Sunday, November 23, 2014
Live From Gettysburg Address Sesquicentennial
Originally published on forbes.com on November 19, 2013.
It was quiet in Gettysburg yesterday afternoon. My covivant and I stopped at the National Cemetery around 4:00 and only a couple of people were there. Plastic chairs were already set up facing the podium. A large screen was set up in the field near Meade's Headquarters where the ceremonies will be simulcast for the overflow crowd. That would be the bunch who do not have the foresight to get there at 7:00 AM for the ceremonies that begin in earnest at 10:00 AM. There will be music starting at 8:30.
The rangers were not giving out attendance estimates. They had been as high as 30,000 to 40,000 when it was expected that President Obama would attend. On the one hand it would have entirely fitting for our President to be there. On the other hand, it would probably be a logistical nightmare.
The Visitor Center was abuzz with set up for a panel discussion - These Honored Dead: Death And Rebirth In The Civil War - preceded by book and DVD signing by Ric Burns and Drew Gilpin Faust, author of This Republic of Suffering. When we got there I resisted the temptation to buy one of the books that I might not get around to reading. I really felt proud of myself for not adding to accumulation from when we were here for the 150th Anniversary of the battle. On the way in though we had been chatting with Bob Korkuc. He told us that he was working on a kind of biography of a New Hampshire soldier named Bernie Harding, which is nice. Then he had to go and tell me about the book that he had already had published Finding A Fallen Hero - Death Of A Ball Turret Gunner in which he describes his efforts to find out exactly what happened to his uncle Anthony Korkuc who was part of the crew of one of the 97 B-17s lost during Big Week in February 1944, which according to the infallible source firmly established Allied air superiority in the skies over Germany. If you don't see the connection to Gettysburg, you lack historic imagination. At any rate, I felt compelled to order it on amazon when we got back to the hotel, so I did not escape without buying a book after all.
There were representative of the Confederation of Union Generals at the book signing including a Joshua Chamberlain. He is the third Joshua Chamberlain I have met this year. He really has the look. There is a genetic advantage. His name is Tom Chamberlain and is a cousin.
Rather than staying for the panel discussion, CV and I went to the event at David Wills house in the center of town. David Wills was the lawyer charged with the creation of the creation of the National Cemetery. President Lincoln stayed at his house the night before the dedication ceremony. It was a short walk to the train station. We got there just as a Lincoln re-enactor was arriving, presumably James Getty who will be reenacting the address in a couple of hours. There is a picture in this story from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. We chatted a bit with the reporter Mike Wereschagin. He had actually read my coverage of the battle. I'm starting to feel like a real journalist, which would be nice since then I would be over in the Media tent rather than on a folding chair in front of the podium as I write this.
"President's Lincoln's Own Band" was performing at the Wills house. The Band is composed of the musicians who performed in the movie Lincoln wearing the same uniforms that they wore in the movie. CV and I got to chat with them last night at dinner in the hotel and this morning at breakfast. Apparently, the cold presents problems for them beyond discomfort as the larger instruments warm up more slowly which puts them out of tune. The band will be performing this morning at the Ceremony. The Marine Corps Band will be playing the National Anthem. It was President Lincoln that started the tradition of the special relationship between the Presidency and the Marine Corps Band.
As we arrived I started chatting with a big fellow. He said he was here out of his love for the Constitution. We didn't create a disturbance or anything, but he got me going just a little, because this morning is about the Declaration.
As I finish this up it is about 8:00 AM and CV and I are crammed into the plastic chairs in front of the podium. She is giving me a little bit of a hard time because there are still some open seats. Around us are people from Pittsburgh, Illinois and Boston. The musical prelude will start in about an hour. I'm not the only one here who hopes that the President will surprise us and show up anyway, but it is not that likely.
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