Friday, September 14, 2012

A Picture is Worth [Some Serious Thought]

I feel like in the past few days, all I have been hearing about is the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam. I've read posts about it. I've read articles. Heck, it is so big, it gets TWO re-enactment events! Doesn't everybody know that America's bloodiest one-day battle happened 150 years ago [on Monday]?!? But then I suppose I feel inundated with it because I immerse myself with readings about the American Civil War (and contemporary understandings of the war). I also suppose that I do not represent the "average" citizen in that respect. I also suppose "average" citizens will live out their Monday like any other Monday, maybe catching a headline or news clip about the anniversary of the battle. It doesn't stop me from trying.

While pulling together some of the park's social media content, I realized that one of the most famous pictures of the American Civil War is that of soldiers from Louisiana.

Antietam, Maryland. Bodies of dead, Louisiana regiment. (Library of Congress

The photograph shows splayed (most likely posed) bodies of Louisiana soldiers from the fields of Antietam. While the content we develop and post at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve includes all-things-natural-cultural-and-historical of Louisiana's Mississippi River Delta, anything related to 1) other National Park Service sites and 2) the American Civil War especially catch my eye.

Indeed, I plan on posting the image via the park's social media outlets on Monday. I think it will provide a little bit of relevancy, connecting both the anniversary of the battle with that day, as well as the region's connection to the American Civil War. In the meantime, I have been working what text I want to accompany the photograph. What should be the associated message? I have many tentative routes to convey some serious meaning! Do I just mention the fact that the Civil War impacted Louisiana? Do I focus on the soldiers? Do I bring up the "bloodiest battle" factor (over 23,000 killed, wounded, or captured in a day?)? Do I mention why they fought? Do I bring up Antietam's role in Lincoln's decision to announce the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation after the battle? Do I talk about homefront or battle? Soldiers or civilians? Complexities of Louisiana's role during the war or strict battle-talk? Do I mention Matthew Brady or photography during the war? Do I run with universals like loss, grief, or death? Do I let the photograph speak for itself?

Do people even care?

I haven't decided what I will post with the photograph. I have some draft notes at work (mostly scribblings of ideas accompanied by scratches of dissatisfaction, scrawls made in between visitors while waiting at the desk). It is likely I am overthinking this; I tend to do that (in many areas of my life). It is just one picture! How much thought seriously needs to go into this?

I have a feeling my Monday will play out no differently than my other Mondays regardless of what I choose to include with this photograph. That doesn't stop me from a'thinking.

*Note: These thoughts reflect mine only and do not necessarily represent that of the National Park Service.

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