From the book Killing Ground; The Civil War and the Changing American Landscape
(Johns Hopkins University Press)
About the Work
Personal background expands and limits ideas about the divisive Civil War. In our united states, which grow more and more homogenous, people nevertheless maintain a fundamental sense of regional attachment. We can relocate with relative ease, and travel tempers local arrogance, but the increased options for residence do make the actual choices for a particular area significant. Family, business, climate, and physical surroundings all inform this loyalty, as do memories, especially of one's childhood connections to the land.
I was raised with the common but peculiar blend of pride in the United States of America and pride in the South. I was adopted into a military family (for several generations back) with ancestors who had fought for both the United and the Confederate States of America. In the twentieth century my relatives fought and were killed and wounded in the two world wars, Korea, and Vietnam. I was born on the massive U.S. Army base at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Next to the base is Fayetteville, half of which is a typical, conservative, small Southern town, the other half a sleazy section of 1969 Saigon. My biological father is from Iowa. Old blood relations may have served in Sherman's army, which fought at Monroe's Crossroads, now within Fort Bragg, and burned much of Fayetteville during the war.
The impetus for this project came from living near Civil War battlefields and experiencing their beauty and power from an early age. My father's military knowledge and presence brought substance to the events that took place on those fields. I felt excitement, chaos, pain. I felt respect for the sacrifice and heroism of the soldiers, and I felt the fear of having life itself so removed from one's control. These emotions coexisted with the serenity and physical beauty of the land.
A major emphasis of this project is the resonance of history in the landscape. Are physical and spiritual traces of the great slaughter still present in these places? Remains of blood and bodies, as well as the instruments of their destruction -- the lead of the Minie' balls and the iron of the artillery rounds-- still exist in the earth. Much of the land was physically altered with the construction and destruction of defensive earthworks, whose weathered remains are clearly visible.
Less direct physical effects also exist. The Civil War heavily influenced the economic structure of the United States, which clearly affects the land. The establishment of national cooperative networks of currency, transportation, and deregulation across state lines paved the way for rapid industrial development in the future. The unification of government and the centralization of power encouraged uniformity in ecological politics and practice, destructive or protective.
Spiritual traces are more elusive. The search for the latent energies of these battlefields inevitably leads back to histories, metaphors, and myths. The tensions and sufferings of the soldiers involved in the riotous circumstance of these locations 140 years ago may come to us through written descriptions, the color of the soil, or collective memory. The histories and diaries we read are mental abstractions of the historical events of the place. Thoughts of the living and dead become enmeshed, and these particular ideas are inextricably linked to the land.
The battlefield is a talisman, a physical focus of violent acts. The land sparks personal memory of wartime accounts. It triggers a shared, deeper memory of human conflict and suffering, and it evokes a way of perceiving that sees in a leaf falling a man falling, a fallen man seeing a leaf falling. In the amphitheater of death many visions may have been the final sight of closing eyes.
Violence engenders emotional extremes which may affect the participant for an extended period. When I was at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, making copies of its photographs of Civil War wounded, a box was received from a World War II veteran. Inside the box were the remains of a Japanese soldier killed in the Pacific that the American soldier had managed to bring home and keep in his basement for forty-five years.
Those removed from the killing can also become disturbed. When I was photographing the site of the murder of surrendering Union soldiers by William Quantrill's guerrillas in 1863, now a neighborhood of Baxter Springs, Kansas, I asked a woman if I could photograph her house and explained my interest to her. She did not care much about the Civil War massacre, but she literally pleaded with me for information about a tree on her property that she had been told served as a gallows long ago. I had nothing to offer her, but the possibility that the hanging tree was in her backyard had such a grip on her mind that she would barely let me go.
At one time I had thought of following my father's path to West Point, but the winds of 1970 blew me in a different direction. This work is a salute to the long-standing military tradition of my family that I chose to break.
The Contemporary Photographs
To make my photographs I used a large wooden camera (8" x 10" film size) similar to those used by the photographers of the Civil War. The resultant method of working was slow and deliberate, with time for the photograph to be shaped by thought.
