In her article “The Birthplace of a Chief: Archaeology and Meaning at George Washington Birthplace National Monument,” author Joy Beasley discusses the complex history of the birthplace of our first President. Beasley traces the evolution of the interpretation of the site as influenced by many diverse groups and individuals. I have seen similar interpretive confusion recently during my internship at Manassas National Battlefield Park centered on the historic Stone House.
My experiences at Antietam National Battlefield over the past four weeks resonate consistently with two points in the 1994 survey conducted by David Thelen and Roy Rosenzweig, but raise some questions about a third. My unscientific observations of the people who come through the Visitor Center at the battlefield lead me to conclude that many visitors are linked to the past through familial connections, and that most visit the park to connect with American history. I find little evidence, however, that African-American visitors find a deep connection to their ethnic past through the story of what happened at Antietam in the fall of 1862.