Sunday, May 23, 2010

End of the Grand Tour

We arrived back home Friday, and all agree, we had a really good trip. We spent Thursday morning at the visitor center (more on this in a minute), and then I met with Eric Lindblade of Ten Roads Publishing (more on this in a few days). After lunch, we hit several of the shops (some really good ones squeezed between the kitschy tourist stuff) and made a few more rounds on the battlefield, and then left town. In all we visited eight battlefields (can you count New Market? You drive through this one while traveling down the interstate). We explored the positions of quite a few Tar Heel regiments.

I was really good vis-a-vis book purchases: I only came home with three. They include Tom Clemens’s Volume 1 of Carman’s The Maryland Campaign; Johnson and Anderson’s Artillery Hell; and, a little book by Jayne E. Blair entitled Tragedy at Montpelier: The Untold Story of Ten Confederate Deserters from North Carolina. It appears that these ten men served in the 3rd NCST. I look forward to reading these as time permits.

This was my first trip to the new Gettysburg visitor center. I have read many mixed reviews about the new visitor center – some good and some bad. Some believe that the visitor center focuses too much on the causes of the war, and not enough about the actual battle of Gettysburg. Maybe, maybe not. I do wish they had focused a little more on why they (the Union soldiers) fought. There was just a slight mention throughout the displays of what Union soldiers fought for: preservation of the Union. Gary W. Gallagher had a really good piece on this neglected subject in a recent Civil War Times. The vast majority of Union soldiers did not enlist to fight for the abolition of slavery; they enlisted to preserve the Union. I agree with Gallagher that this story is almost a forgotten aspect of the war. I also watched the film “A New Birth of Freedom.” This is the second time in the past few weeks that I have seen this tidbit in a public place: that the advancement of slavery in the South was due to the demand of cotton by Northern and Great Britain industrialist and textile mill owners. The other place where this was brought up was on the History Channel’s America: The Story of Us. The History Channel special even went as far as to state that slavery was on the decline in Southern States until the industrial revolution happened in the North. This is not something that I’ve really looked into; what do you think? The History Channel cannot be wrong, can it?

There were precious few mentions of North Carolina in the visitor center. Maybe I just missed them with the thousands (tens of?) school kids milling about. They did have the flag of the 47th North Carolina Troops on display. Personally, I could do without the grand overview of the War that the Gettysburg Visitor Center presents. Is that not why we have the museums in Harrisburg, PA, or at Tredgar in Richmond? The Park proudly displays a small plaque stating that what is displayed is but a fraction of the collection it has. It seemed to me that much of the non-Gettysburg collection was on loan from somewhere else. Get rid of all of the other stuff and put more Gettysburg on display. The battle is why people come to Park anyway. Then maybe some of these other fine pieces can grace other museums and they can all be enjoyed and used to teach, rather than just locked away in a vault somewhere.

Speaking of those milling school kids, several of whom appeared to have been taught manners by chimpanzees, we were all distressed by the general rudeness and lack of decorum exhibited by many visitors. Yes, seventh-graders in large numbers will be loud even if they whisper, but we noted that at many other museums (the Smithsonian, the state museums in Raleigh), there are “suits” on hand who will quickly squash loud, disrespectful, or disruptive behavior. The docents were nice, but more scary guys in suits might have improved the atmosphere for those of us not interested in yelling across the galleries to our BFFs.

Once again, all had a really great time. I got some research for future projects finished, and I look forward to sharing more with you in the future.


Drew@CWBA said...

Hi Michael,
Did Eric happen to mention when his Newport Barracks book is going to be released?


Michael Hardy said...

Nope - but I don’t believe he is far from having it finished.