09 September 2012

Gettysburg and the Civil War

9 Sep 2012--Left the Boston area on the 4th of September and travelled all day to get to Pennsylvania so we could hit the ground running on the 5th. Although we are staying at an Outdoor World called "The Farm at Gettysburg", we are actually sitting in Dover, PA.

On the 5th and 6th we had a whirlwind tour of Gettysburg, which included not only the battlefield but the American Civil War Museum, followed the next day by a trip to Harrisburg, PA to see the National Civil War Museum. Because the 1st museum was only going to cover the Gettysburg fight, we expected to be in and out in no time, but nothing could be further from the truth. We spent 2 1/2 hours in the Gettysburg Museum alone, preceded by a movie and cyclorama presentation, and followed by a riding tour through the park that took an additional few hours.

The 2 museums had lots of interesting items and stories, so I have grouped some of them together to try to keep this manageable. It is still pretty long, so sit back and enjoy! haha

The 1st pic here is pretty simple...it is a Union belt buckle that stopped a bullet from killing a guy. Then I put these uniform and unit buttons up because South Carolina fired the 1st shots and my friend Donna is from there, followed by a group of buttons from different states that fought on the Union side. HALLIE, blow up the 3rd pic and notice that the Missouri button is on the bottom row...as much as you want to be on the southern side for some reason, they list you here as a Unionist! haha

Flag bearers and drum and bugle corps troops were the most endangered on the field of battle, with the youngest color bearer on record being a 9 yr old boy. It wasn't until 1864 that congress outlawed serving for those younger than 16.

As you can see here, some states had divided loyalties during the war, while some others were unconflicted. Interestingly, although South Carolina fired the 1st shots, they had the least amount of fighters of all the Confederate states (Tennessee had the most). On the Union side New York had the most people fight on that side.

2 quotes from those times...Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist, and Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy.

These numbers and the numbers above are slightly different, but these were at the National Civil War Museum, while the 1st ones were at Gettysburg's American Civil War Museum. The bigger picture though is to see how many people died from the respective states of our families and best friends.

South Carolina started the ball rolling, and you can see if you click on the 2nd picture why that may have been so. The chart shows the population of the states in 1860, while also pointing out what percentage of their populations were slaves.

Interesting that the vice president of the Confederacy made this statement about slavery at the same time that people were trying to say the war was about "states rights".

I didn't know that both Lincoln and Davis were born in Kentucky, only a year apart. And although most of us would like to think that the northern side had a quest to free the slaves, the last picture here quotes Lincoln saying that he would have kept slavery if he thought it would have preserved the union.

A look at these pictures makes you wonder how the Confederacy even lasted 4 years in the war. Outnumbered 3 to 1, and exempting some of their men to stay home and watch over the slaves, surely doomed them. Thinking back to the other picture that showed a few states with over 50% of their populations being slaves means there was an awful lot of people exempt from fighting.

And this sectional comparison really brings home the disadvantages of the south. I don't know why, but I thought the north won because they had the industrial advantage while the south only produced food to their advantage, but according to this, that is not the case at all. Their only advantage was in cotton and tobacco, hardly the makings of victory. So when you combine their population disadvantages with all the other disadvantages listed here, on top of the fact that most of the war was fought on southern soil, you have to have a certain admiration for their ability to hang on as long as they did.

Man's inhumanity to man on display again.

Amazing that it took a full 2 years to bring African Americans into the military as a matter of policy. Where was the learning curve here?

The Battle of Gettysburg ultimately came down to a miscalculation, leading to the worst casualties of any battle during the war.

It must have been brutal in those days to be wounded...you have to wonder how many would be dead today if our wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan had the same level of medical help.

I don't know how you get people to keep fighting in so desperate a situation. I know I would have found a tree to hide behind and then head the other way when no one was looking.

The Soldier's National Cemetary, where Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address, is in Harrisburg, where we went on day 2.

The cemetary markers for the dead are pretty minimalist...somewhat jarring that there is not more to mark such a solemn passing. Some of the blocks in the ground, and sections of the strips in the ground, simply say "unknown" like this headstone...they may also say "64 dead", "43 dead", etc.

I found this very interesting. To think that one of the complaints against Lincoln was that he was not ending the war fast enough (think Obama), or that one of his own was willing to throw the slaves under the bus after all the bloodshed, goes to show that our current political upheaval is nothing but "more of the same". Gives me hope in an odd sense! haha

"The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" comes to mind. A mere 5 days after the war ends and he is dead.

The Gettysburg National Military Park is spread over 6000 acres, with 24 miles of road, 16 informational stops, and 1300 statues/monuments/markers spread throughout the fields on which the Battle of Gettysburg took place. After the Battle was fought, 37,574 rifles were recovered and sent to Washington to be reissued.

A monument to all who fought, dedicated in 1938.

New York seemed to have more statues than even Pennsylvania, but here are Ellen and I in front of one of the Massachusetts statues, while Cathy is in front of Florida's...I insisted she wave the Confederate flag she has in her hand. haha

Pennsylvania had more than this, but this was the most majestic.

Didn't know that Abner Doubleday fought at Gettysburg, nor did I know that although he is credited with starting baseball, something in the museum said he didn't.

Just a couple more statues. The middle one is from Louisiana and I thought it was particularly impressive.

