“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


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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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NPS Winter Lecture Series 2014 – The Civil War in 1864

Our annual Winter Lecture Series kicks off on Saturday, January 4 and continues until Sunday, March 9. These free, hour long lectures will explore subjects and themes relating to the Civil War in the year 1864. Lectures take place on Saturday and Sunday and  begin at 1:30 PM inside the Museum and Visitor Center. We invite all those interested to attend what we believe will be a diverse and fascinating series of talks.




Saturday, January 4
“My time I suppose has passed, and I must now content myself with doing my duty unnoticed” – George G. Meade in 1864:

Not all of George Meade’s battles were waged on the battlefield. The year 1864 found the victor of Gettysburg under attack from the northern press, the United States Congress, and from the ranks of his own army. Would Meade be able to win the 2nd battle of Gettysburg? Would he be overshadowed by the emergence of U. S. Grant on the bloody battlefields of the Overland Campaign? Explore the most tumultuous year in George Meade’s life – Chris Gwinn

Sunday, January 5
1864 – The War for the Rail Lines

The Federal offensives of 1864 were designed to take advantage of the rail lines under its control and disrupt and destroy the Confederate rail system.  Conversely, the Confederates needed to threaten the ever lengthening supply lines of the Federals, and fiercely protect their own rail lines in order to survive – Bill Hewitt

Saturday, January 11
General U.S. Grant tries to win the war in ’64’

General Grant received overall command of the entire Union war operation in 1864.  Until this point in the war, Union strategy had been effectively without concert of action.  Grant sought to correct this by ordering offensives across the entire Confederacy in the spring of 1864 in an attempt to overwhelm the Confederate armies and end the war.  Join Matt Atkinson as we explore the successes and failures of the Union war effort – Matt Atkinson 

 Sunday, January 12
The Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association

In the spring of 1864 the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association was officially chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  The organization’s purpose was to preserve the site of the greatest battlefield of the war that had yet been fought.  Nothing of its kind and purpose had ever really existed before – Angie Atkinson

Saturday, January 18
“We have preaching in camp every day:” The Southern Religious Revivals of the Winter of 1863-1864  

Did the defeat at Gettysburg with its heavy casualties spur the great revivals that swept through the Southern armies during the winter of 1863 and 1864?  The revivals changed the Confederate soldier’s tone, tenor and perception of the war. The intensity of those outdoor revivals were, and still are unrivaled as a phenomenon within an American army during a war. What prompted these religious spectacles and what did they look like? How did these events shape the South going forward? – Troy Harman

Sunday, January 19
 “Damn the Torpedoes!” Admiral Farragut at Mobile Bay

Ever since the capture of New Orleans, in April 1862, Rear Admiral David G. Farragut had set his eyes on the city of Mobile, AL and especially Mobile Bay. This was last major haven for blockade runners on the Gulf Coast. Finally, in August 1864, Farragut and part of his West Gulf Blockading Squadron, with help from the Army, will have their chance to close off Mobile Bay. This would prove to be the last major naval engagement of the war and the last major naval engagement in which wooden ships played a prominent part. The Age of Sail was coming to an end – Karlton Smith

Saturday, January 25
“Day after day we stupidly and drearily wait the order that summons us to the fearful work” – The Army of the Potomac from Brandy Station to Petersburg

The winter and spring of 1864 brought a major re-organization and new faces to the Army of the Potomac.  The advent of Ulysses S. Grant signaled that the war this army had known from 1861-1863 was about to change.  As one soldier quipped, Grant “wants soldiers not yappers.”  On May 4 the army pushed into the tangles of the Virginia Wilderness to commence its spring offensive. All knew hard fighting lay ahead but few could have imagined how deadly it would prove, for the spring and summer of 1864 in Virginia would herald a new type of relentless combat that took a psychological as well as a physical toll on the army, and tested it as nothing before in the war had –  D. Scott Hartwig

Sunday, January 26
“There is no use talking about peace now, we have got to fight it out.” Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864

The Army of Northern Virginia emerged from the defeat at Gettysburg a dangerous and still viable army. Throughout the late summer and fall of 1863, Lee’s command continued to outmaneuver the Army of the Potomac.  Through the winter of 1863-1864 the army recovered and prepared itself for the spring.  By April, Longstreet and his veterans were back from Georgia and the army was fit, tough, and ready for the new Union offensive all knew was impending.  Hardened as Lee and his veterans were the campaign in Virginia that spring and summer eclipsed anything they had experienced and tested the army as it had never been tested before – John Heiser

