Friends of Padre Steve’s World
I have been in Gettysburg this weekend with my students from the Staff College and as always it has been a good trip so far. Yesterday we did the first two days of the battle ending at Culp’s Hill. We spent a good amount of time on Little Round Top, not just talking about the battle itself, but the impact of war on people, the souls of the people who fought it and their families. I always remind my students that the one constant in history, even military history, where so many people, particularly history “buffs” focus on tactics, weapons, and technology, is humanity.
Today we will finish and do the third day of battle, walking the route of Pickett’s Charge, going to General Meade’s headquarters before finishing at the Soldier’s Cemetery and discussing the Gettysburg Address and its importance to our history as Americans.
We drove up here yesterday making the best time we have ever made on one of these trips, no bad traffic in the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, no bad traffic of major accidents to tie things up, and miraculously an easy trip around the DC Beltway. Thus we arrived early which allowed me to get a run in from Cemetery Hill, down, Cemetery Ridge, almost to Little Round Top before I turned around went back to the hotel. I was an awesome run. I used to run a lot and fell out of it with a number of physical, as well as emotional issues over the past 15 months. I fell out of shape and gained a lot of weight. I have started running again and my run Friday on the battlefield was the furthest I have ran in those 15 months. There is something inspiring about running here that I cannot explain. First there is the natural beauty of the area, especially during the fall and the beauty of the foliage, then there is the sense of running through an area where so many men made gave the last full measure of devotion, to save the Union.
When I come here I am always reminded of the words of Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain whose 20th Maine held back the Confederate tide on the extreme left of the Union position on Little Round Top. Those words always inspire me because they remind me of the deeds of men who came before me, men whose sacrifice and devotion helped bring about a new birth of freedom.
Chamberlain spoke these words at the dedication of the Maine monument in 1888, “In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls… generations that know us not and that we know not of, heart-drawn to see where and by whom great things were suffered and done for them, shall come to this deathless field, to ponder and dream; and lo! The shadow of a mighty presence shall wrap them in its bosom, and the power of the vision pass into their souls.”
Every time I come to Gettysburg I sense that mighty presence and the power of that vision embraces my soul.