Exact physical location of the battlefields was crucial for my work. Knowing precisely what happened on the specific site I was photographing gave me an important context and demanded a certain rigor in seeing and interpreting. For the well-known battlefields this information is readily available. For the lesser known battlefields, the research necessary was sometimes extensive. My basic method was to compare maps made during or immediately after the war that detail the troop movements with current U. S. Geological Survey maps. For written accounts of the battles I turned to the considerable literature on the Civil War, and when that failed, I went to the Official Records. For some of the battlefields there are no maps or local markers. In such cases, local libraries, state historical societies, local historians, historians attached to the nearest national battlefield park, re-enactors, municipal governments, local landowners, or families who had lived in the area since the Civil War were of considerable assistance. Photographing the battlefields within days or weeks of the date of the battle greatly complicated my travels, but it was necessary to provide whatever visual correlates remained in the light and foliage. Many of the less developed battlefields are naturally transformed from season to season.
I was open to the complexities of the Civil War, to its implications for our present culture and landscape, and to the ways of understanding these issues. These concerns are worked into the images through specific content, metaphorical reference, and formal structure. By content I mean "DIE NIGER" scrawled on the road on the Jonesboro battlefield, or the World War II military hardware on the Fisher's Hill battlefield. By metaphor I mean the central gash in the earth on the La Glorieta Pass battlefield, or the implications of Jim Crow segregation in the water fountain with the handmade "Men" and "Women" signs at the New Bern battlefield. Formal structure encompasses color, notably red in many of these photographs, and the out-of-focus close foreground, suggesting a soldier under fire hugging the earth, trying to locate his enemy in the distant tree line, as at the Wilderness battlefield.
Environmental changes on the battlefields provide a different sense of time to measure human chronologies. A geologic scale of thinking arises from a battlefield like Blair's Landing, Louisiana (not included in this book), where the site of the Civil War dock on the Red River is now dry, the river having moved a half mile to the east. Several of the forts along the Mississippi have also lost their strategic positions because of river movement. When I photographed the Peachtree Creek battlefield, near Atlanta, a sign warned of a health risk from pollution, a new type of danger upon the land. While the greater timelines of natural history do not excuse human transgressions, they do suggest that change is the nature of existence.
When I was in my early twenties, I revisited Asheville, North Carolina, where I had lived in my early teens. As I walked over ground I had once played on, memories I had thought were long gone flooded back. Are there not also cultural, shared memories that can be evoked by touching the same land where our ancestors had significant experiences? If that land is fundamentally altered, is the memory dimmed? Civil War battlefields are touchstones for memory. They contain traces of great struggle, commitment, and suffering. They are killing grounds, sites of the end of the body. Compelling, visceral qualities are demanded in their depiction. Photographs of such places are gravestones. Their visual beauty opens centers of emotion and intuition. I do not intend for my photographs to encourage the dramatic -- quite the opposite. A photograph that appears almost ordinary and yet evokes a sense of truth and beauty is all the more meaningful. The mundane makes up most of one's life, and it is to everyday life that we need to feel connected.
The Historical Photographs
The historical photographs included in this book are extraordinary documents of the events, societies, and mythologies of the war. Their diverse contents are supported by a variety of visual and conceptual approaches that is especially remarkable given that the medium was only twenty-five years old at the time. The photographic process was cumbersome, but Civil War photographers mastered the techniques and infused their work with heartfelt emotion. Their acute, distilled observations maintain a sense of urgency even today.
Portraiture was well established by 1861 and was the primary business of working photographers. The soldiers, in anticipation of their absence from home, perhaps forever, and to record their participation in the important events, flocked to photographic studios to secure images of themselves to give to loved ones. The simple, straightforward portraits, such as that of Thomas Sheppard strike me as the most powerful, but some of the pictures employing backdrops, symbolic but silly, such as that of an unidentified black soldier, are also moving. These men appear composed, despite the pressures upon them, as they look into the eye of time. The more contrived portraits showing heavily armed young men in staged postures of killing, are double edged. I found no portraits that pretended their subjects were being killed.
Group portraiture was equally diverse and successful. Look at the compositional beauty of the figure placement and the unbowed postures of the captured Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg. Wounded Union soldiers from the Wilderness and Spotsylvania confront the camera with dignified sorrow as still more wounded arrive from the right. The fallen tree in the foreground of the plate showing the men of the 13th Connecticut sounds an ominous note. Timothy O'Sullivan photographed Grant and his staff in a more candid manner. His photograph taken 21 May.1864 is archetypal in its portrayal of a group of powerful men huddled together plotting, seen from outside the circle. George Barnard's 20 July 1864 portrait of Sherman and his generals is a predecessor in content and form of today's photographs of corporate boards in their meeting rooms, serious, in business uniform, with often a nod to their ancestors in power. (In Barnard's photograph two of Sherman's staff place their right hands partially inside their coats, like Napoleon.) A model of hierarchy for future America was being set. But the system was in transition in 1864; these leaders were still expected to face the dangers of combat along with their men: note the empty sleeve.
