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Created: June 2, 2005
Latest Update: June 2, 2005

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Index of Topics on Site "Protect It, Don't Pave It: Save Battlefields."
By Elise Zevitz
2005
This essay, by high school student, Elise Zevitz, took first place in the Civil War Preservation Trust National Essay contest. Elise is the daughter of a member of the Dear Habermas community. We salute her achievement with pride. jeanne

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

We Americans enjoy many privileges. However, as Eisenhower pointed out, our privileges are worthless without principles. America is a nation founded and shaped by many famous principles, and they, along with the people who fought for them, must never be forgotten. The Civil War was one of many events in America's unique history that has helped to shape who we are as a nation. Civil War battlefields must be preserved because they serve as a reminder of the past, a lesson for the present, and a hope for the future.
To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be forever a child.
Cicero

A reminder of the past...

Battlefields of the Civil War serve as an important reminder of our history. To relegate the Civil War to museums only would be the ultimate form of disrespect to our, as Lincoln put it, "dedication to the unfinished work which they who fought there have thus far so nobly advanced." Historical preservation is a cause that every American should be involved in because if we lose our history, we lose our identity.

A lesson for the present...

If there was ever a time in the history of this nation that so desperately needs a lesson in its past, it is now. Shopping malls, fast food restaurants, and subdivisions may come and go, but the desecration of a battlefield will surpass a thousand generations. Civil War battlefields serve as an important lesson for the present. They teach of patriotism, sacrifice, loyalty, and courage. They teach of liberty, perseverance, leadership, and devotion. Only on battlefields do we see men at their very best and very worst. They are where heroes are born and where legends have fallen. Battlefields are the closest connection that we today have to the Civil War. How can we begin to appreciate what we have without knowing how it came to be? We owe it to those who came before us: those whose blood turned the rivers red, those who left their farms and shops and families, those families who waited so anxiously and bravely behind, we owe our deepest debt of gratitude to the men and women, black and white and everything in between who dared to dream, who dared to fight, and dared to lay down their lives and everything they hold dear to them to bear the weight of this great nation on their shoulders. The immortality of their sacrifices must never be forgotten.

A hope for the future...

If we do not learn to respect our past, what hope can we hold for the future? Civil War battlefield preservation plays an important role in the future of our nation. The message that we hand down through posterity must be one of utmost honor and gratitude to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The dangerous and foolish mistake of repeating history is always imminent when the lessons of history are lost. Battlefields are symbolic of the hope for this country that thousands carried to their graves, hoisted high above them on banners, and sheltered close to their hearts.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
Abraham Lincoln
These great words that were uttered almost a century and a half ago reflect the tremendous paradox that has occurred. Today the world notes and remembers these famous words, but with what meaning? Many today can quote this text, but fail to grasp the significance of those who gave that "last full measure of devotion." Civil War battlefields are so important to the legacy of America. These are sacred places that deserve to preserved and protected. To neglect these battlefields would not only be disrespectful to those whose blood stained that land, but to those who are still out there fighting for this nation today.

References:

  • Eisenhower, Dwight D. "First Inaugural Address." Washington D.C. 20 January 1953.
  • Lincoln, Abraham. "Gettysburg Address." Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 19 November 1863.
  • Robins, Gabriel. "Good Quotations by Famous People." Cicero. 2005. http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~robins/quotes.html.



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