In this weeks reading, the author recalls the road trip that he took with his friend, Rob, to visit all the Civil Way battlefields and other significant locations. While visiting these sites, they would read from solider’s diaries and memoirs, even taking scops of “sacred dirt” (210). On the drive, they would stop at the different highway road signs, reading up on what happened in that area. At the end of each day, Rob would document everything that the two did, including all the locations and times that they were there. When they got to each of the different sites, Rob would answer people’s questions and would interact with the kids there. This whole time they were dressed as a Confederate and Union soldier. I thought what was most interesting was that they would spend the nights in open fields, trenches, or random shacks that were in the middle of the woods. I was surprised that they did this but was not surprised when the author commented that he felt weird sleeping where thousands of men had died. Rob also brought along and compared photographs of the areas and expressed wanting to recreate one of the only photos from the Civil War that showed the soldiers on the move. I thought it was interesting that the author discussed how photos from the Civil War would set the standard for photos to be more censored until the 1960s. I also had not realized before this reading that most of the major clashes were fought for control of rail junctions, crossroads, and/or river and seaports (240).
Once the pair got just south of Richmond, there were more rebel graces, monuments, and remains to visit, including Hollywood Cemetery – located right in Richmond. I enjoyed the section about this cemetery because I have visited this place a few times before this reading, so it was nice being able to connect with the text. While they were in Richmond, they attended a meeting about the addition of an Arthur Ash statue on Monument Avenue. What I found interesting about this meeting was people calling themselves “Confederate Americans” and that it applies to anyone who is against big government and wasn’t to be left alone. Someone commented that they wanted to be left alone to keep enslaving people, but another responded saying that “it’s not about slavery…it’s about states rights” (253). It blows my mind that people thought this and still think this today. They then travel to Petersburg where it seems very empty and stop by a random store and visit with a man named Jimmy Olgers. He explains that his family has always owned the store and that since the construction of major stores, it has become a location that is filled with random “historical” things, almost like a general store (260-261). Olgers then takes the pair around his property and explains what he knows of his families history of the war, but doesn’t want to believe that the war is over.
The reading then continued with them traveling to Lexington and Washington & Lee University. I thought that it was really comical how both Jackson’s and Lee’s war horses are so sacred and protected, with Jackson’s being on display at the museum at VMI. I just found it interesting how much people care about the horses and the generals, but that we don’t know much about the thousands of men that fought, along with the free and enslaved African American’s who fought on the Confederate side.
The last part of the chapter talked about the two men meeting up again for a reenactment at Gettysburg of Pickett’s Charge and how there are many myths about it. The men and a few others did the same march with the same timing. As they were marching, about a hundred tourist joined them and asked them what they were doing. After they were done, Rob started to answer questions and give people more insight into the battle.
I really liked this reading and, as I said, at times found it comical. I also found it to be very interesting since there was a lot in it that I didn’t know that much about.