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Monday, 6 June 2016

I have returned from the Colonies.

 Well Im back.......... Suffering badly from jet lag I have returned from my wedding anniversary celebrations in New York and Washington DC.  I have always enjoyed going to New York and this time was no different. Washington was enjoyable in a different way, and I enjoyed the experience for many other reasons.I think between the heat, humidity and walking I will need another holiday to recover.
 Except this next weekend, is a SYW wargaming weekend for me and Colin with members of the AMG group down at Kennilworth wherever that is. So no rest again.

Being a retiring type I had some very interesting discussions with quite a few Americans about the elections this November, I know you shouldn't drink alcohol and discuss politics at the same time, but I did enjoy chewing things over with locals in both New York and Washington. The consensus is dont write Trump off as a loud mouth idiot, he is beginning to look like a winner. I've already been down to Ladbrokes for a sly tenner bet.

Anyway I was lucky enough to be taken to Gettysburg by my wife whilst we were away and the visit got me thinking quite a lot. I am no expert on the ACW period although I have fought quite a few battles in the period over the years, so I do know something about it.

I was very impressed with the whole battlefield experience at Gettyburg which has been very well preserved by some active history buffs and the government. I was lucky enough to be given a tour with a battlefield guide who really knew his stuff, and was very interesting, even my wife was impressed. I was also given a tour of the town of Gettysburg, and one of the houses used by the rebels during the second and third days of the battle. There is also a first class museum at the battefield, full of weapons and ephemera, all it needed was a wonderful model of one of the incidents from the battle to finish the place off.
 I know quite a few wargamers will have been to the battlefield, so will know what I am going to say.
   Why is it that our American cousins succeed in preserving their history and provide a first class service in its presentation whilst here in the United Kingdom there is next to nothing to tell the wonderful history of our nation?
  Clearly there is a very active movement to preserve the battlefields in the USA, and also a genuine desire by the local and national governments to present the areas in their best light, so what happened to us? I am not just talking about the battlefields, as I took a Capitol Hill tour, including the senate house, which was very very popular, and I found it not only instructive but actually quite moving, as the whole thing drove home the importance of using a persons vote. The place was mobbed with schools and colleges taking the same tour, and yes I know the majority will look on it as a skive, but some will take an interest. So what about the mother of all parliaments then? and dont get me started on why the USA have created a moving and informative history of the 9/11 atrocity but there is no record of the attacks on 7/7 in London.
 This morning [ 03.30] whilst in a jet lag attack I began thinking about which battlefields should get some loving and a full makeover before they are full paved over. If one took a battle from each period in British history would there be enough left of the fields  to create an interesting and historical event?
  Surely the battlefield at Hastings is still recoverable for one, then Marston Moor is another, Towton and Bosworth are two further battlefields that were extremely important and deserve the Hollywood treatment. Regarding the English /Scottish Wars, there is Flodden, The Battle of the Standard near Northallerton, and Pinkie Cleugh.
 In Scotland the Jacobites have invested heavily in Bannockburn naturally, but what about Homildon Hill, Falkirk, Prestonpans etc.  Even if only five or six were preserved and invested in, at least we could tell some of the history that made this country, and create some jobs for some people. Just a  thought.

Anyway back to reality.
Looking across at the Devils Den from Little Big Top. I was surprised just how small the Den actually was. 


                                            Again a view from Little Big Top.
 Little Big Top dominated the left flank of the Union battle line, and was a formidable obstacle to the rebels. I would have hated to have been a poor rebel attempting to make their way up the slope towards the rocks, they must have been very brave men. Although I havent included an image, the hills and woods where the 20th Maine fought would have been a bugger of a place to take, it is a credit to both sides that they fought so fiercely amongst the trees and rough ground.

A view from the rebel side across the ground that Picketts division was expected to advance, they aimed at the small group of trees to the left, a tad on the clear side for me with little cover from the Union guns. Although it is less than a mile to the Union side, I would have been bricking myself if I had been a rebel in Picketts division. One large board in a snake fence in front of the rebel advance, was recorded to have over 650 holes in it, no plus one for soft cover then?




Everywhere one looks on the battlefield there are original artillery pieces with reconstructed carriages, it does add to the whole event.


Also on both sides, Union and Confederate there are plaques commemorating both regiments and brigades that fought in the battle. Having now been to the battlefield I can understand why Robert E Lee thought he could win, well to a certain extent anyway. He ran out of luck however when his men failed to push the Union on the first day, again when the Union managed to invest Little Big Top just as the rebels were approaching the summit and finally on the third day, when although the Union line was extended his artillery barrage failed to soften up the centre. Personally I would have done a Longstreet and buggered off on the afternoon of the first day, and gone looking for a bigger hill, but a fantastic experience, and a credit to the USA.

7 comments:

  1. Britain has The National Trust and its equivalent in Scotland that have saved a lot of castles and historical sites, so Britain doing some things right. Maybe the fact that land is so scarce in Europe relative to the total population has something to do with the lack of battlefield preservation throughout all of Europe, and not just the UK. Europeans thus focus on preserving buildings instead of battlefield sites.

    On the other hand, land seems like an infinite commodity in the U.S. so a developer can always find another piece of land if his project is stopped by preservation groups.

    Almost as soon as the ACW was over, veterans groups were erecting monuments to their regiments on the battlefields and the idea of preservation quickly took root in the U.S.

    That said, the U.S. Government does not go out of its way to help preservation groups. They will match the funding that private groups raise, but no more than that. There have been a number of "close calls" in keeping the land developers off of battlefield sites. Thankfully, we have a very strong group called the Civil War Trust that raises money to purchase land before the developers move in. Why just today, I received a solicitation from the CWT to raise funds for properties on four different battlefields. CWT has done an outstanding job of spearheading the battlefield preservation movement in the U.S.

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    Replies
    1. Jim,
      For the government to match any funds raised is a pretty good deal, and it shows in the preservation of Gettysburg. What was obvious is that in the USA,people are encouraged to understand the struggles of their nation and how it came about. In the United Kingdom, it appears that we are deliberately meant to ignore this,yes its okay to look around grand houses etc, but that is not how we came about. Hastings is a good example, William displacing the Saxon dynasty totally reshaped our history and led us into the many wars in France due to the Norman legacy. Our Civil War led to a republic and a stronger parliament, the Wars of the Roses led to a Tudor dynasty etc, etc. Basically life changing events for us.

      Delete
  2. You look good in a suit Robbie - more orange than I expected, it must be that American sun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Being pale and interesting is overrated.

      Delete
  3. Glad to hear they let you back.
    I'm not interested in the ACW at all but just looking at that photograph of the Devils den I have a question. why didn't they just bypass it and ignore it?

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    Replies
    1. Paul,
      I think it was full of Union troops put there by General Sickles,I understand by mistake.

      Delete
  4. Hey Robbie, whos that right wing nutter in the photo standing next to the cardboard cut out?

    Can i point you to the Battlefield Trust, which is our local movement to try and preserve our battlefields within the UK. Active in the North East such as at the Flodden commeration. Always looking for new members and do battlefield walks and talks which are always of interest

    cheers

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My 6mm Napoleonic set up.

My 6mm Napoleonic set up.
Austria 1809.

Austrian Hussars

Austrian Hussars
Hinchliffe figures

Austrian Grenzer

Austrian Grenzer
Austrian Grenzer

Smoggycon 2013

Smoggycon 2013
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Smoggycon 2012

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Smoogycon 2009

Smoogycon 2009
My French getting another beating