Sunday, May 10, 2009

History Geeks at Gettysburg!

We did a speed tour of Gettysburg on Saturday morning. Enough to load the camera with snapshots and tell you that the park has undergone a tremendous renovation program. It looks fantastic. There is a new visitor center which houses a specially produced film program and the fully restored Gettysburg Cyclorama - a huge 360 degree painting that surrounds you with the climax of Pickett's Charge on July 3, 1863. The sound and light show makes the diorama truly three dimensional. It realy is impressive! Some of these pictures are in large format (which means they will take time to load on your computer). You can double click for a bigger view.

Well on her way to history geek-dom, Annie has decided she loves touring historic sites. She gets to be out of the truck in nice green fields and forest. History smells good too! But it can give you ticks.

It was great to see so many kids at Gettysburg. This picture was taken during the Cyclorama presentation (no flash photography please!). The video generation has just discovered an oil painting.

The First Minnesota regiment saved the Union position on July 2nd. While Chamberlain and the 20th Maine held the Union left at Little Round Top, this one regiment staged a bayonet charge into Longstreet's Corps. That's why they get this bitchin statue!

Incredible story. Being Minnesotans I'm sure they came back saying, "ya, it coulda been worse."

Virginia monument, the starting point of Pickett's Charge.

GK Warren, a signal officer on Little Round Top, watched Longstreet's attack shatter the Union line directly below and realized he was in deep doo doo. He called for re-enforcements to hold the line. The statue represents the moment he realized that the entire Federal position was in danger. Missing are his famous first words, which must have been, "Holy Shit!".

The view from Warren's statue on Little Round Top. The Park Service has done a tremendous job of restoring the "view-scape" of the battle. They cut down 150 years of trees and brush so that you can see the battlefield as it was in 1863. The lines of sight make it possible to understand what happened here much better.

Peter stands next to the monument to our Great Grandfather's regiment near the Wheatfield.
Sgt. Thomas Stephens was in company K of the 20th Indiana on July 2nd. His regiment was posted at the far left of the line. During the day, he records that there was little activity, though both side were skirmishing and probing through the woods and fields in his front. He records that some artillery fire was passing overhead to his right and he was relaxing and writing.

At about 4:00 PM, Lee opened up an assault with Longstreet's corps along the front. In about 15 minutes, half of the 20th Indiana was shot down. Colonel Wheeler fell, mortally wounded by a ball through the head. The regiment broke and ran for the rear. Thomas was hit "in the side" as a rifle ball pierced the brass "US" plate on his cartridge box. Having worn one of those as a re-enactor I can tell you that his "side" was a lot closer to his butt. No shame though - he was being pursued by a lot of people who were trying to kill him.

The Wheat Field and the Peach orchard.

By the way, Thomas survived his wound at Gettysburg. He also survived the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania. He mustered out of the army in August of 1864, went home and got married a month later. Ghosts of blue and grey definately walk among the living at this place. The video below of the 114th Pennsylvania Zouaves evokes that ghostly feeling.

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