Bells Across the Land: The War Comes to an End


Sometime around 3:00 PM on April 9th, 1865 Robert E. Lee surrendered what was left of his once vaunted Army of Northern Virginia to the combined armies of the United States under Ulysses S. Grant. The front parlor of Wilmer McLean’s home in Appomattox Court House provided the setting for this, the closing drama of the war in Virginia. The surviving soldiers of the opposing armies at Appomattox had come to the end of a long road that stretched through Farmville and Petersburg, through Gettysburg and Sharpsburg, along the Rapidan and Chickahominy all the way back to Bull Run.

Grants Pen

Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant used this pen to sign the surrender documents on April 9, 1865. It is currently on display at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.

The people of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania didn’t receive the news until the following day, the morning of April 10th, 1865. Few northern communities could claim to have experienced the full spectrum of the horror of the Civil War as did the residents of Gettysburg. Like nearly every northern town, many of Gettysburg’s residents volunteered to fill the ranks of northern armies. Most of them made it home, but not all. Men like Fred Huber who was killed at Fair Oaks or Alexander Cobean who numbered among the slain at Shiloh, brought the tragedy of distant engagements home to an otherwise peaceful community. Unlike nearly every other northern town, Gettysburg played host to a major battle. The destruction and carnage of war visited Adams County in a manner that was all too familiar in the south, but virtually unknown throughout the loyal states of the North.

The news of the surrender of Lee caused jubilation and celebration throughout Gettysburg. The Adams Sentinel reported the event with a headline proclaiming “Bright Skies! Lee Surrendered and His Whole Army!” and described the ensuing celebration which included the dismissal of all schools and “Cheer upon cheer…given for our victorious Generals, our Government, the Old Flag, Adams Sentineland etc.” “This glorious news,” it continued, “is the precursor of Peace, and a triumph of our principles, which will tell upon the future of the great nation.”

The Civil War did not officially end that day or in that place, a fact those with more than a passing interest in the conflict are quick to cite, pointing to the April 26th surrender of Joe Johnston at Bennett Place, the May 1865 battle of Palmito Ranch in Texas or the furling of the ensign of the CSS Shenandoah in November of 1865, among a host of other “ends.” Yet, it’s tough to view the capitulation of Lee as anything other than the complete dissolution of the southern Confederacy.

Even if the war didn’t officially end that day, it has become the de facto conclusion for a four year long conflict that refuses to be anything other than complex and endlessly debatable. Even today, the word Appomattox conjures a feeling of finality…both for the Civil War generation, and for our own. Devoid a crystal ball and decipherable tea leaves, it seems likely that the current commemorative events at Appomattox will mark the end of the official sesquicentennial commemorations of the past four years, with the possible exception of the approaching anniversary of the Lincoln assassination.

Bells Cross the land

In that vein, today at 3:15 PM in communities all across the United States, bells will be rung in commemoration of the conclusion of the American Civil War. Each bell will chime or call out for four minutes, each minute symbolizing one year of warfare. We invite you, should you happen to hear this sustained ringing where you live, to take four minutes, or even four seconds, out of your day to reflect on the significance of what happened one hundred and fifty years ago. Local churches in Gettysburg, the Lincoln Train Station, Gettysburg College, the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, and a host of others organizations will take part in this simple act of remembrance. We hope you will too.

Christopher Gwinn,
Gettysburg National Military Park

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“Find Your Park” at Gettysburg

Primary.FindYourParkLogo.FullColorOn August 25, 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) will celebrate its 100th birthday. To celebrate 100 years of stewardship, our goal is to connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates. Programs and events at Gettysburg National Military Park (GETT), Eisenhower National Historic Site (EISE) and all the national parks will reach out to engage new audiences, teachers, students, and youth.

At Gettysburg, we put our heads together and here are some of the activities we are talking about. The Centennial theme is “Find Your Park” and it was launched at media events today in New York City. Find Your Park is a movement. Everyone is invited. We’ll know we’re succeeding when the public starts to pick up the spirit of the movement and inspire others.

Let us know what you think of these ideas and go to the Find Your Park website to learn more and share your stories.

Virginia Memorial, detail.

Virginia Memorial, detail.

Arts in the Parks Residencies – Working with the National Parks Arts Foundation, Gettysburg National Military Park (GETT) has established three, one-month residencies. The artists will be selected by National Parks Arts Foundation’s curators and advisors, and will use their residencies in one of the historic houses on the Gettysburg battlefield to create artwork inspired by the historic landscapes, over one thousand memorials and monuments and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.       June – August 2015. NPS Call to Action #10 Arts Afire.

Creating a New Lincoln – Monument specialists at Gettysburg National Military Park and the NPS Historic Preservation Training Center will be working in Gettysburg to prepare for the casting of a new life-sized bronze statue of a standing Abraham Lincoln for the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. A 1965 plaster cast of an original, Augustus Saint-Gaudens sculpture will be conserved and then used to create a new 12 foot tall statue of Lincoln. The work will be done in Gettysburg throughout the spring and summer months, and the sculpture will be completed and shipped to Saint-Gaudens’ home and studios in Cornish, New Hampshire, in time for a September 2015 ribbon cutting to commemorate the park’s 50th birthday.   April through September 2015. NPS Call to Action #10 Arts Afire

Ranger Rubalcava 2 at Gettysburg NMPHealthy Adams County/Wellness Walks – Gettysburg National Military Park is hosting community wellness walks on the battlefield to improve health and wellness. Spring and Fall 2015. NPS Call to Action #6 Take a Hike. Call Me in the Morning

Parks in your Classroom – Gettysburg and Eisenhower Park Rangers will present programs in regional schools about the NPS, careers in parks, and the 100th birthday. We are also seeking funding opportunities to create virtual field trips; host school Administrator days; and provide special family programming, improved Junior Ranger activities and service projects. Fall 2015 through Spring 2016. NPS Call to Action #3 History Lesson

MillennialsNew Recruits: Memberships for Millennials – The Gettysburg Foundation will be developing and launching a new membership level for the Friends of Gettysburg. The new “Recruit” level will be for ages 18 – 38. In addition, we’ll engage with community groups, young professionals and others to improve engagement in park programs and preservation. Fall 2015. NPS Call to Action #29 Posterity Partners.

We’ll post updates about these and other events as we continue our planning. Join us in the movement. Go out and Find Your Park!

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, April 2, 2015

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Fighting Today for a Better Tomorrow: The Civilian Conservation Corps at Gettysburg


CCC enrollees arriving by train for M.P.-2, McMillan Woods, Gettysburg Train Station, ca. 1935.

In the summer of 1933, some seventy years after generals Robert E. Lee and George G. Meade led their armies to Gettysburg, a new army arrived. Composed of young men, this new volunteer army was unlike any one created by the United States government before. Instead of shouldering rifles, these volunteers were armed with shovels, saws, and pickaxes. Rather than learn about military strategy and tactics, these men were taught about the conservation of the nation’s natural resources. Their enemy was not some foreign power. The enemy was an economic depression that had, at its height, put an estimated fifteen million Americans out of work and denied them the opportunity to support their communities, families, and themselves. This new army was called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and Gettysburg was but one battlefield in the campaign to put Americans back to work.

