It Has Been an Honor

We recently received our annual statistical report from WordPress about this blog. In 2013 we produced 46 posts which received approximately 160,000 views. Since we started the blog in May 2011, we have written 130 posts, including this one, and these have received a grand total of 316,877 views from people in 117 different countries. This represents a new world of interpretation that we are just beginning to explore. Take Chris Gwinn’s recent post about the controversy over the Lee statue on the Virginia Memorial as an example. In two days it had 2,115 views. It took Chris some time to put this post together with the research and writing, but one post reaching 2,115 people is a pretty good day’s work. If we have 100 people attend an interpretive walk it is something to talk about. Chris reached 20 times that number with one post, and those enjoying what he wrote could be anywhere in the world. There is great power in personal interpretation on the resource, but there is also value in reaching out beyond the resource to those who are interested in it but unable to physically visit. That is what this blog can do. And it can tell stories we might not be able to tell in a regular interpretive program. The possibilities are limitless.

Tomorrow, I will retire from the National Park Service and Gettysburg NMP after 34 years and several months of service. This blog is one of the many things I will miss as I move on. I feel as if I have only scratched the surface of topics to be explored. But others, like Chris and Katie Lawhon and John Heiser will carry on without me and they may even invite me to write a guest post now and then.

I don’t wish to bore you with maudlin reflections of my years at Gettysburg, but permit me to reflect on three things that stand out to me as I ponder the past 34 years. The first is the people, you . . . the readers of this blog, the park visitors, those who visit multiple times a year, and those who seem to find Gettysburg by accident, and all the people I have worked with. It is the people that have made my time here so rewarding and interesting. There have been frustrations but they are heavily outnumbered by the positives. As the title of this post indicates, it has been an honor to serve the public for over three decades. I cannot imagine a more rewarding job than I have had. And the people I have worked with, co-workers, bosses, licensed guides, volunteers – the dedication they bring to serving the visitor and telling the story always inspired me and made me proud.

Second, is the resource, the battlefield. It is an evocative and beautiful landscape yet one can feel the tragedy. Someone who knew nothing about the battle and drove up Hancock Avenue to the High Water Mark would instantly know that something important

NPS

NPS

happened here. The iron fence around the small copse of trees and close concentration of monuments, cannons and wayside exhibits beckon the visitor from their car. Although it has been quoted to exhaustion no one has ever captured the feeling of this place like Joshua Chamberlain when he wrote, “In great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision place of souls.” There is tremendous emotional power in this place which may seem odd for a landscape where something so utterly terrible took place. I was reminded of this after September 11. On two separate occasions visitors I did not know but who had attended my programs sent me notes afterwards to thank me. They also both wrote that they had been in the Twin Towers that terrible day and survived. What drew them to Gettysburg? What did they hope to find here? I don’t know specifically and can only speculate. Surely, they did not seek a reminder of the fear and terror they had known that day. Perhaps, instead, they found hope and comfort in that Gettysburg symbolized that government of the people, by the people and for the people could endure a crises as great as the Civil War. Perhaps it was something else that brought them here. The landscape evokes different feelings in each person but it rarely fails to stir emotions.

Lastly, it is the Gettysburg story that looms largely in my mind. I never lost sight of the fact that the story of this place, the battle, the people, the town, the park, was bigger than me. I was merely a conduit. I feel that those who lived the event expected one thing from those of us who tell their story – and that is that we do so honestly and objectively. At the height of the fame Joshua Chamberlain achieved after the movie “Gettysburg” was released, I was told a story of a group of visitors that were standing on Little Round Top. When someone in the group, who had seen the movie, brought up Chamberlain’s name, the leader pretended to gag and dismissed Chamberlain as overhyped. In a battle that pitted nearly 165,000 men the attention Chamberlain received after the movie “Gettysburg” was certainly out of proportion. But my first thought when I heard this story was that if that individual had stood in Chamberlain’s shoes that day, had watched over 120 of his men get shot down around him, heard the shrieks and groans and cries of men he knew, had felt the fear and chaos in his bones, listened to subordinates reporting they were nearly out of ammunition and some advising that they should fall back, and still had the coolness and courage to order a bayonet charge, well, I don’t think he would have gagged when asked about Chamberlain.

The battle is only part of the story here. It is also about the people who lived here, the people at home who waited with dread the news from the front, those who helped preserve the field after the battle and war, and how we have remembered it, commemorated it, and preserved it. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address reminds us that the story is also about big things, what the war was about, what it resolved and what it did not.

Dwight Eisenhower once said that he has always wanted to own a piece of land and

Photo by Warren Motts

Photo by Warren Motts

leave it a little better than he had found it, which is what he did with his Gettysburg farm. I always liked that sentiment, to work to make something better than you found it. I hope I did that in my time at Gettysburg. Regards and sincere thanks to you all.

