On the morning of June 8, 1862, two armies met on a rain-wet field in Cross Keys, Virginia. When the...
On the morning of June 8, 1862, two armies met on a rain-wet field in Cross Keys, Virginia. When the Battle of Cross Keys was over, the Confederate army had halted the Union advance, an important victory in Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign. The armies moved on, leaving behind their dead and wounded, and a field strewn with the detritus of war.One hundred twenty-five years later, artist Peter Svenson purchased forty acres of farmland encompassing the battlefield with the intention of starting over in rural privacy. He built a house, refurbished the old barn on the property, and taught himself to farm hay. At the same time, he immersed himself in the history of the land and the Battle of Cross Keys.In Battlefield Svenson intertwines a detailed description of the battle based on field reports, letters, and other firsthand accounts with a lively recounting of his own present day war against progress in the form of pesticides and mini-malls. We watch as Svenson harvests his first crop of hay the old-fashioned way, and tries to live with respect for and responsibility to the area's past.At the same time, we see the battle unfold as if superimposed on the landscape. The Union army confronts the Confederate army. Both commanders are ill-informed and indecisive. A hero emerges in the unlikely form of a sixty-eight-year-old Confederate general whose confidence contributes significantly to the stunning defeat of the much larger Union force.Here Svenson combines history with a personal and passionate reminder of how intimately connected we are to the land we occupy and to its history.