As part of this year’s CivilWarlapalooza, I was present for the Gettysburg 151st Anniversary commemoration.
Ranger John Hoptak gave an absolutely outstanding battle walk in following the 16th Maine on July 1, 1863. We followed the 16th Maine from its stand on Oak Hill when General John Robinson [see an excellent blog post on their brigade commander, General Gabriel Paul, from John Hoptak] told them they had to remain behind as a rear guard and sacrifice themselves so the rest of the brigade could escape to where most of the men eventually had to surrender. In a wonderful visual, we had been handed cards prior to the battle walk with the names of members of the 16th. At the end, we gathered in groups based on symbols on those cards. Some were killed in action, some wounded, some taken prisoner, and some were able to escape. In seeing the size of those groups, we saw the tremendous sacrifice the men of the 16th Maine made.
Next, Ranger Matt Atkinson gave a great battle walk on Robert E. Lee and the confederate high command at Gettysburg. In following the confederate route from McPherson’s Ridge to Seminary Ridge, we discussed Lee’s command style and talked about the controversy over Richard S. Ewell and Cemetery Hill. We talked about what the confederates were able to do in winning a great victory on July 1 and how they were set up for July 2.
For the final battle walk of the day, Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel talked about the 11th Corps on July 1, concentrating on Krzyzanowski’s Brigade and their great performance that day. We walked along the 11th Corps’ line north of Gettysburg and went out to Blocher’s Knoll [now called Barlow’s Knoll] and talked about the huge mistake Francis C. Barlow made in moving his division out to that knoll. That led to an undoing of the Federal line, and it was the attack of Krzyzanowski’s Brigade that stunned the rebels long enough to allow the 11th Corps to retreat through Gettysburg.
This was a really great day on the battlefield. The NPS did a terrific job in putting together these battle walks, and we were looking forward to the Day Two events.