But venture beyond these famous shrines to battlefield valor and you'll find quiet sites like Iverson's Pits, which recall the inglorious reality ofr Civil War combat.
The soldiers marched in tight formation until Union riflemen suddenly rose from behind a stone wall and opened fire. Five hundred rebels fell dead or wounded "on a line as straight as a dress parade," Iverson reported. No greater gallantry and heroism has been displayed during this war. Soldiers told a different story: of being "sprayed by the brains" of men shot in front of them, or hugging the ground and waving white kerchiefs.
Economic Causes of the War
One survivor informed the mother analyeis a comrade that her son was "shot between the Eye and ear" while huddled in a muddy swale. Of others in their ruined unit he wrote: "left arm was cut off, I think he will die When will this horrid war stop? The living rolled the dead into shallow trenches--hence the name "Iverson's Pits," now a grassy expanse more visited by ghost-hunters than battlefield tourists.
This and other scenes of unromantic slaughter aren't likely to get much notice during the Gettysburg sesquicentennial, the high water mark of Civil War remembrance. Instead, we'll hear a lot about Joshua Chamberlain's heroism and Lincoln's hallowing of the Union dead.
It's hard to argue with the Gettysburg Address.
Roger L. Ransom, University of California, Riverside
But in recent years, historians have rubbed much civjl the luster from the Civil War and questioned its sanctification. Should we consecrate a war that killed and maimed over a million Americans?
Or should we question, as many have in recent conflicts, whether wag was really a war of necessity that justified its appalling costs? Similar reservations were voiced by an earlier generation of historians known as revisionists. From the s to 40s, they argued that the war was not an inevitable clash over irreconcilable issues.
Rather, it was a "needless" bloodbath, the fault of "blundering" statesmen and "pious cranks," mainly abolitionists.
Some revisionists, haunted by World War I, cast all war as irrational, even cigil. World War II undercut this anti-war stance. Nazism was an evil that had to be fought. So, too, was slavery, which revisionists--many of them white Southerners--had cast as a relatively benign institution, and dismissed it as a genuine source of sectional conflict.
Historians who came of age during the Civil Rights Movement placed slavery and emancipation at the center of the Civil War.]