Monday, August 29, 2005

45: “Professionalism?”

The No Casino Gettysburg group has a website (link on the sidebar, and below) and on the website they have a message board. Someone (anonymous) posted a message today in response to some charge made by one of the investors behind the casino. Ms. Barbara Ernico of Camp Hill has, on occasion surfaced long enough to make her plea for the casino. Unfortunately, she generally comes across full of self-righteous pomposity, a do-gooder trying to improve the lives ‘us prolies' by the use of her money. She has been mentioned before in a blog here ( #31"Someone Just Doesn't Get It!").

The anonymous poster wrote a very eloquent and articulate essay under the heading ‘Professionalism’. I have taken the liberty to reproduce it here. Indeed, I wish I had written this:

"I think that Ms. Ernico and the other investors should take a hard look at their own standards of "professionalism" before they criticize those of others. They are, after all, the ones planning to build a casino near the most sacred battlefield in America.

One could fill an entire book with editorials from newspapers across the country condemning a casino at Gettysburg, and the proposal has garnered opposition from countless organizations including The Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg, The Civil War Preservation Trust, The National Parks Conservation Association and The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The millions of people opposing the casino are doing so because they realize that it will lead to even more sprawl and uncontrolled development on unprotected areas of the battlefield, as well as do irreparable harm to the character and atmosphere of this historic area.

The proposal is so unpopular that even at this late stage in the game, no gaming company will touch it with a ten-foot pole.

Even Governor Rendell, who has staked his career on slots, realizes that a casino in Gettysburg is "political suicide."

Evidently the only people who don't see shame in placing a casino in Gettysburg are the investors and a few of Mr. LeVan's friends. To these people, apparently nothing is sacred except the mighty dollar - not even the ground sanctified by the blood of so many heroes.

If this assumption is incorrect, and any of the investors truly do have a reverence for the place where so many fought and died, then they have yet to show it. Not one of the investors has ever taken a major role - most no role at all - in preserving the Gettysburg battlefield. Even most of Mr. LeVan's contributions have apparently been toward the "arts" in Gettysburg rather than battlefield preservation.

One is also forced to question Mr. LeVan's commitment to battlefield preservation after it was recently alleged that he has been buying up and fencing in properties along the Baltimore Pike, where the new National Park Service visitor center is being constructed. The National Park Service, The Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg and The Civil War Preservation Trust have been trying for years to acquire properties there, but the prices have skyrocketed beyond reach. Their very real fear is that this area will be rapidly developed into another fast food strip like Steinwehr Avenue after the visitor center opens. Developers already have their eyes set on building there. It naturally seems suspicious, then, that Mr. LeVan has been snatching up land there with no publicly stated intent to donate it to the National Park Service.

In the end, I guess the investors simply "don't get it." They don't understand why so many people from all across the United States have such an emotional and spiritual attachment to this place; to these otherwise boring hills and fields and pieces of bronze and granite. They don't understand why grown men and women stand on Little Round Top or at The Angle with tears in their eyes for men long dead and buried. Apparently, some residents of Gettysburg "don't get it" either. They don't understand why millions come to this place and clog up their streets with traffic and reach out to touch the houses with the little plaques and buy souvenir kepis for their kids.

I guess the answer, for many of us, is because our relatives who fought and died here in July of 1863 paid a greater price for their little bit of Gettysburg real estate than any of the investors could ever offer Bob Monahan for his 42 acres. They offered up their lives as the selling price, and signed the deed in their own blood.

And it's our duty to ensure that that deed is honored forever. "

--Anonymous

Powerful words.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

44: “I Never Saw the Like of Dead”

On the morning of July 3, 1863, the small farm belonging to William Bliss was the focus of entirely too much attention. Situated some 100 yards west of the Emmitsburg Road, the farmhouse, and barn, and the orchard behind the buildings, were providing cover for men of both sides. The Confederates of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, holding Seminary Ridge about a third of a mile farther west sent skirmishers and sharpshooters to the Bliss Farm buildings to use them as cover while they sent sniper fire up the slope onto Cemetery Ridge, and, to the left, up the western and southern slopes of Cemetery Hill. The large barn, situated on some of the highest ground in the area, was of stone and brick construction, with the lower level German style overhang facing the road. From the five cattle doors on the lower eastern side, and from the slits in the side of the upper story Confederate sharpshooters were wreaking havoc with the Union troops on Cemetery Ridge, and Cemetery Hill, and the Union skirmishers along the Emmitsburg Road.

The 14th Connecticut Infantry Regiment was sent forward to drive the ‘Johnnies’ off the Bliss Farm. They eventually did so, at some cost. While in possession of the farm buildings, couriers arrived from Cemetery Ridge bearing orders to burn the buildings to deny the Confederates use of the cover. Gathering up his men, Major Theodore G. Ellis ordered them to stack hay in the barn, furniture and bedding in the house and to set the piles ablaze after evacuating all the wounded from both buildings. Once the fires were going in earnest, Ellis and his men withdrew to the main Union line on Cemetery Ridge under cover of the thick smoke issuing from the blaze. As the building began to collapse, the pickets along Emmitsburg Road set up a cheer.

Sometime around 1 PM, two ‘Napoleons’ from the Washington Artillery of Louisiana fired a single round apiece, as a signal to the rest of the artillery: “Commence Firing”. Lined up in an arc from the Peach Orchard in the south, curving through the fields west of the Emmitsburg Road, to Seminary Ridge and all the way up to the Lutheran Seminary itself in the north, over 100 guns opened up, directing most of their fire at the top of Cemetery Ridge, and the west and north side of Cemetery Hill. To a soldier in the 14th Connecticut, “It seemed as if all the Demons in Hell were let loose and were howling through the air.” For the next hour, Confederate artillery pounded away at Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill. Here, an artillery caisson full of ammunition was hit, exploding in a ball of flame, and eliciting cheers from the Confederate gunners, and from the Infantry waiting in the woods behind them. There a section of stone wall was breached, and more cheers went up. The Yankee artillery fired back for a while, and then, one by one, the Union guns fell silent, on orders from their Chief of Artillery, General Henry Hunt. Hunt wanted the Confederates to think their cannonade was effectively taking out the artillery batteries arrayed along Cemetery Ridge, so he ordered them to cease fire one at a time and to pull back off the west slope of the ridge and out of danger. The Confederates took the bait.

Colonel E. Porter Alexander was in command of the cannonade for the Confederates. At about 1:40 PM, he sent a message to Major General George E. Pickett, the man designated to Command the advance of some 12,000 infantrymen across the mile of open ground between Seminary Ridge and Cemetery Ridge. The note said, “The 18 guns have been driven off. For God’s sake come on quick or we cannot support you ammunition nearly out.”

Pickett’s men moved out of the woods on Seminary Ridge and formed a line a mile long. About 2 PM, as the artillery fire slackened, they moved forward, the regiments in their brigades, formed in line abreast, two or more ranks deep. One officer from the 12th New Jersey later wrote that it was, “the grandest sight I ever witnessed.” A Sergeant from the 14th Connecticut said, “It was a glorious sight to see, Rebels though they were.” A Union artillery officer offered the more sobering outlook, “Our chances for Kingdom Come, or Libby Prison were good.”

The previously withdrawn artillery units were quickly returned to their locations on the west crest of Cemetery Ridge, and immediately began a deliberate, and steady fire into the ranks of the advancing Confederates. From time to time, segments of the long Confederate line would disappear from sight, having marched into a swale. Some were forced to climb the sturdy split rail fences that partitioned off the land into separate lots on both sides of the Emmitsburg Road. At such times they were particularly vulnerable to Union fire. Finally, they reached the Emmitsburg Road, and climbed the fence on the west side, and using that sunken road as cover for a brief respite from the angry shelling, buzzing rifle miniĆ© balls, and whirring shards of artillery shells, they dressed their lines once more for the final assault, and climbed the fence on the east side of the road, taking up the advance. As Pickett’s three brigades maneuvered across the fields, angling north from the Codori Farm, three regiments from George Stannard’s Vermont Brigade stepped out and down the western slope of Cemetery Ridge where two of them took Pickett’s men under fire on the flank. The Vermonters stayed out in front of the Union lines and when Pickett’s men swung in toward the Copse of Trees, struck their right flank a second time.

