Many of you know that I belong to the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War 1861-1865 (DUVCW). Our members are direct descendants of honorably discharged Union soldiers. Our goal is to “keep green the memory” of our Civil War ancestors.
Now I’ve been a member of the DUVCW for 18 years. I’ve been fairly active in my local group, called a tent, for the last 10 years.
All tents in our state meet yearly for a State or Department convention. The Ohio Dept. convention this year was lucky enough to have the DUVCW National Senior Vice President join us. Sally, was a lot of fun and we enjoyed her participation in the convention.
I had the good fortune to speak with Sally several times over the three day convention. Sally is a former history teacher and very knowledgeable about the Civil War.
One of our conversations will forever be etched in my mind. Sally had heard me give a brief description about my book, Ancestors in a Nation Divided, to the members. I credited a visit to Gettysburg as the turning point in my life when I became committed to Civil War research. Specifically I talked about standing on Seminary Ridge and actually feeling the devotion to “the cause” that brought those soldiers there.
When Sally and I talked later she said she understood how I felt that day seven years ago in Gettysburg. Her father was a Civil War buff and when she was a child he took the family on many vacations to different battlefields. On every visit her dad would gaze out across the battlefield and say to her, “Sally can you see the soldiers?”
Of course at the time she was too young and didn’t understand what he was saying. But she looked me in the eye that day and said, “I see them today and I know you do too.”
Her comment nearly brought tears to my eyes. I see the soldiers. I see them when I go to Gettysburg, Chickamauga or follow my great great grandfather’s footsteps across Virginia just like his regiment did as they pursued Lee the final week of the war.
I see the smoky haze from continual artillery fire. I can feel the soldiers, their loyalty to their flag and their determination to fight for it. I do see the soldiers.
Something clicked with me during Sally’s comment as I realized that I see the soldiers. It sounds silly but the light bulb went off in my head. I knew right then I’m supposed to remember these soldiers and tell their story. My job is to make sure they are not lost to the pages of history.
So recharged and energized I want to remember our Civil War ancestors, research them, write about their lives and experiences and never forget that we stand on their shoulders today. I’m working on some ideas to do just that. I’m hoping that maybe you’ll give me a hand. Until then . . . .
I see the soldiers, do you?