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.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Friday, November 13, 2015
So here I am at the Hilton in Harrisburg PA for my absolutely, positively final Civil War Sesquicentennial event - The 2015 USCT Grand Review. I started late doing Antietam on my own.
My covivant came with me to Chancellorsville. We did special hike with the Park Service simulating Stonewall's flank attack that was off from real time, but it was understandable since you wouldn't want people thrashing around in the woods in the dark.
You can see CV standing behind the speaker at the beginning of the video.
We did Gettysburg big time. We were there the whole time and participated in several walks including Pickett's Charge. I did the walk and CV was waiting for me behind the wall.
After that the word from CV was like the WW II movie trope - "For you the war is over".
But I talked her into going to the Gettysburg address 150. The best part was Antonin Scalia swearing in some new citizens.
Nothing really called to me in 1864 - I mean 2014, but I had to go to Appomattox and then there was the Grand Review in May.
I talked my son into going to that one.
I thought I was done but it turns out there is one more. African American troops were excluded from the original Grand Review (although not the one in 2015), but the City of Harrisburg made up for it by having a Grand Review for the United States Colored Troops. That is tomorrow's event.
The drive down was pretty uneventful. It is pretty blustery. The only reminder that I noted on the drive down was that a stretch of Route 6 is called the Grand of The Republic Highway. I did a little tour of Harrisburg. Front street along the Susquehanna is really nice. Next to the Methodist church where the parade will start there was a building with American Red Cross carved in the stone above the door. I chatted with somebody at the door asking if she had heard about the review and she told me she had seen a banner which I did not find. I told her I was from North Oxford which made zero impression. I then told her it was the birthplace of Clara Barton and then realized that the building was no longer owned by the Red Cross.
There is an invitation only dinner tonight. I'm not going to try to crash it, but I am hoping to do some interviews outside. We'll see how it goes.