Sunday, July 21, 2013

Gettysburg at 150

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1-3, 1863. This year, therefore it saw its 150th anniversary. My oldest friend, Philip Marshall Cavanaugh—soldier, military museum director, Civil War reenactor, and weapons restorer (just to name some of his talents)—had attended the 100th reenactment in 1963, the 125th in 1988, and planned to attend the 150th as well. He had already made plans, shipped his uniforms and equipment to Gettysburg ahead—and then was hospitalized with intestinal problems just days before departure. Once he was well enough again, he sent me some updates—and having missed the event, sent me some pictures, one of himself in 1963 and one of this year’s reenactment sent him by some friends.

I present these here to remind us of how things once looked—not very long ago, when you think about it. Concerning the 2013 picture, below, I am quoting Phil’s own description taken from his letter.


The reenactors of the 14th Virginia are, I discovered, not all from the 14th Va but from a couple of other Va units that came together to form a company-sized unit for the event. The first sergeant is Brent Feito (whom I don’t know personally). The officer leading the group (with sword, black beard) one might call a Dean of Reenactors;  he is Robert Lee Hodge. Hodge was a major character in a book that appeared about twenty years ago entitled Confederates in the Attic; it describes a New York journalist’s journey through Virginia and his exposure to the reenacting community; it’s a fun read. The 14th Va served through the war from 1861 to Appomattox in 1865, they were at all the major battles. When I see the picture I think of the description of Lee’s army penned by a Pennsylvania woman in June 1863; the quote is not exact but very close. “They were the most ragged and dirty bunch of men I had ever seen, yet, there was an air about them, something in their step that was lacking in our northern men.”

The 14th Virginia was a regiment. Phil’s own long-standing regiment is the 21st Virginia—which had to give him medical furlough for this year’s event. There are many different ways to experience the Present. These photos illustrate one of the more novel ways to do so—every now and then.

2 comments:

  1. Sorry to hear about Cavanaugh missing the 150th anniversary in Gettysburg. At least he has good friends who helped him to experience it a bit through photos.

    By the way, I heard first about this post from Jim Magee, who called for something entirely different this morning and mentioned it. "Say, I hard that your father has written an article about the Civil War. I'd like to see that."

    I will send him a link to this blog.. but, what a funny coincidence, no? The world can sometimes feel quite small... both geographically and across time.

    Finally, a reminder. We have a family connection in Gettysburg right now. Susan, Rich and kids live there, and I mean right near the battle field. That is where Rich grew up. The Riordan's will be visiting in August, FYI.

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    1. When we were at your house, John had already seen this post--and probably mentioned it when passing on the "classic car" photos. I am, naturally, well aware of OUR Gettysburg link. I have a link on this page to Gettysburg Family. That blog, alas, hasn't seen too many entries lately. It must be distracting to have your community invaded by all those reenactors...

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