Tuesday, May 14, 2013
What Happened On the Way to Gettysburg: the Burning of the Columbia Wrightsville Bridge
A Little History
The bridge that is associated with the events just prior to the Battle of Gettysburg is technically the second Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge. The first was destroyed by ice in the early 1830’s. The second Columbia–Wrightsville Bridge, a covered bridge just like the first, was begun in mid-1832 and was completed in 1834.
The bridge was built by James Moore and John Evans and cost $157,300. The bridge was more than a mile long and held the distinction of being the world’s longest covered bridge.
The bridge was constructed of wood and stone and included a carriageway, walkway, and two towpaths to guide canal traffic across the river. Tolls were equal to $23 today for a wagon with 6 horses and equal to $1.40 today for each pedestrian.
The Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge and the Civil War
The bridge played its role in the advancement of the Civil War when it was burned on June 28, 1863. Union militia leaders Maj. Granville O. Haller and Col. Jacob G. Frick led the civilian volunteers from Columbia, on the Lancaster County side of the Susquehanna River, in mining the bridge to deter the advance of Confederate troops looking to move East or North. When the volunteers detonated the explosives, however, only part of the bridge was destroyed, leaving enough still passable.
The Confederate troops advanced, confirming the fears that the people of Columbia had held for days. As a last effort to destroy the bridge, the volunteers set fire to it near the Wrightsville (York County) side where they had saturated it with oil from a nearby refinery.
It took six hours for the bridge to be reduced to ash, thwarting the plans of Confederate generals Jubal A. Early and John B. Gordon to save it.
In preventing General Early’s march eastward, the burning of the bridge set the stage for the location of the Battle of Gettysburg—which in turn changed the direction of the Civil War.
The Anniversary Events
This year, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the both the burning of the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge and the Battle of Gettysburg, the town of Columbia will be hosting events.
According to an article from the Morning Call, an Allentown newspaper, the events will take place on June 28 and will start around 7:00 p.m. This event should be worth the time of anyone arriving in the area for the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Monday, May 6, 2013
During the Gettysburg 150th event during the summer of 2013, many different activities will take place. This list is a glimpse at the long schedule of commemorative events, lectures and re-enactments that surround the 150th anniversary of the battle that many call the turning point of the Civil War.
June 7-October 19, Carlisle: An exhibition of “First Hand Civil War Era Drawings” will be on display at the Trout Gallery, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
June 15: The National Military Park’s Brass Band will be in concert at the park visitor center and at the Pennsylvania Memorial on the battlefield.
June 16: National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center will open a new exhibit entitled “Treasures of the Civil War.”
June 29: Orrtanna. The Adams County Winery will host a 150th Gettysburg Commemoration Family festival during the afternoon hours featuring interactive events, demonstrations, re-enactors, and speeches by scholars. This is a free event.
July 1: Gettysburg 150th Commemorative Event
This event is held at the National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. It features an 18-minute dramatization about the Wheatfield and Medal of Honor recipient James Jackson Purman by actor and playwright Steven Lang. The cost for the event is $100 per person, which supports the 150th preservation, acquisition and education projects. The registration deadline is May 1. Tickets and details:339-2148 or http://www.friendsofgettysburg.org.
July 1-4: National Park Service Special Ranger Programs
- Living history camps: July 1-3, these history camps illustrate Union and Confederate soldier life near the Pennsylvania Memorial and Pitzer’s Woods.
- Overview hikes: July 1-4, these hour-long tours visit different phases of the Battle of Gettysburg and the rangers discuss movements and their aftermath.
- Battlefield experience programs: Rangers speak about different turning points in the battle at the approximate time they occurred 150 years ago. On July 3, a commemorative march will occur at the area of Pickett’s Charge, with visitors playing the roles of Confederate attackers and Union defenders.
- Voices of the battle: 7:30 p.m. July 1-4. During these discussions, military and civilian reenactors describe experiences during and after the battle.
- "Kids and Family" activities: July 1-4, an activities center will be set up outside the museum and visitor center, and July 1-3 an interactive Signal Corps station will be set up near General Meade's Headquarters. During this event, children can earn a 150th anniversary Junior Ranger patch by completing a book associated with the anniversary activities.
July 2: In Adams County, the Battle of Hanover will be re-enacted. This battle was a minor skirmish that delayed JEB Stuart in his rejoining General Lee in the Gettysburg campaign.
For more events and activities schedules, visit the Battle of Gettysburg 150th Anniversary: 2013 Schedule of Events.
Friday, March 22, 2013
John F. Reynolds and the Battle of Gettysburg
The Making of a General
On the morning of July 1, 1863, Major General John F. Reynolds was organizing his men on the edge of a small Pennsylvania town named Gettysburg. As the Confederate troops marched closer, Reynolds was seated atop his horse, shouting orders and urging his men to keep fighting.
Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 20, 1820, John Fulton Reynolds studied in Lititz. He was nominated to the U. S. Military Academy in 1837 by Sen. James Buchanan, a friend of the Reynolds family.
For several years after leaving the academy, Reynolds was assigned in the south—Florida and South Carolina—then Texas during the Mexican-American War. Afterwards, Reynolds was assigned throughout the country. He was stationed in Maine, Louisiana, New York and Oregon.
Reynolds was promoted to Brigadier General on August 20, 1861, and was assigned to the newly formed Army of the Potomac. During the first two years of the Civil War, Gen. Reynolds served under a number of commanding officers and was involved in several major battles. He was at the Second Battle of Bull Run, where he led his men in a stand that halted a Confederate advance long enough to give the Union forces time to form an organized retreat.
Later, at the request of Pennsylvania’s governor, Gen. Reynolds was given command of the Pennsylvania Militia during the Confederate invasion of Maryland.
After the Battle of Fredericksburg was over, on November 29, 1862, Reynolds was promoted to Major General.
The Battle of Gettysburg
On the morning of July 1, 1863, Union Brigadier General Buford occupied the town of Gettysburg and worked to prevent the advance of two Confederate infantry brigades.
Major General John F. Reynolds was leading the “left-wing” of the Army of the Potomac. Reynolds was supervising the 2nd Wisconsin when he was shot from his horse and died while urging his men forward.
Today, historians do not agree on many things about Reynolds death: exactly when Reynolds was killed; whose bullet it was that killed him; and exactly where he died. The most widely accepted theory, though is that the place on the Gettysburg battlefield where a small monument commemorates a man who died, so they say, urging his men to keep fighting.
Friday, March 8, 2013
Though most people do not expect to hear the howl of a wolf in settled Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, visitors to Speedwell Forge—just north of Lititz on Route 501—may have just that experience.
The Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania, located at 465 Speedwell Forge Road, is home to more than forty rescued wolves and wolf-hybrids. The sanctuary operates completely as a non-profit and is funded by the donations of visitors and supporters. It is not a government supported organization.
During the winter months, up to March, the wolves are especially active during the tour times, which may be found on the sanctuary’s event calendar. During the month of March, tours are given Sunday, Thursday, and Saturday: Tuesday by appointment.
On Saturday, March 30th, the sanctuary will offer their traditional Full Moon Tour, offered on the Saturday of each month nearest the full moon. During this evening tour, visitors may take their time and walk from pack to pack at their own pace. When you grow tired of walking, there is a bonfire where you may sit and roast marshmallows, or just talk.
These tours are a good way to learn about the wolves both housed at Speedwell Forge and wild wolves. The volunteers who give the tours are passionate about these beautiful animals—and are not afraid to show it.
Either before or after the tour, the gift shop is a good place to stop. They offer picture postcards of the wolves and other merchandise to commemorate a special day spent with some special wolves.