Gettysburg – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

First the good: Earlier this month Gettysburg National Military Park was honored when the head of our monument preservation team received a national award for excellence for the care of monuments, cannon, plaques, fences, headstones and signs.

All the monuments and cannon at Gettysburg are commemorative features left behind by the veterans who fought here. The monuments have a story to tell you. We want you to visit Gettysburg to learn more about what happened here and why it still matters today.

Now for the bad and the ugly:  In the last ten years, bad drivers and terrible weather have nearly demolished a number of Gettysburg’s historic monuments. This blog takes a look at seven monuments badly damaged since 2003.  These have all been repaired.

74th Pennsylvania Infantry monument after an SUV hit it in 2003

74th Pennsylvania Infantry monument after an SUV hit it in 2003

Pieces of the broken color bearer on the 74th Pa. before the repairs were completed.

Pieces of the broken color bearer on the 74th Pa. before the repairs were completed.

Mazda vs. the 58th New York Infantry monument, 2004

Mazda vs. the 58th New York Infantry monument, 2004

4th Ohio Infantry marker vs. the pickup truck, 2004.  The zinc marker was damaged beyond repair and entirely replaced in 2006.

4th Ohio Infantry marker vs. the pickup truck, 2004. The zinc marker was damaged beyond repair and entirely replaced in 2006.

Lightning struck the 6th New York Cavalry monument at Gettysburg and nearly blew it apart in in 2007.

Lightning struck the 6th New York Cavalry monument at Gettysburg and nearly blew it apart in 2007.

72nd Pennsylvania Infantry monument toppled by a windstorm in 2013.

72nd Pennsylvania Infantry monument toppled by a windstorm in 2013.

close-up of the 72nd Pa. after a wind storm blew it down just before the 150th anniversary.  Park maintenance reset the monument before sunset the same day it fell.

Close-up of the 72nd Pa. after a wind storm blew it down just before the 150th anniversary. Park maintenance reset the monument before sunset the same day it fell.

121st New York Infantry damaged by a heavy tree limb during Halloween snowstorm 2011.

121st New York Infantry damaged by a heavy tree limb during Halloween snowstorm 2011.

Cannon at Grandy’s Battery smashed by a fallen tree in the same Halloween snowstorm, 2011.

Cannon at Grandy’s Battery smashed by a fallen tree in the same Halloween snowstorm, 2011.

Once again, ALL of these monuments have been repaired.  Gettysburg’s monuments and cannon still have preservation problems though. We need your help. Occasionally, heedless actions by park visitors create concerns. These seemingly minor impacts add up when you think about the park’s more than one million visitors each year and the fact that we have been welcoming visitors since prior to 1895. Three particular actions have a way of making the job of the National Park Service – preserving Gettysburg resources unimpaired for future generations – more difficult.

Col. Patrick O’Rourke on the 140th New York Infantry monument at Little Round Top.

Col. Patrick O’Rourke on the 140th New York Infantry monument at Little Round Top.

Rubbing O’Rourke’s nose – Hand oils and constant rubbing wear away the patina giving it the shiny look, which changes the original commemorative intent of the monument. (Col. Patrick O’Rourke on the 140th New York Infantry monument at Little Round Top.)

 

 

Over time the chemical breakdown of the coins could have a negative impact on the stone, staining.

Over time the chemical breakdown of the coins could have a negative impact on the stone, staining.

Coins placed on headstones and monuments –  Over time the chemical breakdown of the coins could have a negative impact on the stone, staining.

 

 

 

 

Please don't climb on the cannon.

Please don’t climb on the cannon.

Climbing on carriages – Gettysburg’s cast iron cannon carriages are over 100 years old and fragile. They are like your great grandparent. The whole package weighs 2500 pounds+/- (carriages weigh in at 1600+/- and tubes range from 600-1200). You do not want to be near them during a collapse. Climbing on the cannon is dangerous …for lots of reasons.

 

Please help us by treating these “Silent Sentinels” gently and become our partners in protecting and honoring the monuments to the men who fought Gettysburg.

Finally, a special Happy New Year to all of our “From the Fields of Gettysburg” readers!  Thank you for your interest and support for Gettysburg’s history and preservation!

Sincerely,

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 12/24/14

About The Staff

Staff of Gettysburg National Military Park
This entry was posted in Gettysburg cannon, Monuments at Gettysburg, Soldiers' National Cemetery, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Gettysburg – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. Heath Covey says:

    Very well written. It’s challenging enough with all the “dangers” the Park can’t control (the Mother Nature sort), you shouldn’t have to deal with the “human dangers” of visitors. I’d suggest this message be a part of materials available to visitors (maps, brochure, etc.) to help further the education. Sadly, no amount of educating can totally solve the “stupids” but it’s a start. Happy Holidays and thanks for your work!

  2. Patricia Rich says:

    Thanks for bringing these issues to the forefront. There are some people who will continue to act disrespectfully, regardless of their surroundings. But I have found that in many instances, a gentle explanation of why they shouldn’t be doing this goes a long way with many. Sometimes just reminding someone of the sacrifices made, the costs involved, or (in a few instances) the legal ramifications, will cause an adjustment in attitude. The battlefield can be enjoyed in a respectful way.

  3. Great post! I visited Gettysburg soon after the 74th Pennsylvania monument had been hit and it was a very sad sight. Also, I know I’d be absolutely furious if I had the misfortune to personally see anyone climbing on artillery!🙂

  4. Mary Tomcsanyi says:

    The very first time I visited Gettysburg there were teenagers skate boarding off the rocks down in the Devil’s Den. I was horrified, but no one seemed to be worried or care. It hurts to see such disrespect to the monuments to our fallen soldiers. I know they are just rocks but they are special to some of us.

  5. Veronica Conigliaro says:

    We were present to hear a guide from the city tell some teens to get off of the Lincoln with the civilian monument in front of the Wills Home on the diamond. That took courage on her part, but we felt very good about her doing that. Children are not taught this respect anymore so someone else has to do it.

  6. Elizabeth A. Holland says:

    It’s already been stated, but to reiterate: why are vehicles permitted to drive through the park? Crazy! I’m a contributor to the Park ‘s Foundation and happy and proud to be. Gettysburg is a wonderful monument to the sacrifice given to preserve our nation. Thank you.

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