Saturday, July 6, 2013

Out of the Fray

The 150-year celebration of the Battle of Gettysburg is in high gear this weekend, with many thousands of visitors enjoying the town, the park, and battle reenactments.  But as a year-round resident of Gettysburg, I've been lying low, staying close to home to avoid the intense downtown traffic.  Too, Gettysburg and its battlefields are mine all year long, so I can stand aside to allow room for those whose time here is brief. However, that also means I've no current image to share with you.  Happily, I found  an image  last evening, prompting today's posting, of a brief conversation I had (last year in April)  with a couple reenactors  at Little Round Top.   You'll find more details about this in my April 3, 2013 post, but let me add a small detail about that exchange here.

In April 2012, I was much less informed about the battle than I am today (though I remain far from knowledgeable), and the only topic I could raise for discussion was that of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamblerlain, whose courageous command and battle tactics kept the Union's left flank from collapsing under waves of Confederate troops.  I had learned about this from the movie Gettysburg (1993) and from reading the book on which it is based, The Killer Angels (by Michael Shaara). The reenactors, however, were quick to point out that Chamberlain was not the only hero of that battle and  informed me of the parts played by others, like Brigadier General Stephen Weed (see my April 10, 2013 post).  Now that I'm a bit more informed, perhaps I'll meet these gentleman sometime again to carry on the discussion.

Until next time . . .
Georgia Anne

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lieutenant General James Longstreet

You won't find many memorials on the Gettysburg Battlefield more engaging than this of Lieutenant General James Longstreet. Second-in-command to General Lee, Longstreet did not agree with Lee's idea to launch an assault on the center line of Union forces arrayed along Cemetery Ridge. He strongly advised against it, predicting massive casualties for the troops who must cross nearly an open mile of pasture to reach the enemy line.  However, Lee was convinced that the Union force would be weakest at the center and ordered Longstreet to launch the attack, which is  known as "Pickett's Charge," for one of the generals, under Longstreet, who led the infantry assault.

 On a sunny day with high light and dark shadow, you might imagine this horse and rider to be flesh and blood, so dynamic is their pose.  And I guarantee that your response to this pair will be visceral.

I hope you soon get to visit Gettysburg to experience the thrill of this and so many other remarkable memorials.

Till then . . .

Georgia Anne

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Little Round Top and Devil's Den

Little Round Top is a rocky hill south of Gettysburg where the Union (left flank) repelled a Confederate attack on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2, 1863.  Those who have seen the 1993 movie Gettysburg will recall Jeff Daniels' convincing portrayal of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamblerlain, who courageously defended the flank, charging downhill with his men, bayonets raised because their ammunition was spent.  But one man and his company (the 20th Maine) did not themselves win the hill for the Union. Some, like Brigadier General Stephen Weed,  commanding the 91st Pennsylvania's brigade, were mortally wounded while defending it.   

No one knows whose bullet struck and mortally wounded Weed, but some speculate that it came from one of the Confederate sharpshooters hiding within rocks and crevices of Devil's Den.  (I took both images in February 2012.)  Stories abound about the fates of those men locked in battle--the Confederate sharpshooters below firing upon the Union officers and men above.  I found one such  at the Web site, Devil's Den: A History and A Guide, by Gary E. Adleman and Timothy H. Smith:

"In July 1865, the laying of the cornerstone for the Soldiers Monument in the National Cemetery attracted a large crowd of visitors to Gettysburg. A few of the reporters covering the event took this opportunity to visit the battlefield.  Lorenzo L. Crounse of the New York Times wrote:

In front of [Little Round Top] is the little valley, rendered moist by a stagnant brook: the "Devil's Den," a remarkable upheaval of enormous rocks, forming a cavern a hundred feet long, and large enough to admit a man; through this runs a trickling stream, and here our poor wounded men crawled during the battle for water and safety, only to meet their death by drowning when the rains of the night suddenly swelled this stream to a torrent from which there was no escape. A dozen bodies were afterward taken from a huge crevice, where they had been left by the receding waters.3"
For more such compelling reports, visit the History and Guide at

Until next time . . .

Georgia Anne

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Talking with the Generals

Today: April 3, 2013  One year ago, I posted this entry to another of my blogs (26 Years to Live).  I mention this because once again I find that the week has slipped by and I'm not prepared with a new post.  Thus please indulge me and accept this post, exactly one year old today.

One Year Ago:
Recently friends visited and I showed them parts of the Gettysburg battlefield. I'm sharing a photo (taken by my friend Ingrid) of re-enactors playing the roles of various generals at the battle of Little Round Top, where this photo was taken. I believe the gentlemen to the left was playing Brig. General Weed, who died defending Little Round Top.

(Writing today on April 3, 2013, I'd like to add a note to this information. General Weed was shot while defending Little Round Top but did not die until the next day.  Like other wounded soldiers, he was taken to Jacob Weikert's Farm, which had become a field hospital. Recently I've been commenting on the book Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg (by Tanya Anderson), so it bears mentioning that during her stay at this same farm, Tillie spoke with Weed before he died.)

