Gettysburg National Military Park
As a memorial, dedicated to the armies who fought in the three day battle, legislation was signed to establish Gettysburg National Military Park in Feb, 1895. There are over 1400 monuments, markers and memorials. Some of those monuments are larger than a 3-story house.
I'm not going to try to tell about the battle, there are plenty of sites and books where you read about that. I'll just let you in on some of the things I observed and felt different times I was there. The very first time I remember visiting Gettysburg, was when my kids were just young and it was just a good place to take them for an outing. They ran here and there and if I remember correctly, they went up one of the towers. It wasn't as commercialized then, about 30 years ago, as it is now either. I wasn't as "into" the civil war then either.
Then I met my brother of the heart, Tom Gladwell. At the time, he was a Park Ranger and Guide at Gettysburg. He gave us the most incredible two day tour of the battlefield and cemetery. We spent 6-1/2 hours each day out there on the battlefield. I was overwhelmed!!! There was just so much to try to absorb. A couple of the stories I remember the most were about two of the monument
on Oak Ridge. Now I will admit here, I went back to Tom and had him
"refresh"; my memory on the stories because I wanted to get them right.
Anyway... first there is the story about the Oak tree. It is the monument of the 90th PA. It's in the shape of an oak tree shattered by artillery fire. The story goes, that during the fight there, the tree was hit by artillery fire and the limbs fell among the men. On the ground was a robin's nest, filed with, shaken, but unharmed babies. A soldier, witnessing the scene, picked up the nest, and under heavy fire and great risk to his own life, the soldier climbed up the shattered stump and replaced the nest. Today, Bronze accoutrements, a knapsack, a rifled musket, and a canteen are slung over one of the shattered branches. Ivy, also sculpted in bronze, has begun to grow up the shattered trunk. At the top of the tree is a bronze nest with baby birds resting inside. Perched on the nest, the mother bird watches over her brood. The intention was to symbolize are generation of life amidst the debris of battle and the start of a new era of peace and goodwill.
Second, there is the monument for the 11th PA, dedicated to the "heroic dead of the regiment. The monument of the 11th Pa stands silently atop Oak Ridge at the stop they defended that afternoon of July 1st. Driving along the row of monuments honoring the men of John Robison's division, you will immediately see a fine bronze statue of a skirmisher preparing to fire sitting atop the 11th PA monument. Few bother to get out and walk to the front where another bronze statue can be found, the statue of a small dog curled up as if sleeping. The dog Sallie was the mascot of the 11th and, she too, was numbered among the heroic dead to whom the monument was dedicated."
Sallie had been given to the regiment as a puppy during the early days of the war. Growing up with the men of the regiment, she became a comrade in arms, sharing the marches, the hardships, the extremes of the climate, and the dangers of battle. During battles, Sallie was known to take her position at the end of the line of battle, barking as loud as she could at the enemy. Of a friendly nature, Sallie was said to hate only three things: "Rebels, Democrats, and Women."
At Gettysburg, the little dog was with the men of the 11th PA throughout the battle of July 1st. During the course of the retreat through the town, she became separated from the unit. Not knowing where they had gone, she remembered where they had been and worked her way back across the field to this ridge and her fallen comrades. There, amidst the wounded, the dying, and the dead, Sallie laid down and maintained a silent vigil over her friends for the remainder of the battle. After the Confederate retreat, a member of the 12th Massachusetts found her still lying among the dead, weak from lack of food, but alive. She was returned to her unit. Recovering quickly, Sallie resumed her place in the regiment serving faithfully through the balance of the war. On February 6, 1865, within two months of the war's end, she was going into battle with her regiment at Hatcher's Run, Virginia. During the course of the fight, she was shot through the head and killed. Such was the feeling of the men of the regiment towards their mascot, that they buried her on the field despite the heavy enemy fire. Years later, when designs for the regimental monument at Gettysburg were discussed, it was felt only appropriate that their little pet, their friend, and their comrade be memorialized with the regiment.
Another monument, Doc's Rock, is dedicated to the surgeons of the 32nd MA, who set up field hospital in the area. Located just across the road from the Irish Brigade monument, it has a bronze plaque attached to the rock to show the location of the aid station. During the fighting, the area changed hand four different times, finally becoming no man's land.
Tom tells a story that goes with this monument and what
happened to the wounded men left there between the lines. It goes like this:
"During the fighting on July 2, the
fencing around the Trostle Farm was destroyed. Mrs. Trostle raised hogs. With the
fences down the hogs were free to roam the field.
What happened next, you ask? The hungry hogs began to eat the dead and
wounded. The men used bayonets, hand guns or whatever they could find to beat
off the hungry hogs. When you are in this area, listen to the wind, you might
hear the yells of the men and the grunts
of the hogs."
There are many, many stories about different monuments at Gettysburg. I will share more of them with you another time. If any of you, the readers, have a story about a Civil War monument, in any National Military Park, please feel free to send it to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
On two occasions, in recent years, we have gone to the Remembrance Day Parade in November. What an awesome sight to see all the soldiers, both Union and Confederate, proudly displaying their respective flags. Also on that weekend, at the High Water Mark, with the Union soldiers on one side of the wall, and the Confederate soldiers on the other, they meet and shake hands across that wall. You also won't want to miss "Abe Lincoln" giving the Gettysburg Address from the original site.
Four score and seven years ago, our fathers
brought forth on to this continent a new nation,
conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war,
testing whether that nation or any
nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.
We are met on a great battle field of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting place
for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not
dedicate--we can not consecrate--
we can not hallow--this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here,
have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here,
but it 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 have fought here
have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to task remaining before us
-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion
to the 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--
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--
and that government of the people, by the people, for the people,
shall not perish from the earth.
One of the big "happenings" in the last couple of years, was the demolition of the tall contemporary tower that had been built. While there was a great view of the entire battleground from it, it stuck out like a "sore thumb." We were parked in a field with hundreds of others. When the tower came down there were many, many cheers, but I also noticed tears in the eyes of a few.
Visit the Battlefield Parks, support them with your
donations. So many of our battlefields are being lost to commercial
development... you may want to take a look at this website:
Civil War Battlefield Preservation http://www.civilwar.org/Preservation.htm
Gettysburg National Military Park (National Park Service)
Gettysburg National Military Park Home Page
Gettysburg National Cemetery
There are links here for burials in Gettysburg National
Cemetery from all the different states that had soldiers in that battle.
(Scroll down about half way)
This, to me, is one of the very best sites for images of many
of the battlefields. It's as if you're sitting in a swivel chair and
looking at everything within sight, then moving to another area and doing the
Behind the Stonewall - 360 Degree Panoramic Images From Civil War Battlefields (Gettysburg/Chickamauga/79th PA Infantry)
For Gettysburg only:
Behind the Stonewall - 360 Degree Panoramic Images From Civil War Battlefields (Gettysburg)
OTHER NATIONAL BATTLEFIELD PARKS:
Antietam National Battlefield (National Park Service)
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (National Park
Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park (National
Fort Pulaski National Monument (National Park Service)
Fort Sumter National Monument (National Park Service)
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
(National Park Service)
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (National Park Serice)
Manassas National Battlefield Park (National Park Service)
Monocacy National Battlefield (National Park Service)
Pea Ridge National Military Park Home Page
Petersburg National Battlefield (National Park Service)
Richmond National Battlefield Park (National Park Service)
Shiloh National Military Park (National Park Service)
Stones River National Battlefield (National Park Service)
Vicksburg National Military Park (National Park Service)
Wilson's Creek National Battlefield (National Park Service)
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