The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association

When Gov. Curtin traveled to Gettysburg shortly after the battle concluded he quickly realized the need for a formal and more fitting place to bury the dead. David McConaughy, a prominent citizen, offered the land adjacent to the Evergreen Cemetery, of which he was the president, for that purpose. He faced strong resistance from another local citizen, David Wills, who fought to keep the burials of the soldiers separate from those of the town. Wills’ plan won out and the Union dead would now be laid to rest adjacent to the Evergreen cemetery but distinctly set apart. While McConaughy lost out on the chance to have control of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, he was quick to pursue other avenues.

A local lawyer and former student under Thaddeaus Stevens, McConaughy was active in politics and had helped to organize the local YMCA. He had represented the Republican Party as a delegate in the 1860 National Convention and was a strong supporter of President Lincoln. During the battle of Gettysburg, McConaughy, and a group of Gettysburg residents, created a citizen-spy organization that worked in conjunction with the Bureau of Military Information, an intelligence gathering arm of the Army of the Potomac.


David McConaughy

McConaughy’s loss of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery did not deter him from pursuing his dream of creating a lasting memorial to the men that died at Gettysburg. Rather, he looked for areas of the battlefield that stood not only as visual reminders of the conflict, but that also created picturesque landscapes. Some of his early purchases were parts of Little Round Top, for its complex breastworks, and the bullet-riddled faces of Culp’s Hill- each of which would had evoked an instant emotional experience  by the battlefield visitor. In an article for the Adams Sentinel, McConaughy called finally articulated his intent and called for the creation of the battlefield to eventually be supported by state-wide committees. By 1864 McConaughy had organized the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (GBMA) and was on the way to achieving that vision of a large and fitting memorial to the men and battle at Gettysburg.

The ultimate goal of this vision included the creation roadways or “avenues” throughout the battlefield, the planting of trees and landscape elements, the erection of pieces of art and even rules on how visitors would experience the battlefield. However, the vision needed strong financial backing and McConaughy had to sell this idea to anyone who would listen. He knew he needed big names to attract supporters to his cause and had hopes of securing Generals George Meade and Winfield Scott Hancock as members of the board. He also desired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and John Greenleaf Whittier to put pen to paper and immortalize Gettysburg in their writings. He even used his position as part of the state legislature to secure funding ($3,000 in 1866 and again in 1868) to help create a landscape that would draw visitors from near and far to this memorial field.


Springs Hotel

When mineral springs were found on the battlefield McConaughy saw opportunities to capitalize on the aging ranks of soldiers. The creation of the Gettysburg Lithia Springs Association in 1866 (of which McConaughy was an incorporator) and the erection of the Springs Hotel in 1869 further propelled McConaughy’s dream of an idealized landscape. But what McConaughy was probably not ready for was the beginnings of a backlash from the commercialization of these sacred fields. Both the New York Herald and the New York Tribune ran articles that blasted the GBMA’s efforts as money-making schemes. Even Gen. Alexander Webb noted that efforts seemed to be drifting away from the battle and more toward the pockets of individuals.

Unfortunately, while McConaughy’s efforts had been focused on commercial enterprises, his efforts to create beautifully landscaped fields and include tasteful artwork and sculpture were falling extremely short. By the 1870s little had been done to erect monuments on the field. McConaughy had been able to erect some of the breastworks, place wooden informational placards and erect some cannon on the field. But funding sources outside of the state of Pennsylvania were practically non-existent. Eventually, the Philadelphia chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic purchased a majority ownership of the GBMA. By 1880 they had wiped out the GBMA’s remaining debt and now were the numerical majority of the board of directors. With this, McConaughy was out of the picture while another, John Badger Bachelder, entered.


John Badger Bachelder was born in New Hampshire in 1825, attended the local military academy and later became a professor at the Pennsylvania Military Institute in Reading, PA. When the Civil War began he took an interest in creating paintings that accurately depicted the battles and would attach himself to the Union army. He was present for the Yorktown, Peninsula, Fair Oaks and Seven Day’s campaigns but had to return to New Hampshire for his failing health. Though he left with the understanding that he should be called on if there was another campaign, he missed the battle of Gettysburg and arrived a few days afterward. Upon arriving on the field Bachelder probably did not realize that he would be spending the next two decades researching, erecting monuments and creating this memorial landscape.

By 1883 Bachelder was appointed the Superintendent of Tablets and Legends under the GBMA.  He worked closely with veterans to help place monuments on the field, though this was not always easy. The combination of Bachelder’s confidence, and many times over-confidence, and the veterans’ first-hand accounts now recounted twenty years post-battle presented challenges in creating an accurate battlefield landscape. Bachelder would be responsible for implementing policy which dictated that monuments should be placed where attacks were launched rather than where they culminated- obviously of much more benefit to the Union veterans than their southern compatriots.


John Bachelder and wife at Devils Den

To increase awareness of the efforts of the GBMA, the GAR hosted week-long encampments almost every summer from 1880-1894 to bring veterans back to the battlefield. During this time the GBMA was also able to construct avenues over which the hacks, or carriages, transported the veterans and their families over the fields. There were continued efforts to purchase land and in 1882 the GBMA moved forward to purchase a now famous wheat field as well as additional portions of Little Round Top. And having received $5,000 from Massachusetts for placement of monuments, the GBMA now focused their attention on securing land over which these men fought.

By 1884 the GBMA had also purchased land to the east of town where Gregg’s cavalry fought to fulfill the requests of veterans from the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry for a monument. The Association also moved forward with efforts to create a new avenue from Oak Ridge via Reynolds’ Grove to the left of the Union 1st Corps line. Two years later, in 1886, they continued improving the area with the inclusion of an avenue for the Union 11th Corps line of battle.

And though the new efforts of the GAR-controlled GBMA were somewhat more focused on preserving the landscape and establishing lines of battle, a new complicating factor came into play- the Gettysburg Electric Railway. A majority of the land that surrounded the GBMA parcels was private farm land and was by no means guaranteed to be incorporated into the GBMA and could be sold to the highest bidder. The GBMA argued that this intrusion was desecrating the landscape over which men lost their lives as blasting was needed to allow the tracks access to portions of the field. A number of newspapers noted the destruction and potential upheaval that the Railway’s trolley would have on efforts to preserve the landscape, while in subsequent paragraphs fearing that if too much of the field was destroyed the economic impact would be substantial. Eventually the controversy would come to a head in 1896, after three years of fighting, with a decision by the Supreme Court deciding that the government did have condemnation authority to protect areas of historical significance.


A trolley car makes its way through Devils Den.

By 1895 the GBMA had run its course and a new era of management of this Gettysburg landscape would be ushered in. A bill introduced to Congress on December 6, 1894 by Representative Dan Sickles would eventually be signed into law on February 11, 1895. With that, the GBMA ceded control of 522 acres, seventeen miles of avenues and 320 monuments to the United States War Department and the idyllic and tranquil landscape imagined by David McConaughy would find itself transformed into one of order, precision and regimentation.

Angie Atkinson, Supervisory Park Ranger

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Battlefield Rehab continues on Gettysburg’s Cemetery Ridge

On January 30, 2014, contractors began to move equipment onto the project site.  The 136th New York Infantry monument  along with Taneytown Road and the cemetery wall are visible in the background.

On January 30, 2014, contractors began to move equipment onto the project site. The 136th New York Infantry monument along with Taneytown Road and the cemetery wall are visible in the background.

This week we’ll look at another of Gettysburg National Military Park’s 2014 goals, the rehabilitation of North Cemetery Ridge   Since 2009 the park and the Gettysburg Foundation have been implementing phases of this project to return key portions of the center of the Union battle line on Cemetery Ridge to its appearance at the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863.  Key steps along the way have included: demolition of the old visitor center in 2009; planting 41 apple trees to reestablish the Frey orchard (North) in 2010; and demolition of the Cyclorama building in 2013

Looking southwest from the 136th NY monument across the project area.

Looking southwest from the 136th NY monument across the project area.

Last week, C.E. Williams, a contractor for the Gettysburg Foundation, started the project to remove the old Visitor Center parking lot, which is located along Taneytown Road across from the Soldiers’’ National Cemetery.  They will also re-grade the area to its historic profile in 1863 and plant meadow grasses.  Historic fencing on the site will be built during the Friends of Gettysburg’s annual volunteer day in June.  The project will take approximately two to three months for completion, depending on the weather.

Map21 Treatment Plan Cem Ridge

an 1878 view of the Soldeirs' national Cemetery with the David Ziegler farm visible in the background on the right.

An 1878 view of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery with the David Ziegler farm visible in the background on the right.

The project area includes the 136th New York Infantry monument and left flank marker as well as the site of the battle-era farm owned by David Ziegler, located along the east side of what is now Steinwehr Avenue between the entrances to the old Visitor Center parking lot and the old Cyclorama parking lot.  This farm is marked on the Warren maps as the Emanuel Trostle farm. The farm buildings are now lost to history.  The park does not have sufficient documentation to rebuild the structures.  We do have sufficient documentation to rebuild the fencing associated with the farm.

Randy Krichten, an arborist on the park staff, marked several trees "Do Not Cut."

Randy Krichten, an arborist on the park staff, marked several trees “Do Not Cut.”

In general the project area was open farm fields in 1863 and most of the existing trees will be removed.  Battle era photos show that even in open meadows and crop fields there were scattered mature trees so the park has marked some trees “Do Not Cut.”  Some of the existing trees provide natural screening from Gettysburg’s Quality Inn, located outside the park’s boundary just north of the project area.  The park will keep some of these healthy, native trees as screening.

Hemlocks screening the hotel next door.

These hemlock trees will have to be removed.

On a side note, removing the hemlock trees that formed part of this tree screen will help protect hemlocks in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery nearby.  Hemlocks and other trees in the cemetery are significant because they are part of the formal cemetery design created by William Saunders.  We have been treating the cemetery hemlocks to protect them from the invasive pest known as the Hemlock wooly adelgid.  Removing the nonhistoric

Trees screen the view of the hotel from park land near the 136th NY monument.

Many of these trees will be kept in order to screen the view of the hotel from park land near the 136th NY monument.

hemlocks in this part of the tree screen will help protect the cemetery hemlocks.

Through the generosity of its donors, the Gettysburg Foundation is funding this project by covering the cost of general contracting, construction management and design costs which total approximately $400,000. The Foundation also funded the cost of last year’s demolition of the Cyclorama building which was $750,000.

The asphalt has already been shredded in this photo from February 6, 2014.

The asphalt has already been shredded in this photo from February 6, 2014.

The old Cyclorama parking lot, now known as the National Cemetery lot, will be retained for visitor use, although a future phase of this project calls for some changes to the lot.  Additional future phases of the rehabilitation of Cemetery Ridge include reconstructing a commemorative era pathway and moving five monuments to their historic locations.  These features were altered during the construction of the Cyclorama building in the early 1960s.  The nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation continues to raise funds for future phases of the rehabilitation of Cemetery Ridge.

In future posts we will look at two more 2014 park projects:  a Cultural Landscape Report for Gettysburg’s First Day Battlefield, and Creating a Fire Management Plan for Gettysburg.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 2/7/14

Posted in Battlefield Farms, Monuments at Gettysburg, Soldiers' National Cemetery, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Joshua Chamberlain, Little Round Top, and the Memorial That Never Was

A few months ago, prior to the arrival of the frigid weather we are now enjoying, I had the pleasure of bringing a group of visitors around Little Round Top. It was a fairly predictable tour. We visited the requisite sites as we made our way south along the crest of the hill, namely the Gouverneur Warren statue, Hazlett’s Battery and the 44th and 140th New York Monuments as we roughly followed the progress of the battle on July 2nd. It was a good forty-five minutes before we made our way into the trees and down a tail-like ridge known as “Vincent’s Spur” which runs across the southern face of Little Round Top. Our final stop of the program was at the 20th Maine Monument, which is situated on a shelf of rocks well below the summit and nearly on its reverse slope.

I usually stop here last whenever I bring visitors around Little Round Top. It is a relatively non-descript place, covered with boulders and rocks like the rest of the hill. Unlike the western slope, this part of Little Round Top is completely wooded. Visibility here is, at best, a hundred yards; much less in the summer when heavy vegetation covers the field. Compared with the rest of Little Round Top, with its sweeping views and elaborate monuments, Vincent’s Spur is slightly underwhelming.


A view from the right flank marker of the 20th Maine down Vincent’s Spur. The rock walls visible were built following the battle of July 2nd.

Despite this, it remains among the most visited spots on the battlefield and ranks as a high point for many. This has less to do with the geography of the spur than it does with the actions of the 350 infantrymen of the 20th Maine and their commanding officer, Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

For students of the battle of Gettysburg, the story of the 20th Maine and Chamberlain is well known. For a brief time on July 2nd, 1863 the regiment was the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac. They fought on the spur for about ninety minutes and during that time lost almost 130 men killed and wounded. After having withstood repeated assaults by the 15th and 47th Alabama they made a desperate counterattack, drove the Confederates from the slopes, and captured a substantial number of prisoners in the process. That evening under the cover of darkness, they advanced up the craggy side of Big Round Top and occupied the summit.


