Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bump in the Night

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the supernatural. On the one hand, I'm COMPLETELY FASCINATED by the paranormal. And on the other hand? I'd rather eat a plate of steaming shit than have to face a real, honest-to-goodness ghost.

As a little kid, I often spent long weekends with my beloved Aunt Sue, who regularly communicated with the Great Beyond. (She also had weekly phone chats with Santa Claus, and I had her to thank for asking the Tooth Fairy to give me a raise - but those are other stories for other posts.) The two of us would stay up late together and watch Unsolved Mysteries, America's Most Wanted,  and other creepy weekend specials about ghosts, murderers, kidnappers, aliens and phantoms and then, like clockwork, every night at 11:45 she'd look over at me and say, "It's almost midnight. Doo yooou knoooow whaat thaaat meeeeans? Midnight is THE WITCHING HOUR! Quick! Off to bed before the witches come out!" And with my wee little heart thumping in my chest, I'd race off to her bedroom and dive under the covers for safety. And while I was at once terrified by the thought of what I might see once that clock struck 12, I was also thrilled by it.

When I planned Poompy's birthday trip to Gettysburg, I booked us two nights at a self-proclaimed "haunted" Bed & Breakfast. The Farnsworth House Inn was built in
1810, followed in 1833 by the brick structure that still stands today. The walls, floors and rafters are all original - one can only imagine what they've seen and heard in 175 years. During the battle of Gettysburg the house was owned by the Sweney family. The wife and daughter fled their home before the battle began, but Mr. Sweney chose to stay. He was basically forced to spend the three day battle hiding in his cellar because on the first day of battle, after Federal units retreated to Cemetery Hill, the 2 1/2 story brick house became a shelter and hide-out for Confederate sharpshooters. The house was strategically located very near Union lines and the garret window (photo of window from inside the garret below, right) offered a protected site for the Confederate sharpshooters as they maintained a deadly fire on the Union forces on Cemetery Hill. The side of the house (pictured above left) bears over 100 bullet scars from Union riflemen firing back at the Confederates.

When we checked into our room in Gettysburg, the first thing I noticed was a pretty little journal on the dresser. Curiosity got the best of me, so I opened it. Apparently, hotel staff leaves that little journal so guests have a place to write about their supernatural stories. There wasn't anything too scary written in it, mostly it was people who'd written to say that nothing weird happened while they were staying there, thank goodness. Though there were a couple of stories about groaning walls and bumps in the night - the kind of thing which, in my opinion, one should expect in a house with 175 year old walls and floors. Later, we found out that the room next to ours has "the most spirit activity in the whole house". But I wasn't going to let that bother me because at least it wasn't the room we were staying in. Just the room next-door. Despite my resolve, I did not sleep a wink. I laid awake ALL NIGHT LONG straining to hear strange noises while simultaneously trying not to hear anything at all. And I couldn't stand that I was wide awake and Poompy was fast asleep, so I kept elbowing him in the ribs, hoping that he might wake up and keep me company, but to no avail. All the hardest nudging in the world gave me nothing more than a muffled "hrrrgmf" or two. The next morning at breakfast, the guy staying in the room next-door tried to ask me if I'd heard strange footsteps in the hallway the night before, but I interrupted before he had a chance to get the question out and said, "that was probably just me and my husband coming in for the night!" I didn't want to think that he'd heard anything strange. I just couldn't handle it.

