The Atlantic, January/February 2010
On our last day in Virginia, I drove my family out to the Wilderness. A ranger sitting under a canopy directed us to various portions of the park, because we’d just missed the tour. We walked up a dirt road into the woods, and saw earthworks and trenches that had been preserved for close to 150 years. Across from there, the ranger told us, you could see an open field that Union soldiers had charged across, only to be cut down by Confederates concealed in the woods and protected by fortifications. For a fleeting moment, I could actually imagine the smell of gunpowder and sweat in the August heat, and the sense that death awaited.