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Eisenhower in front of one of the camp’s training tanks. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

More than 8,700 Confederate Army veterans lived to attend the 50th anniversary reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913. They camped on the field where General George Pickett and his men had made their brave charge more than mile across an open field into the cannons on the Union Army in July 1863.

 

Veterans of that charge would have been among the old men attending the reunion. They would have looked at the field covered with tents where the veterans camped during the reunion and remembered that the ground had been covered with bodies 50 years earlier. In that desperate charge, many of the unprotected soldiers had been felled by bullets.

Had the veterans returned five years later, they still would have seen tents on the field where so much Confederate blood had been shed. They would have also seen something that would have given them pause, for had Pickett’s men had it in 1863 rumbling across that open field as it was in 1918, Pickett’s Charge would have succeeded.

Tanks in War

Though the idea of a tank had been around since Leonardo da Vinci conceived of an armored wagon, the idea of using a tank in war didn’t come about until 1903, and then, it still took until 1915 to develop a practical model. With the start of World War I and the United States’ entry into the conflict, the U.S. Army began to look for a way to integrate tanks into the service.

The Camp with No Name

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Camp Colt. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

 

An unnamed U.S. Army camp was first established on the Gettysburg battlefield in May 1917. The reason it had no name, according to the 1918 Report of the National Military Park Commission, was because “we believe it is the practice when the location is at a conspicuous place on United States land, notably battle fields, such as Gettysburg.” The initial location was part of the Codori farm and land where the Round Top branch of the Gettysburg and Harrisburg Railroad was located. The railroad was one of the reasons the army chose the location. It made it easy to move men and equipment directly into and out of the camp.

The camp soon grew as more and more soldiers and supplies were shipped to the camp. Each regiment had 15 or 16 wooden barracks that needed to be constructed. These were not insulated barracks or even fully completed. This temporariness of the construction showed that the camp would not be suitable as a winter quarters for men.

Even though the land where General Pickett had charged would soon be trampled by soldiers once again, the U.S. Army was not ignorant of the historical significance of the park land. In a letter to the Gettysburg Battlefield Commission, the commander of the 61st U.S. Infantry wrote, “…every effort will be made by myself to see that the enlisted men of the 61st infantry do not molest in any way, the monuments, trees, shrubbery, woods, etc. of the Gettysburg National Park.’”

As the soldiers were shipped into the camp, three regiments of infantry were housed on the east side of Emmitsburg Road and one regiment was on the west side. An additional regiment was housed on the west side of the road along with a bakery, hospital and motor ambulance pool. Two more regiments were housed near where the Gettysburg Recreation Park is located.

Water and sewer lines were constructed to deal with the sanitary issues thousands of men would cause. The number of men at the camp grew to 8,000 at its peak, which was roughly the same population as Gettysburg at the time. The men trained through the summer, but by the end of November only a small detachment of men remained because the camp was not suitable to house soldiers through the cold Pennsylvania winters.

 

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Passing Camp Colt on Emmitsburg Road. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Camp Colt

 

The army camp didn’t stay deserted for too long. It was re-established on March 6, 1918, with Capt. Dwight Eisenhower commanding. However, this wasn’t going to be the same camp that had been run in 1917. It was going to be a training site for America’s newest weapon, the tank.

“The Tank Corps was new. There were no precedents except in basic training and I was the only officer in the command. Now I really began to learn about responsibility,” Eisenhower wrote in At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends.

Running the camp was Eisenhower’s first independent command. He was given the job of training soldiers to run a piece of equipment that hadn’t been tested in battle yet and to make matters worse, he had to conduct this training without any tanks.

The new camp was named for Samuel Colt, the inventor of the Colt Peacemaker, and the camp was called Camp Colt. Equipment for tank training was moved from Camp Meade in Maryland to Gettysburg where Camp Colt occupied 176 acres of the Codori farm, 10 acres of the Smith farm and 6 acres of Bryan House place. Much of the current Colt Park housing development was also part of the camp.

The training program Eisenhower developed had soldiers practicing with machine guns mounted on flatbed trucks instead of tanks. They learned to repair engines and to use Morse Code. “At times, HQ entertained English officers who had early war experience with the first English constructed tanks on French battle fields. They came to advise on training. Then again, a few members of Congress would arrive to get a peep at the one and only tin can of a tank which was used for partial training of tankers, especially those small men, who could easily climb into its interior. A 200-pound man just couldn’t,” recalled George Goshaw in a 1954 Gettysburg Times article. He had served at the camp under Eisenhower.