On the Union right, the doughty and seasoned veterans of the 8th Ohio Regiment advanced along a sunken lane parallel to the Confederate assault’s northern-most Brigade, that of Colonel John Brockenborough’s Virginians. The Ohio men advanced from the lane and struck the left flank of the Virginians, forcing them to withdraw in some disarray.

Back on the Confederate right, a late starting force of two Brigades under Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox, and Colonel David Lang surged forward over the same ground they had the day before, only to have been ambushed by Union artillery and the valiant 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment. Today’s results would be worse. The 13th Vermont faced south and struck the left of David Lang’s Brigade emerging from the ravine below the Codori Farm in the same place Wilcox’s Alabamans had been ambushed the day before. Wilcox bore the brunt of Colonel Freeman McGilvery’s artillery brigade firing from hidden ground on Cemetery Ridge. Wilcox and Lang turned their men and withdrew.

At last, approximately twenty minutes after they stepped off, the Confederate line reached the main Union defenses on Cemetery Ridge: a low stone wall behind which several brigades of infantry waited. From a range of about 30 yards, both sides stood in line and blazed away at each other with rifle fire. In places, artillery blasted gaping holes in the Confederate lines. To keep the line of fire clear for the cannons, Union troops stayed out of the way, and thus, gaps in the line of infantry appeared. A breakthrough was made in front of the guns of Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing’s Battery A, 4th United States Artillery. Brigadier General Lewis Armistead, one of Pickett’s brigade commanders, climbed over the wall, holding his hat impaled on his upright sword, and yelled, “Who will follow me?!” A few dozen actually did, before being swept away by Cushing’s guns, as he fired the last round before succumbing to his many wounds. Infantry reserves stepped forward to plug gaps, and to keep other units in front of them from breaking and running. Conspicuous for his courage and leadership was Brigadier General Alexander Webb, commanding a brigade of Pennsylvanians assigned to the area known as ‘The Angle’. Before long, the fight was over, and the long walk back to Seminary Ridge began for the survivors.

Near sundown, Captain Benjamin Thompson of the 111th New York Infantry gazed to the west from the crest of Cemetery Ridge. He later recorded, “No words can depict the ghastly picture. The track of the great charge was marked by the bodies of men in all possible positions, wounded bleeding dying, and dead. Near the line where the final struggle occurred, the men lay in heaps, the wounded wiggling and groaning under the weight of the dead among whom they were entangled."

The toll was excruciatingly high. In Pickett’s Division, there were 2,653 casualties – killed, wounded, captured, or missing. It is estimated that the Confederates, who began the day with a fight on Culp’s Hill, and ended it with Pickett’s Charge (and a few later small engagements), lost approximately 10,000 men on July 3.

During all three days of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union casualties are estimated at 23,049 (3,155 killed, 14,529 wounded, 5,365 missing). The Confederate losses were worse: 28,063 (3,903 killed, 18,735 wounded, 5,425 missing). That is a total of 51,112.

Jeffry D. Wert writes in his stunning and riveting book, Gettysburg: Day Three*, “By nightfall on July 3, forty thousand officers and men from both armies, the dead and wounded, lay either on the battlefield or in makeshift field hospitals. The enormity of the numbers awed the survivors and moved them to write of it.” One artilleryman wrote, “I have seen many a big battle, most of the big ones of the war, and I never saw the like.” One of Colonel David Lang’s Floridians wrote, “I never saw the like of dead.

As President Abraham Lincoln put it when dedicating the Soldiers National Cemetery at Gettysburg four months later, “…we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

The blood of too many Americans was spilled here to allow the sanctity of Gettysburg to be tarnished by the presence of a casino.

*Gettysburg: Day Three, by Jeffry D. Wert, Simon & Schuster, New York 2001. ISBN 0-684-85914-9. (Statistics, facts, and quotations used in this essay have come from Wert's book. In the estimation of this blogger, it is the best comprehensive battle book written about the Battle of Gettysburg, if not the entire Civil War. It is highly recommended to all as an essential part of any serious student of history's library, as the author deeply examines the "why" behind the events.)

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Monday, August 22, 2005

43: “What Regiment is This?”

Just south of the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg, right at a point where Hancock Avenue splits, is a single regimental monument, along the west side of the roadway. An obelisk, with a solitary soldier, portrayed as running toward the enemy, marks the monument of the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment.

July 2nd, 1863 was perhaps the single day in the Civil War when more troops from both sides were engaged than on any other day. The casualties on July 2nd would, if accurate records had been kept, probably eclipse those of the Battle of Antietam, generally recognized as the bloodiest single day in American History. Casualties in the Wheatfield alone were horrendous.

Late in the afternoon, Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia launched an assault on the Union left with two of his three division, those of Major Generals John Bell Hood on the right, and Lafayette McLaws on the left. Originally the assault was designed by General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Army of Northern Virginia, to attack en echelon (a staggered attack with one force ahead of, and mostly to one side of another) oriented on an angle up the Emmitsburg Road from south to north, and gradually angling in toward Cemetery Ridge. The main objective was a location on Cemetery Ridge, not far from the Pennsylvania Memorial, where Lee believed the left flank of the Union Army to be located. Ultimately, Lee desired to push the Union left flank in from the side, and roll it up onto Cemetery Hill. Once underway, the assault would be joined on its left by brigades from Major General Richard H. Anderson’s Division of Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill’s Corps. Anderson’s Division would join in on the left of McLaws as his men marched past, one or two brigades at a time. First came Perry’s Florida Brigade under Colonel David Lang, then the proud Alabamans of Cadmus Wilcox. Farther up would come Ambrose Wright’s Georgians, Carnot Posey’s Mississippi Brigade, and finally Brigadier General William “Fightin’ Billy” Mahone’s Virginia Brigade. Added to the eight brigades under Longstreet, the force total of 17 brigades was an overwhelming force.

As things turned out, the Union forces were much farther south on Cemetery Ridge, eventually manning a line that extended to the south slope of Little Round Top, with elements even farther south. Further, Major General Daniel Sickles had taken it upon himself to move his Third Corps of the Army of the Potomac forward almost a mile from where he was ordered to locate, and he was spread out over a long, broken line from the top of the southern end of Houck’s Ridge (Devil’s Den) to the Peach Orchard, and then up the Emmitsburg Road almost to the Codori Farm.

It was an enormous attack, and to complement it, Lee had ordered his other Corps Commander, Richard S. Ewell to attack on the Confederate left against the Union right defenses on East Cemetery Hill, and Culp’s Hill. In short, Lee had sent forward his entire force, with the exceptions of Heth’s Division, which had been seriously hurt the day before in the fight west of town, and Major General Isaac Trimble’s Division, which saw light action on the first, both of Hill’s Third Corps, and Pickett’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps. Lee was risking much, and he had misunderstood the Union’s dispositions. Nevertheless, at his insistence, and over the objections of Longstreet and Hood, the attack commenced about 5 PM. Almost from the start things went wrong.

Because of Sickles’ advanced position, Hood was required to veer to his right to make room for McLaws Division, which, with Sickles directly in his front, was required to change the orientation of his attack almost 90 degrees to confront Sickles. The fight was on, starting south of the Peach Orchard. McLaws right fought through a line of woods and into the Wheatfield, while his left, delayed on the orders of Longstreet, finally started straight across the Emmitsburg Road from Pitzer’s Woods. First Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade and finally Wofford’s Georgia Brigade surged across the Emmitsburg Road and assaulted the brigades of Brigadier General Andrew A. Humphreys’ Division of Sickles’ Third Corps. Humphreys men were stretched along the east side of the road between the Peach Orchard and the Codori Farm.

Much has been written of the attack and defense of Little Round Top, of the sterling service given by Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and his 20th Maine, and the rest of Strong Vincent’s Brigade, as well as the brigade of Brigadier General Stephen Weed. Much has been made of Sickles’ negligent and flagrant disobedience of orders, and the resulting piecemeal and cacophonic assembly of regiments, brigades and divisions thrown into the gaps created by Sickles' advance from his assigned position. And in the noise of that controversy, something frequently is missed.

