Last semester I was driving along an unfamiliar road near Morgantown, on my way to a local historical site, Depression-era Arthurdale, that I am working on a project with when I saw it. As a Civil War historian who happens to love monuments, I seem to spot them a mile away. There at the edge of a small local cemetery was a large monument with an unmistakable Civil War soldier on top. But I didn’t have time to stop, so I could not explore and confirm my suspicions. For the past couple of months I have been meaning to go back, but my schedule never allowed it.
The day after Valentine’s Day, I went out to Arthurdale again to do some research in their collections and managed to finish up a lot earlier that I had planned. Here was my chance! So, on my way back I pulled into the cemetery (almost bottomed out my car in the process) and parked by the monument. Sure enough the soldier on top was a Civil War soldier, but the monument was dedicated to the local men who had fought in the Spanish-American War and World War I as well as the Civil War. A bench, cannon, and flagpole completed the scene as did remnants of another’s visit: a wreath and flags at the monument’s base.
Monuments and historical gems are found everywhere, scattered through America. I’ve run into them on my numerous trips to battlefields and historic sites of course, but also on a Habitat for Humanity trip to North Carolina, outside the hotel in New Hampshire where my cousin’s wedding was held, and countless other places. One of my first brushes with the Civil War in my hometown was in my church cemetery (which is really old and really small). I kept noticing that someone placed a flag at the grave closest to the parking lot, so one day I checked it out. It turned out to be a member of the 124th NY Orange Blossoms, a unit I became more and more familiar with as my interest grew. In fact, I took my driving test below the monument to that regiment in the next town over (twice in fact, since I failed the first time!). And now I have a new home, in Morgantown, West Virginia where I attend West Virginia University. But sure enough, I still managed to find some Civil War history in my backyard; and I’m sure there is more here if I just keep looking.
So, the next time you see something interesting make sure you take a look, you never know what you will find.