Moving Along

Our construction crew is hard at work on Little Round Top, planting historically-placed trees and bushes.

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“The Boys Are Still There” features detail from period photos and the current rock formations on the battlefield.  On several occasions, we visited Little Round Top and took photos of the rocks, including a wintertime visit that meant less visual obstruction from trees and underbrush (if a bit of snow).

Rebecca then compared our photos to those taken in the days after the battle, as well as later in 1863 and around the 1880s.  In some cases, we were able to recreate treelines such as a clearing near the 20th Maine.

Now, Rebecca is working to complete the wartime appearance of the open western face of Little Round Top, adding bushes and trees seen in the old photos.  Sometimes, trees are obvious, such as the little trees to the left rear of the construction crew which are visible in a photo by William H. Tipton in 1888.  Other trees take a bit of deduction and some work at analyzing rock clusters, such as the pine tree our construction crew is helping to plant.  It is best visible in photos taken from Devil’s Den by Timothy H. O’Sullivan (July 6, 1863) and Peter Weaver (November 11, 1863).

Sources:

Tipton’s photo is in Gettysburg’s Battlefield Photographer—William H. Tipton by Timothy H. Smith.

O’Sullivan’s photo is in Gettysburg: A Journey in Time by William A. Frassanito.

Weaver’s photo is in The Gettysburg Then & Now Companion, also by Frassanito.

To Love Your Enemy

The Fourth of July is a joyous time when we focus on the amazing country we live in and how it came about and the freedom we enjoy, thanks to the foresight of the Founders.  But this year, this holiday seems to be yet another opportunity to hold protests and counter-protests.  There is a lot of hate in this country on all sides of all issues.  But, even if a person is right, how should they respond to someone with a different opinion?  With shouting?  Grumbling and back-biting?  Physical confrontation?  The “silent treatment”?  Spite?  What is the correct response to someone we don’t agree with? 

On July 2, 1863, the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry stood to the right of the 20th Maine on Little Round Top.  In the ranks, Pvt. Philip Grine could not help but notice the wounded Confederates lying stranded between the firing lines.  They were the enemy, but their plight bothered him. During a lull in the fighting, he left what cover he had with his regiment and entered the “no man’s land” between the lines.   

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Reaching a wounded Confederate, he carried the man back to the 83rd’s lines, where the man was taken to the rear and the field hospital.  Not satisfied with helping only one, Pvt. Grine rescued a second wounded Confederate.  Later in the fighting, the exhausted soldier asked his comrades for help to retrieve a third enemy soldier.  Some agreed, but when the Confederates fired at them, they scurried back to the regiment.  Pvt. Grine continued on, alone.  But he never returned.  When the fighting ended, he and the man he was trying to save were found, both dead. 

Would you risk your life to save someone who does not share your beliefs?  Someone who was, a  moment ago, fighting you with everything they had?  Pvt. Grine looked past outward circumstances and saw the Confederates as fellow men, just as worthy of living as he.  Perhaps that is what it really means to “love your enemy”—to see him as a fellow human, and to value that life.  Pvt. Grine considered his personal safety less important than the life of a wounded enemy and he paid the ultimate price for his beliefs, but his actions give us a beautiful picture of what it really means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” 

No matter what you believe, perhaps we can all agree on one thing: the world truly would be a better place if we had the compassion of Philip Grine and valued all humans—not just the ones we like—more than we value ourselves.

Using Confederate Photography to Recreate Fort Sumter

After thirty years of lackadaisical construction, Fort Sumter was not finished in December 1860 when Major Robert Anderson and his tiny garrison of U.S. soldiers moved in. With only about a tenth as many soldiers as the fort was designed for, Maj. Anderson immediately began efforts to make the fort defensible. The following defensive features on our diorama can all be seen in Confederate photographs taken after the fort’s surrender.

The defenders raised big guns to the barbette (top) tier of the fort, but some guns were too heavy. As a result, two ten-inch and four eight-inch Columbiads were mounted in the parade ground as mortars, cannons that could shoot in a high trajectory over fortification walls.

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The garrison removed the stone flagging from the parade ground so that shells would bury themselves in the dirt and do less damage. The stone was piled in front of various areas of the fort to provide a little more protection to the men inside. In addition, traverses made of piles of dirt and other materials protected the gate and other areas of the fort.

Five machicoulis galleries were built on the barbette tier. Three projected over the gate and two projected over the right and left faces of the fort. These armored wooden boxes contained holes in their floors through which defenders could shoot or drop “grenades” onto attackers.

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The defenders cut away a portion of the barbette tier wall and positioned a gun to cover the wharf. They also mounted two guns at the gate to sweep the esplanade and wharf.

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Since the fort was so badly damaged throughout the remainder of the war, later photos show what seems to be a mere mountain of rubble. This makes the April 1861 photos indispensable in determining what the fort initially looked like as a whole.

