Tuesday, Aug 16, 2005
Civil War battlefields attract millions of visitors every year. People are drawn from all over the world to see where Americans struggled over the question of a united or divided nation. Many of those battlefields are today preserved and managed by the National Park Service. How did the earliest national military parks come to be created by Congress in the 1890s? A new book by NPS historian Richard West Sellars provides the answers and a good deal more information about why Civil War battlefields were preserved and what they have meant to the nation. Sellars book, entitled Pilgrim Places: Civil War Battlefields, Historic Preservation, and Americas First National Military Parks, 1863-1900, provides a full understanding of the efforts to preserve the first five Civil War military parks Antietam, Chickamauga and Chattanooga, Gettysburg, Shiloh and Vicksburg. The establishment of these early military parks marked the most intensive and widespread historic preservation activity in the United States up through the 19th century. According to noted Civil War historian and author, James M. McPherson, Pilgrim Places offers the most succinct and readable history of the creation of the early Civil War battlefield parks and cemeteries. Our national memory and perceptions of that war have been shaped in part by these parks with their markings of battle lines and actions, monuments, and soldiers graves. By recounting how the parks were established and developed, Richard Sellars has deepened our understanding of the wear and its legacy. Dr. Sellars is a historian with the National Park Service in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From 1979 to 1988, Sellars headed the Southwest Cultural Resources Center in Santa Fe, overseeing conservation programs in history, archaeology, and historic architecture for the NPS Southwest Region as well as Servicewide programs in underwater archaeology. Sellars articles on American history and on cultural and natural resource preservation have appeared in numerous publications. He is the author of Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History, and is currently working on a companion volume, a history of cultural resource management in the National Park System. Pilgrim Places is available for purchase in most NPS unit bookshops and is published by Eastern National. It is also available through Eastern National at 1(877) 628-7275 or on-line at http://www.eparks.com .