Wednesday, May 22, 2013

On Tour with Captain Long - Part 1

There is hardly anything I enjoy more than heading out to the Gettysburg battlefield with those who are eager to see the sites and learn about the battle. Over the years, I've lead many tours for friends and family. I've even developed my own binder of tour resources, including many maps and first-person accounts of the battle. When guiding new visitors, I often experiment with different tour routes and stops, always seeking to create the best battlefield experience that I can. To know the battlefield takes years of study. To successfully convey that knowledge to others takes a completely different set of skills. Luckily, Gettysburg has many individuals who have mastered the art of guiding visitors. The National Park Service offers a diverse array of excellent interpretive programs, while the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides has specialized in expertly timed two and three hour tours that provide visitors with a broad understanding of how the battle unfolded.

Guiding in Gettysburg has a long history. The first guides could be found in the immediate aftermath of the battle. It didn't take Gettysburg residents long to understand the importance of preserving the fields where the armies had fought. Within weeks of the battle, they had taken step to preserve several important locations. By April of 1864, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association (GBMA) had been chartered as the battlefield's caretaker.

In the immediate years after the Civil War, Gettysburg attracted few visitors. The wounds of the war were fresh, and many Americans wanted to move on with their lives rather than dwell in the bloody past. In the late 1870s that all began to change. The first tourist groups to take an interest in visiting the battlefield were veterans themselves. In 1878, the Grand Army of the Republic held its annual encampment at Gettysburg. This week-long visit energized veterans to begin the great task of turning Gettysburg into the memorial field that it is today. Within a few years, the Grand Army of the Republic had seized control of the GBMA, and veterans organizations throughout the North began to express an interest in placing monuments on the field. Throughout the 1880s the GBMA began to acquire more land holdings and erect avenues to allow access to the battle lines. Monuments also began to appear, and with those monuments came veteran organizations to attend dedication ceremonies and reunions. Suddenly, Gettysburg was a booming tourist destination, and the demand for battlefield guides began to grow.

The Harrisburg and Gettysburg Railroad was a sign of the growing tourist economy in Gettysburg. A railroad connection from Hanover, Pennsylvania had operated since 1858, arriving at a station on Carlisle Street. With the growing interest in visiting the battlefield, however, the Harrisburg & Gettysburg Railroad Company saw an opportunity to open another line. This new line approached town from the northwest, along Oak Ridge, and arrived at a depot on Washington Street. From here, a 2.5 mile branch line ran south, carrying tourists to battlefield station stops: Hancock Station along Cemetery Ridge, and Round Top Station, behind the Round Tops. Here the Railroad built Round Top Park, complete with a pavilion and a dance hall, and other amusements, to attract tourist groups.

This ad for Hotel Gettysburg, including a reference to Captain Long's guiding service, appeared in an
1896 edition of Long's Gettysburg: How the Battle was Fought.

With the opening of the new line, more excursion trains began to arrive in Gettysburg, filled with veterans and other tourists interested in seeing the sites. A thriving economy began to develop around the arrival of these visitors. A visitor arriving at the depot on Washington Street found the Eagle Hotel just down the street for easy accommodations, or the Gettysburg Hotel nearby. They also discovered a number of livery stables in the area that offered guided tours of the battlefield by carriage. These guide services were often affiliated with the hotels. A patron of the Gettysburg Hotel, for instance, would find that easy access to one of the most prominent guides in town, Captain James Thomas Long.
Captain James T. Long. Image Source: The Sixteenth
Decisive Battle of the World
, Google Books

Born in Little Britain, Lancaster County in 1843, Long was just 18-years old when he enlisted in Company B of the 99th Pennsylvania in June of 1861. He rose to the rank of corporal, but in November of 1861, he was injured by falling timber, and then fell ill with Typhoid fever. Incapacitated by his illness, Long was ruled unfit for further service and discharged in April of 1862. Yet he recovered, and sought to return to military service. After several failed attempts to pass medical examinations, he finally succeeded in enlisting for six months' service in Company G of the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry in June of 1863. Company G saw service around Harpers Ferry that fall. In winter, Long reenlisted for three-years' service. The regiment was sent to Washington in the spring of 1864, dismounted, and equipped as infantry. It joined the Army of the Potomac's 5th Corps in June, and served there through the end of the war. During this time, Long rose to the rank of Sergeant Major, and then was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant of Company A. His obituary in the Adams County News reports that he received a promotion to 1st lieutenant in the last campaign, and was brevetted a captain. After the war, Long married a woman from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and lived for a time in Montgomery, Alabama. The 1880 Census found Long living in Philadelphia. He found employment in the railroad business as a traveling passenger agent. It was in this capacity that Long arrived in Gettysburg in 1884, employed by the brand new Harrisburg & Gettysburg Railroad.

Whatever brought him to Gettysburg, Long soon found his calling there. He began to devote himself to learning the history of the battle, and by 1886 he was out of the Railroad business and studying the battle full time. Long joined with another guide, Allie Holtzworth, to operate a livery stable in rear of the Gettysburg Hotel. In 1890 he published his own guidebook, called by locals "Captain Long's Red Book." This book went through multiple printings and official titles. You can find it on Google Books today under the titles Gettysburg: How the Battle was Fought and The 16th Decisive Battle of the World.

So what was it like to tour the Gettysburg battlefield in the late 19th century? How would the visitor experience of one of Captain Long's patrons differ from the experience of a visitor today, perhaps one who has hired a Licensed Battlefield Guide? What was Captain Long's tour route? How did he interpret some of the major controversies of the battle? In my next post I will take a look at what some primary sources tell us about touring the field with Captain Long.
A note on sources: For a great look at early guiding and the history of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides, see Frederick Hawthorne's A Peculiar Institution: The Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides.

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