In his First Inaugural Address on March 4, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt pledged to put Americans to work, but just as important, he laid out his plans of attack. “Our greatest primary task,” Roosevelt acknowledged, “is to put people to work.”[1] For those Americans who had lost hope for economic relief, Roosevelt reminded them that the problem was not “unsolvable” if faced “wisely and courageously.”[2] Unemployment relief could “be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself,” Roosevelt insisted, and “treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war…”[3] Roosevelt then mentioned a secondary goal, which was to accomplish “greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources.”[4] Roosevelt wanted to use public lands, such as the Gettysburg battlefield, to help a crumbling nation. Twenty-seven days after his Inaugural Address, Roosevelt signed the Unemployment Relief Act, which established the CCC, one of Roosevelt’s most successful New Deal programs.[5]

Within the first year of its existence, Roosevelt allowed for 250,000 recruits to enroll in the Emergency Conservation Work program, as the CCC was first known. An additional 25,000 local experienced men, or LEM’s, were accepted to teach the unskilled enrollees the various trades to accomplish their work assignments. Another 25,000 military veterans who had been unable to find employment were also accepted. Enrollment was further expanded in July with the acceptance of 12,000 American Indians. These approximately 300,000 enrollees, organized into companies of about 200 men each, were placed in 1,468 camps located in every state across the country. In Roosevelt’s opinion, the mobilization of the CCC “was the most rapid large-scale mobilization of men” in the country’s peace-time history.[6]

The first wave of recruits had to meet certain criteria in order to join the CCC. Recruits had to be unemployed, unmarried, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, and willing to send $25.00 of their $30.00 monthly allowance home to their families. Those who enrolled had to serve a minimum six month enlistment, but they could continue serving for up to two years if they were unable to find employment elsewhere.[7] Recruits also had to be male. While women filled supportive roles for the CCC in some instances, none became enrollees.


Restoring a stone wall along Slyder Lane, ca. 1937.

The CCC had a profound impact on the United States during its nine year existence – politically, economically, socially, and of course, environmentally. The program nonetheless maintained various societal norms that undercut its own potential, restricted the nation’s economic recovery, and reminded a class of American citizens of their status in society. The CCC perpetuated racial inequalities principally toward African Americans by limiting their enrollment by using a system of quotas based on state populations, limiting the rise of African Americans to leadership roles, and establishing segregated camps.

Of the approximately 2.5 million enrollees that served in the CCC from 1933 to 1942, about 250,000 were African American.[8] These figures would have been higher if the CCC administration and Advisory Council had not confined African American enrollment from exceeding ten percent of the program’s national total.[9] Even as various New Deal programs were implemented, the number of African Americans receiving relief increased from 1933 to 1935.[10] If volunteering for the CCC was harder for black youth than white, rising to a leadership position within the CCC was even more difficult. In an organizational structure similar to that of the United States Colored Troops that fought in the Civil War, it was customary for white officers to command black enrollees. Resistance by the U.S. Army, potential negative publicity of the CCC for allowing black leadership, and minimal interest and support in the matter by the White House and politicians denied aspiring black enrollees a chance at advancement.[11] Those who were appointed to leadership roles would serve in black camps only. Lastly, inequality existed in the form of segregated camps, which were established with little regard because of the “separate but equal” philosophy that existed across the country.

The arrival of the relief program at Gettysburg coincided with that of the National Park Service. Prior to the summer of 1933 the battlefield had been maintained by the United States War Department. James R. McConaghie, the first NPS superintendent at Gettysburg, had requested 100 enrollees to provide various improvements to the battlefield. McConaghie’s request was approved, and the first company – Company 385-C – arrived in June, with three white officers and 180 African American enrollees.[12]

Gettysburg provided an appropriate backdrop for black enrollees. Those American youths were stationed on a battlefield from a war fought to preserve the Union and end the enslavement of African Americans, but one that ultimately fell short from reaffirming the ideal that “all men are created equal.” The enrollee’s surroundings on that “great battle-field of that war” would have reminded them of what the Civil War failed to achieve just as much as what was accomplished. Many must have wondered whether or not President Abraham Lincoln’s vision for “a new birth of freedom” had yet been realized.


Park Superintendent James McConaghie with camp officers at M.P.-1 in Pitzer Woods, ca. 1934.

It was, perhaps, fitting that Company 385-C was detailed to Gettysburg, especially since it had been organized at Fort George G. Meade, in Maryland, on June 2, 1933.[13] After its organization, the company was transported by rail to Gettysburg, then transferred by bus to their camp, called MP-1, or what the enrollees would soon call Camp Renaissance.[14] MP-1 was located southwest of the town in Pitzer’s Woods on Seminary Ridge, an area occupied by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during the July battle. MP-1 was in operation until April 12, 1937 when it was closed due to budgetary cuts.

The residents of Gettysburg were fortunate to have enrollees stationed nearby. The town would benefit from the variety of projects carried out by the enrollees, which would drive tourism and enhance the visitor experience. More immediately, however, the local economy could expect a jump-start from the money enrollees were expected to spend at various businesses. Yet there was a reluctance to have black enrollees living and working nearby. As a preemptive measure, the Gettysburg Times told its readers that the arrival of the first black enrollees was only temporary, and that this contingent had been sent to Gettysburg to establish a camp for a forthcoming white company.[15] This news also made the area’s representative in Washington, D.C. to take action. Congressman Harry L. Haines was either personally unhappy about a black company at Gettysburg, or he received a significant response from his constituents who were unhappy as well. Haines wrote to Robert Fechner, the director of the CCC, asking that Company 385-C be sent to a more remote area, but the request was ineffectual.[16] Despite this initial hesitancy, it appears that the town came to value the CCC camps on the battlefield, even if they were black camps. The community planned to send a delegation to Washington to persuade Director Fechner to keep both MP-1 and MP-2 open when it was learned that one camp would be abandoned.[17]


M.P.-1 buildings in Pitzer Woods, ca. 1934.

The work to be performed by Company 385-C was chosen specifically by Superintendent McConaghie. Projects ranged from transplanting and pruning trees, cutting and hauling wood, removing stumps, to lawn maintenance and other projects.[18] New projects sometimes popped up unexpectedly and added to the workload. Such was the case on July 2, 1933 when a twister roared through MP-1 and went tearing toward Little Round Top and Big Round Top, leaving debris of every description in its wake. MP-1 was devastated. The forty-five tents used to house the officers and enrollees were all blown down and various camp items were scattered about. It seemed as though Little Round Top and Big Round Top received the heaviest blow, however. Some 275 trees were knocked over or snapped by the twister’s strong winds.[19]


Enrollees resetting the gravestones in the Solders’ National Cemetery, ca. 1934.

Other work assignments concealed hidden dangers beyond those that are typical to manual labor. While enrollees were working near the National Cemetery in 1934 two “grapeshell bombs” were unearthed. The enrollees believed the artillery rounds were duds and therefore safe to handle. The projectiles were taken back to MP-1 and placed inside the camp headquarters as gifts to Captain Francis J. Moran. Moran, a World War I combat veteran, realized that the projectiles were actually live! He quickly ordered that they be taken to an open field at once. Moran had the Civil War projectiles placed side-by-side, braced on either side with logs, and had two sticks of dynamite placed underneath. On Moran’s command the seventy year old artillery rounds were exploded, thus preventing any terrible accident from happening to any person.[20]

Aside from its regular duties, Company 385-C responded to various emergencies within the state. When Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams flooded in 1936 Company 385-C sent a three truck convoy with food and clothing to those citizens impacted by the floods.[21] The enrollees also fought to contain several forest fires. In May 1936, Superintendent McConaghie led sixty enrollees southwest of Gettysburg to McKee’s Knob near Fairfield, where they fought for six hours to contain a fire begun by embers from a nearby barn that had caught fire.[22] Fortunately, no human lives were lost.


Enrollees painting the iron picket fence separating Soldiers’ National Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery, ca. 1936-1939.

