The Washington Free Beacon met with retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters at Gettysburg National Military Park to discuss Civil War history and American civic culture.
In the first installment of a three-part series, Peters talks about how a lifetime of studying the Civil War informed his understanding of citizenship and, later, his historical fiction.
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"I wanted to write about it in a way that would bring the visceral aspects, the human aspects, to readers," Peters said. "Rather than being bronze or marble statues up on a plinth or pedestal, these were flesh and blood human beings with their own fears and dreads.
"All those human dimensions—I wanted to capture it for a country that has forgotten its history," Peters said. "And you need to know your history, because when you do not know your history, you are prey to demagogues."
Peters cautioned against romanticizing brutal and bloody conflicts like the Civil War.
"People have this romanticized version of the past, and my god, the Civil War had its gallantry and heroism, but it wasn't romantic," Peters said. "All you had to see was a field hospital."
Ralph Peters is a Fox News strategic analyst and best-selling author. His most recent book is The Damned of Petersburg.