Joshua Chamberlain, post-war

The heroics of the 20th Maine and Chamberlain have received a significant amount of attention in the past 150 years; some would argue a disproportionate amount. Their story has been retold (and perhaps embellished) in works of history, literature, documentary and Hollywood film. Chamberlain, an academic turned warrior, has come to embody the archetypical American citizen-soldier, an unlikely hero who triumphs despite the seemingly overwhelming odds against him. A significant portion of Chamberlain’s post-war years were spent cultivating that very image of himself. He was fortunate in his efforts in that he was an eloquent writer and he had survived the war when so many of his fellow officers were killed.

Chamberlain’s apparent self-aggrandizement riled the feathers of a number of his contemporaries. Ellis Spear, who had served as second in command of the 20th Maine during the Battle of Gettysburg, had a cordial relationship with Chamberlain after the war, but disparaged what he perceived as Chamberlain’s attempt to glorify himself at the expense of others. “His literary ability was of a high order, and he always had a gracious manner,” Spear wrote a fellow Little Round Top veteran in 1916, “but he was absolutely unable to tell the truth and was of an inordinate vanity.”

Of a similar opinion was Oliver Wilcox Norton, who had served on the staff of Col. Strong Vincent during the battle. Writing to Bishop Boyd Vincent on June 5, 1916 Norton concluded, “I used to think very highly of General Chamberlain; he was always very nice to me, but during the last two or three years I have come to the conclusion that he was more anxious to claim credit to himself than accord it to his associates.”

Not long following his death, Chamberlain fell into a kind of obscurity. It wasn’t until the publication of John Pullen’s classic regimental history of the 20th Maine appeared in 1957 that Chamberlain began his resurgence. This was helped along by the publication Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angel’s in 1974 and the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War in 1990.

The 1993 Turner film Gettysburg had the most substantial impact in catapulting Chamberlain to the folk-hero status he now enjoys. Following the release of the film, visitors flocked to Little Round Top in such numbers that the National Park Service had to add waysides, additional parking, and signage to guide visitors to the monument.  Yet two decades have passed since the release of the film, and it’s no-longer the touchstone it once was for visitors to Little Round Top. That being said, Chamberlain remains a well-known figure, having in a sense outlived the product of popular culture most responsible for his modern day renaissance.  

Normally I conduct an informal poll near the 20th Maine Monument. Who has heard of Joshua Chamberlain before? Usually about half the group has some familiarity, noticeably more than if I were to ask the same question regarding Vincent, Warren, or James Rice. Usually I have at least one true Chamberlain admirer who has traveled to Gettysburg specifically to see where the fight for Vincent’s Spur took place.

It has become a fairly common occurrence on Little Round Top for visitors to ask to see where the Chamberlain statue is. Such was the case with my tour group when we had concluded our program a few months back. Surely someone as famous as Chamberlain, a Medal of Honor recipient and bonafide Hollywood hero, would have some sort of monument on Little Round Top. My negative answer usually results in general disappointment.

Joshua Chamberlain does not have any statue or memorial on the Gettysburg battlefield, other than the two monuments to the 20th Maine on Little and Big Round Top. That being said, in the first two decades of the 20th Century, long before he graced movie theaters around the country and while still alive, Chamberlain came very near to having a life-sized bronze statue on the battlefield.

In the early 1900’s Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain ranked as one of the true Maine heroes to emerge from the American Civil War. His prestige was further cemented by his four terms as Governor and his continued involvement with the one of the state’s premier academic institutions, Bowdoin College. Along with an equestrian statue to Oliver O. Howard, the state had intended on honoring its other famed son, Chamberlain, on the Gettysburg battlefield.


Henry S. Burrage

In 1909 Civil War veteran Henry S. Burrage, a Brevet Major General in the United States Volunteers, was serving as the Maine’s first official state historian. As such, he was partly responsible for work on the Chamberlain Memorial at Gettysburg, and as a matter of course consulted with Chamberlain himself regarding the proposal. On November 22nd, 1909 Burrage wrote Chamberlain from the National Soldiers Home in Portland, Maine regarding the placement for such a statue.

“I enclose a letter from Col. Nicholson concerning the position of the Chamberlain Memorial at Gettysburg. You are the one most familiar with the place and so the best fitted to make the selection. I send the plan. I take it that the position deemed the best by the Commission is the boulder 1.0 feet in diameter and 3 feet high, just opposite the L.F. of the 20th Maine, where from the curve in the avenue a memorial would be seen in front and on either side.”

A copy of the very same blueprint mentioned by Burrage was sent to Jacob M. Dickinson, Secretary of War during the Taft Administration, by Senator Eugene Hale from Maine. With the blessing of the State of Maine, the Gettysburg National Park Commission, and the knowledge of the War Department, it would seem that the Chamberlain Memorial was fait accompli.

Yet, for some reason the project languished. By 1914, the year Chamberlain succumbed to his old Petersburg wound, nothing had been accomplished. From time to time it would be mentioned in official documents and correspondence, or some brief update in a local newspaper. In an article from the November 11th, 1916 issue of the Gettysburg Compiler it was reported that a commission from Maine had been appointed by the Governor of the State and that they had traveled to Gettysburg, but nothing seemed to have resulted from the exercise.

A few years later, in the Annual Report of the War Department for 1918, it was recorded that the site for the monument was selected many years before, with Joshua Chamberlain in attendance, but that the project had not moved forward.

In the end, the project ultimately died, the statue was never placed. It would be easy to blame the passing of time, the death of Chamberlain, and the inauguration of World War I for this fact, but other monuments, such as the Virginia Memorial in 1917, the Alabama Memorial in 1933, and Oliver O. Howard’s equestrian statue in 1932, continued to be placed on the field.

Perhaps the true reason why Chamberlain was never honored with a monument on the battlefield was Chamberlain himself. Buried in the vertical files of Gettysburg National Military Park is a twenty eight word letter written from Col. John P. Nicholson, Chairman of the Gettysburg National Park Commission, to Henry S. Burrage.


