Monday, December 14, 2009

Jeff King: Wrightsville, Pennsylvania

The last of Jeff's posts from the area around York PA.

A historic river town, Wrightsville was a key stop on the Army of Northern Virginia travels. Had events been different here, the war may have taken a very Southern turn for success.

As is often the case for me, the original monuments from decades ago are the neatest.

A dual cannon stone marker donated by the Federal government at the intersection of Fourth and Hellam streets commemorates the farthest eastern advance of Confederate troops. The Rewalt House and its storyboard are across the street at 247 Hellam St. It is refreshing that the story of Confederate kindness isn’t completely forgotten here.

Few Civil War stops are as enjoyable as the Diorama at 124 Hallam St. Was the first Black casualty of the War for Emancipation here at the Battle of Wrightsville? Why was the Wrightsville Bridge burned? Why did water buckets to fight the fire suddenly appear long after the Rebel request for them? The Diorama answers all these questions and tells the story of an overshadowed battle that just MIGHT have turned into a HUGE problem for Washington. Of course, historians don’t deal in ifs, maybes, and mights- have-been. Note the Diorama’s very limited hours: Sunday 1-4 p.m.

The Burning of the Bridge storyboard is another ridiculous adventure in patience and good luck. I spent half an hour driving up and down Front Street, and I know Wrightsville pretty well. How is an outside visitor supposed to find Commons Park? Ask at the Diorama that is open only three hours a week? 

Here's the place: One block east of Front Street at the intersection of Walnut, right on the bank of the Susquehanna River.

It is a breathtaking river and bridge view. The original footings of the burned bridge are clearly visible from this location, if you can stumble across it without the proper PA Civil War trails signage. It is a shame that such excellent hard work by local Civil War historians and enthusiasts has a chance to be overlooked. With this year's desperate PA state budget cuts, including 85 jobs in state tourism, and closing such sites as Washington Crossing, we can be assured that proper signage is a dead issue.

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