Saturday, November 14, 2015

Witness What Our Elders And Ancestors Have Accomplished

I'm live blogging from the food court in Strawberry Square in Harrisburg PA.  There are some people adding a bit of color to a fairly ordinary food court with a Subway, Arbies and Taco Bell among others.  They are wearing civil war uniforms with the ladies in contemporary attire, although there are a couple of ladies in uniform. And they are mostly people of color, this being the final destination of the 2015 Grand Review.  There is gospel music coming from the lower level of the mall.

When I left off last night I was heading over to the Methodist church on State Street.  I got there around 6:00.  There was a woman holding the door open for people and sending them into the rear.  I told her I had not been invited but was hoping to talk to people.  She had no authority so I stayed outside.  I tried to chat some people up, but it was blustery and I began to feel like a stalker or something so I headed back to the hotel.  I just don't have it in me to be an aggressive investigative reporter.

I went back to the hotel where I had a craft double IPA that really knocked me for a loop.  Nobody I talked to knew about the Grand Review.

I was up pretty early this morning and back to the church.  Hung around for a while before it opened up.  The first person I started talking to was Michael Schaffner.  He is with the 54th Mass Company B with is based in Washington. He portrays one of the white officers.  Michael had been doing a lot of reenacting but the USCT seems to have real lit him on fire.  He gave me a good speech about African Americans winning the Civil War not only through the couple of hundred thousand soldiers and sailors, but also by eliminating the South's labor force. Michael is a retired federal worker.  His last job was with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

I then started speeking with V. Chapman Smith who was one of the speakers last night.  She talked about the importance of remembering.  She is a historian who managed to make a career out of it.  I told her how I had gotten discouraged and she said you always need to pursue your passion.  She introduced me to Barbara Franco, now an independent scholar, who had been one of the founding directors of Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum .  My covivant and I were actually there on the day the museum opened but we were going from the First Shot to the Last March of the Iron Brigade so we never got to check it ou.

Yvette Blake  was one of the women in uniform portraying a private in the 23rd USCT.  She is actually a retired Army officer who works for the Department of Defense.

There was Navy Junior ROTC detachment and a National Guard Color guard unit.  Mainly I was hanging outside chatting with guys from the 54th Mass and the 23rd USCT including Steward Henderson who I had met at Chancellorsville and reconnected with in Washington.

People were drifting into the church.  Somebody said it was to keep warm, but when I went in there was a ceremony going on.  There was an excellent Frederick Douglas speech and somebody in a bridgadier general's uniform playing Battle Hymn of the Republic on the guitar and a real brigadier general who gave an inspiring speech.

Carolyn Evans was doing Harriet Tubman.  I chatted with her about people always mixing up Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth.  She told me that she has also done Sojourner Truth, but I don't think it is her fault.

I chatted with Samie Burrell, a high school student from Trenton, who portrays a private in the 6th USCT.  He told me he does not like reading history but likes doing it.

The Parade finally kicked off. I'm not a great estimator but I don't think there were over 200 in the parade and there were fewer watching which is pretty sad.  I'm awarding myself the prize for having come the furthest for the event, but I'm open to being proved wrong.

There were speeches at the end and a 21 gun (Springfield/Enfield rifles really) salute. The theme was mainly about the importance of remembering.  The main speaker was Frank Smith who is largely responsible for the African American Civil War Museum and Monument.

I stole the title of this piece from Brandon Flood

I picked up some hints that there is some politics involved in the poor turnout for what were some really inspiring ceremonies, but I don't know if I will get to the bottom of that, but there is another hour of events here at the mall for me to try.

Peter J Reilly CPA flunked out of graduate school in history and hopes to be the first tax blogger to give up his day job.