The US doesn’t lack for land. The only reason development would “need” to take place on the battlefields at Gettysburg would be out of companies’ desire to make money from the tourists. There are plenty of other places to put up a McDonalds.
Once a historic site has been destroyed, there’s no going back. I’m of the opinion that it’s incredibly important to preserve our history for furture generations. Whenever I hear of history being destroyed for “progress” it sickens me.
I can remember as a young child, my mother, who’s never been known for her activism, went to a protest to try to prevent a golf course from being built on a Native American burial ground. When I asked her about why she cared about those “hills” being torn down she explained to me their history, and that they were graves. I remember feeling awe at the concept of the age of the place and saddness that they were about to be destroyed for a grown-ups playground. The golf course was built, and I remember that my mother shook her head and sighed deeply upon hearing it.
Using the Gettysburg battlefields as an example, I’ve noted a great difference in merely reading about a site, and actually visiting it. As much as I had read about the epic battle, actually seeing the contours of the land gave me a better perspective on tactical manouvers and the conditions than I had before.
The battlefields of Gettysbug soaked up the life’s-blood of thousands of young men, but more importantly, the ground is not just hallowed by their deaths, but by the very significance of the war, and its supreme importance in our history. As I stood on the quiet, lovely slope, and looked down at the serene pasture which was the scene of such horror and chaos, I felt more connected to the event, and understood a bit more the reality and enormity of it. I couldn’t have gotten this through a stone monument or a book.
Recently, we lost a historic building in our city. It was a whimsical looking thing, old and lovely, a building which been the scene of some important events in our state and city history. But it was old, inefficient for modern use, and no one wanted to invest the kind of money it would take to bring it back to its former glory. I went through it before it was bulldozed, and the owner was kind enough to show me all of its little treasures, like the bullet hole which still remained in the woodwork from when the town’s populace threatened to lynch a local politician a hundred years ago. Just little things, really. Things that aren’t really all that important, but little fingerprints of history that are now irretreivably gone. They’re going to put an office building on the empty lot now, or so I’m told.
Little by little, our historic sites slip away. I imagine what it would be like to tell my Chamberlain’s charge took place right over there, where the Denny’s parking lot is. The ironic thing is that some of the things we chose to preserve are worthless to history, such as “Lincoln’s” Cabin, but we let something wonderful pass away with a shrug.
Nor should we only save major historical sites. Sometimes, the most wonderful parts of history are humble and average, yet deeply significant.