July 30, 1999 - Day 50 - Gettysburg to Quarryville, Pennsylvania
88.9 miles - 13.1 mph average - 3456 total miles - 39.5 mph top speed
I was going to say a big HELLO to Amy Liss and all the campers at Peacock Camp at Lake Villa, Wisconsin, but I got an email from Amy saying they had to send everyone home early (after 3 1/2 days) due to the heat. Amy sounded pretty sad. That camp is THE summer highlight. Amy, sometimes the things we want the most just don't happen. It makes us appreciate them all the more when they do. You'll be back.
Last night, after finishing the journal, I crawled between the sheets. As I lay there just a couple hundred yards from the field where Pickett's Charge took place, I was overcome with a strong feeling of wanting to go out there, right then. I thought, 'Man, I could get in touch with these guys big time'. This was a great idea, and I usually act on these ideas. I fell asleep.
They have a "Ghosts of Gettysburg" tour, but I don't think you could beat my way for getting in touch with the ghosts. And it's a lot cheaper. Some day.
After a hearty french toast/bacon breakfast at the Gettysburg Friendly's restaurant (in honor of my niece, Sarah, who used to work at that chain), I took a couple of hours to bicycle around the park and take some pictures.
Lois and I took the greatest 4-day mini-vacation about three years ago. We left the day school was out and drove straight into Pa., camped around midnite about 30 miles west of Gettysburg, then did Gettysburg the next day, Antietam the day after that, Harper's Ferry the fourth day and drove home that night. We even saw the Bulls defeat Salt Lake City for a title! We did Gettysburg and Antietam by bike, and decided it was a great way to see these battlefields - about a horse's pace.
So yesterday I told you about Day 1 (July 1) of the battle. Summary: After a day that saw fighting rage through the streets of the town itself, the Union ends up holding the high ground of Cemetery Ridge, running north/south on the east side (the Washington D.C. side) of the city. The South will occupy Seminary Ridge on the west side of town, about a mile of farm field separating these ridges. The North could sit; the South will have to carry the attack to the North.
This is what 'high ground' means
This is the Union view from the top of Little Round Top, near the southern end of Cemetery Ridge.
I just found out today that Little Round Top was the preferable of the two hills (Big Round Top just to the south), even though smaller, because one year earlier the farmer cleared the front of the hill of trees to increase pasture land for his cattle. So artillery placed here was not shooting through trees.
Look at that commanding sweep of the valley.
The Confederate view
And this is what the Confederates saw. This is what Day 2 (July 2) was pretty much all about - trying futilely to drive the Union off this hill. They couldn't do it. It was a horrible game of King of the Hill. Just fighting their way TO the hill took the South the better part of the day. It was after 4:00 p.m. before they even launched their first assault on the hill itself. By 8:00, the fighting was done.
Looking down on Devil's Den
The South did capture the rocky fortress down and to the left in this picture, and for the remainder of the battle their sharpshooters picked off any Union soldier who forgot. The rock walls on top of Little Round Top were all made by the Union soldiers, for good reason.
Just to the left of here was the end of the Union line, held by Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine Volunteers. I'll assume you already know the story of his heroic action (rent 'Gettysburg'), but here's a little different story as told by Chamberlain himself: At the point where he reached the desperation point ("Can't hold, can't retreat...), he called for the now-famous bayonet charge down the hill. But unlike the movie's depiction of that charge, Chamberlain says that the instant he sent the order out, it spread like wildfire down the line, and the boys at the end immediately fixed bayonets and charged without an order. Meanwhile the boys more to the center took a little longer, and so the whole 'gate swing' thing happened exactly the way it needed to, but not really because of military precision. This to me takes nothing away from the brilliance of the order. (If you're not familiar with this mini-story of Day 2, it's a great one. Rent the movie.)
The little copse of trees
Day 3 (July 3).
You are standing where Pickett's Division stood, looking out across about a mile and a quarter at the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge. Your orders are to head for that little copse of trees at the dead center of the Union lines. Yesterday we tried to take the hill to the right and couldn't. Today we'll charge dead center, where they'd least expect it.
"Where?", you're asking. The sign in the foreground tells you that foraging for artifacts is forbidden in the park. Just to the right of the sign is that little clump of trees that is your target area. Pickett's Division would march straight in. Other supporting divisions on either side would march at oblique angles, all targeted on those trees.
They marched across that valley of death under heavy artillery fire, then musket fire, then canister and double canister, finally hand-to-hand combat. Can you imagine it?
Shelby Foote, the southern historian, asks the question, "How could they do it?" How could a man walk into what would seem to the ordinary individual as certain death? His answer? Because the guy next to you did it, and it was easier to do it than not to do it. Almost all these regiments were collections of guys from the same town or county. If word got back that you had been the only one to cower, that would be the fate worse than death.
One of the rangers told me that last year, the 135th anniversary of the battle, they had the largest group of re-enactors to ever assemble anywhere on earth - over 30,000. It was quite impressive, he said, until you realize the true scope of these battles. There were over 170,000 soldiers here in 1863. We can't even begin to "re-enact" what actually happened here.
For your lands, for your sweethearts, for... VIRGINIA!!
This monument is placed right at the center of Pickett's position. These were all Virginia boy who bore the brunt.
It took them about 20 minutes to march across the valley, about 15 minutes of hand-to-hand fighting. And then, Pickett's famous words when Lee advised him to look after his division, "General Lee, I HAVE no division!"
The charge as viewed from the Union side
The greenery on the left side of the picture is from one of the trees in 'the copse'. We are looking straight across the valley where we can see the Virginia monument pictured above. In other words, if you were one of Hancock's Pennsylvania Volunteers, you had about 20 minutes to lay here and make your peace with God as you watched tens of thousands of Confederate soldiers make their way in waves toward you.
The monument in the foreground of the picture shows that the regiment positioned dead center was of Irish descent. Can you see the harp and the cloverleaf? (Look for the flags with cloverleafs in the movie.)
Well, you'll have to visit Gettysburg yourself to learn more. These pictures and words or any book or any movie cannot do what one visit can do.
I left Gettysburg about 1:00. I had about 65 miles to Quarryville. I thought.
And they had the news clippings to prove it. 'Famous Lunch' is in downtown Hanover, about 10 miles east of Gettysburg. It just looked too good to pass up. And it was. Their hot dog was about the best I've ever had.
About 15 miles farther east I saw this sign.
Benefits older Pennsylvanians
Yeah, just like the Illinois lottery benefits education, and like Las Vegas gambling benefits the national economy. These are all probably true statements to some degree, but is anyone asking the question, "At what cost???"
Somewhere past Hanover, the day went into the Twilite Zone. I pedaled and pedaled, and I never got closer to the Susquehanna River. I zigged, I zagged, I took a five-mile shortcut. I never got closer to the river. 4:00. 5:00. 6:00. 7:00. It was just wierd, and I have no explanation for it. The map mileage was wrong. I felt like the Energizer bunny, except I kept going and going and going... and running out of energy, because it was all hills.
And then, at 7:45, I crossed it, and it is easily the spookiest river I've seen on my journey. Maybe because it was dusk, maybe because a huge thunder storm was chasing me, and the thunder was rolling in the distance. The sky was a strange color (my sister told me later that there were tornado warnings in that immediate area).
I would have no trouble at all believing any strange Indian lore about this river. It was S-P-O-O-K-Y.
The guys at one store told me the climb out of the Susquehanna valley was a killer, a monster. I was already so tired, but I girded myself for one more BIG one.
Pssshhhhhh. It was nothing! 7/10th of a mile in a medium gear, and then less than ten miles to the Quarryville Presbyterian Retirement Center (QPRC) where my mother has been living since 1992.
It was dark now, and later than I expected (due to the Twilite Zone), but what a warm welcome awaited. As I pulled up to the main door, I saw my mom down in the lobby waiting for me along with some of her friends.
And here they are.
The Welcoming Committee
From left to right, Berniece Zimmerman, Gladys Wurth, Bob Nicholas, MY MOM (Ruth Graham), Janet Lutz, Bob Lutz, Anne Kerr and James Kerr. We all chatted for about 20 minutes, and then we came upstairs where my mom fed me ice cream.
And now it's time for bed.
Previous Day (7/29)