Civil War

Civil War History vs. Suburban Sprawl


As we advance into the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg: Day Two, it’s important to note what’s happened to the battlefield during those subsequent years. Specifically, the commercialization of the battle has transformed much of the battlefield’s “hallowed ground” into tourist attractions and fast food restaurants.

The photo above is of a Stuckey’s restaurant that was located in the infamous Peach Orchard where some of the bloodiest fighting occurred on Day Two. It was rightfully torn down years ago, but other egregiously-placed commercial buildings remain. There’s the “General Lee’s Headquarters” motel, complete with a garish swimming pool, on a section of battlefield from Day One. There’s a place called “General Pickett’s Buffet,” along with a McDonald’s and a Friendly’s restaurant on the Pickett’s Charge battlefield from Day Three.

Only recently have various organizations stepped forward to purchase some of these properties and to subsequently donate them back to the National Park Service. But a considerable chunk of the battlefield has been irreparably festooned with eyesores and hideous sprawl.

And this is the most visited battlefield in North America. Other battlefields aren’t so lucky. Wilderness and Chancellorsville in Virginia are rapidly being chewed up by development. Manassas is surrounded by mini-malls, shopping centers and subdivisions. Cold Harbor and Petersburg, too. Other battlefields, especially in the western theater, are even worse off. The Franklin battlefield in Tennessee didn’t even exist until a preservation group recently purchased a Pizza Hut located on the battlefield, destroyed it and restored a small tract of land.

Yes, there will always be progress and development. But clearly we’re not creative enough or respectful enough of our history to build around these sites. Instead, everything must go. It’s a tragic disregard for historical events that not only shaped America, but are responsible for America existing in the first place.

If you’re so inclined, think about supporting the Civil War Trust and these land preservation groups.

  • candideinnc

    While I don’t want to stand in support of crass commercialism, I am also more than a little disgusted by Americans’ romance with battles and wars. Wars are failures of public policy. Battles are failures of politicians. Battlefields are not sacred. My Dad was a Captain in the Marines in WW II, and flew missions with Lindbergh in The Phillipines. He told me about dropping bombs on people when he couldn’t really tell if they were friends or foe. He was a hero. The most important thing he ever told me about wars is, “There has to be a better way to resolve differences.” He was right.

  • Andrew

    Is it bad that I’ve lived in Virginia my entire life and don’t care about ancient battlegrounds? After listening to relatives and friends of the family talk about how great it would have been if the South had won, part of me just hopes they pave the fucker.

  • Annonnnyyymmmous

    Antietam is the best preserved. Hands down, no challenge. It’s been restored down to the location of fencelines. Very impressive place thanks to the work of the NPS, county commissioners and the town of Sharpsburg.

    • Bob Cesca

      I was shocked how well preserved it was — and how it’s not a Civil War amusement park like Gettysburg.

  • Draxiar

    It’s ironic that the history of the United States get trumped by the merchandising of that history.

  • mrbrink

    I thought the Stab Your Yankee Guts Out With My Still Warm Bayonet Blueberry Pie with the Slave Whipped Cream topping for an additional 50 cents was a delightfully authentic taste of war and misery in the summertime. Sitting in the John Wilkes Booth while sampling the Gettys Burger Deluxe before hitting the 54th Chocolate fountain made me feel right at home in Hell.

    • Bob Cesca

      You’re a genius.