It’s About Being a Grown Up

Irish Catholic Cross Grave


So, about being a grown up, about getting over it, about moving on with a new, better life . . .

I have a friend who just took a run through the Gettysburg battlefield while doing some research. He took this picture there.

The Battlefield

Gettysburg, he relates, is an eclectic experience: peaceful, evocative, serene, haunting, bewildering in a ‘what made them do this’ sort of way, fascinating, somber, bucolic . . . . occasionally annoyingly kitschy, overbearing, celebratory where it most definitely should not be.

He’s referring not to the gift and antique shops that crowd the edges of the park vying for space with fast food restaurants and cheap hotels, but to the monuments that litter chunks of the fields.

Gettysburg has some overwhelming, incongruous, baroque monuments, many of which shatter sight lines and loom over the visitor. If it looks as if there were a competition among the states to outdo each other in honoring (or exaggerating) their contribution/sacrifice at the worst battle ever fought in the Americas, it is because there most certainly was.

The Wheatfield

There is, however, a remarkable exception. It is tucked away in a corner of the Wheatfield, scene of a vicious, incredibly brutal, afternoon long fight on July 2nd, 1863, that eviscerated a Union Corps and where the Confederacy came within a hairsbreadth of breaking the Union line. It is nestled in a copse of trees in a still, quiet, sun dabbled section of field a little bit off the usual visitor’s trek and well away from traffic.

The Irish Brigade Monument. By July, 1863, the Irish Brigade, a potent Union fighting force, had been bled white. The Wheatfield ended them. Even at first glance, the monument is visceral. A bronze and green granite Celtic Cross, curled around the base is a sleeping, life-sized bronze Irish Wolfhound.

The Sculptor 

Here’s the neat thing about this, I think, and a lesson for everyone who’s ever been in conflict with another person for when the conflict is over: the sculptor chosen by the state of New York, Rudolph O’Donovan was well-known, Irish, and specifically requested by the survivors of the brigade.

He was very much touched and honored to be asked to create something for a group of men he admired. O’Donovan was also at Gettysburg on July 2nd. He was an artillery man in the Confederate Army directly across from the Irish Brigade. As the survivors knew. 

Just saying, adults move on.