Saturday, May 05, 2007

...And Leave The Driving To Us

Soldiers weren't the only ones to descend on the small town of Gettysburg during the first days of July in 1863. Nor were they the only ones to linger in that town after the battle was over.

As they did throughout the entire war, groups of friends and relatives, along with others who did not personally know the warriors, followed them from place to place. Even during this deadliest conflict in our nation's history there were tourists visiting the arenas of war soon after the smoke and dust had settled - often before the dead and wounded were removed from the scene. During our recent on-site Elderhostel in Gettysburg we learned that visitors actually picnicked on the site of that battle while wounded soldiers lay nearby calling out for food and water - not that dissimilar from our willingness to watch television's saturation coverage of, for example, the recent Virginia Tech shootings.

On a lighter note it is popularly believed that the origin of the word "hooker" comes the female camp followers of the charismatic Civil War General "Fighting Joe" Hooker. While it seems to be true that the commander did have such an erotic entourage trailing him throughout the conflict, etymologically speaking the term was already being used to refer to prostitutes as early as 1835.

It is undoubtedly true that the majority of these caravans of supporters traveled via the same means of transportation as the soldiers - by foot and/or horse. However this recently discovered albumen print by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady shows that at least one high ranking officer was able to provide much better accommodations for his band of groupies.

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