Sunday, July 31, 2005

Letter to Ed Rendell, Governor of Pennsylvania

On July 7, 2005, I sent the following letter to Ed Rendell, Governor for the state of Pennsylvania, and to several other state officials concerning the ongoing plans to build a Casino a short distance from the town and Battlefield of Gettysburg.


To the Honorable Governor Ed Rendell:

With all due respect sir, I must say to you that I find inconceivable that any American would consider for a moment the building of a casino anywhere near the historic town and sacred fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The obvious attempt at exploitation disgusts me. Thousands of men bled and died on those fields. Thirty thousand emerged from those ferocious three days of fighting no longer whole. President Lincoln permanently etched into the soul of our nation the meaning of the sacrifices offered on those now deathless lands. He did so on the grounds where thousands who died to preserve this Union lay now in a place of honor at eternal rest.

Few places in the United States can match Gettysburg for the degree of sacrifice and historical significance. As the smoke of battle faded, the men who struggled there understood and asked for their sacrifice one thing in return. They left molded in bronze and stone their earnest plea that we never forget. A casino near the battlefield, attempting to capitalize on the honored name of Gettysburg and the memory of such valor, would disgrace this state in my eyes and those of the nation.

I trust that you will oppose the existence of this stain, this desecration, of that hallowed ground. The fields, monuments, and indeed the lands around Gettysburg which cradle this most precious of national treasures must be vigorously protected. We owe as much to those who came before us and the generations yet to come.

Although frequently quoted, the power of these words hold even today. "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863.

Very Respectfully and Sincerely:



If you share these concerns, or if you simply have questions about the issue, please visit If you also wish to express your concern, please see the "politics" section of the NoCasinoGettysburg site for contact information.

Thank you.



All original material Copyright © 2005. All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Jeff Fioravanti: Painting the Soul of America

Always a welcome site, a good friend's June 30th e-mail heralded an eventful weekend. The invitation to join him and some friends for a guided battlefield walk during Gettysburg's anniversary observance offered the chance to visit portions of the field not typically seen. Meeting people with a similar fondness for the 19th Century only added to the day's potential rewards. After a hearty breakfast at my friend's favorite eatery, we proceeded to the walk's starting point fittingly set at the Conewago Church, a Civil War hospital site in Hunterstown, Pennsylvania.

During the usual mulling around before such an event, my friend introduced me to a fellow participant, a polite, unassuming man, who like the others in our little band possessed and shared a similar love for history. As the day's activities commenced, Troy Harman, a National Park Service Ranger, historian, and one of two featured guides for the day, took a moment to introduce to the gathered crowd Jeff Fioravanti, an award winning historical landscape and preservation artist; my new acquaintance.

As the tour progressed, we spoke some as we strolled over the gently undulating terrain, enjoying along the way the many comments and conversations. The unspoiled ground, the guides' stories, and the rustic homes and barns effortlessly spanned the 142 years standing between us and the events of July 1863. As we hiked the three plus miles, Mr. Harman and his associate, a Licensed Battlefield Guide, spoke reverently but enthusiastically of the sacrifices made during the actions which took place where we stood.

Later that evening, we renewed friendships old and new, and the day's earlier conversations, during a gathering at the home of my good friend and his wife, enjoying their hospitality and an abundance of delicious food to the fullest. At this gathering, I enjoyed the good fortune of spending a good deal of time talking with Mr. Fioravanti. As we spoke, I learned that Jeff not only possessed a passion for our country's past but also devoted a good deal of energy towards ensuring that our heritage endures. My admiration grew as I discovered that through the sale of his art, he contributes to the preservation of the grounds upon which our ancestors struggled, our nation grew, and we had walked earlier in the day. With an obvious love and devotion, he spoke of his efforts to help save these treasured lands. Time passed quickly as I conversed with this quiet but driven artist. However, the hour grew late, and grateful to my hosts for a terrific day with so many good people, I began the long drive home.

Upon arriving home, invigorated by my new artist friend's earlier conversation and his infectious enthusiasm for the preservation of battlefields, I fired up the computer, eagerly searching the Internet for images of Mr. Fioravanti's work. Not knowing what I might find, I hoped for something special. I was not disappointed.

Locating his web site, my eyes fell upon vivid thumbnails of his art cradled by the page's eloquent title, “Fioravanti Fine Art: Painting the Soul of America.” Exploring his site further, I came upon a page entitled "Historical Landscape Gallery." Confident I'd soon encounter the battlefields' familiar sites, I panned down the page. But this was not to be. Although familiar, the images were quite unexpected yet still extremely pleasing. Minus the modern intrusions, Jeff had created views of portions of eastern theater battlefields as we might walk and see them today, giving them a feel as they likely appeared so many decades ago. Some depicted simple scenes such as a grouping of virgin trees on a shallow ridge. Another held the image of a distant pastoral homestead, seemingly chaste but rich with the memory of the swirling conflict that stained the ground now so beautifully rendered before me. Unexpectedly still, a few had images of solitary cannons on tranquil fields, lone sentries to the memory of the deeds past.

His work possessed an unspoiled beauty, a purity juxtaposed with the knowledge of the terrible suffering now gone from those fields. Each view offered a glimpse of the former innocence once held by these now sacred grounds. None of his work offered the sensational ghastly images of lives shattered but instead affords the viewer a small window into a life that once was and perhaps could again be. Intimate portraits each, they speak of a respect and love for these grounds and of the country that they and we call home.

Eager to speak of my reaction, I wrote to Mr. Fioravanti and offered my compliments for such inspirational work well done. As humble as he is talented, he graciously thanked me for my words and spoke of his desire to give back to his country and those who came before. In one of our correspondences, Jeff relayed, "My work is created to entice people to pause and reflect. They are about remembrance, peace and tranquility, innocence and sacrifice." He added further, "If through my feeble hands I can capture the pristine lands of our nation, and connect people to the history of those lands, to help them realize that these lands belong to all of us, and that once under concrete, tar, and development, those lands, our lands, our history, is lost forever, then I have succeeded." His dreams, he said, are to "…reconnect people of all interests, civil war buff and non buff alike, to our heritage, and through that connection to help protect and save it."

Reading the artist's brochure, I realized I was not alone in my admiration of Jeff’s work, noting that he has touched the hearts of many throughout the civil war and preservation community. These include such notables as Pennsylvania State Representative Harry Readshaw, himself a tireless preservationist, who asserts that Jeff's efforts, "… enable historical treasures to continue to speak silently and eloquently to future generations."

The late Brian C. Pohanka, a highly respected author and Civil War historian offered, "Jeff Fioravanti's paintings evoke an almost tangible sense of place; not in the hills and streams, the fields and forests alone, but in the still greater sense of the heroism and sacrifice that transpired there. The landscape itself is a timeless memorial to those heroes in blue and gray, and Fioravanti has created a lasting tribute to that Hallowed Ground."

And Troy Harman, our guide for the battlefield walk earlier in the day said, "Jeff Fioravanti has applied his extraordinary gift for art to the preservation of our nations' historic treasures and is quickly becoming recognized as one of the very best in the field. His intuitive feel for how historic scenes and settings can best affect one's senses and emotions is truly special."

In 1889, at the dedication of the 20th Maine's monument on the Gettysburg Battlefield, Union General Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain spoke poignantly of the sacrifices made and of what was yet to come. Of us, he said, “…And reverent men and women from afar, and generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field to ponder and dream; and lo! the shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls." Jeff Fioravanti's art captures that vision, relaying the essence of the land and fields he loves. His works touch the lives of those who have experienced his art and his efforts to preserve our heritage. He allows us each to ponder and dream while protecting the fields to inspire those who have seen them not and those who are still yet to come.


Since its inception in 2003, Jeff’s labors have helped to generate close to $20,000 for various preservation groups and museums via the sale of his artwork. American Artist Magazine, will be running a feature on Jeff in their November 2005 issue, (on sale nationally in late September/early October) and an exhibit of his work will be on display at the Lynn Museum & Historical Society October 2, 2005 – January 2, 2006. (In keeping with Jeff’s dedication to preservation a portion of any sales from this exhibit will benefit the museum, their programs and operation) If you would like to enjoy the work of this dedicated artist, learn more about him and his efforts to preserve the historic lands of our nation please visit:
Fioravanti Fine Art: Painting the Soul of America.



All original material Copyright © 2005. All Rights Reserved
Both images "New Day Dawning, East Cavalry Field, Gettysburg, PA" & "The Ball is Open, McPherson Barn, Gettysburg, PA" Copyright © 2005 Fioravanti. All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Gettysburg Battlefield Threatened

This post is a simple yet earnest plea for your needed help. As you read this, developers continue in their efforts to obtain approval to build a casino just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This blatant attempt to exploit this hallowed ground, the honor of the Gettysburg name, and the memory of those who struggled on those fields should not be considered for a moment much less permitted. During those three hot days in July of 1863, ten thousand men died. Thirty thousand lived but would no longer be whole. The deeds of over one hundred and fifty thousand men propelled our country irrevocably towards "a new birth of freedom" and helped to crystallize the shape of this nation. This should never be forgotten or trivialized.

Please, let your voice be heard about the importance of preserving our shared past. Write to or call those who must listen. If you live in Pennsylvania, have visited Gettysburg, plan to visit Gettysburg, or care about our shared heritage and past, please contact your Representatives, Senators, and government officials. Should you find yourself visiting Gettysburg, let the business owners know of the importance you place on saving these grounds from exploitation and the irreparable harm a casino would cause. Please help preserve the Gettysburg Battlefield as an eternal memorial to the tens of thousands who fought, bled, and died there.

For more information, please visit . If you can, please consider signing their on-line petition and donating to this cause, to our cause.

Thank you.

Very sincerely,


Saturday, July 09, 2005

Just Another Monument

Recently while blissfully wandering over the fields of the Battlefield at Gettysburg, I watched a father and his two daughters approach a monument of which I was about to take a picture. I paused and backed away as the girls' youthful energy brought them bounding forward, outpacing their more cautious escort. One of the two peered up at a stranger in bronze casting a hard shadow across her path. Puzzled, she queried innocently, "Daddy, who's that?" My delight at her question, coming from one so young, evaporated when the dismissive reply of "just another monument" raked across my ears.

Just another monument. Indignation supplanted my original happiness. "That Sir", I thought, "is Colonel Strong Vincent, former commander of the 83rd Pennsylvania." As a brigade commander in the 5th Corps of the Army of the Potomac, without orders he shouldered the responsibility of answering the call of a fellow officer, risking court martial and his potentially brilliant military career by doing so. Leading his men to the defense of Little Round Top, the unprotected far left of the Union line, his life would be torn away while he tried to rally his men. The 26-year-old Pennsylvania native, Harvard graduate, lawyer, husband, and soon-to-be father, would die fighting for his country. Dedicated in September of 1889, his likeness atop the stone memorial to the men of the 83rd Pennsylvania is most certainly not just another monument.

Walking away in minor disgust, I wondered how frequently the monuments on these fields endure the indignity of similar yet perhaps unintended disrespect. Just north of the 83rd memorial is the monument to the 140th New York. Newly married and a year older than Vincent, Colonel Patrick O'Rorke would respond to a similar request for help and surge forward at the head of his men. On that same hill, striving to hold back the obstinate onrushing Texans, the former first-in-his-class graduate of West Point, would fall and die. His is not just another monument.

I recalled then that just to the west near the Devil's Den stands a monument with an officer crossing his arms looking out over the slopes to the south. On July 2, 1863, in response to pleas to not proceed mounted into battle, Colonel Augustus Van Horn Ellis said bravely, "The men must see us today." He would die that day, casting his own safety aside to lead and inspire his men.

In the Wheatfield, an unassuming monument stands just north of the stone wall. On the western face of the monument is a relief of an officer proudly waving his regiment's colors in the direction of the approaching enemy. Given a new flag while in his home state of Michigan, Colonel Harrison Jeffords swore to protect the banner with his life. True to his word, as Southerners swarmed on his men, the valiant colonel sacrificed himself to save these same colors from falling into others' hands. Forever standing defiantly with his cherished colors, that to the 4th Michigan is not just another monument.

Further north, a descendent of a Revolutionary War General, On July 2, 1863, Colonel George Willard would also heed the call of his country. Commanding the 3rd Brigade in General Hays' 3rd Division of the 2nd Corps, Colonel Willard would lead his men towards Confederate General William Barksdale's surging Mississippians. The Union line mid-Cemetery Ridge was painfully thin offering little hope of stopping Barksdale's veteran, driving soldiers. Pulled from the more secure Federal right, Colonel Willard led his brigade forward, blunting the Southerners' assault. Victory would come at a high cost however as the 35-year-old Colonel paid with his life when a Confederate shell removed part of his head. His second in command, Colonel Eliakim Sherrill would suffer a mortal stomach wound the next day while leading his men in the repulse of Pickett's Charge. Colonel Willard's small marker rests in the thicket were he gave his life to the Union. Colonel Sherrill's likeness graces one side of the monument to the 126th New York, his regiment prior to taking command of the brigade. Neither is just another monument.

The likeness of color bearer Benjamin Crippen of the 143rd Pennsylvania stands against the northern face of his regiments' monument. Yet few stop to visit the monument which now rests at the intersection of Route 30 and Reynolds Avenue. The defiant guardian of his regiment's standard gave ground grudgingly as he occasionally turned and shook his fist at the oncoming tide of gray. He would also suffer a mortal wound and offer up his life to his cause.

Other examples came to mind. The 66th New York Monument in the Wheatfield holds a bronze relief of a Union soldier shaking hands and offering a canteen to his wounded Southern counterpart. The grand monument to the men of New York in the national cemetery displays a similar scene of former enemies taking each other's hand. Adorning the apex of the memorial, the figure of Liberty stands weeping over the graves of her dead. The magnificent Pennsylvania Monument contains the names of the over 34,000 men from that state who served at Gettysburg. Three monuments to Major General John Reynolds honor the man who lost his life leading his men forward to "drive those fellows out of the woods" on day 1 of the battle. Culp's Hill is home to the marker to the 137th New York who, like the more famous 20th Maine on the Union left, held the far right against superior forces, refusing to give way.

Owing to the disproportionate number of Union monuments, there are fewer markers to the brave men from the South. They do exist however. The monument to the men of North Carolina, by Gutzon Borglum who also sculpted the figures on Mount Rushmore, is not just another monument. As the inscription on its companion marker reads, "One Confederate soldier in every four who fell here was a North Carolinian." The monument to the Virginians in the Army of Northern Virginia honors the men from all walks of life who gave up their homes to fight for their state. Atop this memorial, Robert E. Lee and Traveler watch over the fields that they strove so desperately to take. One of the few Southern regimental monuments, that to the 2nd Maryland on Culp's Hill honors the men of a Confederate regiment who fought against friends and neighbors when they clashed with Maryland men fighting for the Union. A Marylander himself, Union Colonel Wallace would lament, "We sorrowfully gathered up many of our old friends and acquaintances and had them carefully and tenderly cared for."

Not all of the monuments note human valor. The 11th Pennsylvania chose to honor their faithful mascot who, on day one, went into battle with the men she loved. The men of the 11th lost Sallie, a brindle bull terrier, when they retreated through the town after the reverses of July 1st. Weak and struggling for life, she refused to leave the side of the 11th's fallen and was found by their sides three days later. Nursed back to health, she would stand with her regiment until the Battle of Hatcher's Run when, just before war's end, she would be struck by a Confederate bullet and die on the field.

There are so many others with similar stories. Each marker, monument, and memorial stands for men, memories, and deeds we must not forget. The men who fought on the sacred fields of, in, and around Gettysburg forged the nation whose liberty we now enjoy. Holding their memory sacred is a comparably small sacrifice considering those of the men that their monuments will eternally honor.

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth." - President Abraham Lincoln, A portion of the Gettysburg Address.



All original material Copyright © 2005. All Rights Reserved

The Monuments on the Gettysburg Battlefield
Gettysburg. Steven W. Sears
Gettysburg: Stories of Men and Monuments. Frederick W. Hawthorne
National Park Service markers and interpretive signs