A Priceless Inheritance

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Why do we celebrate Memorial Day? Is it really important, or just sentimental?

To remember our fallen is to remember why they served. We are good at analyzing why our nation has gone to war, often identifying wrong motivations and reasons, with maybe a few good ones. But I think, at the deepest level, the average U.S. soldier over the centuries has enlisted to fight to preserve the ideals of this nation.

When you cut through the politics and propaganda surrounding a given war, you are left with the basic ideas that make this nation what it is: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We don’t always get the application right as individuals or a nation, but the bedrock of the U.S.A. is the idea that each individual has a right to live, free from oppression and able to pursue their dreams.

It is easy for us to get wrapped up in the everyday rat race, the hustle and bustle, the breaking news and fake news, the latest social media post, or the rain that spoils our vacation. Memorial Day is an opportunity to set all of that aside and think about what is important, to remember the privilege it is to live here, and to take to heart the responsibility we have in preserving our inalienable rights. These men and women served so they could hand those rights and liberties down to us. Let’s not ignore such an important inheritance.

A Tale of a Tail

Ships cats & mouse by Reb

Today’s Mewsing is a cautionary tale.  As you go through life, think before you act, because you never know who might be watching and recording your actions for posterity.

On March 5, 1862, USS Monitor sat in New York, awaiting departure for Hampton Roads, VA and her historic fight with CSS Virginia (Merrimac).  That day, the officer of the watch made a note in the ship’s log: “John Atkins deserted [and] took with him the ship’s cat and left for parts unknown.”

Now, you know that as John left with the cat, he had no idea that 155 years later, two girls with cat dioramas would trip across that record and find it hilarious.  In fact, if he had not taken the cat, we would not have noticed the quote at all—or the log’s notation might not have even made it into the book we were reading.  But he did take the cat, and now we, at least, will always remember him.

So there you go.  Be careful—you never know what posterity might discover about you!

The photo above shows two ship’s cats that Rebecca made, as well as a rat for the gray cat to stalk.  The scale is ~1:77.

Twins at Gettysburg

Since Ruth and I (Rebecca) are twins, I notice when I trip across other twins in history. In my reading about the battle of Gettysburg, I have found four sets of twins. I wonder how many more there were in the two armies. The following stories are hard for me to read, but they serve as a good reminder of what is important. We take so much for granted–possessions, friends, family, life. Take a moment to think about what is really important today.

On July 1, 1863, the 26th North Carolina marched into battle with three sets of twins in its ranks. By nightfall, after heavy fighting with the Iron Brigade, five of the six men lay dead.

On July 2nd, another set of twins advanced with the 5th Texas up the slopes of Little Round Top. As they came within 20 yards of the Union lines, one of the brothers was hit. His twin caught him and lowered him to the ground, and then a bullet struck the second brother and he, too, fell dead.

For the two of us, being a twin means having someone who shares your thoughts, feelings, and passions, and who will always understand you. I cannot imagine the anguish of losing my “other half.” What horror must the twin of the 5th Texas have felt at seeing his brother fall dead! And what must that last twin of the 26th North Carolina have felt on the night of the 1st, knowing that he was the only one remaining out of six?

If you are a twin—or even just a sibling—cherish that relationship. If you and your twin do not get along, seek out a way to heal the connection. It is a special blessing to be a twin—a blessing that can end at any moment, with the suddenness of a bullet. Don’t waste the time you have with each other.

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A Subtle Witness

In 1862, Union Gen. Philip Kearny designed badges for the men of his division to wear. The red diamonds became known as the “Kearny Patch,” and soon the entire corps wore them. When Gen. Joe Hooker took command of the Army of the Potomac in early 1863, he instituted badges for all corps. Each corps had a different shape for their badge—a circle for the I Corps, trefoil (clover leaf or club) for the II, diamond for the III, Maltese cross for the V, Greek cross for the VI, crescent moon for the XI, and star for the XII. In addition, each division within the corps had a different color—red for the 1st division, white for the 2nd, and blue for the 3rd. So, by looking at a soldier’s kepi (hat), one could tell which corps and which division he belonged to.

Soldiers were proud of their corps badges, and on the Union regimental monuments at Gettysburg you will notice crosses, trefoils, and all the various shapes. Most areas of the battlefield have only one corps badge present (Cemetery Ridge, for example, has only trefoils on the monuments), but a drive through the Wheatfield area will show the III Corps diamond, the II Corps trefoil, and the V Corps Maltese cross, all mingled together.

The monuments stand as silent sentinels now, and the fields and woods lie peaceful with only rainwater, not blood, making the ground soggy.  But pause a moment and ponder just what it means that you see more than only III Corps diamonds around you. The variety in the corps badge shapes bears a subtle witness to the chaotic battle and the desperation with which the Union generals threw every unit they could find into the fighting there on July 2nd.

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