Thursday, July 02, 2009

145th Gettysburg

Since it’s the 145th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, I guess I should write something in honor of the event. I meant to get involved with Brett Schulte’s blogging event at TOCWOC, but alas, my head is still in the western theater of the war. Maybe Brett will do something similar with Chickamauga-Chattanooga. By the way, my favorite Gettysburg books are much like everyone else’s posts – Coddington, Imhof, Coco, Phanz, Martin, Wertz, and Gallagher. If you get a chance, check out the real contributors here.

You know, I’m probably an odd duck, and while I enjoy researching and writing about the battle (part of my 37th NCT book covered Gettysburg and three articles in Gettysburg Magazine), I don’t like visiting Gettysburg. I’m too worried about getting hit by one of the numerous cars that clog the streets, or passing out from heat stroke, or, spending more money than I should… to be honest, you are more likely to find me at Sharpsburg a few miles down the road stumping along the Sunken Road or the Cornfield. Maybe this aversion to Gettysburg comes from my past trips to the area. I’ve been four times – twice for reenactments (1988 and 1998), and then twice in October 2005. I liked the October trips – not as hot, but there were still lots of people. Maybe I should try and go in December or January. I might like it better then.

There were many Tar Heel soldiers who did visit the battlefield after the war. John Elihu Luther, a member of the 37th NCT, was an attendant at the 75th anniversary of the battle in 1938. Even those veterans who did not fight at Gettysburg did visit the park. I came across a newspaper article just a few days ago about Maj. George W. F. Harper (58th NCT) visiting Gettysburg in the 1910s. For the thousands who did visit the battlefield, there were tens of thousands who found the memories of what took place on those hills too painful, and they chose not to visit the area.

Skip ahead to today – July 2, 2009. Even if a person knows nothing about the war, he or she probably recognizes the word Gettysburg. Thousands of school children and countless tour buses roll onto the Park grounds every year for their “required” visits. But how can one battle, out of hundreds of others in a dozen or more states, be so important? Should that one battle be shaping the public’s image of a much deeper sociological part of our history?

By the way – the attached photograph is of me and my son Nathaniel on Little Round Top in 2005.

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