Saturday, February 1
“Yankees in Georgia! How Did They Ever Get In?!” – Sherman’s Army and the March from Atlanta to the Sea

Following the capture of Atlanta in September of 1864, momentous decisions faced General William Tecumseh Sherman.  Where to go now, and why?  His forces, energized with victory, lay seemingly poised into the very heart of the Confederacy, yet also at the end of a long, potentially vulnerable supply line.  Mythology meets practicality as we explore Sherman’s solution to this conundrum, as his forces target Savannah – Bert Barnett

Sunday, February 2
The Civil War: The Untold Story – A PBS Film
Episode Five – With Malice Towards None

In the spring of 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army of 100,000 men marches from Chattanooga toward Atlanta, Georgia, the industrial hub of the Deep South.  Twenty miles north of Atlanta, Sherman’s army is soundly defeated at Kennesaw Mountain. Sherman’s defeat combined with Grant’s bloody stalemate in Virginia, stirs a Northern electorate grown weary of war. The presidential election is in November, and Abraham Lincoln’s chances for a second term are dwindling by the day. The Democrats nominate George McClellan.  The party’s platform calls for a negotiated peace with the Confederacy in which slaveholders will be allowed to keep their property.  If McClellan is elected, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation will almost certainly be struck down. Though victorious at Kennesaw Mountain, the outnumbered Confederate Army falls back to a defensive position at Atlanta.  After 6 weeks of bloody conflicts around Atlanta, Sherman wires Washington: “Atlanta is ours and fairly won.” For the first time in the war, many in the North now believe victory can be achieved.  Eight weeks later, the president defeats McClellan in a landslide.  After the election, Sherman begins his March to the Sea.  The largely unopposed march across Georgia to Savannah is a psychological blow to the Confederacy, and a stunning conclusion to the war in the Western Theater.

Saturday, February 8 
“The Saddest Affair of the War “– The Battle of the Crater

Few other single-day battles of the American Civil War have captured as much attention as the July 30, 1864, Battle of the Crater. On that Saturday and after weeks of preparation, soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania exploded a mine underneath the Confederate defensive line just east of the city of Petersburg and in so doing presented a golden opportunity for the Union brass to break the siege at Petersburg and perhaps bring an end to the war. But after so remarkable a feat in tunneling under the Confederate lines and in exploding the mine, the resulting attack was a complete and tragic disaster for Federal arms. The fighting that ensued in the Crater between the Union 9th Corps and the soldiers of William Mahone’s Confederate Division was severe, savage, and costly. The battle also witnessed the first large-scale involvement of black troops in the war’s Eastern Theatre. In the end, the battle resulted in a resounding defeat for the Union and a victory for the Confederates–their last major victory of the war–with total casualties exceeding 5,000 men. Afterward, there was much finger-pointing and blame in an affair that brought out the worst in the Union high command, revealing prejudice, bias, and jealousy at the the highest levels of command. – John Hoptak

Sunday, February 9
“So You Think You Could Command a Civil War Army?”

At one time or another in 1864, there were eighteen armies in the field varying in size from 7,000 to 70,000 soldiers. About two dozen generals were tasked to command these forces; some did poorly, but all struggled. Civil War buffs can be critical of the blunders committed, imaging how they might have done better. Yet what was the magnitude of pressures faced? In this program you will be invited to sit in the saddle commanding an army on the move and into battle, and reckon the myriad decisions you would need to be making. Any wrong decision might well lead to defeat. Are you ready to command?  – Chuck Teague

Saturday, February 15
If These Things Could Talk – 1864

Original objects from the park’s museum collection are examined for the larger stories they tell about the war in 1864 and the advances in technology of weapons that occurred that year – Tom Holbrook

Sunday, February 16
Little Mac vs. Honest Abe: Abraham Lincoln, George McClellan, and the Election of 1864

By the summer of 1864 Abraham Lincoln’s chances of being elected to a second term seemed bleak. The end of the war was nowhere in sight, members of his own cabinet eyed the presidency for themselves, and George McClellan stood poised to triumph in the fall elections. The fate of the Union rested not on the battlefield, but with the ballot. Join Ranger Christopher Gwinn and explore the most pivotal Presidential election in American history – Chris Gwinn

