I live in Virginia, a state area steeped in history, from the first English settlements to the homes of our founding fathers, to, most tragically, the American Civil War.
Our state is filled with Civil War battlefields and historic sites. Our highways are dotted with historic markers: Mosby’s Midnight Raid, Battle of Ox Hill, J.E.B Stuart at Munson’s Mill. Right down the street from me is St. Mary’s Church where Clara Barton nursed the wounded from the Second Battle of Manassas and was then inspired to found the American Red Cross.
Blenheim is a unique Civil War site. It’s house was built in 1859, and its plaster walls had not yet cured enough to be painted or papered when Union soldiers were billeted there in 1861. The walls became the soldiers’ canvas for graffiti. When the house and property was acquired by Fairfax City, the house was restored to the original plaster to reveal this historic graffiti.
As we watched the reenactors or listened to the band play Stephen Foster songs, I wondered why the Civil War had never captured my interest as a romantic time period. Why had I picked Regency England instead?
We have some basis for finding the American Civil War romantic: Gone With The Wind, North and South (the Patrick Swayze 1985 version, not the Richard Armitage one), a whole list of Romance novels . But it certainly does not seem to have the same appeal as the Regency.
Most obvious for me is the difficult issue of slavery, a dark blot on our country’s history. It is hard to craft a Civil War story without somehow touching on the issue of slavery. Even if you can demonize the Yankees, like in Gone With The Wind, can you really make the Rebels heroic if they support owning slaves? How do you pick the good guys and the bad guys in the Civil War? It’s impossible!
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