Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic

Article excerpt

Memories of War: Visiting Battlegrounds and Bonefields in the Early American Republic. By Thomas A. Chambers. (Ithaca, N.Y., and London: Cornell University Press, 2012. Pp. xvi, 232. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-8014-4867-6.)

Thomas A. Chambers makes a significant contribution to the field of memory studies with his treatment of early American battlefield tourism, commemoration, and preservation. Chambers's study relies heavily on the accounts of early travelers to battlefields of the Seven Years' War, American Revolution, and War of 1812 in New York, Virginia, South Carolina, and Canada. This broad chronological and geographic approach allows him to show how the visitation to and perception of these places evolved over time and place.

Early battlefield preservation and commemoration efforts were distinguished by their almost complete absence. The neglect of battlefield commemoration was mirrored by a similar lack of interest in the nation's past that persisted until the beginning of the sectional conflicts that led to the Civil War. While the story here is unique, many aspects of the argument have a familiar tone and are advocated by historians such as Michael G. Kammen. Chambers's work is useful validation of this pervasive trend in American society.

Chambers argues that when battlefield tourism first became popular, it was driven by factors such as proximity to picturesque tourist attractions like Niagara Falls and Saratoga Springs. Battlefields near these attractions, including those related to the War of 1812 in nearby Canada, drew more attention. …

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