My Very First Visit to Bull Run

A few weeks ago, in a fit of nostalgia fueled by one of my oldest friends sending me photos of notes we’d written each other all through school (don’t tell my former teachers… or students!), I decided to go through my old journals (I kept a journal from age 7-22). In the process, I ran across the journal entry where I recounted the first time I set foot on a Civil War battlefield. Here it is, from the pen of 18 year-old me:

August 12th, 1995

The 2nd day we saw the Civil War Battlefield of Manassas (Bull Run). I hadn’t really learned it as the name Manassas, so when I realized that it was the same as Bull Run, I was even more interested in seeing it because there is a beautiful love letter written by a man (Sullivan Ballou) who died there. To see a Civil War battlefield was so interesting. One can hardly believe that it was ever covered with dead bodies and soldiers. It’s so peaceful now. It really brought history to life for me, and it was really interesting to try to piece the battle together. I want to see other battlefields now too.

I wish I’d had a bit more to say (my memory of that visit is very impressionistic and yet much more emotionally resonant than the above would make it appear). My favorite part is the the reference to Sullivan Ballou’s letter, the inspiration for the title of I Shall Be Near To You. Had I not recorded that detail in my journal, I never would have remembered that I’d thought of the letter then.

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