The Power of Mother Nature

by EJW on October 30, 2007 · 0 comments

Cross-posted from my blog:

Several weeks ago, the monument to the 6th New York Cavalry on McPherson’s Ridge at Gettysburg took a direct hit by a bolt of lighting, which nearly blew the monument apart. I took this photo on October 21. Here’s a press release from the National Park Service relating to the damage to the monument:

Gettysburg National Military Park News Release

For Release: October 30, 2007
Contact: Katie Lawhon
Phone: 717/ 334-1124 x452

Gettysburg’s 6th New York Cavalry Monument Damaged by Lightning

Officials at Gettysburg National Military Park are still assessing the damage done by a lightning strike on October 9 th that seriously damaged the monument to the 6th New York Cavalry.

The monument dates to 1889 and is composed of rough hewn and smooth granite, standing 26 feet high on a 14 x 10 foot base. It has a tower with turrets at each corner. Horse heads cap the pilasters. The monument features a bronze relief on the west face and an information tablet on the east side. It was designed by Frederick and Field and is located near the center of Buford Avenue, in the northwest part of the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Components of the stonework were blown free by the strike, and many of the stone components were displaced when mortar joints failed.

The park’s monument preservation experts have stored loose pieces of the monument and plan to stabilize it for the winter season using straps and possibly tarps.

According to Vic Gavin, the head of the park’s monument preservation branch, “The damage may be even worse inside the structure where lightning superheated the moisture that is naturally present in the stone and mortar.”

“We may have to totally disassemble it to repair the damage,” said Gavin. “Because of staff limitations, we will very likely need to use a private-sector restoration firm.”

National Park Service damage estimates are in the $100,000 range.

A park neighbor reported hearing lightning in the area at the approximate time of the strike. The last known lightning strike on a Gettysburg monument was in the 1930s on the 58 th New York monument which is nearby.

I got to see the damage to the monument myself two weeks ago, and the power of nature really is very impressive. One of the turrets was blown clean off. If a monument had to be damaged, at least it was by Mother Nature and not by some drunken imbecile running his pick-up truck into it, as has happened all too frequently on the 11th Corps line.

Nevertheless, repairing this treasure is going to be a BIG job. Let’s hope that the National Park Service is up to it.

Eric Wittenberg


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