Howie, our guide @ Gettysburg
Gettysburg Museum and Visitors Center. Our guide strode quickly across the lobby, introduced himself and gave us a rapid outline of our itinerary. We were on our way to the parking lot walking fast and listening closely to what would be a busy two hours. I had been a little apprehensive that my limited knowledge of The Battle of Gettysburg would show in my lack of insightful comments and detailed questions. It was obvious in the first two minutes that questions and comments were only accepted when the man took a breath or drink from his water bottle. I think that happened twice. I had forgotten how fast easterners can talk. Its a 26 mile trip around the Battlefield and I sat listening and looking, my head panning in the front seat like a spectator at a tennis tournament. Paula was snapping photos at a rate that looked like 500 shots may not be enough. Any thoughts of note taking had been abandoned, but the whole presentation was clear, exciting, informative and interspersed with walkabouts in key places.
I will not attempt to describe what we experienced that afternoon. There is too much information to relate in my little blog. I would only say that if you have any interest in American History and have studied or read about the Civil War in books or even seen the mini series Gettysburg then a guided tour is worth your time.
We began at day one of the battle and drove and walked through days two and three. For me it was like it happened last year. Our guides descriptions and observations were so vivid and detailed I felt a flood of emotions. You cannot look at a small one acre hayfield where upwards of 4,000 casualties lay dead, wounded, dying and not be moved. It was this same hayfield that the Father I mentioned previously had searched for and sadly found his son.
Towards the end of the tour we stood and looked down at the fields the Confederates had charged across on that last horrible July afternoon. It would have appeared as it does now a hopeless, wasted, futile task to attack the position where we now stood. The why of it can never be answered. The Union soldiers who stood where we were standing, laughed and shouted down to the Confederate soldiers, “come to Jesus” and “come to meet your maker” and yet they couldn’t help but be impressed at those men who kept coming.
I am not a military strategist but General Lee was and most certainly General Longstreet, his second in command of the Army of Northern Virginia was. There may have been no better soldiers and strategists in the Civil War than these two men. And yet, a charge was ordered that seemed totally illogical. It has been said that when Lee asked Longstreet his thoughts on the frontal attack he proposed of the Union’s center, that Longstreet merely shook his head, no.
When pressed, Longstreet replied that no 15,000 soldiers ever born could take that position.
I asked Howie our guide what he would have been thinking and feeling had he been in that Confederate charge looking across at the hopeless prospect of walking and running over a mile of open ground and up a bare ridge to what had to be certain death.
He said that he would have been doing what any of them were doing. He would have been praying and looking down the lines at, friends, cousins, brothers and uncles and know that he would walk with them where ever they would go.