Sunday, May 17, 2009

Life in My World--Gettysburg


I had assumed Gettysburg was a big hill with a large plaque at the bottom. How wrong I was. Abe had been to Gettysburg to study history and military tactics so he was familiar with the layout and new we’d want to take several hours there. We went to the visitor’s center and bought an auto tour tape. It made me want to start making travel tapes for places all over the U.S. It was a great way to learn and experience.

As we drove the massive and solemn battleground of Gettysburg I couldn’t help but wonder aloud how I would have fought: bravely in the front, hiding in the rear or awol and absent. Calvin kindly assured me I would have been brave, but I’m not so sure. If I was lucky, maybe, maybe, maybe I might have been like Jenny Wade, a helper for the North and an empathizer with the South. Though she was a Yankee, she liked a Confederate soldier fighting in the Gettysburg battle. Hit on the battlefield, her soldier sent a message to his loved ones, including Jenny, and died shortly after. Jenny, who was baking bread in her sister’s kitchen for the Union troops, was hit by a stray bullet that came through the doors later that day and was killed before the message reached her (in fact even the messenger was killed). Hers was the only civilian casualty recorded.

Another soldier fought in a battalion that was nearly wiped out, yet he survived. He had survivor’s guilt for years, wondering why so many of his comrades had been killed while he was allowed to live. When he was an old man he had a dream, reliving the battle. There was a haze between him and the enemy that moved along the line wherever he went. Try as hard as he could, he couldn’t escape it. At the end of the dream the haze was revealed to be a protecting presence that followed him, and though he never learned why he was protected he found peace in his survival.

After learning these stories I wondered why I had never heard them before, but soon realized with a battle that claimed 55,000 lives and employed over 175,000 in battle there are literally thousands of stories to be told. One more plug for recording a personal history, I suppose these people felt they were ordinary with no story to share while they lived, too.

Poignant. There’s that word again. It’s the best one I know for the day.

We had to have Abe back to West Point early in the evening, so after a Mexican dinner Grace and I rigged together a suit and went swimming in the motel pool and sat in the sauna. What a great day.


Rebecca said...

I love the patriotic stories that fill the neighbor's corner. Your house even feels patriotic. Patriotism is a vibe that naturally flows from you, and I love feeling it. I hope to raise children with the same love.

Becky said...

Poignant indeed...thanks for sharing those stories with the rest of us. Your trip is making me more and more excited for the day that I can go to visit those same sites!

Susan said...

Such interesting stories!

Jenny said...

I am so behind, but I have throughly enjoyed the recap of your trips. It looks so lush and green!

melanie said...

Oh I really want to visit these meaningful places one day. Honestly it's so amazing and full of so many inspiring stories. I'm so glad you get to experience it.

Julie said...

With all my traveling, I haven't been to the east coast of my own country. I love seeing it through your eyes. All the men who served for us and are serving now are amazing. Have a great trip. Claire and I are coming home for the 4th now so I'll see you soon!