From the tenor of Nicholson’s letter, it would seem as if Chamberlain had no inclination to have his likeness adorn the battlefield. At some point Chamberlain must have expressed this sentiment, either to Burrage or Nicholson or perhaps both. No doubt the repository of some library or institution contains this document. His motivation for such remains a bit of a mystery. It could be he felt his honors had already been accorded him, namely the Medal of Honor and Chamberlain Avenue which for a time ran the length of Vincent’s Spur. Perhaps he thought that the bulk of the glory should go to the men he commanded, particularly those who breathed their last on the hill. The five foot high block of granite that honors the 20th Maine regiment had been humbly serving that function since its placement in 1886.

Chamberlain’s reluctance to his own planned memorial does draw into question the conclusions of Spear, Norton, and others regarding his alleged egotism. Do self-aggrandizers shun memorials in their honor? The answer might be that Chamberlain’s motivations were misunderstood, or that there were limits to how far he was willing to go to further his status as one of the heroes of the battle.

The end result is that the visitors of today will search in vain for a Chamberlain statue, though with the proper amount of sleuthing they may be able to track down the boulder Burrage mentioned as a suitable site. Chamberlain admirers can rest easy however, with the knowledge that his legacy and that of his men is still very much alive on the Gettysburg battlefield.

 Christopher Gwinn, Acting Supervisory Historian


As a fitting postscript, it can safely be said that though Chamberlain lacks a statue, he remains the only regimental commander at the Battle of Gettysburg who now has his own micro-brew. Perhaps that is some consolation.

Posted in 20th Maine Infantry, Army of the Potomac, Joshua Chamberlain, Veterans | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Addressing challenges at Little Round Top

Each year Gettysburg National Military Park identifies goals to accomplish in the coming twelve months.  For our current fiscal year, which ends October 1, 2014, we are working on four projects: Little Round Top Rehabilitation / Environmental Assessment; Cultural Landscape Report for Gettysburg’s first day’s battlefield; Fire Management Plan; and Rehabilitation of North Cemetery Ridge.  In my next few blogs we will look at each of these projects in depth. 

Little Round Top Rehabilitation / Environmental Assessment – This project rehabilitates the Little Round Top visitor use area – both battle era features and the commemorative landscape features – while eliminating numerous safety concerns.  This project will provide an adequate pedestrian circulation system that keeps visitors off of the fragile natural environment and removes tripping hazards. The natural landscape will be rehabilitated which will improve the natural resources. Site drainage will be installed where needed to protect both natural and cultural landscape features. Surrounding monuments and markers will have their foundations stabilized when the landscape surface is rehabilitated. The project would locate buses away from the primary resources to improve the visitor experience – especially the sounds and smells of idling buses.

100_8248 by WP

Inadequate pedestrian paths, erosion and accessibility challenges at Little Round Top

Project details:  The work entails new roadwork, car and bus parking areas, retaining walls, trails, sidewalks, ramps, stairs, accessibility, drainage, retention areas, slope stabilization, erosion control, grading, seeding, plantings, interpretive signs, regulatory signs and other improvements.

The Gettysburg Foundation is partnering with the park to fund some of the costs to complete this project.

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Cars, buses, segways, bicycles and pedestrians compete for space in the Little Round Top parking area.


The majority of the park’s 1.2 million annual visitors go to Little Round Top, with as many as 10,000 visitors per day during the peak visitation.  The existing infrastructure does not have the carrying capacity to accommodate this number of visitors and protect cultural and natural resources.  Bus and car parking is so congested that it creates safety hazards for visitors trying to cross the road to access the resource area. In addition, the visitor experience is highly impacted due to noise and air pollution from idling buses and cars. Over the past four years the park has documented 17 personal injuries at the site.  Many more go unreported.

Paths presently available to visitors are too narrow for present visitor volume, resulting in serious erosion of the site’s highly erosive, rocky soil. Available paved surfaces are primarily asphalt, but these are too narrow and insufficient to accommodate the visitor loads. Signage has had limited success. Logical connections between monuments and key views do not always exist, creating confusion for the visitors. Non-paved paths to the summit have been closed using brush piles in several heavily eroded areas and temporary posts and chains have been installed along the perimeter of the asphalt pavement at the summit.


Heavy use creates erosion in many areas at Little Round Top

Major contributing factors to the acceleration of erosion are high storm water volume and fast runoff from paved surfaces and casual pedestrian use of non-paved areas. With the crush of visitors seeking space to move, edges of paved areas have eroded, and many beaten paths have been created along Sykes Avenue and between Sykes Avenue and Plum Run. Compaction of the soils is also occurring in many areas due to heavy foot traffic. In some areas, erosion has been so heavy that roots of large trees have been significantly exposed and paths become gullies during rainstorms.

Because of the sloping terrain, access by individuals in wheelchairs is also difficult.  The ramps and sidewalks do not meet ADA standards for slope, width, and other requirements.

One of the primary circulation problems at Little Round Top is the conflict between buses, pedestrians, and cars. The presence of several buses, often as many as six or seven at a time, parked or idling among cars, along Sykes Avenue. This severely limits drivers’ visibility due to the size of the buses. Pedestrian visibility when crossing the road is also limited, since they cannot see past the buses, and must therefore step in front of a parked bus before being able to see an oncoming vehicle.  When pedestrians are finally able to cross the road, pedestrian traffic flow is also awkward, confined and uncomfortable due to limited paved pedestrian surfaces. As a result, pedestrians scatter themselves randomly throughout the site, exacerbating the erosion problems and damaging remaining vegetation.

100_8279 by WP

Congestion causes pedestrians to walk on roadways and compete with buses and cars on busy days at Little Round Top.

Idling buses at Little Round Top create diesel fumes and nearly constant motor noise during most of the peak visiting days.

The estimated project cost is  $8,816,707.  We are anticipating a 50/50 cost share between federal funding and funding from the Gettysburg Foundation.

In my next blog we will look at the project to create a Cultural Landscape Report for Gettysburg’s first day’s battlefield, including the Emanual Harman farm.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, January 24, 2014

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The Confusing Case of the 80th New York Volunteers- 20th N.Y.S.M.

The 80th NY-20th NYSM Monument

Monument to the 80th New York – 20th New York State Militia at Gettysburg.

One of the more attractive New York monuments on the battlefield has to be the 80th New York Volunteers-20th New York State Militia monument on Reynolds Avenue. A pre-war organization that mustered into Federal service in 1861, the “Ulster Guard”- named for the county in New York where it was raised- served the first three months in Federal volunteer service as the 20th New York State Militia until mustered out in August 1861. Reorganized for Federal service as a three month volunteer regiment, the 20th mustered back into Federal service that fall and, like other New York militia regiments, believed their designation as state militia would remain intact as a three years regiment. Much to the chagrin of the officers of the regiment, the unit received the numerical designation of “80th Regiment of New York Volunteers”, the title it was assumed, to be carried by the regiment throughout its three years of ensuing service. Case closed.  

