Sunday, May 22, 2011

Finally Feeling Better
After close to 2 weeks feeling like death, I'm finally feeling better.  My studies are progressing (not as fast as I'd like them to, but who am I to complain).

A friend of mine from work recently went to Charleston SC (which is on my list for this year, along with Gettysburg, Antietam (both again), and Manassas).  During his adventures he was nice enough to grab a model of the Hunley for me, as a Navy vet who served on a sub tender, I thought that was pretty damned cool of him.

And as my short term attention span goes...

The June 2000 issue of Civil War Times had an article on the best and worst monuments at Gettysburg, as one who was never afraid to give an opinion, I'll comment on their posts, and add a few suggestions of my own.

I threw in pictures where I have copies, the rest you have to look up on your own as I won't use somebody else's pictures here.  A great reference for pictures of monuments, please go to...

The 5 worst monuments (from 5 to 1) according to Civil War Times

21st Pa Cavalry
Yeah, a pretty funky looking monument, they suggested it looks like something from a Godfather movie, and I really can't disagree.
20th MA Infantry
Basically a large conglomerate type of rock on a pedestal.  Not the prettiest thing in the world, but it was taken from a playground in Roxbury, Massachusetts, so it's a part of home for those who couldn't return.  Among the complaints of the overall appearance, the writer also questions the validity of the story.

90th PA Infantry
A stone replica of a tree that was destroyed by artillery fire.  There is a bird nest as well as accouterments of battle.  Again a rather plain memorial, but the story behind the bird nest is it was allegedly dislodged during the battle and replaced by a member of the unit while under fire.

2nd NJ Infantry
Their complaint about this one is how it seems out of place, and seemingly representing an image of a nuclear warhead.  But in my opinion the Minie ball represents a major step forward in military technology, and is quite fitting on this battlefield.

Lt. General James Longstreet Monument
One of the most recent monuments on the battlefield, the Longstreet Monument was dedicated in 1998.  The two biggest complaints about this monument revolve around the size of the horse and the fact that the monument isn't on a pedestal.  The original design for the monument (which can be found in the visitor center)  was for it to be on a pedestal, similar to that of the Union corps commanders.  While I agree with the argument regarding the size of the horse, the monument is at ground level which brings it down from the godlike proportions of the others out there.

Original Design of Longstreet Memorial

Finished Product Longstreet Memorial

The 5 best (from 5 to 1) according to Civil War Times

73rd NY Infantry
As a firefighter and a veteran, this is one of my favorite monuments on the battlefield.  It's always on my must visit list.  The story behind the monument is great also, the representations are of two twin brothers of the 73rd NY, both of whom were killed during the war.

Gouverneur K. Warren Monument
A nice enough monument of the Chief Engineer from the Army of the Potomac.  But the location and views from it are what sets it apart from others.

State of Mississippi Monument
This was dedicated in 1973, again one of the more modern monuments.  It has an action scene of a member of Barksdale's brigade attacking a fallen Union color bearer.  For the most part, I'm not a fan of the modern monuments.  The older ones were of design approved by the regiments they represented, so there is a direct connection between the men who fought the battle and the monument they chose to represent their deeds and fallen comrades.  Not so with the modern monuments.  The things I do like about them (the modern monuments) is the time is put into the sculpture representing the units they depict, and they commemorate units that had nothing to represent their actions (Confederate troops more often than not).

State of North Carolina Monument
This was dedicated in 1929 so there is still a sense of connection with the men who fought here.  It shows multiple soldiers in an action pose, charging towards the enemy while being encouraged forward by a wounded comrade.  The detail in this bronze piece also makes it one I return to frequently.

Irish Brigade Memorial
I'm of Irish decent.  This is quite simply put, my favorite monument from any battlefield.  It represents the 63rd, 69th and 88th NY.  It is a large Celtic cross that has an irish wolfhound lying at its base as he waits for his master to return.

My take on the monuments of Gettysburg...
I have my favorites, and ones that I think are "better" than others.  But that being said, remember what I said while discussing the Mississippi monument.  The "older" monuments were of a design chosen an approved of by the members of the unit they represent.  Many of them actually depict a member of the unit.  There is a direct connect with the past and these monuments.

My List

42nd NY Tammany Regiment
They were from NYC, their monument shows a native american warrior...what is the significance?  On my not favorite list.

56th Pennsylvania
This must be on my "favorites" list as I  have taken several pictures of it.  I think I like the balance of the rifles with the colors in the middle.

11th Pennsylvania
Sometimes the story makes the monument special to me.  At the base of the monument is a pit bull named Sallie.  She was given to an officer in the regiment.  She was found after the battle protecting the bodies of her men.  She was killed in battle at Petersburg.

74th Pennsylvania
The detail in the soldier's face showing his sadness and anguish is moving to me.

 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry
Like the 21st PA Cavalry that was mentioned by the magazine article, this horse looks scared or perhaps in pain.  As far as monuments go, I find this one disturbing.

2nd Company Massachusetts Sharpshooters
This is a neat monument, it's missing the rifle (vandalism), but seen from the valley below, it's as if a soldier is looking down on you trying to decide whether or not to shoot.

116th Pennsylvania (Irish Brigade)
I'm on the fence with this one.  It's a beautifully done monument, depicting a soldier who was killed on Stony Hill.  There are days I really like this monument, and days that it just brings such feelings of sorrow.

Other Monuments I Like
Like the magazine article I didn't include the Pennsylvania or Virginia monuments.  But I am very fond of both.    

The Virginia monument depicts Lee on Traveller, with representations of every type of soldier that was part of the Army of Northern Virginia.

