Cumberland Times-News

Columns

April 27, 2013

It was a most brilliant deduction on his part

The scenery (what some bureaucratic types call a “viewshed”) at Little Round Top in Gettysburg is incredible.

It looks like it belongs in West Virginia.

Capt. Gary and 1Sgt. Goldy never get tired of it, nor do most of the tourists who visit us at our post beside the 10-pounder Parrott rifle.

Some just stare at it, while others take pictures.

They ask if the ancient rock formation down over the hill is Devil’s Den. We tell them it is — supposedly named after a giant snake that evaded the farmers’ every effort to kill it, leading them to say “That must be the Devil himself.”

Others ask if those are ski runs on a distant mountaintop. They’re at Ski Liberty, and I’m tempted to tell them those are Indian petroglyphs: See that one in the middle? With the head at the top and the torso coming down and splitting off into two legs? And doesn’t that look like a deer with antlers beside his head and a dog at his feet?

Some active-duty Marines were in civilian clothes, but the captain and I have learned to recognize the military types.

The captain showed them the rock on which Gen. Stephen Weed was mortally wounded by rifle fire from Devil’s Den. As 1Lt. Charles Hazlett was bending over him to comfort him and take his last words, another bullet struck him; he died before Weed did.

“That’s not a shot I’d want to try to make with a modern rifle and scope,” the captain always says, especially with a range of about 600 yards and a difference of more than 100 feet in elevation.

When one of the Marines said that was a terrific shot, I told him what the captain and I both say, “If you put enough fire down, you’re bound to hit something.”

“That’s absolutely right,” he nodded. I figured he knows that from experience.

Which leads me to another visitor, who told us, “I wouldn’t have wanted to be a Confederate soldier trying to come up this hill.”

I told him I wouldn’t have wanted to be a Union soldier trying to defend it.

Capt. Gary shook his head in vigorous agreement and said, “Uh-uh!”

The guy just looked at us ... but then, he probably has no idea of what it’s like to be shot at. Not everyone does.

I was asked to sign an autograph by a man whose demeanor and his accent led me to believe that he was from England.

But he could have been from Australia or New Zealand. You never want to accuse an Australian of being a New Zealander, or vice versa. Especially, you don’t want to suggest to either one that he is an Englishman — or to confuse an Englishman with one of the others.

After he described something as being “brilliant,” I was certain about my identification and asked him what part of the realm he hailed from.

He was from Lancashire County at the northwest end of the island (which during World War II was referred to by American airmen as “the world’s biggest aircraft carrier.”)

I told him my great-grandfather came from County Cornwall (and would have referred to himself as a Cornishman, rather than an Englishman), and he told me he had been there.

Cornwall is at the southwest corner of England, and it would take him a bit of traveling to get there ... but he was used to that.

He said he had last been to the United States in 1967, and had visited Gettysburg. Not having a great deal of money, he traveled on the cheap ... something you once could accomplish with not much fuss.

Our English cousin said he had struck up a friendship with an American woman, with whom he remains friends 46 years later, even though he is married.

He said that on this visit, he wanted to visit all of our major Civil War battlefields ... Shiloh, Chickamauga and the like.

Wouldn’t it be something, I thought, if he wound up at Shiloh and met my friend Joe Davis, who re-enacts as a Confederate second lieutenant with a Tennessee infantry outfit?

Then he took leave of us, saying he had to find his companions.

Not long after that, another fellow came up and started a conversation.

When he asked why the Confederate soldiers hadn’t taken Little Round Top “straightaway,” I thought to myself: Ah-ha! This is the guy our British friend is hunting.

The two reunited at our cannon, and the four of us stood together with our arms around each other’s shoulders for a photo.

Once our nations were enemies, I said, but now we are forever each other’s best friend. They agreed.

The Brit produced a 1967-vintage Gettysburg battlefield tour guide that contained various scribblings he had made, plus a number of illustrations he said he had copied — painstakingly — to use for presentations he had offered.

Then he produced a pen and asked if I would write in it that the guidebook had returned to Gettysburg on this date, along with my name and the name of my unit.

So I wrote, “This guidebook returned to Gettysburg on 20 April (which I think is how the English would phrase it), 2013” and added “James N. Goldsworthy, representing First Sergeant Theodore Field of Battery C, First West Virginia Volunteer Artillery.”

The two Brits were amiable and pleasant. After they had walked on, Capt. Gary asked me, “How come he didn’t ask ME to autograph his guidebook, too?”

Good question, and I didn’t have an answer, because there was no apparent reason. The Brit was talking to the captain, just as he was to me. But I have thought about it since then, and one thing occurs to me:

This chap was an Englishman.

Some of Gary’s ancestors were Irish.

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