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Gettysburg, A Little Note Of Long Remembering Smithsonian Institution

July 2024
1min read

War breeds long memories, some of them short on fact. We were reminded of this by the response to the late Bruce Catton’s “The Day the Civil War Ended” (June/July, 1978), his account of the 1913 reunion of Confederate and Union soldiers at the Gettysburg battlefield. Reader Warren F. Bietsch of Yardley, Pennsylvania, for example, wrote to remind us that there was yet another Gettysburg reunion, this one held in July, 1938, to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the battle. Mr. Bietsch and his family attended, and, in contrast to the several thousand veterans who showed up for the 1913 reunion, he tells us, only eighteen hundred made it twenty-five years later. Among them was a dapper gremlin who identified himself as General Paul Sanguinetti, C.S.A., seen at left (top photograph) in front of his tent with the Bietsch daughters, Heather and Nancy. General Sanguinetti seems to have been alone in the conviction that he served at Gettysburg; his name appears in none of the references we checked. If the old gentleman was not just stretching memory a bit and did in fact take part, we would be delighted to hear about it.

Other readers objected to the close of the article, in which the old Union and Confederate veterans re-enacted Pickett’s charge (bottom left), then “fell upon each other—not in mortal combat, but re-united in brotherly love and affection.” They cited a bit of persistent folklore best described—and discounted—in Paul Angle’s Crossroads: 1913: “Years ago the author heard from an old newspaperman … that at this point several old Confederates in their exuberance jumped over the wall to embrace their former enemies. The Union response was instantaneous: ‘You sons-of-bitches, you didn’t get over here in ’63 and you ain’t coming over now!’ Fists flew, and only the presence of military police averted a riot. All my efforts to confirm the tale have failed, so I am forced to conclude that it is apocryphal. I wish it weren’t.”

So do we.

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