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Environmental historians often start with the obvious: How do people create livelihoods for themselves? Where do they live, and what do they eat? How do they get from one place to another, and what do they do along the way (and how do movements of organisms from one place to another change those places)? As a field, it has also had deep roots in the last question—and especially in the history of walking—as a way to travel, as a means of experiencing nature, as a mediating activity between us and the environment. Accounts and analyses of walking, like the analysis of how we are what we eat, produce an understanding of something fundamental in our experience with the world around us, first of all. For millennia , humans walked all of the time, to move ahead of the weather; to stalk deer, monkeys, and crabs; to gather roots, grubs, and leaves. Then about a half-minute ago, we stooped to sow some seeds, and now here we are with air travel, Hummers, the internet, and couch potatoes. More specifically , the discourse on walking and the environment was partly developed out of a preoccupation with the perambulating considerations of nature generated by naturalist-philosophers—by Gilbert White, William Bartram, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Gary Snyder, and a host of others who explored nature on foot. Thoreau’s essay on walking, or more accurately, on the value of saun-terre-ing, is a pivotal text in the history of environmental thought; its compelling conclusion, after Thoreau had proclaimed the value of plunging deep into a figurative swamp of wildness , “in Wildness is the salvation of the world,” is a walker’s manifesto as well.1 After it had been metabolized by John Muir, who changed the word “wild” to “wilderness,” it became the call to battle for the first important TEN Walking, Running, and Marching into an Environmental History of the Civil War MART A. STEWART 210 Mart A. Stewart environmental activist organization in the United States cofounded by Muir, the Sierra Club. What does this have to do with an environmental history of the Civil War? if the Civil War was the first modern war, it was also the last one where participants, both combatants and noncombatants, for the most part moved to and around the landscape of war mainly on foot. Enlistees were mustered in with a single stride, traveled from one engagement to another on foot, sometimes straggled off in the same way, and then returned home the way they went—by walking. When noncombatants fled armies or rushed to join in their trail, roamed through southern fields and forests looking for sustenance, or traveled to visit relatives who were soldiers or to check on kin on other plantations, they usually did this on foot. Historians are finally beginning to engage the environmental history of the Civil War, and the first entries into what has the potential to be a rich future scholarship have been published. As this scholarship develops, and if one of the fundamental experiences with the environment of war for both combatants and noncombatants was astride—whether walking, running , or marching—then we can learn a lot from some good footwork on this experience.2 Walking The literature of walking out of which an environmental ethos developed was, first of all, a literature and a genre that explained how a solitary (almost always) stroll through nature could be both instructive and virtuous . The early literature in this genre, inspired by English writer William Hazlitt’s influential 1821 essay, “on Going for a Journey,” was meant to provide instruction on a ritual for middle class walkers who had both the leisure and the education to worship at the altar of nature. Hazlitt’s essay and the genre it inspired were always conventional, explains Rebecca Solnit in her history of walking, Wanderlust: “Both walk and essay are meant to be pleasant, even charming, and so no one ever gets lost and lives on grubs and rainwater in a trackless forest, has sex in a graveyard with a stranger, stumbles into a battle, or sees visions of another world.” it was an occasion for thinking about nature, with both the scenery of the walk and the education of the walker on view—Hazlitt managed to quote, in a short essay, works by Virgil, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Gray, Cowper , Sterne, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and of course Rousseau.3 The walking essay also put natural history on view. Both Bartram...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780820347752
Related ISBN
9780820347141
MARC Record
OCLC
898770323
Pages
256
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-23
Language
English
Open Access
No
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