Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


October 23, 2012

Gettysburg and the 150th: Civilians, not just soldiers

No disrespect intended, but the battles of Gettysburg and their strategies elude me. Re-enactments too.

I’ve skirted Gettysburg for a lifetime.

See the error of my ways now that I’ve walked the battlefield, visited homes and hospitals, toured the Visitor Center, Cyclorama, Museum in the National Military Park and paid attention to Civil War civilians.

This is a story suggesting where to muse about the citizens.

Seminary Ridge Museum, Shriver House Museum, bed and breakfast inns with echoes from battle days.

“Voices of Duty and Devotion” will open July 1, 2013 at the brand new Seminary Ridge Museum: four floors of personal, reflective, history-based conversations in the 1832 building from which Union General John Buford watched early battle developments July 1, 1863.

In Gettysburg I found civilian stories, people embattled for sure but not in battle. Preparations for the sesquicentennial bubble with discoveries.

Hettie Shriver was 27 when the soldiers appeared in front of her house on Baltimore Street; daughter Sadie was seven and Mollie only five.

Husband George, of course, was off to war. Next door lived 15-year-old Tillie Pierce who later wrote her view of a neighborhood suddenly filled with soldiers, guns and canons, wounded, dying and dead men and dead horses.

I time traveled, exploring every bit of the Shriver family home. Sometimes I put myself in Hettie’s shoes, sometimes the little girls’.

Their home is 152 years old, meticulously restored.

As I tried to be Hettie, I found scant personal wisdom to process life with 24,000 seriously wounded men in a town of 400 buildings, and 12,000 dead men and horses.

Shriver House museum is in the midst of a charming downtown so let the musing settle with some strolling, shopping, dining, sipping.

Then go to Seminary Ridge Museum. Formal opening is July 1, 2012.

“We will talk about history and religion in ways not always possible,” Barbara Franco told me, because of being a historical society and an active seminary. She’s the founding executive director, passionate about ideas and the stories behind the stories.

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