June 2000 - A Dedication


Saturday, April 29th, 2000 was a very special day for the State of Delaware, Gettysburg, PA and the ancestors of the Civil War Soldiers who fought for the 1st and 2nd Delaware Regiments.

Everyone waited with anticipation to see just what was under the blue tarpaulin. While there had been artist's renderings in the newspaper and on the webpage of the Delaware Civil War Society, nothing would compare with what was to come.

The weather forecast of the day was for a mix of clouds and sunshine with afternoon showers. Even with that the crowd began to gather at the site just down the road from the Visitors' center, long before the 2 PM ceremony. .The good Lord blessed us and the showers never materialized.

Bringing two different eras together, there were men, women and children dressed in period clothing. There were young men representing both the 1st and 2nd Delaware Regiments. Smyth's Brigade Color Guard presented the colors. The Chaplain of the Delaware National Guard gave the invocation and the 287th National Guard Army Band played the National Anthem.

The Honorable Wayne Smith, Delaware Rep and President of the Delaware Civil War Society in his opening remarks said "We are here today because almost 700 Delawareans were here 137 years ago." He also stated that from July 1st to the 3rd there were 691 men from Delaware who fought, were wounded and died in this area.

The audience was treated to a compelling Dedication Address by Ken Burns, the producer of the TV series "The Civil War." He said that by placing the DE Memorial so long after the war, proves that the actions of ordinary soldiers still have quite a profound impact on the nation.
 

 


"Today, we celebrate ordinary men. Today, we listen closely to their stories. Today we strain to hear the ghosts and echoes of an almost inexpressible wise past" Mr. Burns said of the Delaware Soldiers at Gettysburg.

"That war, this war, "he said "has touched a chord in our collective life which is still vibrating in our collective life which is still vibrating and will continue to vibrate as long as this republic lives.

He said "History has a meaning for us now. It holds up a precise, although difficult mirror that shows who we are now."

Mr. Burns stated that the Civil War had such an impact on our history that it would be hard to imagine what we'd be like without it.

"But it is a fact that real people lived through it and were changed by the event," he said.

Also noted by Mr. Burns was the fact that there was hardly a Southern family who didn't lose a son, a brother or a father and that there is no way any of us can NOT be influenced by this terrible war. One thing he said needs to be remembered by all of us… "It takes a new generation, a later generation, our generation to rescue and save that which we find important. Let us always remember to save our stories." Truer words were never spoken. We need to pass the stories down to our children and grandchildren so they can pass it on.

Although Mr. Burns now resides in Maine, he was born in Delaware and spent part of his boyhood here. It is noted that his great-great grandfather was a Confederate soldier who was captured in a minor battle and held in an Ohio prison. During the ceremony Mr. Burns was presented with a small replica of the bronze relief.

Following Burns, was the Honorable Thomas Carper, Governor of Delaware who made the Presentation of the Memorial to the Park. Governor Carper grew up in Danville, VA which was considered the last capital of the Confederacy. He said "The turning point for me in the war, and for those of us who grew up in the south, was Gettysburg, the High Water Mark."

"With the end of that war, a way of life did come to an end in Danville, Virginia, and a lot of other places where people lived in the south," Carper said. At one point the Governor said "We owe much to those men in blue who fought those of us from Danville, and Vicksburg and Charlotte, and places throughout the south."

The moment everyone had waited for had finally arrived… the unveiling of the Memorial by several descendants of original battle participants.

Dr. John Latschar, Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park, accepted the Memorial for the Park. We were told the Memorial is one of the final ones to be placed because a moratorium has been imposed. The last one will be placed later this summer.

Three wreaths were placed at the monument by the Ladies of Smyth's Brigade after which there was a volley by soldiers of Smyth's Brigade. Taps was played with the distant echo which caused my goosebumps to have goosebumps.

After closing remarks by Wayne Smith, there were about 500 folks all trying to get close to the Memorial. There are 3 components to the monument:

1. The 11-foot tall granite monument, quarried and carved in Vermont.
2. The bronze bas-relief sculpture which depicts the Delaware soldiers along Cemetery Ridge charging forward in a counter charge. A vivid scene which includes guns, banners and bayonets. Symbolizing the distinct cultures of the northern and southern parts of Delaware is a border of oak and pine boughs. Mr. Ron Tunison of Cairo, NY created the bas-relief sculpture. Other recent works include the Irish Brigade bas-relief at Antietam, the "Friend to Friend" Masonic Memorial in the National Cemetery Annex and the General Crawford Monument both at Gettysburg.
3. The bronze plaque on the back contains the 691 names of the Delaware soldiers who fought for the First and Second Regiments.

Engraved on the back is:

DELAWARE AT GETTYSBURG THE FIRST AND SECOND DELAWARE INFANTRY REGIMENTS ARRIVED ON THE BATTLEFILED EARLY ON JULY 2 AND TOOK POSITIONS IN THE FEDERAL LINE ALONG CEMETERY RIDGE THAT DAY. BOTH UNITS DISTINGUISHED THEMSELVES IN FIERCE FIGHTING. THEY FIRST DEFENDED THE BLISS FARM AND THE SECOND HELPED TO HOLD THE WHEATFIELD AGAINST THE CONFEDERATE ATTEMPT TO TURN THE FEDERAL LEFT FLANK ON JULY 3. THE TWO REGIMENTS PLAYED KEY ROLES IN REPULSING LEE'S ASSAULT. THEY EACH LOST NEARLY A QUARTER OF THEIR MEN AT GETTYSBUTG AND WERE COMMENDED FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE. THREE SOLDIERS RECEIVED THE MEDAL OF HONOR, ONE FOR HEROISM UNDER FIRE AND TWO FOR THE CAPTURE OF REGIMENTAL COLORS ON JULY 5. THE FIRST AND SECOND DELAWARE WITH THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC LEFT GETTYSBURG IN PURSUIT OF LEE'S ARMY.  

   


Also engraved on the back is "THIS MONUMENT IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF ALL DELAWAREANS WHO FOUGHT AT GETTYSBURG, BOTH UNION AND CONFEDERATE."

The front of the monument is inscribed simply "DELAWARE"

Well... that's about it for now. Again, I hear the bugler in the distance so it's time to post the pickets and blow out the candles.

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