Sunday, November 7, 2010


At Antietam, ninety-six monuments dot the battlefield landscape from the edge of the North woods to south of the Burnside Bridge. Most are to Union regiments; five are to Confederate. Individuals are remembered in ten monuments and mortuary cannons mark where six commanders--three from each side--fell.

In the West Woods are other monuments not marked on official maps. A cairn of rocks stacked atop one another; odd constructions of sticks bound with vine hanging from branches; flags and flowers placed to accompany iron War Department tablets. The most elaborate of these unofficial memorials is a collection of objects--a plastic flower, an owl, a dove, and an angel. Who put this here? Why?

Cicero tells us that "the life of the dead consists in being present in the minds of the living." These monuments and memorials constructed by states, regiments, and individuals are calling us to remember those who stood in these fields--from places such as Worcester, Massachusetts and Cleveland County, North Carolina. Present in the minds of the living, they are with us still.

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