A Cheap Map to The Gettysburg Address
I heard this morning that the large relief map of the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield, on display for decades in the visitor center of the Gettysburg Historic Battleground and Cemetery, is for sale, cheap! At a recent auction of government surplus property, the 29 foot square relief map, complete with all of the little lights that display troop positions, campfire locations, and other historical facts, failed to entice even a single bidder, even with an opening bid of only $5.
According to the report I heard, Gettysburg has a new visitor center complete with a great new interactive Battle of Gettysburg exhibit, but I, along with millions of other Americans, distinctly remember this almost-actual-size light-up relief map of the Gettysburg battlefield that dominated the visitor center for generations.
From my public school education, I remember three things about the Battle of Gettysburg. 1. It was incredibly bloody 2. Lincoln gave a memorable speech that began “Four score and seven years ago…, after they buried all of the bodies 3. The way those flickering lights, that symbolized the union and confederate campfires, looked on that huge relief map when they turned the lights off in the visitor center. I remember that map fondly. I remember thinking the lights were cool, and I think it is the largest relief map I’ve ever seen, so that map has some significance for me, even if the Civil War doesn’t.
Millions of foreign tourists, and hundreds of millions of Americans have gazed at that map, and marveled at the dozens of lights that illustrate and illuminate it. No one really understands the Battle of Gettysburg any better as a result. Still, that map never fails to make an impression, and many of us saw it for the first time at an impressionable age. For the living population, that one relief map amounts to at least 30% of our national memory of the Civil War. Why doesn’t anyone want it?
Thousands of people spend lots of money on period costumes and weapons, so they can spend their weekends reenacting grisly Civil War battles. Surely, one of those nutjobs wants a giant relief map of the Gettysburg Battlefield. Apparently not, I guess watching blinking lights on a big map just doesn’t compare to the thrill of shooting your own gun and bayoneting your buddies on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
Still someone ought to know what to do with this one-of-a-kind classic piece of Americana. Off hand, I suggest slot car racing. Think about the road course you could build on an 851 square foot relief map. You could set up a huge eight-lane Grand Prix style slot car track on it. Call it the Gettysburg 500 Speedway.
These days, kids seem to like those radio controlled cars more than slot cars. Wouldn’t it be fun to race your radio controlled dune buggy all over the Historic Gettysburg Battlefield and Cemetery…in your own basement? Ask your parents to buy it for you. It’s only $5.
Maybe a shopping mall could use it. They have the space, what with all of the store closures and everything. They could dress it up as “Santaland” for Christmas. They could glue on a few miniature Christmas trees, candy canes and animatronic elves, and cover the whole bloody battleground in a thick layer of phony snow. Santa, in his reindeer-drawn sleigh could fly around on a wire overhead. It’d probably be the best $5 they’d ever spent.
I wonder how the Gettysburg relief map would stand up to the elements. I mean, you can hardly buy a plastic tarp for $5. I’d think an imaginative homeless person could make some kind of temporary shelter out of all of that material. So what, if it’s all bumpy like Gettysburg. They might even be able to use the little lights for household illumination, but no, not one bid, not even for $5.
Apparently nobody cares enough about this icon of American history to fill it with human excrement and used syringes and abandon it by the river. Is that a tragedy or what?