The work was tough, but it filled an important void in the lives of the enrollees. President Roosevelt was aware of the tangible gains the United States could reap with the CCC at work, but he also understood the intangible gains that could be had by placing the unemployed in “healthful surroundings.”[23] In a message delivered to members of the Congress, Roosevelt wrote that “More important, however, than material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work…We can eliminate to some extent at least the threat that enforced idleness brings to spiritual and moral stability.”[24] The CCC was not only designed to relieve a nation, it was designed to rescue the souls of young Americans from idleness.

The enrollees of Company 385-C, along with enrollees throughout the CCC, were able to keep themselves busy outside of their work assignments. The CCC facilitated opportunities for personal exploration and growth that a generation of American youths may not have had otherwise. Numerous sports activities were available to the enrollees, including baseball, boxing, quoits, basketball, volleyball, and ping pong. The company even formed a drum and bugle corps, glee club, and camp orchestra, which delivered performances once a month. MP-1 also offered different school programs, including life saving, company clerks, and first aid attendants. In April 1934, a camp newspaper titled The Renaissance News began publication as an education opportunity for enrollees who could contribute articles of interest.[25] Due to its high degree of efficiency and excellent morale, Company 385-C was given the honor of being the best camp in the sub-district in May 1935.

News that a second CCC camp would be established at Gettysburg appeared in local newspapers in September 1933. Superintendent McConaghie was able to justify the need for more labor and his request for another company was accepted. MP-2 was placed in McMillan’s Woods, also on Seminary Ridge, and operated until March 1942.[26] MP-2 was occupied by Company 238-C, Captain James M. MacDonnell commanding, on October 18, but their time in Gettysburg was relatively short. Local newspapers reported in early May 1934 that Company 238-C would be sent to Yaphank, New York on May 9, leaving an open camp for a new company of enrollees.[27]

Company 1355-C was then assigned to MP-2. Organized at Fort George G. Meade, Company 1355-C arrived at Gettysburg on May 26, 1934 with three white officers and 190 African American enrollees.[28] Though it was organizationally similar to Company 385-C when it was created, Company 1355-C would stand out as one of the most unique companies in the CCC program.


Enrollees at work cleaning the High Water Mark Monument on Cemetery Ridge, 1937.

In August 1936, Captain Oscar H. Coble, the commanding officer at MP-2, learned that he and every white officer were to be transferred out. On August 10, Captain Frederick L. Slade, 1st Lieutenant George W. Webb, and 2nd Lieutenant Samuel W. Tucker, all African Americans, took command of the camp. This change in command came as a surprise to the white officers, and when the Gettysburg Times failed to ascertain the reasons behind the abrupt changes, the paper reported it was “believed to be an experiment of colored supervision of colored enrollees in the CCC camps.”[29] Slade became the first black officer to command a black CCC camp in the country, and by 1939 MP-2 was led by an all-black staff and served as “a ‘model’ camp of negroes.”[30] This “experiment” was, not surprisingly, successful.

There was plenty of work on the battlefield for the enrollees of Company 1355-C to perform. Work assignments mirrored those of Company 385-C. They included road installation, planting and pruning trees, clearing brush, cutting and hauling timber, building stone and rail fences, cleaning monuments, and other projects outlined by the National Park Service.[31] One of the more delicate jobs enrollees performed was that of resetting the grave markers of the Union dead in the National Cemetery. The sacredness of the job was not lost on the men. One enrollee, Frank Deering, was so inspired by the cemetery and his time working in it that he wrote a poem he titled “Remembering.” It read:

In this graveyard one can see,
The graves of the boys of sixty-three.
Only a few remember the day,
When these brave heroes were laid away.

The soldiers fought to set us free,
And we, the boys of the C.C.C.,
Pay our respect to the boys in blue,
Who nobly fell for a cause so true.

We care for the plot where their bodies rest,
And with reverent hearts we do our best.
To keep their final resting place,
A thing of beauty and of grace.[32]

Enrollees at MP-2 had numerous opportunities to discover and learn new interests. MP-2 hosted sports activities similar to those at MP-1, but with the addition of touch football and pool. Some of the enrollees showed considerable talent in their activities, as some of the men received commendations for boxing and swimming. Enrollees took advantage of the various educational opportunities at their disposal. Upon the expiration of their service, some enrollees planned to complete or further their educations by returning to high school or going on to college or vocational programs. The company started a camp newspaper as well, first with the M. P. Mirror and then The Battlefield Echo.[33] For its excellence in camp and enrollee health, religious morale and welfare activities, and the company’s administration, Company 1355-C in May 1941 was named a superior camp within its district of ten camps and was awarded the district honor flag. Company commander 1st Lieutenant George W. Webb rewarded his men with a special dance that was open to the community.[34]

CCC camps across the nation attempted to establish a level of transparency with the communities around them and highlight the program’s success. MP-1 and MP-2 were no exception. On March 30, 1938 MP-2 announced its schedule of events and special speakers for a weeklong commemoration. Activities ranged from camp tours led by “specially selected guides,” to a film of the projects carried out by the enrollees, to musical performances by the company glee club, to an address titled “The Significance of the C.C.C. at Gettysburg” delivered by National Park Service historian Dr. Louis E. King. The weeklong observance culminated on April 5, the birthday of the CCC, with an address delivered by Dr. Dwight O. W. Holmes, president of Morgan College in Baltimore, Maryland.[35]


CCC Camp MP-2, aerial view of McMillan Woods, West Confederate Ave., October, 1941 (from northwest).

1938 was a special year for the surviving veterans of the Civil War, the citizens of Gettysburg, the National Park Service, and most of all, the nation. 1938 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the battle, and would witness the final reunion for the aging Union and Confederate veterans. Company 1355-C played a role in getting the event up and running. Enrollees assisted in constructing the Eternal Light Peace Memorial and setting the gas line to fuel the monument’s flame. They also worked with Army personnel to construct various structures for the ceremonies and a camp for over 1,800 veterans who attended. Army officers and enlisted men began to arrive to the town in June and were quartered at the abandoned MP-1. Those soldiers occupied MP-1 until at least August in order to dismantle the veterans’ camp and perform additional clean-up work.[36]

The culmination of the 1938 commemorative event was an address delivered by President Roosevelt on July 3 at the Eternal Light Piece Memorial on Oak Hill. A central theme of Roosevelt’s speech was unity. “On behalf of the people of the United States,” Roosevelt began, “I accept this monument in the spirit of brotherhood and peace.”[37] Then, before an audience of some 250,000 spectators, possibly more, Roosevelt said of the veterans, “They are brought here by the memories of old divided loyalties, but they meet here in united loyalty to a united cause which the unfolding years have made it easier to see.”[38] Roosevelt’s emphasis of unity between former enemies underscored the necessity of a nation uniting to create a better world for the present as well as future generations. While Roosevelt spoke specifically to the slowly disappearing animosity between the blue and gray, he overlooked the growing hostility between white and black, but perhaps Americans of every race, ethnicity, and religion could use those aging men as an example to establish a new “brotherhood and peace.”

