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Monday, May 17, 2010



What's worse than being late for the start of a movie? Normally I'd say being a half hour late for the start of a tour of Seminary Ridge and the Lutheran Seminary. But there was a very good reason for being late.

How many people do you know that would drive 125 miles one way just to buy someone lunch? Honestly I don't know anyone other than my friend Len, who happened to be in Berwick, PA on a work related trip and knew I'd be at the Gettysburg Seminar. When I saw him standing near the doorway as the Saturday's session broke for lunch I was as surprised as I would have been had George Meade himself made a personal appearance. Len said the 125 mile drive was payback for my buying him breakfast in D.C. in January.

I've mentioned Len before in one or two previous posts. Our acquaintance stems from the fact that he willingly offered us the transcriptions to four years worth of letters written by his second great-uncle Richard, which he'd discovered in a shoe box in an attic after his father's passing. I've footnoted most of the letters for Len and his cousin, by identifying soldiers mentioned in the letters, locations, and events. Those footnotes have given both better insight into the individual experience of one soldier. Len was also given an explanation as to why there weren't letters in the collection dating from February to April 1864. Richard had re-enlisted for three years service at Beverly Ford, VA on February 7th and was home in Massachusetts on furlough for 35 days, beginning February 25th. A little over two weeks after arriving in his hometown of Middleboro he'd marry a girl named Helen Sanborn. That marriage, which produced two daughters, would be cut short, not by war, but through direct consequences of his military service, when Richard died of tuberculosis on March 14, 1868. He'd be one of four veterans from the 18th Mass., all under 30 years of age, all after prolonged illnesses, to pass that same year.

We drove out to the 18th Massachusetts monument, where I took this picture of Len wearing my "18th Massachusetts Infantry" hat. The hat is, by the way, the only one of its kind in the entire world, but I thought it was appropriate Len wear it when the shutter clicked. I wasn't 100 per cent certain at the time, but, in checking our database later, confirmed that what I had told Len about his second great-uncle Richard Holmes had been correct, that Richard had been at the Wheatfield on July 2nd and Little Round Top on July 3rd. Three weeks later Richard would be on his way back to Massachusetts again to train conscripts for inclusion in the 18th. William Alderman would later describe those draftees, who arrived in camp on November 4, 1863, just in time for the Mine Run Campaign, as, for the most part, woefully lacking and one of the sorriest bunches of excuses for soldiers he'd ever laid his eyes on.

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