Thursday, June 09, 2005

16: "Never in a Million Years!"

I had heard jokes about it for years. Lots of my friends used to tease me by asking the question. But never in a million years did I expect to read it in the Gettysburg Times. Yet, there it was the other day, in the Letters to the Editor section:
“Why didn’t the soldiers fight from behind the monuments?”

It was hard to tell if the writer was serious or not. I think the writer was. Some of the other statements in the letter were a bit off center as well. But that question just floored me.

It seemed so obvious that I had to go over the Battlefield again just to determine which monuments are the best ones out there to provide cover for the soldiers. Obviously, the regimental monuments, with some exceptions, would not be up to the task, unless the regiment was from New York, where they designed their monuments like castles; but the New York State Memorial was open on the wrong side to provide protection.

The Pennsylvania Memorial is another that would have provided great cover for the soldiers. So would the Congressional Monument to the Army of the Potomac on Hancock Avenue.

Then the problem presents itself: what about the Confederate Monuments? There aren’t that many regimental monuments on the Confederate side, but the Virginia State Memorial on West Confederate Avenue is probably one that would protect many troops, as is the Arkansas Memorial. The Texas State Marker might protect a Colonel and a Major, but not many others. The Louisiana, North Carolina and Mississippi State Memorials are aesthetically magnificent, but hardly offer any protection. The Tennessee Memorial is oriented in the wrong direction, being perpendicular to the line of battle, while the South Carolina Memorial is too far back to allow anyone to fight from behind it.

Then it occurred to me that since the Confederates were on the attack, they would not be able to hide behind monuments because they would be moving forward! Practicality solves a problem once again! In fact, that could explain why the Confederates burned the Bliss Farm, located between Emmitsburg Road and Seminary Ridge. They didn’t want their men collecting behind those buildings while an assault was on! They wanted them moving forward.

The writer complained about the Park’s plan to close at sundown, offering the fact that the men fought long after sundown, especially on the evening of July 2-3, so why couldn’t the Park remain open after dark?

Well, the soldiers did not require Licensed Battlefield Guides during the night actions, while visitors to the park would, after dark, require much assistance in moving around the Battlefield, identifying the various monuments and memorials behind which the men fought as the Confederates attacked. And I don’t think there are enough LBGs to provide a second shift.

And no, I just don’t think “orbs” would provide enough ambient light to allow people to see their way around at night.

Maybe, just maybe, the Park Administration might actually be right about this Park closing at sunset. As for the tree thinning, well, if the Park turns out to be wrong about the sunset closing time, at least there will fewer trees left standing in the way for nighttime visitors to crash into in the darkness.

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1 comment:

Randy said...

Seems to me that if the soldiers simply listened to some of the better self-guided battlefield tours, they would have gained valuable intelligence. Then every one of them could have proudly written home saying, "Here is a CD with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee (or George Meade for that matter), I will be willing to go home."

Those that could read could have made use of the National Park Service interpretive markers. Lt. Colonel Mudge and Bayard Wilkeson, just to name a few, could have saved themselves from a nasty ending to their careers.

And you'd think that instead of stories of fraternization at Spangler's Spring, we would hear more about chance encounters at the book store or southern scouts trying to use Confederate currency to get into see the electric map. But I suppose that somehow, General Armistead coming over the wall at the Angle waving an "I'm a Civil War Nut" t-shirt just wouldn't sound the same.

Finally, if Colonel Coster would have only for a second looked behind him, wouldn't he have seen the mural and known what was coming?