Friday, July 20, 2012

2nd Rhode Island Infantry Monuments at Gettysburg

I spent today touring Gettysburg National Military Park, the site of one of the most famous and important battles of the Civil War.  The battle here took place on 1 July - 3 July 1863 and was a decisive battle for the Union. Interesting, the Union won the battle at Vicksburg Mississippi on the same day, and although the war lasted another 2 years, the tide had turned for both sides. General Robert E Lee retreated from Gettysburg with the remnants of the Confederate Army after this battle and never again invaded a Union state. In the northern newspapers, the victory for the north at both Vicksburg and Gettysburg resulted in the phrase "The Glorious Fourth". I had heard this phrase used in relation to the 4th of July, but did not know it originated in the year 1863. As the Park Ranger mentioned, this term was not used in the South!

One of the reasons I wanted to revisit Gettysburg (I had been here years earlier with my kids) was to see the places my great-great-grandfather, Zophar Skinner and his unit, the Rhode Island 2nd Infantry Regiment, Company C were during the Gettysburg battle, and to trace the role his regiment played at Gettysburg. I knew that most Regiments had monuments here noting their battlefield locations during the 3 days of the battle and I wanted to find the 2nd Infantry's monuments.

One of the Park Rangers  had a loose leaf book that gave the details of the state regiments and the location of Regimental or State monuments. His data page for Rhode Island showed that the 2nd Infantry had 348 men and suffered 7 losses, and that there were two regimental monuments documenting the location of the Regiment during the last two days of the battle. The unit was mostly held in Reserve on the 2nd day of the battle, and moved up to the center of the line late in the afternoon of the last day.
Monument near Little Round Top
Battle plaque near Little Round Top
"Army of the Potomac
Sixth Corps  Third Division
Col. Henry L. Eustis
7th  10th  37th Massachusetts
2d Rhode Island Infantry

July 2  Arrived about 2 P.M. from Manchester MD and late in the day
  moved to the northeast slope of Little Round Top and held in
  reserve bivouacking for the night with First Brigade in the rear

July 3 Moved to the right Centre and reported to Major Gen.                 
  J. Newton and was held in reserve during the battle.
  Not engaged but subject to artillery fire

Casualties  Killed 3 men    Wounded 2 officers    39 men captured
or missing 25 men      Total 69"

Momument near Codori Farm, Emmitsburg Road in the center of the battlefield
Inscription on the monument near Codori Farm

"Skirmish Line
2nd R.I. Volunteers
Col. Horatio Rogers Jr.
2nd Brig. 3rd Div.
6th Corps
July 4, 1863"

I have a copy of Zophar's 1863 diary at home, and the entries for the days surrounding the Gettysburg Battle are in this post.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Flight 93 Memorial

I'm in Pennsylvania this week. I start Tom Jones' course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh on Sunday and I arrived a few days early to see my Aunt and to visit Gettysburg. My great-great-grandfather, Zophar Skinner, fought at Gettysburg with the 2nd Rhode Island Regiment, and his brother, Joseph, was wounded in a skirmish 10 days later while pursuing the enemy back into Maryland. I hope to visit the part of the battlefield where the 2nd RI fought, and to trace their steps south after the Union Army won the battle at Gettysburg.

However, I flew into Pittsburgh last night and while driving east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike today, I noticed the sign for the Flight 93 Memorial. I found it was about 18 miles north, and that I could continue from there on a 'back-road' to Gettysburg. Thus, I decided to visit the site of the crash of flight 93 on 11 September 2001.

Only part of the memorial is built so far. There are plans for a Visitor's Center,  but work there has not yet begun. A lot of tree planting has taken place in the last few months. A ranger told me that each of the 40 passengers would be memorialized in a grove of 40 trees for a total of 1600 trees in the groves. The crash itself was on a field just on the edge of a grove of mostly hemlock trees. Extending out from there are mostly barren fields, resulting from strip mining that occurred up until around 1995 (from what the park ranger said). In the far distance are giant wind turbines which were oddly beautiful as the blades rotated very slowly in the almost non-existent breeze.

There is a walkway out to the crash site, and a wall with the crew and passenger names engraved on it. The walkway itself defines the edge of what was the official "crash-site", and there is a large boulder placed where the cockpit hit the ground nose first at a speed of almost 600 miles/hour. Apparently the flight recorder was found at a depth of 25 feet, and crash debris extended 40 feet into the ground. I hadn't known that they had found enough remains of all 40 passengers to identify each of them.

Flight 93 Memorial Wall

It was a sunny day today at the memorial site, much like the day in Seattle (where I live) of the 9-11 attacks so far away. I will never forget the blue sky that Seattle day and the eerie knowledge that there were no airplanes in the sky with the exception of the military jets. There is something about the blueness of that sky, and the silence that will stay with me forever.
All in all, it was a moving experience to see the crash site and re-experience some of the emotions I felt that day almost 11 years ago.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourth of July 1962

4th of July parade - Chatham MA

When we were young kids, my family always went to our place in Cape Cod for two weeks centered on the 4th of July. One of the highlights for me was going to watch the parade in Chatham. I remember clowns and all kinds of floats and fire trucks and bands. I'm sure there must have been Veterans from various wars but they don't stand out in my memory. I don't remember parade participants throwing out candy to the watchers which seems to be common in parades now. I think that would have been a highlight for me!

In the evening we would go watch the fireworks in Harwich Center. I remember sitting on the bleachers on the baseball field and being absolutely awed at the fireworks display which seemed to go off right over our heads. I remember my dad taking pictures of the fireworks, trying to capture the perfect exposure - I have all those old slides somewhere. After the show ended, we would drive the mile back home and find our dog frantic and still panic-stricken from the noise even at that distance. Poor Nifty!