Back to last year . . . .
To get "up to speed" on the Gettysburg battle, I first watched the movie Gettysburg (1993) directed by Ronald F. Maxell, which is based on the book by Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels. I'm currently reading the book and am enjoying it immensely, especially having been first introduced to the main "players" in this battle, our nation's most significant in casualties (51,000).

I am fortunate to have moved to Gettysburg, to be surrounded by the now serene fields where 150 years so many lost their lives. To learn what these men fought for, how they fought, and how they died is humbling. And I daily recognize that the land over which I gaze is sacred ground.

Till next time . . .

Georgia Anne Butler

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Historic Homes: Pierce and Weikert

Last week we looked briefly into the life and times of Matilda Pierce through my brief  review of Tanya Anderson's wonderful book--Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg.  So this week, let's continue our introduction with a few locations important to her story.  (By the way, Anderson provides many diverse and intriguing photos in her history.)

To start, let's look at Tillie's home, located on the corner of Baltimore and Breckenridge Streets. (I took this photo yesterday  after meeting my sister for lunch in Gettysburg). From these windows, Tillie first watched free blacks fleeing toward Culp's Hill to escape the  Confederate Army, advancing on Gettysburg. Next she witnessed a Confederate cavalry followed by hundreds infantrymen. As Anderson explains, "The foot soldiers--desperately in need of food, horses, and clothing--raided business, homes, churches, and farms for goods." And the Pierce family was no exception, as they, too, were soon to be raided.

If you read last week's review, you know that Tillie accompanies her neighbor (with young children) to flee to the countryside and farm of her parents, never imagining that the grisly and tragic war would follow them.  The Weikert barn and home would soon host hundreds of injured and dying soldiers, some whose names have been immortalized. And Tillie Pierce was there. 

Yesterday I also drove out the Taneytown Road to locate and photograph this historic location. Although privately owned, the farmstead proudly announces its historical significance as a Civil War Hospital. 

Finally, for more photos of the Weikert Farm and to learn more of its history, including information on Tillie's role, visit the Gettysburg Daily. Wherever I go, the Daily has been there first.

Until next week . . .  Here's hoping you soon "get with Gettysburg!"

Georgia Anne

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tillie Pierce: A Must Read Book

Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg is a perfect book, balancing historical scope (the Battle of Gettysburg) with an intimate narrative of a fifteen-year-old girl caught within  the three-day maelstrom of war. Anderson allows us to experience the Battle of Gettysburg through the eyes and words of  Matilda  "Tillie" Pierce, who accompanies her neighbor Hettie (whose husband is in the army) and children to escape the  imminent dangers posed by the Confederate and Union armies converging on the town. By foot they hurry from Baltimore Street to what they expect will be a safer locale, farther south of town, along the Taneytown Road, east of Little Round Top. They head to the residence of Hettie’s parents: the Weikert Farm. For those who know a little about the Gettysburg Battle, this farm was about to become a field hospital for over 700 soldiers, from both the North and South.

Anderson retells the story first written by Matilida Pierce Alleman herself  as a mature woman and published in 1889: At Gettysburg; or What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle.  In retelling the story, Anderson provides what “Tillie” could not: the larger historical context within which to place the personal narrative.  And she does so deftly, not only through a concise yet interesting overview of the political and social struggles between North and South but also through photographs taken from that period and side bar information on cultural customs  (like hiding a child’s shoe in the walls of a house for good luck) and current history relevant to key locations during the battle.

What is most amazing, of course, is Tillie’s specific experiences, narrated mostly by Anderson and sprinkled with direct quotes from Alleman’s own narrative (a book I intend to read immediately).   A wonderful story teller, Anderson’s account will keep you glued to the pages of this incredible story.

I highly recommend this book and can’t imagine a school library without it.

Georgia Anne Butler

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New York State Monument

Last week when posting on the Soldiers' National Monument, I promised to return this week to the Gettysburg National Cemetery to look at another--the New York State Monument. 

Standing 93 feet high, this colossal monument is striking to behold.  Atop a towering granite column stands a female figure, representing the state of New York, about to place a wreath on a soldier's grave.  (I took this zoom image from directly beneath.)  In her left hand she holds a staff,  though I can't discover what balances on top the staff.  This monument is dedicated to all the sons of New York who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg, and the figure weeps for the fallen.

Of all the monuments I've seen to date, this is the most memorable. The bronze relief that circles the column depicts officers wounded or killed in battle, including Brigadier General S. H. Weed, who died defending Little Round Top, and Major General J. F. Reynolds (of Pennsylvania, one of three non-New York natives depicted in the relief), who died early on the first day of battle.

To see the monument in its entirety, I again send you to Stone Sentinels, my first stop when researching the story behind the monuments I photograph.

Come back next week for something different, when I'll review the book Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg by Tanya Anderson. 

Until then . . . Here's hoping you can soon Get with Gettysburg!

Georgia Anne