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)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

LBJ at Gettysburg, Memorial Day 1963

50 years ago today, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to give the following remarks at a ceremony marking Memorial Day in the Soldier's National Cemetery. Just under 6 months later, he would become the President of the United States. As president, Johnson pushed for Civil Rights legislation that carried forward the "unfinished task" that Lincoln himself spoke of at Gettysburg in 1863...

Remarks of Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson

Memorial Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

May 30, 1963

On this hallowed ground, heroic deeds were performed and eloquent words were spoken a century ago.
We, the living, have not forgotten--and the world will never forget--the deeds or the words of Gettysburg. We honor them now as we join on this Memorial Day of 1963 in a prayer for permanent peace of the world and fulfillment of our hopes for universal freedom and justice.

We are called to honor our own words of reverent prayer with resolution in the deeds we must perform to preserve peace and the hope of freedom.

We keep a vigil of peace around the world.

Until the world knows no aggressors, until the arms of tyranny have been laid down, until freedom has risen up in every land, we shall maintain our vigil to make sure our sons who died on foreign fields shall not have died in vain.

As we maintain the vigil of peace, we must remember that justice is a vigil, too--a vigil we must keep in our own streets and schools and among the lives of all our people--so that those who died here on their native soil shall not have died in vain.

One hundred years ago, the slave was freed.

One hundred years later, the Negro remains in bondage to the color of his skin.

The Negro today asks justice.

We do not answer him--we do not answer those who lie beneath this soil--when we reply to the Negro by asking, "Patience."

It is empty to plead that the solution to the dilemmas of the present rests on the hands of the clock. The solution is in our hands. Unless we are willing to yield up our destiny of greatness among the civilizations of history, Americans--white and Negro together--must be about the business of resolving the challenge which confronts us now.

Our nation found its soul in honor on these fields of Gettysburg one hundred years ago. We must not lose that soul in dishonor now on the fields of hate.

To ask for patience from the Negro is to ask him to give more of what he has already given enough. But to fail to ask of him--and of all Americans--perseverance within the processes of a free and responsible society would be to fail to ask what the national interest requires of all its citizens.

The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law. Law has not failed--and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which law alone serves.

If the white over-estimates what he has done for the Negro without the law, the Negro may under-estimate what he is doing and can do for himself with the law.

If it is empty to ask Negro or white for patience, it is not empty--it is merely honest--to ask perseverance. Men may build barricades--and others may hurl themselves against those barricades--but what would happen at the barricades would yield no answers. The answers will only be wrought by our perseverance together. It is deceit to promise more as it would be cowardice to demand less.

In this hour, it is not our respective races which are at stake--it is our nation. Let those who care for their country come forward, North and South, white and Negro, to lead the way through this moment of challenge and decision.

The Negro says, "Now." Others say, "Never." The voice of responsible Americans--the voice of those who died here and the great man who spoke here--their voices say, "Together." There is no other way.
Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact. To the extent that the proclamation of emancipation is not fulfilled in fact, to that extent we shall have fallen short of assuring freedom to the free.

Source: Press Release, "5/30/63, Remarks by Vice President, Memorial Day, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania," Statements File, Box 80, LBJ Library.

Monday, May 27, 2013

In Memorium: Samuel Fitzinger, Company B, 106th Pennsylvania

On July 2, 1863, members of the 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry made an advance beyond Cemetery Ridge into the ranks of Ambrose Wright's brigade of Georgians, which had advanced to the center of the Union lines in the broad Confederate assault on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. On that day, Private Samuel Fitzinger was among the fallen. He was killed in action and buried on the Codori Farm. The following letter was written to his mother on July 27, 1863, by Captain Joseph Lynch of Company B, 106th Pennsylvania.

106th Pennsylvania Monument next to the Codori Farmhouse, where I am living for my 2013 season at Gettysburg National Military Park

July 27, 1863
Mrs. Margaret Fitzinger,
I take advantage of the first opportunity which offers itself to send you the only relic found upon the body of your deceased son, Samuel (the relic was Samuel’s Testament). He died a soldier’s death while bravely fighting on Pennsylvania soil in defense of the glorious institutions which our fathers won for us by their blood. He was a good and faithful soldier and any mother might well be proud of such a son. His body was buried where he fell in a field near a barn which was burnt during the engagement and immediately in front of the position held by the 2nd Corps on Granite Ridge. His grave is marked by a head board with name and Company on it. He fell on the 2nd during an attack by my Co. on the barn which was then filled with Rebels. While sympathizing with you in your bereavement I cannot but reflect that he died as I would wish to fall, with his face to the enemy and his last moments were rendered happy by the knowledge that he had done his full share in the accomplishment of a Glorious Victory.
If I can be of any service to you, do not hesitate to command me.
Very Truly Yours,
Jos C. Lynch,
Captain, Company B
106th Pa Vols
P.S. I send the testament and this letter by Samuel Reynolds one of his comrades who can probably give you any further information you may desire.

Grave of Samuel Fitzinger, Soldier's National Cemetery, Gettysburg National Military Park

This Memorial Day, remember soldiers like Samuel Fitzinger, who laid down their lives at places such as Gettysburg so that this nation might live. 

"The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here..."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

First Day at Gettysburg

What better way to start work as a ranger at Gettysburg than by visiting Little Round Top early on a misty, foggy morning?

Greetings from Gettysburg National Military Park! Day one is in the books, and it was great. Looking forward to an amazing season ahead!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Settling In at the Codori House

Hello all,

Just wanted to post a quick note. I am currently settling in to my new confines for the summer--the Codori Farm House at Gettysburg. Yes, THE Codori house, as in the one right smack dab in the middle of Pickett's Charge, where the division of George Pickett actually had to maneuver around the house, just a few hundred yards away from Cemetery Ridge. Yeah, that Codori House. That's where I am living while working as a park ranger at Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary of the battle.

I know what you are thinking. Yes, God is good, and he does answer prayers. I'm not lucky. Just blessed.

It has been a long day. I worked at Antietam this morning, did a program for about 90 people, moved up here and settled in this afternoon and evening. Time to hit the books then bed.

Over the next few months, this blog will be focusing very heavily on Gettysburg. I am living in the middle of the battlefield, it is the 150th anniversary this summer (which I have already nicknamed the "Civil War Super Bowl" because it will be ridiculous how many people will be here). I hope to chronicle lots of my experiences on here, as well as give you a view as to what it is like being a ranger here from my perspective. Also, another big plus, the Codori House has INTERNET! So, I can actually be a 21st century ranger now...

Stay tuned! It will be a great year.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Rangering at Gettysburg

I have some big news that I have been holding off on sharing for quite some time. Now, because the summer sesaon is fast approaching, this seems like as good a time as any to post about it on here. Starting on May 19, I will be working as a park ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park for the 2013 season!

For most of the winter, I was uncertain whether I would have any NPS work this year at all. In fact, for awhile it appeared as though I was done with the Park Service due to sequestration. Then, in late March, I found out I would be coming back to Antietam, and the next day I was offered a seasonal position at Gettysburg for the summer. Thankfully, because I work for some great people, I was able to arrange things so that I am working at both parks this year. Lots of prayers were answered, to be sure.

Needless to say, I am very excited about this. I will be at Gettysburg from May 19 to mid-August, when I will be returning to Antietam for the fall. Thus, I will be able to work at Gettysburg for their 150th anniversary and be back in time for Antietam's 151st!

Working at Gettysburg has long been a dream of mine, along with working at Antietam. This year, I am blessed to say I will be working at both parks. When I was younger I went on many, many trips to the Gettysburg battlefield, more trips there in fact than I made to Antietam. I still remember how excited I was every time we drove into Gettysburg on Route 30, seeing the First Day battlefield when coming in from the west, seeing the statues of Reynolds and Buford along the road, knowing that in just a few minutes I would be out of the car and on the battlefield. My blue Union kepi hat saw lots of use on many of those trips. I would always try to pick up a cool new book or a cool new Union uniform piece every time as a souvenir of the trip. I remember one trip where Dad and I packed up the van to go camping near the battlefield, only to have the van break down on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on our way there. Dad was not deterred, though; he got a rental car, we continued on, and spent the weekend camping, cooking out, and hiking all around Gettysburg. I'm sure it wasn't fun for Dad having to deal with a non functioning car, but I still remember it fondly today.

Several years ago, in 2008, Dad and I made a trip to Gettysburg during the summer between my Junior and Senior year at Hillsdale. That summer, I was trying to make some big decisions about my future. I had recently read David McCullough's biography of John Adams for the first time, and was so moved and inspired that I decided that some day I wanted to write a book about American history as well. During that trip in 2008, I decided that I was going to try to be a professional historian. I told Dad on that trip that no matter what, I wanted to go back to Gettysburg for the 150th anniversary of the battle to at least be there for the events. Now, not only will I be there, but I will be working as a Park Ranger. A dream come true.

I also remember going to Gettysburg (with a side trip to Antietam) in 2009 with my Mom. My grandpa had recently taken a turn for the worse with his lymphoma, and the trip Mom and I took to Gettysburg that summer was the bright spot of our year. The rest of the year we spent at Grandpa's house caring for him every day until he passed in late October, but for a few days we got to spend some quality Mom and son time together in Gettysburg, enjoying Civil War history the way we have done since I was a kid.

Thus, you see, I have some very special memories of going to Gettysburg throughout the years, and those memories only make it so much more special that I will be able to work there as a park ranger this summer. I am incredibly blessed.

Gettysburg starts one week from tomorrow, so I am spending all my spare time either working on my Kennesaw Mountain book or reading up on Gettysburg. There will hopefully be many new blog posts and topics on here relating to Gettysburg and the 150th commemorations there this year. I am thoroughly thrilled at this new opportunity. Antietam has been my home for the past few years, and I am very glad I am here now and will be back in the fall, but I am also very excited to be branching out to Gettysburg in the year of their sesquicentennial.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Lack of Posts

Sorry for the lack of posts on here as of late. I am staying in park housing at Antietam, and do not have internet there. Thus, I have to use internet elsewhere and have not been blogging as much as of late. Expect this trend of fewer posts to continue for the time being, unless things change. I am quite busy with NPS work, working on my Kennesaw Mountain book for the History Press, as well as working my part time job writing history lessons for educationportal.com.

Hope everyone is enjoying the warmer weather that May has brought!