Gettysburg National Military Park: For all Americans, hallowed ground

By Pete Mohr | August 13, 2008

GETTYSBURG, PENN – I’ve been privileged to visit many significant historical sites in this great Country but none have moved me more than my visit to Gettysburg National Military Park ten days ago.

My paternal grandfather and my father, Sidney Johnston Mohr, Sr. and Jr., were named for Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston, whose death at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, is regarded by Civil War historians to be almost as devastating to the Confederate military effort as the loss of General Stonewall Jackson following the Battle of Chancellorsville one year later.

I was baptized in St. John’s Episcopal Church, where President Jefferson Davis worshiped during the six months Montgomery, Alabama was the capital of the Confederate States of America.

As a schoolchild, I celebrated only Confederate Memorial Day, each April 15th, the day General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.

gettysburgThe Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863, turned back Lee’s bold strike into Union territory. Sixty thousand Americans were killed, wounded or captured in the three-day struggle. Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, Mississippi solidified the Union blockade of Confederate ports.
The South gallantly fought on for 21 months at a terrible human cost, inflicting a psychological toll upon those Southern families affected that sadly lingers today.

On Monday, August 4, my special young friend Thomas Zachary Canterbury (whose grandfather, Leland Childs, pitched in the mid-1940s against my father in Montgomery’s Civic Club Softball League) and I spent an intensely sobering day at Gettysburg National Military Park – one I shall never forget.

The new Visitors Center is educationally impressive beyond description. Congratulations and thanks to the National Parks Service and thousands of citizen volunteers (including my friend Kathi (Mrs. David) Schue of Harrisburg, Penn.) whose efforts made possible this forever-enduring monument to a turning point in American history.

Photo caption: MY “NAVIGATOR” and most enjoyable young friend, “T.Z.” Canterbury, soon-to-be 20, of Mt. Joy, Penn., was photographed, Monday afternoon, Aug. 4, 2008, as we prepared to leave Gettysburg National Military Park.
Photo by Pete Mohr