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In the late 1970s, a little known Christian recording artist put out a song entitled “Madison.” “Madison” was about Madison Avenue’s rule in our lives. Some of the lyrics, as I recall:

Registering cash, the little bell rings
You’ve got me, Madison, caught in my sin
Very expensive, yet a harlot so cheap
You reduce my self-worth to the dollar bills you reap
You’ve bought me, sold me, bagged me,
but no more, Madison, I won’t be a self-bought man…

While volunteering in the bookstore at Chickamauga Battlefield this past Saturday I couldn’t help but think of this song and I wondered, what would the men and women who fought, bleed and died in this conflict think of our store? On one hand, there are books, some scholarly, some so-so, these help us understand the meaning of the conflict and the lives of these people. On the other hand, there’s bookmarks, pens, coffee mugs, patches and numerous pins, magnets and medallions that commemorate the war.

The cover that launched my library...

The cover that launched my library…

I’m not criticizing or judging the sale of these items. Frankly, I’m not sure how I feel about it. I do know this—it was these very items that piqued my interest in the Civil War as a boy. I remember the gift shop at the Civil War Wax Museum in Gettysburg—the Confederate money, the toy soldiers, guns and cannons. Those things whet my appetite for all things about the Civil War. My interests grew and I found myself gravitating towards books, though I choose them based on their covers more than on the contents. Providentially, I liked the covers of This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton and Lincoln and His Generals by T. Harry Williams—those two books became the foundational books in my (now over 100 books) library of Civil War books.

So, in some ways I have to think that the soldiers who fought and died at Chickamauga and other battlefields throughout our country would approve of this merchandizing as long as it leads to a deeper understanding of what they fought, bled and died for 150 years ago.

The world…can never forget what they did here.
— Abraham Lincoln