Christ was born across the sea.
With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free
While God is marching on.
Ryan's Thoughts, Reflections, and the Best of Gettysburg
For additional thoughts on today please also visit Max at Thoughts from a Mystic Satyr and Shoes at Red Shoe's Chronicles. Max will be further discussing Gettysburg and Shoes will be talking about the siege of Vicksburg that ended on July 4th, 1863.
Today is the 150th anniversary of the culmination of the epic 3 day battle that changed the course of America's greatest challenge and helped forge the nation we would become. In the pristine hills of South Central Pennsylvania 160,000 young men fought and nearly 8,000 died to protect their ideals. The area today is picturesque and massive in scope. It's hard to comprehend the vastness of the battle and the hell those men endured on those fateful days.
However, as I am wont to do so often, I enjoy the small and subtle story lines that drive the outcome of the plot.
|High Water Mark on day 3|
The massive collision of armies on the second day of the battle is beyond the scope of anything that had or probably ever will occur on the North American continent. The Confederates on the Union left fought bravely and at great cost in actions that transformed beautiful places like a "Peach Orchard" and a "Wheat Field" to "Devil's Den" and "Slaughter Pens." And yet by the end of the day the Union had refused the line and at the extreme end of the line the battle came down to boys from Alabama charging up a hill at boys from Maine. Those boys from Maine fought out and tired and out of ammunition finally fixed bayonets and at horrific odds (nearly 2:1) staged a heroic oblique charge down the hill sweeping away the remaining Confederates and shoring up the Union left and preserving the day. Amid the 160,000 troops engaged a mere 1,000 men from Maine and Alabama determined the fate of the battle on that second day. Actions like those on Little Round Top show the meaning of the power of 1 and that small things matter in the great scope of life.
And yet life is a collection of irony. Private Wesley Culp had grown up in that small Pennsylvania town. Young Wesley apprenticed and learned to make harnesses for horses. When his employer moved to Virginia so did young Wesley. At the outbreak of the war Wesley joined his friends in what would become the famed "Stonewall Brigade." By July, 1863 Wesley was a veteran of many of the great battles of the Eastern Theatre of the War (1st and 2nd Manassas, Fredricksburg, Chancelorsville, and the famous Valley Campaign that forged the indelible image of that famed "Stonewall Brigade"). On the fateful 3rd day of the battle, Wesley Culp and the men of the 2nd Virginia looked up at the hill named after Wesley's paternal uncle. Wesley and his regiment charged bravely up the hill but Wesley would not make it to the top dieing from his wounds near his family's farm.
To the south of that Culp's Hill engagement the center of the Confederate line 12,500 strong gave one last heroic, yet fateful charge. Their goal a small "copse of trees." While a few from Gen. Lewis Armistead's Brigade made it to and briefly broke through the Union lines, they were quickly thwarted and beaten back. Gen. Armistead was killed in that attack, ironically in front of and quite close to troops commanded by his dear pre-war friend Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock.
I don't know what the life lesson is gained from Young Wesley or Gen. Armistead is, perhaps it's that you really can't go back home. That's probably not the case, perhaps it's that you never know where life will lead you and amid the massive universe the paradox is that you never know. So I guess you need to make sure you are living for the little things in life that make it worthwhile.
|Civil War "hottie?"|
Speaking of little things it wouldn't be my blog if I didn't comment on travel or cuisine (no, today's post is not about hooking up with Civil War MILFs). Although Belle Boyd to the left was quite the little Confederate seductress, bedding many a Yank for a bit of stratgic information! So since Gettysburg is a place I truly enjoy let me speak about a few out of the way places you might look for if you care to travel to this wonderful place!
That being said while the battlefield and the central town square are beautiful don't be surprised if you are traveling north along the Emmitsburg or Baltimore Pikes and feel you are traveling through the Jersey Shore of Civil War sites! One minute you will be looking to your right and see the focal point of Pickett's Charge and then a half mile later you will pass Pop's Battlefield Fries and Ghost Tours. It's both funny and a guess a bit sad but that is what the selling of history and the commercialization of Gettysburg has become. But look around and you can find some wonderful spots.
Ryan's Favorite Battlefield Stop (Devil's Den) - If the kids are getting antsy Devil's Den is like a natural playground and they will love climbing all over the rock outcropping. Although I caution you there are some steep drops if you are not careful. From Devil's Den you can look up toward Little Round Top. One of the best known ghost stories is that of the Confederate soldier depicted in Alexander Gardner's famous photo "Confederate Sharpshooter." Later analysis revealed that the photo was staged and the soldier was moved to the site by the photographic crew (about 40 yards south of the site). Urban ledgend has it that the Confederate soldier (angered by that indignity) haunts this place.
Ryan's Favorite Restaurant (Dobbin House Tavern) - After a hot day on the battlefield nothing is better than cooling off in the Springhouse Tavern in the basement of the Dobbin House Inn. It is as if you are stepping back in time as you walk down the staircase into the natural coolness created from the spring. They have a great selection of sandwiches and all are good. A must however is the "King's Onion Soup." This is the best Onion (King rather than French) Soup I have ever tasted. You must finish with the Colonial Gingerbread with Lemon Sauce. Before you leave check out the Underground Railroad Museum at the Inn.
As you reflect on the battle and it's meaning take a listen to Johnny Cash's version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
I heard once that if God has a voice it's likely to sound like Johnny Cash to human ears. I believe that!