Each time a call for tankers to join the fighting in Europe came, battalions of men were moved to Hoboken, New Jersey, where they boarded transports to Europe. There, they joined the fighting climbing inside of real tanks and facing real bullets and mortars.

The camp did manage to get two Renault tanks to use by the time that summer arrived. Over the nine months the camp existed more than 9,000 men were trained to fight in the war.

By October, many of the men had been transferred elsewhere because there were no suitable winter quarters. However, worse than winter happened in the fall of 1918. Spanish Flu swept across the world killing an estimated 50 million people, including 160 at Camp Colt, according to the Gettysburg Star and Sentinel. At one point during the month, the bodies literally began to pile up. The dead soldiers were taken to the Grand Army of the Republic Hall in town until arrangements could be made to ship their bodies home. As each body was taken to the depot, it was given a military escort through Gettysburg.

Closing the Camp

As the flu abated, so did the war. The armistice ending World War I was signed on November 11, 1918. “When November 11th came upon us, Ike and his entire staff were saddened, knowing full well that they were cheated out of actual battle service,” Goshaw recalled. “From then on, there was a let down on training and the necessary daily duties.”

The orders to close Camp Colt came on November 17. Then remaining men were sent to Camp Dix in New Jersey for their final discharge.

Veterans of the camp soon began organizing reunions in Gettysburg, although there was no longer a camp to visit. The first reunion in the 1940’s was marked with the planting of the large pine tree on the east side of Emmitsburg Road south of the entrance to the old visitor’s center. The tree was planted in remembrance of the tankers’ fallen comrades. You can still see it today along with a commemorative plaque summarizing the history of Camp Colt.

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After the Civil War ended, a young 24-year-old veteran returned home and decided that he wanted to be a teacher. He found a job as the schoolmaster for the school in Grantsville, Md., which was then part of Allegany County, Md. Ross R. Sanner was a man who commanded men in battle, and he turned those leadership skills into educating a new generation of young citizens.

“The writer (editor of the Oakland Republican) had the privilege of being one of his primary pupils in 1868 and among the readers of The Republican are many who received their first instructions from this grand old pedagogue and who have ever since held him in grateful memory and high esteem,” Benjamin Sincell wrote in 1916.

Sanner was born in Lower Turkeyfoot Township in Somerset County, Pa., in 1842. He had answered the call for soldiers in 1861 and walked to Uniontown to enlist in the 85th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry as a 19-year-old private. He fought gallantly in various campaigns with his unit and soon started earning promotions, ending the war as a captain.

He was wounded at Folly Island in Charleston, S.C., and spent two months recovering in a hospital. He returned to duty and was injured a second time during the Battle of Petersburg. Sanner was fighting alongside his cousin, Norman Ream, when Ream was injured.

“He was six feet, two inches tall, and Captain Sanner carried him a mile on his shoulder to safety, the Cumberland Press reported. “Later Captain Sanner was wounded in the same battle and the pair became separated.”

It was this wound that caused him to be honorably discharged from the army on September 22, 1864, and he began collecting an invalid pension.

 

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Grantsville School prior to 1909. Photo courtesy of Alice Early.

 

Upon his return home, he attended the Iron City Business College in Pittsburgh and Mount Union College in Mount Union, Ohio. In 1866, he became a teacher in Grantsville, and also a husband when he married Alice C. Fuller.

He would eventually move on to teach in schools in Frostburg; Cumberland; Confluence, Pa.; and at the Soldiers’ Orphans’ School in Uniontown, Pa.

He moved to North Dakota for a number of years to try his hand at wheat farming, but teaching was his passion and he returned to the area once again and became the superintendent of schools in Oakland.

The in 1915, his career came full circle and returned to Grantsville to once again become the principal. They took up residence at the Casselman Hotel and Sanner enjoyed teaching with fewer responsibilities.

“In times of peace as well as of war he has stood by the best principles of government, and his influence over the minds of his pupils and those coming within his sphere has always been exerted for good,” according to Portrait and Biographical Record of the Sixth Congressional District of Maryland in 1898.

