Tuesday, August 14, 2007

How much to preserve?

That's a good question. From the perspective of the history buff, we should save it all. From the perspective of a realist, that will never/can never happen. There are various Civil War battlefields throughout the country, and thousands of others throughout the world. If we preserved them all, there would be nowhere for folks to live. Some, such as Antietam/Sharpsburg, are very well preserved, and a few trees aside, look almost like they did at the time of the fighting. Others are either threatened by development or already gone.

"Fight the developers!...Throw yourselves in front of the bulldozers!...We can stop them!" Great in theory, but developers tend to be well financed. The only way to fight big money is with bigger money! Buy the property before they can. Then, pay to keep it. Signing petitions or writing letters to the editor can get the word out, but it basically comes down to good ole $! How much are you willing to spend to keep it? (By the way, I've noticed that those who tend to speak out the most tend to contribute the least!)

This post, by the way, was inspired by some earlier internet chat about bike week, the casino, and Giant. With a campaign so awesome in scope as was Gettysburg, there is no way to save it all. Key areas of the battle itself, and many other places of significance are preserved. Yet, things of importance are still being lost. There is no threat to the entire battlefield, as Manassass once faced, or as Chancellorsville is facing, so things being lost in the Gettysburg area usually get little publicity. Most people think that the battlefield itself is only what the NPS, and a few nearby farm-owners have already saved. ( I said something to someone here once about parts of the battlefield that are still being lost, and she told me, "I think if it was that important, the government would buy it. They would never let something important be lost!...How do you even respond to something like that?)

One of the more sad losses is Camp Letterman. The average Gettysburg tourist doesn't even know what or where it was. The average Gettysburg resident is even more clueless, and that is sad!

Camp Letterman was once the largest consolidated field hospital in the entire US, treating over 22,000 Gettysburg casualties. It was vast in scope, and truly was a marvel of organization. Plain and simply put, "It worked!" Round up all the wounded from the surrounding field hospitals, centrally locate them near the railroad depot, treat their wounds and send them home.

There are various pictures of the vastness of Camp Letterman on the internet. Yet, the entire area was lost to development. Today, Camp Letterman is totally developed. Sheetz, Giant, Burger King, a strip mall, and a housing development are on the grounds of the former revolution in medical organization. The only traces of its existence in the area are in the two above pictures.

So, I guess what I'm getting at is, in all the celebration about the demise of the tower, the burial of the power lines, the replacing of fences, and the clearing of trees, remember that though the fight is won here, smaller battles are being lost. Stay vigilant, and don't be afraid to speak out!

Anyone who doubts this needs merely to take a ride on the Hunterstown road, and see the disastrous monstrosity that sprung out of nowhere on the field there!
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