The memory of the CCC at Gettysburg continues to live on through their work that still stands on the battlefield – though many of their contributions go unnoticed to visitors today. The enrollees installed or improved park roads such as Jones’ Battalion Avenue, Sykes Avenue, and Wheatfield Road. They installed or improved trails on Little Round Top, Big Round Top, and at Devil’s Den. They landscaped around the West and South End Guide Stations, at Little Round Top, and around the Alabama Monument. They cleaned various monuments such as the High Water Mark Memorial, the Vermont State Monument, and the monument to the 155th Pennsylvania Volunteers. They widened the gateway to the National Cemetery from Baltimore Pike and reset the gravestones inside the National Cemetery. They removed, installed, or relocated stone walls and various types of fences, such as the stone wall along Granite School House Lane, the stone wall facing the parking lot on Little Round Top, and the iron picket fence separating the National Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery. They constructed the parking lots on Culp’s Hill, Devils Den, and Steven’s Knoll. The Gettysburg battlefield that so many Americans know and cherish was shaped by the black enrollees of companies 385-C and 1355-C.


Enrollees constructing a sidewalk on Little Round Top, ca. 1936.

The work performed by the black enrollees on the battlefield can be easily measured. By June 1935, two years into the program, MP-1 and MP-2 had removed fire hazards from over 800 acres and performed general cleanup to 1,163 acres of battlefield land. MP-1 had repaired 19 wells and water holes, performed 11,154 square yards worth of fine grading, and installed 700 linear feet of pipe lines and conduits. MP-2 installed 6,023 cubic yards of guard rails and stone walls, performed 32,848 square yards worth of fine grading, and reset 786 gravestones in the National Cemetery.[39] This was just the beginning for a program that would exist for seven more years at Gettysburg. What cannot be easily measured, however, is the impact the CCC had on the individual enrollees of companies 385-C and 1355-C, or even the influence of Gettysburg’s national significance on those young men.

The presence of the CCC program and African American enrollees at Gettysburg left an indelible legacy on the community and the battlefield. The work performed by companies 385-C and 1355-C serve as a living testimony to their contributions to their own and future generations of Americans. Through their energies on the Gettysburg battlefield, and the prejudice they faced, the black enrollees dedicated themselves to the “unfinished work” that was “so nobly advanced” on the nation’s Civil War battlefields. The service by the enrollees to themselves and their nation contributed in an immeasurable way to fulfilling President Abraham Lincoln’s hope for a “new birth of freedom.”

Casimer Rosiecki, Park Ranger

I would like to extend my gratitude to the following individuals and organizations for their assistance with helping me research the CCC at Gettysburg: The Adams County Historical Society in Gettysburg, PA; John C. Frye, Western Maryland Room Curator, and Elizabeth Howe, Associate Librarian, Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, MD; Paul T. Fagley, Cultural Educator at Greenwood Furnace State Park Complex, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; John Eastlake, who has done much work on the CCC in Pennsylvania; Joan Sharpe, President, CCC Legacy; and Andrew Newman, Museum Technician, Gettysburg National Military Park.

[1] Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Inaugural Address. March 4, 1933,” in The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt with a Special Introduction and Explanatory Notes by President Roosevelt, vol. 2, (New York: Random House, Inc., 1938), 13. Hereafter cited as “Roosevelt”.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “The New Deal Years: 1933-1941,” in Americas National Park System: The Critical Documents, ed. Lary M. Dilsaver (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1994), accessed February 28, 2015,

[6] Roosevelt, 107-110.

[7] Ibid., 109-110.

[8] Joseph M. Speakman, At Work in Penns Woods: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Pennsylvania (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania University Press, 2006), 131. Hereafter cited as “Speakman”.

[9] Olen Cole, Jr., The African-American Experience in the Civilian Conservation Corps (Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1999), 13-14.

[10] Ibid., 11.

[11] Speakman, 142-143.

[12] C.C.C. Annual 1936: District No. 1, Third Corps Area (Baton Rouge, LA: Direct Advertising Company, 1936), 199. Hereafter cited as “CCC Annual 1936”.

[13] Ibid.

[14] “206 RECRUITS ARRIVE HERE THIS MORNING,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), June 10, 1933.

[15] “206 RECRUITS ARRIVE HERE THIS MORNING,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), June 10, 1933.

[16] Speakman, 135.

[17] “SEEK TO KEEP CCC CAMP HERE,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), March 14, 1936.

[18] CCC Annual 1936, 199.

[19] “Twister Causes Much Damage as It Sweeps Through Here Sunday,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), July 3, 1933.

[20] “Captain Moran Rejects “Gift” of Two “Bombs” From Innocent Recruits,” Gettysburg Compiler (Gettysburg, PA), March 1, 1934.

[21] CCC Annual 1936, 199.

[22] “CCC MEN FIGHT MOUNTAIN FIRE,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), May 4, 1936.

[23] Roosevelt, 81.

[24] Ibid.

[25] CCC Annual 1936, 199.

[26] “CCC CAMP HERE WILL BE CLOSED ABOUT MARCH 15,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg PA), March 6, 1942.

[27] “COMPANY 238 MOVES MAY 9,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), May 3, 1934.

[28] CCC Annual 1936, 211.

[29] “NEGRO OFFICERS TAKE CHARGE OF CCC CAMP HERE,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), August 8, 1936.

[30] “Battlefield C.C.C. Camp To Be First One in U.S. Under All-Colored Staff,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), November 4, 1939.

[31] CCC Annual 1936, 211.

[32] “Writes Poem On National Cemetery,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), December 30, 1935.

[33] Ibid.

[34] “BATTLEFIELD CCC CAMP IS BEST IN AREA,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), May 29, 1941.

[35] “C.C.C. Camp Here Arranges 5th Anniversary Program,” Gettysburg Times (Gettysburg, PA), March 30, 1938.

[36] “90 Soldiers Stationed At Former C.C.C. Camp,” Gettysburg Compiler (Gettysburg, PA), July 30, 1938.

[37] Franklin D. Roosevelt, “‘Avoiding War, We Seek Our Ends Through the Peaceful Process of Popular Government Under the Constitution.’ Address at the Dedication of the Memorial on the Gettysburg Battlefield, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 3, 1938,” in The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt with a Special Introduction and Explanatory Notes by President Roosevelt, 1938 Vol., (New York: Random House, Inc., 1941), 419, accessed February 28, 2015,

[38] Ibid., 420.

[39] “$72,896 Is Spent For CCC Labor on Battlefield Here,” Gettysburg Compiler (Gettysburg, PA) June 29, 1935.

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Gettysburg Projects and Goals for 2015

We like to use this blog to provide updates on projects and goals for Gettysburg National Military Park.  This week we’ll take a look at  some of our top goals for the year :

Erosion at the summit of Little Round Top

Erosion at the summit of Little Round Top

Little Round Top – Gettysburg National Military Park (GETT) is now developing alternatives for the rehabilitation of Little Round Top. The alternatives would provide solutions for overuse, overcrowding and landscape degradation and identify appropriate locations for visitor conveniences at the site. We held a public scoping meeting in December, to provide information about the alternatives and gather feedback.   A draft environmental assessment will be prepared and available for public review and comment later this year.

Gettysburg National Military Park's Michael Wright in the current cannon carriage restoration shop.  Work continues even as the crew begins packing for the move into the new shop.

Gettysburg National Military Park’s Michael Wright in the current cannon carriage restoration shop. Work continues even as the crew begins packing for the move into the new shop.

New Cannon Carriage Restoration Shop – The park and the Gettysburg Foundation are funding the rehabilitation of a garage at the armory complex on West Confederate Avenue for use as a new cannon carriage restoration shop. The park’s monument preservation crew restores cast iron cannon carriages throughout the year. They have been operating out of a rented building west of Gettysburg. The park has more than 400 cannon carriages which date to the 1890s.

Comprehensive Community Trails Plan – Last fall, the park initiated a

One of Gettysburg's newer trails along Taneytown Road.