After Wofford and Barksdale broke through north of the Peach Orchard, they began chasing the remnants of Graham’s Brigade from the Peach Orchard, and the left of Humphreys’ Division from its positions along the Emmitsburg Road, and the Artillery units with which Sickles had attempted to plug the gaps in his own line, back toward Cemetery Ridge. Moving forward on their left were the brigades of David Lang and Cadmus Wilcox. Crossing from the lower part of Seminary Ridge, and moving across the Emmitsburg Road just below the Codori Farm, Wilcox and Lang presented a fresh threat to the main portion of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge – mostly troops from Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps. Wilcox and Lang’s lines disappeared in a deep ravine where Plum Run flows between Cemetery Ridge and the Emmitsburg Road. Wofford and Barksdale had veered back to the south after coming under fire from Union artillery under Lieutenant Colonel Freeman McGilvery of the Artillery Reserve’s First Volunteer Brigade, and the brave New Yorkers of Colonel George Willard’s Infantry Brigade from Second Corps, who counter-attacked in what is now called Excelsior Field. A second counterstroke went forward from the north end of Little Round Top when Brigadier General Samuel Wiley Crawford led two divisions of the Pennsylvania Reserves forward through Plum Run Valley and drove the exhausted Confederates back through the Wheatfield for the night.

But the danger had moved closer to the center of the Union line with the attack by Wilcox and Lang. Seeing the two brigades entering the Plum Run ravine, Major General Hancock rode to his left and found a regiment standing firm in the midst of retreating Third Corps men from Humphreys’ Division. These were men from his own Second Corps, members of Harrow’s Brigade, in Brigadier General John Gibbon’s Division.

Unable to make them out in the smoke and confusion, Hancock shouted out a question, “What regiment it this?”

Colonel William Colvill responded, “1st Minnesota, sir!”

Hancock exploded, “My God! Are these all the men we have here?

Hancock pointed at the colors of Wilcox’s Brigade of 1600 men just disappearing into the ravine. “Advance, Colonel, and take those colors! Charge those lines!” yelled Hancock, as he spurred his horse away. Hancock dashed to the rear to find more troops to send against the Alabama and Florida troops. He hoped the suicide mission he had just ordered for his men from Minnesota would slow Wilcox enough to give him time to bring fresh troops forward.

200 yards to the east rim of the ravine, and 262 Minnesotans surged ahead with fixed bayonets, leveled and ready for action. Rising out of the ravine, the first ranks of Alabama troops from Wilcox’s Brigade were caught completely off guard by the charging Minnesotans. A wild melee ensued, with hand to hand fighting. Artillery support roared from behind and to the left of the Minnesotans as they struggled while being surrounded. Eventually, Wilcox ordered his men to withdraw, mainly because of the artillery fire, but in large part because of the valiant little band of Midwesterners who stood their ground like the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae under King Leonidas. 262 Minnesota men went forward. That night there were but 47 able to answer the muster. Hancock later said of the charge of the 1st Minnesota, “There is no more gallant deed recorded in history."

Where do we get such men? It is such men to whom President Lincoln referred when making his dedicatory speech at the National Cemetery several hundred yards from the site of Colvill’s brave band of brothers feat.

“We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for hose who here gave their lives that that nation might live… The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract… from these honored dead we may take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”


How can we not honor them? In their sacrifice, they honored all who went before them, and all who have followed after them. How can we allow them, and their sacrifice to be dishonored?

William Colvill was taken to the home of the James Pierce family at 303 Baltimore Street for recovery. It took months before Colvill could return to Minnesota to finish his recuperation from being shot in both hips. Pierce's daughter, 15 at the time of the battle, remembered in her reminiscence "At Gettysburg: What a Young Girl Saw":

"About three years after the battle, I was standing on the front pavement one day, when a carriage suddenly stopped at the front door. A gentleman alighted, and kissed me without saying a word. I knew it was the Colonel by his tall, manly form.

"He ran up the front porch, rang the bell, and on meeting the rest of the family, heartily shook hands, and greeted mother and sister with a kiss.

"We were all glad to meet each other again, and we earnestly desired him to stay. He however said his time was limited, and his friends were waiting in the carriage to go over the battlefield. So we were forced to again say farewell.

"The officer of whom I have just written, was Colonel William Colvill, of the First Minnesota Regiment. At the present writing his residence is in the city of Duluth, Michigan.

"It was during the terrible struggle out by the Wheat Field, toward the close of the second day, when the confusion of the battle was confounding; when the contending columns had become mixed with each other on account of the dense smoke, when one of Wilcox' Regiments came unnoticed in contact with Humphrey's left, that General Hancock orders Colonel Colvill to "Forward" with his regiment.

"The encounter is a desperate one. Many of the brave First Minnesota are slain in the hand to hand struggle; but the enemy is driven back with losses equally severe. During this engagement the Colonel received the wounds to which I have referred.

"I have since learned, that out of 262 men comprising this regiment at Gettysburg, but 47 remained after this daring charge."
Tillie Pierce, married a young captain she met at Gettysburg named Horace Alleman and wrote her reminiscence of her exploits during the battle. They were mostly things a 15 year old young lady should never have to see or experience. But here we have her talking about a recovered William Colvill returning to the battlefield.

Where do we get such men? What was it that drove the men who fought here, and survived, to come back every five, or ten years on the anniversary of the great Battle? And it was not just the victorious Union veterans, but Confederates, too. Usually, they would erect monuments, and the “Johnnies” would march across Pickett’s Charge once again, only this time to reach across the wall at the Angle and shake hands with a Yankee in friendship.

There was a common bond to the men when they first met here -- they were, indeed, all Americans. As the years rolled by, and the reunion attendance began to shrink, it became clear that indeed, they were still, all Americans. What possessed them to come to Gettysburg for almost a century, until the last veteran of the battle died, is not really open to anyone’s guess. It is simple and clear, and present for all to see.

Gettysburg is “hallowed ground”. No one, no thing, should ever defile the name, or despoil the memory, the history, the honor and the very sacred national essence of these fields at Gettysburg. Certainly, no casino.

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Friday, August 19, 2005

42: “Why?”

I had a wonderful history professor once who was fond of saying how important it is to ask yourself “why” someone did something, or “why” something happened the way it did. By answering those “why” questions, one could reasonably get to a factual basis for a series of events, and therefore to a fuller understanding of those events, and a basis for determining if the history, as written, is correct, or is it skewed by misunderstanding. Knowing the “why” allows us to understand the motivations of the individuals who shaped events by their actions.

On the morning of July 1, 1863, Major General John Fulton Reynolds and the lead elements of his First Corps, Army of the Potomac arrived on the battlefield in the nick of time. They were there to help the dismounted cavalry troopers of Brigadier General John Buford’s cavalry division slow the advance of General Harry Heth’s Division of the Army of Northern Virginia west of Gettysburg.

The Union army’s plan, as set up initially by General Buford and seconded by Reynolds on his arrival, was not to defeat the Rebels, but simply to slow down their advance in order to give the infantry of the Army of the Potomac time to march up from Maryland and occupy the high ground southeast of town. To do this, Buford chose to put his men’s backs against the Lutheran Seminary west of town and block the Chambersburg Pike, thus denying the advancing Confederates quick access to the town, and the heights beyond. He meant to keep the town in between the fighting and where the seven corps of the Army of the Potomac would eventually take up position on Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Hill, and down Cemetery Ridge. But he needed help. By mid morning he was feeling the weight of several large brigades of Confederate infantry against him, and had fallen back from the advanced position on McPherson’s Ridge to a second line on Middle Ridge.

The arrival of Reynolds and his infantry was enough to bring tears to the eyes of Buford. In the lead was the fabled “Iron Brigade” under Brigadier General Solomon Meredith. These hardy Midwesterners wore high-crowned black hats, and when spotted by the Confederates, someone was reported to have said, “Here come them damned ‘Black Hats’ again.” They were tough veterans of many battles in northern Virginia, and at South Mountain and Antietam. Most of those battles saw them on the losing end, advancing to attack, and then withdrawing northward time after time. Shortly after their arrival at Middle Ridge, Meredith ordered an advance into a wooded area owned by the Herbst family, and currently full of Alabama and Tennessee troops under the command of Brigadier General James J. Archer. Archer’s men were crossing the small stream called Willoughby Run behind the woods, and advancing up the hill among those trees.

Meredith’s advance brought 4 of his 5 regiments forward in a line that outflanked (overlapped) the right of Archer’s advance, and as those tough Midwesterners moved forward into the wood, encouraged by Reynolds himself in front, the men of Archer’s Brigade began to fall back. A shot rang out, and John Reynolds fell from his horse – dead when he hit the ground. The Iron Brigade barely paused in its advance, and wound up capturing several hundred men from Archer’s Brigade, including Archer.

Lieutenant Colonel Rufus R. Dawes was a tough young businessman raised in the patriotically named town of Constitution, Ohio. When the firing on Fort Sumter occurred in April of 1861, Dawes was on a business trip in Juneau County, Wisconsin. Even though his home was in Ohio, he sensed the urgency of the situation and immediately began raising a company of troops from Wisconsin. Within a few weeks, Dawes and his company of men were joined with the newly formed 6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, which found its way into the tough Iron Brigade. On this 1st day of July, 1863, the now battle-hardened Dawes was a Lieutenant Colonel commanding that regiment. Meredith had left the 6th in reserve, along the south side of the Chambersburg Pike. The 6th Wisconsin did not take part in the counterattack against Archer.

While this was occurring, another of Reynolds Brigades, under Brigadier General Lysander Cutler, the first commander of the 6th Wisconsin, was engaged on the Iron Brigade’s right, facing Archer’s left regiments.

Under cover of Archer’s assault, the brigade of Brigadier General Joseph R. Davis (nephew of Confederate President Jefferson Davis) emerged from the trees of a farm south of Mummasburg Road and began advancing on the right flank of Cutler’s Brigade. Reaching a cut in the ground (an unfinished railroad bed cut in the somewhat higher ground north of the Chambersburg Pike), these troops from Mississippi and North Carolina dropped into the cut and climbed the south bank where they began firing on three regiments, the 14th Brooklyn Zouaves and the 95th New York, of Cutler’s Brigade, and Dawes’ 6th Wisconsin of the Iron Brigade. As one, these three regiments from two separate commands, changed front to face the new threat, and began to advance on Davis’s Brigade. In order to do so, however, they had to climb the fences that lined both sides of the Chambersburg Pike. Sturdy, five-rail fence took an effort to climb, but the gallant men of these three regiments did just that. Under a withering fire, they climbed the first fence on the south side of the road and took casualties. On the north fence, the fire was even deadlier. There is a point when crossing a fence when, at the top, the soldiers were almost stationary as they swung their legs around to the other side. At that moment they were most vulnerable, and their casualty rates began to skyrocket.

Here and there, pockets of men made it over and began to straighten their line, and once again to advance. The distance was about 150-180 yards, and they came on quickly. Seeing this, Davis began ordering his men out of the deep defile. Most of the 55th North Carolina and the 42nd Mississippi escaped and hied back to the woods from which they entered the fray. Most of the 2nd Mississippi was not so lucky, being in the deepest part of the cut. Before they could react, the 6th Wisconsin was on them, firing down into the railroad cut from the top of the south bank. A small party of the Wisconsin soldiers managed to get down in the cut on the left of the Mississippi men, in the location recently vacated by the 55th North Carolina. They started to “roll up the flank”.

Dawes demanded, and received the surrender of the 2nd Mississippi Infantry Regiment, or what was left of it, in total about 250 men, and their regimental colors. (Enough had escaped before the surrender that they were given a new set of colors, and officers, and the honor of participating in Pickett’s Charge two days later.)

This uniformity of action carried out by the three Union regiments from two different brigades, with little contact or coordination, was one of the reasons the Army of the Potomac was able to defeat the legendary General Robert E. Lee and his vaunted Army of Northern Virginia in the three-day Battle of Gettysburg. Scenes similar to this were carried out all over the battlefield, time and again, when units from different Corps supported each other without orders from higher-ups, while on the Confederate side, there were problems at the brigade level where sometimes orders were deliberately disobeyed.

Which brings us to my professor’s favorite question, “Why”. Why Dawes and the two other regimental commanders automatically turned to face the new threat on their right is simply good soldiering, the result not only of good training, but combat experience. In short, it was the right move to make, a fact borne out by the ultimate outcome of the action: the repulse of Davis’s Brigade and the capture of the 2nd Mississippi. That same training and experience is why the men moved according to drill, and began the offensive movement toward the enemy.

This, then, leads us to “why” they were there in the first place. Why did men like Dawes eschew a return to his Ohio home in order to immediately raise troops to fight for the Union out of Wisconsin. To begin to answer this, we must look back to a letter penned by Dawes on the 4th of May, 1861 to the Wisconsin State Adjutant General, offering his company of 100 men. Dawes wrote:

“…If a kind Providence and President Lincoln will permit, I am [going]. I am Captain of as good and true a band of patriots as ever rallied under the star spangled banner. We hope to get into the third or fourth regiment, and if old Abe will but give a fair and merited share in the struggle to Wisconsin, we will see active service. The men expect and earnestly desire to go, and wait impatiently their turn. I shall esteem it an honor, worth a better life than mine, to be permitted to lead them in this glorious struggle. I am in hourly dread of hearing of some violence offered you on the border, and wish I might be permitted to bring to you, in your peril, some as strong hands and as true hearts as the Badger State can boast.”

The telegram came at the end of June, authorizing Dawes company as Company K of the 6th Wisconsin. Dawes would distinguish himself as a leader, popular with his men, and as fierce and brave as they came. He was an unabashed patriot. The regiment also distinguished itself and leaders from the regiment rose to command Brigades and Divisions by the time of Gettysburg. By the time the regiment reached Gettysburg, Dawes was in temporary command replacing a very ill Colonel Edward Bragg.

Dawes saw his duty clearly, right from the start when Confederate guns fired on Fort Sumter. He never wavered. Duty and honor were integral to Dawes. They were not things that he had to learn. He did not even think about things very long at the start of the war before he began recruiting his company. The danger was there…most men prayed and hoped they would survive, and survive with honor, but most also prepared themselves for the worst…not coming home at all. It did not stop them. They volunteered by the millions, and died by the hundreds of thousands. It did not stop them. The ideal of country, of nation, secondary to the Confederates to their ideal of states, but primary to those loyal to the Union, was something they believed in, that had been handed down over the preceding generations from the Founding Fathers, and clarified once by the Framing Fathers with their new Constitution. Was not the very nature of the move from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution a move away from states power and toward federalism? Few in the north had to ask, or question the why, as they had lived it for nearly 90 years.

Congressman Rufus R. Dawes, writing in middle age, had not forgotten the "why" of what he did, in spite of a start to his declining health. Included in his autobiography was this letter to his wife, written December 18, 1881:

“My Dear Wife: -- I have today worshipped at the shrine of the dead. I went over to the Arlington Cemetery. It was a beautiful morning and the familiar scenes so strongly impressed upon me during my young manhood, were pleasant. Many times I went over that road, admiring the beautiful city and great white capitol, with its then unfinished dome, going to hear the great men of that day in Congress. An ambitious imagination then builded castles of the time when I might take my place there. Now at middle age, with enthusiasm sobered by hard fights and hard facts, I ride, not run with the elastic step over the same road, with this ambition at least realized, and warmth enough left in my heart to enjoy it. My friends and comrades, poor fellows, who followed my enthusiastic leadership in those days, and followed it to the death which I by a merciful Providence escaped, lie here, twenty-four of them, on the very spot where our winter camp of 1861-1862 was located. I found every grave and stood beside it with uncovered head. I looked over nearly the full 16,000 head-boards to find the twenty-four, but they all died alike and I was determined to find all… For what they died, I fight a little longer. Over their graves I get inspiration to stand for all they won in establishing our government upon freedom, equality, justice, liberty and protection to the humblest.”

Dawes continued at the end of his book to speak of the men he led who had given the ultimate sacrifice. He here lays out the import of what they had done, the “why” of it all:

“The shadows of age are rapidly stealing upon us. Our burdens are like the loaded knapsack on the evening of a long and weary march, growing heavier at every pace. The severing of the links to a heroic and noble young manhood, when generous courage was spurred by ambitious hope, goes on, but you have lived to see spring up as the result of your suffering, toil and victory the most powerful nation of history and the most beneficent government ever established. While you are in the sear and yellow leaf your country is in the spring-time of the new life your victory gave it. This is your abundant and sufficient reward…”
How, then can we dare allow the cheapening of the memory of these men and what they accomplished, with such a tawdry pseudo-jewel as a casino? As a friend put it just today, “Would you put a casino at Williamsburg, at Valley Forge, at Bunker Hill, or Antietam?” Of course not. Neither, then, should a casino be placed at Gettysburg.

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Legislation without representation is tyranny!

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Saturday, August 13, 2005

41: “Straban and Adams County: Hands Off the Lady Farm!”

Just in case there might be any lingering doubts, this message is for the Straban Township Supervisors (aka: "The Strabaddies"), and the Adams County Commissioners, including the Adams County Economic Development Corporation (aka: "The Addams Family”).

Hands off the Daniel Lady Farm! Do not even think of applying your new zoning plan to the Lady Farm. And most of all, disabuse yourselves of any thoughts you may entertain toward the exercise of eminent domain in relation to the Lady Farm.

Yes, we know "The Strabaddies" want the Daniel Lady Farm for a new road as a second exit from former "Strabaddy" Roy Thomas’s (old farm) development next to and behind the Giant on York Street. Yes, we know "The Strabaddies” and "The Addams Family" covet the 140 acres for development.

The answer is a resounding “NO”!

On the evening of July 1, 1863, Lieutenant General Richard Stoddard Ewell, commanding the Second Corps of Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, ordered his Second Division, commanded by Major General Edward “Old Allegheny” Johnson, to bivouac his troops on the Daniel Lady Farm property, in a line about 400 yards parallel and north of the Hanover Road, on the east slope of Benner’s Hill. The division was comprised of four brigades: Brigadier General George H. Steuart’s mixed brigade of regiments from Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia; Colonel J. M. Williams, commanding Nicholl’s Louisiana Brigade; Brigadier General John M. Jones Virginia Brigade; and Brigadier General James A. Walker, Commanding the Stonewall Brigade of Virginians (the brigade once commanded by the legendary Stonewall Jackson). With the infantry was the Division Artillery Battalion commanded by Major Joseph W. Latimer, the pride of Virginia Military Institute, and nicknamed “the boy major” for his short stature. His courage was anything but short.

At the extreme left of the Confederate line, it was the responsibility of Brigadier General Walker’s Stonewall Brigade to guard the left flank. On the morning of July 2, the Second Virginia Infantry Regiment, commanded by a man with the unlikely “northern” name of John Quincy Adams Nadenbousch, sent out pickets to the next ridge east of Benner’s Hill, Brinkerhoff’s Ridge. The pickets ran into dismounted Union cavalry from the 3rd Pennsylvania and the 1st New Jersey (Purnell Legion), and a single section (2 guns) from the Union Horse Artillery astride the Hanover Road leading east. Rumors of Union cavalry in that direction had been a major factor the evening before when General Ewell decided not to attack Culp’s and Cemetery Hills while his left flank was unprotected (Johnson’s Division had not quite arrived at that point.)

Skirmishing went on all day long on the 2nd, with elements of the 2nd Virginia tangling repeatedly with elements of the 3rd Pennsylvania and the 10th New York.

So important was this action, now called the Battle of Brinkerhoff’s Ridge, that it may have had a very large impact on the Battle of Gettysburg.

That night, Ewell, who had decided to attack, rather than “demonstrate” in front of the enemy on Culp’s Hill, as his orders from Lee allowed, ordered his men forward. Johnson’s Division would go in on the left, while Rodes’ Division and Early’s Division would assault East Cemetery Hill. These attacks were in support of the main assault on the Confederate right, by Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia. Longstreet’s attack bogged down in the wild melees caused by the disposition of Major General Daniel Sickles’ Third Corp, Army of the Potomac: fighting in the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, Devils Den, Little Round Top, the Valley of Death, the Slaughter Pen, Excelsior Field, and eventually, up on Cemetery Ridge itself. While this was occurring, Ewell moved to the attack.

Johnson’s Division was assigned the left flank of the attack, and would assault the Union positions on the lower (rear) crest of Culp’s Hill, and around on the main crest, defended by a New York brigade under command of Brigadier General George Sears Greene. But Johnson’s Division went forward with only three of its four brigades, being forced to leave the Stonewall Brigade behind to guard the flank. As a result, when the Stonewall Brigade did eventually move forward, the assault was nearly over, and it was too late. Had they been present for the entire assault, they could very well have swung the tide of the engagement, and indeed, had the Confederates captured Culp’s Hill, the outcome of the whole battle might have changed in their favor.

Because of the history behind the Daniel Lady Farm, bivouac of, and headquarters of Johnson’s Division, and later Johnson’s Division Hospital, where Major Latimer had his amputations performed, the
Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association purchased the property in the late 1990s, and has been working hard to preserve and restore the farm to its condition at the time of the battle.

Painstaking research in such areas as finding coats of paint and matching the colors in which the buildings were painted, adding a set of period cupolas to the barn, and repainting it, tearing down the old silo put up in the 1940s, has all begun to pay off. Now the Lady Farm, with a farmhouse and barn built in the early 1840s, is almost completely restored, though work like that is never really finished. The
GBPA has done a masterful job. To protect it from development GBPA took an easement on the property, and had it added to the registry of National Historic Sites.

The Daniel Lady Farm is perhaps, after Lee’s Headquarters on the other side of Gettysburg, the most important Confederate site north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Eventually, it should be embraced within the boundaries of the Gettysburg Battlefield National Military Park. That will happen when some future Congressional action changes the Park’s boundaries.

"The Strabaddies" and "The Addams Family" want to put a road through that 140 acre site, and perhaps a small development, or add it to the housing development that will soon surround the Lady Farm. They may try to invoke eminent domain after the latest United States Supreme Court decision in the case Kelo v. The City of New Haven (Connecticut).

The answer is, “Don’t even try it!” Any efforts to change the ownership of, or infringe upon in any way, the Daniel Lady Farm, will be met by the strongest of measures. They would also be a colossal waste of the tax-payer’s money, as legal expenses for the township and the county governments would rapidly escalate over the years the court cases would last.

Hands off the Lady Farm!

“Legislation without representation is tyranny!”

GettysBLOG

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Please remember to donate to
NoCasinoGettysburg either at their office or website.

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Gettysburg, PA 17325

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

40: "Couldn't Have Said it Better"

Once in a while a column comes along that requires little or no comment from this blogger. After reading the column, the author was contacted for permission to reproduce the column here. Jack Markowitz enthusiastically granted that permission. Mr. Markowitz is the retired business editor of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He now writes a twice-weekly column for that paper. The original online article, published August 4, 2005 can be found at this PittsburghLive website. Here is the article:

Businesses might end up paying for checks
By Jack Markowitz
FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, August 4, 2005

Starting now, would you want to go into business in Pennsylvania?

Forget the statistics detailing one of the worst business climates in America. Focus on what you see directly in front of you. First, perhaps, generous-seeming state aid. Taxpayers will subsidize you. Gov. Ed Rendell handed out checks totaling $51 million with a smile recently to 38 different projects.

You might be able to get yours, realizing that any factory, any warehouse, any store that might add or keep employees has got to ask, it's crazy not to. The money might help build or equip a plant, a warehouse, a road, a sewer connection. Or pay for training workers and beef up a research budget.

But nothing comes for nothing, you know that. Another layer of paperwork is the least of it. You've taken on various levels of government as "partners." You may not precisely owe any specific politician, you've dealt with their bureaucrats. But when the politicians stand for re-election, how can you say no to their fundraising? They helped you, you're going to help them.

You also realize it's suddenly awkward to criticize anything. Just as a citizen. Sure, you have free speech. Nothing prevents you, for example, from voicing outrage at the two worst pieces of legislation in memory -- the 11 percent to 34 percent pay raises grabbed by legislators, and the legalization of slot machine casinos. The latter will multiply social problems in the state, divert consumer spending from existing businesses (maybe yours) and elevate gambling interests to dominance in state politics.

But you can't say any of those things. It would be ungrateful; you'd expect some vague political punishment sometime. And when governmental costs go up, as they surely will when state employee unions "want theirs," using the piggish Legislature as example, and perhaps infecting your own unions as well, keep quiet, swallow it.

Because who else is standing up? Not the universities, now addicted to money from Harrisburg. Nor the "arts community," because even world-class symphonies pant for state aid when audiences shrink in line with an aging, stagnant population. Nor even the opposition party, which is hard to identify, because although in the legislative majority, it reliably provided the votes to pass the two recent legislative acts of shame.

You begin to suspect that free enterprise in Pennsylvania is fast becoming more slogan than reality. Unremovable career politicians distributing the taxpayers' money have managed to bully you as well as the rulers of socialist, underperforming economies always do.

But maybe there are other states where enterprise is freer, unions less politicized, and taxpayers' "help" less damaging economically in the long run. You will think about that before going partners with "a friend in Pennsylvania."

Retired business editor Jack Markowitz writes Sundays and Thursdays. E-mail him at jmarkowitz@tribweb.com.

Thank you Mr. Markowitz. I couldn’t have said it better.

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Please remember to donate to NoCasinoGettysburg either at their office or website.

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

39: “Rich Man, Poor Man”

The great Ralph Waldo Emerson, the 19th century essayist, poet, and philosopher once wrote, "The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

The poor little rich man isn’t getting his way, so he calls on the big guns from his old stomping grounds to do a “puff piece” in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and thus to Knight-Ridder Newspaper Syndication where it will go out to some 27 newspapers and about 125 Newspaper/Web editions. John Sullivan of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote the “puff piece” that almost had this blogger weeping in sympathy for poor, misunderstood David LeVan:

David LeVan, the former chairman of Conrail Inc. who is pushing a bid to build a slots parlor near here, was raised at the base of Culp's Hill, a scraggly knob where outnumbered Union soldiers fought off an all-night attack by Confederates during the Civil War.

Now LeVan feels a certain kinship with the besieged.

A wide range of opponents - from U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., to the National Trust for Historic Preservation - have decried the proposed Gettysburg Gaming Resort & Spa, which is one of a handful around the state vying for the final two locations for slots parlors that have yet to be selected.
Oh the drama. The suspense! It gets worse:

LeVan is a former Fortune 500 executive who made millions as the chairman of the Philadelphia-based railroad, but customers at his Harley-Davidson dealership outside Gettysburg might have a hard time picking him out from the mechanics.

He has a long history of donating to preservationist causes, using his $1 million-plus trust to help partially fund a local historic-preservation organization and successfully fighting to save the train station where Lincoln arrived when he came to deliver the Gettysburg Address.

Yet he wants to make money by bringing gambling within two miles of part of Gettysburg National Military Park.

LeVan has declined to talk at length on the proposal to bring a 200-room hotel, spa and slots parlor, hoping the national attention the plan has attracted would die quietly.
But as his opponents increase their efforts, he is starting to take a more public position in an effort to refute what he sees as an assault on him and on what he calls a poorly reasoned argument against the project.

"It's the personal attacks on my ethics and integrity that bother me," said LeVan, referring to allegations that he plans to rely on his close relationship with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell to win a gambling license and that he wants to exploit, rather than preserve, the historic value of Gettysburg.

"The fact is," he said, "they are trying to use this historical argument to reopen the debate on gambling."
Wrong. The debate never closed. The fact is, LeVan chose to jump on board a project authorized by some very unethical legislation. In the first place, it was unethical and irresponsbile for the legislature of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to enact a bill authorizing the control of an industry that enables and attracts addiction. Second, the industry standard is to use free, or low cost alcohol to encourage and enhance a person's gambling!

This enables one addiction to enable another!

How does this legislation protect the general welfare of the people of the Commonwealth?

It doesn't, in any way shape or form. It is not the money. It is the fact that the investors will make millions of dollars annually from taking advantage of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and any other visitors that may set foot in a casino.

No amount of money can justify doing this to the citizenry!

Opponents of the plan say the casino site should be preserved because a wide area around Gettysburg was involved in the epic Civil War battle in 1863 - not just the part encompassed by the national park. Moreover, some say, Confederate soldiers gathered before battle on the very ground LeVan wants to develop. They say gambling is an affront to the memory of the thousands who died here.
Reaching desperately for the moral high ground, LeVan throws out some smoke. There is no historical significance to the site where the proposed casino is to be constructed beyond the use of the name Gettysburg. But indeed, gambling is an affront to the memory of those who fought here. It goes on:

But LeVan knows this land as well as most of his opponents. His family arrived in Gettysburg at the start of the 20th century and has operated a heating and cooling business here ever since. His current home, which he is restoring, shares a fence with Culp's Hill.

He went to Gettysburg College before heading off to Philadelphia in 1968 and eventually upward through the ranks at Conrail. He earned $22 million from stock when the company was sold and broken up in 1997. He also served on the Philadelphia school board in the 1990s and on then-Gov.-elect Rendell's transition team.

Growing up so close to history, LeVan said, taught him to respect the past while looking to the future.

"I have fought to preserve the past, but this town also needs jobs and development."
LeVan knows better than to try this. See GettysBLOG # 37: Statistics for full details of Adams County's unemployment figure...they are among the lowest in the nation.

Last year, 10 Harrisburg investors approached LeVan to be the front man for their group to build the $200 million casino project. LeVan owns an option on the site but will not purchase it unless he wins a gambling license.

One wonders why these "rich kids" chose not to build a casino in their own community, but would rather force it on the Gettysburg area.

The project would contain low-slung and tasteful buildings hidden from the street and respectful of the community, LeVan said, smoothing his hand over drawings that might be mistaken as those for an upscale shopping mall. "Not tall, not neon," he said.
Four or five stories is not tall? Not neon? And where is the water coming from that appears to be lapping at the shore of a casino-front lake?

LeVan argues that his opponents are marrying historic preservation with morality, neither of which applies.

"The Legislature has already approved gambling, so that argument is over," he said. "This land will be developed for some reason, so why make a distinction between one business or another?"
Why he thinks the gambling argument is over is beyond this blogger. Indeed, it is not over. Mr. LeVan and his co-investors are calling it the Gettysburg Spa and Casino. The area is not known for the town, it is known for the Battle. Their venture is playing on that association and using it, shamelessly.

Directly across from his site, cranes loom over a $250 million entertainment and hotel development under construction.

To him, the cries of historic preservation are more pretext than substance - an assertion the opponents don't exactly deny.
Says who? This is just lousy reporting, even for a puff-piece! Mr. Sullivan certainly did not ask anyone other than Reverend Tom Gray about this, and Reverend Gray heads a national coalition that fights all gambling everywhere. Mr. Sullivan does not have the courage to list the many noted and famed historians who have lined up against the Gettysburg casino -- it would ruin his pity-party for LeVan. The history and significance of the Battle of Gettysburg does not end at the Battlefield Park boundary. For one thing, it extends to the name of the town, now, a name that LeVan and his co-conspirators willingly are exploiting. For someone who claims, "I have fought to preserve the past...", he has certainly not learned anything from it. In this instance he is fighting for nothing more than his pocket, and what will fill it.

The Rev. Tom Grey, a national anti-gambling leader who heads the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, based in Washington, said he doesn't care what stops LeVan's project as long as it's stopped.

"This is our Pickett's charge," said Grey, who hopes to use any momentum won here to win more victories in Pennsylvania.

Opponents have begun meeting with politicians and appearing at Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board meetings.

At a recent session, four members of No Casino Gettysburg squeezed together into the front row.

"We're going to be at every meeting from here on out," said Paddock, the group's leader.
LeVan says he understands that he has a fight on his hands.

"And to think: I could have retired and just ridden off into the sunset."
If you only knew how many wish you had, Mr. LeVan. We would all be far better off. So would you.

Mr. LeVan is blinded by the light of glinting gold. He cannot see he is dead wrong in this whole venture, that he is misleading himself if he believes what he is saying, and is misleading the public as well. He has seriously damaged his reputation in the area, and made more than a few enemies. Now he is caught in a quagmire of a PR debacle from which there is only one exit. And he stubbornly, and stupidly refuses to take that exit. It may soon be too late.

John Sullivan failed to respond to emails offering 18,000 people to interview to get a “second opinion”. Mr. Sullivan wrote another "puff-piece" that appeared in the Philadelpia papers this past June, this one for the "Don of the Legislature", Vincent Fumo.


GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Please remember to donate to NoCasinoGettysburg either at their office or website.

NO Casino Gettysburg
Box 3173,
Gettysburg, PA 17325


or contact them via the phone at 717-334-6333.

http://www.nocasinogettysburg.com/

Thank you for donating!

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

38: “Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics”

The great nineteenth century British statesman, Benjamin Disraeli, once said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” This should come as no surprise to one John Brabender, the supposed “mouthpiece” of the Gettysburg Casino and Spa venture. The Spa is backed by a band of investors called Chance Enterprises, all of whom are from out of town except local profiteer David LeVan, and some of whom have some connections to the project that raise questions of ethics and conflict of interest. Brabender, of a high-powered conservative Pittsburg lobbying law firm, announced a telephone poll of 300 households in the Gettysburg area that was “highly favorable” to the casino project to one newspaper. Then he announced the same poll to another newspaper, but this time it was 600 homes.

Not content to leave things on that level of understanding, Brabender, while denouncing a street poll conducted by the No Casino Gettysburg group that showed 54% of tourists would not return to Gettysburg if a casino is built here as planned, refused to show the raw data of his poll to the news media. In fact, he refused to disclose any details about the “poll”. As the ads on TV say, “But wait! There’s more!”

The Gettysburg Times reports in a front page lead article from their Friday, August 5, 2005 edition that:
Representatives of Chance Enterprises meanwhile, announced the pending release of a recent economic impact study of the financial effects of a slots operation upon Adams County.

John Brabender, a media consultant for Chance Enterprises, said Wednesday the study results will be released this month, but he would not specify a date. Brabender said the study was done by a third party commissioned by Chance Enterprises, but he could not identify it. He did not return a call for additional comment on Thursday.
This blogger is overwhelmed at the depth of understanding and knowledge, the veritable fingertip command of the facts displayed by the casino organization’s public relations man, John Brabender. With people like Brabender on your team who needs No Casino Gettysburg!?

The article continued:

Chance Enterprises officials have said the proposed Gettysburg Gaming Resort and Spa would create 1,000 local jobs, generate $10 million annually for local municipalities and boost tourism in the county.

As was demonstrated in the previous essay #37: “Statistics”, Adams county has about 2,000 people unemployed per the June figures released by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. That’s about 3.7% of the workforce, a figure that is one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Adams County does not need those jobs. As far as the money goes, several hundred thousand dollars will go to Straban Township, and the bulk of the remaining $10 million will be spread over York, Cumberland and Franklin Counties, with a little bit coming to Adams County. Straban Township has already gone to a Dauphin County representative (knowing the local State Assemblyman Steve Maitland opposes the casino project) and asked his help in getting the legislation changed to up their cut to $1 million so they can run their own police force!

Ummm, if the casino is such a family friendly, harmonious place, why does Straban think they need a million dollar police force so badly?

The same Gettysburg Times article also states,

The proposal entails construction of a hotel, several restaurants, a spa and a slots parlor initially containing 3,000 slot machines. Brabender also said Wednesday – the day officials released an early design sketch of the facility – that its being designed to accommodate future, unspecified expansions.

Good heavens! 3,000 slots! The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas has 970 slots. Caesar’s Palace has 1,900 slots, as does the Mirage, the MGM Grand has 2,500 slots, while Treasure Island has almost 2,300. And the Gettysburg Casino will open with 3,000 -- with an eye on expansion?! How very pretentious!

Earlier this week, the casino folks, trying desperately to keep their heads above water in the public relations fight in which they find themselves, released an artist’s rendering of the proposed casino. The first question that should pop into everyone’s mind when they first see the image is “Where are they going to get all that water shown lapping at a shoreline next to the casino?” The second should be, “How many floors does that hotel have?”

What has been totally missing from this whole affair is a single positive valid reason to put the casino here in the Gettysburg area. Not one.

Switching gears a bit -- an independent polling agent conducted a poll which showed stronger support for the casino than one would have expected. Also, there was surprisingly high local support for the questionable Act 72 which would have used gambling money to reduce real estate school taxes. Gettysburg Area School board turned it down on the principle of not wanting gambling tainted money.

Susquehanna Polling and Research, which bills itself as "Harrisburg’s only survey research and political polling firm", presented their data to eight questions asked of 300 persons in a phone poll of Gettysburg area residents.

Unfortunately, there were a couple of areas that generated questions about the results. First, and foremost, SPR touted the surprising support for Act 72 in their press release announcing the poll. However, when one looks at the age breakdown, one can see that 76% (238 of 300 respondents) were over 45 years of age, the group most likely to be concerned and favorable to any property tax relief. Half of those (38% of the total polled) were over 60, and likely to be on a fixed income, or close to that age when one begins living on a fixed income. In other words, the results of that question are heavily skewed..

Second, the question was asked, if a respondent supported or opposed a casino being built. The breakdown was 31% (93) support, 54% (161) opposed, with 15% (45) undecided. The next question then asks why supporters feel that way, and they got responses from 106 respondents. Now, this blogger is no math wizard, but wouldn’t you want to know which respondents recorded answers about why they supported the casino? Were all asked? If so, then the answers to the previous questions should be revised upwards, as it would tend to indicate that if 106 supported the casino, then 194 would be opposed to it. If only the supporters of the casino were asked this question, then, again, the numbers seem to be off by a substantial amount.

Third, the opposed were asked why they were in opposition, and 201 responded. Again, the numbers simply do not match with the answers to previous questions. (43% of those asked responded that the casino was wrong for moral/social problems including crime drugs and prostitution, on this question!)

The next question asked if the casino would take away from the historical significance of the region. 11% said it would add to the significance. 53% thought it would take away from the historical significance, and 35% were undecided? Does that number of undecided seem high?

Besides the age over-balance on the older side, there was a significant difference between Republicans (57%), who would tend to favor the casino project, and the Democrats (34%), who would tend to be opposed. This probably is reflective of the “Red County” nature of Adams County. At least they got the male-female ratio correct: 150 each. Thankfully, there was not an “other” option to that question!

This blogger feels the poll was probably in the ballpark, but the numbers simply do not always add up.

GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Please remember to donate to NoCasinoGettysburg either at their office or website.

NO Casino Gettysburg
Box 3173,
Gettysburg, PA 17325

or contact them via the phone at 717-334-6333.

http://www.nocasinogettysburg.com/

Thank you for donating!

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

37: "Statistics"

It is time to dispel the myth that Adams County desperately needs jobs.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor publishes a monthly statistical analysis of employment statistics by county, including the seasonally adjusted raw and percentage employment/unemployment statistics. They can be found at the
County Profiles page on the Department’s website. As this little gem will attest, at 3.7 percent Adams County indeed has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the state, tied with several other counties in the region, and surpassed only by Franklin County (3.5%). The State unemployment rate is 5.0 percent, a little below the national average. Here are some comparisons:
  • The eight counties of northeastern Pennsylvania (Carbon - 5.8%, Columbia - 6.2%, Lackawanna - 5.6%, Luzerne - 5.9%, Monroe - 5.0%, Pike - 5.1%, Susquehanna - 5.0%, and Wayne - 4.4%) have an average of 5.4% for the region. Adams County is at 3.7%!
  • The eight counties of northwestern Pennsylvania (Armstrong - 6.1%, Cameron - 6.2%, Clarion - 5.1%, Crawford - 6.1%, Erie - 5.4%, Elk - 5.9%, Forest - 10.1%, and Venango - 5.9%) have an average of 6.4% for the region. Adams County is at 3.7%!
  • The five counties of the Philadelphia area (Philadelphia - 6.9%, Bucks - 4.0%, Chester - 3.9%, Delaware - 4.7%, and Montgomery - 3.8%) have an average of 4.7% for the region. Adams County is at 3.7%!
  • The six counties of the Pittsburgh area (Allegheny - 5.0%, Armstrong - 6.1%, Beaver - 5.8%, Butler - 4.9%, Washington - 5.6%, and Westmoreland - 5.5%) have an average of 5.5% for the region. Adams County is at 3.7%!
  • The eight counties of South-Central Pennsylvania (Adams - 3.7%, Berks - 4.9%, Cumberland - 3.8%, Dauphin - 4.3%, Franklin - 3.5%, Lancaster - 3.7%, Lebanon - 3.7%, and York - 4.3%) have an average of 4.0% for the region. Adams County is at 3.7!
It should be easy to compare the region surrounding Adams County, with other regions around the state and see clearly that bringing jobs to Adams County should NOT be a priority! Yet investors like Chance Enterprises, who want to put up the casino in Gettysburg, and their developer, Robert Monahan, and their host County’s commissioners, and their host township supervisors all parrot the same line of “bringing needed jobs to “Adams County”.

Frankly, they are less than honest every time they say it. What they are really saying is they want to bring jobs, people, and beaucoup construction projects to Adams County so they can line their pockets. The casino is one of the first, and while people are focused on the casino, other developers are sneaking past the public eye and getting their projects approved by township after township, borough after borough.

Want a large site to develop in Adams County? Go to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Site Search page and start plugging in your desired parameters.

We entered “Search by Land”, Search by County”, sites over 10 acres, no maximum, and checked all the boxes for zoning: Commercial/Office, Business Park, Retail, Industrial/Manufacturing, and Special Purpose, then selected “Does not matter” in reference to the property being in a Keystone Opportunity Zone.

These three properties come up:
  1. On the southwest quadrant of the US 30/15 interchange 107 acres.
  2. On the northwest quadrant of the US 30/15 interchange - 71 acres.
  3. On the northeast quadrant of the US 30/15 interchange - 30 acres.

Slightly over 200 acres total, on three of the four “quadrants” (corners) of the US 30 and US 15 interchange just east of Gettysburg. The fourth quadrant, the Southeast quadrant, is currently being developed by Mr. Monahan for his “Gateway Gettysburg”, so we have more hotel rooms another convention center, restaurants, and an enormous movie theater. The property on the Northeast quadrant is the old Crystal Cadillac property, located between the proposed casino and US 15.

Imagine for a moment what it will look like if all these properties are developed. All four corners of the 30/15 interchange filled with shopping malls, and commercial/corporate centers. Who is going to work there? Where are those offices getting their corporate occupants? When its done, how long do you think it will take to get from Gettysburg to Battlefield Harley-Davidson? It can take as long as twenty minutes now to travel the roughly one and a half miles from Rock Creek to Battlefield Harley Davidson. Double that if these developments are built. Make it triple if the Casino is built.

Gateway Gettysburg, Mr. Monahan? More like Roadblock Gettysburg.

GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Please remember to donate to NoCasinoGettysburg either at their office or website.

NO Casino Gettysburg
Box 3173,
Gettysburg, PA 17325


or contact them via the phone at 717-334-6333.

http://www.nocasinogettysburg.com/

Thank you for donating!

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

36: “The November Surprise”

This is Pennsylvania, where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were the first words uttered by the new United States of America, where equality was promised by the tolling of a bell inscribed with the Biblical passage “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land.” Pennsylvania, home of the first capital of the United States, and the second, and the third. Pennsylvania, where what is considered to be the greatest assemblage of philosophers of the rights of man worked to create the nation that shines as a beacon of freedom, liberty, and justice throughout the world, is now a foul and sinking ship, going down under the burden of arrogance of power, and greed.

There is a movement afoot in Pennsylvania to clean house. By that, it is meant that the desired goal is the complete defeat of every incumbent elected state, county, and municipal official in the next election. From the governor, right on down to the township supervisors, the borough aldermen, and city council members across the state – OUT! Go find a real job. Try something different like working for a living. A pretty good comedian once had a schtick in his act that was about eating in a Chinese buffet. He concluded the segment with the buffet owner coming out and yelling at him “You’ve been here four hours! You go now!” To the elected officials throughout Pennsylvania, “You’ve been here too long! You go now!” And that is too bad, really, because there are some very good, decent, honest people among that segment of our population: elected officials. Unfortunately, there are not enough of them to make a whit of difference, and they are often too hard to find because they fear the machinations of the several political machines that operate in the state.

Pennsylvania has become the ethical laughingstock of the nation. This once great Commonwealth has become the poster-child of greed and corruption. Names? No names. Let’s just say it’s the “system” that is corrupt, and that it corrupts individuals caught up in it. We won’t even begin to try to describe the political corruption in our two largest cities, where Federal investigations seem to have become a permanent fixture. But, when our state legislature enacts two pieces of legislation such as Act 71 and Act 72 of 2004, which together are so corrupt, and corrupting, and without a basis in real ethics, or reality, the time may have arrived for Operation Clean Sweep (see the links section of the sidebar).

Started just about two weeks ago, Operation Clean Sweep already boasts nearly 1500 member signed up to help organize a grassroots level campaign to effect a clean sweep of all the state elected positions in November. They do not ask for money, they ask for volunteers to run against incumbents. They offer support, advice, and help with election laws, and campaign issues. They hope and pray that the same outraged newspaper editors across the state who ranted in their editorials recently about the 16% pay raise the legislators voted themselves, will still be outraged in November. Without that voters themselves have short term memories. With about three months to go, the problem will be keeping the flames fanned.

The aim is to put a totally new set of elected officials in place who are under no obligations to anyone except the citizens of this once great Commonwealth. Once there, they should be free (for a while at least) of the graft and corruption that now permeates our government in Pennsylvania. John Adams once said,

“The way to secure liberty is to place it in the people's hands, that is, to give them the power at all times to defend it in the legislature and in the courts of justice"

Past members of the legislature and other elected officials throughout the Commonwealth have failed miserably at upholding this dictum. Something happens to them when they get sworn in, apparently. Perhaps they are seduced by the trappings of power that those who went before them voted for themselves and left in place. Truly, the magnificent Capitol building is not a place conducive to having the residue of a pasture tracked through its halls, and God forbid is should ever find its way into the chambers of both houses! (Frankly, it would be indistinguishable from the current ambience there!) Perquisites, expenses, and a salary pale in comparison to the advantages gained by these people from businesses and lobbyists alike. They had to write an ethics law. It is not a very good ethics law.

Worse still, there is no lobbyist disclosure law. Pennsylvania is the only state in the Union without one. Even the Federal government has one.

It is the sincere hope of this blogger that should Operation Clean Sweep be successful, that they would accomplish a number of things the current elected bodies would not dare do. (This is my wishlist.)

  1. Repeal the latest pay raise.
  2. Reapportion the entire state to cut the House of Representatives in half.
  3. Outlaw all lobbyists. If an individual or businessman needs help with something, let them write a letter to their Rep or their State Senator.
  4. Unless they are elected officials, or on the staff of elected officials, bar all attorneys from conducting business anywhere on the grounds of the State Capitol, unless they are acting on behalf of a court, or themselves.
  5. Repeal Act 71 of 2004. Repeal Act 72 of 2004.
  6. Rewrite the Sunshine law to require all agencies, boards, and commissions, at all levels of government within the Commonwealth, when conducting public meetings, provide a transcript of those meetings to the local newspapers within 48 hours, allow public comment without restriction at all public meetings, preclude the use of Executive Session immediately prior to, after, or during a public meeting, and post an agenda for the meeting one week prior in the same newspapers where the transcript is published. Enact funding grants to local participating newspapers at a rate of $1.00 per subscriber/per month to pay for the space.
  7. Cut 15% out of the state’s annual budget. Start by eliminating 50% of all Economic Development grants, leaving the balance of the money for distressed areas, and redevelopment. Any grants for new development must meet a litmus test requiring public input, and full disclosure of all financial arrangements.
  8. Rewrite the state ethics law as the Ethics In Government Act, forbidding the receipt of gifts of any kind whatsoever by any elected, or appointed officials, or by civil service employees. Clearly outline and define what constitutes a conflict of interest, and MAKE IT ILLEGAL, providing a stiff penalty for violations.
  9. Enact a law that any new development project requiring modifications to a municipality’s infrastructure, or additions to local schools including the hiring of new teachers, additional law enforcement, emergency services, and their equipage and facilities, will be fully funded by the developer, for one year, shifting the burden from the tax payers for this, and that such infrastructure changes will be put in place first, before the development project is commenced, with funding guaranteed by bonding.
Developers will be able to afford this because they will no longer be required to provide illicit payments to government officials. Franklin D. Roosevelt said,

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism -- ownership of government by an individual, by a group."

We have this situation in Pennsylvania now. Political power is concentrated in the hands of an arrogant few who dictate their self-serving whims to the people. Change will require a three-step process:

  1. Remember in November. Keep your anger red hot for the next three months.
  2. Keep your hands off the party lever in the voting booth.
  3. Educate yourself to the issues, and the candidates. Resolve not to cast a vote for any incumbent.

Pay a visit to our friends and neighbors from around the state who are flooding to join Operation Clean Sweep. It definitely smells clean, and fresh, and holds a promise of positive change.

GettysBLOG

Remember in November! Before you vote, GettysBLOG!

Please remember to donate to NoCasinoGettysburg either at their office or website.

NO Casino Gettysburg
Box 3173,
Gettysburg, PA 17325

or contact them via the phone at 717-334-6333.

http://www.nocasinogettysburg.com/

Thank you for donating!

Copyright © 2005, GettysBLOG and GettysBLOG2. All Rights Reserved.