Tuesday, March 8, 2011
You probably thought my visits to Tennessee Civil War battlefields were done, right? No, Tennessee had a number of rather pivotal, and tragic, battles. Stone's River, fought on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day of 1862, is no exception. Unlike Shiloh, it is surrounded by encroaching development. While it is currently managed by the Federal Department of the Interior, some battlefields are little preserved. But you can't blame the community. The desire to preserve a land that reminds the people who inhabit it of their own ancestors' defeat can hardly be a cause for celebration. While it's hot and humid in the summer, the days of the battle provided freezing rain. After crossing Stone's Creek, soldiers' trousers froze on their bodies. They weren't permitted to build fires to keep warm, which would reveal their positions to the enemy. And Lincoln needed the North to win this battle in order to put emancipation of the slaves on the table.
These soldiers woke each day, in foreign territory, not knowing if this day would be their last. To quote a poem from Walt Whitman:
Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the darkness,
Running, marching, ever in darkness marching, on in the ranks,
The unknown road still marching.