Defeat at Gettysburg

Scott finally exited the plane and walked into the terminal at Harrisburg International Airport in Pennsylvania’s capital. He had been planning this vacation for a year now and at last, tomorrow, he and his wife Kathy would drive the short distance to Gettysburg to spend a couple of days. Then, they would head east and south to Bel Air, in Maryland, where Scott grew up and they would drive past his old house. In fact, Scott intended to stop and knock on the door in the hopes that whoever lived there now would allow him to look around.

Scott had met Kathy in Texas where he had worked for the past 24 years and this was Kathy’s first trip East. She had heard repeatedly about Scott’s trips to Gettysburg when he was a boy, especially about the Gettysburg Wax Museum, which Scott began to describe—again—while they walked out to find their rental car.

“It’s the coolest thing, Kathy.  There must be 100 exhibits in there. . . . Seventy-Five, anyway. The final scene where they narrate Picket’s Charge and wax figures are fighting on three sides of the room—well, they make ‘em look like they’re fighting—while little miniature explosions go off that produce real smoke . . . it’s just the coolest thing! You’ll love it!”

Kathy smiled. She wasn’t sure she would love it, but she loved seeing her husband turn into a little boy at the very thought of returning to the scene of one of his most precious memories.

They didn’t even eat the Continental breakfast offered by the hotel the next morning, but instead headed immediately to Gettysburg where they dined at the General Lee Restaurant and then headed straight to the Wax Museum. Scott told Kathy that starting here would give her a proper introduction to those great events from long ago. He browsed about the souvenir shop in the lobby and looked intently at a set of toy Civil War soldiers before announcing to Kathy that he thought he’d get a post card when they were finished with the tour.

The little light above the entrance door blinked green and the attendant at the curtains announced that those waiting in the lobby could now enter the museum proper. He unhooked the velvet rope and Scott and Kathy started down the darkened hallway that would tell them the story of America’s Greatest Conflict. They paused in front of the first exhibit.

“It doesn’t look like they’ve dusted John Brown since you were a kid,” whispered Kathy.

Scott’s nod went undetected in the dark.

Several exhibits along, Scott noticed that the tip of General Meade’s sword was broken. Just a little further down, General Lee was surrendering to General Grant and in no time at all they were in the big room, where Pickett’s glorious charge was recreated in glorious wax. They took their seats and faced the stage upon which several darkened figures stood frozen in their desperate poses. Somewhere above them a speaker crackled and a solemn voice began to narrate the events of July 3, 1863.

When the battle commenced, there were no explosions, except those heard on the tape playing over the loudspeaker and smoke did not fill the room. Only a handful of figures played out the greatest charge in American military history as lights from various angles flashed upon them in various combinations.

Except for the fact that General Pickett was once again defeated, everything was different.

Suddenly, the desire to visit his old house vanished. He wouldn’t ruin that, too.

The lights came up.

Kathy took Scott’s arm. “Is it just like you remembered?”

“No. It’s just like it’s always been.”

About Austin Gisriel

You know the guy that records a baseball game from the West Coast in July and doesn't watch it until January just to see baseball in the winter? That's me. I'm a writer always in search of a good story, baseball or otherwise.
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14 Responses to Defeat at Gettysburg

  1. Bonnie Lane says:

    Oh…you’re no weaver of fairy tales … are you! 🙂 … the world … viewed in all its realism … which is why it is such a relief for me to step out of this realm into my own imagination whenever possible.


    • Bonnie, I DO believe that you can go home again, but it can be very difficult and you have to pick the right path. Some times, maybe most often, memories are best left as that. I think the trick is not necessarily to “go home again,” but to find new homes that recall the warmth and joy of the old ones. As always, thanks for commenting! I’ve come to count on yours as the first response!!


  2. Cindy Everly says:

    I’ve had this experience!!


  3. Don Hoover says:

    There are many times when I past the old homestead in Hydes, on my way home from work, and wonder (and wish) I could stop by and ask if I could stop in and take a look. I have many fond memories of that house, and the gracious welcome I always received from you and your mom and dad. I always felt to be part of your family.


    • Don, I have many fond memories, too, of course, and I debate whether I should ever go back. The funny thing is that the inspiration for this story was our experience in Ocean City’s Haunted House. We sure remembered that experience the way we wanted to! That became the punch line to the story, but it doesn’t always work out so well.


  4. Hello Austin

    My cousin sent me recently a link to a real estate site with pictures of the house my grandfather built (Byron Bennett, btw), which is for sale in Ipswich, Massachusetts. The house as I knew it is gone. The frame is there, but inside and out, everything has been “upgraded,” ripping the structure of just about everything that made it charming. Like Scott in your story, I’d prefer to remember the house the way it used to be. DBS


    • Mark Twain returned to his boyhood home in Hannibal at the age of 75 or so. He remarked that if he came back in another 50 years, that his old home would be the size of a dollhouse. Funny how that works, David, and yes; some experiences are best if they are not RE-experienced.


  5. Don Hoover says:

    I remembered the blog you posted about visiting the site where Memorial Stadium was awhile ago. The memories there (for me anyway) are best kept in my mind’s eye. Not sure I would want to go back now, for I may be disappointed. Thanks for another great story, although I don’t think this is “fiction”, but more “fact”


  6. Al Smith says:

    At least Scott and Kathy made it to their destination. We are so sorry you and Martha where unable to escape the frozen north to join us here in the sunshine state. Airplanes and winter weather are a bad combination but we’ll make up for it in the spring and spring training in Florida.


  7. Don Hoover says:

    Al and Austin, does that mean that spring and the Frederick Keys are around the corner? I think that is something the three of us can agree, we would like to go back!


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