Thursday, July 3, 2014

Gettysburg 150 - Thank You National Park Service

Originally published on on July 8, 2013

GETTYSBURG, PA - JULY 03:  Civil War re-enacto...

This is the final Gettysburg installment.  I want to thank my regular readers for their patience with me writing a series of posts about what I did on my summer vacation.  The last time I attempted that form was in 1966 and on reflection, I think the teacher involved in the assignment was just trying to keep Class 1-E of Xavier High School occupied.  For what it is worth, the major highlight of that essay was a description of jumping off the high board at Palisades Amusement Park into the worlds largest outdoor salt-water swimming pool.

I am not going to apologize.  The Gettysburg Sesquicentennial was a major event and I think, thanks to my feeble efforts, is the only national platform with reasonably thorough coverage.  I hate to think what the Tax Court has been up to with me not watching them for a week, but I will be looking tonight and let you know.  I need to wrap up with some advice, some acknowledgements and a proposal.

Some Advice

A couple of my blogging buddies( they know who they are) were green with envy at my being able to make the Gettysburg Sesquicentennial.  There will probably be no Sesquicentennial event quite as impressive between now and April 2015, but there will be plenty more and you should go to at least one.  Be a real timer and pick out a key event and go there regardless of whether any commemoration is scheduled.  Be sure to write to me and let me know how it goes.  More importantly the real time experiences at Gettysburg were special, but they were not actually that special.  Anytime you go there or any of the other historic sites in our National Park System, you  will learn something. 

 At Gettysburg, be sure to do a private tour.  It is only $65 (but be sure to budget a generous tip).  Focus more on talks by the rangers and the licensed guides than some of the schlocky stuff in town, although ghost tours do have their place.

If you are going to Civil War Land (i.e. Southern Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia) from New England, do not listen to your Garmon or Tom-tom or do what Mapquest tells you.  They will probably tell you to barrel down 95 or something like that and cross the Hudson River at the Tappan Zee Bridge or, God forbid, the George Washington Bridge.  Don't get me wrong.  The metro New York area is a marvellous destination with many wonderful things to see, like the Forbes Galleries for example.  It is not an area to go through on the way to some place else,.  In Hartford, get on Route 84 and stay on Route 84.  You will cross the Hudson River at Newburgh and start going South when you hit Route 81.  It is a lovely drive.  The same principle applies in reverse for those coming from the South to visit the historic sites of New England, such as the birthplace of Clara Barton in Oxford, Massachusetts.

If you go to any large scale sesquicentennial events, take the Park Service advice seriously.  Have a back pack with sunscreen and water.  And here is a tip to make new friends.  Have a couple of extra bottles of water on hand to help out the unprepared.

Finally, be sure to thank the rangers for the great job that they do.  I think they are among the most under-appreciated members of the federal work force.  Not as under-appreciated as the IRS, but that would take some doing.

About The Rangers

The rangers at Gettysburg were really busy so I did not tie them up with questions too much.  On the way back, we stopped at the Delaware Water Gap National Park, where things were a bit less hectic. (By the way, that park is another really good reason to take the long way round when going to or from New England) I spoke with a supervisor of interpreters there and he explained a couple of things to me.  

Even though they do all sorts of different things, they all wear the same uniform and are referred to as rangers.  If you are observant, you will note that some of them are packing heat.  Those are the law enforcement rangers who will arrest you if you need arresting.  Another fellow told me that all the history guys long to work at Gettysburg and that only the most knowledgeable, many of them published authors end up there. 

 He told me that material that you see in the parks is subject to a great deal of quality control that goes through an office in Harpers Ferry.  I can't help but remember the comment by Ranger Beth Parnicza after helping lead me, my covivant and a couple hundred others through the woods around Chancellorsville where Stonewall Jackson's men rolled up the XI Corps - "We have the best job in the world".  All the rangers project that attitude and I believe it is totally genuine.
The mission of the Park Service is:
to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations
I don't think I have ever seen a team of people more on mission than the Park Rangers.  That includes the team at Joseph B Cohan and Associates in the eighties.  Of course, our mission, unstated but easily inferred of "Anything for a buck.  Try not to get sued." was somewhat less inspiring.

A Proposal

The next big event at Gettysburg is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  I asked a few people whether President Obama will be there and apparently it is not decided yet.  I'll be really disappointed if he is not, but I will not be totally satisfied if he is the only President there.  I think all our living Presidents should be there.  Imagine Mr. Lincoln looking into the future and seeing how things worked from his speech.  He sees five of his successors.  One of them is a former Illinois Senator.  Three of them are former governors of states of the then Confederacy.  Two of them are members of his own party, one of them a war hero.  Finally one of them is our first Aftican American President.  I think he would be very pleased.  I've started a We The People petition. Please sign it.


CV is back working at the national firm and I'm off on my free lancing.  As for the Gettysburg people I have introduced

You can follow me on twitter @peterreillycpa.

Obviously my petition went nowhere.  President Obama did not attend in November.  He took some flack for that.  It would have been a security nightmare, so it is probably just as well.  Although, you can find out about it on, you will have to wait till November to read about it here.

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