Remembrance Day 2012
One Hundred Forty Nine years ago, November 19th 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was invited to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to dedicate the National Cemetery honoring the men who died during that fateful battle. He was asked to make a few appropriate remarks, and that is just what he did. The speech was short, only 270 words, but they were the some of the most remembered words ever spoken by any president in the history of our country and especially up to that date. His words captured the spirit of our national conscience and set the standard that has continued to this day. All the words from this document are of great importance; but there in the last portion of the speech are these words.
Quote; “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate- we can not consecrate- we can not hallow-this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom.” Lincoln further said another very important line. Quote; “That government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”His words are as profound now as the were then. I've heard them many times and each time I do, they still send a chill down my back and evoke a tear as well.
The weekend of November 17th, for serious re-enactors is one of those times that means so much to many of us. Most of us are able to shut the present out and only think of what it means to us to represent and remember the sacrifice and struggle these men all faced. The struggle at Gettysburg was one of countless battlefields where the blood of our own country men was spilled. It is up to us the living to remember what they did there regardless of which side of the struggle we each would have been. Lincoln always considered our nation to be one nation. He expected that our National flag would still have a star for each state that existed within that nation. So our flag during the rebellion always had 34 stars; the 34th star, because West Virginia entered the union as a free state.
I've told you about Remembrance Day weekend before and will probably do so at least a couple time more. Next year I plan to do the parade for the last time. The nearly four miles of marching on asphalt are gruelingly cruel on my legs. It will be the 150th anniversary event and these always have a special meaning and will be a great memory.
I still plan to meet and socialize with friends that have I have grown to consider as the closest of personal friends. They are men and women I have shared many wonderful experiences and memories, and I'm not planning on give that up easily. Their is something very special about friends who shared the same passion and love for historic remembrance for men who suffered so greatly. For several years, I have celebrated the lives and the deaths of the men and boys who died at Gettysburg, PA. Each regimental group of men and women celebrate those who died on these fields in their very own special way. Special readings are read out for the assembly to understand why are we here this day. On many occasions we have the privilege of folks other than our group who have stopped by to witness and begin to understand just exactly why we are so solemn in our remembrance.
In past years, I have served with the 69th Pennsylvania Irish, The Philadelphia Brigade. Each year the names of the 21 men buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery are read aloud for all within ear shot can share in our remembrance. We exchange a brass medallion with the name of the man, and company in which he served till death. A short biography is read and we are reminded who he was and what he did before the war. From the cemetery we march over to the “Angle”, “The Highwater Mark” where most of them died on July 3rd 1863. Here at the “Angle” we are reminded of the lads once again, placing a flag at each of the company flank markers. Each year, we pick a different company to remember with a file card with name and how and where the died. Each man then passes by the monument and lays their boxwood sprig near its base to say we haven't forgotten. It a very solemn occasion.
This year I fell in with the 148th Pennsylvania, The Centre County Regiment. On those days in July 1863, they had nearly 468 men present. When the “Wheatfield” action was completed 27 men were Killed in Action and another 100 men wounded or missing or captured. Eleven men are buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Poems or special reading are presented.. Captain Felice reads the account of what happened that July 2nd 1863 for those around us who have never heard their story. This year for the second time ever the names of those who were killed are read aloud, their names spoken into the air as we have called it. Our ladies provided us with a sprig of “Rosemary.” This frosted sprig of green was used in remembrance of those who have passed from this life.
This day November 17th as I always do I walked from left to right flank, 118 steps. I ponder what the men of the 148th PA. Volunteer Infantry did on July 2nd 1863. This was not a small act of valor. It was much more than that. I found a few quotes that would have crossed their minds.
Quote; “The man who does not dread to die or be mutilated is a lunatic. The man who, dreading these things, still faces them for the sake of duty and honor is a hero.” Union Captain John DeForest
Quote; You ask me if the thought of death does not alarm me. I will say that I do not wish to die... I myself am as big a coward as any could be, but give me the bullet before the coward when all my friends and companions are going forward. Confederate soldier.
Quote; “In great deeds, something abides. On great fields something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear, but the spirit lingers, to consecrate the ground for the vision-place of souls... Generations that know us not and that we know not of, are heart drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them.” Lt. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain
This is why we do Remembrance Day. So we don't forget...
150 Years Ago
Pvt. John Bentley; 126th PVI, Fayette Township, Died of Disease 11-28-1862, Unknown
Donald E. Husler Jr.