Our second night in Gettysburg we went on a Ghost Walk that promised to fill us with thrills and chills, a Ghost Walk led by phantoms in period dress, a Ghost Walk we would never forget. Well, it turned out to be the lamest Ghost Walk EVER. The guides, in their Rite-Aid brand pirate costumes, spoke to us, a group of 25 adults, as if we were kindergartners with IQ's below 40. When once I got a little behind the group because I'd stopped to take a photo of a dead bird, I was screeeeeamed at by the guide for falling out of line. (Yeah, I said "line". She made us stand in a line. Like kindergartners.) While our guide did provide us with some interesting town history, she did not tell us any real ghost stories. I'm sorry, but a real ghost story doesn't end with a punch line. And I have a hard time appreciating the history lessons she provided, because she couldn't open her mouth without rolling her eyes in boredom and hacking her left lung out of her chest. The scariest thing about the entire walk, actually, was her phlegmy, body wracking cough. It was so scary I had to stay at the back of the line the whole time.  But, I'm not being altogether fair. She did tell one story that made the Ghost Walk worthwhile. She took us into the garret of the Farnsworth House and, in between eye-rolling and body-wracking, lung-launching, phlegm-spraying coughs, she told us the story of what Mr. Sweney found in his garret after the battle of Gettysburg ended. Story goes that when he finally felt it was safe to come out of hiding, he began to explore his home to asses the damage caused. He made his up into the garret and discovered the bodies of six dead Confederate soldiers piled in a corner opposite the garret window. (As I type this, I keep spinning around to look behind me because I'm getting the creeps so bad.) The floor was thick with congealed blood, and the walls were crawling with lice from the dead bodies. It seemed as though each time a sharpshooter posted at the garret window was shot, his buddies would drag him across the floor and leave him on the other side of the garret while another guy took his place. By the way, that floor? The one that had a thick layer of congealed blood on it? It's still there. I walked on it. And to make matters better? The very room where Poompy and I were staying was DIRECTLY UNDER THE GARRET. But not under the entire garret, oh no. JUST UNDER THE SIDE OF THE GARRET WHERE THE BODIES WERE PILED. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Creepy, scary, gross.

The ghost walk ended at about 11 p.m. and Poompy and I headed back to our room to pack our suitcases and catch some sleep. We needed to get up and hit the road by 6 a.m. if we would make it to work on time the next day. As we prepared for bed, I said a little prayer that I'd fall asleep FAST - I was exhausted because I hadn't been able to sleep a wink the night before. We crawled into bed and before I even turned the light off, Poompy was snoring. I stuck my elbow in his ribs. Nothing. Not even a "hrrrgmf". I elbowed him harder. Still nothing. The man was OUT. So I lay there, in the dark, trying to fall asleep, trying NOT to stare at the ceiling over my head because I was afraid I might see ghost-blood spread in a pool over my head. I heard the grandfather clock downstairs strike 11:30, then 11:45. When I heard it strike midnight a little voice in my head whispered, "Now it's the Witching Hour!" And I thought, Dear GOD HELP ME SLEEP. I heard the clock strike 12:15. Then 12:30. And then I heard footsteps. In the garret. The very clear and very distinct sound of someone pacing in the garret above my head. The footsteps were heavy, precise, intentional. And then I heard an enormous bang, and then silence. Complete silence.

I spent the rest of the night wide awake, sweaty and trembling. But I never heard or saw anything strange after that. When Poompy woke up in the morning I told him everything. He looked at me, his head cocked to one side, his brow furrowed in skepticism. "Seriously?" He said. "It was just staff cleaning up for the night. You're being ridiculous." Except, if it was staff, if it was HUMAN, I would've heard footsteps coming down the creaky garret steps into the hallway outside our room. I would've then heard those footsteps going down the creaky steps to the main floor, to make their way out of the Inn. Unless there is staff who sleeps in the garret at night. Which I HIGHLY DOUBT.

I will NEVER stay in a haunted B&B again. EVER.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Poll Results - Which Would You Rather Have

So, WTF guys? Only 11 votes this week, after last weeks 22 votes. And it was interesting, the results. 18% would prefer cockroaches over bedbugs, lice or fleas. 18% would prefer to have headlice and 63% would prefer fleas. Not a single person voted for bedbugs. Not that I blame them. I voted for fleas. Totally. I heart fleas.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I'm a Judgy Little Bitch

I am apologizing in advance for using so many capital letters all at once, but I just couldn't help myself. I'm a loud talker, too.

So, I go to this EPA* today and since they asked for a contemporary dramatic monologue, I prepared Harper from Angels in America. And like a good little actress, I worked on the monologue yesterday and today, just to make sure I had it in tip-top form. And of course it is in tip-top form because I've done the damn thing about a thousand times. So I get to my audition, I'm feeling really good, really confident, I'm wearing a new dress, I'm having a good hair day, I know this is going to be a good experience. My name is called, I walk into the audition room, I'm still feeling really confident, really sure of myself. I introduce myself, tell them what I'm doing, "Oh! Angels! Great!" says the casting director. I smile. Good foot to start out on. I take a moment to get into character and I start.

