By Bob Taylor
During the American Civil War, the three-day Battle of Gettysburg (July 1–3, 1863) was one of the costliest and bloody clashes of that conflict. The battle and the overall campaign cost both Union and Confederate forces some 57,000 casualties (equal toAmerican deaths in the Vietnam War).
Recently 14 Army ROTC MS ivs (seniors) of the Florida Tech Panther Battalion traveled to the battlefield in Pennsylvania to do a tour and battle analysis as part of their military training before being commissioned as Army 2nd Lieutenants. Professor of military science Lt. Col. T.J. O’connor and senior military instructor Master Sergeant George Fitzke led this “staff ride,” accompanied by associate dean and professor of history Bob Taylor, a Civil War specialist.
Cadets took turns delivering briefs on aspects of the battle while standing on the actual sites themselves and listened as O’Connor, Fitzke and Taylor gave additional insights on what modern Army officers can learn from battle. Two of the highpoints were cadets walking the almost one-mile route of the doomed Confederate attack known as Pickett’s Charge. Next, O’Connor led a Panther Battalion “assault” on the steep rocky slope of Little Round Top, site of a crucial segment of the battle.
Next, cadets visited Fort Myer near Washington, D.C., for a special briefing from Col. Johnny K. Davis, commander of the 3rth Infantry Regiment known as the “Old Guard.” This elite unit guards the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery as well as conducts thousands of military funerals and other events each year. A treat was a tour of the regimental stables where dozens of horses are housed; each one involved in almost every ceremony on the post.
Lastly, cadets visited Arlington National Cemetery itself, watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and hearing “Taps” played as wreaths were laid by a grateful nation. A final walk in the section of the cemetery holding the honored dead from Iraq and Afghanistan brought home again the price of freedom paid by American soldiers from Gettysburg to today.