17 February 2006 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 6 comments

On February 16, I learned of the senseless vandalism of three handsome monuments on the battlefield at Gettysburg. Vandals pulled the top stone and sculpture off of the 11th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Monument, dedicated on October 8, 1885. The 11th Massachusetts monument is located on Emmitsburg Road at the intersection of Sickles Avenue. Vandals pulled down the bronze sculpture of a Zouave infantryman from the pedestal of the 114th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Monument, dedicated on July 2, 1886, located at the Sherfy house on Emmitsburg Road. The figure landed on a decorative iron fence that was also damaged. Finally, the bronze figure of a cannoneer topping the monument to Smith’s battery, in the Devil’s Den area, suffered $100,000 worth of damage. The head of the cannoneer is missing entirely. This is one of my very favorite monuments on this battlefield, and it saddens me deeply to think that it will probably never be the same again. There simply is no reason or justification for what was done to it.

Photos of the damaged monuments appear here. See for yourself the senseless devastation of these monuments, which were placed on the battlefield by the veterans of these regiments, and which represent our nation’s heritage and legacy.

Chances are that this senseless idiocy was the work of bored college students or idiot teenagers. Now, I was both. I was an idiot teenager, and I was a fraternity idiot. We got in a lot of trouble during my last semester in college when we vandalized a fiberglass grizzly bear. We destroyed the thing, but there was nothing historic about it, and it surely was not a part of our national heritage. It cost $1000 to replace the thing. So, I have some first-hand knowledge from whence I speak. I also have a certain amount of understanding of the motivations that cause otherwise intelligent human beings to do idiotic things. In our case, it was way too much alcohol. I have to imagine that the same thing happened here.

However, there is a HUGE difference between understanding it and endorsing the conduct. In fact, I think it is, without question, one of THE most reprehensible things I have ever seen. I hope that these imbeciles are caught, and that they are prosecuted. In my mind, there is no punishment or penalty severe enough. Perhaps these jackasses might show some regret for what they did if they know that they face 15-20 years in a Federal penitentiary as their reward, as well as having to pay all expenses associated with repairing the damage that they caused. If it was up to me, I would give them an immediate death penalty, no decades of endless appeals, and no lethal injections. It would be hanging by piano wire, something especially brutal. That would send the message that needs to be sent. From where I sit–and yes, I know I’m a lawyer and that this is a purely emotional response on my part–there is no penalty severe enough to impose upon the morons who did this.

The National Park Service already suffers from having its budgets stripped away whenever the Bush Administration needs to trim its immense deficits. I worry, therefore, for how long it will take to repair the damage done to these monuments, as who knows when funds will be available to do so. There is simply no way to predict when funds might be available to repair these national treasures. For now, the damaged figures have been stored to keep them safe until they can be repaired and returned to their rightful places.

So, to all of my loyal readers, I don’t ask much of you other than for your attention from time to time. This time, however, I am going to ask something of you. Please write to your Congressman and your Senator and ask them to appropriate funds to repair these monuments AND to increase security at sites like Gettysburg. And please, if you can spare a few dollars, contribute to any funds that may be established to raise money for the repairs of these monuments. I hope I’m not imposing on our relationship by asking you to do this, and I likewise hope that it’s not too much to ask of you. However, this is something that I feel very strongly about, so that’s a risk I’m willing to take.

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Comments

  1. Dave Kelly
    Sat 18th Feb 2006 at 9:42 am

    This is every bit as bad as someone going to a veterans cemetery and destroying headstones. It’s desecration. These people if found should be publically shamed. Taken to Arlington on Memorial Day and publically villified on national television, their citizenship ceremonially revoked , their worthless throats cut and their bodies delivered to Waste Management in cheap plastic barrels….

    Don’t forget to write the state senators who also have honor injured in this sacrilege.

    Will definitely spend today looking for names and addresses of politicians to hit up on. And will relay this message to boards I roost at.

    This is bad…

  2. Paul Taylor
    Sat 18th Feb 2006 at 1:02 pm

    Spoke with Rick Bartol at GBNP — He mentioned that Katie Lawhorn, the park’s Public Affairs person is working with the Friends of the National Park at Gettsburg to set up the donations mechanism. They also hope to offer rewards for info leading to the apprehension of the dirtbags. Announcements should be made shortly.

    As Eric pointed out, the Smith’s Battery monument is so heavily damaged that it will have to be recast.

  3. Christ Liebegott
    Sat 18th Feb 2006 at 3:44 pm

    Eric, My emotional response to these despicable acts is akin to yours. I just can’t believe how anybody could get their kicks out of such actions as these. If were my call, I’d have their heads beside the missing cannoneer’s head! I know State Rep. Harry Readshaw (of Pittsburgh) has set up a fund for contributions and has called upon “Reacshaw’s Raider’s” to contribute. He has done a great deal in soliciting money for PA monument improvement and maintenance. Further info can be had by calling 717-783-0411.

  4. Red T.
    Sun 26th Feb 2006 at 4:32 pm

    I hope the bastards are caught and put to justice.

  5. Kevin Watts
    Sat 02nd Dec 2006 at 12:51 am

    Did the police ever find what worthless idiots committed this stupid act. If they did I hope they executed them!!!

  6. Kevin Watts
    Sat 02nd Dec 2006 at 12:54 am

    My great great grandfather lost a brother in Pickett’s Charge. Another brother of his lost a foot. My great great grandfather eventually lost his life from wounds he received in the charge a month later of the charge. I hope that these individuals were found and executed. I don’t care how young they might have been who committed this act. They should be executed!

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