Vital Signs

Jesse Jackson, Jr., Refights the Civil War

The skirmish at Monocacy, "the battle that saved Washington," stalled Jubal Early's rebel army of 15,000 men just 55 miles from the nation's capital in 1864. Since the site in Frederick, Maryland, became a National Battlefield nine years ago, visitors have been reminded how Gen. Lew Wallace's vastly outnumbered men desperately bought time for reinforcements, repulsing the last major Confederate invasion of the Civil War. Now, however, the young park is adopting a new focus.

"We are researching the slaves who were there," Cathy Beeler, the park's chief of interpretation, explains. "We're taking a more holistic approach to interpreting the battle, and are planning to hold a seminar on slavery in conjunction with Antietam next March."

This more "holistic" approach is becoming common at the nation's battlefields, thanks to Jesse Jackson, Jr. Last November, the congressman from Chicago inserted language into the FY-2000 Interior Appropriations Bill requiring that all federally funded Civil War battlefields address the issue of slavery.

As Jackson sees it, some battlefields are "missing vital information about the role that the institution of slavery played in causing the Civil War." His provision directs the secretary of the interior

to encourage the National Park Service managers of Civil War battle sites to recognize and...

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