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Civil War Battlefields
APRIL 2005
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In Learn More the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects. Special thanks to the Research Division.

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Did You Know?Did You Know?

Pilgrimages to Civil War battlefield sites and the creation of memorials to fallen soldiers began before the war was over, as men buried and mourned their comrades and women held informal rituals to remember lost loved ones. Most famously, Union dead at Gettysburg in 1863 were praised by President Abraham Lincoln for sacrificing their "last full measure of devotion" to the cause of freedom. As historian David Blight has written, "Death on such a scale demanded meaning."
In Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, Blight tells how the American tradition of Memorial Day originated after the Civil War in a variety of different celebrations. Digging into neglected records, he rediscovered an event that took place on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, that he says should be counted as one of the very first Memorial Day celebrations.
The ceremony was organized by Charleston's African-American community to dedicate a graveyard holding more than 200 Union soldiers who had died in a prison camp located at the city's horse racing track. The men were originally buried without coffins in an unmarked mass grave, as were so many soldiers. But as soon as the war ended, the black community began constructing a proper cemetery, with a fence and archway that read, "Martyrs of the Race Course."
An estimated 10,000 men, women, and children—most of them former slaves—attended the ceremonies, held less than a month after the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House. Some 3,000 black children who were enrolled in Charleston's brand new freedmen's schools carried roses as they circled the graveyard. One reporter declared that "when all had left, the holy mounds—the tops, the sides, and the spaces between them—were one mass of flowers, not a speck of earth could be seen." And the voices of the schoolchildren singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" drifted over the crowd. Local ministers and abolitionists delivered speeches, and the crowd enjoyed picnic lunches. Finally, a parade around the graves by Union soldiers, including the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers and the 35th and 104th U.S. Colored Troops, rounded out a day of remembrance that demonstrated as eloquently as Lincoln's address at Gettysburg the meaning of the lives sacrificed.
The Union soldiers' bodies were later moved to another local cemetery, but in May 2002 a historical marker was placed at the site of the 1865 graveyard in Charleston's Hampton Park to honor both the soldiers and those who had paid tribute to them.

—Shelley Sperry

Related Links

American Battlefield Protection Program
This program of the National Park Service provides funds and planning assistance to groups working to preserve and enhance battlefields. On its website you'll find up-to-date information about grants, plus links to the enormous wealth of historical and cultural resources available at individual battlefields and historic sites maintained by the Park Service. The site includes a link to the report of the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission on the Nation's Civil War Battlefields, the definitive government source for detailed information about battles and casualties.
Civil War Preservation Trust
Read the latest news about preservation efforts around the country, and join others actively working to rescue Civil War sites. You'll also be able to investigate Civil War travel and special events and use lesson plans and other resources designed for teachers and students.
Valley of the Shadow
This ambitious digital archive lets you see what life was like for ordinary Americans in the North and South during the Civil War by documenting the lives of people who lived in Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. The project's guide will help you navigate through diaries, newspapers, government records, photographs, and maps from which you can construct your own history.
Carter House
Tod Carter's home now serves as a museum that educates visitors about the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee.
Morris Island
Read a history of Morris Island, South Carolina, and get the latest news about efforts to preserve it.

Historic Carnton Plantation
This site will introduce you to the role this Tennessee plantation served in the Civil War. You can also get information on how to search for Confederate and Union soldiers, review the calendar of 2005 events, and more.
Franklin's Charge
Learn about this pivotal battle in Civil War history.



Blight, David W., Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. Harvard University Press, 2001.
Huddleston, John. Killing Ground: Photographs of the Civil War and the Changing American Landscape. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002.

Kennedy, Frances P., ed. The Civil War Battlefield Guide. 2nd ed. Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford University Press, 1988.

NGS Resources

Vesilind, Priit. "
Lost Gold: Bounty from a Civil War Ship." National Geographic (September 2004), 108-27.

McComb, Marianne. The Emancipation Proclamation. National Geographic Books, 2004.
Rossi, Ann M. The Anti-Slavery Movement. National Geographic Books, 2003.
Stephenson, Michael, ed. Battlegrounds: Geography and the History of Warfare. National Geographic Books, 2003.
Oeland, Glenn. "
The H. L. Hunley: Secret Weapon of the Confederacy." National Geographic (July 2002), 82-101.
Gallagher, Gary W., and A. Wilson Greene. National Geographic Guide to the Civil War National Battlefield Parks. National Geographic Books, 1992.

Blockson, Charles L. "The Underground Railroad." National Geographic (July 1984), 2-39.

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