Jim and I are spending the week-end just outside Gettysburg, PA -- just like hundreds of other folks - Civil War enthusiasts who have come for the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. Coming into town yesterday we drove down Table Top Road to see what we could see of the re-enactment. Mostly signs to the US Camp to the left and to the Southern Camp straight head. Both camps are set up way off the road - out of sight. And traffic - cars lined up and parking. At that we made a U-turn and headed to our house another way.
When we turned into Gurnsey Road we met a caravan of horse trailers pulling into the narrow farm road from a smaller farmer's road. Jim pulled over to let the groaning trucks pulling their four-footed cargo pass by. Hang on guys - The Cavalry is coming.
The Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, took place July 1,2,and 3, 1863. It turned the tide of the war. Ghosts of those days are said to still haunt the area. Jim and I decided to honor the fallen and re-visit those days by watching two classic films, Gods and General's - a prequel for Gettysburg - and today we will watch Gettysburg - much of it filmed around the Gettysburg area.
I can't say too much for the acting in God's and General's. I find it over-played at best, but it gets the gist of the history across - and that's what we were looking for. It was a time when the country fought against itself over State's rights - and questions of loyalty - the union or your home state. Why else would farmer's boys pick up rifes and bedrolls and leave home to die? And there was plenty of dying on both sides.
As I watched a farmer's son shoulder his bedroll and strike off down the road I thought of Granny's father, Thomas Milton Hall. Thomas Hall joined the Mecklenburg Farmer's Unit when he was 16 years old and left his home in Mint Hill with other boys from the neighborhood. Led by a man from the area who was well-known to them, they walked across North Carolina and into Virginia with the Confederate Army for three years. Thomas Hall was wounded at the Battle of Petersburg, captured and imprisoned at Point Lookout Prison, MD. At the end of the war he walked home.
On the Keasler side of Mama's family young South Carolina men joined up. Some rode the train to Virginia to fight at Fredericksburg. There is a letter to a Keasler mother who is anxiouisly waiting for news in SC - "we buried David in a shallow grave. If you want to come and get his body, come soon." As I was told the story, she hitched horses to a farm wagon and drove them from Clemson, SC to Fredericksburg, VA to bring her son home.
At one point during the movie, Gettysburg, The Federal and Southern troops were charging and defending Little Round Top. Our den was filled with the sound of muskets - when I realized some of those shots sounded just outside, not coming from the TV. I stepped onto the deck - sure enough, red rockets lit the sky. More Fourth of July fireworks.
And, better still, a new crop of fireflies, glowing gold, flitted across the yard and the field in the distance. I am so glad I did not miss them.