It has been a few months since I did a blog on “If These Walls Could Talk.”
As I flipped through many photos of buildings this morning, looking for inspiration, I came across this picture. I was soon struck by the contrasts in it. First, I admired the pretty blossoms on the tree. Then I noticed the cannons front-and-center in what looks like a peaceful springtime setting.
As you might guess from the cannons, this is a former battlefield. More precisely, this was the Battle of Antietam (or the Battle of Sharpsburg for those living below the Mason-Dixon Line) which occurred near Sharpsburg, Maryland on September 17, 1862. There were over 22,000 men dead, wounded or missing afterwards, which gave it the uncomfortable distinction of being the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.
The building is the rebuilt Dunker Church, which was attended at the time by some local German farm families. The Dunker religious sect, so named because of how they baptized, were similar to Mennonites or Amish in that they lived very simply and plainly and were strong pacifists.
I mention the pacifism because it must have made the battle even more horrifying for the members of this church. They could hear the cannons from another battle seven miles away when they came to church on Sunday, September 14th. By Tuesday, there were Confederate soldiers and artillery being positioned around their church. The battle took place on Wednesday the 17th and raged for hours in this vicinity.
The photo below was taken after the battle. Honestly, I don’t like to think too much about what this church saw, or the stories it could tell from that day. Or what the church members saw when they came to check if it was still standing.
However, when I look again at the recent photo, and see the green grass and the blooming plants, it makes me wonder what it was like to be there the following spring. After a horrible fall, with nightmarish death and damage and scars of battle, what was it like to see spring burst forth again? Did it seem like a mockery, after what the people endured? Or did it give the people hope for better things?
My Wish Now
I hope the spring blossoms brought hope and peace and a sense of renewal to these people, and to others who lived near a battlefield. The American Civil War was a terrible, bloody time in our past, and the walls of any building standing then deserve to have happy stories to tell, to offset that dark era.
When you see an old building like this, I hope you take a moment to pause and reflect on what it has seen, and the stories it could tell. If walls could talk.
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