15 October 2006 by Published in: General musings 7 comments

We’re back from Gettysburg. The weekend was totally packed, and I’m pretty exhausted.

I saw something yesterday that absolutely blew me away. At the same time, knowing him, it didn’t come as any huge surprise. We had a bit of free time (not much), and I wanted to see the tree cutting in the Slaughter Pen area with my own eyes, so we did a quick drive through there (more on that in a moment). On our way to meet the gang for the next tour, I had to drive through the Stony Hill area of the Wheatfield fight, and there, leading a busload of tourists, was Ed Bearss, a week to the day after he lost his beloved wife Margie. On one hand, it was kind of amazing to see that he was back in the saddle again so soon after Margie’s death, but on another hand, it came as no surprise at all. Ed’s not the sort to back out of an obligation, and it probably gives him solace to be off doing what he loves. It was great to see him. I wish I’d been able to talk to him, but I was in a hurry, and talking to him would have required me to interrupt his tour, which I wasn’t about to do.

The tree cutting is really remarkable. The whole area around the Slyder farm has been cleared out, all the way to the site of the Timbers farm. I’d only ever seen the Timbers farm site once before, with a guide, and it was a terribly tangled, brambly mess buried in deep woods. It would have been extremely difficult to find without a guide, and I doubt I ever could have found it again on my own. However, it’s now out in the open. We covered the entire advance of the 1st Texas from its starting point to Devil’s Den. The vast majority of it would have been through thick woods until recently. It’s now all out in the open, and you can see terrain features that you would not otherwise have ever been able to see. I came away with a new respect for the ordeal faced by those Texans that day–they marched nearly 2 miles under fire and then had to fight their way up a steep ridge in beastly heat and humidity.

The National Park Service has also re-planted many of the historic orchards that are long gone. So, even though non-historic trees are being removed, historic stands of trees are being re-planted, which is great.

At the same time, though, the Service’s budget keeps getting cut and cut and cut, so there’s no money for routine maintenance. The Triangular Field, which has been been mowed a couple of times per year historically, was not mowed at all this year. Why? No money. The result is that there are several cedar trees growing in the field that are already several feet high, and if that area doesn’t get some attention soon, it will be lost to the trees again.

I also saw two monuments that I never knew existed. One is on the Chambersburg Pike, west of Wisler’s Ridge (and the first shot marker), which commemorates the attempted stand by the rookies of the 26th Pennsylvania Emergency Volunteer Infantry against Jubal Early’s veterans on June 26, 1863. I’d driven by it dozens of times, but never noticed it before. The other is the regimental monument to the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry. It’s an interesting monument for a couple of reasons: the 21st Pennsylvania did not muster in until August, AFTER the battle. However, Co. B of this regiment consisted of Adams County men formed in a militia cavalry company commanded by Capt. Robert Bell (called, not surprisingly, Bell’s Cavalry), and one of Bell’s men, George Sandoe, was the first Union soldier killed on the battlefield at Gettysburg when he was shot by a member of Lige White’s cavalry on June 26. I think it’s the only regimental monument there to a regiment that did not exist at the time of the battle, and I found that quite interesting indeed.

The upshot of it is that I’m beat tonight, and have a lot packed into four days this week before we go to North Carolina for a wedding next weekend.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Steve Basic
    Mon 16th Oct 2006 at 2:05 am

    Fine report, and as one who rarely comes to Gettysburg from the west, I had no clue about the monument you speak of about the 26th PA EV unit that dealt with Early prior to the battle.

    You make an excellent point about lack of money down there to maintain what has been cleared. About time those of us who speak about how much we love the place, should take a more active part in helping out with maintenance. It’s the right thing to do.

    Steve

  2. Dave Powell
    Mon 16th Oct 2006 at 7:04 am

    I get to take a group of friends to Gettysburg in early November, and am looking forward to it. With your report, I think we will spend even more time down on that end of the field…

    Maintainence is a nightmare for all the parks right now. Chickamauga has a large grant to expand a new site – Moccasin Bend, concerning the trail of tears – but has a shrinking budget for existing maintainance. One of the minor frustrations I have with our current politics is that the president did run on a platform to clear up the NPS funding backlog and restore their budgets – and then failed to do so.

    Good to see, however, that clearing goes on apace at GB.

    See you there sometime, Eric,

    Dave

  3. Mon 16th Oct 2006 at 8:08 am

    The maintenance issues are enough to make one ask whether the priorities are correct. I’m still working my way through that one.

    Eric

  4. Valerie Protopapas
    Mon 16th Oct 2006 at 10:58 am

    We ‘adopt’ highways in this country, why not ‘adopt’ battlefields and other historical areas? People could ‘donate’ towards their general upkeep if nothing more. Maybe local schools and colleges could ‘volunteer’ to come out and mow the grass and pick up trash etc. The thing about this type of effort is that it permits those who don’t have MONEY to donate but do have TIME and maybe expertise to do what would otherwise have to be contracted out and paid for.

    Many things in this nation are accomplished by ‘volunteers’. Perhaps this is an area that should be considered in light of the fact that there doesn’t seem to be sufficient funds to pay for it to be done.

  5. Mon 16th Oct 2006 at 11:51 am

    I was glad to be able to show you and the group those two monuments. The one to the 26th PA “Skedaddle Boys” is hardly ever noticed, and the one to the 21st PA Cav (just a few yards east of the one to the regiment’s Co. B) is hidden behind some trees, so it too is always overlooked.

    As I stated at the start of my tour, I don’t think one like it has ever been given – maybe, but probably not. Covering events of June 26th between Early’s division, White’s and French’s cavalries vs. the 26th PA Militia, Bell’s Cavalry, the Philly First City Troop, and Gettysburg Home Guard made for an “off the beaten path” day! I started the group out on the Chambersburg Pike near Marsh Creek, where we discussed those events for nearly an hour, then I took the folks down the Baltimore Pike where Sandoe was shot (and the monuments of the 21st PA Cav are located), then we all traveled a few miles south down the Taneytown Road to Barlow PA, to the Mt. Joy Cemetery where Sandoe is buried beside his parents.

    And I agree about priorities when it comes to funding – maybe the pork barrel pet projects of our senators and reps needs to finally take a back seat to maintaining our history.

    J.D.

  6. Mike Peters
    Mon 16th Oct 2006 at 12:18 pm

    JD wrote the following:

    ” … maybe the pork barrel pet projects of our senators and reps needs to finally take a back seat to maintaining our history.”

    JD:

    AMEN!

    Mike

  7. Valerie Protopapas
    Mon 16th Oct 2006 at 1:22 pm

    Well, guys, this IS an election year. If enough people let the local pols know that it’s important, they’ll get their collective buns in gear if only until bigger mouths find another project for them. However, time is running out for you to get enough people together to make the effort worthwhile. Try the newspapers and local TV stations. No pol can resist a microphone, a camera or a newsie.

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