The Taneytown Road trail at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Comprehensive Community Trails planning effort. The purposes of the project are to improve multi-modal connections between trails and transportation opportunities within the two park sites and to identify potential links and newly established trailheads to provide pedestrian and bicycle access. The planning effort is expected to take one year, concluding with alternatives that we can consider for implementation and an environmental assessment.

The Treasures of the Civil War exhibit in the Museum and Visitor Center

The Treasures of the Civil War exhibit in the Museum and Visitor Center

Museum Exhibit Planning – Park and Gettysburg Foundation staff are planning a series of new, temporary exhibits at the Museum and Visitor Center as well as a new exhibit for the museum’s Gilder-Lehrman Special Exhibits Gallery. Currently the Gilder-Lehrman gallery showcases the “Treasures of the Civil War” exhibit. The next exhibit will be on the life and times of General Dwight D. Eisenhower at Gettysburg. The committee is also exploring options for updates to the permanent galleries in the museum.

Engaging the next generation is one of the National Park Service's top goals for the Centennial in 2016.

Engaging the next generation is one of the National Park Service’s top goals for the Centennial in 2016.

National Park Service Centennial – On August 25, 2016, the NPS will celebrate its 100th birthday. To celebrate 100 years of stewardship, our goal is to connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates. Programs and events at Gettysburg National Military Park, Eisenhower National Historic Site and all the national parks sites will reach out to teachers, students, and youth; increase the number of volunteers and students as interns and employees; update and expand our presence on social media, and much more.

Thanks to Jason Martz for the photos.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, March 19, 2015

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How Not to Conduct a Reconnaissance: Capt. Samuel R. Johnston, July 2, 1863 – Part I

One of the enduring mysteries of the Gettysburg Campaign is the morning reconnaissance conducted by Captain Samuel R. Johnston. Johnston, at the behest of Robert E. Lee, was ordered to scout the position of left flank of the Army of the Potomac. Johnston’s subsequent report, and the extent of his early morning exploration, has been the subject of intense debate and scrutiny for over a century and a half.  In the first of a two part series, Ranger Karlton Smith weighs in on the Johnston story, and its importance in directing the course of events on July 2nd, 1863. 

Lee, Robert Edward

Lee ordered Johnston to conduct an early morning reconnaissance of the left flank of the Army of the Potomac.

Gen. Robert E. Lee knew very little about the position of the Army of the Potomac on the evening of July 1, 1863. In order to plan his next moves properly Lee needed more detailed information on the location of his opponent and the nature of the ground. He sent several reconnaissance parties out on the early evening of July 1 and the early morning of July 2. The report that seems to have had the most impact was that of Capt. Samuel Richard Johnston.

Capt. Samuel Richard Johnston, from Fairfax County, Virginia, was 30 years old in 1863. He had been trained as a civil engineer and was appointed a lieutenant in Company F, 6th Virginia Cavalry, on April 20, 1861. By July 21, Company F was employed in picket duty and in scouting “near the enemy’s line in advance of the regular pickets.” The company was able to obtain “valuable information” because of its knowledge of the area and the previous surveys done by Johnston “who was much employed in command of scouting parties.”

Johnston was appointed a volunteer aide-de-camp to Brigadier General J. E. B. Stuart while stationed at Dranesville, Virginia and was acting inspector of outposts on Stuart’s staff. Stuart described Johnston as “sober, indefatigable, and capable.” Johnston served as a contract engineer near Richmond until assigned as a lieutenant of engineers to Maj. Gen. James Longstreet on June 4, 1862. He was promoted to captain of engineers and assigned to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s staff on August 12, 1862.

Johnston had conducted reconnaissance work for Lee and Longstreet in campaigns previous to Gettysburg. Longstreet had noted that Johnston had been “very energetic and untiring” in his efforts “to discover the various positions of the enemy.” Longstreet thanked Johnston, among others, during the Second Manassas and Antietam campaigns, “for great courtesy and kindness in assisting me on the different battle-fields.” Johnston helped to lay out the Confederate earthwork at Fredericksburg and helped to assign positions for the Confederate batteries. On May 3, 1863, during the battle of Chancellorsville, Johnston “discovered large parks of the enemy’s wagons and the camps of some of his troops on the opposite side of the river” and posted artillery the next day “to open a hot fire upon the parks and camps.” Johnston, had thus, proven himself to be an experienced and capable engineer officer and had become an experienced reconnaissance officer.

All of the major military books of the time stated that there was no more important duty for an officer than that of “collecting and arranging the information upon which either the general, or daily operations of a campaign must be based.” A reconnaissance was necessary because even a detailed map could “never convey all the information that will enable an officer to plan, even an ordinary march, with safety.” Since military operations would be based on this information, “any serious error in the reconnaissance may involve the results of the campaign, and even the fate of the war.

A reconnoitering officer “should be known to be cool-headed and truth-ful; one who sees things as they are, and tells clearly and precisely what he has seen.” Such an officer was “to ascertain precisely the duty required of him; and what further should be done in case of certain contingencies that may, from the nature of the duty, be naturally looked for.” A reconnoitering officer should also obtain maps, a good telescope, aids for judging distances, writing materials, some good guides and “gain all the knowledge he can, from the local inhabitants of the land…”

Johnston was called to Lee’s headquarters, probably near the Lutheran Seminary, before the sun was up on July 2. He was ordered by Lee “to make a reconnaissance of the enemy’s left and report as soon as possible.” Johnston claimed that Lee had said nothing about finding a,

     …route over which troops would be moved unobserved by the enemy, but it was not necessary as that was part of my duty as a reconnoitering Officer, and would be attended to without special instructions, indeed he said nothing about the movements of troops at all, and left me with only that knowledge of what he wanted which I had obtained after long service with him, and that was that he wanted me to consider every contingency which might arise.

These orders, at least as reported by Johnston, are somewhat vague. Johnston does not indicate that he was informed of Lee’s intention to launch a major assault from his right flanks, the troops that might be involved, or the route those troops might have to take. It appears from Johnston’s statement that he did not attempt a clarification as to his precise responsibility or what to do “in case of certain contingencies.”

Johnston admitted that he did not have a watch at the time, but he estimated that he left on his mission at “daybreak,” probably about 4:12 a.m. We cannot be certain what, if any, equipment or maps Johnston had with him. He never wrote of talking with any of the inhabitants he may have met along the way. Johnston claimed that he was accompanied by Longstreet’s engineer officer and three or four others as an escort. Longstreet’s engineer, Maj. John J. Graham Clarke, apparently left no account of his activities at Gettysburg.

Johnston later wrote to Maj. Gen. Lafayette McLaws:

     …my general route was about the same that General Longstreet took when he make his march. I crossed the creek on the same bridge that he did and turned to the left at once and got on the ridge where you subsequently formed your line, following along that ridge in the direction of the round tops across the Emmitsburg road and got up on the slopes of round top, where I had a commanding view, then rode along the base of round top to beyond the ground occupied by General Hood, and where there was later a cavalry fight.


Did Captain Johnston reach the slopes of Little Round Top?

On his return trip, Johnston wrote that “…when I again got in sight of Emmitsburg road I saw three or four troopers moving slowly and very cautiously in the direction of Gettysburg.” Johnston said he reported to Lee, after “the usual delay in finding headquarters,” at about 7:00 a.m., although it could have been a little later, having been gone approximately three hours. Why would Johnston, an experienced reconnaissance officer, have trouble finding headquarters? Even though there was a headquarters site, where most of the army’s staff would be located, Lee, himself, was also “headquarters.” In that case, Lee was not at the headquarters site but on Herr’s Ridge, further west of Gettysburg.