“It’s not that simple,” states Seward Osborne, author of The Three-month Service of the 20th New York State Militia, April 28 – August 2, 1861. (Longstreet House, Hightstown, NJ, 1988), and keeper of the sacred trust of the history of the 20th NYSM. The new designation came with some baggage and had, in all probability, cancelled out the 20th’s officers dates of commissions, reducing their seniority among fellow officers and also causing quite a stir among the enlisted men whose loyalty lay to their state and original designation as a regiment of the State Militia.

According to the new muster date at Kingston, New York on October 25, 1861, the regiment left for Washington still bearing the title of 20th NYSM until two months later when that somewhat mystical “80th NY Volunteers” began to appear. A somewhat perturbed Colonel George Pratt wrote to Captain George Ruggles,  the Assistant Adjutant General of the Army of the Potomac, the following April from the regimental camp at Bailey’s Cross Roads, Virginia:

“I have no commission, nor has any other person in this camp any commission or authority, to my knowledge to act in and for the 80th N.Y. Volunteers: the officers of the 20th Regt, expressly refused any ‘Volunteer’ designation before the regt quitted Kingston, N.Y. and its present status, was accepted and determined by the governor himself and it is therefore part of the contract.”

Gates- Library of Congress
Colonel Theodore Gates
(Library of Congress)

The regiment’s indignation was briefly silent after Colonel Pratt’s death at Second Bull Run, but later that fall the regiment’s new commander, Colonel Theodore B. Gates, re-initiated the campaign to have the state delegated decision reversed and for the original militia designation restored. Persistence paid off. On January 22, 1863, New York’s Adjutant General, Isaac Vanderpool, wrote to Colonel Gates:

 “The Governor has received a communication from Genl. (Henry) Samson under date of the 19th Jan. with reference to the preservation of the number and organization of your regiment as it left for the Seat of War.  He has forwarded a copy of this communication to the General in Chief of the Army Major Genl. Halleck accompanied by his own request that nothing should be done to alter the position or number of the Regiment. It will be regarded at this office as the 20th N.Y.S. Militia; but to avoid any difficulty which might arise as to its rights in the Volunteer Service, the words ‘20th Militia’ will be inserted in brackets in each commission after the words 80th Volunteers.

 “The Governor feels a warm interest in the welfare of the 20th,” Vanderpool added, “and will endeavor, that the honors it has won in the field, shall be preserved to it under its Militia designation.”

 Gates and his officers won their case- designation restored and commissions preserved. “The document (from Vanderpool) makes my case for me,” Osborne wrote to the park last year.  “In the so-called volunteer service, the Federal government paid the regiment by Federal paymasters, on Federal paymaster stationary, as the 20th N. Y. S. Militia, and you still continue to have the real name and designation.”

20th NYSM Flag, 1863

Flag of the Ulster Guard carried at Gettysburg. (Courtesy of the New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center)

But wait- the words “20th Militia’…inserted in brackets in each commission after… 80th Volunteers”? Was this truly the restoration of the proper title for Gates and his men? On the muster sheets and pay roll of the regiment, the title is 20th NY State Militia and, as Osborne is also quick to point out, the men still carried the old flag with “20th NYSM” and wore the number 20 on their caps. Did that truly cancel the state’s volunteer regimental number? In similar fashion, the 14th Brooklyn ferociously guarded its original title rather than accept the designation 84th New York Volunteer Infantry, though the 9th New York State Militia may not have been so upset when its three year service title was changed to 83rd New York Volunteer Infantry, though the title “Ninth Regiment” was a necessary addition to the regiment’s monument.

We can think of this as simple matter of unit pride but that was only part of it. The primary concern was preservation of the original regiment and those all-important commissions on file in the state attorney general’s office. Even so, the designation of 80th New York Volunteers was never completely scrubbed from the rolls of the state returns nor from the official monthly rosters compiled by the adjutant general of the Army of the Potomac, so it must have been with some mild disgust when veterans of the regiment, following the rules of the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, dedicated their monument on Reynolds Avenue in 1888 with the inscription of “80th New York Volunteers” prominent on the face of the stone base. Yet above all is what Colonel Pratt and his fellow officers and men would have wanted- the open hand as borne on the regimental flags surrounded by the title “Ulster Guard” and “20th N.Y. State Militia”, this time without the brackets.

John Heiser, Gettysburg NMP
January 2014

Posted in 20th New York State Militia, Monuments at Gettysburg | 1 Comment

“You Never Know What the Shift Might Bring”

Student Ride-Alongs create deep connections between a younger generation and our national parks


Chief Ranger Ryan Levins, left, with Jennifer Newberry

Chief Ranger Ryan Levins, left, with Gettysburg High School student Jennifer Newberry

One of the rewarding parts of the Protection Rangers’ job at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Park is working with our local communities and schools. Rangers assist the state, township and borough police officers regularly as part of their jobs. Coordination and cooperation between police, fire, emergency response and other governmental entities are essential to provide the best services for the park and community.

Today was one of our opportunities to work with local students interested in future criminal justice careers. The Adams County Tech Prep Law Enforcement Program conducts ride-along shadowing with rangers this time of year. Students from various high schools around the county shadow law enforcement agencies to experience different parts of the criminal justice system. Students shadow 911 dispatchers, State Police officers, local township officers, fish and game officers, judges and a host of others.


Tires dumped along red Rock Road at the Eisenhower national Historic Site.  Anyone with information about this incident should call the Ranger office at 717/ 334-0909.

Tires dumped along Red Rock Road at the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Anyone with information about this incident should call the Ranger office at 717/ 334-0909.

Jennifer Newberry of Gettysburg High School was my senior shadowing student for the day. Winter days are usually quiet, especially during a cold snap. When Jennifer arrived we immediately were called by other rangers to a report of tires dumped on part of the Eisenhower National Historic Site. Cumberland Township officers also responded and after a short discussion of land ownership rangers took lead on the case. The tires were removed by park staff for proper disposal.

We patrolled the park while Jennifer asked me a series of questions about our jobs, educational requirements and challenges.  Jennifer expressed that her career goal in the criminal justice field was to become a behavioral analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I was able to show her certain areas of the park she had not seen before and took her to the Visitor Center for a close up look at the Cyclorama painting. While at the Visitor Center, rangers were dispatched to the Eisenhower Farm 1 Barn for a fire alarm. Turns out this alarm was caused by a burst pipe in the system due to the change in temperatures. Park maintenance employees were also on scene to take over and fix the problem.