Saturday, February 22
Kennesaw Mountain and the Atlanta Campaign

The fall of Atlanta in September 1864 ranks as one of the most important Union victories of the American Civil War. Yet, at the outset of the campaign, Union success was far from a sure thing. On June 27 the Confederate army under Gen. Joseph Johnston made a determined stand on Kennesaw Mountain, blocking the road to Atlanta for the Union army under General William Tecumseh Sherman.  Sherman chose to make a frontal assault upon Johnston’s position which resulted in some of the hardest, and most costly fighting of the entire campaign.  Although a Confederate victory the battle at Kennesaw Mountain provided important lessons for Sherman and his men that ultimately helped them to capture Atlanta some two months later – Dan Vermilya

Sunday, February 23
“Can those be men?” – The Prisoner of War Experience in 1864

Seeing Union prisoners return from Belle Isle Prison in Virginia, Walt Whitman remarked, “Can those be men?”  Entering the fourth year of the war and the cessation of prisoner exchange by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, previously established temporary prisoner-of-war camps ballooned beyond capacity prompting the construction of new pens in 1864 by both Union and Confederate authorities.  With increased numbers of prisoners came explosions of disease, illness, and death. Trace the prisoner of war experience in 1864 through diaries, journals, and letters from soldiers both North and South – Dan Welch

Saturday, March 1 
Battle of Brice’s Crossroads – Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Greatest Victory

Forrest entered the service as a private and surrendered as a Lieutenant General.  Along the way, this uneducated backwoods fellow learned the art of war – Forrest style, culminating in the year 1864 with controversy at Fort Pillow, his greatest victory Brice’s Crossroads, and an all-out effort by Union General William T. Sherman to thwart “that devil Forrest.” – Matt Atkinson

Sunday, March 2 (Ford Education Center)
Like the Oncoming of Cities” – Freedom’s Dilemma

By 1864 slavery was being destroyed by the sword and by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Wherever the Union army went tens of thousands of African Americans fled the plantations where they had been enslaved and sought freedom behind Union lines.  No one was prepared for the numbers that arrived and particularly how quickly they came.  As one chaplain wrote, “it was like the oncoming of cities.”  The army was forced to improvise and established camps for the newly freed people but it was not trained or equipped to facilitate the transition of hundreds of thousands from slavery to freedom.  The challenge to the army and the freedmen proved immense – Angie Atkinson

Saturday, March 8 (Ford Education Center)
Spring 1864 Congressional Hearings on Meade at Gettysburg: “Witch hunt or Fair Play?” 

General George Meade had to appear before a congressional subcommittee in Washington in the Spring of 1864 to answer several questions seemingly aimed at diminishing his performance at Gettysburg. The several loaded questions leveled at him, and his corps’ commanders, who also testified, appear in retrospect to be unfair at best, and a witch hunt at worst. What were the intentions of the Committee on the Conduct of War? Did they simply ask questions that needed to be asked, or did they hope to raise doubts about the administration’s ability to prosecute the war? Why burden the memory of a great Union victory with innuendo’s that Meade could have done more? – Troy Harman

Sunday, March 9 (Ford Education Center)
“Longstreet to the Rescue:” The Battle of the Wilderness, May 6, 1864

On the morning of May 6, 1864, the second day of the battle of the Wilderness, Gen. Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia were on the verge of collapse. At the critical moment, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet and his First Corps came swinging onto the field “like a fine lady at a ball.” This program will examine the impact of Longstreet’s attack on the morning of May 6, the circumstances surrounding Longstreet’s wounding, and what the Confederates thought could have happened if Longstreet had not been wounded – Karlton Smith


*Programs will be held in theaters Jan. 4 – Feb. 23, and in the Ford Education Center, March 1 – 9.
Schedule is subject to change

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A Few Trifling Remarks: Edward Everett and his Gettysburg Address

About 8,000 people gathered near Gettysburg on November 19, 2013 for the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. It was an impressive assemblage even by Gettysburg standards. In addition to the politicians, dignitaries, and historians, there were throngs of locals and tourists, school kids and civil war buffs. Perhaps most impressive were the handful of candidates for citizenship who would that day join the ranks of their fellow Americans. Thanks to modern technology and the National Park Service Social Media Team, many thousands more were able to follow along online, via the streaming webcast or on Facebook.


