If you ask most people where their favorite place is, they’d probably name a location like Paris, Hawaii, or maybe New York. I don’t have to even leave the state of Pennsylvania. My favorite spot in the world is Gettysburg.
Back in 1994, I managed to convince my family to go to Gettysburg for vacation. Andy was ten at the time, and Josh was six. Andy was okay with the idea, but Josh and my husband, Jerry weren’t too sure. I think I threw in the enticement of Hershey Park to get them to give in. They loved it. Josh even wrote a book about the Battle of Gettysburg in middle school (there’s a copy of it in the Shaler Area Middle School library). Fast forward twelve years. Andy is now working on his Masters in History at Kent State. Ask him anything about the Civil War (or as he calls it, The War of the Rebellion) and he’ll tell you more than you want to know.
Several years ago, I heard about how developers were planning to build a huge housing complex on a section of the Chancellorsville battlefield in Virginia. The Battle of Chancellorsville was fought in May of 1963 and it was during this battle that General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson of the Army of Northern Virginia was shot and subsequently died. I was astounded that there were parts of this important ground that weren’t protected and were being threatened by development. This is when I became aware of an organization called the Civil War Preservation Trust.
The CWPT’s sole purpose is to preserve these precious sites for future generations. With the help of their many supporters and various government entities, they were able to stave off the Chancellorsville threat. But with each victory, there is always another battle to fight. Recently developers illegally dug a huge trench on National Park property in Harpers Ferry. The fight goes on and on. Fortunately the victories outnumber the defeats.
The battle that is closest to my heart is taking place at Gettysburg. A development group by the name of Chance Enterprises has applied to the state for a license to build a casino less than a mile from the East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg. Hopefully the Gaming Board will have the good sense to turn them down, but we can’t always count on government officials to do the right thing. There were over 50,000 casualties in the three days of fighting at Gettysburg and the thought of a casino on ground where so many "gave the last full measure of devotion" to preserve this country is incomprehensible.
Fortunately, there are groups like No Casino Gettysburg, and especially the CWPT working hard to make sure this doesn’t happen. We need to preserve our heritage for future generations. We’ve already lost many battlefields to development and neglect. We can’t afford to lose anymore.