Ready to ride in the patrol car at Gettysburg.

Ready to ride in the patrol car at Gettysburg.

Gettysburg’s outreach program for high school students supports the National Park Service’s Call to Action C2A #2 Step by Step.  The ride-alongs will continue into the springtime.

Protection Rangers at Gettysburg and Eisenhower parks perform a wide range of duties during their shifts. The traditional National Park Service protection ranger provides law enforcement, firefighting, emergency medical service and search and rescue services as part of their jobs. Depending on the park unit, the ranges of these services certainly vary. Rangers at Gettysburg are not conducting high angle rescues like rangers at Yosemite National Park. There are no swift water rescues such as those at Delaware Water Gap or airboat patrols like at Big Cypress National Preserve. No matter the park unit all rangers protect the resources of the park (s) they serve.

Jennifer with one of the patrol vehicles on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Jennifer with one of the patrol vehicles on the Gettysburg battlefield.

Protection Rangers enjoy their jobs because of the variety. You never know what might happen or what the shift might bring. Certainly the bitter cold winter nights on patrol over the last few days has led to quiet shifts with the park to ourselves. Quite the change from 2013 which brought lots of traffic, lots of visitors and lots of busy days.

Having the opportunity to share with students our love for the job is one of the things I enjoy most. We might not make them into US Park Rangers, but hopefully they at least will know more about the National Park Service and our mission. When my shift with Jennifer was complete, it was back to one of my favorite parts of the job – paperwork.     

Ryan Levins, Chief Ranger, January 9, 2014

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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



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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“On My Watch”


Superintendent Bob Kirby retires Jan. 3, 2014, after nearly 40 years of federal service.

Superintendent Bob Kirby retires Jan. 3, 2014, after nearly 40 years of federal service.

Looking back, I am proud to report that significant progress was made at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site on my watch.  I arrived in March of 2010 with two key goals in mind.  I had no idea if I’d be successful at either, but I have worked at park management strategies long enough to know you must have a plan in mind on the first day and that you had better hit the ground running.  The goals I chose presented challenges beyond what I really expected to accomplish.  This was in keeping with all the management courses I ever attended, which said to “aim high.” 


A deatiled scale model of Gettysburg in 1863 debuted at the David Wills House in 2011.

A detailed scale model of the town of Gettysburg in 1863 debuted at the David Wills House in 2011.

My two goals, in no particular order, were to seek to improve relations with the community and to prepare for the sesquicentennial year of 2013.  The first goal came far easier than I had anticipated.  I found a warm and welcoming community that accepted me and, in turn, the park with open arms.  I found none of the animosity I had heard about in earlier years and I came to realize that despite the difficulty change engenders, people get over it and move on.  In hindsight, goal number one turned out to be a low target that was in the process of fixing itself. With one goal seemingly under control I was able to turn my full attention to preparing for our sesquicentennial year. 

Goal two proved to be a little more challenging since preparing for the commemorative events at Gettysburg National Military Park was far more complex and involved than I had imagined.  Preparations were not just about creating appropriate programs, but about preparing the entire park for company that was coming from across the nation and from around the world.  It quickly became apparent that some of our infrastructure was in need of attention.  I had concerns about its capacities, utility and appearance.  I worried about the transportation needs for the throngs of visitors I knew would be coming. I wondered about staff capacity and community involvement and how our programs and events would affect both.  I tried to imagine what our programs would look like and whether they would be appropriate yet entertaining and unique enough for a national audience.  Were we up to the task?  I didn’t know how the Gettysburg Foundation would play into the mix and I really worried about how we would fund major programs in fiscally challenging times.  With every meeting, a new revelation as to what was required emerged.  With every revelation cost components rose accordingly.  A short distance into year one, I realized I had aimed high enough. 


Fortunately, the park was blessed with some of the most competent managers and staff in the National Park Service.  These amazing people stepped up to the tasks at hand, remained flexible, exercised excellent judgment and by their own admission worked harder than they had ever worked before.  Soon, my fears gave way to the joy of problem solving and the satisfaction that comes with working with smart people who like to produce results. 


Freedom Transit ridership and operations increased dramatically in 2012 and 2013, improving the Gettysburg visitor experience.

Freedom Transit ridership and operations increased dramatically in 2012 and 2013, improving the Gettysburg visitor experience.

We first tackled the transportation needs we saw coming.  With the help of the York/Adams Transit Authority (YATA), Gettysburg’s little blue buses that rolled around town received a major boost from a $1.2M grant from PENNDOT.  This grant helped us upgrade the transit system by instituting an Intelligent Transportation System/Smart Parking Plan (ITS).  The ITS was designed to allow people to park in satellite parking areas, use the bus system to access the visitor center and many other community locations.  Its true value was born out by the fact that it helped accommodate more visitors’ access to the park and helped relieve traffic congestion throughout the town.  During the 10 day anniversary period in late June and early July, the system carried 67,000 visitors and is currently being used locally as a municipal transportation system for working folks. By mid-July of 2013 ridership on the Lincoln Line of the Freedom Transit shuttle had risen 1040% over the same period a year before.    


Demolition of the Cyclorama building in March 2013, viewed from the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial

Demolition of the Cyclorama building in March 2013, viewed from the Grand Army of the Republic Memorial

Next item on the “to do” list was removing the old cyclorama building.  It sat near the location we had chosen for the big June 30th kick-off program.  Removing that structure became our prime mission.  After quite a bit of struggle and navigation through legal procedures we were able to demolish it and rehabilitate the area where it once stood just months before our grand opening event for the battle anniversary. 


Trail construction along Taneytown Road, spring 2013.

Trail construction along Taneytown Road, spring 2013.

Also, just months before the anniversary programs commenced we completed an important trail designed and built to help ensure visitor safety.  Tourists were accessing the park on foot from the visitor center by traversing the Taneytown roadway, thus exposing themselves to fast moving traffic along a very narrow corridor.  As an added bonus, the funding for this trail provided enough money to rehab the badly deteriorated trail from Little Round Top to the 20th Maine Monument and the parking lot below, plus a little more money to reopen old Chamberlain Ave nearby. 


The New York State Memorial with its Liberty Cap replaced.

The New York State Memorial with its Liberty Cap replaced.