Johnston remembered seeing Longstreet and Lt. Gen. A. P. with Lee. In making his report, Johnston sketched his route on a map Lee was holding on his lap. He assured Lee that he had reached Little Round Top. Johnston wrote that later in the day, as McLaws’ division “was formed ready to advance,” Federal troops were seen forming in the Peach Orchard. “That,” said Johnston, “was the first evidence of any force being ready to oppose us on the enemy’s left that I had seen during the day.”

To be continued….

Karlton Smith, Park Ranger


Krick, Robert E. L. Staff Officers in Gray: A Biographical Register of the Staff Officers in the Army of Northern Virginia. (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press, 2003), 174.

Service Record for Samuel R. Johnston (Copy in GNMP Files V5-Johnston, Samuel R.

Mahan, Dennis Hart. An Elementary Treatise on Advanced-Guard, Out-Post… (New York: John Wiley, 1861), 105

Halleck, Henry W. The Elements of Military Art and Science. (New  York: D. Appleton & Co., 1862), 342

R. Johnston to Fitz Lee, February 11, 1878. S. R. Johnston MSS, Douglas S. Freeman Collection, Library of Congress

  1. R. Johnston to Lafayette McLaws, June 27, 1892
  2. R. Johnston to Rt. Rev. George Peterkin, December…18__

Donaldson, Francis Adams. Inside the Army of the Potomac: The Civil War Experience of Captain Francis Adams Donaldson, Gregory Aiken, ed. (Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998), 307.

Ladd, David L. & Audrey J. Ladd, eds. The Bachelder Papers: Gettysburg in Their Own Words.  3 vols. (Dayton, OH: Morningside, 1994), Vol. 1, 453.

Buell, Clarence C. & Robert Underwood Johnson, eds. Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. 4 vols. (1888), 3: 331.

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Battle of Gettysburg from Above

Mid-Winter Reminder

A road bed covered in snow, Culp’s Hill.

The winter is a great time to visit the battlefield from a sight line perspective. Foliage is down allowing for unbroken views into the wooded slopes of Culp’s Hill, Little Round and Oak Hill. A layer of snow further accentuates terrain by defining defiles, earthworks, burial pits and old road beds. Most impressive are the view sheds in January, February and March from original federal signal stations during the three day battle.

Some visitors will contend the towers at Culp’s Hill, Oak Hill and Warfield Ridge provide an equal or better bird’s eye view than original, primary signal stations located atop Little Round Top, Cemetery Hill and Powers Hill, and they may be right, but there is a significant difference. That is, the signal station hills offer original sight lines available to battle participants. Reconstructing the battle accurately requires using the information available at the time, and that is where winter views from primary signal stations become important. If one knows where to stand, the entire battle can be explained from these hills in context, with visual reinforcement.

The most refreshing prominence to interpret from is the recently cleared Powers Hill at the intersection of Baltimore Pike and Granite School House lane.  Looking east from the highest crest through openings made affordable from felled trees and winter barrenness, one can readily see the whole July 2, 1863 battle in contextual continuity. North Cavalry Field – Hunterstown is marked by a energy plant’s three smokestacks to the northeast, Brinkerhoff Ridge and East Cavalry Field is conveniently noticeable beside a green water tower and cell phone tower to the east. Both Hunterstown and Brinkerhoff Ridge represent the primary concentration of federal cavalry on July 2,that secured the federal right flank and rear. The same Powers Hill bird’s eye view east reveals Benner’s Hill, Culp’s Hill, Spangler Meadow, McAllister Ridge and Wolf’s Hill, all key locations for maneuvering, deployment and combat that covered the Baltimore Pike.

Karen Wood

Little Round Top in winter. Image courtesy of Karen Wood.

Facing west from Little Round Top in the winter months permits a similar reconstruction of July 2, 1863 battle maneuvers and combat action.  If one knows the second day’s battle, the whole story is laid-out from above. Breahm’s Hill, where James Longstreet’s Corps maneuvered in the afternoon to assault the federal left is visible directly west, as are Seminary and Warfield Ridges that concealed his attack-up the Emmitsburg Road. Furthermore, the Peach Orchard, Wheatfield, Devils Den and site of Farnsworth’s Charge are all easy to discern thanks to health cuts and controlled burns. Winter sight lines only make concordant points that much easier to identify and interpret.


Meade’s equestrian statue, looking towards Little Round Top.

Cemetery Hill offers the same unhindered sight lines west and east. Looking east from the Evergreen Cemetery Gatehouse, one can see Benner’s Hill more clearly defined than anywhere, particularly in the winter. Benner’s Hill constituted the primary Confederate artillery platform to the east and general location of two divisions of Southern infantry that assaulted Culp’s and East Cemetery Hills respectively. Peering west from the Soldier’s National Monument, in the National Cemetery, in January, February of March permits a sight line of the three tiered 11th Corps defense along Taneytown Road, Steinwehr and Fairview Avenues. Key federal strongholds such as the 8th Ohio Infantry advanced position on the Emmitsburg Road, and former Confederate sharpshooter location at the Bliss Farm (burned on July 3, 1863) are part of the sweeping perspective gained from West Cemetery Hill.

Altogether, a visit to the battlefield in the snow covered winter months is beneficial for locating old road beds, defiles, burial pits and earthwork foundations. Missing foliage permits sight lines far down the wooded slopes of Culp’s Hill, Little Round Top and Oak Hill for those in search of a better perspective of real time maneuvers, deployment and combat. Most importantly, a visit in January, February and March to Little Round, Powers and Cemetery Hills offers sweeping views of the battlefield close to what battle participants had and operated from. These three hills in particular allow an authentic retelling of the Battle of Gettysburg from above.

Troy Harman,

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Caring for Gettysburg’s Largest Artifact

A view of the diorama from the catwalk high above.

A view of the diorama from the catwalk high above.

It’s checkup time for the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting.

Conservator David Olin at the top of the painting in the background.

Conservator David Olin at the top of the painting in the background.

Gettysburg National Military Park’s largest artifact requires special care and attention. To ensure that the painting remains in good condition, David L. Olin, an acclaimed painting conservator who led a five-year conservation project on the painting in 2003, visits on a regular basis to conduct a condition assessment.

The oil on canvas measures 377 feet in circumference at its widest point and 42 feet in height and weighs 12.5 tons. Since its installation at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center it has been the “must see” attraction in the facility.


Olin, left, speaking with GETT Superintendent Ed Clark and the supervisor of museum services, Greg Goodell.

Olin, left, speaking with GETT Superintendent Ed Clark and the supervisor of museum services, Greg Goodell.

Entitled “The Battle of Gettysburg,” it depicts a pivotal moment in America’s history: the charge of Confederate infantry popularly known as Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. One of only two cyclorama paintings in the U.S. and about 20 worldwide, the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting experience offers the only historically accurate venue in the country.

French master Paul Philippoteaux and a team of 20 artists painted it in 1883 and 1884. In 2003, after nearly a century of neglect and deterioration, a five-year

A visitor's view of the cannon in the painting's diorama.

A visitor’s view of the cannon in the painting’s diorama.

conservation effort returned the painting to its original glory. Directed by the Gettysburg Foundation, in partnership with Gettysburg National Military Park, the project included conservation of the painting, recreation of 12 feet of missing sky, and addition of a new three-dimensional diorama and canopy, which had been lost for more than a century. The project was completed by Olin Conservation, Inc., Great Falls, Va., and was the largest-ever painting conservation project ever undertaken in North America.

Artist Paul Philippoteaux painted himself into the scene calmly watching, with a sword across his knees.