If you watched the commemoration on your computer the only thing you really missed out on, other than the sense of place you can only get from being there, was the cold. It was freezing, even by my relatively hardy New England standards. It was the kind of cold that seemed to emanate from the ground and then radiate through the soles of your shoes.

The commemoration lasted about 90 minutes. I spent most of that time intently watching from afar and quietly shifting from foot to foot in hopes of delaying the onset of frostbite. Even with the cold, it was an impressive hour and a half.

By comparison, the 2013 ceremony was brief. The dedication on November 19, 1863 took more than three hours on a day that was only slightly less chilly. Even by 19th century standards, the ceremony was a long one. Brigadier General John Gibbon was one of only a handful of soldiers who witnessed both the battle and the Gettysburg Address. He got restless part way through and left to explore the battlefield with his aide Frank Haskell. They toured the field and returned only to find the ceremony still in full swing.

The relative brevity of the modern proceedings was due in no small part to the absence of Edward Everett. Everett, who was as well known then as he is obscure today, spoke for about two hours on November 19, 1863 – well beyond the attention span of most 21st century Americans. Had our modern commemoration included a recitation of Everett’s address in addition to the annual offering of Lincoln’s immortal words, it’s entirely possible that the cold would have won the battle for supremacy of my already frigid feet.

That being said, I thought a lot about Everett on Dedication Day. References to Lincoln were in abundance, as they rightly should be. I’m not sure I caught a single reference to Lincoln’s opening act, however. I have a soft spot in my heart for Everett, probably for the same reason Ringo Starr is my favorite Beatle. It’s not easy being constantly overshadowed.


Everett has the distinction of being one of the most accomplished and least celebrated individuals in the pantheon of American statesmen. By 1863 he had served as a Congressman, Governor, Ambassador, Secretary of State, President of Harvard, and Senator, alongside being a Vice Presidential candidate in the election of 1860. Impressive enough, yet the well spring of Everett’s once significant fame was his skill as an orator. In Everett’s day oration was an art form and he was the undisputed master of the medium. If you needed someone to dedicate a monument, welcome a foreign dignitary, raise some money, or advance a cause, Everett was your guy.

To borrow a phrase from Ron Burgundy, Everett was kind of a big deal. So when it came to consecrating the new Soldiers’ National Cemetery it was almost a matter of course that it would involve an oration and Everett would give it. Gettysburgian David Wills, the driving force behind much of the creation of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, formally invited Everett on September 23rd, long before Lincoln got his invite. Everett accepted – with conditions. He couldn’t do it any earlier than November 19th. Wills had originally intended for the ceremony to take place on October 23rd, but quality takes time. It would take a great deal of energy to prepare something worthy. As Everett explained to Wills, “The occasion is one of great importance, not to be dismissed with a few trifling remarks.” Everett also requested that a tent be erected next to the wooden platform on Cemetery Hill. He was sixty nine at the time and his health was poor. In particular, he was afflicted by a troublesome kidney ailment. Besides offering a place of quiet and reflection prior to his oratorical effort, he might need the privacy to heed the call of nature.

Perhaps the biggest concession Everett required dealt with the dead. Wills did not intend to begin the work of reburying the dead until after the dedication. Everett requested that the process begin prior to November 19th. His reasoning was purely artistic. He felt his words would have more meaning, the setting would be more powerful, if when he spoke he did so over the bodies of the slain.

Edward “Ever-at-it” Everett got to work crafting his Gettysburg address. He knew his speech must do three things: Honor and pay tribute to the dead, offer a history of the battle, and give meaning to the deaths of thousands of Americans. None of this would be particularly easy, but his history would be perhaps the most technically difficult of the three. Barely three months had passed since the battle with relatively few published sources to consult. Even George Meade’s official report on the campaign had yet to be made public. Despite this significant hurdle, Everett was able to craft a surprisingly thorough history by communicating with individuals such as Henry Halleck, George Meade, Michael Jacobs and John Bachelder. Yet even with this expert help, Everett had difficulty making sense of the battle. No one account seemed to agree with the other. He jotted down in his diary the essential problem:

“The close observation, which I have had occasion to make of the accounts of Meade’s Campaign in July have convinced me, more than I ever felt it before, how uncertain the accounts of great battles must be. By dexterous selection of detail & choice of words, the very same incidents are related in a directly opposite manner by the two parties.”

