The Changing Nature of Battlefield Tourism and Commemoration
This introductory chapter looks at how Americans performed acts of memory in a manner that was less about the distinctly nationalistic concerns than it was about the transatlantic trend of picturesque scenery and sentiment that pervaded early nineteenth-century Anglo-American culture. Americans maintained an ambivalent relationship with the past; performing acts of nationalism remained confined to urban spaces which lacked the melancholy responses tourists experienced at barren battlefield sites in magnificent landscapes. By the time the larger American public focused on battlefield commemoration, in the 1850s, this Romantic impulse had faded and memories of war were subsumed by sectional politics. Before that moment, however, people did visit battlefields, and in growing numbers. Their visits made these battlefields into “sacred places,” but this early sacralization was not about politics and was ill-fitted with the patriotic purposes to which these sites would eventually be put.
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