Artist Paul Philippoteaux painted himself into the scene, watching calmly with a sword across his knees.

Visitors today marvel at the three-dimensional diorama which includes fences, rocks, grasses, flowers, and cannon. The diorama is the key to the illusion, giving viewers the feeling that they are standing in the middle of Pickett’s charge. Battle veterans were said to have wept when they viewed this stirring example of state-of-the-art entertainment in the 1880s.

Tickets for the film, Cyclorama painting, and museum, and for battlefield tours, can be purchased

The artistry of the painting still inspires visitors after 131 years.

The artistry of the painting still inspires visitors after 131 years.

online at, which also offers more detail about the new Gettysburg experience.

Thanks to Jason Martz, Visual Information Specialist at Gettysburg National Military Park, for the photos and video used in this post.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 2/26/15

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The History of Living History at Gettysburg National Military Park


Gettysburg National Military Park owes a huge debt of gratitude to the countless hours of work performed by our dedicated crew of volunteers. From the Visitor Center to the Cannon Shop, the Education Center to the farthest corners of the battlefield, volunteers are an indispensable part of the inner workings of the National Park at Gettysburg. Black Powder Specialist Thomas Holbrook works with literally thousands of “living history volunteers” every year. These dedicated individuals, many of whom travel hundreds of miles to be here,  help bring to life the material culture and visual history of the battle of Gettysburg for the throngs of visitors who come to these hallowed fields. Below Tom offers an overview of the living history program at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Beginning in the 1970’s, Gettysburg National Military Park has been presenting programs where individuals dress in period attire and interpret some aspect of the American Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg.  At the start, Park Rangers were responsible for the development and implementation of “Living History” programs on the battlefield. Always very popular with our visitors, living history was at the same time very expensive. Staff had to be hired and trained, and reproduction Civil War clothing, equipment, and weapons had to be purchased. By the mid-1980’s as National Park Service budgets started to shrink, living history performed by NPS Interpretive Rangers became more difficult. One solution was to allow volunteers to take over the living history programs at Gettysburg NMP.  Closely monitored by NPS staff, volunteer groups from the Civil War reenacting community were invited to the park on selected weekends. Almost immediately our volunteers had a positive impact with our visitors. “Living History Weekends” became an event and drew large crowds to the battlefield.

In 1988, living history volunteers played a large role in helping the National Park Service in commemorating the 125th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Nearly 500 volunteers were invited and participated in our 125th Anniversary programming.

In 1992, due to its popularity, “Living History Weekends” were expanded from  4 to 5 weekends a year to 10 to 12 weekends per year.  The same year we expanded the number of groups to be allowed to perform living history at GNMP.  The NPS staff put these groups GETT_150_Jul2_Union_BS_050through a rigorous selection process and 10 groups were selected.

Since 1992 the volunteer living history program has expanded to include over 1,000 individuals in 68 groups, (military and civilian) coming on over 28 weekends from April 1 to November 1 each year.

In 2013 the National Park Service commemorated the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg with over 500 volunteer living history participants. Interpretive programs and historic weapons firing provided for our visitors important insight into the lives of the soldiers who “gave their last measure of devotion” on the battlefield of Gettysburg in 1863.

Thanks to our volunteers our living history demonstrations are the most popular and well attended interpretive programs offered at GNMP. We invite you to travel to Gettysburg National Military Park in 2015 to see them for yourself.

Thomas Holbrook, Park Ranger


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The Boy Scouts of America at Gettysburg, 1913

Little Round Top

The summit of Little Round Top in 1910, ready to receive visitors in 1913. (Gettysburg NMP)

It was the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg and the celebration planned was unique- a huge gathering of Civil War veterans, at least forty thousand of them! The Pennsylvania Commission that was busy planning the reunion and anniversary events had been tapping every source available to support the event when discussions began that spring as to personal assistance that maybe required for the veterans attending the reunion. Directional signs with police and military personnel directing traffic and pedestrians appeared to be adequate but the problem was the Great Camp. It was massive and despite the named streets and state sections, was confusing. In May, Army officers advised the Commission that a “Camp Information Service, with a staff of guides, was all important because the vast extent of the (Great) Camp and its thousands of tents all exactly alike would appear as an unknown city to the Veteran,” all in their advanced years with ages ranging between 66 and 95.[1] The state police force and army personnel could not be stretched any further, so Colonel Beitler, secretary of the Pennsylvania Commission, turned to a relatively new organization for help- the Boy Scouts of America.

Organized and incorporated in February 1910, the genesis of the Boy Scouts began in England under the guidance of Lt. General Robert S.S. Baden-Powell who recognized the need to engage boys in outdoor exploration, nature, and the same camping and survival skills he had taught while in the British Army. The popularity of the Scouts’ idea spread to America and with Baden-Powell’s support and guidance, a group of American outdoorsmen, illustrators, and youth leaders created this national organization to guide American boys not only in nature and outdoor skills, but to also stress the ideals of public service, Christian beliefs and national honors- “For God and Country”. One of the first national recognitions of the Boy Scouts came in March 1913, when several Boy Scout troops based in Washington, DC, assisted with the presidential inaugural parade of Woodrow Wilson as guides for visitors and assistants for those attending the parade and ceremonies. Taking the advice of an Army Officer, Colonel Lewis Beitler, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Commission, contacted the office of the Boy Scout Commission for Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and on May 22, struck an agreement “For such service, three hundred fifty Boy Scouts were to be selected by the Commissioner and his executive staff, to be from among the larger boys and from within a radius of 150 miles of Gettysburg,” to serve as personal guides and assistants for the veterans in the Great Camp. [2]

Time was short. With the Great Reunion barely six weeks away, the Scout Commission telegraphed troop leaders in York, Lancaster, Carlisle, and Harrisburg to prepare their older scouts, those in their teen years, for duty at Gettysburg. Yet, there simply were not enough Scouts and the Pennsylvania Scout Commission drew from other councils including Washington, Burlington, New Jersey, Hagerstown and Frederick, Maryland. A total of twenty four troops comprising 385 Boy Scouts, arrived at their quarters near the Army headquarters of the Great Camp a week ahead of the Reunion and were immediately put to work assisting the Army Quartermaster in distributing blankets to the tents and Red Cross workers unloading supplies and pitching tents. But their primary purpose was to become familiar with the Great Camp and the location of every state section, how the tents were organized, how to greet and assist the veterans, who to go to in case of a medical emergency; everything right down to the nearest location of the bubbling ice water fountains.

Scouts & veterans

Scouts assisting Civil War veterans with their luggage in the Great Camp. The young men in khaki uniforms were on duty as escorts to the veterans throughout the reunion. (Pennsylvania at Gettysburg)

By June 30, the Scouts were ready! It was early that morning when the first of 34 special trains bearing veterans to the reunion arrived at the railroad siding in the Great camp. Standing in line outside the cars were the US Regulars, dressed in their summer khaki uniforms. Beside each man was a Boy Scout, also dressed smartly in a khaki uniform of military-style coat and trousers with canvas leggings and the broad-brimmed felt campaign hat. The veterans disembarked and between the whoosh of the train’s engines and squealing breaks, shouts of those trying to organize the arrivals, and everyone asking where they were to go was the young voice saying, “Sir, can I help you with your luggage?” “This way to your camp and I’ll be glad to escort you.” “Show me your pass and I’ll take you to your state’s headquarters.”

