Haunted Acres: Revisiting Battlefields
David Chandler describes how visiting old battlefields has become a holiday attraction for many tourists besides old soldiers.
Professional soldiers have always displayed considerable interest in the sites of battlefields, whether ancient or modern, hoping to improve their military education by attempts to relate historical events to the actual ground. Sometimes their application to this pastime has had special significance. Napoleon, for example, developed an obsession with Marengo - a battle he so nearly lost - and revisited the ground on May 11th, 1805, covering 50 miles during the day and in the process exhausting five horses.
The result of this energetic tour was an order to the much-tried officers of the historical section of the Dépot de la Guerre in Paris demanding a major revision of the official account of the events of June 14th, 1800. The motivation, alas, did not spring from a wish to correct a point or two of detail, but rather from a determination to place his generalship in a more favourable light. It was not only pulpits that the recently-crowned Emperor desired to ‘tune’, but also the pages of history.