Cumberland Times-News

July 28, 2012

We have been there, and we have seen it

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— Capt. Gary and I were just discussing the fact that we had been at Little Round Top for two days without hearing so much as one dumb question. (i.e.: Why were so many people killed when they had all these stone monuments to hide behind?)

That’s when three women walked up to me, and one of them said:

“Do you mind if I ask you a dumb question?”

I told her to go right ahead.

“Did Martin Luther King fight during the Civil War?” she asked.

I gathered and shook myself slightly, then replied, “In a way, he did.”

Before I got a chance to explain why, and to say I could show them living proof that I was right, they began to sing:

“Buffalo Gals, won’t you come out tonight, come out tonight ... “

It was the ladies from Buffalo, whom we’d met the year before on the porch of Cathy and Harry’s motel. That’s how I greeted them on that occasion — and the previous evening — by singing “Buffalo Gals.”

I said I didn’t recognize them in the daylight. (Not the first time I’ve had that problem, but we can discuss that some other day.)

Cathy and Harry are our friends from King of Prussia, Pa. We had a few bad moments the night before when everybody — except for one of the Buffalo Gals, who is a nurse — thought Cathy was having a heart attack.

Fortunately, it was just heat exhaustion brought on by not drinking enough water. Cathy hates water, but she and Harry had brought Gatorade to the captain and me the day before on Little Round Top when it was close to 100 degrees out.

They were accompanied by various family members and friends, including their daughter, the Diva Princess, who is now 14.

I told her that I would call her “DP-14” until next year, when she will become “DP-15.”

Despite all the stories we told — and her mother’s description of two undebunkable ghost events in their home — DP-14’s sister doesn’t believe in ghosts.

She and her brother were going on a ghost tour that night. Our friend Reggie (who has his own paranormal society) and the captain and I told her such things are usually a waste of money, but they figured they would have some fun with it.

By the time she returned to the motel with four long parallel scratches on her bare leg, received from an unseen source in one of Gettysburg’s most haunted houses, she wasn’t so sure.

Cathy (who referred to her Catholic upbringing), Reggie and the captain and I agreed that the number of scratches was significant. If there were only three, that would be an indication of something demonic because three is a mocking of the Holy Trinity.

The fact there were four scratches that already had vanished (we did see them on the screen of a digital camera) probably was nothing more than the work of some mischievous entity telling DP-14’s sister, “So you don’t believe in me, huh? I’ll show you!” It happens.

Earlier, Reggie visited Capt. Gary and me in our motel room, which the proprietors have told us is the most haunted room in the place. (We have reason to believe them.)

We told ghost stories for over an hour, and Reggie said he would come back with his ghost-hunting paraphernalia (digital recorders, EMF meters and the like) to investigate our room.

That didn’t happen because we stayed at Cathy and Harry’s motel until 1 a.m. However, Reggie now lives in Gettysburg and we can do it some other time, maybe when we return in September.

The captain and I are looking forward to September because Reggie’s Civil War re-enactment outfit will be having an encampment at the Wax Museum near our motel.

He was the living proof I referred to earlier, when the Buffalo Gal asked if Martin Luther King had fought in the Civil War and I said that in a way, he did.

Reggie has been promoted to corporal in the group that portrays the 54th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the Union Army’s first official black units.

The 54th and its incredibly heroic, but doomed assault on Confederate-held Fort Wagner near Charleston, S.C., were the subject of the movie “Glory.”

Their actions convinced the Union that black troops had a place in the American military. They undeniably helped win the Civil War and paved the way for other African-Americans to make immeasurable contributions to our society.

As the eloquent abolitionist Frederick Douglass — himself an escaped slave — said in 1861:

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pockets, and there is no power on earth which can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States.”

The man who portrays Douglass when the 54th marches in the Remembrance Day parade (marking the anniversary of Lincon’s Gettysburg Address) plans to be with them in September.

Reggie said he told this fellow about the captain and me, and that he asked, “Are those the two guys who cheer and yell, ‘Give ‘em hell, 54th!’ during the parade?”

We are, and that’s how we’ll greet them in September.

Dr. King said he had been to the mountaintop and seen the Promised Land, but that he might not get there with us.

Little Round Top is our mountaintop ... Gary’s and Reggie’s and mine.

It is there that we meet and speak as friends with people from all of America’s states and many of the world’s nations, people representing a fantastic spectrum of races, colors, languages, accents, clothing, religious beliefs, cultures and philosophies.

While we may not get to the Promised Land either, we too have seen it — so tantalizingly close, yet still so far away.

Count the three of us, plus Cathy and Harry and many others we know, among Dr. King’s little black and white children who have chosen to join hands as brothers and sisters.