A Battlefield Springs to Life

Unburied Remains at Gaines MillThe American Civil War was the first war preserved in photographic images, sometimes in graphic detail as in the photo to the right, and the brutality of the battlefield was brought home in a very real way to the American public. This photo is from the excellent “Original Photographs of the Civil War” collection at Mike Lynaugh’s Virtual Civil War site.

After the guns went silent and the armies moved on, the dead were buried, the carcasses of horses and mules were burned along with the blasted and broken remnants of military wheeled vehicles, and the land slowly began to recover from the devastation inflicted upon it. In a letter to the Springfield Republican newspaper, Captain Samuel Fiske (Co.G, 14th Conn. Inf.) wrote under the pen-name Dunn Browne a poignant description of one such battlefield a year after the battle.

Did I tell you ever, among the affecting little things one is always seeing in these shifting war times, how I saw on the Second Bull Run battlefield, pretty, pure delicate flowers growing out of emptied ammunition boxes, a fine rose thrusting up its graceful head through the head of a Union drum, which doubtless had sounded its last charge (or retreat as the case may have been) in that battle, and a cunning scarlet verbena peeping out of a fragment of burst shell in which strange cup it had been planted? Wasn’t that peace growing out of war? Even so shall the graceful and beautiful ever grow out of the horrid and terrible things that transpire in this changing but ever advancing world. Nature covers even battle ground soon with verdure and bloom. Peace and plenty soon spring up in the track of devastating campaigns, and all things in nature and in society shall work out the progress of mankind and the harmony of God’s great designs.

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