As 147th Anniversary of Pickett’s Charge Nears, Re-enactor Group Helps Preserve Flag of the 22nd North Carolina

Well, Saturday is the 147th anniversary of the famous Pickett’s Charge which sealed the defeat of Confederate forces at Gettysburg.  I have plans for a little vacation-visit to Gettysburg’s hallowed grounds next week myself — hopefully well after this weekend’s crowds have dispersed, as I’ve no stomach for the vast numbers expected for the re-enactments and various other events planned. 

I’ve actually visited Gettysburg before (back in the ’90s) and have to admit I was a little disappointed.  History is a time rather than a place — no matter how evocative the place may remain — and monuments and battle re-enactments can do little more than hint at the pathos, confusion, and spectacle of the actual Battle of Gettysburg, fought July 1st-3rd, 1863.  But I’ve since learned a little more about the engagement, and on my visit I intend to take the time to walk a good bit of the battlefield.  

Anyway, thoughts of re-enactors and the things these living history enthusiasts do recalls to my mind a recent News and Record article which described the efforts of one of North Carolina’s most active re-enactor regiments, the 26th North Carolina, to raise funds to conserve an actual battle flag which flew at Gettysburg, that of the 22nd North Carolina regiment. 

As the article indicates, the 22nd NC included a company of Guilford County men (Co. E) and three companies raised from nearby Randolph County, as well as others from across North Carolina.  At Gettysburg, the 22nd was heavily involved both on the first and third days, the latter day as part of Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble’s division which participated in Pickett’s Charge (Trimble having succeeded Maj. Gen. William Dorsey Pender, who was mortally wounded on the first day).  

The 26th re-enactors perhaps have a special nostalgia for the 22nd NC, for it was commanded early in the War by James Johnston Pettigrew, the same who as a brigadier general would lead the division to which the 26th belonged at Gettysburg.  The brave fighting of the 26th NC against the famous Iron Brigade on Seminary Ridge, as well as of course its bloody sacrifice in Pickett’s Charge, has been recounted in Rod Gragg’s Covered with Glory:  The 26th North Carolina Infantry at Gettysburg (2000).    

In all, the 26th NC re-enactors raised well over $6,000 to conserve the 22nd’s flag, which has been housed at the North Carolina Museum of History for more than 100 years.  This is but one of many similar projects for which the 26th has raised money — tens of thousands of dollars.  (Also, it just so happens that their commander, Skip Smith, went to high school with me and was quarterback of our football team!) 

If you’re interested in the Battle of Gettysburg, please remember that Greensboro Public Library has lots of books on this topic.  Here are just a few recent ones:  Receding Tide : Vicksburg and Gettysburg:  The Campaigns that Changed the Civil War by Edwin C. Bearss with J. Parker Hills; Seen the Glory:  A Novel of the Battle of Gettysburg by John Hough, Jr.; Gettysburg:  The Graphic Novel, written and illustrated by C.M. Butzer (young adult); Joshua Chamberlain and the American Civil War by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (juvenile); Gettysburg Requiem:  The Life of William C. Oates by Glenn W. LaFantasie; The Battle of Gettysburg by Michael Burgan (juvenile); The Gettysburg Gospel:  The Lincoln Speech that Nobody Knows by Gabor Boritt; Hallowed Ground:  A Walk at Gettysburg by James M. McPherson; Gettysburg:  A Novel of the Civil War by Newt Gingrich; The Deserter:  Murder at Gettysburg by Jane Langton; and Gettysburg:  A Testing of Courage by Noah Andre Trudeau.

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