Three years after his return to his teaching roots, “Grantsville’s Grand Old School Teacher” passed away in Confluence at 76 years old from cirrhosis of the liver. He was buried at the Confluence Baptist Cemetery.

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Emmitsburg, Md., has a long history of both fires and fire protection. The Great Emmitsburg Fire of 1863 is considered the most-serious fire in the town’s history. By the time the flames sputtered out, 28 houses and nine businesses had been damaged or destroyed. Three of the four corners of the town square were black with fire and three of the towns four blocks were fire damaged. Other reports put the number of damaged buildings at 50 and half of the town destroyed. In actuality, probably about a quarter of the town burned, based on a population of slightly less than 1,000.

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Firefighting efforts improved in 1884 when water from the town’s newly built reservoir was piped under the street to fire hydrants. This provided a more-dependable supply of water to the engines. When the reservoir was dug and the water lines put in, The Emmitsburg Chronicle reported, “When it is considered that the reservoir is located 224 feet above the level of the square, any person can estimate the advantages that must accrue to the village when the improvement is completed. With proper hose at hand, it will scarce be possible for any great fire to occur here, and this security lessening the risks, must diminish the rates of insurance, and we trust that in due time the water power will be availed of for manufacturing purposes.”

Unfortunately, this did not prove to be true because Emmitsburg had its second great fire the following year.

Fire broke out in St. Joseph’s College just before noon on March 20, 1885, and quickly spread. Fighting fires in the large college buildings was too much for the firefighters with Vigilant Hose Company who were doing “grand work, but their efforts were, of course, unequal to the requirements,” according to The Frederick Daily News. Someone telegraphed for the help of fire companies from Frederick and Hagerstown. At the time, St. Joseph’s College was valued at $1 million and the total damage calculated at about $60,000.

What could be considered Emmitsburg’s third most-serious fire happened in December 1909 just days before Christmas. Shortly before noon, the roof of the Rowe property caught fire, which at the time was occupied by the Home Bakery, Harry Hopp, and Mr. Peters.

“The alarm was sounded but by the time a stream of water could be made to play on the burning roof the adjoining properties, the Reformed Church parsonage and the house occupied by Mrs. Virginia Gillelan were ablaze,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

Vigilant Hose Company combated the fire, but “A high wind aided the flames and for a time it was thought that nothing could be done to save the Rowe property although every effort was being made in that direction.”

Lulu Patterson then discovered that the Motter building occupied by Motter and Ruth Gillelan’s store was on fire. This split the efforts of the fire company as they now battled two fires. If that wasn’t enough, it was then discovered that the homes of H. W. Eyster and George T. Eyster were also on fire.

The firefighters didn’t give up, though.

“Inside of an hour the flames had been overcome and Emmitsburg, at least part of it, was saved,” The Gettysburg Times reported.

In all, 10 buildings were lost or damaged in the blaze.

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1918-flu-pandemic So it seems like everyone lately has the flu. Schools are sending warnings home to parents. Hospitals are telling patients with the flu not to come in. The Centers for Disease Control has said that is has hit epidemic level.

So how bad can it get?

The worst to date has been the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. It left about 50 million dead after just a couple months. I wrote about it in my novel October Mourning. I’ve also written about half a dozen articles about it and given a couple talks about it.I continue to be fascinated (scared?) by it.

It killed more people than World War I and in a shorter time frame, too, yet the war had the headlines during 1918. It was estimated that 675,000 Americans died from the Spanish Flu or 10 times more than died in the war.

It killed more people in one year than the Black Plague did in 4 years.

It was so devastating that human lifespan was reduced by 10 years in 1918.

CopsHere’s how it was described. One physician wrote that patients rapidly “develop the most vicious type of pneumonia that has ever been seen” and later when cyanosis appeared in patients “it is simply a struggle for air until they suffocate.” Another doctor said that the influenza patients “died struggling to clear their airways of a blood-tinged froth that sometimes gushed from their mouth and nose.”

Public meetings were canceled. Streetcars and other public transportation had to travel with windows open. Plus, you couldn’t spit on the street and needed to use a handkerchief when you cough or sneeze or face a fine in many places.

