Saturday, April 08, 2006

About the Trees

This last Wednesday, I found myself once again happily tramping across the fields of the Gettysburg Battlefield, eager to see the National Park Service’s most recent restorative efforts. Their unrelenting determination continuously moves the park’s sacred grounds towards their 1863 appearance. Having read of the most recent works, I enthusiastically moved from Seminary Ridge towards a particular point of interest. The Peach Orchard, for years reliably home to a small collection of fruit trees, revealed the most dramatic changes. The fields, meticulously plowed and tilled, now housed not one tree.

The 68th PA Infantry
Monument to the 68th Pennsylvania Infantry
framed by the now empty Peach Orchard

Captivated by the vegetative vacuum, I walked slowly around the edges of the barren field, careful to avoid stepping on what seemed a still tender portion of the now wounded battlefield. With anticipatory delight, each step inspired visions of how these same grounds would appear just two years hence when fresh, healthy trees reached again towards the sun. Strong, healthy peach trees would soon proudly take the place of those which had so steadily adorned these fields for decades. Camera in hand, I snapped as many pictures from as many angles as the evasive, cloud shrouded sunlight would allow. After collecting a sufficient number of photos, I walked back towards my car expecting no further surprises.

Then I walked out onto the Emmitsburg Road. Stopping to investigate an old isolated marble obelisk, I took the time to read the fading inscription worn by a century of snow, wind, and rain. The sounds of the highway behind me, the bite of the still chilling spring winds, and the visions of the surrounding fields melted away. The marble carved words held my complete attention.

ERECTED BY THE SURVIVORS
OF THE 68TH REGT. P. V.
SCOTT LEGION
COL. A. H. TIPPIN COMMANDING
1ST BRIGADE 1ST DIVISION
3RD ARMY CORPS
IN MEMORY OF
183 OF OUR COMRADES
WHO FELL ON THIS FIELD
JULY 2ND AND 3RD 1863.

This silent stone sentry spoke clearly of what I should have known all along. I came here to see the restorations as the grounds steadily regressed to their condition 142 years past. But neither the stark changes to the landscape nor the crisp, nurtured beauty of the battlefield could ease the gut wrenching feeling produced by a few small words. The inscription said, “183 of our Comrades”. The men of this battle still spoke. They say to those who would pause to listen, “It never was about the trees“.

Sincerely,

Randy

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All original material Copyright © 2006. All Rights Reserved

4 comments:

JUDI said...

LOOKING FOR CIVIL WAR BLOGS, I HAPPENED ONTO "THE TREES" AND WANT TO COMMENT ON HOW BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN IT IS.
WHAT AN HONOR TO THE SURVIVORS WHO CARED ENOUGH TO ERECT THE MONUMENT, THAT IT IS ABLE TO TOUCH PEOPLE STILL TODAY. THANK YOU.

Randy said...

Thank you Judi. But given their sacrifice, the writing is by far the easier part.

Randy

Anonymous said...

As a descendant of a 68th Pennsylvania soldier who fell on this battlefield, in the peach orchard, please accept my sincerest gratitude for your literary contribution.

Randy said...

I'm honored. Thank you. Our country owes a debt of gratitude to the men and women throughout our history whose many sacrifices contributed to the lives we now enjoy. The men of the 68th Pennsylvania who fell in the Peach Orchard rank high among those so remembered.