- From: Daniel Nestlerode <dnestler@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2007 18:59:35 GMT
Spent the day with my uncle, my step-father, and my wife walking the day 1
portion of the Gettysburg battlefield, which comprised the north and
interior parts of town.
My step-father's great uncle Horace of the 147th NY Inf from Oswego county
died on that day in 1863 in a wheat field on the north side of town. I
brought along a GPS unit and marked the approximate point at which he fell
144 years earlier.
We walked through sweeping rolling fields of corn (maize), timothy, and
wheat with small woods interspersed as we followed the movements of the 14th
South Carolina Infantry with a NPS ranger/historian.
The walk/lecture took about 2 and a half well spent hours. The guy knows
his stuff, not just facts and names. He has real training, and the tact
that a historian learns when dealing with people who espouse incorrect in
formation in which they are emotionally invested. (There is no record of
South Carolinian troops being singled out by Union troops for "special
We (as the 14th SC) came out of a small wood and topped a small ridge, where
we assembled in rows of two to advance down a gentle slope an up another
small rise ahead of us. We did this (and the advance) in the face of enemy
(Union) artillery fire and strongly held positions in an other small wood
ahead of us.
After overtaking that position we routed the Union troops surrounding the
cupola of the seminary (Seminary Ridge) and managed to acquire one of their
guns as they fled through the town.
Victory was ours for the day.
People have been asking me if it was a heavy or moving experience. It
- Some people "knew" too much that ended up being inaccurate and talked a
lot about that knowledge. (I held my tongue.)
- Some people were not prepared physically to advance though an uneven field
of ripe wheat, braving ticks and twisted ankles.
- Some people were not prepared mentally to attempt to put themselves in the
shoes of soldiers a thousand miles from home advancing against antagonists
on their home turf. Silence, even when asked for, was difficult to come by.
Still I found some little moments that helped me improve or deepen my
understanding of both the battle and the civil war.
- There were three cupolas to choose from when trying to identify the one
that the Union generals used. I picked the right one. ;-)
- Buildings contemporary to the Civil War exist side by side with buildings
that post date the Civil War. It was fun trying to figure out, by small
clues, which those were. A raised path from the house to the east of the
original seminary building give a clue to the age of the house. Hedge rows
do the same.
- Actually being able to see the terrain gives deep insight into aspects of
Civil War warfare and battle experience. The "ridge" we topped in our walk
was maybe 20 feet higher then the "valley" it defined. 20 feet is nearly
nothing on a topo map, but it's a huge change for an infantry man and an
- Death surrounded us spatially, but was 144 years distant in time.
Bridging the temporal gap, as a mental exercise, is naturally harder than
bridging the spatial gap. But now the former is a little easier for having
been in the place where so many good men (and a couple of women) died in
service to a cause they believed was worth their individual lives.
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