July 2, 2010
I am attaching a famous painting by Paul Philippoteaus depicting Pickett's Charge on the third day of the battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. In the center of the picture, you will see a mountain in the distance which is Ski Liberty, my home mountain. I have seen this scene every fall for the last 20 years, when I would visit the battlefield to enjoy the fall foliage as well as to show my respect to the men who have hallowed the ground with their blood and sacrifice. From the top of Ski Liberty, looking in the opposite direction, I can also see Little Roundtop, which was the scene of heavy fighting on the second day of the battle July 2.
For those of you interested in our historical heritage, you will note the "copse of trees", skiers right of center in the painting, which is where Gen. Lee directed his generals to attack. To the right of the trees and a little lower, you will note a mass of humanity all mashed together. Notice the unmistakable red battle flag of the South. That is where Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Alonzo Cushing of Wisconsin commanded his remaining two cannons to provide fire support for the Union troops. This is also where he made his ultimate sacrifice. His bravery was recognized just recently when he was awarded the Medal 147 years after his final measure of devotion (talk about posthumously). Southern Gen Lewis Armistead was fatally shoot at this location crossing a low stone wall known as the Angle leading his Brigade of Virginians. The low wall (or better known as the Angle) is the High Water Mark of the Confederacy. Gen Armistead, nephew of Col George Armistead commander of the garrison at Ft McHenry of the Star Spanled Banner fame, told a Union Capt, aide to General Winfield Hancock, "I have done him, and you all a grevious injury, for which I shall always regret". He didn't have long to regret, since he died a few days later. Coincidentally, Gen Hancock was also seriously wounded lying but 100 yards away, although he survived his wounds. Gen Armistead and Gen Hancock were the best of friends serving in the Army on the Western frontiers in better times. When the South seceded, then Major Armistead gave his family bible to Mrs Almira Hancock with the inscription on the fly cover "Trust in God and fear nothing". The friendship between these two officers was legendary in the Union Officer Corps. According to "legend", Armistead was offered liberty to cross the lines to visit his friend. In those days, Officers were gentlemen and fraternization with the enemy was unheard of. It is a tragedy and ironic that the two friends did not see each other before, during or after the battle. Finally, most of the soldiers you see are members of the Philadelphia Irish Brigade who had fought bravely throughout the Civil War and were involved in action at Antietam (bloodiest 24 hours of the war), Fredericsburg (where roughly 250 of the Irish Brigade survived from approximately 1600 and Gen Lee while gazing at the carnage below, is quoted as saying "It is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it") and finally the Battle of Gettysburg (bloodiest three days of the war) among many others. Some units of the Irish Brigade were fresh from the battle of the Wheat Field the day before. The 20th Maine Regiment under Col Joshua Chamberlain were also close by after defeating Southern forces at Little Roundtop on July 2nd. Their victory on Little Roundtop prevented the Southern forces from taking command of the high ground and being able to roll up the Union line. Finally, on the western front, on July 4th, the Southern city of Vicksburg Mississippi surrendered to Union Gen US Grant. With the loss of Vicksburg, the South had been split in half and lost the use of the Mississippi as a supply line. The tide of battle had turned and although two more years of hard fought battles and sacrifices remained, the issue was never in doubt militarily, although it was dicey politically on and off.
On this July 4th weekend, when we enjoy the fireworks and outdoor grill, let us take a moment to pay our humble respects and appreciation to all the men and women who MADE and continue to MAKE it possible for us to enjoy our lives in liberty and freedom.
So, beyond just skiing, hiking, running, biking and enjoying the beautiful outdoors of the Mid-Atlantic area, we fortunate skiers of Ski Liberty can also enjoy personally the heritage and history which surround us. I believe that this is just compensation for our lack of "deep" powder. How many other ski areas, no matter how much snow they get or how much vertical they have are immortalized in such a historical fashion? Like the Missouri state motto: "Show Me"!
Edited by CharlieP - 7/3/10 at 1:03pm