A few scenes as you look out from the battlefield. In the last picture you are looking into the actual town of Gettysburg.

There are clearly idiots everywhere...this sticker was on a truck driving through the park ahead of us.

Between the 2 museums you feel like you are getting hit with a firehose of information, a lot of which is just interesting as stand alone facts. Here are some, starting with the fact that Pennsylvania was the 1st state to try to abolish slavery.

And here is John Brown, who tried to start a slave rebellion, but the most interesting thing to me was the tangential involvement of what would become other famous people, although relatively unknown at the time of this event. From then-Colonel Robert E. Lee to Stonewall Jackson to John Wilkes Booth, they are all mentioned here.

Didn't know, or at least didn't remember that the 1st slaves came to Virginia in 1619, and am horrified to learn that Massachusetts was the 1st state to make it legal in 1641. The numbers stating how many were estimated to have been snatched from Africa are mind-boggling.

From what we read, the Irish and Germans were the biggest immigrant groups involved. It doesn't say here but approximately 200,000 German-Americans signed up to fight.

Songs that started or were made famous/more famous during the war. One not mentioned here was called Aura Lee", which was the tune Elvis put to his song "Love Me Tender".

You think you have times of trouble right up to the point you read that a woman worked to buy herself out of slavery, and then not only ended up as the President's wife's seamstress, but also her own autobiography. Really makes the rest of us seem somewhat pathetic, huh?! haha

No disrespect to my southern friends, but I am totally with Douglass on this one!

"Necessity being the mother of invention", the Civil War participants were no slouches in that field. This makes me think how as recently as 10 years ago most of us had never heard of military drones, never mind that today they can pick you off and kill you from the seat you are sitting in reading this right now. haha

But even though it was a war of ultimate destruction, these many years later we CAN all get along. These 2 teddy bears represent Cathy and I, grey and blue!!! haha

OK, almost done...just a few more. Ellen had a real affinity for the cannon!

And she and I did a little re-enactment for you of the Gettysburg Battle, with Cathy directing.

And I talked her into taking these pictures just for the laugh...I think I still have it!!!

NOTE: While we were at the National Civil War Museum they had a series of TVs throughout the display rooms telling different stories about the Civil War, but all were on a loop repeating themselves and some were shown in more than one room at a time. So this guy was on the TV talking very seriously about the struggles the troops experienced, the slaughter, the maming, etc. We think he was a professor from some university, but regardless, he was giving a very serious and solemn talk on the horrors of war. Anyway, Ellen was listening to him while I was reading a display nearby, when we both sort of caught something on the TV at the same time and turned to each other quizzickly, wondering "Did we just hear what we thought we heard" from him??? So we both now gave him our undivided attention, listening carefully as he continued to talk, when lo and behold he did, indeed, say what we thought he said. So this is basically what he was saying..."The troops were trapped behind enemy lines", "trapped with nowhere to go". The only problem was that he had a serious speech impediment, making him sound more like Elmer Fudd than a professor of history, so it went more like this.."The twoops were twapped behind enemy lines", "twapped with nowhere to go". Ellen and I were absolutely losing it, having to seperate from each other to just catch our breath and pull ourselves together. We are still laughing about it 2 days later and keep wondering what someone was thinking to cast this poor man as the main speaker on such a solemn event?

Anyway, had a great 2 days! Good weather, great company, and Ellen gets to scratch this off her bucket list!!!! Doesn't get much better than that!


  1. Idon't have an affinity for cannons, you made me stand infront of them!!!!

    That being said, had 2 of the best days of my life!!!

  2. a lot of information to process BUT the last 6 pictures pushes everything else out of my mind !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Did cathy enjoy these pics of Ellen as much as you knew all the Byrnes' would? I hope so.

  3. Mom, I love you and I am happy that you had the time of your life, but we really need to work on your photo taking ability. In almost all of them you are either talking or your eyes are closed. I can't wait to hear the stories that were not included in this blog.

  4. I am a huge fan of the reenactment of the Gettysburg Battle...I laughed out and had to watch it twice!
    I wish there was more info on Ellen's last pictures - Is she a ghost? and beat up Bob Marley?

    Love Kristine

    1. Actually in the 1st she is supposed to be a ghost, and God only knows in the others...I was thinking it looked like a nun...a nun gone wild I guess!

  5. Even though you told me about this yesterday it still tickles my fancy today. I had a good chuckle reading it. I forgot to mention the video. Very funny. How much convincing did it take to get Ellen to partake in the fun???

    1. Not so much convincing for the video...more so for the Abe Lincoln hat! haha

  6. Who picked first for the fight. Paula why would you have a piece of string i would have to pick the cannon so i didnt have to act so much like the fall paula did.

    1. haha...Ellen took the cannon right away, so I was left to do the charge!

  7. So I've always wondered about cannon balls. Did they have explosives inside the ball? In the movies the cannonball blows up at the enemy, but the ones I've seen in my hometown are just round concrete or something. So I'm curious because as I watched your very real reenactment of a battle scene, I was thinking that she waited a long time to shoot the cannon and that ball would have hit you in the head.
    I hope one day to go there. Looks pretty cool.

  8. No explosives inside the cannonballs, just solid metal, or something. The 2 days were a real firehose of information. If you were a big Civil War or Gettysburg afficianado you could easily spend a week there.