Fall Cleanup

Members of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia clean up around the Lydia Leister House on September 30, 2012.

Every fall members of the General Meade Society of Philadelphia troop over to Gettysburg and clean up around the Lydia Leister House, the little white building where General Meade established his headquarters for the battle. Last weeekend I went down to help out. There was a pretty good turnout, with more than a dozen people weeding, trimming, and cleaning in the little herb garden and around the house. I pitched in and trimmed the ugly flat bush that squats in between the house and Taneytown Road and, I must say, it looked a lot better when I was done.

Afterwards the whole crew went over to the Farnsworth House for lunch, a traditional part of the day. We ate pizza, drank beer and soda, toasted the general, and chatted. The Farnsworth House was standing here during the battle and still bears the battle scars to prove it. Inside a big glass case opposite the bar there’s a display of artifacts from the movie Gettysburg, including the hat that Richard Anderson wore as Meade. Truth be told, I can’t even remember Anderson in the movie (I’ll have to watch it again). To me he’ll always be Oscar Goldman, Steve Austin’s boss on The Six Million Dollar Man.

There should be another Meade appearing on screens sometime in 2013. A mini-series, formerly titled To Appomattox and now called Grant vs. Lee, should begin shooting late this year. Country singer Dwight Yoakam will play Meade. That’s . . . interesting casting. Yoakam has acted before, most notably in Sling Blade, so maybe he can carry it off. We’ll have to see. Rob Lowe will play Grant (again, the word for that is “interesting”) and the rest of the big cast includes a few other recognizable names. You can find out more at the official website,  or at the fan website.

After lunch at the Farnsworth House I headed off to the battlefield. I was determined to find the little marker that indicates the position that Company B of the 20th Maine held on July 2. After a little searching in the woods just east of the regiment’s main monument I found the small stone marker, up against a stone wall. It’s one of the more obscure monuments on the battlefield. Then I followed a trail around the east side of Little Round Top. Union regiments came rushing through these same woods on July 2, 1863, most notably Colonel Patrick O’Rorke’s 140th New York. General Gouverneur Warren had found O’Rorke’s men, who had served under Warren when he was a brigade commander earlier in the war, and sent them to the undefended Little Round Top. O’Rorke got there just in time and soon fell dead with a bullet in the neck.

I could almost sense the ghosts as I followed the path through the woods.  Eventually I emerged and headed back up Little Round Top on Sykes Road . I veered off to walk across the hill and stopped by the monument to the 146th New York Infantry, which stands on Round Top’s northern shoulder. Engraved on one side of the monument are these words: “From this position Maj. Gen. Meade observed the battle for a time on July 3d.”

The monument to the 146th New York on the north shoulder of Little Round Top.

That intrigued me. I know that after the repulse of Pickett’s Charge Meade rode along his lines down to Round Top, and I assume that’s what the monument is alluding to. After a little searching online I found the Google Books version of Campaigns of the One Hundred and Forty-sixth Regiment New York State Volunteers, Also Known as Halleck’s infantry, the Fifth Oneida, and Garrard’s Tigers (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915). It doesn’t say much about Meade’s presence on July 3, except for this passage (which I have read elsewhere) by Colonel David P. Jenkins about his musing as he stood on Little Round Top after the war:

“I have often thought I would give anything for an oil painting by a good artist of that scene which I shall never forget while life lasts. There was that high bluff, covered with rocky crags, among and on which our brave zouaves were disposed in every possible position. On the central rock was the signal flag telling the story of the battle. And there was Warren, the master mind, it seemed, of the field, with his neck patched up from the wounds received on that spot. There were Sykes and Bartlett and Garrard, as cool as if witnessing a review, while those rifled guns of Hazlett’s were within fifteen yards of the same place, and firing directly over their heads at the Rebel lines, which broke into confusion every time a shell was thrown. And then if the group of Meade and his staff, who came there later, were added, it seems to me it would make an excellent position to locate an historic picture of the battle.”

By then it was starting to spit rain, so I figured it was time to head home and leave the ghosts alone.

Quote from Brainard, Mary Genevie Green, Campaigns of the One hundred and forty-sixth regiment New York state volunteers, also known as Halleck’s infantry, the Fifth Oneida, and Garrard’s Tigers. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1915. Available from Google Books here.

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1 Comment

  1. Kathy G. Miller

     /  October 2, 2012

    I enjoy your blog very much.

    However, the small type is somewhat difficult for me to read.

    Is there any chance you would consider increasing your type size from 6.5 to 12?

    Again, enjoy the blog but must really concentrate due to the small type face.

    Best wishes.



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