Ronan has a thoughtful post about his trip to Gettysburg and the meaning of war. For my part, I will always think of Gettysburg as the sacred soil on which I successfully wooed my wife. Heather and I have known each other for a long time. We met, dated for a while, and then became good friends. Some years later, I tried to get promoted from friend to love-of-Heather’s-life-with-whom-she-wishes-to-spend-the-eternities. This attempt at the frontal assault was rather disastrous, leading to Heather’s heartfelt declaration that she respected me.
Needless to say, this was a devastating defeat for my romantic ambitions. Still, since we were “still friends,” I invited Heather to take a trip with me to Gettysburg in a last desperate gambit. (I was acting on the well-worn maxim that the best way to a woman’s heart is through a Civil War battlefield.) She agreed and we drove from DC to Pennsylvania, spending the day walking the field and talking about the war and the three days of fighting on Seminary Ridge and Little Round Top. Two or three days later, Heather asked me if she could “change her answer.” She proposed the next month. Gettsyburg, she insists, is the day that changed her mind.
Generals and statesmen have long recognized the usefulness of studying military history as a way of avoiding the strategic and tactical blunders of the past. However, I think that its usefulness as a tool for wooing women is under appreciated. Nor is its romantic usefulness limited to wooing. There are few marriages that can’t be help, I think, by a trip to Chancellorsville or Bull Run.