It wasn’t that the flu was particularly deadly. It was about 10 times deadlier than the average flu, or rather, it had a 2.5 percent mortality rate according to one report I read. While deadly for flu, there are diseases with a much higher mortality rate. The thing about those diseases is that they usually aren’t that contagious. I’ve read that the Spanish Flu struck half of the world’s population.

So turn it into a math problem.

A disease like Ebola kills about 50 percent of those who get it, but there were only something like 21,000 cases last year. So the chances of you catching Ebola, much less dying from it were unlikely.

However, Spanish Flu killed 2.5 percent of those who got it and you had a 50 percent chance of catching it. That means 15 out of every 1000 people in the world, regardless of whether they caught the flu or not, died.

Doctors and nurses, who were exposed more frequently to sick patients, caught the flu. Many died, leaving a heavier burden on those behind. They found themselves at even a greater risk of exposure.

Medical personnel weren’t the only ones affected. Trains struggled to run on time because of sick personnel. Few operators meant that fewer calls were getting through.

StreetcarUndertakers couldn’t keep up with the demand for new graves. Yet, in many places, the ground was frozen so the bodies had to be stored in piles in some towns.

Then the flu season ended and fewer cases were reported. There was a bit of a resurgence in early 1919, but the flu had already started mutating. The new form wasn’t as contagious, and by the fall, the flu was back to being just something that kept people home from work or school for a few days.

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Continental Square in York, Pa. Courtesy of the York History Center.

The metallic reverberating sound of gongs repeatedly sounded throughout downtown York, Pa., in August of 1925. It was a sound people recognized as the alert on a fire truck. Somewhere in York, a fire was burning.

 

“During the disturbance patrons of theaters, hurriedly snatched their wraps and fled from the amusement places to ‘go to the fire.’ Others telephoned or went to their homes,” The York Dispatch reported.

People attending a municipal band concert at Farquhar Park heard the gongs over the music and streamed out of the park, seeking the fire or their homes to make sure that it wasn’t burning.

The problem was that there was no fire. “A callithumpian band mounted on a truck which also carried, despite their objections the bride and bridegroom, coursed about downtown streets for about an hour last evening,” The York Dispatch reported.

According to the Merriam-Webster website, “callithumpian” is a word that dates back to 19th century England to describe a very boisterous gathering. A callithumpian band wasn’t a performing band. The musicians used noisemakers, such as pots, tin horns, and cowbells, more than instruments. In the case of this callithumpian band, one of the instruments was gongs with a tone that matched the fire gongs.

While the noise was certainly disturbing, because the bells and gongs mimicked those used by the city’s fire engines, it “gave people who heard but could not see the unique procession, the impression that the whole fire department was out hunting a blaze and could not find it,” the newspaper reported.

The groom was J. Morris Crum who had married Alice Thompson in late July in the Grace Evangelical Church. When they returned from their honeymoon to their home on East King Street, they were carried away to a truck by the serenaders.

At first the noise truck seemed content to circle Continental Square, but after it went around several times, Patrolmen Binder, whose beat the square, stopped the truck. He informed the driver that Mayor Ephraim Smyser Hugentugler had recently ruled that vehicles could not circle the square more than once.

“The information did not seem to discourage the celebrants, for they eliminated the square but kept in the central section of the city for some time afterward,” The York Dispatch reported.

After the band continued to cause concern among the citizens, several policemen stopped the truck along its new route. The driver of the truck produced a permit signed by the mayor and the police officers reluctantly let the loud band continue on.

It turns out that the permit was a fake, a fact that wasn’t discovered until the next day.

After an hour or so of noise and fear, the group on the truck finally tired and broke up.

Mayor Hugentugler was asked the next day why he had signed the permit and the mayor denied having done so.

“He said that if he had been in the city last night the party would have been arrested,” the newspaper reported.

He added that if something similar happened again, he would order the police to make “wholesale arrests” because the group’s actions had overstepped the bounds of propriety.

Hugentugler served as York’s mayor from 1916 to 1928. He was a man known to take strong actions. During World War I, he had banned anti-war meetings in the city and prohibited the publishing of anti-war literature, according to the Political Strange Names blog. Hugentugler, “even went as far as to erect a wooden bust of Kaiser Wilhelm in York’s Centre Square that citizens could pound a nail into (at the low price of ten cents a nail!),” the blog noted.

