Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dig Into It

My boyhood was spent in Northern Mississippi not far from Shiloh, Corinth, Holly Springs and other Civil War points of engagement. In mid-March I was in the small town of Ripley, MS, and came across these graves alongside a city street and in the yard of a private residence.

Research at the Tippah County Historical Museum revealed that these were the graves of two Federal (Union) soldiers killed while retreating from the rout of the Federal Army by a much smaller Confederate force under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest at the battle of Brice's Crossroads. These graves have been tended by the staunchly southern but respectful and honorable folks of this town for over 140 years.

While at the Tippah Co. (MS) Historical Museum researching the graves of two unknown Federal soldiers I was told about the grave of an unknown Confederate soldier killed during the same skirmish but about 5 miles from the site of the Federal graves. This grave is just slightly in the woods alongside a country road (near the intersection of Antioch Road and Tippah Co. Road # 420).

As I have mentioned in other blog entries, I am apt to get caught up in everything associated with taking the photo and capturing the image and lose sight of the “what” or the “why” of the situation or the place. A photo of the graves of two unknown Civil War soldiers is one thing but without digging into the background I might not have known for certain that these were Union soldiers whose graves had been so well tended in this Southern community. Nor would I have learned of the grave of the unknown Confederate soldier just a few miles away.

So, don’t just take a photo; don’t just make an image, no matter how striking. Learn something about the setting, about the history. Discern the story surrounding the place or the situation. It might take a bit of time and work. It might be worth it.

Just dig into it.

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