Visitors to Gettysburg may learn that the United States Army established a camp for tank training on the battlefield, known as Camp Colt, in 1918; indeed, this is what first brought Dwight D. Eisenhower to Gettysburg as a young officer. The camp lasted less than two years; nevertheless, one can still find traces of the camp on the battlefield, the town, and Gettysburg College.
Moreover, on various staff rides over the years, visitors (including military officers) have speculated on how one might have used more modern weapons to attack or defend at Gettysburg. Even some of the tools available at the time would have been helpful, as in the case of the observation balloon.
But now … you can explore such questions for yourself …
… wait, there’s more …
… and there you have it.
Speaking of tanks, a docent at the Sherman House Museum (Lancaster, Ohio), told me that she once asked a group of children if anyone knew where General Sherman’s name came from — thinking of Chief Tecumseh.
One of the children said “Oh, yes, he was named after the Sherman tank.”
The BIG question is how much destruction did these machines do to the historic landscape of the battlefield?
Kinda late now ! 😉
Actually, the NPS has done a wonderful job, albeit in fits and starts until about 15 years ago. Camp Colt has pretty much been restored to it 1863 condition [minus the Bliss Farm].
The current program, now about 15 years since it started has worked miracles, one of the first of which was uncovered by Brooks Simpson on the south face of Little Round Top. Long covered by vegetation, the flank markers of the 83rd Pennsylvania directly in front of the 44th New York position [one of the rare regiments without flank markers at Gettysburg], showing the more sophisticated dedefense in depth set up by Strong Vincent after about ten minutes of surveying the ground, rather than the traditional line of defense around the Military Crest of LRT.
Other areas which the changes have affected the interpretation of the Battle include the side of Oak Hill, where O’Neal’s Brigade assaulted Baxter’s Brigade and was repulsed, and the thinning of the trees on the north slope of Culp’s Hill, which showed the severe landscape the Confederates had to ascend to assault General Greene’s New York Brigade.
Of late, the lower or back entrance off Baltimore Street has been pretty much cleared, and Power’s Hill, which was a good elevated platform for Union Artillery supporting Culp’s Hill’s defenders have also be restored to 1863 condition. An historic farm near Powers Hill was also acquired.
All over the Battlefield non-historic tree lots, and buildings have been removed, while historic fences, tree lots and orchards have been planted. In aa dozen years or so, those young trees and orchards will have matured, so the 165th anniversary ought to put folks on a Battlefield looking more like it did in July of 1863 than it has since the Battle.
As for Camp Colt, it has been restored for a long time, as part of Camp Colt was on the fields of Pickett’s Charge.
One major issue is still being addressed: human caused erosion. Horse trails, cross country bicycling, car parking along roads, foot traffic, and now the off road use of Segways for tour groups. The worst situation is the foot traffic caused erosion on Little Round Top. Discussions of these problems started 15 years ago at the start of the current management plan for restoring the Battlefield to 1863 conditions. Once an area is restored, it must be maintained in that condition. As restored areas are re-opened, the foot traffic increases. Ongoing maintenance is expensive, and some damage may be irreversible. So the talk sometimes drifts towards using NPS operated vehicles to move the public around the Battlefield and restricting their walking experience. No one really wants that but at some point the damage may become too great to allow further public-caused damage. As it is now, there are trouble spots, like LRT, and the High Water Mark…both very high foot traffic areas, while the remainder of the Park rebounds year in and year out from the damage caused by the visitors. So extreme measures are not in the immediate future, but some day…
Your point WG about foot traffic is well taken. After some thought about this, I do suppose that the erosion by vistor’s foot traffic after all these years has probably contributed much more to the re-configuration of the landscape than a handful of tanks. Thanks for your informative post.
I appreciate your comments, and I hope you are still monitoring this. You wrote:
“Camp Colt has pretty much been restored to it 1863 condition [minus the Bliss Farm].” I am preparing for a presentation on the Bliss Farm site and I wonder if you could be more specific about alterations to the Bliss Farm topography, aside from the destruction of the buildings and orchard? Many thanks.
Check out what they are doing with Vicksburg National Military Park. Maybe someday we will be able to see the Railroad Redoubt from the Jackson Road, and Ed Bearss can stop claiming that Grant lied when he said he could see McClernand hadn’t made much progress on May 22nd (12 men in an isolated salient and 50 men in a ditch is not equal to “part possession of two forts” no matter how you cut it).
I would say that this is a dumb idea for a game, but then there’s a film in development in Hollywood that has a Marine Amphibious Brigade fall into a time warp/wormhole/temporal rift in the space-time continuum in Afghanistan and go back to conquer the Roman Empire. Or something.
There was a sci-fi book about some of Napoleon’s troops being kidnapped from the Moscow retreat, and, of course, also the Jannisaries series.
I can provide a link to an entire message thread on a blog which discusses this.
I slammed it by talking logistics…they hate when I do that.
As for this game? Having led staff rides at Gettysburg I always slam my participants when they try to bring bring current thought into real events and start with the ‘Why didn’t Longstreet just…?” type stuff. I answer he didn’t and Jackson was dead…stick to the facts.
This game falls into the same category.