The minute I open my mouth, this big huge voice in my head starts in: "Oh. You did not just say that line like that. Oh. My. Gawd. Awful. Wow. You're really pushing. You're totally not connected. You should just stop. You should just walk out now before you make yourself look any stupider. Did you REALLY just do that with your face? How. Em. Barrasing. No, really, this is probably the worst you've EVER done in an audition. You're AWFUL! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? SHUT UP! YOU'RE COMPLETELY HUMILIATING YOURSELF." I finish the monologue, say thank you, and turn to GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE ROOM so I can run home and cry about what a terrible job I just did when the casting director says, "That was excellent!"

I freeze. "What?"

"That is a really hard monologue and you did it excellently. Really good work. Really good. I'm impressed."

"Thank you! Thank you very much!" I say as a ginormous shit-eating grin spreads across my face.

It just goes to show that I obviously have no fucking clue what I'm doing while I'm doing it so MAYBE I SHOULD STOP JUDGING MYSELF SO HARSHLY, STUPID JUDGY LITTLE BITCH. Aaaaand there I go again with the judging. But you know what I mean. I'm really grateful that she stopped me and said that to me, but I cannot rely on casting directors to stroke my ego. For reals. I have got to get a handle on this self-defeating, crippling, evil voice in my head. Any suggestions?

*Equity Principal Audition - Basically, in order for a show to be granted an Equity contract, one of the things the producers must do is hold open auditions for any and all Equity members to attend. Rumor has it that almost NO ONE actually gets cast from an EPA, but supposedly it's good to go to them anyway. I try to see them as a good opportunity to practice my audition skills. Or my audition skillz. Either way.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Almost 20,000 Views

If you haven't yet, please double click on the video so you'll be redirected to YouTube, then rate and leave some positive feedback. Let's get it up past 20,000 views!!!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Poll Results: What's Grosser?

Very nice, folks. 22 people voted, and a wild 77% agree that it is grosser to walk around with sweat dripping of your body, than to carry a towel around the city to periodically mop up with. I'm gonna go put a clean towel in my purse.

Check over there on the right for this weeks poll.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

New Friends

My apartment is way cleaner than yours. Remember last summer when our tenement building was infested with bed bugs? This summer, it's cockroaches. And apparently, cockroaches bother Poompy 100 times more than bed bugs. Apparently, he feels about cockroaches the way I feel about spiders. I HATE SPIDERS.

A couple of days ago, our neighbor (interestingly enough, the same neighbor who first told us about the building bed bugs) stopped me in the hallway:

"Have you had a problem with roaches?"
"Huh? Uh, nope."
"Did you see them in the hall on Tuesday?"
"What? No. Wait... now that you mention it, I did see one on the wall in the second-floor hallway."
"While I was eating breakfast on Tuesday morning a stream of cockroaches started pouring in under my front door. I opened my front door to see what was going on, and I swear to god, it was like a scene in a horror film. There must've been a thousand cockroaches swarming the walls, ceiling and floor of the hallway. I called the super and I guess he sprayed or whatever because they were gone that night. But you better spray your apartment."
"Wow. That's disgusting. Thanks."

Last night when I came home from work I was greeted by five fist-sized roaches scurrying along the baseboards of the third-floor hallway. My hallway. I opened my front door and the first thing I saw was a huge roach on the wall above my kitchen table. Poompy walked in right then to greet me, saw the look on my face, looked at the wall I was staring at, and then he almost started crying. And that was that. The cleaning began. And continued when he dragged my sorry ass out of bed at 8 a.m. to help him. I mean, he is serious about this cleaning. After I'd slurped down a cup of coffee this morning, the first thing he had me do was empty all the book shelves and vacuum each book individually, then scrub down each shelf, the walls behind the bookcases and the floor underneath them. That alone took me 2 1/2 hours. Then I had to empty all the shelves where I keep my girly primping things and scrub those shelves, then give each bottle of everything its very own bath. Poompy had me washing picture frames, chachkis and windowsills. Windowsills! When I left for work this afternoon, he was scrubbing the walls behind the refrigerator. Poompy is The Home Cleaning Nazi.

I have to admit though, our apartment was, well, it needed a good cleaning. It is remarkable to me the dust and dirt that I manage to completely ignore. I saw dust today that I've never seen before, except that I know it's been there for awhile because an inch of dust doesn't collect over night. So how come I never noticed it? Don't misunderstand, we aren't dirty people. We're messy, but we're not dirty. We vacuum every other day, we mop and clean out the bathtub and toilet at least every other week. That's pretty good, right? We do our dishes after every meal and we never let old food sit out. But we don't dust. Ever. Ever. Ever. I was astonished to pull a book off a shelf and discover an INCH of dust on the shelf rail behind it. My parents were in town recently and I watched my mother pick up a framed photo of Poompy and I. She looked at it and put it back and I thought to myself, "Awww. She's admiring a sweet photo of me and my beloved. Isn't that nice?" Today, I picked up that same frame to clean the windowsill underneath it and discovered that it was wearing it's own fur coat. A fur coat made of NYC grime and dog hair. And I realized what my mother had actually been thinking when she looked at the photo: "Dear God, my daughter never cleans her apartment. Get me out of here before I catch something." Only she's just too classy to say anything.

Well, don't worry, Mama. That picture frame is cleaner now than it was when I bought it. And the rest of the apartment? Even Aunt Sue would be proud.

But I'm curious. How often am I supposed to dust? How often do you dust? And really, honestly, how long does it take you? Because I only have so much time in a week to dedicate to apartment cleaning, and I just can't see myself doing the kind of cleaning we did today on a regular basis.

P.S. I say "we" but actually it was mostly Poompy. What kind of special treat says "Thank you for being the Home Cleaning Nazi"? Suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

If given the opportunity, he absolutely would eat my face.

I've had this huge blister on my left heel for WEEKS. It was completely painless, just this annoying bubble of flesh on the bottom of my foot. I've been dying to cut it open and trim all the dead skin off, but I knew it would be stupid to mess with it, so I've exercised incredible restraint and just left it alone. It finally ripped open last night and the first thing I did was grab my little nail scissors and trim the quarter sized piece of skin off the bottom of my foot. And then, just because... I don't know... maybe because I'd recently consumed 8 or 14 oz of gin, I gave the piece of skin to Theo. I mean, he was sitting at my feet, gazing up at me with that pretty tail of his thump-thump-thumping the linoleum. When I held the flap of skin out to him, he literally started jumping in circles. How am I supposed to resist the jumping in circles thing? So I handed him the piece of me and he ate it. Just gobbled it right up. Then looked up at me as if to say, "Got any more?"

We Barely Dodged The Crazy

The other night, actually, I can tell you exactly which night it was, it was Thursday night, July 3rd, I was walking home from the movies with my good old pal Barnaby, when we were assaulted by a New York Crazy.

I have lived in New York for roughly a year and I have never ever ever not once been assaulted by a New York Crazy. I once had a late-night conversation with a man wearing a suit made of newspapers about how he'd been delivered unto this Earth by aliens from the planet Magacacapoopee. I once watched a guy get bashed in the head with a steel baseball bat. I once overheard someone telling his pal that he didn't really rape that girl, the bitch wanted it. But no one has ever bothered me, personally.

Barnaby is a good friend of mine from college. We met during rehearsals for a show where I played this cult leader who convinced her twelve sisters to give themselves hysterectomies using a dirty knife she pulls from her boot and without the use of painkillers or drugs and he was playing a dog with a 12 inch black boner. Yes, his costume actually involved a 12 inch rubber penis. A black 12 inch rubber penis. And yes, both sets of parents came to see this play. Mine liked it so much they came back a second time. Anyway, Barnaby and I have been through a lot together. Once you've introduced someone to your parents while they're wearing a giant rubber dildo outside their pants, the relationship is pretty much sealed. Barnaby is definitely one of my more NY savvy friends, having visited the city enough times that, even though he's never lived here, was actually born and raised in LA just like me, he's probably spent more time in the city than I have even though I live here. So, you know, he's not an idiot and he knows how to handle himself on the streets of NY.

That being said, it's probably hard to understand why I was surprised when, walking across 44th St. on 9th Ave. at 1:30 a.m., Barnaby doesn't even flinch as he's accosted by a very round, very sweaty, very hairy, very loud man. In fact, he doesn't even notice. And when I point out to him what just happened, how we almost died at the hands of a round, sweaty, hairy, loud man, he says, "Really? That's weird."

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

Overheard on 86th St.

Just as the 86 crosstown bus is pulling up to the stop and opening it's gaping doors, a little boy cries out, " NOOOOOOOOO! THE BUS IS GOING TO EEEEEEEEAT US!"

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Third Day of Battle

Today is the 143rd anniversary of the third day of The Battle of Gettysburg. When Poompy and I visited Gettysburg, it was the events of the third day that occupied our thoughts the most. The battlefields of the third day was where we spent most of our time wandering and where, no matter where else we went, we kept coming back to see again.

On July 3, 1863, General Lee wished to attack the Federals again, using the
same basic plan as the previous day: Longstreet would attack the Federal left,
while Ewell attacked Culp's Hill. However, before Longstreet was ready, Union
XII Corps troops started a dawn artillery bombardment against the Confederates
on Culp's Hill in an effort to regain a portion of their lost works. The
Confederates attacked, and the second fight for Culp's Hill ended around 11
a.m., after some seven hours of bitter combat.

Lee was forced to change
his plans. Longstreet would command Pickett's Virginia division of his own First
Corps, plus six brigades from Hill's Corps, in an attack on the Federal II Corps
position at the right center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge. Prior to the
attack, all the artillery the Confederacy could bring to bear on the Federal
positions would bombard and weaken the
enemy's line.

Around 1 p.m.,
from 150 to 170 Confederate guns began an artillery bombardment that was
probably the largest of the war. In order to save valuable ammunition for the
infantry attack that they knew would follow, the Army of the Potomac's artillery
at first did not return the enemy's fire. After waiting about 15 minutes, about
80 Federal cannons added to the din. The Army of Northern Virginia was
critically low on artillery ammunition, and the cannonade
did not
significantly affect the Union position. Around 3 p.m., the cannon fire
subsided, and 12,500 Southern soldiers stepped from the ridgeline and advanced
the three-quarters of a mile to Cemetery Ridge in what is known to history as
"Pickett's Charge".

As the Confederates approached, there was fierce
flanking artillery fire from Union positions on Cemetery Hill and north of
Little Round Top, and musket and canister fire from Hancock's II Corps. Nearly
one half of the attackers did not return to their own lines. Although the
Federal line wavered and broke temporarily at a jog called the "Angle" in a low
stone fence, just north of a patch of vegetation called the Copse of Trees,
reinforcements rushed into the breach, and the Confederate attack was
- From www.wikipedia.org

More than anything else in the whole wide world, Poompy wanted to walk across the field where Pickett led his charge. So we did. It was surreal. The day was peaceful, breezy, gorgeous. Birds sang all around us. But we walked on earth that had been soaked with blood, baptized in violence. We took our time crossing that sloping field. We tried to imagine what it must have been like, the air so thick with smoke the men were rendered blind, their brothers and their best friends dying all around them, the din of battle, the screams of the fallen. Unimaginable.

I thought that today I would post more of the photos we took on our trip, but I don't feel like it. I'm thinking of all the men who died today, 143 years ago. I'm going to close my eyes and take a moment of silence and then I'm going to give my thanks that since the Civil War ended in 1865, America has not had to fight on it's own soil. I'm not sure there is a single living American who really understands how valuable that is. Especially not me, though I'm trying.

p.s. Have a wonderful, safe 4th of July.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

K, I gotta learn how to do this.

Second Day of Battle

Today is the 143rd anniversary of the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. FYI: This post is probably the most informative thing I've EVER posted. I gleaned (read: copied and pasted) all of this information from Wikipedia.org. All of the links I've provided shoot you straight over to a photo of our trip. I know. You're salivating with excitement. So am I. Only I really am, whereas you probably really aren't.

On the second day of battle, the Union line ran from Culp's Hill southeast of the town, northwest to Cemetery Hill just south of town, then south for nearly two miles along Cemetery Ridge, terminating just north of Little Round Top. The Union line was shaped like a fishhook and the Confederate line paralleled the Union line for about a mile to the west on Seminary Ridge, ran east through the town, then curved southeast to a point opposite Culp's Hill.

We stayed at the Farnsworth House Inn, which sits on the edge of town. After Union lines retreated through town on the first day of the battle and settled on Cemetery Hill, the Farnsworth House was occupied by Confederate sharpshooters. At the time of the battle the house was owned by the Sweney Family. Wife and daughter fled from the town before the battle began, but Mr. Sweney hid in the cellar for three days. The house happened to be very close to Federal lines on Cemetery Hill and the garret window you see up there at the top provided a protected site for the Confederates during the next two days, while they maintained a deadly fire against the Union forces on Cemetery Hill. Look closely - you can see over 100 bullet scars - proof that the Union riflemen worked hard to overcome this Confederate stronghold.

On July 2, Lee wanted Longstreet's men to stealthily attack the Union left flank, and to roll up the Federal line. The attack sequence was supposed to begin with Maj. Gens. John Bell Hood's and Lafayette McLaws's divisions, followed by Maj. Gen. Richard H. Anderson's division of Hill's Third Corps. This attack is called "en echelon" and Lee believed it would prevent Meade from shifting troops from his center to bolster his left. At the same time, Maj. Gen. Edward "Allegheny" Johnson's and Jubal Early's Second Corps divisions were ordered to make a "demonstration" against Culp's and Cemetery Hills (again, to prevent the shifting of Federal troops), and to turn the demonstration into a full-scale attack if a favorable opportunity presented itself.

Lee's plan, however, was based on faulty intelligence, exacerbated by J.E.B. Stuart's continued absence from the battlefield. (Stuart had been joyriding for days, more interested in getting his name in the papers than fighting a battle.) As a result, things did not work out at all the way Lee intended. Instead of moving beyond the Federals' left and attacking their flank, Longstreet's left division faced Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles's III Corps. Sickles was dissatisfied with the position assigned him on the southern end of Cemetery Ridge. Seeing higher ground more favorable to artillery positions a half mile to the west, he advanced his corps—WITHOUT ORDERS—to the slightly higher ground along the Emmitsburg Road. The new line ran from Devil's Den, northwest to the Sherfy farm's Peach Orchard, then northeast along the Emmitsburg Road to south of the Codori farm. This created big problems. Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys's division (in position along the Emmitsburg Road) and Maj. Gen. David B. Birney's division (to the south) were subject to attacks from two sides and were spread out over a longer front than their small corps could defend effectively.

Longstreet's attack was to be made as early as practicable; however, Longstreet got permission from Lee to await the arrival of one of his brigades, and while marching to the assigned position, his men came within sight of a Union signal station on Little Round Top. Countermarching to avoid detection wasted much time, and Hood's and McLaws's divisions did not launch their attacks until just after 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., respectively.

Attacks on the Union left flank:
As Longstreet's divisions slammed into the Union III Corps, Meade was forced to send 20,000 reinforcements in the form of the entire V Corps, Brig. Gen. John C. Caldwell's division of the II Corps, most of the XII Corps, and small portions of the newly arrived VI Corps. The Confederate assault deviated from Lee's plan since Hood's division moved more easterly than intended, losing its alignment with the Emmitsburg Road, attacking Devil's Den and Little Round Top. McLaws, coming in on Hood's left, drove multiple attacks into the thinly stretched III Corps in the Wheatfield and overwhelmed them in Sherfy's Peach Orchard. McLaws's attack eventually reached Plum Run Valley (the "Valley of Death") before being beaten back by the Pennsylvania Reserves division of the V Corps, moving down from Little Round Top. The III Corps was virtually destroyed as a combat unit in this battle, and Sickles's leg was amputated after it was shattered by a cannonball. Caldwell's division was destroyed piecemeal in the Wheatfield. Anderson's division assault on McLaws's left, starting around 6 p.m., reached the crest of Cemetery Ridge, but they could not hold the position in the face of counterattacks from the II Corps, including an almost suicidal counterattack by the 1st Minnesota against a Confederate brigade, ordered in desperation by Hancock.

As fighting raged in the Wheatfield and Devil's Den, Col. Strong Vincent of V Corps had a precarious hold on Little Round Top, an important hill at the extreme left of the Union line. His brigade of four relatively small regiments was able to resist repeated assaults by Brig. Gen. Evander Law's brigade of Hood's division. Meade's chief engineer, Brig. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, had realized the importance of this position, and dispatched Vincent's brigade, an artillery battery, and the 140th New York to occupy Little Round Top mere minutes before Hood's troops arrived. The defense of Little Round Top with a bayonet charge by the 20th Maine was one of the most fabled episodes in the Civil War and propelled Col. Joshua L. Chamberlain into prominence after the war. Col. Strong Vincent was one of many men who died that day on Little Round Top. 

