In the Eye of the Beholder

We knew full well when we commissioned a story about the “best and worst” monuments at Gettysburg that we were opening up a can of worms (see P.42). Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say, and it’s very unlikely everyone will agree with author Kim O’Connell’s choices, well-reasoned as they are. You get the chance to cast your vote for your favorite monument at civilwartimes.com.

I’m dismayed, for example, that the 90th Pennsylvania’s tree memorial makes the “worst” list. I’ve always enjoyed showing off that monument to first-time visitors to Gettysburg; the little bird in its nest has always made me smile. (For some reason, I feel as if I’ve probably just opened myself up to ridicule.)

One thing I think we might all agree on, however, is that looking at battlefield monuments surrounded by green foliage is a great way to transition out of winter and begin thinking of warm days spent tramping around Civil War sites, or maybe just reading about them.

Fort Sumter could be one of the places you visit this summer. The shelling of the fort has generally tended to be glossed over in favor of the failed negotiations leading up to the attack. After reading the excerpt from Adam Goodheart’s new book in this issue (P. 54), it’s likely you won’t ever think about the bombardment the same way.

The Confederates had done a very good job of ringing Sumter with batteries. For most of the men inside the Union fort, it was their first taste of war. The bombardment was terrifying for the garrison—hours of deafening noise, with masonry collapsing around the men and smoke threatening to choke them to death.

Battered to pieces during the war, the fort was patched up and served the country through World War II. Today it is a monument in itself, one of the most iconic reminders of the conflict. I doubt anyone would disagree with that.

 

Originally published in the June 2011 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here