Gettysburg 150th Anniversary Encampment
Boys scout troop 90 attended Gettysburg for the Battle's 150th Anniversary. We were just 48 of the 3000 scouts that bought out tickets before they sold out in just 38 minutes! We were in the Army of the Potomac, Fifth Corps, Second Division, First Brigade, Fourth U.S. Infantry, and we camped at the George Spangler Farm. The Spangler Farm was owned by George Spangler and his family who lived in a six room farm house. When the army arrived there, the family was squeezed into one of the rooms while the army took over the reminder of the house.
After the battle was over, some soldiers were even buried there. Later, when the National Cemetery was dedicated, the bodies were exhumed and reburied.
After the battle, the barn and property was used as military hospital, where both, Union and Confederate soldiers, were treated. There were thousands of dying and dead soldiers as well as horses lying on the ground. The summer heat hastened the decaying of flesh and the stench was horrible. The horse carcasses were piled up and burned, a fire that burned for days. Because there were so many casualties, only shallow graves were dug, especially for the Confederate dead, and many Confederates were buried in mass graves. When it rained, many of the bodies surfaced, and pigs were seen running around with limbs hanging from their mouths.
The majority of the Spangler's crops were destroyer by the soldiers, horse, and cannons. After the war, the Spangler Family sued the United States government for damages; however, they received barely a pittance of compensation.
The National Park Service provided excellent programs for the scout helping us better understand the significance of this historic battle. These programs included learning how Abraham Lincoln's 272 word speech outperformed a several hour speech given by a well-known orator of the time. We were able to see where Lincoln stood when he addressed the townspeople of Gettysburg. We also learned that the numbered grave markers contained the bodies of all the unknown soldiers. Because the Boy Scouts were there, the Ranger related a story where a Boy Scout from a few generations ago had escorted a Confederate Veteran Soldier to the 75th Anniversary of Picket's Charge. This soldier retraced his steps, stopped, and removed his hat revealing a scar on his head starting that was as far as he got in the battle. An artillery shell had exploded, hitting him in the head with the shrapnel. He remembered nothing of the next 3 days when he woke up in a field hospital.
Another Ranger led program was about Pickett's Charge. We learned that the sounds of the battle were heard in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Baltimore and mistaken for a thunderstorm when there was no sign of rain. The thunderous sounds were from the firing of the hundreds of Union and Confederate cannons. It was such a continuous barrage of cannon, that the men firing them bleed from their ears as their eardrums had been shattered. These men were deaf for the res of their lives. We learned of their great sacrifice. We learned that smoke filled the air like fog, and when it started to lift, the Confederates tried a frontal assault against the Union's center. They were greatly hindered bu the picket fences, the open ground, and the Union's superior elevated defensive position. The Confederates were ultimately decimated by the Union forces. We learned that the Battle of Gettysburg was the first major victory for the North under the command of George Meade and the last time the South invaded the North.
Many of the Boys Scouts participated in a service project to improve the landscape of the battlefield. Troop 90 was the first to arrive at the designated area of battle ground which was over-run with weeds and shrubbery and plenty of poison ivy around the rocks and fences. With pruners, loppers and saws in hand, Boy Scouts no doubt made a visible change in the landscape that day, revealing boulders and fencing hidden by the over-growth. One of the National Park Rangers remarked that they'd never had a group of our size come through and were very grateful to the difference we made. That made us feel very good!