On November 16th 2002, The 23rd Pennsylvania and some friends met on Culp's Hill to rededicate the 23rd Pennsylvania Monument. It was a rainy damp day, often cold, but our sprits were very strong as we knew the day was special. A special permit was required to allow us to march up to the monument with our firearms. The permits were secured a few months in advance. We started at the parking lot by the Jennie Wade House and began our march to Culp's Hill.
We marched up to the Hill and to our monument. It took about 20 minutes. A few times we marched secure arms keeping the barrels of the rifles down out of the rain and even once we went on the double-quick march. We arrived there around 4:30 and were greeted by Lisa Wray Mazzanti and Bruce Hutchinson, the Great Great Grandchildren of William J Wray. We began with Lisa Wray reading from comments made by the civilian Ladies of Philadelphia. Then Bob Bardsley, who is The Great Great Grandchild of Col. John F Glenn, read the same speech that Glenn delivered on June of 1888.Next Came Bruce Hutchinson, who deliver the same address that Congressional Medal of Honor Winner William J Wray did back in 1888. For a moment it was very moving to hear these words echo from that hill as they did 120 years earlier. We than sang a doxology and posed for a few photos since darkness was coming.
Than Frank P Marrone Jr stepped up in front of the monument to deliver the following address. It contained a section of General Shaler’s speech but more importantly a call to never let the memory of the 23rd to ever be forgotten. Here is the speech.
Please don’t ever forget us……
Just over 140 years ago a war was waged that would divide this great nation. The brave men who fought this war believed they were doing the will of God and that a free society and democratic government depended on whether they were victorious or not. The largest battle ever fought in the eastern hemisphere took place on this ground where we now stand on July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of 1863. When it was all over, 50,000 men would be casualties. The soldiers who survived, and were able, would move on to fight for two more years until the war came mercifully to an end in April of 1865. Many of those same men, including the members of The Twenty Third Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry would later return to this battlefield to place monuments to memorialize their heroic deeds……… to reunite with long lost friends…….. And to remember the spots where many of their comrades fell.
After the last of these (Civil War) veterans died in the 1950’s, a tragic thing happened to our society. No longer did we have someone to receive direct information from. No longer did we have a fully accurate voice to go back to and check with. We only had what was recorded on tape, on video, or in print. We only had monuments and markers placed by the men themselves in spots marking their heroic deeds.
As in all wars, before The Civil War and after the Civil War, men fought and died to give us the freedoms we share as Americans. That word, freedom, tragically does not mean that our freedom is “free”. It never was, it never will be. Freedom comes at a price, and often that price is the life of another human being. Another person we never met, never seen and never had any direct link to. Often we remember the high ranking or the person who wins a medal and we forget the common soldier. Let us start today, and never stop, to never let that happen again.
As many of the veterans predicted, with time the deeds that heroic men would become forgotten. On several locations, on this very battlefield monuments have become subject to vandalism. On a visit to this monument we stand at now, back in July I stood back in the woods behind us about 20 feet. For nearly an hour and a half I watched to see how many people would stop. In that span of time only a father and son stopped briefly and did not show much interest. I thought to myself “ What a shame that several monuments on this battlefield get attention all the time, people stopping to pose for a photo, or to lay a flag or pennies on them but other monuments are ignored and sometimes disrespected. That very day birthed the idea that would become The Re-dedication of this monument on November 16th 2002. I felt a personal inspiration from that day on to stop and take notice of every single monument on this battlefield. Now when I visit the field, I get out read the monuments look at them, each one having a story to tell and with reverence and respect, learn to appreciate the men who came back to the very fields they bled on to dedicate this, outdoor museum for future generations to learn from. So I ask each one of you at the sound of my voce today these few things. When you visit a battlefield such as this. Please spend time in reflection, studying and appreciating the monuments and the men who placed them here. So the message for today and forever is this….
Please don’t ever forget us……
If you listen closely, (pause) if you look at the expressions of pain, (pause) victory, (pause) defeat, (pause) agony and compassion expressed on these stones around the park you will almost feel the presence of those men saying to us today(pause) “Please don’t ever forget us”.
So as in the words of General Shaler, I say…
(Portion of General Shalers speech) “With sentiment akin to filial love, the masses with one accord uprise and bid defiance. The conflict rages. Death, devastation and destruction revel. Gloom and sorrow prevail. Portentous clouds of darkness envelop us. Evil spirits, with hellish intent, pursue unchallenged their damnable ways. The angels mourn, and all nature in darkness weeps. But see, a silver lining appears. Peering with hopeful aspect, Peace, with olive branch extended, seeks audience. In the distance, seething masses of armed men struggle for mastery. With diminished force rebellion aims her blows, and finally sinks to rise no more. Victory perches on Loyalty’s crest. Homeward turns the Spartan band, heroes all! Halos of glory illumine the sky. Loved ones meet in joyous ecstasy. Liberty and peace have resumed their places. The dream has passed; but stern reality bids us inquire, where is father, brother and son. In yonder graves they lie, victims of disloyalty; and martyrs for their country. Let us keep their memories green, and each recurring year cover them with immortelles, and sweet-scented flowers. And let us not forget the living heroes. Let us remember that to them we are indebted for the blessings of peace and prosperity which our re-united country now enjoys. Let us remember that the “stars on our banner suddenly grew dim;” and that it was the private soldier who restored to them their luster, and palsied the hand which attempted their obliteration. While our children are taught to revere that emblem of unity and strength, let them also be taught the danger of assailing it. Teach them to honor its defenders; and if in after time it should again be threatened, let them emulate the patriotic example set by their fathers on this hallowed spot. “
I want to thank each and every one of you all for coming to the rededication of the 23rd Pennsylvania Monument this evening. If you’re a re-enactor we hope to see you on the fields in the upcoming season. If your not but have been thinking of joining, I hope you will consider our group. God Bless Gettysburg, (pause) God Bless the 23rd Pennsylvania(pause) and God Bless America!
For a moment after delivering the address, it was as silent as possible. I couldn’t believe the very words that I had just spoken or that Lisa, Bob and Bruce had spoken. It was as if I went back in time. It was as the will of the men of the 23rd was finally being heard. It was if the group was about to grow in great ways. I was speechless. We then all stood in front of the monument to gaze upon it. Jan and Matt Kuchta had small flags, and one by one we took them and placed them around the base of the monument. We then gave Bob Bardsley, Lisa Wray Mazzanti and Bruce Hutchinson flags to place since they all were descendants of members of the 23rd. As they walked away we handed Bruce and Lisa a large wreath to lie at the monument. Then I thanked everyone for coming and we all got together in front of the monument for a photo.