The notion that photography can preserve extended to the deceased. Photographs of famous or infamous dead individuals, such as that of Turner Ashby, followed the tradition, started with earlier daguerreotypes, of memorializing of the dead, or began the tradition, still extant today, of the state's assuring the citizenry that justice has been done (see the photograph of William Anderson). The photography of groups of dead soldiers on the battlefield varies from the brutal directness of bodies dumped into mass graves or decayed corpses (see the photograph of Federal dead) to poetic treatments in which Death hovers over its victims, personified in blurred background figures (Union dead) or the wind in the trees (Soldiers' burial). Antietam battlefield grave of John Marshall shows soldiers posted near Marshall's grave as if attempting to protect him from his fate. Barnard's Scene of General McPherson's death conveys the absolute absence that death brings. All of these photographs were made to be remembered. They mark us, as death marked Civil War America.
The practice of medical photography expanded greatly during the war, documenting new techniques and treatments. Grimly holding signs bearing their names and army units, their damaged anatomy prominently displayed, the wounded are scientifically catalogued (Wounded in the Peninsula Campaign). The images of the bodies of the veterans treated and photographed at the army hospital in Montpelier, Vermont, were carefully cut from their backgrounds and suspended in the grid of Dr. Janes's logbook. Many resemble a child's plastic army men, damaged, clinging to the tuft of ground at their feet (Wounded at Cedar Creek). Photographs of severed limbs, such as those of amputated feet, are horrifying and strange. The assemblage photograph Results of wounds, makes evident the new connection between the wounded soldier and his removed bone. Why are these medical photographs absent from Civil War books and picture anthologies?
The exciting structures of modern street photography, figures from foreground to background pulling the viewer into the frame, a suggestion of separate spheres of spontaneous action, are anticipated in Barnard's photograph of the First New York Light Artillery at Seven Pines, Virginia, although Barnard obviously set up the picture. Alexander Gardner's photograph of Union soldiers departing from Aquia Creek Landing jumps with the chaotic energy of the war and troop movement. But the picture is highly ordered, a sophisticated extraction from changeable and densely packed forms. An uncertainty of circumstance, actual and pictorial, spins around the travelers.
Dynamic use of the tonal field sets up a pulsating continuum in several photographs of razed cities, most notably that of Richmond in ruins. The rhythmic distribution of blacks, grays, and whites makes for an edge to edge reading of the photograph. There is no center; destruction is everywhere. As indeed it was in the South in 1865. A large aperture in the lens to produce a short depth of field (only a small part of the photograph rendered sharply) was generally employed to soften the focus of backgrounds. Reversing this norm and blurring the foreground produced some remarkable images. The photograph of a Confederate floating battery diminishes humanity and elevates the implements of war by focusing on the cannon in the rear. Using the same technique, O'Sullivan blurs the foliage at the bottom of the frame and injects a portent of approaching chaos into his photograph taken on the day of the battle at Cedar Mountain, Virginia.
The Civil War field photographers used wooden cameras that held 16x20", 8x10", or smaller stereographic film plates. The negatives were produced by adhering light-sensitive silver salts onto glass with an emulsion of collodion, a derivative of guncotton, an explosive cellulose nitrate. Positive prints were later made by contacting the negative onto paper treated with albumen (egg white and salt) and silver nitrate. The prepared glass plate was overly sensitive to blue, meaning that either the sky or the rest of the picture, but not both, could be exposed properly. Overexposed sky and water create a vacuum of Hades around the men and boats in the plate showing the guns of the USS Lexington. This wet plate process had other liabilities that were more difficult to overcome. The glass plates had to be coated with light sensitive chemicals after the camera was set up, and they had to be processed immediately after exposure. Exposure times were long. The fast action of actual battles was virtually impossible to capture. George Cook's photograph of Fort Sumter under Union naval bombardment is one of the few photographs made during an attack, records the actual explosion of an artillery shell.
Several new genres of photography were pioneered by Civil War photographers. The sequential picture story made an early appearance in The Federals execute a spy in Mississippi. Early examples of a socially concerned photography are the images of ex-slave children in New Bern, North Carolina and southern refugees. These photographs could not be directly printed by halftone in the newspapers or books of the time, but they could be transformed into lower resolution wood engravings, which could then be printed along with text and widely disseminated. The actual photographs were often distributed as stereo views and sometimes mounted into limited edition books.
Depictions of the scarred earth, such as Barnard's pictures of the Atlanta campaign, prefigure recent images in American landscape photography. Respect for the earth was not the key motivation of the photographers of the early 1860s, but the disruption of the American pastoral ideal is undeniable. Dead bodies, most of them farmers-turned-soldiers, litter the fields. Farms and forests were not being used productively; they were being destroyed through the violence of the war. How humanity relates to nature has long been a subject for artists. Since the Civil War, the definition of that relationship has evolved continually and grown in importance.
These early photographs were not involved in the circles of art. They were not examined with regard to their advancement of the medium of photography. Furthermore, due to their painful referent, "we buried them in the recesses of our cabinet as we would have buried the mutilated remains of the dead they too vividly represented," wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. in 1863 about Mathew Brady's New York exhibition of Antietam photographs ("Doings of the Sunbeam," 12). After 1865 war photographs were put away, and often forgotten, damaged, or lost. It is unlikely that many Civil War photographs inspired later imagery of similar form or intent.
A society sustaining a war effort seeks to control or eliminate the imagery of its own dead and wounded. Soldiers are portrayed as brave and cheerful, the systems of supply as efficient, victory as inevitable. In pictorial and verbal descriptions the deaths of soldiers are made palatable by emphasizing glory: they died heroically confronting the enemy, defending the homeland. War is described as destiny, a part of the natural order. The other side is responsible for the horrors. Civil War photographers were certainly aware of these parameters, and because of patriotism or for profit many cooperated. Some photographers, such as Alexander Gardner and Timothy O'Sullivan, were overwhelmed by the actualities of the war and operated on the original premise that to show what they saw would give people a better understanding of the realities of this and other wars. Their belief is still a hope of many war photographers today. Pictures of the dead and wounded are rarely silent, and despite attempts to set them in a political context, they ask: Was it worth it? Was there no other way?
The Photographic Pairs
In coupling the historical photographs with my own images, I sought wide-ranging connections of culture, politics, economics, and environment. If these conceptual links are supported by formal relationship, all the better. Emotional and physical ties in the pairings were also important. The pairings of photographs and their interchange, however, need not exclude independent readings of either the historical or the modern image.
Both of these separate sets of photographs were made by searching for the traces of war. The Civil War photographers were obviously much closer in time to the action of the battle, but with few exceptions they photographed the battlefields after the fact of the killing. They, too, searched for visual material, after the action, to examine what had happened. With their proximity in time, they produced dynamic photographs of immediate consequences. With my distance in time, I have made photographs more concerned with the long-term results.
The amount of historical imagery for individual battles is extremely variable. The photographic effort became more extensive as the war went on. The battlefields closer to Washington, D.C., a center for several wartime photographic groups, were photographed more completely than areas further away. The type of coverage varied considerably also, depending on the expectations of the photographer's employer (the army, a private company making views, individual soldiers) and the sensibilities of the photographer. In the few instances when strong, historical photographs were not available for a particular battle, I used another Civil War photograph, an engraving, or a map. The battlefield maps are distilled, abstract descriptions of killing. They are also linked into the actual development of plans for killing. Their direction in time may be towards the past or future, but their reality is essentially the same. Mobility, the attack upon the enemy's flank, and attrition were among the most common stratagems of the Civil War. They are portrayed on the maps by, respectively, arrows, the perpendicular meeting of lines, and static, parallel lines.
The Civil War images inform my photographs to a great extent. They are eloquent testimony of the participants and the events. They shade the modern picture with a complex but specific historic context. Viewed apart, my photographs can be seen as a somewhat random sampling of the state of the contemporary American landscape. Where the armies or companies of soldiers happened to meet to kill each other depended on such a wide assortment of factors, including chance, that I could have been throwing darts into maps to determine where I would photograph. We often view landscapes within an implicit context of geological evolution and time. The landscapes of today and the Civil War add the crucial modern context of human use.
The current conditions of the battlefields embody our dispositions towards the environment. Indicative of the entire country, these attitudes stretch from total disregard to real appreciation of natural systems. I found the widespread dispersion of garbage to be incredible. Styrofoam cups, hamburger containers, and packing peanuts are literally everywhere. Some battlefields have even more serious forms of pollution. Others have simply been leveled to create more space for shopping.
As a culture with pronounced respect for military endeavor, the expedient treatment of these battlefields does not bode well for other land that has no claim to the special status of "sacred ground." While many battlefields face these types of problems, others are dealing with an opposite situation. Some of the large national parks, such as Manassas and Vicksburg, have large areas returning to thick forest. These trees were not present during the fighting (the battlegrounds were fields to begin with or the trees had been cut down by the armies), and the foliage can make it difficult to visualize the events of the combat. The trees signify a return of peace to the killing ground, but they also remove the signs of violence against which we value that peace.
My photographs inform the reading of the Civil War photographs also. The modern pictures may be seen as consequences of, and reflections upon, the acts of the Civil War soldiers. Today we may stand on a battlefield and imagine what happened and its effects, just as some Northern and Southern soldiers may have stood on the same ground, before or after the fighting, and wondered how they were affecting the future. This was, after all, an intention in going to war: to shape history, to extend their side's version of manifest destiny. After all, to shape history, to extend their side's version of manifest destiny, was an intention in going to war.
American landscape photographs inevitably become involved with the fantasies of America. The shock of having access to a sparsely populated, naturally rich expanse of land generated a hubris of opportunity and destiny in early Americans that, despite the realization of its consequences, still echoes in our psyches. American landscape photography, from its inception, in the 1860s, to the 1960s (and much painting as well), has been largely dedicated to showing the great natural glories of the American landscape. We are deeply connected to these images. They are bigger than ourselves. They seem to possess a time greater than our own, suggesting eternal values. Through looking at these images we have come to believe in the infinite extension and promise of the American wilderness. Like our predecessors, we can thrill to God's blessings upon this American land and the possibilities of human action upon such "undefined" territory. Innate human hopes and needs have been focused upon the land and its image.
Landscape photography has become much more than natural content or formal relationship. Archetypal human desires -- for freedom, a new beginning -- and the American social ethics of individualism, the can-do mentality, material progress, and belief in our system and its extension to the rest of the world-- have been associated with the beauty of the landscape. The pervasive coupling of landscape imagery with these psychological and political contents means that almost any photograph taken of the American land comments on this American myth. As we realize these linkages, however, we can go beyond them and make different connections to the landscape that may still be spiritually freeing, but will be more responsible to human and other forms of life. The recognition of the inherent relativity between the landscape and ourselves ultimately provides more freedom. America's landscapes are no longer eternal and unchanging. They have become provisional. Signs of our presence are visible everywhere. Human decision now largely determines the condition of the landscape.
A strange combination of clarity and fear takes hold when new violence occurs on an old battlefield. While photographing at the Salem Church at Chancellorsville, Virginia, I heard a loud crash behind me and turned to see an automobile accident just twenty yards away. My mind had been drifting; it became immediately grounded. A stunned older woman sat behind the steering wheel of a car smashed from behind by a young man who was cursing and pounding the steering wheel of his sporty vehicle. Rush-hour traffic out of Fredericksburg immediately backed up; hundreds of angry people were closed up in their immobile cars. The rescue vehicles had difficulty getting through.
I had the camera set up at Ivy Mountain in Kentucky when I noticed a scruffy old dog trying to cross the dangerous four-lane highway. He made a couple of starts, turning back just before he would have been hit. With a sickening feeling of knowing what was going to happen, I watched him try again and get hit immediately by a car traveling about 60 mph. With a yelp he was pulled under the car, dragged along for forty yards and then rolled out from under the back. He lay still for a moment, got up, and limped across the road, to almost be hit again.
The Yellow Bayou battlefield in Louisiana is remote and beautiful. I had the camera set up a little off the road when a pickup truck passed by; the guy on the passenger side was screaming curses at me. He seemed to be struggling to get out of the window, like a vicious dog. I retreated closer to the woods. A few young men skulked behind the trees. As I was trying to return to the past violence of the Civil War, another pickup truck, with two rifles in the gun rack, veered off the road and drove straight across the brush towards me. These men were from the Louisiana State Penitentiary. They warned me that "three violent Cubans had escaped from the detention center nearby. We just caught one down the road. The other two are still at large. Watch out."
