On The Way

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It was the bloodiest day in American history. Four times as many Americans fell in Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 17, 1862, as did on the beaches of Normandy during D-day. They were Confederate and Union soldiers who fought in the Battle of Antietam. Though this clash was a pivotal one in the course of the Civil War, the battlefield haunts our cover for another reason. This is our annual special issue devoted to traveling with a sense of history, and the fields of Antietam may be the best site anywhere for seeing and feeling how a great Civil War battle happened.

Back in 1954, in the first issue of American Heritage, the editor, Bruce Catton, wrote that the principal question about the past animating this magazine was: “What did men do there?” Nowhere is the answer more deeply moving than on battleground. But in this special issue—and once each year—we take a slightly different tack: we start with the places themselves. We explore what men did through the traces of what can be found and seen today. And we do something else: we ask, What mark did these places make on the men and women who inhabited them? In the pages that follow, the power of place to shape and move is amply evident in Lincoln’s Springfield, Illinois, home; in the little town of Lebanon, Connecticut; in the poet Peter Davison’s Boston; in the wildness of Wyoming’s Powder River country; in the gentle, rolling bluegrass of Kentucky—and, of course, at Antietam, where the historian and Civil War expert Stephen W. Sears leads us on a tour that sums up “The Terrible Price of Freedom.”

This issue is special in another sense as well, marking a milestone on another sort of journey. For three years now Forbes has been publishing American Heritage. It has been an exciting and rewarding period for the Forbeses and for this magazine. We have enjoyed significant growth and success on every front. American Heritage has been cited for general excellence by the American Society of Magazine Editors every year since 1985. As gratifying as this recognition by our peers is, it is even more important how you, the readers, feel about the magazine. And you have rewarded it with a 70 percent renewal rate, one of the highest in the magazine industry and an extraordinary tribute to the editors. Also, each issue is enjoyed by more and more readers. In 1986 we had a circulation of 150,000; today the number is pushing past 275,000. In 1987 and again in 1988 American Heritage was ranked by Adweek magazine among the “hottest” smaller magazines in the country. This growth has allowed us to increase our publishing schedule from six to eight issues a year, affording the editors greater scope and authority while delivering more value to our readers.

The Forbeses are proud to publish American Heritage, and we hope you will continue to enjoy it.

Timothy C. Forbes