9 - Better Angels Reading

9 - Better Angels Reading - Source: U.S. News & World...

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1 Source: U.S. News & World Report, 9/30/2002, Vol. 133 Issue 12, p56, 8p Item: 7402343 © 2002 EBSCO Publishing. Privacy Policy - Terms of Use Section: Culture & Ideas The Better Angels Why we are still fighting over who was right and who was wrong in the Civil War Who won the Civil War? You'd have a hard time finding out at Gettysburg. Sure, there are plenty of artifacts in the dilapidated vistor center: cases full of gray and blue uniforms, fading regimental flags, and rows of shining rifles. Step outside, and you'll learn about the flanking movements and angles of fire, the storied charges and tactical gambits that decided the momentous three-day battle. The 1,320 monuments, markers, and memorials that dot the fields of Gettysburg National Military Park pay special attention to troop movements and casualty lists, emphasizing the valor and courage of those who fought. Only a few mention the preservation of the Union; none celebrate the end of slavery. For almost 2 million visitors each year, the Pennsylvania battlefield confirms everything they know from documentaries, Hollywood, and popular fiction: that the war was America's epic, a heroic conflict both sides fought for freedom. The same tale is told at battlefields across the country. And it's wrong. In trying to honor the soldiers who died, Civil War battlefields have historically avoided referring to what the two armies were actually fighting about. As a result, say scholars and park service officials alike, the message of most Civil War parks is subtly pro-Confederate, alienating many people who should find the parks compelling. What's missing, they say, is a moral element, what Abraham Lincoln referred to as "the better angels of our nature." The Civil War was a fight over slavery. The South was for it, the North against it. Not talking about slavery, they say, erases right and wrong from history--not only in the parks but in the national memory itself. Gettysburg is the fight's most prominent battlefield, traditionally described there as "the high-water mark of the Confederacy," with the spotlight on Robert E. Lee's audacious generalship and the bravery of the Confederate charges. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and its "new birth of freedom," are relegated to a small monument across the street from the visitor center. That part of the story was "almost ignored . . . because it didn't agree with the older version of the battle" as a morally neutral conflict between two equally honorable foes, says Columbia University historian Eric Foner.
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2 Visitors leave with the impression that Gettysburg was significant as a failed Confederate struggle, rather than as a Union victory and the site of the Gettysburg Address. "Not only does it perpetuate ignorance, it creates bias," says George Washington University history professor James Oliver Horton. "People who come with incomplete or incorrect ideas leave without having that bias challenged." The story is the same elsewhere; Foner says even Ken Burns's acclaimed documentary The Civil War, which is being
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9 - Better Angels Reading - Source: U.S. News & World...

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