Everett’s finished oration came in at 13,582 words. That’s roughly two hours’ worth of material if delivered with the appropriate pauses and careful enunciation. He had it printed and distributed prior to the ceremony so that every reporter present, rather than furiously scribbling in short hand, could have a clean copy readily available.

Everett’s journey to Gettysburg was uneventful. He arrived a full day before Lincoln, time enough to tour the battlefield with Professor Michael Jacobs of Pennsylvania College. Everett had been to battlefields before, both at home and abroad. He had seen the Plain of Marathon, Lexington Green, and the nearly eroded remains of the patriot redoubt on Breed’s Hill. Yet these were the battlefields of a different age. Gettysburg in November of 1863 was still a place of horror, even after four and a half months of clean up. It was a jarring experience for Everett.

“We saw everywhere, on the route, the graves of those, who were buried where they fell; a bit of flat wood at the head & foot serving for a temporary landmark soon to disappear. Some of the rebels fell among the rocks between round top and little round top, & where there was no earth that could be thrown over them. Their bodies were covered with rocks.”

The night before the dedication the town took on a carnival like atmosphere. By this time President Lincoln and his entourage had arrived as had thousands of visitors, reporters, and sightseers. Excitement in Gettysburg had reached a fever pitch. Throngs of people filled the streets, the houses, the taverns. Bands played. Politicians speechified. It was a festival atmosphere. One reporter described it as a “soggy November night” and that a “corner in a tavern was a crowning mercy.”

Everett stayed the night of November 18th in the Wills House, along with his daughter, President Lincoln, and at least 36 other people. Every bed and floor was occupied as the structure strained to accommodate the guests inside.

Today the David Wills House is owned by the National Park Service and thanks to our partners at the Gettysburg Foundation, is open to the public. The night of November 18, 2013 the entry fee was waived and thousands came out for the chance to stand in Lincoln’s bedroom, 150 years to the minute that Lincoln occupied it. I went as well and braved the November chill and the crowds to try to connect with the history that was made there.

The house was packed and the combined body heat of scores of people shuffling through the rooms caused the temperature to spike. This too reminded me of Everett. John Russell Young, a reporter for the Philadelphia Press, managed to get an audience with Everett the night of November 18. Everett’s room inside the Wills House was “uncomfortably warm,” Young noted. “He had been carefully put away…as though he were an exotic and needed precious care.”

Our modern unfamiliarity with Everett was not shared by Young. “We of this generation do not realize the space which Edward Everett filled, at least in the imagination of the younger men,” Young later remembered. “He was the embodiment of a noble and stainless fame…he seemed like some stately comrade of Adams and Jay, stepped out from the sacred past.” Everything about Everett seemed old fashioned. He used out dated pronunciations. His manners were “antique” and “courtly,” and when he spoke he waved about a white handkerchief.

Everett’s night was an unpleasant one. The noise outside was incessant, and though he had delivered countless orations in the past there was some nervousness about the following day’s events. Everett was also concerned that his privacy would be interrupted by the Governor of Pennsylvania. Everyone in the Wills House, with the exception of Lincoln, had to share a room if not a bed. For example, Everett’s daughter Charlotte was put into a bed with two other girls. The bed eventually collapsed under their combined weight sending them all to the floor. Wills had debated putting Andrew Curtin in Everett’s room, a thought the sixty nine year old Everett, with his troublesome bowels, did not relish. “I did not get to bed till ½ past 11” Everett wrote, “& the fear of having the executive of Penna. Tumbled in upon me kept me awake till one.”

The dedicatory events of November 19th began with a procession from the center of town to the cemetery. Most of the dignitaries present rode in the parade, including Lincoln. Everett did not, preferring the solitude of his tent near the platform. He was rather aloof prior to the event. His illness may be partially to blame, but Everett had the habit of becoming reticent prior to speaking. “I do not like to talk,” he would once explain. “It is rather more agreeable to me, just before speaking, to be alone.”


Perhaps as many as 15,000 people were in attendance on Cemetery Hill for the 1863 dedication. They stretched across the hillside in front of the wooden platform where Lincoln and the others found their seat. Everett emerged from his tent about twenty minutes after everyone else was already in place. He took his spot next to Lincoln as the ceremony began with a prayer and a selection from the Marine Corps Band. Being the main attraction, Everett spoke first.

