I fervently believe that battlefields are just as important to understanding our American past as are the documents housed in the National Archives.
Beverly Wirtz, Color Bearer
Beverly and Mike Wirtz
As a teenager, reading Gone with the Wind piqued my curiosity about the Civil War – I wanted to know what was true and what was fable. That curiosity led to me major in American history at George Mason University, where I was privileged to study the Civil War with Joseph L. Harsh. He mentored me through my bachelor and master’s degrees and was also instrumental in my becoming a community college history professor. He continued to support me until his death, although I don’t think he ever understood my fondness for Stonewall Jackson! For over 25 years I taught at community colleges across the nation, and Joe’s imprint was evident whenever I covered the Civil War.
As a graduate student, Joe introduced me to the importance of historic preservation on visits to what was left of the battlefield at Ox Hill. Standing at those lonely monuments amidst the encroaching apartments, townhouses and condominiums had a profound effect on me.
As an historian and educator, I understand the particular importance of primary sources, and there are no better primary sources for studying and understanding the Civil War and American Revolution than the fields of battle themselves. I fervently believe that battlefields are just as important to understanding our American past as are the documents housed in the National Archives. They are living classrooms – not only is important history laid out in front of one’s eyes, but when standing on these grounds one can’t help but contemplate ideas like valor, honor, duty and personal sacrifice.
My husband, Michael, and I enjoy reading Trust publications and attending Trust events together, as well as supporting the essential mission of preservation. We are thankful for the opportunities the Trust has given us to help keep these hallowed grounds secure for future generations.
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