D. Scott Hartwig

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30 Responses to It Has Been an Honor

  1. John Hren says:

    Congratulations on a wonderful career. I have read your posts, some articles, and your video from the 150th and have gained a great deal of respect for your knowledge, your honesty, and your commitment to the truth. I am sad that I didn’t get a chance to meet you when I was there in late June, the pleasure would have been mine. Good luck on you retirement and thanks for your contribution.

  2. Tom Hansen says:

    Scott, on my first visit to Gettysburg about 10 years ago, I attended your Ranger talk at The Peach Orchard and the 2nd Day Battle, and it really put the hook in me on for all Civil War history, but especially on Gettysburg. Your attention to detail, your knowledge, and especially your warm and friendly personality stand out among all my experiences at Gettysburg. I have since been back about 7 more times, including for your Day 1 walk for the 149th Anniversary. I wish you all the best in your future endevors. You will be missed. Sincerely, Tom Hansen, Redding CT.

  3. Rob Galbraith says:

    Congratulations on your retirement, Scott and thank you from my family and myself who have enjoyed several tours and lectures in which you helped flame our passion a little more about that magnificent place.

  4. digimediaman says:

    Mr. Hartwig, you have done a fantastic job on this blog. Thank you for it and for your efforts in caring for Gettysburg National Park. Enjoy your retirement but do find time to submit additional contributions. God bless!

  5. Brad says:

    Good luck. You did a fabulous job. You will be missed. Please continue writing!

    Brad

  6. John Rohal says:

    Scott, I don’t like to rank people in your field so I won’t say you were the best. I will say however that there was no one who did what you do any better than you. Thanks for many stimulating walks and presentations. Hopefully you will show up doing similar work in another capacity. Best wishes where ever life leads you.

  7. Well stated, Scott. You did leave the place better than it was when you came here. Thank you for your support and help in the past and I hope to still see you on the field in the future. Enjoy your retirement and good luck on volume 2 of the Maryland Campaign.

  8. steven1863 says:

    Scott,

    You should be proud of the vast numbers of people both on the field and through this blog that have gained so much from your vast knowledge and experience. Your contribution to the organization of the 150th Anniversary was yet another great hallmark of a long and successful career.

    Wishing you all the best in future endeavors and hope to see you and hear from you in future writings.

    Congratulations !

    Steven J. Pacholyk
    Madison, CT

  9. Fred Lugar says:

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge & passion about Gettysburg for so many years. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

  10. Col(R) Ken says:

    Scott,
    It has been an honor to attend your staff walks. Enjoy your future endeavors. God speed.
    Col (R) Ken

  11. M.D. Blough says:

    Congratulations on a long and distinguished career with the National Park Service, especially your many contributions to GNMP and the historical treatment of the Civil War. I hope that we will continue to see a great deal of you, like we do with Ed Bearss.

  12. Mike Brown says:

    Congratulations on your retirement, and thank you for your dedication to this place we all care so much about. I was fortunate enough to have attended two of your battlefield walks, Kershaw’s brigade and McPherson’s ridge. I was very impressed with how you made every one of us feel like you were talking directly to us one on one. Your ability to explain actions in a understandable way, while answering the most elementary as well as most complicated questions with ease, is unmatched.

    Thank You
    Mike

  13. Mary Eldridge says:

    Have a wonderful retirement. I have always enjoyed reading your pieces and watching you on videos. I, too, love Gettysburg. It is, indeed, hallowed ground. Thank you for everything.

  14. Robert Lustrea says:

    Wow John, Alot of turn over at Gettysburg. Blesings! Dad

    Date: Thu, 2 Jan 2014 23:30:43 +0000 To: robertlustrea@hotmail.com

  15. Terri Forest says:

    I have learned much from your Battlefield Walks, and will continue to watch you on the PCN
    dvds. Good luck with your future historical works!

  16. Dan Goldstein says:

    Scott,

    it was a pleasure having worked with you during my time at the Foundation. You will be missed at Gettysburg. Good luck with all of your future endeavors.

  17. Tom & Arelene Banks says:

    Hi Scott,
    I really can’t add anything to the wonderful things the above folks have said, as I feel the same. But on a personal note, a long time ago my wife and I had met you on a Ranger walk, and came away from it totally hooked on the Gettysburg story. I believe we have every DVD that PCN produced on the Battlewalks, that you had led – and now visit Gettysburg at least twice a year to keep up with our learning experience. That is a tribute to your personality, knowledge and a knack for interpretation from the rookie to the veteran battlefield tramper, you bring it all together. (And now with your recent book on Antietam – we have been introduced by you to another destination). In closing – Thank You for opening up a hobby to two folks that would never have dreamed that they would be travelling and reading about a crucial part of our wonderful country. All the very best in your future endeavors, as you’ve earned it.

