Yesterday, the summer interpretive season got underway at Gettysburg. I finished my seasonal training classes that all new rangers and interns at Gettysburg go through, and I began my ranger programs. First off for me was the 3rd Day and Beyond program, which is essentially a walking tour of the area where Pickett's Charge was repulsed on July 3, 1863. My first program yesterday went well, and today's was even better.
My program this afternoon was one of the more memorable moments that I have had in the NPS. When I started my tour stop at the angle, the final stop on my program, I told the visitors we were standing at one of the most famous and hollowed pieces of ground on American soil. Having done programs at Antietam's Cornfield before, I am used to this feeling, but today was different. I didn't phrase things that way yesterday, and doing so today gave me goosebumps. For the first time the fact that I was actually a park ranger at Gettysburg hit home.
As I stood there with my group, I told the story of the Philadelphia brigade bravely repulsing Pickett's Charge and more and more visitors began to gather.By the time I was done, I had 25 people listening in. I concluded my program by telling them that we, as Americans, have a duty to defend freedom and rush forward when our country is in need, just as certain individuals rushed forward to the stone wall when Pickett's men broke through. I told them of 19 year old Anthony McDermott of the 69th Pennsylvania who, despite having orders to stay off the front lines, picked up a musket from a wounded soldier and rushed forward into danger. McDermott later wrote that in doing so, he was simply doing "my duty as a soldier, and as an American." We share that responsibility today, whether we are parents rushing to help our kids, teachers rushing to defend their students in a moment of danger, firefighters rushing into a burning building, police rushing towards an active shooter, or common citizens rushing the cockpit in a highjacked airliner. The duty is the same.
While I was talking I couldn't help but think of how surreal the moment was. When I was a kid, I loved visiting Gettysburg, and one of my favorite places on the battlefield was the Angle on Cemetery Ridge. In recent years, when I spend a day visiting at Gettysburg, I often like to just sit at the Angle and take in the view. I have found that, so long as there isn't a tour or school group there, it can be a very solemn and reflective spot. Today, I stood there as a park ranger and told the stories that inspired me to love history many years ago. There really aren't words to describe how powerful that feeling is. All I can say is I am very blessed and grateful to have this opportunity.
I haven't posted very much from Gettysburg thus far because I have been so busy. It is already the second week of June, and the summer season is underway. Life at the Codori house is great, as is my job at the park. I have some amazing new colleagues, and getting to tell the story of the Battle of Gettysburg this year is an incredible blessing which I will never forget. I have learned so much and became a much better ranger and interpreter in just the few weeks I have been here thus far, and I can't wait to see what the rest of the summer season has in store. For now, here are a few sunset shots from the battlefield that I took a few nights ago...
Our Country's Fiery Ordeal
A blog about the American Civil War, written and maintained by historian Daniel J. Vermilya, author of The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain (History Press, 2014) and James Garfield and the Civil War (History Press, 2015)
Dedicated to my great-great-great grandfather, Private Ellwood Rodebaugh, Company D, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, killed at the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862.
"And may an Overuling Providence continue to cause good to come out of evil, justice to be done to all men where injustice has long prevailed, and finally, peace, quiet, and harmony to come out of this terrible confrontation and our country's fiery ordeal." -- Albert Champlin, 105th Ohio, Diary entry of June 19, 1864 (Western Reserve Historical Society)