Yesterday’s Chancellorsville 150 First Day events kicked off the sesquicentennial observances in good order. Took me a few minutes to “knock the rust” off my on the field tweeting practices. But the NPS staff at Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania picked up as if there had been no long winter break… and the crowds likewise seemed to have followed en-mass from the December activities. A half-hour before the event kickoff, we had standing-room-only at the event tent.
Several important points from the introductory remarks from historian John Hennessy, park superintendent Russel Smith, and Civil War Trust president Jim Lighthizer. But the best, in my opinion, was Mr. Smith’s point comparing the centennial to the sesquicentennial. We have a good reason to celebrate at the 150th – the preservation of the fields where we stood to remember the events.
And I would add that our form of “celebration” in the sesquicentennial tends to take the form of devoted interpretive tours.
If that’s our legacy from the 150th – our focus on factual, detailed, and timely interpretive tours to achieve the “experience” – then I’d say we are doing right.
The day’s activities closed with a recreation of the Lee-Jackson bivouac. Hennessy along with fellow park historians Frank O’Reilly and Greg Mertz enlightened the remarkably large crowd on the details surrounding the last meetings of Generals Lee and Jackson. John Hennessy posted a wide view of the crowd on his twitter feed:
Macro and micro level treatment of the meeting, I would add. Such is, again, what the sesquicentennial crowd wants to hear – put us at the place, at 150 years from the time, and talk about what happened. No need for the romantic fluff. We can set aside the baggage left over from other generations. Take us right down to the fireside and share the story.
To that point, Hennessy tweeted earlier on May 1 that while some complained Fredericksburg 150 was “too much Yankee,” people might well complain that Chancellorsville 150 will be “too much Lee-Jackson.” He added, “Fact is: moving parts get the attention.” And tonight’s events running into the evening promise to continue following the course of the battle with a focus on those two leading figures.
As I left yesterday evening, the sun had set and I watched civil twilight turn to nautical twilight. Photos do not do justice to the “painted sky” yesterday evening.
Last year I was blessed with some great sunrises and sunsets associated with sesquicentennial events. I hope this is a sign that trend will continue. The photo was taken from the “Flank Attack” tour stop west of the visitor center. The park’s tour events pick up there this afternoon and we’ll follow Jackson’s attack and his mortal wounding.
If the cellular connection cooperates, I’ll add some photos from the field here later. Please check back and follow on twitter (https://twitter.com/caswain01).