I have had several opportunities to visit Gettysburg. It’s only about 30 minutes from the FEMA campus in Emmitsburg, MD, where I taught once or twice a year. Over the weekends, I’d go up for shopping and sightseeing. The battlefield itself, as Lincoln said, could not be any further sanctified than it was by the blood already shed upon it. I have never heard a loud tourist on those grounds, only hushed voices and whispers.
One year, while some friends and I were walking toward Little Round Top, where Joshua Chamberlain’s men held the Union flank, I overheard a man giving a lecture. It was an ROTC instructor talking down the slope to his students. I motioned my pals to be quiet and we got a free class on the battle as the students were asked to imagine what it was like to try to take that hill under fire.
Once he had finished his lecture, I asked the ROTC instructor where the Texans were in this engagement. It was passed down to me that I had an ancestor on my mother’s side that was in the 14th Texas Infantry. The instructor pointed down and to the left toward a clump of boulders.
“That’s Devil’s Den,” he said. “Sharpshooters from Texas and Tennessee were in there trying to pick of officers up on this ridge.”
My friends and I went down there to look and I tried to imagine my great-great-uncle Symon Huse trying to spot gold shoulder boards during the battle. I also figured that when fire came down into the boulders from the Union rifles, the Minnie balls must have ricocheted among those boulders like pinballs.
On another trip to the area, I saw tourists taking a guided horseback tour of the battlefield. I also found out that there was a camping option. That is on my bucket list, to ride across the Wheatfield and sleep under those stars.