The nation's leading authority on the conflict explains why the Civil War still fascinates us
One hundred and fifty years after the guns began shelling Fort Sumter this April, Americans remain fascinated with the Civil War. Why do we care about a war that ended so long ago?
Some capricious and discontented artists have affected to consider portrait-painting as unworthy of a man of genius. Some critics have spoken in the same contemptuous manner of history.
Learning about history is an antidote to the hubris of the present, the idea that everything in our lives is the ultimate.
Former President Harry S. Truman once remarked that the history we don’t know is the only new thing in the world.
An English Authority Compares British and American Viewpoints
As I write this, crowds of sidewalk superintendents are peering down at the foundations of a great new office building to be erected on a bombed site in the heart of the City of London. What has drawn the crowds is the discovery, in the excavations, of a Second Century temple to Mithras, the God of Light so widely worshiped in the Roman army; the discovery not only of a “Mithraeum” but of the fragments of a fine statue. It is safe to say that few Londoners had heard of Mithras a week or two ago, and that what draws them is not any very scientific spirit. But their sudden wave of curiosity, the sudden, possibly a little artificial, indignation at the impending bulldozing of the site, reflect very well the English attitude to history: that is, a deep, reverential sense of unity with a remote past. This was Londinium; this is London.
Our American heritage is greater than any one of us.
An 1857 12-pound Napolean cannon still guards the battlefield at Gettysburg. Photo by Craig M. Fildes.
The sun goes down every evening over the muzzle of a gun that has been a museum piece for nearly a century, and where there was a battlefield there is now a park, with green fields rolling west under the sunset haze to the misty blue mountain wall. You can see it all just about as it used to be, and to look at it brings up deep moods and sacred memories that are part of our American heritage.