While all this was in the works, hundreds of other small projects were underway to make the park look better and fulfill its intended purpose to commemorate those who fought and died here.  Monuments were being rehabilitated, cleaned and repaired.  The New York State monument in Soldiers’ National Cemetery saw the liberty cap replaced after having been missing since the 1950s. The Smith Battery monument was repaired, as was the 11th Massachusetts monument and many, many others.  The Pennsylvania Memorial was thoroughly cleaned and the bronze re-patinated. The unsightly ranger office on Taneytown road directly across the street from the stage where the kick-off event was to be held was re-sided, painted and the parking lot re-graded.  Twelve miles of park roads were resurfaced and all park bridges were re-pointed.  Hundreds of cedar trees, bushes and woody vegetation were removed by volunteers and staff from important battlefield view sheds.  Miles of Virginia worm fences were erected prior to 2013 and thousands of linear feet of board fences were painted and restored or repaired. 


The Rostrum in the Soldiers' National Cemetery undergoing reconstruction

The Rostrum in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery undergoing reconstruction

Wayfinding signs in the borough of Gettysburg were erected, thus ensuring visitors new to the area could find their way around.  The rostrum in Soldiers’ National Cemetery was completely restored and returned to it 1879 appearance.  The old visitor center parking lot was opened for visitors after it was restriped and new signs installed.  Battlefields were mowed, miles of wire fences at the Eisenhower farms were replaced and the Eisenhower home façade was de-leaded, repaired and repainted.  Historic farm houses and barns were rehabilitated, stabilized and painted.  Over 200 acres of private property within the park’s boundary were acquired and many non-historic, non-contributing structures on those properties were removed.

We also assumed operational management of the David Wills House from Main Street Gettysburg after they had performed admirable services for the park for several years.  We disposed of the old Electric Map which has been unused and in storage for many years, thus freeing the park of its stewardship responsibilities while allowing private sector interests to promote and display it as an interpretative device.   We helped create an excellent museum exhibit titled the “Treasures of the Civil War” and developed dozens of special interpretative and educational programs, seminars and demonstrations which appropriately commemorated the event and people of 1863 in Gettysburg.

GETT_150_FacebookSort_Volume5_022In the final analysis, my aim was on target and I can say that during my watch I left things better than I found them.  I am extremely proud of the staff at both parks and honored to have served as their superintendent for the past four years.  I leave this job with a great sense of pride and joy at the end of a career spanning nearly 40 years.  It really doesn’t get much better than this. 



By Bob Kirby, Superintendent, Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site


Posted in Gettysburg 150th | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Lee Controversy of 1903

Monuments and memorials seem to breed controversy. Take for example a current battle brewing in Florida over a proposed monument to Union soldiers killed in the battle of Olustee.  Or you could turn your gaze to Washington D.C. where battles are being waged over the future of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial at the same time a contested inscription is being removed from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  Competing visions of whom, what, and how we should remember the past inevitably clash when that vision is to be transformed into something physical and indelible.  Perhaps this is one reason why the battlefields of the past so often turn into battlefields of the present.

Gettysburg has never been immune to this. Since the battle, and as hundreds upon hundreds of monuments and markers were placed, clashes arose over their design, placement, wording, and characteristics. One controversy of particular interest occurred in the year 1903.


By the beginning of the 20th century the Gettysburg National Battlefield Commission owned a significant portion of the battlefield, including areas on Seminary and Warfield Ridge. They had already established the majority of the roads that make up today’s park avenues, including Confederate Avenue, South Confederate Avenue, and East Confederate Avenue. During this same time the “memorial period” of the Gettysburg battlefield was coming to an end. Hundreds of Union markers and monuments had been placed by the veterans during the 1880’s and 1890’s. They dotted the Northern battles lines and covered the landscape. Yet, as the survivors of the battle of Gettysburg passed into history few new monuments found a place on the battlefield.

For myriad reasons, Confederate soldiers never placed regimental monuments in the same fashion their Union counterparts did. The story of the Confederates in the battle was to be told “without praise or censure” by tablets placed under the auspices of the War Department, but these differed considerably from the more unique and ostentatious monuments created and designed by the Union veterans themselves. Economics certainly played a part in this, as did the existing rules and regulations regarding where Confederate monuments could be placed. Then there was the outcome of the battle, which for the Confederate soldier was decidedly negative.

However, in January of 1903 Pennsylvania State Representative Thomas V. Cooper introduced legislation that would authorize an appropriation of some $20,000 for a memorial to Robert E. Lee. This statue was to be placed somewhere along the Confederate battle lines on Seminary Ridge as a monument to the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia and would be contingent on Virginia raising a similar sum for the likeness.

At first glance it is difficult to understand why Cooper and the people of Pennsylvania would want to place a memorial to Lee on the Gettysburg battlefield. Today, millions of visitors see the Virginia Memorial on Seminary Ridge, surmounted by an equestrian statue of Lee, and think little of it. However, in 1903 the war was separated from Pennsylvanians by only forty years. Thousands of her sons had died during the Gettysburg Campaign, and citizens of the Keystone State had felt, albeit briefly, the hard hand of war during the summer of 1863. Would it not be inappropriate to place a statue to Lee on the battlefield that was turning point of the Union cause? Supporters of the memorial cited two specific reasons why a statue of Lee should grace the battlefield in Adams County.

The first had its origin in the absence of other Confederate memorials on the battlefield and the difficulty of understanding the fight from the Confederate perspective. One Union veteran wrote to the Philadelphia Ledger explaining that, “The battlefield of Gettysburg, as it now stands, is a beautiful, one-sided picture. There is not a monument or inscription to show that an army of equal in numbers and valor to our own struggled fiercely for three days to destroy it.”

Of a similar opinion was A. K. McClure. He was an unlikely advocate of the monument, considering he had been a onetime officer in the Union Army and had had his Chambersburg home burned to the ground by Confederate soldiers. Still, McClure was vocal in his endorsement of the project. On the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, he argued his case. The Philadelphia Press reported, “He wanted to make the battlefield of Gettysburg worthy of the nation. It should in itself tell its own story. He pictured the monuments and tablets on Cemetery Hill which tell in every detail the story of the Union side of that great battle. Across the fields, on Seminary Ridge, he said, the story of the other side should be told in monument and tablet.”

The Lee memorial would also serve as a further act of reconciliation, a bringing together of the blue and the gray on the old battlefield of Gettysburg. It would appease those former Confederate soldiers who, though enemies of the Union, fought courageously and gallantly. The Lee monument would not, “be placed there as a tribute to the Rebellion” McClure argued, “but as a tribute to the heroism of the Blue and the Gray.”

