Gettysburg National Military Park kicked off their 2017 winter programs this weekend. As usual, the programs were terrific.
We started with the first discussion of the book, The Killer Angels. Supervisory Ranger Chris Gwinn led the discussion this week. We focused on the first part of the book, the part dealing with June 29 and June 30. We talked about Michael Shaara’s background as a veteran of the Korean War, a boxer, and a policeman before he became serious about writing, and his beginning as a science fiction writer. Interestingly, James Longstreet is very much the star of the confederate side. The Robert E. Lee character is there to illuminate Longstreet’s “brilliance” in the author’s viewpoint and to serve as Longstreet’s foil. It seems Shaara identified with the John Buford character as well as the Joshua Chamberlain character in addition to Longstreet. We noted the characters who were the most favorably portrayed were those who were less religious than other characters. We also talked about how the history was changed in the book in subtle ways.
Next, Ranger Matt Atkinson gave an outstanding lecture on Longstreet and July 2 at Gettysburg. His lecture was a very balanced look at Longstreet’s performance, where Longstreet was right and where he was wrong. I’ll post it once it comes up on the park’s YouTube channel.
Saturday evening was a screening of the movie, The Free State of Jones. It was a powerful film, and the depiction of Reconstruction was very well done.
Sunday saw Ranger Dan Vermilya giving a terrific lecture on myths surrounding Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. He dispelled the lost cause nonsense about Lincoln not caring about slavery, about the EP not doing anything, and about Lincoln just using the EP to keep Europeans from intervening in the war. This is another presentation that I’ll post once it’s on YouTube.
The first weekend, I thought, was a smashing success. The park personnel always do a terrific job, and this was no exception.