Attacks on the Union right flank:
About 7:00 p.m., the Second Corps' attack by Johnson's division on Culp's Hill got off to a late start. Most of the hill's defenders, the Union XII Corps, had been sent to the left to defend against Longstreet's attacks, and the only portion of the corps remaining on the hill was a brigade of New Yorkers under Brig. Gen. George S. Greene. Because of Greene's insistence on constructing strong defensive works, and with reinforcements from the I and XI Corps, Greene's men held off the Confederate attackers, although the Southerners did capture a portion of the abandoned Federal works on the lower part of Culp's Hill.

Just at dark, two of Jubal Early's brigades attacked the Union XI Corps positions on East Cemetery Hill where Col. Andrew L. Harris of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, came under a withering attack, losing half his men; however, Early failed to support his brigades in their attack, and Ewell's remaining division, that of Maj. Gen. Robert E. Rodes, failed to aid Early's attack by moving against Cemetery Hill from the west. The Union army's interior lines enabled its commanders to shift troops quickly to critical areas, and with reinforcements from II Corps, the Federal troops retained possession of East Cemetery Hill, and Early's brigades were forced to withdraw.

Jeb Stuart and his three cavalry brigades arrived in Gettysburg around noon on July 2. A day and a half too late. In my opinion, Stuart failed Lee, and the fact that he wasn't punished is unbelievable to me. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

First Day of Battle

Today is the 143rd anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Poompy and I began our Gettysburg tour on Seminary Ridge, where Poompy gave me my first history lesson of the trip:This is Seminary Ridge. The road is approximately where Bufords men were lined up. Poompy is pointing to where the Confederates were marching from, but while they came from that direction, they looped behind Poompy and attacked from the other side.

This photo shows a little better where the Confederates actually attacked from. Imagine the Union men lined up where that road is, facing that open field. Suddenly, the Confederate units burst through the woods, marching across this open field. This is where, at approximately 7:30 a.m., the first skirmishes of the battle began. I CAN'T BELIEVE I WALKED AROUND HERE. Story goes, that the Confederates were only in town to get new shoes. Most of the men were barefoot and they'd heard that there was a large shoe factory in Gettysburg. But when they arrived, they bumped into Union cavalry and ... well .... the rest is history.

This is Gen. Reynolds monument, erected on the ground where he fell. It was still early on the first day and he'd only just arrived with his men. As he was directing troop and artillery placements just to the east of the woods you are looking at, he fell from his horse, struck by a bullet just behind his right ear. His men said of him, "wherever the battle is fiercest, he is there." He was a great general.

I took this photo standing on McPherson's Ridge. My camera is balanced on Union cannon, looking towards the Confederate line. It is difficult to imagine what it must have looked like that day, 143 years ago. Probably not much, for all the smoke in the air.

Opposite view: you are looking at the Union lines from the perspective of the Confederates.

As the day wore on, the Union units were pushed back into Gettysburg town. By early afternoon, the Federal line ran in a semi-circle west, north and northeast of Gettysburg. As Federal positions collapsed both north and west of town, Gen. Howard ordered a retreat to the high ground south of town at Cemetery Hill, where he had left the division of Brig. Gen. Adolph von Steinwehr as a reserve. Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock assumed command of the battlefield, sent by Meade when he heard that Reynolds had been killed. Hancock was ordered to take command of the field and to determine whether Gettysburg was an appropriate place for a major battle. Hancock told Howard, who was technically superior in rank, "I think this the strongest position by nature upon which to fight a battle that I ever saw." When Howard agreed, Hancock concluded the discussion: "Very well, sir, I select this as the battle-field." Hancock's determination had a morale-boosting effect on the retreating Union soldiers, but he played no direct tactical role on the first day.

Gen. Lee understood the defensive potential to the Union if they held this high ground. He sent orders to Ewell that Cemetery Hill be taken "if practicable." Ewell chose not to attempt the assault; this decision is considered by historians to be a great missed opportunity.

In this photo Poompy is standing approximately where the Union lines were on Cemetery Hill, in preparation for the Confederate attack that Ewell chose not to attempt. This land is now Gettysburg National Cemetery. Behind Poompy you can see Evergreen Cemetery - the reason the hill is called Cemetery Hill.

The first day at Gettysburg, more significant than simply a prelude to the bloody second and third days, ranks as the 23rd biggest battle of the war by number of troops engaged. About one quarter of Meade's army (22,000 men) and one third of Lee's army (27,000) were engaged.

Here we are, on an observation tower on Culp's Hill overlooking the town of Gettysburg and just beyond that, the blood soaked fields of the first day of The Battle of Gettysburg.