War tourism is not a recent phenomenon. It is the man’s desire that has driven him to battlefields not as a soldier, but as a spectator to watch the aftermath which is now a history. Early visits to battlefields are illustrated with the burning example of Mary Seacole, the philanthropist from the Caribbean. Born in 1805 in the Caribbean Island of Jamaica, she was a lady fired with the zeal of helping the wounded British soldiers in the Crimean war grounds.
The span of the battle lasted for two years running from 1854 to 1856. The intensity of the battle was tumultuous. Nevertheless, it did not deter the spirit of this great lady from fulfilling her noble mission. Neither did discouragements and criticism born out of racial discrimination force her lose her vision and grit. However, this visit was way apart from just hitting upon a war tourism site for the sake of thrill and pleasure. It was something much noble and humanitarian. It was a selfless mission.
Another visit by a lady to the bloodied battlefield is exemplified by Florence Nightingale way back in the 18th Century. Born British in 1820, Florence was trained as a statistician and by profession she took to social reforms and later developed the noble profession of nursing. In the Crimean battlefields, she helped and nursed the injured soldiers with care and passion. She was nicknamed ‘Lady with the lamp’ for her habit of going rounds with a lamp in the camps of wounded soldiers attending their medical needs. She was lauded to the sky for her charity, service and sacrifices and will remain as a legendary visit by a civilian in the ravaged Crimean battleground with a strong and undivided focus on serving war torn humanity with love and compassion.
Early viewership of American civil wars has its records as far back as in the eighteenth century. Some of the American war fields visited by tourists even in early days are as follows:
Manassas Nation battlefield, Virginia: Back in 1861, viewers and news journalists raced with each other for a first rated vision of the first chief battle fought between Union and Confederate soldiers at Manssas. Prior to the battle was waged, a majority of the Americans conceived the notion that the war would barely be a brief scuffle. On the contrary, the battle turned out blood spattered and horrible. Almost thousand soldiers lost their lives and it was quite a shocking figure those days. The nation was stunned and it was hard to swallow and comprehend that the impact was so devastating leading to loss of human lives on a massive scale.
Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Tennessee: Back in February 1862, Union General Ulysses S Grant emerged victorious at Fort Donelson where he was designated “Unconditional Surrender”. The African American slaves whose pain and humiliation had built up a hostile sentiment within rejoiced the victory and gathered in large numbers around the Fort to mark the celebration.
Drive for visiting war sites with a motive and inquisitiveness fired by thrill and information was always in our blood. It is ancient. The battles and strife provide an ideal platform to feed this desire of drawing enough kick and achieve gratification. Battles had a crucial role in altering the course of civilization down the ages. Wherever and whenever conflicts surfaced between nations over political, social and economic interests, the solution came in the shape of gory battles and wars.
Throughout the ancient Rome, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Chinese civilizations, strife, rebellions and suppression of the same with a heavy hand shaped the destiny of mankind. Not only the armed troops, but the civilians and spectators were also a part of the macabre spectacle. However, in those days battles were mainly fought in the designated frontiers and civilians took interest in visiting the aftermath and celebrating the win. With time rolling over, the attacks shifted towards cities and towns and the potential target was civilization. Here, the spectators and civilians no longer were safe but suffered the wreckage caused by war.