Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gettysburg Address

As I'm sure most of you have heard John Latschar is stepping down from his post as Gettysburg's superintendent to take a the head role at the Gettysburg Foundation (which runs the new visitor's center).

With tongue somewhat in cheek I would like to throw my own hat in the ring to be the new superintendent starting March 1, 2009.

I have never been employed by the National Park Service, or any sort of government agency. I do have some management experience from my time as a retail manager and am used to keeping spending within budget parameters (both as a manager and in my personal life). But those experiences will certainly pale in comparison to whomever else applies for this wonderful position.

What I can bring to the table though is a true love for the park. I don't want to minimize how other candidates may feel about the park but being at Gettysburg (or any other battlefield) is a truly magical experience. Every time I go there the excitement builds as I pass the towns along the route. When I finally see the signs for Gettysburg the excitement has nearly built to a crescendo. I don't want to go to the visitor's center, I want to be on the ground. I want to feel the grass under my feet, the sun kiss my face, the wind in my hair. I want to stand where my Iron Brigade boys stood west of town. I want to gaze at Meade from the Virginia monument, walk over there and then look back at Lee. I want to criss cross the Wheatfield, following every attack in that sector. I want to stand at the 20th Maine monument and yell "Bayonets!" I want to stand next to Longstreet and apologize for him spending the rest of eternity on a pony.

Obviously as superintendent I wouldn't have the time to do that sort of thing every day but I'd be out there after hours soaking up the atmosphere. I'd want to complete Latschar's work and return the town to an 1863 appearance. I say lets get rid of the concrete roads and blacktop parking lots. All travel in town will be by horse or foot. Shops could stay in historic buildings but anything built after 1863 would have to go. Let's give Gettysburg that Harper's Ferry feel to it. One of the great things about Harper's Ferry is that in the park section of town the modern elements have been minimized and you get more of a historic feeling. In fact whenever I talk to someone about their favorite battlefields they almost always mention places like Shiloh or Antietam or Perryville, where you can feel like you've stepped back in time. Stones River, Franklin, Manassas and Fredericksburg just don't have that same feel to them (all great places to visit but traffic and urban sprawl makes them a bit less of an experience).

At Gettysburg the town is part of the battlefield (and I don't think gets the interpretation it deserves) so it only makes sense to return it to its 1863 appearance like most of the other fighting areas have been. Of course this won't be popular. Cutting trees was not popular. But I'm not going to be at Gettysburg to be popular, I'll be there to make historic interpretation and our understanding much better.

If that phase of the plan works out then I would also like to build a museum for the Gettysburg nuts. Not sure if there is enough room near the new visitor center to build this new museum but I think the devoted Gettysburg people need a museum to showcase as much of the collection as possible. The general public might find this one too tedious or boring to attend but us diehards would be thrilled to see every single variety of rifle the park possesses.

I am quite willing and able to have a Gettysburg address. If it helps my cause I'd be willing to work for free, just don't tell my wife I said that.

No comments: