Friday, August 31, 2012

The Most Important Event in 1860

It occurred at Cooper Union, in New York City. It was Lincoln’s Cooper Union Speech. After the speech was reported he became a political personality with national leadership capabilities.

The speech was a piercing objective analysis of the subject of slavery and its status in law. Lincoln outlined the constitutional history of slavery and by addressing the institution head on he highlighted that it was the hottest political issue of the day.

Slavery by itself did not start the Civil War but it was by far the most powerful and main topic of concern of the southern plantation politicians. It’s inclusion in many of the ordinances of secession help to lend credence to this notion.

Lincoln essentially grabbed the bull by the horns in the Cooper Union speech and that eventually catapulted him into the Republican nomination and eventually the presidency. It also gave the hot headed and misguided southerners a reason for secession. Their mistake was they never thought the Unionists, north or south would go to war to save the country they cherished.

Once slavery was the decisive issue it had to be dealt with for a final solution. Lincoln brilliantly used his executive powers for emancipation (a military tactic that had been used for centuries) to his advantage. It was the snowball that rolled down the hill to become the biggest avalanche in American history. It lead to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments which not only rocked the foundations of the American democracy but made slavery a bane of civilized governments on a worldwide basis.

The year 1860 was defined by a speech given by a lawyer from Illinois, in New York City on February 27, 1860. The country still trembles from its connotations.

Read Lincoln's Cooper Union Speech here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Adams County Aids the Continental Army

In response to the fighting between British troops and colonists at Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775, the Second Continental Congress placed the Massachusetts volunteers in their own service and selected George Washington to command them.  This action gave birth to the Continental Army.

Congress also authorized the raising of ten companies of riflemen, for one year's service as additional manpower.  Pennsylvania was expected to provide six companies of these troops but the commonwealth provided nine.  These companies became known as Colonel Thompson's Battalion of Riflemen.

This sign at 44 York Street in Gettysburg
 marks the location of Gettys' Tavern.

York County, which at that time included what is now Adams County,  was represented by Captain Michael Doudel's Company.  It was, "... enlisted principally at Samuel Getty's Tavern..."  This company provided at least forty (probably much more) men to the total of 849 men listed for the battalion.  Included in this company was Lt. Henry Miller of Fairfield (then Millerstown) and Private John Dother, of Marsh Creek.  Doudel's men (Company C) left York on July 1 and arrived at Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 25.

Upon their arrival they made a favorable impression to the local populous.  An army surgeon noted, "They are remarkably stout and hardy men; many of them exceeding six feet in height."  As to their prowess as marksmen he commented, "... their shot have frequently proved fatal to British officers and soldiers, who expose themselves to view, even at more than double the distance of common musket shot."

Within four days the company skirmished at Charlestown Neck and lost one man to capture.  The rigors of the march and combat may have contributed to Captain Doudel becoming ill.  It was so severe that he resigned and as a result, Henry Miller was promoted to captain. 

The men of Company C fought well but they received a reputation of being insubordinate and undisciplined.  When two companies were needed to leave Cambridge and join an expedition to invade Canada, Lieutenant Colonel Hand reported, "The General [presumably Washington] refused peremptorily to take the York company." 

In spite of this imperfection, their fighting and shooting skills keep them in good stead.   Company C and the entire battalion continued to do good service around Boston.  They exhibited tenacious fighting at Ploughed Hill and Lechmere's Point.  Their military proficiency did not go unnoticed by General Washington.

On January 1, 1776, the army was reorganized and the battalion became the first regiment of the Continental Army complete with its own flag which bared the motto, "domari nolo" (I will not be subjugated).  The strength of the regiment  was 693 officers and men.

Frustrated with a stalemate in Boston, the British troops departed the area.  Washington received information that their destination was New York City.  As a consequence, on March 14, under orders from General Washington, the regiment and five others left Massachusetts and marched to New York City.  The journey for the regiment took two weeks.

Washington recognized the rifle regiment's value and recommended to Congress the men be offered a two year term of reenlistment because their term would soon expire on June 30.  The offer was made and most of the men reenlisted.   

July 1, 1776 marked the formation of the First Regiment of the Pennsylvania Line in Continental service.  John Dother remained a private and Henry Miller had been promoted to major.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The World's Largest Outdoor Art Gallery

Large collections of fine art, in the form of sculpture, are usually associated with museums located in sprawling urban areas.  I believe it is safe to say that the largest outdoor collection of this fine art is located in Adams County.

Bust of Lincoln in the National Cemetery.

Over thirteen hundred pieces of art are exhibited on about twenty-five square miles of a combined landscape of urban and country backdrops.  These works include carved pieces of stone and cast bronze panels and statues. These masterpieces commemorate and honor valiant deeds performed and sacrifices offered.  They remind the present and future generations of these heroic and sometimes tragic accomplishments.  This open-air museum is the Gettysburg National Military Park.

The battlefield began to be monumentalized in 1867 when former members of the First Minnesota Infantry placed a memorial urn in the National Cemetery.  

The majority of the monuments were placed on the field in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Most monuments represent regiments, brigades, army corps, military commanders, politicians or states which provided troops that participated in the conflict.

General Winfield Scott Hancock
equestrian statue on East Cemetery Hill

Depending on the date of placement on the field, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, the United States War Department or the National Park Service may have  dictated the rules for wording, composition of materials and placement of the memorials.  Funding for the monuments varied and may have included a governmental entity, a veterans organization, fraternal organization or a religious society.

The North Carolina monument by Gutzon Borglum on
South Confederate  Avenue.

Many of the regimental monuments are loaded with historical information concerning their participation in the battle.  Information etched on the stone or cast in the metal may include particular movements, exploits of the men, where the regiment was recruited from and a record of their war service.  Some may also display a cast bronze panel that depicts a significant event during the battle.  These panels themselves are works of fine art.

Lady Liberty atop the New York State
 monument in the  National  Cemetery.

Some of the foremost sculptors of that era who have their works displayed on the field include Donald DeLue, Henry Kirke Bush-Brown, John Quincy Adams Ward, J. Massey Rhind, Lee Lawrie, Cyrus Dallin  and Gutzon Borglum.  

The most prolific of these artists at Gettysburg was  Henry Kirke Bush-Brown.  He produced three titanic sized equestrian statues of Generals John Reynolds, George Meade and John Sedgwick.  He also sculpted a lifelike bust of President Abraham Lincoln at the memorial to the Gettysburg Address located near the west entrance of the National Cemetery.  

Equestrian statue of General John Fulton Reynolds.

Cyrus Dallin not only sculpted the General Winfield Scott Hancock statue at the Pennsylvania Memorial but also the impressive “The Picket” equestrian statue.  It is located in nearby Hanover and commemorates the cavalry action of the Battle of Hanover which occurred on June 30, 1863.

Monument to the 116th Pennsylvania Infantry.

One of the sculptors whose works appears on the field in three places is Charles W. Reed, an artist from Boston and veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg.  He was a bugler in the Ninth Massachusetts Battery.  Reed along with his former battery commander John Bigelow, designed all three memorials to the Ninth.

The list of all the talented artists whose works adorn the field is too long to mention in this short tome.  It would take weeks for you to visit and examine each monument or statue.  If you haven't viewed these works I would advise you to do so, after all, this monumental collection is located in your own backyard.