Renewing acquaintances, part 11

I’m saving the best ’til now, penultimately., our three days at Gettysburg National Military Park.

Hands down, I’m recommending a visit to this historic site and its ongoing efforts to preserve and restore the area for future generations. (Don’t climb on the cannon. You’ll get yelled at.)

There were ranger talks aplenty, and we stuffed in as many as we could, learning much that our individual guides passed along from research in primary sources: Logistics, tactics and tragedies of armed conflict during a three-day battle at the site during the Civil War boggled my mind.

Killed, wounded, captured or missing were approximately 23,000 Union persons and as many as 28,000 Confederate persons. More than 6,800 were killed. The 51,000 casualties at Gettysburg, estimated by the Civil War Trust — casualties, deaths, wounds, injuries, sickness, internment or capture — numbered 51,000, the most of any battle in the war.

Some estimates figure as many as 850,000 died from combat, accident, starvation and disease during the Civil War. The biggest killer was diarrhea. (“Go figure.”) Then, you have to figure in outmoded tactics in the face of better technology: rifled barrels in the hands of skilled shooters, cannon that belched the standard ball, as well as the shells loaded with shot that turned a hapless soldier into a pink mist, and the howitzer load, that arced above the fighters, exploded and rained shrapnel.

It wasn’t until the Vietnam War that that the number of American deaths in foreign wars (currently 644,000) eclipsed the number of deaths in the Civil War.

War is hell, and I needed to be reminded. I hope I don’t forget.


2 thoughts on “Renewing acquaintances, part 11

  1. My great-great-grandfather, David Crowley, came back from panning for gold in Colorado to join the 34th Iowa, formed in Lucas County. His first service was in Helena, Arkansas, related to the ill-fated Yazoo Pass expedition. Then, he went on to Vicksburg, and thence to Texas and Louisiana, where he spent the bulk of the war. One of his unhappier assignments was force-marching rebel prisoners through the Atchafalaya swamp, where smallpox and malaria were rampant.

    He was lucky. Various battles and skirmishes along the Texas coast weren’t as bloody or traumatic as Gettysburg. Still, the difficulties were real, and the losses painful. It’s interesting to prowl Texas cemeteries, and see the number of Union soldiers buried here. Some families never were reunited.

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