Who cares that the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864, despite 3,000 Union casualties, was a crucial step toward the Northern seizure of Atlanta and Lincoln’s reelection? Who cares that it led Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, the warrior with a poetic sensibility, to write to his wife, “I begin to regard the death and mangling of couple thousand men as a small affair, a kind of morning dash.”
If we love America and its history we should care, and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in northwest Georgia, which I visited about 15 years ago, is a great place to mourn those deaths and to study the strategy of Sherman and his able Confederate counterpart, Joe Johnston. And yet, National Park Service staffers seem less interested in those topics than in promoting political correctness.
In preparation for the battle’s 150th anniversary next year, staffers called for “150 Stories for 150 Years of Change” that will “document social change. … stories that show a revolutionary change that went against present social norms.” In case we missed the point, the list of topics includes “Gender & Sexuality.” “Women’s Rights.” “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual Rights.”
The instructions for submissions, which were due by last Friday, also noted, “We emphasize that submitted stories must express a greater point than simply re-telling a story. The goal is not to dredge up the negativity of the past”—whew, I thought for a moment that might be the goal— “but rather to show how we have evolved beyond previous social and civic narrow-mindedness.”
OK, I get it: Study of the past is useful so we can feel superior to 19th century Americans. And maybe the study of specific events is too narrow: The Marietta Daily Journal reported, “Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park will expand its focus from the Civil War to the transformation of mankind with a project called ‘150 Stories for 150 Years of Change.’
Too bad, though, because some Civil War participants had wisdom to offer, in ways that touch our imagination. Maybe we can learn from soldiers like Walter Clark of the 1st Georgia Infantry, who wrote, “Standing beside the breastworks on that summer evening, under the shadow of grim and silent Kennesaw, with twilight deepening into night, there were shadows on all our hearts as well, shadows that stretched beyond us and fell on hearts and hearthstones far away, shadows that rest there still and never will be lifted.”