As the U.S. commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, a new project is underway to honor the more than 620,000 soldiers who died in the conflict. It’s called the Living Legacy Project.
Cate Magennis Wyatt said Americans must not lose their sense of history.
“You can’t erase our past. We can’t just take for granted that the stories of those who came before us will be remembered. And if you lose the beginning of your story, you certainly have a much more difficult time bringing the original ideals of America to fruition,” she said.
Ms. Wyatt is founder and president of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership.
“The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is a non-profit organization that we created in 2005 to raise awareness of the unparalleled history, heritage and culture that’s found in the swath of land from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, down through Maryland and culminating at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia,” she said.
Monticello is the name of the home of the third U.S. president.
Ms. Wyatt said the nearly 290-kilometer, or 180-mile, stretch of land is like no other.
“There’s more American history and heritage in this swath of land than any other place in the country. And in 2005, the same region was declared one of the 11 most historically endangered places in the country by the National Trust. It lies just on the edge of Washington, D.C., and in measurable terms, on a daily basis, we were seeing so much of it lost. Not intentionally and not maliciously. Just because people were not mindful of what was here,” she said.
It may be a small slice of the country as far as distance goes, but a very large chunk of history.
“In this swath of land we found that there are nine presidential homes, from Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, straight through to Eisenhower. There are sites from the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the largest concentration of Civil War battlefields in the country,” she said.
And it is the Civil War that’s the subject of the Living Legacy Project. The goal is to plant one tree for each of the soldiers – both union and confederate – who lost their life.
The first of the trees have been planted at Oatlands, Virginia, a National Trust site. It’s the geographical center of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway. Some 400 trees are being planted or dedicated at Oatlands with many more to come.
Native trees are being used, including red bud, red maple, red cedar evergreen and red twig dogwood. Each displays its best colors at a different season of the year.
A growing number of historians say the death toll actually was much higher, perhaps 750,000. They base that on census figures and the fact that many soldiers may have died long after the battles from the wounds they suffered.