I have stood upon Marye’s Heights in Fredericksburg, along the Confederate line, and looked past the protected breastworks down the hill where wave after wave of Union soldiers were slaughtered. On later attacks, the wounded lying there from the previous attacks clutched at the pants of the attackers as if begging them to turn back. In my mind’s eyes, I could see them being cut down like wheat. In my mind’s ear I could hear the echo of the gunfire and hear the piteous cries of the wounded.
I have stood in the Hornet’s Nest at Shiloh, where Union troops rallied to keep the Confederates from sweeping the battlefield and defeating Ulysses S. Grant. I looked at the rise in front of me where more than 50 Confederate cannons gathered in Ruggle’s Battery only a short distance from the Union forces and blasted the hell out of them. In my imagination, I could feel the cannonballs whistling past me like the breath of death, crashing into the trees surrounding me, hurling great splinters every which way.
I have walked the path of Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg. The smoke from the cannons concealed how well the Union forces were still fortified until the Confederates were too close to turn away. They rushed to what would be called the Highwater Mark of the Confederacy, to their doom, before being driven back. I have stood upon Little Round Top where the Union soldiers, having exhausted their ammunition, launched a bayonet charge to drive back their foes. I walked through the Devil’s Den and felt the cold echoes of battle.
I’ve come to the opinion that you can’t really understand these battles until you have visited them, physically walked through where men fought and died. You can read about it, of course, and learn the history but in order to experience it, you need to walk the field.
Both Tom Mandrake and I have walked through the Gettysburg battlefields. It’s one of the things that we bring to Kros: Hallowed Ground that I think will make all the difference to it. We know not only what it looks like on a map; we know what it feels like. We want both the history we tell and the horror that we paint to resonate with the reader. We want it to feel real. --John Ostrander
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