The Pennsylvania monument is the largest on the battlefield.  Among other items of interest are the bronze plaques on the outer perimeter of the monument that name every soldier from Pennsylvania who fought at Gettysburg.

The 40th New York monument.  This is by Devil's Den and depicts a soldier in laying down behind rocks looking to take a shot.

On the above list, as earlier stated, I like the Irish Brigade monument, 73rd New York, and the North Carolina monument.  

My lists of "best and worst" monuments aren't complete, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 1300 monuments at Gettysburg, each has its positives and negatives.  The important thing to remember is what they commemorate.

One thing that breaks my heart and angers me is when I read stories about the vandalism of these monuments.  This is an ongoing issue.  Some monuments have been splashed with paint, others have had parts broken off of them, others still have been dragged (yes dragged) to the point of near destruction.  If you want to do something positive for the battlefield go to The Gettysburg Foundation and either donate your time or money.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Break From All Things Gettysburg (kinda)
I've been a bit under the weather this week, so my studies have suffered.  I spent a little time crawling around the web and found a site worth checking out.  It's called  The people I've met so far are very knowledgeable about all things American Civil War.  There are break out discussion forums on everything from reenacting, and civil war politics to specific battles.  It's well worth the look.
Anyhow, one of the persons I met on the board mentioned they were considering a trip to Salinesville.  For the uninitiated, Salinesville is a little town in eastern Ohio that was the site of John Morgan's surrender.  It is also the site of the northernmost battle of the Civil War.
The town itself is very small, and there isn't much to commemorate the events there.  There are a few markers outside of town that I'll show here.
It's been a few years since I took the trip, and my memory is fuzzy.  I know that I used the book The Longest Raid of the Civil War by Lester V. Horwitz as a reference, and I'm inclined to say that I used Blue and Gray Magazine as a reference also, (but if I did, I have misplaced the copy)
So without further ado, here are some pictures from Salinesville Ohio.

This first picture is along Rte 158.  It is the marker commemorating Morgan's surrender to Major George Rue.  There is a picture out there of the dedication of this in 1910 with Rue and his wife flanking the marker.

This is the view looking east on Rte 158 from the marker, Morgan's men lined this road for over a mile after the surrender.

This is taken on Rt 93 just outside of Salinesville (it's kind of hidden in plain sight), it marks the sight of an engagement between Morgan's Raiders and troops under Union General James Shackelford.

These next two pictures are the the lay of the land next to the Shackelford / Morgan marker, in the first picture you can see Rte 93 on the left

This marker is at the intersection of Routes 164 and 55 just outside of Monroeville Ohio.  It explains the pursuit of Morgan's Raiders by Shackelford's troops.

The next 3 pictures are of the intersection of 164 and 55 showing the lay of the land around the previous monument.

Like I said earlier, there isn't a whole lot out there commemorating these battles.  Morgan's Raid started prior to and ended just after the battle of Gettysburg.  While it may have had impact locally, and diverted some resources that could have confronted Lee at Gettysburg, the overall impact of the Raid seems (to me at least) to have been minimal.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Why I do the things I do…

I was talking with a friend the other day, and he asked why I am working towards being a Licensed Battlefield Guide. “Is the money that good?” He asked.  I paused and thought for a few seconds and had an answer.

The sheer joy of learning is why I’m doing this.

I thought about all the things I had to memorize going through paramedic school that didn’t interest me a whit, and I realized that if I had that kind of focus and drive on a subject I cared about the results would be dramatic. 

I go to Gettysburg several times a year, and am never bored.  I always manage to find something new to see or learn about.  I don’t stick to the conventional there (or at any battlefield I visit).  I try to get off the trails and paths and see things from a different perspective.  I know more about the battle than a lot of people out there, but not nearly as much as others. 

How could I improve my knowledge on this subject?

Reenacting?  Not for me…I was in the military for four years and remember why I got out.  Plus when you have to work to stay “in character” it seems like you are working too hard to enjoy what you’re there for.

Reading?  I’ve always been a voracious reader, but how would I be able to measure my progress?

Write a novel?  Good Lord no!!!  There are much better authors out there than I could ever hope to be who have already written a ton of books on Gettysburg and the Civil War as a whole.  And if I couldn’t add anything substantial to the conversation, I probably shouldn’t try to get in on it.

Then I found out about the LBG test.  That is a way I could measure my knowledge.  They hit on so many topics on the battle that you have to have a deep understanding of the battle to even consider taking the test.

I set the goal for myself to be able to pass the written test.  If I can pass the written test, then I will be satisfied.  I know going into this that they only create a very few LBGs every two years, and that achieving that may be beyond what I am capable of. 

On another track...

I have an affinity for the Civil War.  I’m not sure what the draw or attraction to it is.  My family wasn’t in the US when the war was waged, so I have no direct ties.  

There is closeness in that several battlefields are within a 4-6 hour drive from my house, but the same argument can be made about the French and Indian War and The Revolution.  

There is something truly special about the Civil War.  It was the first war to be widely photographed.  It was a war of innovation (both strategically and with weaponry).  In a sense it was the first "modern" war.It forever changed so many things; how we perceive ourselves as a nation; the face of both the North American continent and the world.  It was a war initially fought because of constitutional interpretation, that later became identified with a higher meaning.

I don’t profess to have this great knowledge of history, or even the Civil War.  I don’t have a degree of any type.  I have the knowledge I’ve gained through self directed research, and opinions that I have formed based on my interpretation of the facts as I learn them.  I hope to share some of them here as I add more posts.

Next week's post will include pictures (from where, I haven't decided  yet).