Gettysburg National Military Park is enormous, so it's strange that Paul Marhevka, our battlefield guide, makes his first automobile tour stop at the 24th Michigan monument, a modest marker set back in the woods. He has noticed our Ontario license plates.
"At least two dozen Canadians fought with this Union regiment. In fact, 50,000 (Canadians) fought for both sides in the
Civil War. A monument in Kincardine, Ontario is dedicated to Solomon Secord.
War of 1812 heroine, was his great aunt; he joined the Confederate 20th Georgia Volunteers as a field surgeon."
Paul's notebook enriches our tour. "Toronto Doctor
Anderson Ruffin Abbott, the first Canadian black physician at 23, served with the Union Army, one of only eight black doctors; following the war, he was a personal physician to
Next July, Gettysburg celebrates the 150th anniversary of the famous battle when
Robert E. Lee's
Confederate Army of 75,000 men met General
George G. Meade's Union Army of 97,000 men, and later in November, Lincoln's
Gettysburg Address is celebrated.
Guide Jane Malone leads us on the "Lincoln Walk" to the train station where the president arrived in this Scottish-Irish town with German Lutheran homesteaders, "a sophisticated place, 20% agricultural, 40% hospitality and 40% involved in the carriage-making industry."
"After the battle,
Soldiers National Cemetery was proposed - the first in the USA, and four months later,
Edward Everett, President of Harvard University served as keynote speaker at the dedication. A former governor, congressman, senator and secretary of state, Everett was one of the most famous orators at the time. Lincoln's role was secondary, asked to deliver 'a few appropriate remarks.'"
Carl Whitehill, Media Relations Manager at the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau wonders how many there actually heard the soft-spoken Lincoln without powerful acoustical speakers or the huge Jumbotron devices employed today.
Steven Spielberg was keynote speaker for last year's 149th anniversary, commemorating the 272 words delivered in 10 sentences. He describes Lincoln's two-minute speech as "his best and truest voice" and the single "most perfect prose poem ever penned by an American."
David Wills a Republican attorney invited Lincoln to stay in his house for two days. It's now a museum where the president refined his famous draft. Outside, a statue of Lincoln in the midtown square most closely represents his look and physical attributes, his face fashioned from a mask and his 1.93 metres (6 feet 4 inches) height dead on.
At the Federal Pointe Inn, (formerly Meade School) upon entering our room, we are greeted by two large 150th Anniversary Civil War prints hung on the walls. One depicts
Pickett's suicidal charge across the wheat field (7,000 killed) on the final day of battle with Union canon and rifles relentlessly firing from higher positions. The other, surrender by weary Confederate troops.
At the oldest active Lutheran Seminary in USA, I meet Barbara Franco, Executive Director of the
Seminary Ridge Museum, a four-storey 6,096 square metres (20,000 square feet) museum that will open during the 150th anniversary. She points at the second storey window. "That's how high the surgeons piled discarded limbs when this building served as a hospital," she says.
Her target audience is family, and the setting is appropriate because here on July 1, the first cannons arrived at 10 am; Union
General Buford used the cupola to observe enemy lines, and the first hospital operated here.
At a cost of $15 million for renovations, exhibits, trails, and geothermal heating, Franco, represents a partnership with the Lutheran Theological Seminary, the Adams County Historical Society and the Seminary Ridge Historic Preservation Foundation. They will utilize outdoor barricades and trails as well as the building itself, each floor assigned specific themes. The main exhibit - Voices of Duty and Devotion - begins on the fourth floor. The third floor focuses on Civil War medicine with highlights of the makeshift hospital, and the second floor features exhibits and artifacts that explain the religious and race issues that impacted the war and its beginnings.
Carl Whitehill advises that from July 4-7, there will be 2-3 battles reenacted per day. Between battles, "Living History" is taught throughout the encampments as re-enactors answer questions from visitors and demonstrate period crafts. "When re-enactors dress in uniform, they automatically become teachers." As with Franco, he thinks importance should focus upon the reflection side of the issue, for visitors to simply sit and think.
"There has been an organized re-enactment here for the past 18 years, and it's a big investment as you can't go to Walmart for a uniform." Whitehill terms re-enactors a "fanatical" sect. Organized along the same lines as the two armies, the logistics involve 18,000 soldiers and 8,000 civilians, the whole operation rigidly controlled. He expects over 100,000 visitors through the four days.
A word of warning - Adams County has 2,600 hotel rooms. 170,000 people are expected to arrive during the 10-day anniversary with ceremonies, programs, re-enactments and the opening of the Seminary Ridge Museum, ranging from June 28 through to July 7, 2013. Federal Pointe Inn owner, Peter Monahan, tells me he was sold out well before our November stay. Whitehill suggests tourists make Gettysburg a year-long visit. A second large wave will arrive for the November 19th 150th Anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and it's a good bet that President Obama will be invited to speak of his Republican hero.
Abraham Lincoln and Mike Keenan
Gettysburg by the numbers
The park is a vast battlefield of close to 24,281square km (6,000 acres). Inside, there are 371 cannons, most with original barrels, (carriages are reproductions) and 1,328 monuments, markers and memorials.
The three-day bloody battle in 1863 led to ultimate Confederate defeat in America's Civil War. (April 12, 1861 - May 9, 1865)
Most soldiers used muzzle-loading muskets with mini balls, lethal at 183 metres (200 yards) and effective at 914 metres (a thousand yards). The cavalry used smaller guns, carbines, efficient at 457 metres (500 yards). Distinguished by forest-green wool uniforms, sharpshooters equipped with 7 kg (15 lb.) rifles picked off officers such as
General Reynolds, killed on the first day and replaced by
General Abner Doubleday of baseball fame.
Each regiment employed a fife and drums corps with 50 different drum beats and commands to learn, cadences indicating orders to assemble for breakfast, retreat, move forward, etc.
In the Union army, 200,000 soldiers were under the age of 16 while 300 were not yet 13.
The Pennsylvania monument (1910) is the largest in the park. One-third of those fighting (34,900) were from Pennsylvania, with all of their names recorded.
90,000 horses were used at Gettysburg.
After the battle, the tiny town of 2,400 residents had to contend with 7,058 corpses (3,155 Union, 3,903 Confederate), another 33,264 wounded (14,529 Union, 18,735 Confederate), heaps of amputated limbs and 5,000 dead horses and mules creating a stench that permeated the area for weeks.
At Trostle's farm, artillery shell holes remain in the grain floor. This was
Dan Sickles's headquarters. In 1914, he died, 51 years after the battle, outliving all other generals. He was responsible for Gettysburg National Park in 1895, persuading Congress to pass a bill.
More than in both World Wars (405,399), 622,511 died in the American Civil War, 66% from disease and 33% from wounds. At Gettysburg, 32,000 were wounded of which, 8,000 died. 94% of the casualties were caused by bullets, less than 1% from bayonets and about 5% from cannon.
Gettysburg Visitors & Convention Bureau
Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.