01 June 2006 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 1 comment

The last time that I was in Gettysburg was in September, about a week after I began this blog. That means it’s been about eight months, which, for me, is a very long time not to go there. I’ve been getting itchy for another visit, and it’s going to occur this weekend.

I have been a member of the Gettysburg Discussion Group, which is the granddaddy of all on-line discussion groups, since 1996. I served as a member of the board of trustees, and I’ve always hovered around the nucleus of the group. Sometimes, when I have time and interest in a given topic, I participate a lot. Other times, rarely at all. However, it’s been a great group to belong to, and I’ve made some great friends as a consequence of my participation.

Once per year, typically the first weekend in June, the GDG has a muster in Gettysburg. Several months ago, Dennis Lawrence (who along with his brother Bob, owns the group) asked me if I would lead a tour for them this year, which I haven’t done in four or five years. As I’ve been itching for a visit to Gettysburg, I agreed. J. D. and I are leading the dawn (7:00 a.m.) tour on Saturday morning, of the traditional interpretation of Farnsworth’s Charge. So, I’m off tonight, with a six hour drive to get there. It will be great to scratch that itch and get to see some old friends in the process.

I also get a special treat tomorrow. Some weeks ago, a fellow named Robert Poirier, who wrote an excellent book on the role played by graduates of Norwich University of Vermont in the Civil War, contacted me via the comments to this blog. One of those alumni was Lt. Edward B. Williston, a talented horse artillerist who won a richly-deserved Medal of Honor for his stellar performance on the second day of the Battle of Trevilian Station (one of eight Union Medals of Honor in those two bloody, brutal days of fighting). Bob’s letter informed me that Norwich had commissioned the artist Dale Gallon to paint a scene of Williston performing the deeds that earned him the Medal of Honor. From my book on Trevilian Station, Bob knew that I had a copy of Williston’s Medal of Honor file from the National Archives, so he wrote to inquire as to whether he could get a copy of it to pass on to Dale for his use in doing the painting. I called him back and said sure. In the process, I told him that if Dale wanted to see the battlefield, I would be happy to show it to him.

To make a long story short, tomorrow, JD and I are taking Dale Gallon and a representative of Norwich to Trevilians to tour the battlefield, and, in particular, so I can show them the specific ground where Williston deployed and fought his guns so magnificently that day. The last time that I was on the battlefield at Trevilian was at the 140th anniversary event in June 2004, so it’s been just a few days shy of two years since my last visit. Since then, the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation has acquired more land, and more of the Virginia Civil War Trails markers that I wrote have been installed, so I’m really looking forward to the visit. I also need to shoot some photos of the battlefield for the new edition of the book that will be published by Bison Books, which is part of the University of Nebraska Press.

I told Dale that my fee for doing this for him was a personally signed copy of the print when it’s done, and I’m looking forward to adding it to my collection. There’s a place waiting for it here in my office. He agreed. Dale’s also a good guy, and it will be fun spending a day with him. Previously, I sent him a copy of the book and a copy of the General’s Tour article that I did for Blue and Gray Magazine several years ago. He’s visited the field once on his own, but wanted me to show him around. Because Williston’s actions can’t be understood in a vacuum, I will show them the whole battlefield, including where Williston’s guns were deployed on the first day of the battle, so that the second day is placed in its proper context.

Those of you who know me, know that I have been involved in the preservation and interpretation of this battlefield for years. I volunteered to help the TSBF when it was in its infancy and nothing more than a few well-intentioned locals trying to figure out how to save their battlefield. When the book was finished, I donated my research files to them to use as the nucleus for a research library when they eventually build a visitor’s center someday. Consequently, it’s become a very special place for me, and it’s been my honor and privilege to help to preserve the legacy of this hallowed ground for generations to come. Of all of the things that I’ve done with respect to preservation, nothing has meant more to me than being asked to write the text for those Virginia Civil War Trails markers that now adorn the battlefield. If anything, they are my permanent and lasting legacy, and certainly my permanent contribution to the Battle of Trevilian Station. I swell with pride every time I see them, but at the same time, it’s quite humbling to know that I was the one asked to write them, and that those markers are the first (and sometimes only) impression that visitors to the battlefield get.

I will be home Sunday night. If time permits, I will try to post something between now and then, but don’t be surprised if I don’t. We’ve got a pretty packed schedule.

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  1. John B. Lundstrom
    Fri 02nd Jun 2006 at 6:28 pm

    Mr. Wittenberg,
    I would be grateful if you could put me in touch with Robert Poirier. I’m writing a book on the 9th Minnesota that deals at length with the Battlle of Brice’s Crossroads. Capt. William Baxter, who was killed there, was a Norwich graduate, and I would be curious if he has any additional information regarding Capt. Baxter.

    I’m a great fan of your books and eagerly await “Stuart’s Ride.”

    Best wishes,
    John Lundstrom

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