The Memorial Day remembrances of this past week reminded me of my visit to the Chattanooga National Cemetery, where many soldiers of the Civil War are buried. The cemetery was created in commemoration of the Battle of Chattanooga. Almost 13,000 interments were complete by 1870, including among the burials men who fell at Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge and Lookout Mountain. Some soldiers who lost their lives during the war in other battles are also laid to rest there. Thousands of those buried in the cemetery are unidentified.
I have ancestors who fought in service of their country in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War and World War II. All survived their military service, but I think of them when I walk across preserved battlefields and look across the fields of national cemeteries where their friends and neighbors found their final resting place.
I thought of William Woosley, my ancestor, when I stood where he once survived a harsh winter at Valley Forge and fought for independence at Yorktown. I experienced indescribable emotional feelings when I stood on the beach at Normandy and thought of another William Woosley, my grandfather, who was there with so many other American heroes in June 1944.
I enjoy genealogy because my discoveries connect me to a time and place where the story of my ancestral past is preserved, perhaps in records but often in the silent voices I hear in places such as battlefields and national cemeteries. My ancestors, who are known to me, all came home from war. Left behind on those commemorated and consecrated grounds, however, are important parts of their stories.
I search for their stories. I seek to preserve and record and remember.
“It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”