Those of a like mind with McClure were in the minority. Union veterans all over the north, but particularly those in Pennsylvania, spoke out in indignation against the proposed memorial. Few northern veterans could deny that Robert E. Lee was a skilled leader and that he was personally brave. Yet, they could not support the memorial as an act of history nor reconciliation.

Little credence was given to the memorial on the grounds that it would tell the Confederate side of the battle. An editorial by Major William Robbins, the Confederate commissioner of the Gettysburg National Park, appeared in the February 18, 1903 issue of the Gettysburg Compiler. It was an unfounded assertion, Robbins explained, that the Confederate side of the battle was not being told. One hundred eighty Confederate brigade and battery monumental tablets had already been placed on the field by 1903. Nineteen miles of park road had been constructed, “Of this more than one-third has been constructed wholly on the Confederate side of the field and along Confederate battle lines…”

Others were concerned over what history would be told by the Lee memorial. John Stewart of Chambersburg argued, “But what is to be gained by putting this statue of Lee on Gettysburg battlefield? If you want historical accuracy as your excuse, then place upon this field a statue of Lee holding in his hand the banner under which he fought, bearing the legend: ‘We wage this war against a government conceived in liberty and dedicated to humanity.’”

Few Union veterans could find any comfort in a statue to Lee as an act of reconciliation. David M. Gregg, who had led a division of Union cavalry during the battle, wrote in a February 6, 1903 letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Bulletin, “The author of the bill claims that its enactment is necessary to complete the reconciliation of the people of the opposing sections in the War of the Rebellion. I had supposed this reconciliation practically accomplished, and rejoiced with him in the fact. If I was mistaken, and there is still slumbering discord, propositions like this will surely fan it into a flame, a result most strongly to be regretted.”

In Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania the members of the Col. H. I. Zinn Post of the Grand Army of the Republic officially announced their opposition to the Lee monument in a declaration that was drafted and then copied into their record book.  “In the opinion of the Col. H. I. Zinn Post #415, G.A.R. of Mechanicsburg, Pa., that if the Legislature is so anxious to spend our money, it would be appropriate if paid to its loyal citizens along the Southern Border of the state who lost thousands of dollars by having their property stolen and destroyed by the armies command by the aforesaid Lee and that by this appropriation for said monument, would be paying a premium on disloyalty.”

The prevailing opinion of the average Union veteran was much like that of Major William H. Lambert who, in the January 24, 1903 issue of the Public Ledger and Philadelphia Times explained, “Individually, I am decidedly opposed to the proposition. I do not think we are far enough away from the time of the great struggle to erect monuments in memory of the men who tried to overthrow the Government. I have no doubt the Old Soldiers will heartily oppose it. I think we can safely wait until Virginia erects a statue to Abraham Lincoln or to General George Thomas.”

In the end, the proposed statue to Lee using Pennsylvania funds never materialized. That being said, visitors today will have little trouble finding a likeness of Lee on the battlefield. The Virginia Memorial, featuring Lee astride his warhorse Traveler was officially dedicated in 1917. By 1982 every southern state involved in the battle had its own monument. In 1998 James Longstreet joined Lee among those Confederates whose likeness can be found on the battlefield. Image

If any conclusion can be drawn from the “Lee Controversy of 1903” it is that the story of the development and memorialization of the battlefield park is complex and that animosity and bitterness among the veterans did not end with the war. To view old photographs of Union and Confederate veterans warmly shaking hands across the stonewall on Cemetery Ridge, or peacefully reminiscing together in 1913 or 1938 is to forget that the battle for the memory of Gettysburg was highly contested by those who fought there. Many Union veterans were reluctant to see the site where they had helped preserve the Union turned into a memorial to the cause for which their vanquished foes had bravely fought.

Christopher Gwinn, Park Ranger

Posted in Army of Northern Virginia, Great Reunion of 1913, Historical Memory, Monuments at Gettysburg | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Gettysburg Triumphs with First Prescribed Fire

Looking west across the fire area toward the Philip Snyder farm (house in the background).

Looking west across the fire area toward the Philip Snyder farm (house in the background).

The first prescribed fire ever at Gettysburg National Military Park took place October 30, and was an unqualified success.  National Park Service (NPS) fire specialists burned 13 acres of fields on the historic Snyder farm, in the southern portion of the battlefield.  The park is testing whether prescribed fire can reduce the encroachment of woody species in open fields on the battlefield, helping preserve historic landscape features that affected the fighting of the battle, an important goal of the park’s General Management Plan.  The fire also removed hazardous fuels from the area and served as a valuable training opportunity for firefighters many of whom are new to prescribed fire operations (Call to Action #30 – “Tools of the Trade”).


A fire specialist uses a drip torch to ignite the fire in the test area.

The prescribed fire was started shortly after 1 p.m. and was completed in two sections just before 4 p.m. NPS staff monitored air quality and smoke impacts as well as visibility on nearby roads.  To prepare the area, park staff set up vegetation monitoring plots and mowed the perimeter of the area.  Prior to ignition, the perimeter was wetted with water.  

The overall objectives are to maintain the conditions of the battlefield as experienced by the soldiers who fought here, perpetuate the open space character of the landscape, maintain wildlife habitat, control invasive exotic species and reduce shrub and woody species components while providing for public and employee safety. Burning in the fall, immediately before shrub and woody species move into dormancy, reduces the plants energy reserves and diminishes vigor and growth potential the following spring.  If successful, prescribed fire would reduce herbicide use and impacts in the park. Success factors include ease of implementation, effectiveness towards meeting resource objectives, degree of impact on visitation, and cost effectiveness. 


Cliff Lively, Fire Management Officer for the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Mid-Atlantic Fire Management Area, speaks to reporters.

The National Park Service Wildland Fire Management Program funded the prescribed fire. Staff from Delaware Water Gap NRA, Gateway NRA, Monocacy NB, Catoctin Mountain Park, C&O Canal NHP, Shenandoah NP, and NE Regional Office joined together with the park to complete the burn.   Personnel from the PA Bureau of Forestry assisted in burn operations and personnel from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Gettysburg Fire Department were on hand to observe their first prescribed burn and to gain an understanding of the process.  The burn provided formal training assignments for two Engine Boss trainees and One Firing Boss trainee and one Fire Effects Monitor Trainee.

Fire specialists shortly after the fire burned out.

Fire specialists at the fire.

Gettysburg area news media and the public were very interested, and reporters, park friends and visitors stayed to watch the entire operation.

In the spring of 2014 Gettysburg NMP will gather public comments for an environmental assessment for a park fire management plan.

by Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant  

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