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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.
Rebecca Sell/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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To stand on a Civil War battlefield is to stand on holy ground, for these fields have been consecrated by their blood and bravery. We of CVBT believe strongly that to deface such ground is to dishonor their memory. Their valor and sacrifice are too significant to be dug up and discarded. Many of them died leaving us no letters or personal effects; many didn't even leave us their names. The ground is all we have left to remember them by.
By and large these were not professional soldiers: They were ordinary men and boys, with moms and dads and wives and children, with hopes and dreams, with futures filled with bright promise and possibility. But these ordinary men and boys, when faced with ultimate truth as they saw it, did what needed to be done; more than 620,000 of them paid the ultimate price for having done so.
WE FAVOR DEVELOPMENT
We understand that development is inevitable, and we favor it as long as what the ground to be destroyed means to our country is taken into account. We understand that a man's property is his own, and we support this as a fundamental right of citizenship, as long as the corresponding responsibility to respect the historical stewardship of that property is taken into serious account.
We understand that private interests must always be respected, as long as the public good is not ignored. We understand that we can't save every inch of hallowed ground. But we understand, too, that the character of a community can be identified by what its residents choose to protect and hand on.
We understand that it is the responsibility of those of us who live in this community, as individuals and through our elected representatives, to reflect upon mutual obligations that bind us to develop and maintain a sense of place. We believe it is possible to protect these fields and support economic development. It is not an either-or situation. Preservation is not an alternative to economic growth but a key component of it.
CVBT believes that battlefield preservation is a sacred trust. Are we worthy of the sacrifice of the dead? Are we wise stewards of the legacy they have left us? They paid the ultimate price: Shall that purchase price be forgotten or ignored?
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.