News / USA

Honoring US Civil War Dead

A Civil War-era cannon on Maryland's Antietam National Battlefield Park.  (Credit: Joe De Capua)
A Civil War-era cannon on Maryland's Antietam National Battlefield Park. (Credit: Joe De Capua)

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
As the U.S. commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a new project is underway to honor the more than 620,000 soldiers who died in the conflict. It’s called the Living Legacy Project.

Cate Magennis Wyatt said Americans must not lose their sense of history.

“You can’t erase our past. We can’t just take for granted that the stories of those who came before us will be remembered. And if you lose the beginning of your story, you certainly have a much more difficult time bringing the original ideals of America to fruition,” she said.


Magennis Wyatt is founder and president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.

Cate Magennis Wyatt, founder and president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. Credit: JTHGCate Magennis Wyatt, founder and president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. Credit: JTHG
x
Cate Magennis Wyatt, founder and president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. Credit: JTHG
Cate Magennis Wyatt, founder and president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership. Credit: JTHG
She said, “The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is a non-profit organization that we created in 2005 to raise awareness of the unparalleled history, heritage and culture that’s found in the swath of land from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, down through Maryland and culminating at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia.”

Monticello is the name of the home of the third U.S. president.

Magennis Wyatt said the nearly 290 kilometer, or 180 mile, stretch of land is like no other.

“There’s more American history and heritage in this swath of land than any other place in the country. And in 2005, the same region was declared one of the 11 most historically endangered places in the country by the National Trust. It lies just on the edge of Washington, D.C., and in measureable terms, on a daily basis, we were seeing so much of it lost. Not intentionally and not maliciously. Just because people were not mindful of what was here,” she said.

It may be a small slice of the country as far as distance goes, but a very large chunk of history.

“In this swath of land we found that there are nine presidential homes, from Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, straight through to Eisenhower. There are sites from the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the largest concentration of Civil War battlefields in the country,” she said.

And it is the Civil War that’s the subject of the Living Legacy Project. The goal is to plant one tree for each of the soldiers – both union and confederate – who lost their lives.

The first of the trees have been planted at Oatlands, Virginia, a National Trust site. It’s the geographical center of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway. Some 400 trees are being planted or dedicated at Oatlands with many more to come.

“620,000 men died in the Civil War. Many of whom fought on the battlefields within our National Heritage area. So our notion was to plant one tree for each man, and march those 620,000 trees up our National Scenic Byway, Route 15, straight on up to Gettysburg. And as we do so, we allow each visitor to understand that those trees represent a life, a life, a life, as they pass,” she said.

Native trees are being used, including red bud, red maple, red cedar evergreen and red twig dogwood. Each displays its best colors at a different season of the year.

Now it should be noted that a growing number of historians say the death toll actually was much higher, perhaps 750,000.  They base that on census figures and the fact that many soldiers may have died long after the battles from the wounds they suffered.

Magennis Wyatt says, “Over 50 percent who passed were unknown. They died anonymously. And that’s one of the compelling reasons we want to plant a tree for each person to allow it to be a living legacy of that loss.”

She added that “taking for granted” what these men fought and died for would be a “disservice to what it is to be an American.”

“These young men were fathers, sons, husbands, brothers. They had dreams. They were caught in the crossfire of something that was horrible at the time. And what I found over the few years of talking to people is that the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War might mark the 150th anniversary, but there is yet a lot of healing that has to be done. And this one quite humble, but quite intentional project allows everyone to honor the fallen,” she said.

After the guns fell silent in 1865, slavery had ended. But it took another hundred years for the country to finally end racial segregation and ensure voting rights. Magennis Wyatt hopes in 50 years, at the 200th anniversary of the Civil War, that maybe the healing will be complete.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid