Sunday, January 08, 2006

Triumph of the 74th Pennsylvania

The 74th PA Monument
The restored 74th Pennsylvania Monument

On Friday November 14, 2003, a driver winding down Howard Avenue lost control of their SUV and slammed into the beautiful 74th Pennsylvania Monument. The crushing force shattered the monument soldiers had dedicated to friends and comrades who fell during the Battle of Gettysburg. Now as broken as the bodies of those it so proudly honored, many feared for the future of this uniquely somber monument.

The 115 year old monument, erected by the surviving members of the 74th PA, had faithfully watched over these fields north of Gettysburg since 1888. As the years progressed, the fallen color bearer held vigil while the wars wounds healed. North and South reconciled, twelve more states entered the Union, cars replaced horses, power lines spread along ever expanding roadways, radio then television brought the world closer, and technology exploded. Through countless unforgiving winters and sweltering summers, the monument endured. Now, the fragments of this memorial to deeds past, never before asking for sanctuary, needed the help of others simply to survive and continue its mission.

74th PA Monument damage
74th Pennsylvania Monument after the accident

The National Park Service removed most of the pieces from Gettysburg's sacred grounds and began the work of restoration. Visitors drove by the roped-off semi-vacant space, gazing in sadness at the fractured base of the once proud memorial. Time passed. Worried enthusiasts contacted Park Service staff for updates. Pensive anxiety grew as time lapsed. Weeks, then months, passed by. For the first time since Grover Cleveland's presidency, the seasons changed on these fields without the watchful eye of the 74th Pennsylvania.

Then in November of 2004, the majestic monument reappeared, once again resuming its post on the fields so faithfully guarded. The reparations proved a resounding glorious success. The restored monument once again cast its shadow on the fields where so many comrades had given their lives. The spirits of these men smiled as the monument, their monument, would endure so that we all could remember and ponder what they did here.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your words ring clear to my heart. The 74th Pa. monument was a favorite of mine when I first saw it. I knew my GGGrandfather Corp John Roth fought with the 74th and it is magnificient tribute to the colors and the endurance of these German men whose efforts were noble, brave and self sacrificing. He was born in Bavaria in 1834 and came to America in 1853 to find a new life with a woman named Hannah. He left his shoemaking business to defend our nation and served for 3 years and 3 months. I do not know if he ever returned to those fields but I return to them and the 74th monument for him and to remember him and all who were there on those three days in July in 1863. We are so thankful to see this wonderful tribute back on the fields keeping watch. the fifer