11.19.2022 – in a certain sense

in a certain sense
it’s inconsequential, but
still consequential

Of course what inspired this haiku was the all important discussion facing the world today of where, EXACTLY, did Abraham Lincoln stand when he gave the speech known as the Gettysburg Address.

Four score and 79 years ago this Saturday, Abraham Lincoln stood up in the newly dedicated cemetery for Union soldiers who fell at Gettysburg and delivered one of the most famous speeches in American history.

So begins the article, A Lingering Gettysburg Battle: Where Did Lincoln Stand? by By Jennifer Schuessler.

Ms. Schuessler reports on the work of Christopher Oakley, a former Disney animator turned Civil War sleuth, who has combined intense analysis of 19th-century photographs with 21st-century 3-D modeling software to argue were Lincoln was standing in 1863.

The article states that. “Christopher Gwinn, the supervisory ranger for interpretation and education at Gettysburg National Military Park, said that where Lincoln stood was “the No. 1 question” visitors to the cemetery asked.

“In a certain sense, it’s inconsequential, but on the other hand it’s incredibly consequential,” he said. “When visitors come, they want to stand in the spot where Lincoln stood. It takes him from being that marble god at the memorial in Washington, D.C., and makes him flesh and blood.”

I liked that.

In a certain sense, it’s inconsequential, but on the other hand it’s incredibly consequential.

There are fans.

There are enthusiasts.

There are fanatics.

And then there are those folks who are just plain nutz on a given subject.

Where and what happened in the Civil War is one of those subjects.

I remember watching a show where some feller passionately and vehemently took apart the statements of one Civil War officer’s memoirs of actions on Little Round Top at this self same Battle of Gettyburg.

This feller produced reports, letters, vintage photographs and other EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS to prove beyond any doubt that what the officer said in his memoirs was not just false but impossible to have happened as the officer described.

I can still picture in my mind the satisfaction on the fellers face when he said something like, ‘… as I have proven, and the evidence backs me up, this officer had to, HAD TO have been at least 200 feet further back on the side of Little Round Top than where he claimed to be.’

200 feet.

I am NOT making this up nor am I going to search out the video on YouTube for you.

In a certain sense, it’s inconsequential, but on the other hand it’s incredibly consequential.

Mr. Oakley has come up with six … SIX … accepted photographs of Lincoln making the Gettysburg Address .. or just about to.

I marvel at this as I remember the story that the since the President spoke for under 3 minutes, non of the photographers were able to get a picture of the moment.

And that is still true, no photograph exists of the moment but there are now 6 photographs of the setting and the gathering at the Gettysburg Cemetary.

A diagram by Oakley, showing where the photographers who took four of the six known photographs of the cemetery dedication were standing. The indicate the positions for Peter Weaver (1 and 2), Alexander Gardner (3) and David Bachrach (4). Oakley’s placement of the platform is visible in the center. (NYTIMES)

Mr. Oakley has done his best to place the cameras and then cross tri angulate the locations to pinpoint where the speakers platform was located.

It is fascinating stuff to stand where Lincoln stood.

My family experience of standing where Mr. Lincoln stood includes a trip with the Wife and Kids to Springfield, Illinois and the Lincoln house.

On the tour, my five year daughter D’asia hung from the railing that kept people in line while touring the house and her feet went through the rails onto the carpet on the other side of the railing.

The Park Ranger stopped his little speech to yell out ‘WE DON’T STAND ON THE RUGS IN THE LINCOLN HOUSE!’

To which I wanted to reply, ‘Look … you are yelling at a little black kid in Lincoln’s house … think about it.’

But I didn’t.

In a certain sense, it’s inconsequential, but on the other hand it’s incredibly consequential.

At least Mr. Oakley is working with photographs.

What I mean is, staying with what was reported in the Civil War consider this.

This is from an action report for the famous 3rd Michigan Volunteer Infantry.

The report by Lt. Col. Edwin S. Pierce states:

On the morning of the 3rd, we moved forward to the first position occupied on the 2d, and we formed the same, where we remained until about 3 p.m. Thence we were moved off by the right flank at double-quick to where the enemy was trying to pierce our center. The regiment was here detached, and sent to support the 2nd division, Second Corps, where we assisted in repulsing the enemy who had succeeded in breaking through a portion of their line.

The regiment occupied the front line until the morning of the 5th, when we rejoined our brigade.

Those few words are an eyewitness account of what would later become known as Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd, 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg, less than a mile away from where Mr. Lincoln spoke.

To get back to WHERE Mr. Lincoln spoke.

In a certain sense, it’s inconsequential, but on the other hand it’s incredibly consequential.

And I like to say and I do often, how right Mr. Lincoln was about so many things.

But in this speech, this Gettysburg Address, Mr. Lincoln was so wrong on one thing.

That one thing being when he said, “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here.”

And I truly hope he isn’t wrong when he said, “ it can never forget what they did here.”

It is rather for us, the living, that we here be dedicated to making sure no one does forget.

It’s incredibly consequential.

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