Emerging Civil War Welcomes Author Mike Stevens!

We are happy to welcome Dr. Mike Stevens as an author at Emerging Civil War. Mike has been a pillar in the Virginia  preservation community for the last 15 years.  Mike currently serves as President of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust. Below is a letter from the author. Welcome Mike!CVBT

Many thanks to Kris and the gang for inviting me to participate in this new venture, Emerging Civil War. I must acknowledge up front that I am not a historian, have never published a thing or done any original research, and spend my day working with my wife in a medical office. So what could I possibly contribute to this blog read by folks who are serious students of the Civil War?

Well, I may do medicine for a living, but preserving Civil War battlefields has become my passion, and I have been invited to submit essays from time to time about battlefield preservation in general, and about my organization, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT) in particular.

I’ll let you know who we are and what we’re about, what we’re trying to accomplish, and the reasons why we believe battlefield preservation is so important. I’ll keep you up to date on what’s happening in our local community in regard to the preservation effort, and I hope to become an effective resource for any questions or concerns you may have about battlefield preservation and our local community.

(When I speak to folks about CVBT and battlefield preservation, I’m often asked: “What is it about a Civil War battlefield that makes it so special? After all, the Civil War was fought almost 150 years ago, it’s been over for years, it’s history, and the ground is just sitting there, waiting to be put to use, waiting to be built upon, waiting to be profited from. Keep it as a battlefield and all you’ve done is to create a lost profit opportunity, a lost tax base, an underutilized economic and social wasteland. What is it with you preservationists? What are you thinking?”)

Over the course of next few months, I hope to explain what motivates us preservationists, to explain the source of our passion to preserve these fields, to inspire those of you who don’t understand to begin to see why ordinary folks like those of us involved in the leadership of CVBT, seemingly intelligent and perceptive members of this community, are as passionate as we are about preserving Civil War battlefields, are as willing as we are to expend the extraordinary amounts of time and effort we do in order to do so.

I encourage dialogue, constructive criticism, and questions. And I invite you to go to our website CVBT  for more information, and most respectfully request that you join us in our effort. More later.

Mike Stevens

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5 Responses to Emerging Civil War Welcomes Author Mike Stevens!

  1. Chris Mackowski says:

    So glad to have you with us, Mike! The work preservationists do is SO important because battlefields are a physical link to our past. Maps and books are great for understanding what happened at a particular spot, but nothing helps a student of history understand that spot and what happened there better than walking the ground—and you can’t walk it if it hasn’t been preserved. Thanks for all the work you do!

    • Mike Stevens says:

      Chris,

      A preserved battlefield is indeed an unparalleled teaching tool for those who wish to truly understand what went on on that ground, but (perhaps even more importantly) it’s also an invaluable teaching tool for children.

      For most kids today their history and heritage are not a living reality, and for them to care they must first have some kind of encounter that is compelling enough to make the dead past live again, to persuade them that a time and a place they can never know directly or inhabit at firsthand is nonetheless endlessly engaging and profoundly important. In short, they must be made aware that the past does matter.

      A preserved battlefield is a uniquely wonderful and effective place for this to occur, a place where the past is always present, a place where kids can be made aware that something important happened here, something that this community and this country would not allow to be forgotten.

      Mike S.

  2. Meg Thompson says:

    A battlefield of any kind–Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War–is a sacred and holy ground. Soldiers spilled their life’s blood to protect what they believed in. Every person who has walked Gettysburg, been to Harper’s Ferry, stood on land looking at Pearl Harbor, walked the Freedom trail, been to Plimoth Plantation, Williamsburg, Yorktown, Jamestown–these places are ours–if I may be allowed a quote: “. . . in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Every country has the right to their monuments, battlefields, cemeteries, holy places. Let us never forget.

  3. Mike Stevens says:

    Meg,

    Well-said! Truth be told, while there are any number of reasons to preserve a Civil War battlefield (educational, environmental, economic, etc), the primary reason we of CVBT work so hard to do so is because these grounds are special, having been consecrated by the blood and bravery of the men who fought and fell there (and by the tears of their widows and children, fathers and mothers and friends). They would have wanted and would have expected their sacrifce and suffering to be honored and defended, acknowledged and respected, and what better way to do that than to preserve the very ground they fought on?

    My second favorite battlefield preservation quote of all time speaks to the memory of these men:

    “But these ghosts, you see, are not really immortal. They can be banished forever by asphalt and traffic and factories, or destroyed by indifference. Their immortality depends on our thinking of them now and then, wondering why they did what they did, pondering what they mean to us, giving them space in our lives. And by granting them the repose of the ground they consecrated with their blood and agony, Civil War battlefields are densely populated with memories, crowded with lessons and meditations about courage and character and causes for us and our children and all who are or ever will be citizens of this once riven country. These fields are thick with the spirit of America, waiting for us to decide what is worth keeping.” –Thomas Lewis

    Amen, and amen….

    Mike S.

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