Yesterday’s post on the contrast between Appomattox Court House and Bennett Place got me thinking about this issue further. The following is a National Park Service list of the battles that occurred in North Carolina or significant Civil War sites located in North Carolina:
Hatteras Inlet Batteries
Monroe’s Cross Roads
Distinctly missing from this list are Fayetteville, site of street fighting on March 11, 1865, and Bennett Place.
Roughly half of these sites pertain to Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign or to the Wilmington Campaign that preceeded it. Some of these sites have well-done North Carolina state parks: Bentonville, Fort Fisher, and Fort Anderson, although it’s interesting to note that the primary marketing of the site at Fort Anderson is the colonial Brunswick Town site, and not the awesome earthworks of Fort Anderson, which are really downplayed. Fort Macon is part of a state park in Atlantic Beach that has historic significance to more than just the Civil War–it was part of the network of World War II coastal defenses that also included Fort Sumter–and which also provides nice recreational facilities.
By contrast, the Kinston and Wyse Fork sites are run by a local preservation group, and Averasboro is operated by local not-for-profit organization. Monroe’s Crossroads sits in the middle of the drop zones at Fort Bragg and is almost completely inaccessible to the public. Maybe 100 people per year get to see it.
My point in all of this is that of these twenty battle sites–twenty-two, if you add in Bennett Place and Fayetteville–not a single one is a National Park Service property, and, other than Fort Anderson and Monroe’s Crossroads, which is sheltered by its location within the boundaries of Fort Bragg, none are fully preserved as a consequence. All that remains of Fort Fisher, by example, is a miniscule portion of the fort’s ramparts while the rest is either under water or under multi-million dollar beach front houses. Much of Bentonville remains in private hands. Large portions of the Averasboro battlefield are also still in private hands.
By contrast, there is a Revolutionary War site–Moore’s Creek–about twenty miles northwest of Wilmington that was a small skirmish between Tories and patriots that involved no more than a few hundred men that is fully preserved as a National Park Service site. Guilford Court House–a large scale engagement that directly led to Cornwallis moving his army to Yorktown–is also a National Park Service site. That’s not to downplay Guilford Court House–it was, in fact, one of the most pivotal battles of the Revolution. However, it is no more–or less–important than say Bentonville, and, in my humble opinion, is less important than Bennett Place in the big scheme of things.
What is it about these North Carolina Civil War battlefields that has caused them to be treated like the proverbial red-headed stepchild? Is it that these battles involved neither Lee nor Grant? Is it that there was no massive bloodletting such as that at Antietam, Gettysburg or Spotsylvania Court House? Is it that we’ve grown so parochial in our view of the war that only sites in Virginia are viewed as worthy? Is it that Sherman’s Carolinas Campaign came so late in the war that nobody cares? I genuinely don’t know.
I do know this: these battles are as full of human drama and human suffering as any other, and they deserve our respect just as much.Scridb filter