Monday, June 28, 2010

My New (Non) Gettysburg Address, or, Where I’ve Been of Late. . .




My posts have been few and far between of late. Besides life just getting busier and busier, the main reason is because last week, my wife and I left Gettysburg behind and settled in a new home about ten miles north of town, in the small village of Bendersville. Of course, I will miss Gettysburg. . .or at least some aspects of it. I will not miss the traffic, the college students carousing about at all hours of the night, and by no means will I ever get nostalgic about Bike Week (good riddance). But it was, in retrospect, a good five and a half years. I will miss the ability to walk to the battlefield. . .but it is time to move on.

Our new place has quite a history of its own. It was built by Nicholas George Wilson in 1869, on a foundation that dates to the late 1700s. It is a quaint two-story brick farmhouse, with a lot of character. Wilson’s ancestors were among the earliest settlers of that part of Adams County. Indeed, Bendersville, named for Henry Bender, was once known as Wilsonville. Born in 1832, Wilson served as a sergeant in Company G, 138th Pennsylvania Infantry. During his time in uniform, he participated in several battles, including the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. However, at the battle of Monocacy on July 8, 1864, Wilson fell, seriously wounded. The wound prevented further service and left him crippled for the rest of his life. He was discharged in May 1865 and returned to Bendersville where, four years later, he built his home on what was known as Liberty Hill. In 1873, forty-one-year-old Nicholas Wilson became the Superintendent of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg. Fourteen years later, he was named Superintendent of grounds for the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, a post he held until 1895, when the battlefield was transferred to the United States Government. In his position as Superintendent, Wilson planned and oversaw the construction of nearly all avenues/roadways along the Union lines of battle, and oversaw the placement and installment of more than 350 monuments on the battlefield.
Nicholas G. Wilson, ca. 1880
An active member of the community, Wilson also served on the Gettysburg Town Council, the Gettysburg School Board, serving as president for three years, in the Pennsylvania legislature, and as an active member of the Corporal Skelly Post No. 9 of the Grand Army of the Potomac. Sergeant Wilson died in October 1907. His obituary read in part: “[Wilson] was a whole-souled fellow and popular with everyone who knew him. . . .He was a man of much native ability, thoroughly doing all work intrusted to him and the development of this town and battlefield owe much to him. Personally he was most companionable, possessing those qualities of heart and mind that made those who knew him best admire and highly esteem him. . .”

I am thrilled to be living in the home built by such a contributing and important figure in the development of the Gettysburg National Battlefield. By the way, the photograph of Wilson and the bibliographic information comes from On The Bloodstained Field II: 132 More Human Interest Stories of the Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg, by Gregory Coco, a former Park Ranger at Gettysburg. At settlement, I discovered that during the 1980s and into the early ‘90s, Coco resided in the same house.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Some Photos of May 29 48th PA Monument Rededication



As I have mentioned many times before, I could not be happier with the results of the 48th Pennsylvania Monument restoration project. From the very start, I have been both proud and humbled by the support given and pleased by the generous contributions that arrived from all parts of the country. The Rededication Ceremony, held on Saturday, May 29, could not have gone any better. The weather was perfect and the turn-out was outstanding. All in all, it was a very good day. Below are various photographs taken at the event by several attendees, including my colleagues Rangers Mannie Gentile and Brian Baracz.

I am hoping to soon have a video of the event posted, so stay tuned.

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1904 Photograph of the Dedication of the 48th PA Monument at Antietam

Civil War Historian Tom Clemens, an expert on the Maryland Campaign, exchanges handshakes with Artist Mike Kraus
A large crowd of about seventy turned out to attend the rededication. It commenced with an invocation delivered by Reverend John Schildt, a lifelong student of the Maryland Campaign.
Antietam Battlefield Superintendent Presents Artist/Scultor Mike Kraus with a National Park Service Arrowhead in Recognition of his fine work and artistry in sculpting the replacement sword.
I Delivered The Dedication Address while Antietam Park Volunteer and Civil War Living Historian Dave Maher Kept Old Glory Flying
The Unveiling


The Sword Returned/The Monument Restored

Friday, June 11, 2010

SHAF Tour of the Maryland Campaign: Part I


From Harry Smeltzer and SHAF:


On Saturday, July 31, 2010, the Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) will sponsor a tour of “Phase I” of the Maryland Campaign of September, 1862. The tour will be led by SHAF board members Dennis Frye, National Park Service Historian at Harper’s Ferry, and Dr. Thomas Clemens, editor of Ezra Carman’s “The Maryland Campaign of September, 1862, Volume I: South Mountain”.


The tour will begin at 8:30 AM at the parking lot of the Monocacy National Battlefield Visitor’s Center in Frederick Maryland, where the guides will cover the action up to the discovery of General Robert E. Lee’s “Lost Order” by Union forces. Then the tour will proceed to Harper’s Ferry, covering the fighting and siege operations and capture of that place, as well as the escape of Union cavalry.

Lunch will be served at The Anvil Restaurant in Harper’s Ferry. Choices of a wrap, cheeseburger, or Reuben sandwich, each with French fries and drink.

From there, participants will travel to and discuss the importance of the sites of the Battles for South Mountain, including Burkittsville, Gathland, and Crampton’s, Fox’s, and Turner’s Gaps.
This is a “caravan” tour. Car pooling is strongly encouraged. Participation is limited to 30 individuals. Fees, including lunch, are $30 for SHAF members. Non-member fee is $50, which will include a one year membership to SHAF. Members receive a quarterly newsletter and member rates for SHAF sponsored events. Also, copies of Dr. Clemens’ edition of Ezra Carman’s “The Maryland Campaign of September, 1862, Volume I: South Mountain” will be made available at a $5 discount the day of the tour.
A firm number of participants is required by July 21, 2010. Make your reservations by sending an email with the names of those who will attend to tours@shaf.org. You will receive instructions on where to send payment.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to tour the sites of the Maryland Campaign of September, 1862 with recognized experts Dr. Thomas Clemens and Dennis Frye.