A few months later I prepared for a longer trip in Louisiana, which would involve a number of nights camping out. I went back and forth as to whether I should carry my pistol. I didn't and had a trip marked with hospitable welcome from strangers.
Some veterans describe the time of their war experiences as being the most alive they ever felt. When everything is on the line, the senses become sharply focused. Good art evokes intense mental and sensual clarity too, and it probably won't kill you.
Hopefully this book counters our tendency to romanticize war, but, unfortunately, the greatest leveler of notions of glory is direct acquaintance with the facts of war itself. Years ago I worked on a swing scaffold high above the streets of Detroit with a Viet Nam veteran. He told me "I will never, never, fight in another war, unless the enemy is actually on my doorstep." Most Americans would not sympathize with this attitude. But most Americans did not serve in that excruciating conflict. Professional soldiers are undoubtedly more prepared for war than the rest of us, but they are no more willing to go. They know the realties. The reasonable prerequisites to war -- exhaustion of alternatives, clarity of objectives, and clear domestic support -- are now advocated by the United States military as much as anyone.
Describing and understanding the United States is no simple task. Not only is the nation a complex array of geographies, peoples, and systems, but our judgments are clouded by a charged and variant mythology. America as idea oscillates between visions of grandeur and disillusion. Can we acknowledge and balance these conceptions as we look at our country? Perhaps the method to employ is similar to seeing and connecting the photographs of past and present in this book. The truth will come from an equilibrium of perspectives.
I began this writing by speaking of regional attachment. Clearly, we begin here -- with our neighbors and our local environment. But the Civil War has given us a larger context, connecting us with our countrymen in the Bronx and our land in Southern California. Unification has put social and economic structures in place that can be overwhelming in their size and complexity. Alienation and confusion, fear and cynicism, are often the results. But American culture is rich in its different peoples, lands, and the exchange of ideas. The legacy of the Civil War is the belief that such diversity means a stronger, better society. We are discovering that a parallel diversity in the environment makes our earth more vibrant and resilient. Out of terrible and complicated circumstance, the Civil War has bequeathed us a larger vision of our nation, one that can only work with a concurrent expansion of tolerance. Inclusion in American society need not be a demand for conformity. Inclusion in American society need not equate with conformity. Ultimately such tolerance means an end to the pain of war.
Americans have continually embraced new ways of doing things. Our predecessors have invented, and reinvented, our country. The challenge is still with us - to create a new society, based on true equality -- in education, in the safety of the neighborhood, where all things are indeed possible, for all people. Our movement to the new cannot forget the past -- of greed and racism, but also the past of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the sacrifices made in the Civil War for democratic ideals. The relation of whites and blacks is the acid test of America's ideals. True acceptance of colored peoples into American society means a new society and a stronger union, based on the meeting of different experience.
Tolerance in its widest and most positive sense is education -- the straightforward introduction, examination, and free flow of new information, experience, and ideas. Education is the basis for democracy and has engendered our success. All Americans must have access to a vital education. Only then can we go beyond the "triumph of economics" and make decisions based on the deeper values of existence.
As we struggle for a better American society, we recognize that our good fortune and strength give us the responsibility to act on behalf of those people around the world who are mired in circumstances of severe poverty and repressive governments. Since the reunification of the United States 137 years ago, we have come to recognize that the earth itself is a fundamental unity. The photographs of our planet from space are beacons to be held close to the heart as we enter the new millennium. We must export the best of America, not Coca Cola, and import the best of the world, not ATV's. Surely we have amassed enough materials. Now is the time to share our prosperity and move on to an understanding of what really makes life worth living. Elevation of the spirit of humankind is the great challenge now facing America.
The United States of America has had two beginnings. The Revolution created a nation without precedent in human history, a nation based on individual freedoms, with provisions for a government that would serve the people. The Civil War affirmed the principles of the Revolution but went beyond individual and regional concerns to insist upon the fundamental unity of the nation. Indivisible was now written in so much blood that American destiny was seen in terms of the collective. Our current situation calls for another beginning, one in which the country will continue to strive for the great principles of the Revolution and the Civil War but also form new directions in this new world -- a political process less beholden to campaign finance, a long term perspective and planning, an affirmation of our place in the world, meaning apart from materialism, change without war.
We have emerged from the killing ground of the Civil War with a longing for a lasting peace in a just society. To touch the killing ground is to remember this fervent desire. To honor the sacrifice of North and South is to temper our pessimism with renewed hope in the promise of the United States of America.