Gettysburg: Haunting Me Still
While many of you will be celebrating the 4th of July tomorrow, tonight, at my house, there will be a small gathering of people to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Ok, so that’s pretty different, perhaps you think it’s odd; I have two things to say to that: Anniversaries are sacred, AND you don’t know my mother.
I grew up in a house with a mortician and a history teacher – a very interesting combo that I think explains the picture here to the right. Together, but in their own unique ways, my parents taught me the power of an anniversary, of a symbol, and of a life. But what they were really teaching me, perhaps without realizing, was how to remember.
My mom took me on several trips to the east coast to visit the Civil War battlefields of Harper’s Ferry, Antietam/Sharpsburg, Manassas/Bull Run, Fredericksburg, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Guiné Station, and her particular favorite, Gettysburg. On our last trip I was old enough to drive and I dropped my mom off at the field where General George Pickett led his famous charge so that she could walk it herself. I went and got coffee and found a little bookstore because, well, my version of vacation is a bit different than hers : ) While I didn’t fully understand it then, looking back on those trips, I really appreciate my time in Gettysburg and I love the enthusiasm and passion the place stirred up in my mom. I remember vividly driving to the top of Little Round Top (a small hill on the battlefield & a significantly strategic spot) to watch the sunset over the battlefield and seeing my mom tear-up as she thought of the 51,000 men were killed, wounded, captured, or never found over the course of just 3 days. It’s a sobering place.
There are 1,328 memorials and monuments scattered around the battleground. You actually can’t look anywhere in Gettysburg without seeing a memorial to fallen soldiers, a courageous general, an infantry unit, or a particular place where the fighting was hottest.
There is a real sense of “hallowed ground” in every inch of that small, quaint town.
The point of all of this that I hope will stay with you as we celebrate the 4th of July tomorrow, is that there is wisdom and goodness in stopping to remember some of the events in history that have made the 4th a day we celebrate.
Anniversaries like today and tomorrow are opportunities for us to honor heroes, learn some history, and spend some time appreciating the value and impact of a single human life.
So tonight, we will gather around our bonfire, smoking pipes and cigars, chewing homemade hardtack and johnny cakes. And in this small, but purposeful gathering, we will pay our respects to the men and the battle of Gettysburg.