kind of vacationing to some extent.

I slept in until 10:30 or so. Then went to the fitness center at the Renaissance Hotel. I did 2.39 miles on the treadmill.

The afternoon saw the continuation of the quest to visit National Parks. I drove to Murfreesboro to visit Stones River National Battlefield. On December 31, 1862 and January 2, 1863, forces under the command of Gen. Bragg (CSA) and Gen. Rosecrans (USA) clashed along Stones River. The battle was fought on cotton fields and among cedar timbers and in places remembered after as The Slaughter Pen and Hell’s Half Acre. 3,000 men died; killed, wounded, and missing totaled over 23,000.

I go to and come away from such places with mixed emotions: horror, sorrow, pain, pride and more intermingle. The place seems hallowed in ways I can never describe. Walking alone on the boundary trail, every rustling leaf and every squirrel moving on the ground made me feel surrounded by ghosts.

Some particularly poignant moments:

The area has been struck by tornadoes in the not too distant past. Trees are torn apart, knocked over, strewn across the parts of the park. I wondered what it looked like when the trees were torn apart, knocked over, and strewn across the ground by cannon and rifle fire.

The park contains the nation’s oldest intact Civil War monument. A square column, erected by the survivors of Colonel William B. Hazen’s brigade, stands surrounded by a stone block fence. The dead lie with the comrades of their respective regiments.

Outside the fence is the grave are two additional graves – those of Sgt. William Holland and William Harlan. Sgt. Holland served in the U.S. Colored Infantry, not in Hazen’s brigade during the Civil War. He lived until 1909. At that time, the U.S. military was segregated. He was not buried with the others, either around Hazen’s monument or in the National Cemetery across the road. This apparently was by his choice, not a continuation of segregation. The story told by the National Park Service and in an article in the Murfreesboro Post, is that Holland picked his own burial plot – on a small farm he owned next to Hazen’s Monument. William Harlan was his grandson.

The Stone River National Cemetery is directly across the road from the battlefield. Looking at the rows of white crosses and recalling the number of charges made by Confederates and Federals alike, I imagined the cemetery as the place where the last charge at Stones River took place. It was also striking how many stones bore only initials.

Lots to mull. That’s part of the appeal of national parks.

Step count: 16, 284.

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