Friday, November 7, 2014

1. Discovering the Battlefield

The Gettysburg National Military Park was our nature preserve to explore and our wilderness to adventure in when Nancy and I were growing up in the small Pennsylvania town that became famous throughout the world. From the time we were children, sites like Culp's Hill, Spangler’s Spring and Devil's Den were destinations to discover and probe alone or with friends. 

My family moved to Gettysburg in 1942 when I was in sixth grade. Our first home was on East Middle Street just a few hundred yards from the entrance to East Confederate Avenue on the Battlefield. That road led to a series of small streams spanned by what we called First Bridge, Second Bridge and Third Bridge. The latter is at the base of Culp’s Hill, scene of fierce fighting on July 2-3, 1863.

My earliest recollection of playing on the Battlefield was in the boulders near Third Bridge. There my neighbor, Johnny Aghinbaugh, and I gathered dead tree trunks and laid them over the boulders that were about six feet apart and four feet high. Then we piled brush and leaves over the trees, and we completed the coolest “fort” from which to hide from our imaginary enemy. I can remember Mom preparing sandwiches and Koolaid for us so we could retire to our fort well supplied.

A few years later, our Boy Scout Troop 77 (Bound for Heaven) played Capture the Flag in the field across from our fort. The spirited, rough and tumble of that game probably helped prepare me for eight years of high school and college football.

Another memory of Third Bridge area was a field of tall grass northwest of the stream. After exploring that field one day by myself, I returned home covered with what we called “chiggers.” It reminded me that hot weather and artillery and rifle fire were not the only concerns both the Union and Confederate soldiers faced during the famous battle. 

December 9, 2014                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

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