Everett’s speech that day is well worth a read and is readily available online. He recited it from memory, sometimes looking at his audience and sometimes at Lincoln. The only hiccup in the entire performance came when he accidentally said Lee when he meant Meade, but this was quickly corrected by Lincoln and the show went on. By the time Everett reached his conclusion he was thoroughly exhausted and spent from the ordeal. Applause rippled through the crowd and Lincoln, Secretary of State William Seward, and others embraced Everett as he was escorted back to his seat wrapped in a blanket.

When all is said and done, Everett’s Gettysburg Address was a model of 19th century oratory. It was eloquent and learned, with many allusions and references to Ancient Greece and European history. Most of these are lost on us today, but would perhaps have been more relevant to the audience which Everett was addressing. At two hours it was a long speech, but entirely in keeping with the expectations of the day. The critical reaction to his oration was mixed in much the same way that Lincoln’s address was received. Republican newspapers were laudatory, Democratic ones less so.

Everett’s long slide into obscurity began almost as soon as he finished talking. His speech was quickly overshadowed by the genius and brevity of Lincoln’s. Neither speaker on November 19th had long to live. Everett died in January of 1865 in Boston, just a few months before an assassin’s bullet claimed Lincoln. Lincoln’s fame grew following his death in almost the same proportion that Everett’s evaporated. Today, Lincoln is a household name. Everett is, at best, an answer on Jeopardy. Yet his Gettysburg oration was to be the crowning achievement of his life. It is the product of a man who spent the bulk of his adult years shaping the country he loved, and then trying to save that country from implosion. We can’t expect 8th graders to memorize his address, nor do I anticipate seeing swarms of Everett impersonators on Remembrance Day, be we can take a moment to read what he wrote, and what he hoped would inspire a country in the throes of a bloody Civil War.

Christopher Gwinn, Park Ranger

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The Gettysburg Address, 150 Years Later

wreath laying

The wreath laying at the start of the ceremony.

On Tuesday, November 19, Gettysburg National Military Park (NMP) marked the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, an event which was marked by Abraham Lincoln delivering his immortal Gettysburg Address.  Thousands of people attended the 90-minute ceremony, including Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Director Jarvis and Northeast Regional Director Dennis Reidenbach. 

Superintendent Bob Kirby's welcome

Superintendent Bob Kirby’s welcome

Secretary Jewell shared keynote honors with Pulitzer Prize winning historian James McPherson. In her 272-word remarks, mirroring the length of Lincoln’s address, she reminded the crowd that our nation’s 16th president, “not only saved the American union but also came to symbolize its greatest virtues of humility, honesty and decency,” and that 150 years later, his words spoken at Gettysburg “call us to unfinished work…to continue to perfect our nation and a government that is truly ‘of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Ranger Morgan Brooks reads special remarks from President Barack Obama.

Ranger Morgan Brooks reads special remarks from President Barack Obama.

Gettysburg NMP Law Enforcement Ranger Morgan Brooks read a reflection on the Gettysburg Address prepared by President Barack Obama for the ceremony.  To read the remarks click here.


The swearing in of new citizens.
The swearing in of new citizens.
Secretary Jewell and Justice Scalia congratulate the new citizens.

Secretary Jewell and Justice Scalia congratulate the new citizens.

The event also included music by the United States Marine Band, who attended the dedication of the cemetery in 1863.  Also as part of the Dedication Day ceremonies, 16 new United States citizens were given the Oath of Citizenship by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  Lincoln portrayer James Getty recited the Gettysburg Address.

Taps (2)

The ceremony ended with a playing of Taps.

The NPS Social Media team under the direction of Jason Martz covered the event.  Check out their photos on Gettysburg NMP’s Facebook page.

Commemorative events continue in Gettysburg on November 23rd with the Remembrance Day Parade and the 11th  Annual Luminaria, in the Soldiers` National Cemetery.

by Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, with special thanks to Tami Heilemann for her photos.

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Gettysburg’s Great Address

    Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  So

Procession to the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery, November 19, 1863, looking north along Baltimore Street.

Procession to the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, November 19, 1863, looking north along Baltimore Street.

President Abraham Lincoln began his Gettysburg Address at the November 19, 1863 dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg.  Today, we nod our heads in approval at this first sentence.  We believe such things as freedom, liberty and equality to be inherently American.  Yet all of these beliefs were contested in the 1860’s America that Lincoln spoke to. 

    Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.  Lincoln reminded his audience that a part of the nation believed so strongly that all men were not created equal, that slavery was part of the natural order, that they had seceded from the Union and a great war had ensued. 

Saunders' Cemetery plan

Saunders’ Cemetery plan

        We are met on a great battlefield of that war.  We have come to consecrate a portion of that field as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives.  It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do so.  But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.  The brave men living and dead have dedicated it far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note nor long remember what we say here but it can never forget what they did here.  When Lincoln spoke these words only a small number of the Union dead had been reinterred in the newly established cemetery.   Some 7,000 Union and Confederate soldiers had been killed outright during the fighting on July 1– 3, and around another 3,000 had died of their wounds in the days and weeks that followed.  They were buried near where they fell, often in shallow graves with temporary grave markers.  Many of the Confederate dead were buried by the Union army after the battle.  It was customary with both armies after a battle that whoever controlled the battlefield afterward did not exert any effort to identify the dead of the opposing army so they were generally buried in mass graves.  So it was for hundreds of Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg.[1] 

1878 view of the Soldiers' National Cemetery, with the Emanual trostle from visible in the upper right.  This 1863 era farm located along Emmitsburg Road (now Steinwehr Avenue) is now demolished.

1878 view of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery ( The Emanual Trostle farm is visible at the upper right. This 1863 era farm was located along Emmitsburg Road, now Steinwehr Avenue,  and has been demolished.)

   Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin appointed a local attorney, David Wills, to act as a state agent to acquire land for a permanent cemetery for the Union dead.  With the help of another Gettysburg attorney, David McCounaughy, 17 acres were purchased on Cemetery Hill, adjacent to the local Evergreen Cemetery.  David Wills secured the services of William Saunders, of the Department of Agriculture, to complete a landscape design, and contracted for the re-interment of the Union dead.      In early November, Wills sent a formal invitation to the president and requested that as part of the ceremony that he deliver “a few appropriate remarks.” 

    Lincoln recognized the significance of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery dedication as a rare opportunity for him to speak to the nation about the war.  In an era before television and radio, events that received national press coverage did not occur often.  

    On the morning of the ceremony a huge crowd of some 15-20,000 people gathered.

It is for us the living, rather, to be here dedicated to the great unfinished task remaining before us.  That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.  That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.  That this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

    Lincoln directed his conclusion at the living.  The dead had already hallowed the ground at Gettysburg.  Now the living needed to assure that they had not died in vain.  The task remaining was twofold – that the nation might have a new birth of freedom, free from the scourge of slavery, and that the government the Founding Fathers had created would not perish.  

    The vision and future Lincoln charted was hard because it challenged deep seated prejudices and thinking.  The nation was not suddenly transformed by his Gettysburg Address and all its ills magically lifted.  But his speech gradually became what he may have hoped for – a North Star for the country, a direction to aspire to and work toward.   It continues to inspire us to this day. 

1930s souvenir booklet for Gettysburg

1930s souvenir booklet for Gettysburg

    Gettysburg National Military Park is a unit of the National Park Service that preserves and protects the resources associated with the battle of Gettysburg and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and provides an understanding of the events that occurred there within the context of American History.  Information is available at www.nps.gov/gett.


By D. Scott Hartwig, Supervisory Historian, Gettysburg National Military Park

[1] The Confederate dead, except for a small number retrieved by family members after the battle and after the war, were removed from the field in the early 1870’s and reburied in several Southern cemeteries.  The largest number went to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

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Was Lincoln an Afterthought?

    As we near the 150th anniversary of the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address it seems an appropriate time to reflect on the question of the president’s involvement in the dedication ceremony. Was he an afterthought to the event? In my years at Gettysburg I have repeatedly heard people claim authoritatively that he was. Several different interpretations are typically offered up as evidence to support this claim. One is that since the planners of the dedication ceremony first sought Edward Everett as the primary orator for the event that it meant they considered Lincoln secondary in importance and only included him as a formality. Another variation to this is that the planners forgot about the president which accounts for why he was invited so late in the planning. A third reason is that the planners were afraid Lincoln might say something embarrassing at the ceremony – there was that story of Lincoln cracking jokes as he rode through the Antietam battlefield – and sought to minimize his role. There are more but these are the most common I have heard. How do they hold up against the historical evidence we have available? Continue reading

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