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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid