Monday, May 25, 2009
Their silents tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead.
Andersonville National Cemetery
Antietam National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Balls Bluff National Cemetery
Battleground National Cemetery
Cold Harbor National Cemetery
Gettysburg National Cemetery
Glendale National Cemetery
Loudon Park National Cemetery
Melrose Cemetery, Brockton, MA
Richmond National Cemetery
Grace Episcopal Church, Silver Spring, MD
To the Memory of
Who Fell In Front of
July 12, 1864
Thursday, May 14, 2009
This past Saturday I drove a hundred miles to one of my favorite places in the entire world, the 18th Massachusetts Infantry’s monument at Gettysburg, which stands in “The Loop” on Sickles Avenue. I absolutely love this spot. It’s quiet. It’s pretty. It’s a place of tribute to “my dead guys.”
I absolutely love the monument. Far less ornate than many you’ll find at Gettysburg, it’s a testament to simplicity in design, one that lends itself to classical elements. Simple geometrical lines and classical elements are timeless.
I took on the role of custodian of the 18th’s monument last fall when I signed up for the “Adopt a Position” program at the National Park. Every monument in The Loop had a volunteer group to do clean up save one. “My dead guys” monument was that one. I think they were waiting for me personally to take on the task of raking up leaves and trimming back overgrowth. It wouldn't have done for someone who had no emotional attachment to either the regiment or that patch of ground to have volunteered their time.
Last November I spent about three hours moving leaves and using a branch trimmer. When I pulled up beside the monument on Saturday the area I had worked on last fall had survived very nicely and it took just under an hour to put nature in order again.
The 18th’s monument was one of several that were dedicated on October 8, 1885, the last day in that year that ceremonies were held. Those monument unveilings brought to 76 the total number of monuments that then stood at Gettysburg. That total included 24 dedicated to Massachusetts regiments, 25 to Pennsylvania regiments, six for Indiana, four each for Rhode Island and Connecticut, two for Delaware, and one each for New Jersey and Minnesota. The 2nd Maryland Infantry was the only Confederate regiment then so honored. Additionally, there was the National Monument, Gregg’s Cavalry Shaft to commemorate the clash between Stuart’s and the 1st Michigan cavalries, and four individual monuments that honored the memory of generals John F. Reynolds and Samuel K. Zook and colonels Strong Vincent and Charles Frederick Taylor.
Only four veterans of the 18th Massachusetts attended ceremonies that day, one of whom, William B. White, who commanded Company K during the battle, delivered remarks in which “he paid a glowing tribute to the regiment and the commonwealth they had the honor to represent.”
The next visit will be on July 2nd, when I’ll lay a wreath at the monument, something I’ve done on that particular day for the past three years. Driving a hundred miles three times a year is a small thing and a short distance to travel to honor the memory of “my dead guys.”