For the elderly men who struggled to become familiar with their new surroundings, the Boy Scouts proved to be the best guides they could ask for. More than one veteran remarked how delightful it was to be met with such helping hands as those provided by the soldiers and Scouts as they wandered through countless row as of tents under the broiling sun. As soon as one train arrived and unloaded, another was close behind and the Scouts were kept running back to the railroad siding, greeting the new arrivals and showing them to their quarters only then to run as fast as possible back the railroad to repeat the process. The boys must have been exhausted by day’s end, but their contribution was far from over.

For the next four days, the Scouts were everywhere, assisting those in need and directing the lost. Many were in awe of the veterans they encountered, old men who had fought at Gettysburg, served under McClellan at Antietam, marched under Grant’s direction through the Wilderness, fought with Robert E. Lee for four long years all the way to Appomattox Court House. These were the heroes about whom so much had been written and spoken. For scoutmaster E. Urner Goodman, the great Reunion was something to behold and try to understand: “How can I ever forget that experience? Imagine… veterans gathered on that historic site for a week…shaking hands…where fifty years before they had been blazing away at each other.”[3] The Scouts also met national celebrities such as Jack Crawford, a national hero known for his daring as a scout for the Army under General Crook and his oratory and poems about life in the Wild West.

Scouts at play, 1913

Boys will be boys! There was always some time for rough housing while not “on duty” at the Great Camp. (National Archives)

By July 5, the last of the veterans’ trains had departed and the duties of the scouts were complete. The boys’ service had been exemplary and “won the profound appreciation and gratitude of hosts and guests alike.”[4] The sunburned boys in their dirty khakis boarded their own trains and buses to head home, filled with stories and observations of what had been an encounter of old soldiers from another age, those men who had fought the great Civil War and came to Gettysburg not to refight the battle but to unify the nation. For many, it had been a patriotic service to the old vets and they proudly boasted to schoolmates and friends about the summer adventure they had at Gettysburg, representing not only their home town troops but the highest ideals of what would become the Boy Scout “Code of Honor.”

Barely five years later, many of these Scouts would be young men attired in the uniform of the United States Army, and a different term would be applied to “Yanks” and “Rebs” alike as the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) arrived on the battlefields of France; from the Great Camp to the Great War, the old veterans these Scouts admired in 1913 would become the veterans we remember today with the anniversary of World War I.

But the Scouting tradition at Gettysburg did not end in 1913, it was only the beginning. Through numerous anniversaries and special events, the Boy Scouts of America have been there to support the park and provide the visitor with courteous service. Every year, scout troops from all across America and occasionally from overseas as well, visit Gettysburg National Military Park and take part in the Billy Yank/Johnny Reb Hiking Trail, camp at McMillan Woods Youth Campground, and enjoy the history and nature this park has to offer.

New Birth of Freedom Council Camporee, 2013

The New Birth of Freedom Council Camporee on the historic George Spangler Farm at Gettysburg, 2013. (Gettysburg Foundation)

In 2013, Scouts assisted visitors during the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg events and that fall, the “New Birth of Freedom” Council held a camporee on the historic George Spangler Farm. The park has long been the beneficiary of the Boys Scouts thanks to their oath and the Scout Law. In February 2015, the Boy Scouts of America will observe their 105th year and we congratulate them on their longevity and positive achievements that began in 1913 with the aging Civil War veterans at Gettysburg.

-John Heiser
Park Historian & (former) Boy Scout, 1965-1973

[1] Beitler, Lewis E., Editor, Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, Report of the Pennsylvania Commission, December 31, 1913, (Wm. Stanley Ray, State Printer, Harrisburg, PA, 1915), p. 49. Hereafter cited as “Beitler”.

[2] Beitler, p. 50.

[3] “50th Anniversary Gettysburg Reunion”, Order of the Arrow, Boy Scouts of America at Goodman went on to become prominent in the Boy Scouts of America as National Program Director and founder of the Order of the Arrow, the fraternal designation of scouts who exhibit exemplary service and brotherhood in the highest traditions of scouting.

[4] Beitler, p. 51

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Auction Skull is not from the Battle of Gettysburg

Frontal view of cranium taken during the forensic inquiry by the Smithsonian Institution.

Frontal view of cranium taken during the forensic inquiry by the Smithsonian Institution.  Photo by Donald E. Hurlbert.

A detective story that began last June with an attempted auction of a human skull, reportedly from the battle of Gettysburg, now has a new chapter. A scientific study by the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History, conducted at the request of Gettysburg National Military Park, has determined the cranium to be more than 700 years old and from the American Southwest.

The planned auction of the skull, and a number of artifacts that were going to be sold with it, was cancelled due to public outcry and the collection was offered as a donation to Gettysburg National Military Park (GETT). The park asked the Gettysburg Foundation to accept the donation on its behalf.

Douglas W. Owsley and a team of forensic anthropologists at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History recently completed an examination of the skull and determined, in summary:

  • the remains are not those of an American Civil War soldier;
  • the remains are those of an American Indian male, aged 22-25;
  • the remains are likely dated to approximately 1269 – 1299 AD;
  • the remains are likely from the American Southwest; and
  • the remains were not removed from the Josiah Benner farm at Gettysburg.

“When we learned of these remains in June we were immediately interested in their respectful treatment, whether they were from a soldier who died at Gettysburg or not,’ said Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Ed Clark. “This result is not what we expected but we stand by our commitment to be respectful of these remains, fulfill our responsibilities, and find the best course of action for their final resting place.”

Superintendent Clark also expressed his gratitude for the assistance provided by the scientists and staff of the Smithsonian Institution.

The park and the Gettysburg Foundation are determining Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) responsibilities and the appropriate disposition of the remains.

National Park Service special agents and law enforcement rangers from Gettysburg National Military Park conducted an investigation to determine the provenance of the remains.  The investigation continues pending any new information that may come forward.

An examination of the thirteen artifacts that were to be sold with the skull determined that a number were not authentic to the Civil War period, including a Louisiana stamped metal hat or cap plate which was post-war, most likely made for souvenir purposes.

“Our intent has always been to do the right thing with and for the remains,” said Joanne M. Hanley, President of the Gettysburg Foundation. “When the Foundation accepted the skull as a donation, it was the right thing to do to protect it from auction on the open market. We will continue to do the right thing with its future disposition to ensure respect and dignity.”

Background: On June 2, 2014, news stories about the planned auction of the Civil War human remains quickly spread, including comments Gettysburg National Military Park that the sale was disrespectful and “a spectacle.” An unprecedented outcry from concerned citizens–fueled by social media–overwhelmed organizers of the auction, and within six hours the sellers decided to cancel the sale and donate the remains and the artifacts found with them to the Gettysburg Foundation. On the evening of June 2, Joanne Hanley, president of the Gettysburg Foundation, went to Hagerstown, MD, picked up the remains and the artifacts and turned them over to the park for safe keeping.

In 1996 human remains were found at Gettysburg National Military Park after erosion exposed them near a railroad embankment. Scientists from Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History studied those remains as well and determined that they were from the battle of Gettysburg. The remains were interred in a specially designated plot in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery at Gettysburg marked, “Unknown Civil War Remains.”

Gettysburg National Military Park is a unit of the National Park System 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

The Gettysburg Foundation is a non-profit educational organization working in partnership with the National Park Service to enhance preservation and understanding of the heritage and lasting significance of Gettysburg. The Foundation raised funds for and now operates the Museum and Visitor Center at Gettysburg National Military Park, which opened in April 2008. In addition to operating the Museum and Visitor Center, the Foundation has a broad preservation mission that includes land, monument and artifact preservation and battlefield rehabilitation—all in support of the National Park Service’s goals at Gettysburg. Information is available at

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant

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