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hotdogSausages are the worlds first prepared food. They are made from ground meat, fat, salt and spices that are packed into a casing.

It was done originally not to create a delicious dish. It was done to keep meat from spoiling in the age before refrigeration. The word sausage comes from the Latin word salsus, which means salted or preserved.

It was also a way for butchers for use edible portions of animals, such as scraps and organ meat. The meat is ground and packed in a casing that was traditionally made from animal intestines. Today, it is made generally of collagen, cellulose or even plastic.

Once the casing is packed, it is preserved by curing, drying or smoking.

The Oldest Sausages

Sumeria is cited as the first place where sausages appeared around 3000 B.C.

Chinese sausage appeared around 589 B.C. and was made from lamb or goat meat.

As different countries discovered sausages, they also discovered different ways to prepare it with different spices to create their own flavors.

The Sausage in Literature

Sausages began to appear in literature centuries before the birth of Christ. Epicharmus wrote a comedy called The Sausage around 500 B.C.Blood sausage is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, written about 700 B.C. The passage reads:

“These goat sausages sizzling here in the fire –
we packed them with fat and blood to have for supper.
Now, whoever wins this bout and proves the stronger,
Let that man step up and take his pick of the lot!”

Banning Sausage

In ancient Roman, sausage became used in fertility rites and wound up being banned by the early Catholic church.

“By 228 A.D., sausages were popular at the Roman festival Lupercalia, where, some historians believe, they were used as more than a food during the fertility rites. The early Christian Church was scandalized and made eating sausage a sin. But sausage-eating persisted, and eventually the Church was forced to repeal the ban,” Janet Aird wrote in History Magazine.

Early in the 10th century in the Byzantine Empire, Emperor Leo the Wise outlawed the production of blood sausages following cases of food poisoning.

Variations on Sausages

Different peoples developed sausages differently depending on the spices and meats available.

In Bologna, Italy, the residents developed bologna. The frankfurter is believed to have originated in Frankfurt, Germany and the weiner in Vienna, Austria.

Aird said of Frankfurt, “This was probably where the bun was added, making sausages one of the first convenience food.”

Hot Dogs

Frankfurters made their way to America in the mid-19th Century. Charles Feltman, a German butcher, open his Coney Island hot dog stand in 1871 and sold 3,684 “dachshund” sausages in a milk roll during his first year in business.

Hot dogs gained popularity as an inexpensive, easy-to-eat food during the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. That same year they also became the food of choice in baseball parks.

“Today’s sausage on a bun was probably introduced during the St. Louis “Louisiana Purchase Exposition” in 1904 by Bavarian concessionaire, Anton Feuchtwanger. He loaned white gloves to his patrons to hold his piping hot sausages. Most of the gloves were not returned, and the supply began running low. He reportedly asked his brother-in-law, a baker, for help. The baker improvised long soft rolls that fit the meat–thus inventing the hot dog bun,” according to Roper Sausages web site.

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UntitledHere’s the cover for my next book, Secrets of the C&O Canal: Little-Known Stories and Hidden History Along the Potomac River. It is also the third book in my “Secrets” series.

Secrets of the C&O Canal contains 29 true stories about the canal and 67 photos and illustrations. My favorite stories include:

  • The chapter about where the original destination for the C&O Canal was. Hint: It wasn’t Cumberland, Md., or the Ohio River.
  • The sad story of the Spong family and how they met their tragic end on the canal. This one might give you nightmares if you’re a parent and even if you aren’t.
  • My third-favorite story is the one of about the connections between the canal and the JFK assassination. Let that sink in. The C&O Canal closed in 1924, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and this story takes place in 1964.

It should be no surprise that the C&O Canal is a favorite topic of mine. I’ve written three novels, a novella, and dozens of short stories about it. I’ve even got an outline for another non-fiction book that I want to write about the canal.

One thing that I find fascinating about the canal is that although it closed in 1924, we are still learning new things about it nearly 100 years later.

Secrets of the C&O Canal will retail for $19.95 when it is released next month. You can pre-order a signed copy and get it shipped free to your home (U.S. addresses only) at this link.

If you’d like to take a look at the other books in the series, take a peek at their Amazon pages.

3 Secrets

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