Walking through History

I can remember the first time I went to Gettysburg when I was six years old, living here in VA.    I live smack in the middle of short drives to the great battlefields of the Civil War.  I drive through the Bull Run/Manassas battlefield everyday to get to work.  I was really surprised to learn that Roger had never been there.  So Saturday morning, we drove the 2hrs straight North on Route 15.  The National Park Service have recently finished building a brand new museum and restoring the great cyclorama painting of Picket’s charge by Paul Philippoteaux.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gettysburg_Cyclorama  It was a gorgeous day, cooler with a slight overcast making it a good day for photos.  Every trip there reminds me how brutal the conditions were, and how much the soldiers on each side had to take.  Standing shoulder to shoulder at very close range with black powder rifles had to be terrifying.  Seeing what vicious damage the soft lead bullets did to flesh and bone, not to mention the shot and shell, always makes you question, “Could I have stood there, with my comrades?”  The battlefield is incredibly well marked.  After the war, the States and individual units came back to walk that hallowed ground.  My two favorite memorials are actually from the Southern line, in the woods where the troops formed up, before marching across open ground to be destroyed in Pickett’s charge.  


 The North Carolina memorial captures their men going forward and you can almost feel the bullets flowing past them like a lead rain. 


The Virginia memorial captures the wide range of men who left their occupations as farmers, mechanics, teachers and landowners to fight for the wrong cause. 

VA monument


Along the road, the Park Service and a group of MD reenactors were giving an artillery demo.  Some of these guys and a fairly large number of women, spend a lot of time reliving their heritage and history.  I’ve seen over 5,000 soldiers from both sides camped out and refighting the charges.  

On the far left of the Union line is Little Round top and the famous Devil’s Den.  If you’ve seen the movie, you will know this is where the 20th Maine stood its ground and repeatedly repulsed the 15th Alabama.  One of the most famous photos of the war was by Alexander Gardner of this Confederate Sharpshooter at Gettysburg.  Years later we have learned that he and his assistant dragged the body from further down the hill and arranged the whole scene.  Early Photoshop in action.   This time, just like my first visit, I still recall the words  “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain” .