Friday, August 3, 2007
"Too bad you don't live on the field!"
If I only had a buck for every time I heard that remark from someone who's never been here or who just doesn't get it. As far as the National Park Service owned battlefield, they're right. But there's more to Gettysburg than what the NPS owns.
In the second picture, there's a summit of a hill in the distance. That is Culp's Hill. It is about a mile away. The Culp Farm is actually only about 3 blocks away. About 3 blocks to the northwest is the Coster Ave. mural, showing the fight in and eventual retreat from the brickyard. Make a straight line from the brickyard to Culp's Hill, where many of the brickyard fighters ran when their lines broke, and guess where it passes? Right down 4th St.!
Was the fighting here brutal, worthy of note, or critical to the outcome of the campaign? Doubtful. Were shots fired in anger, and were people wounded or lives lost? Yep!
Guess what? From the afternoon of July 1st, 1863 until the retreat began on the 4th, Confederates controlled the town. Union troops were on the ridges south and east of the town. Shots were exchanged between the two sides throughout the entire 4 days. If you live in the 17325 zip code, you live "on the field!"
The other question I usually get is, "How often do you get to go on the field?" Another guess what? There is no way to exist without coming in contact with the field! Whether it's driving over Benner's Hill, visible as the distant treeline in the left of the first photo, passing the Lady farm on Hanover St. en route to Rte. 15, going to Sheetz for gas (Sheetz is on Camp Letterman Drive. Camp Letterman was the massive consolidated hospital after the battle.), passing Ewell's headquarters on 6th and Hanover Sts., seeing the roundtops from the mall parking lot, or just going anywhere in the area, you are where it happened. Take a shortcut on a side road, and I guarantee you pass a field hospital site, a monument or a wayside marker! At the very least, you'll pass an unmarked area where troops camped.
The battle was massive in scope, moreso than even I imagined before coming here. Almost every day I see something different or learn something new! If you live anywhere in the Gettysburg area, you live on the field. If you walk or drive anywhere in the Gettysburg area, you are walking or driving on the field! That's just the way it is!