Central Virginia has been getting snow this month. Between 7 or 8 inches at the beginning of January, and this Sunday (January 16), it’s snowing again. Personally, I don’t mind the snow, but I’m not a fan of power outages.
The recent snows have caused damages to the trees across the area, particularly around the Civil War battlefields. Roads have been cleared, but the trails are going to take a lot of work to get them usable again. Bummer!
Between storms, I had the opportunity to do some bushwhacking and hiking at Chancellorsville battlefield near Fairview and Hazel Grove. The view from Hazel Grove is always one of my favorites. It’s this near-perfect artillery plateau that the Confederates used on May 3, 1863, (after the Union troops withdrew from the position) to send shells toward the Chancellorsville crossroads and clearing. The fallen trees in the area were easily visible.
The sight of the dying trees spread out in the field rattled something inside me.
Just as these trees were laid out and the destruction clearly visible in this area, the fallen soldiers of the 1863 would have been seen across this landscape. Perhaps in the dense woods of The Wilderness, the falling, the wounding, and the dying was more hidden – observed just by those close at hand. On open ground, though, in the range of artillery fire, the destruction of life would’ve been unescapable.
As I walked the trail from Hazel Grove back toward Fairview, I thought about how to make sense of this. It’s not a new topic in my mind. I’ve been working through it for several years now. How can I square up the emotions of finding peace and enjoying a beautiful, natural scene when I know I’m looking at and walking where hundreds or thousands of soldiers suffered and died? I suppose there are many different answers to that question, but probably best settled by each individual.
I haven’t settled it yet in my mind, but I’m thankful this hallowed ground has been preserved as both a place a scenic beauty and a place to remember loss.