Gettysburg National Military Park and the Gettysburg Foundation held a special ceremony on October 6 to recognize years of joint effort to preserve the iconic Cemetery Ridge on the Gettysburg battlefield. The ceremony marked the end of the Gettysburg Foundation’s role in rehabilitating Cemetery Ridge, its work now completed.
“This event was purposefully timed with the start of our Fall Muster,” explained Dr. Matthew Moen, president of the Gettysburg Foundation. “The timing is a small way of recognizing the volunteer work of the Friends of Gettysburg, led by Barbara Finfrock, along with donations totaling $2.6 million to preserve Cemetery Ridge for future generations.”
In prepared remarks, Moen thanked Gettysburg National Military Park leadership and staff for their efforts, noting that with a final gift from the Foundation, “we bring to an end our role in one of the nation's most compelling and successful park preservation projects.”
The celebration was kicked off by Chief of Interpretation, Christopher Gwinn, who provided historical context to this portion of the battlefield. He used the example of 136th New York Volunteer Regiment that occupied Ziegler’s Grove, battling Confederate sharpshooters in the southern end of town. “During the entire three days, the men of the 136th New York were involved in nothing more than skirmishing,” noted Gwinn. “And yet, astoundingly, the regiment suffered over one hundred casualties including seventeen killed, a testament to the ferocity of the fighting here.”
“All of us here remember what used to be on this spot,” continued Gwinn. “There was the old visitor center, the bus and car parking lot, the Cyclorama building, a battlefield altered for a parking lot, rather than a parking lot designed for a battlefield. And we can congratulate ourselves, rightly so, for being the generation and the agents for taking this landscape, and from it removing the last unnecessary vestiges of commercialism and development, and giving it back to the men who fought and died here, and in so doing, giving it back to ourselves and to our children. On behalf of the National Park Service, many thanks to the Friends of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Foundation for your time and energy and effort in helping make this transformation possible.”
Thomas Forsyth, Acting Superintendent at Gettysburg National Military Park and the Eisenhower National Historic Site, presented the Gettysburg Foundation with a certificate in honor of the many contributions of the Friends and/or donors to this project.
“For the first time in decades this portion of Cemetery Ridge will have its historic appearance, offering fresh experiences for a new generation of Gettysburg visitors as well as those returning visitors who, for years, have been drawn here by the power of this place, Gettysburg,” said Forsyth. “The National Park Service Staff lent their multi-layered skills, expertise, pride and enthusiasm to this project whether they were researching the historic landscapes, reconstructing walls, relocating monuments or interpreting the story, all for the memory of the soldiers brave deeds and the benefit of our visitors.”
Gettysburg National Military Park will continue to preserve and upgrade the area in perpetuity.