Battle Tourism
by Will Reger

Nothing left to do with a battlefield
but remember and celebrate it.

Turn it into a park and invite the nation
to come buy a t-shirt and postcards.

Wander around wondering…
Are these the same guns
that tore bodies open
in bursts of fire, smoke and iron?

Is this the same gentle lawn
where the dead contorted
as they emptied?

Which of these nice people
in chinos and polo shirts can see
what I see?

The lamps of pain
going out, one by one, because there is
nothing left to do.

PHOTO: Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi (National Park Service photo).

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Siege of Vicksburg (May 18-July 4, 1863) was the final major military action in the Vicksburg campaign of the American Civil War (1861-1865). In a series of maneuvers, Union Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and his Army of the Tennessee crossed the Mississippi River and drove the Confederate Army of Mississippi into the defensive lines surrounding the fortress city of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Vicksburg was the last major Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River, and General Grant decided to besiege the city. After holding out for more than forty days, with their supplies nearly gone, the garrison admitted defeat. The Confederate surrender on July 4, 1863 is sometimes considered, when combined with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg the previous day, the turning point of the war.

will reger

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem reflects my thoughts on visiting battlefield parks (Shiloh, Tennessee, and Vicksburg, Mississippi).

PHOTO: Will Reger, Vicksburg Battlefield, Mississippi (2018).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Will Reger has published poetry since 2010. He is currently the Poet Laureate for the City of Urbana, Illinois.  His first full volume of poetry is Petroglyphs (2019).  Many of his published poems are archived at  His writing process begins with a pair of words or sometimes a question from a dream that sparks a response.  Building on these prompts, he works until a narrative emerges and guides him to finish the poem.