“An abundant increase in brotherly love”: battlefields as a platform for reconcilation, 1928


From John Hennessy:

Most of the legislation creating America’s battlefield parks, including ours here in Fredericksburg, is a legacy of the commemorative and reconciliatory efforts of veterans—conceived in a period where a visitor’s understanding of context was assumed, when the ownership of the war’s memory, legacy, and meaning was unchallenged, and when the nation was focused on repair rather than division. To find vivid evidence of this, you need look no further than our own back yard.

Judge Edgar J. Rich, a Harvard graduate, Boston attorney, friend of Douglas Southall Freeman, and convert to Southern sentiment (he “visited the South in a blue uniform, but returned in gray,” he said) gave one of the keynote addresses at the dedication of the park in October 1928–his job apparently was to dedicate the tablet that would stand at the entrance to the park.  The local paper called Judge Rich “renowned” as the “greatest student of the Battle of Chancellorsville.”  The ceremony was held not in the park, but at Smithfield, then called the Mannsfield Hall Country Club. President Calvin Coolidge was in attendance.  Rich said:

“The era of good feeling has been brought about, not by ignoring the causes of he strife, but rather by studying them. Thus, each has been able to get the point of view, and to appreciate the sincerity of the other. The South has come to know the firm belief of the North in the solidarity of the Nation and the North has come

Edgar Rich dedicated the tablet on this monument, which now stands at the north end of Lee Drive.

to understand the ardent belief of the South in the right of self-government which it inherited in full vigor from our common Revolutionary ancestors. It would be futile and would continue the breech if either tried to convince the other of the entire righteousness of its cause, but we should try to view the causes and the conflict each with the eyes of the other….The mission of these battlefields will not be completely fulfilled if they merely give to Notherners an understanding of the Southern point of view. In some way, there must come to the South a fuller knowledge of the point of view of the North…. But we do more than to dedicate these fields in memory of things which have passed. We consecrate them, in the spirit of Robert E. Lee and of Abraham Lincoln, to a more perfect understanding between the South and the North, and to an abundant increase in brotherly love.”

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