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PRESERVING THE LAND & THE STORIES page 3
PRESERVING THE LAND, PRESERVING THE STORIES:

 The Civil War Preservation Trust bought Slaughter Pen Farm, named for the bloody fighting there during the Battle of Fredericksburg.
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Date published: 12/9/2012

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Battlefields offer a national military training asset and should be preserved as laboratories for future generations of American combat leaders. They are unparalleled teaching tools, far more effective in chronicling the drama and history of war than textbooks. More importantly, our children's education must be taken into account; what happened on these fields is always one generation away from being forgotten. Historian David McCullough has said, "I don't think there is any question that students in our institutions of higher learning have less grasp, less understanding of, and less respect for American history than ever before."

This illiteracy is significant because knowledge of our history as a country and people brings with it a sense of continuity, cause and effect, perspective, and ofwhat it means to be an American. A preserved battlefield is a wonderful and effective place for this to occur, a place where past is always present, where kids can be made aware that something important happened here, something that America would not allow forgotten. It's a striking reminder that history is important, that we as a country cannot know where we are or where we're going if we don't know where we've been.

For CVBT, the primary reason to save these grounds is reflected in Genesis 4:10: "What has thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." With some paraphrasing, and apologies to the Bible, it is the men who fought and died on these fields who motivate us and sustain our passion. We hear their voices across time, the voices of men dead for 150 years who nonetheless look to us, the living, to protect their memories and stories.

What would these men have wanted of us? To those of us involved with CVBT, the answer is obvious: The men who fought and fell on these fields would have wanted and expected their sacrifice and suffering to be honored and defended, acknowledged and respected. "Never forget, nor dishonor," would have been their counsel and prayer.


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PRESERVING THE LAND & THE STORIES

Michael Stevens is a local dermatologist and president of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust. This column is excerpted from a speech he gave about preservation.