    Tom & Arlene Banks

  18. Pingback: Scott Hartwig Retires from the NPS | Crossroads

  19. Paul T. says:

    Thanks for all your incredibly informative discussions and talks over the years…you will be sorely missed! Best of Luck in all you do!

  20. Dear Scott, You gave unstintingly and graciously of your time and knowledge to me and to my students. Most important, you served me as a splendid example of what a “public historian” should be about. Thanks and fare thee well.
    Bob Himmer

  21. Chris Evans says:

    Thank you for your wonderful service. I have always enjoyed hearing you speak on Gettysburg and the Civil War.

    What you say about Chamberlain is absolutely correct. He is one of many that gave so much to this country.

    Chris

  22. Joe C says:

    Scott, Thank you for your years of service at Gettysburg. My brother and I had the privilege of having a personal tour of Little Round Top with you several years ago and it remains our favorite Gettysburg memory. We also took several tours with the Friends of Gettysburg with you and enjoyed every moment. Enjoy the next phase of your life. Best wishes to you and your family. You will be missed. Gettysburg will not be the same.

  23. Norm says:

    Scott,

    Thank you for your service to our nation. I have walked the fields that you served many times, both by myself and leading my students. Your work at Gettysburg has benefitted them, and myself, and hudreds of thousands of others. You have brought honor and understanding from a tragedy. What a magnificent legacy to claim.

    All the best to you in all your future endeavors.

    Norm Crosby
    Frederick, Maryland

  24. Rick Wherley says:

    I never had the opportunity to enjoy one of your extremely well done tours in person, but did manage to see many of them, thanks to the wonderful battlewalk series presented by PCN over the years. I can only hope that future programs bring the same high level of quality that you and the other guides brought to the walks. To me you were the face of Park over your tenure. There is no greater praise though than that of your peers and fellow staffers. I have seen their comments on your accomplishments here in this blog and elsewhere and they are high praise indeed. John Heiser and John Hennessey come to mind. You should be very proud of all that you were able to accomplish to improve the experience of both the first time visitor and the hard core tramper during your time at Gettysburg. Enjoy your hard earned retirement and I look forward to your second volume on the Antietam campaign. Loved the first.

  25. Cynthia Stasinski says:

    It was a documentary about Antietam, in which you appeared, that sparked my interest in the Civil War. While watching that documentary, I realized, really for the first time, that the Civil War is my history and the people who fought 150+ years ago on those fields were my people. In that documentary, you and your fellow historians made the war real and made it fascinating. The next day I bought a copy of McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom.” That was March 2006. I now have over 200 books on the war, and I have what I know will be a lifelong interest (if not obsession???).
    I moved to Canada from the United States over 20 years ago, but I drop everything every spring and travel to Gettysburg to participate in battlefield walks and to attend seminars. I have been lucky enough to take part in several battlefield walks that you conducted and to hear you speak at seminars and discussion panels. I always walked away from hearing you speak having learned something new, with some new and interesting concept “to chew on” mentally, and a renewed desire to learn (with an objective eye) everything I can about this devastating yet remarkable period in our history. Congratulations on your incredible career and thank you so much for all that you’ve done. I wish you the very best in all that you do in the future.

    Cynthia Stasinski
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  26. Robert Webb says:

    Scott, congratulations on your retirement. I know you will be greatly missed at Gettysburg NMP by staff and visitors alike. I was fortunate through the years to attend several of your battle walks. One in particular, a July 3rd anniversary walk that talked about Cushing’s battery still stands out in my mind even though it was 12 years ago. I have particularly enjoyed this blog. I feel you and the other writers have been able to cover topics from new and interesting angles that can be insightful both to new readers and those that have studied the battle for many years. I look forward to seeing the continuation of your research and writing and hope you will continue to share your work with us.

  27. Loved this post. Congrats on a job well done and good luck in the future! I’ve been coming to Gettysburg for twenty-two years and have loved it each and every time . . . I can say without any doubt that it’s absolutely my favorite place.

  28. 34 years! Congratulations on a job very well done. You put your heart and soul into it and now it is someone else’s turn to make their vision become a reality. Enjoy retirement. As do others who have posted on the blog, I’m looking forward to reading your future scholarly writing.

  29. Pingback: Congratulations, Scott Hartwig | Student of the American Civil War

  30. Evan Portman says:

    Scott,
    I have always found your take on the battle of Gettysburg and history in general inspirational. I have watched a few of the programs you have conducted and can honestly say that they were just as inspirational. I developed my love for history when I was seven and eight years later I love it just as much. My knowledge only increased when my dad and I began to attend Civil War lectures given by Kris White. It was through him that I found out about your retirement. I wish you the best of luck and look forward to reading the second volume of your Maryland Campaign series.

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