Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Capt. Gary tells people we do living history. 1Sgt. Goldy usually adds, “With all due respect, sir, we ARE living history.”
Sometimes we get closer than that. A fellow who said he was a descendant of Gen. Dan Sickles told the captain a few years ago that his ancestor saved the Union’s bacon at Little Round Top.
Gary doesn’t care much for Sickles. Neither did Sickles’ men, one of whom said upon hearing that he been wounded and been carried from the field, “Bad news for him, good news for us.”
The captain takes his inspiration from Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose spirited defense of Little Round Top with the 20th Maine may have been what saved the day. (There are people who disagree, but it’s always that way with history.)
During our most recent visit to the great battlefield, we met a man whose great-great grandfather was at Little Round Top with the 20th Maine.
“He was wounded twice,” the man said, “once in the arm and once in the leg, but both bullets went through without striking bone, so he was able to keep the limbs.
“They carried him to the top of the hill so he could be treated by the surgeons who were there,” he said.
The captain and I stayed in uniform after the Remembrance Day parade and were sitting at the bar in Gettysburg Eddie’s with our coats draped over the back of our chairs.
A young man in a fancy corporal’s uniform and his lady in a beautiful gown came in, and she sat on a stool next to me while he stood.
Directly, the captain and I were able to move down one seat, so I told the corporal to please sit with his lady.
“Thank you, sir,” he said.
That’s when I picked up my jacket, pointed to the chevrons and lozenge on the sleeve, smiled at him and said, “Corporal, you know better than to call me that!”
He grinned back and said, “Yes, first sergeant! Thank you, first sergeant!”
“You’re very welcome corporal, and ma’am,” I said, nodding toward her in my most gentlemanly fashion. You’ve got to do more than just dress the part for it to mean anything.
Our friend Jayne from Wisconsin was with us in July for the 150th anniversary of the battle, and she has never met anyone who wasn’t a potential friend.
We were taking a break for lunch at Eddie’s when she visited some Confederate re-enactors at the next table.
They told her the experience was all about them. They’re in it for the glory and the recognition and adoration it brings them, etc.
“Shame on you!” Jayne bellowed, and she pointed to the captain and me. “They do what they do to teach people and help them have a good experience here! They want the next generation to know what happened during the Civil War because the schools aren’t teaching them!”
Gary and I looked away and acted like we didn’t hear anything. My mother was a redhead like Jayne and about her size. I learned early in life never to argue with such a woman and, apparently, these fellows were equally wise. They didn’t say another word.
Some re-enactors may put you in mind of the southern end of a northbound horse, but most do not. We have wonderful friends who re-enact.
A fellow was sitting next to me at the bar in his Yankee infantry uniform while I was in my civvies, and we got to talking.
He asked if I was a re-enactor, and I said the captain and I do living history. He asked what that was, and I told him we go to Little Round Top, talk to tourists and have our pictures taken with more pretty girls than a man could want.
He wanted to know about my outfit, so I said I represent 1st Sgt. Theodore Field of Battery C, 1st West Virginia Volunteer Artillery, whose four cannon fired 1,120 rounds in two days while stationed at Cemetery Hill. It put fire down on Pickett’s Charge.
This fellow told me things I didn’t know about infantry, and I told him things about artillery that he didn’t know.
I told him “What you and I have been doing with each other? That’s what my captain and I do at Little Round Top.” He thought that was cool and told Gary and me he’d enjoyed talking with us.
A pretty woman came walking up to us at Little Round Top in what looked like a bicycle-rider’s outfit, Turtle-head helmet and all that.
She was almost diminutive, but not quite, and very pleasant to talk with — smart, with a sense of humor and an air of considerable substance about her, and she seemed to enjoy our company as much as we enjoyed hers.
There was little tourist traffic, so she stayed around for half an hour or so.
She asked me about the cannon we were leaning against, and I said it was a 10-pounder 1863 model Parrott Rifle with a 3-inch bore, which made it different from the 1861 model that has a 2.9-inch bore.
She asked me about the cannon we were leaning against, and I said it was a 10-pounder 1863 model Parrott Rifle with a 3-inch bore, which made it different from the 1861 model that has a 2.9-inch bore. The 1863 model was created to handle the 3-inch ammunition that cannoneers fed to the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, which was a better weapon than the Parrott, but more complicated and expensive to produce.
You can fire a 2.9-inch shell from a cannon with a 3-inch muzzle, but I wouldn’t want to be around when someone tried to shoot a 3-inch round through a 2.9-inch bore. She agreed wholeheartedly with that.
We stand next to one of three 1863 model Parrott Rifles that’s at Little Round Top along with a single 1861 model you can recognize immediately because it has a flared muzzle, while the others do not.
And so on.
She was an avid listener and asked really good questions, so I kept going.
Eventually, we got around to talking about where we were from and what we did for a living.
That’s how I found out I was talking shop with a U.S. Military Academy graduate who had been an artillery battery commander.
Before she left, she said she’d had a thoroughly great time being with Gary and me and actually thanked us for what we do.
When folks ask us to explain why we do what we do, he and I look at each other and say, “Where would you like us to start?”