A sudden call went out for more chairs as a large crowd of 81 Y’s Men of Meriden overflowed the room, meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, to attend a DVD production titled “Gettysburg – the battle that changed America” presented by local photographers Rich and Joan Hamel. This 50-minute historical program, the result of still photography by Rich and video photography by Joan along with some input from the Internet, featured fast-moving crisp imagery backed up by period sound clips (including Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! and John Brown’s Body Lies A-Mouldering in the Grave) and a dramatic series of layouts and transitions edited into the presentation.
The presentation started with imagery of present day Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), featuring townsfolk in period attire, an extensive parade replete with fife and drum bands and horseback-riding Union and Confederate cavalry, reenactments of battles, a visit to the Gettysburg National Cemetery (accommodating only Union bodies – the Confederate remains were later shipped south for burial in Virginia and the Carolinas), and an audio clip of President’s Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Next up were photos of the three-day-battle’s leading officers, accompanied by a short narration about each. Confederate leaders included Robert E. Lee (Commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia), George Pickett, “Jeb” Stuart, John Hood and several others. Union leaders included George Meade (Commander of the Army of the Potomac, appointed just three days before), George Custer, Abner Doubleday and John Buford along with other officers.
And then a visual recounting of each day of this historic battle. Day One (July 1, 1863) saw Meade’s troops arriving first and securing the high ground, a critical advantage. Lee’s troops marched northward, engaging in the Battle of the Brickyard and battles for Little and Big Round Top, resulting in an overall victory for the Confederates on this day. Day Two, resulting in 9000 casualties on each side, included the Union victory at Culp’s Hill, and battles at Devil’s Den and Little Round Top, and a desperate (ammunition running low) but successful bayonet charge by Union soldiers to hold the high ground.
Day Three, which started with a feeling of imminent victory by Lee, saw Custer’s Charge (a violent collision of cavalry forces soon embroiled in hand-to-hand saber fighting), and Pickett’s Charge which unsuccessfully launched 12,500 Confederate troops over three quarter miles of open field, sustaining heavy losses. The Union won the day, causing Lee’s first defeat and sending his army retreating south. There were about 50,000 casualties from both sides during this three-day battle. The sole civilian casualty: Jennie Wade who was struck by a stray bullet while in her home.
Retired or semi-retired men from Meriden or surrounding communities, interested in attending a Y’s Men of Meriden meeting, are invited to call (203) 238-7784 or visit the www.ysmenofmeriden.com website.