Thanks for the memories and histories
During this summer of holidays and memorials, a flag has adorned our home. It is not the traditional emblem of our nation. Oh, it is red, white and blue, and has stars-and-stripes; but the 35 stars are gold in color. The shape is ”swallow-tailed,” and thus, it resembles the burgee which is our state of Ohio banner.
I purchased the flag in May at the bookstore in the Visitors’ Center of the Gettysburg National Battlefield, a sacred place to which I have sojourned often over the years. The label on the package identifies it as replica of a cavalry guidon used by Northern horse soldiers.
In doing some research, I learned that this particular standard has been used by the 7th Cavalry since the mid 19th century. The Civil War began with 34 states in a divided Union and ended with 36 in the reunited Union in 1865. Since West Virginia was carved out of the ”Old Dominion” in 1863 becoming the 35th state, it is possible that the guidon may have been used in that infamous Pennsylvania battle 150 years ago.
This particular emblem caught my attention because earlier that day my friend, Denny, and I had mounted horses and toured the battlefield by that mode of transportation. We were led by a wrangler, a young woman who was a college student majoring in veterinary medicine, and a licensed battlefield guide, a woman who has authored several articles about the three days of Gettysburg. It was an amazing three and one-half hour tour of sites on the battlefield, especially of course, the well documented charge by the Southern forces on the final day.
I have been appreciative of our Tribune Chronicle over the many months during which we are remembering our nation’s bloodiest test for giving readers not only the opportunity to relive history, but for giving us all the unique local perspectives of the war. I have seen many articles and photographs of reenactments on these pages as well.
In 1863 it was a watershed year for the horrible conflict, and names like Gettysburg and Vicksburg stand out as focal points of that summer’s bitter fighting. Truly, the Tribune has given us a valued gift in bringing so many tales of the soldiers from our own area and their families, the wives and mothers of these warriors in particular.
Perhaps the readership of these articles has not been wide, and these features do not ”sell” a newspaper (we are often more concerned about the ”civil” wars within the Kardashian family). Yet, there is a larger consideration here. Current events can become quite fractious, but we are not facing the struggles that our forbears in the valley had to endure. And, fortunately, we are more civil to each other than our ancestors were a century and a half ago.
A community columnist’s words might incite the ire of a reader, who then writes a spirited letter to the editor, but the words of either side do not draw the fire of cannon, musket or mortar and lead to the bombardment of a whole town. When this newspaper publishes the saga of the Civil War, it is gently encouraging us to remember or learn our history.
There are valuable lessons to be sure: whenever we allow ourselves to be filled with rancor, fear and distrust of each other, we humans can commit horrendous acts upon each other. There have been too many instances of this lately from Florida to Ohio.
However, these have been isolated incidents when compared to widespread military actions and murders that stained the years 1861-1865.
The old Edmund Burke quote is still true: ”Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” I would rather learn our history, even when it might be uncomfortable, than suffer the consequences of my own ignorance.
Williams is a Hubbard resident.