It has been said that one must change with the times. Although I am thankful for the progression in technology, medicine etc., there are some things that are better left untouched. I remember many years ago coming to Gettysburg. I was enthralled and captivated by the living history. Reenactors lined the streets with their Union or Confederate uniforms as ladies were adorned in Civil War attire too.
I could drive here from Maryland and leave the world behind as I entered into a time and place that was ageless. History was alive in Gettysburg. I loved this town so much, I spent the last twelve and a half years writing about it and devoting myself to the battlefields. Unfortunately, it’s not the same as it was back then. I hate to think that those years could be the “Golden Age” (an idyllic, often imaginary past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness; the period when a specified art, skill, or activity is at its peak), or the “Glory Days” (a time in the past regarded as being better than the present),” but it sure seems that way. This is not just due to the pandemic. The waning of the living history started long before that. The pandemic only added to it and the coming of Socialism. Yet the ghost tours have managed to survive. Although I have never seen a ghost of a Civil War soldier, I simply can no longer deny that something magical happens out on those fields. For instance; smelling cigar smoke in the pouring rain up on the Triangular Field; or the sounds of Pickett’s Charge early in the morning when the fog was so thick, you couldn’t see two feet in front of you; or a woman on a buckboard chasing a horse; or definitely in the heat of summer, when the temperature drops at least 10 to 20 degrees for no apparent reason as cold shivers run up and down your spine. I don’t believe all the ghost stories and some are purely for entertainment. I even wrote my Summer Ray Series that embodies Civil and Revolutionary War ghosts which some historians may frown upon. But with the story, layer after layer reveals something mystical and hidden that perhaps can be a life changing connection or a link to hope. Suicide Prevention is one of our major storylines. But if someone just sees ghosts without digging deeper, they will miss that.
Yet with the changing of the times – General Lee’s Virginia Monument which has sat peacefully for over 100 years, is now a source of contention. Something that sat for so long in silence has now become a heated and angry debate between those of us who want to protect it, and those who want to remove it. Yet, this picture gives me hope. As I see God’s sunlight shining all around this monument, I trust it will remain in Gettysburg and will win a different kind of war. The war to remove it.
The guns have long been silent, but the voices are not.
We are still fighting about a war that ended long ago. Those of us who want our history to remain, are now racists. Somehow, we have become the enemy of peace. The Gettysburg that I knew and loved has died, along with the thousands of soldiers who fought and perished here. Though they cannot be resurrected, perhaps it is not too late to see Gettysburg rise again in all its glory. In my own personal opinion, I do not believe the Civil War started due to slavery, one of those reasons is due to what President Lincoln wrote to Horace Greely on August 22, 1862:
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union.” (Library of Congress)
If this particular war was over slavery, President Lincoln would never have written the above. Meaning, if he was not going to free the slaves if it meant saving the Union, then how could the war have started to save the slaves? It contradicts itself. The problem is that some people don’t want to believe the truth, even when it is right in front of them. It is easier not to. Still, it is an ongoing battle between some of the north and south even today – especially with reenactors. But the war is over, at least the Civil War. The fields of Gettysburg are sacred and hallowed grounds. Rooted here in this small historical town, are the footsteps of an age that must remain. We simply cannot allow the new normal to take over. We can’t get so fed up that we quit. We have to dig our heels in deeper. Those who have given up – please come back. You are important. Your Living History, reenacting, reenactments, all tell a story that we still need to see and hear for now and for future generations. Whether you are a Union or Confederate reenactor, you are appreciated! But we still have to respect each other’s choice of which side we want to portray. Although politics has contaminated this town and has polluted the truth to the point that it is backwards, we must remain steadfast. Saving our history and honoring the memories of the soldiers that fought and died here, is truly an honor! On the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, President Franklin D. Roosevelt on July 3, 1938 dedicated the Eternal Light Peace Memorial. It was unveiled by one Union and one Confederate veteran in which Roosevelt stated:
“All of them we honor, not asking under which Flag they fought then
thankful that they stand together under one Flag now.”
I know it seems like this new war will never end. I refuse to believe that and accept any “new normal.” Gettysburg, even the sound of its name, resonates and speaks history loud and clear. I am not against growth. I am against replacing history with something else and that is precisely what has been happening little by little. Somehow we need to fall back in love with the real Gettysburg. I am hoping soon to open up a coffee shop/bookstore that will house our Reflections of Gettysburg photography. I will only serve regular and decaf coffee, to bring things back to a simpler time of uncomplicated choices. We are so fast paced and I think the complications and difficulties of life, have so many of us exhausted.
I can no longer come to Gettysburg like before when I didn’t live here. But that old wonderful feeling as if I were in a different time, no longer exists. I want the old Gettysburg back. Reenactors, I miss seeing you! To everyone who is trying to save our beloved history, “Thank you!”