Day 2 +150 (July 2, 2013)

Meade with rainbowI had a tremendous and exhilarating day at Gettysburg yesterday (July 2). The day began for me when I arrived on South Confederate Avenue to appear live on PCN with Jim Hessler and Tom DesJardin. We had a fun and informative discussion about July 2, 1863, including lively talk about George Meade and Dan Sickles and even a little bit about the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry.

Jim and his wife drove me back to my car. As we were heading up Hancock Avenue, windows down, we passed Meade’s statue and a visitor standing on the side of the road said, “That’s Hancock.”

“No it’s not,” replied Jim, a licensed battlefield, and we drove on. I thought it was an excellent bit of drive-by guiding.

A life-like Civil War surgery at the Seminary Ridge Museum.

A life-like Civil War surgery at the Seminary Ridge Museum.

After that I spent the day on the battlefield. First I visited the new Seminary Ridge Museum, which was quite impressive. The exhibits cover not only the fighting that took place around there on July 1, but also the experiences of citizens, African Americans, and the wounded as well as the role religion played in the Civil War era. One image I took away with me was the photo of Rowland Ward, of Co. E, 4th New York. He stares at the camera, eyes bright and almost challenging. At first I thought he was heavily bearded but gradually–and with growing horror–I realized that his entire lower jaw had been blown away. It was hard both to look and to not look away at Ward’s photo and equally difficult for my mind to grasp the horror of his injury. More than anything else, that one image brought home the horror of the things that had happened on the battlefield 150 years ago and the sacrifices the soldiers had made there.

Visitors peer out from the cupola atop the Seminary Ridge Museum.

Visitors peer out from the cupola atop the Seminary Ridge Museum.

The seminary building, of course, is where John Buford and John Reynolds met on July 1 and Buford used the building’s cupola (the original was destroyed by lighting in the early 1900s) to observe the approaching Confederates. Today you can pay $29 to go up into the cupola. Not feeling quite that flush, I contented myself with peering up from the ground at the visitors who were recreating Buford’s experience.

A happy visitor to LIttle Round Top poses with "Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain" at the 20th Maine monument.

A happy visitor to LIttle Round Top poses with “Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain” at the 20th Maine monument.

After that I set out to explore the battlefield a little. Little Round Top was jammed and traffic crawled all the way down below Big Round Top. I parked my car and walked up instead. A living historian from the Confederation of Union Generals was portraying Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at the 20th Maine Monument. The people there treated him almost with reverence, as though he really were Chamberlain, or at least his proxy. He and his regiment may have gained too much prominence in the Gettysburg story today but you can’t let that detract from the reality of what they did here.

Ever vigilant, Gouverneur K. Warren stands guard on Little Round Top.

Ever vigilant, Gouverneur K. Warren stands guard on Little Round Top.

The crowds had subsided by the time I left the Round Tops and traveled over to Cemetery Ridge for the Voices of Gettysburg performance. So far the weather had been surprisingly cooperative, despite the forecasts of rain and a large crowd turned out to hear several actors repeat first-person accounts of the fighting on July 2. At the very end of the performance it began to rain slightly, but it came with a surprising bonus–a magnificent double rainbow that arched over the Meade statue (at least that’s the way it appeared to me).

Living history on Little Round Top.

Living history on Little Round Top.

The final event of the night was the ranger-led walk/talk about Meade’s “council of war” on July 2. The program began at the Meade statue at 9:30 and I was flabbergasted by the turnout. I’m not good at crowd estimation but I would not be surprised if there were 1,000 people present. In fact, there were really too many people. It was difficult to handle such a large group (well behaved as it was) and the battlefield sound effects blasting across the fields from a park-owned property on the other side of Taneytown Road made it difficult to hear. As part of the program, everyone in the group was able to go inside the little Leister House, but only 12 at a time. Rather than wait for everyone to file through the tiny building and hear the end of the program, I decided it was time to head home.
What a day!

Little Round Top on the late afternoon of July 2, 2013. One hundred and fifty years ago there would have been fewer tourists; more death and destruction.

Little Round Top on the late afternoon of July 2, 2013, with Devil’s Den in the background. One hundred and fifty years ago there would have been fewer tourists; more death and destruction.

Meade Rainbow2

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: