Saturday, August 26, 2006

193: “The world …can never forget what they did here.”


In the fight over the casino project at Gettysburg, the argument has often been made that the soldiers themselves would frequent the casino had it been here during the Battle.

Well, the casino was not here during the Battle, but later in the nineteenth century there were dance halls and gambling parlors, along with the requisite houses of ill repute smack dab on Little Round Top. That’s right, on Little Round Top. They probably weren’t much more than what you would have seen out west at the time, a wooden platform, with a large canvas tent, and perhaps a wooden front. And no, Dan Sickles probably was not involved.

Indeed, Sickles, who lost his leg commanding the Third Corps at the Battle here, had quite a different effect on the Battlefield. So did Samuel Wiley Crawford, who commanded the Pennsylvania Reserves Division in the sweep down off Little Round Top and across the Valley of Death on July 2, pushing the Confederates of Longstreet’s Division back over Houck’s Ridge and across the Wheatfield.

Sickles, in spite of later embezzling funds for his own Third Corps monument at Gettysburg, was a driving force in Congress to get Federal dollars for Battlefield preservation. Samuel Wiley Crawford led a group of veterans in the effort to acquire the land on Little Round Top and removed the ‘dens of iniquity’ perched thereon. This group was also instrumental in driving the trolley line that bisected the Battlefield from the ‘sacred ground’. In 12 foot squares, one at a time the men bought the land and eventually had enough to force their will on the local entrepreneurs who were running their ‘businesses’ on the memory of the men who fought and died here. They used their own money when Federal and State funds were not available.

So the next time someone tells you the men who fought here would have visited the casino during the Battle, you can tell them two things:

First, they didn’t have time, as the battle continued overnight on July 2-3, and they would have been too exhausted from marching, fighting and caring for the wounded. Fighting battles was a serious, physically and emotionally draining business.

Second, as noted above, the men themselves drove such institutions from the Battlefield in a very determined effort to ensure that the world “…can never forget what they did here.”

Why anyone, let alone a local resident, would join a plan to sully that memory and that effort, defies all logic.

What a wreck of human life doth greed make.

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