Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Three Days in July

"The night of July 2d was bright moonlight but it seemed to me there were spirits flitting from Little Round Top to Devil's Den and back, all night; and as I lay awake, the only sounds I could hear were the groans of the wounded lying between the lines."
1st Lt. Benjamin F. Rittenhouse, U.S.A.
5th U.S. Artillery, Battery D

Pic via freedomcurrent.com

Last night, Ridley and Tony Scott’s Gettysburg premiered on the History Channel. This documentary ‘stripped away the romanticized veneer of the Civil War to present the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg in a new light--a visceral, terrifying and deeply personal experience, fought by men who put everything on the line in defense of their vision of the American future.’ A history lover like me found it quite riveting.

My family has visited Gettysburg at least a dozen times and every time I stop by, I am humbled. To know that close to 51,000 young men lost their lives on the battlefield over the course of three hot, summer days in 1863 is unfathomable. You can’t help but notice an eerie feeling in the air as you walk around the battlefield where so many lives were cut short.

My favorite spot on the battlefield is Little Round Top. Partly because it provides an amazing vantage point of the valley below. And partly because this is where my ancestor, Lt. Benjamin F. Rittenhouse defended the Union Army against the advancing Confederates. A plaque dedicated to the Army of the Potomac stands on the site and bears Lt. Rittenhouse’s name. Needless to say, we’ve visited the site many a time – in both daytime and nighttime. (I prefer the night – it’s so dark that you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. Spooky!)

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