Around nine o'clock this morning I received an expected call from a good friend who had reintroduced me years ago to the Gettysburg experience. Mike Ripple is that friend whose great great grandfather served with the Union troops at the Battle of Gettysburg, and whose family always held this small Central Pennsylvania town as a special place. I was always fascinated by the battle and the stories that were told, but he brought the beauty and the peacefulness of this great battlefield home to me in a new and fresh way. On the first day of the three day battle (July 1 - 3) he calls and makes a comment about "bringing up the cannons" or spotting Heth's division advancing. It has become a routine.
The Battle of Gettysburg took place on July 1, 2, & 3 of 1863 - 150 years ago this year. A small Pennsylvania town of about 2,400 people, sitting at the intersection of five major (in those days) roads, found itself caught up in a major battle of the American Civil War. On that July 1st day, John Buford and his band of cavalry troops spotted Southern troop movement approaching the town from Chambersburg, PA coming through Cashtown. He saw Heth's advance position. He sent word to General Reynolds who brought Union troops into the western edge of town by the Lutheran Seminary. The Union troops were not prepared for a major confrontation ... Heth was told not to engage until more troops could be brought forward ... and yet it happened. That first day of battle, occurring on the western edge of town on Seminary Ridge and the surrounding area, was back and forth, ultimately resulting in a retreat of the Union forces through the town to Cemetery Ridge to the east. Mistakes were made, timing was bad, and opportunities were lost on that first day, but it was the beginning of a three day battle that pitted the Confederate forces under the command of Robert E. Lee (the Southerners came into town from the north) against the Union forces of George Meade (the northern forces came from the south). I read were there were maybe 50,000 troops that fought on that day, with more in the fray as the days progressed. Gettysburg, the county seat of Adams County, a sleepy little hamlet, was placed on center stage 150 years ago today. May wars end, may conflicts be resolved, and may peace, as is evidenced in Gettysburg today, find a home in our hearts.