Preservation Project Launched
"There is no more appropriate day to launch this effort than today," state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny said on November 19, 1998, at a Capitol ceremony marking the official start of the fund-raising campaign of the newly formed Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monuments Preservation Advisory Committee.
It was 135 years ago on that date that Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address, which so concisely and powerfully summarized the fight to preserve the Union and honored the memory of soldiers who died for the cause.
The Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monuments Preservation Advisory Committee, formed as a result of legislation sponsored by Readshaw, is designed to promote private donations to restore and care for the 134 monuments on the Adams County battlefield commemorating the actions of Pennsylvania regiments and individuals in the pivotal battle of the Civil War.
Joining Readshaw was state Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, who is chairman of the advisory committee and who played a vital role in the passage of Readshaw's legislation. Clymer read a proclamation from Gov. Thomas Ridge urging support for the committee's effort. In uniform on the Capitol Rotunda steps behind the podium with other Civil War reenactors representing the 148th Pennsylvania Infantry was Rep. Lynn Herman, R-Centre.
Another legislator, state Rep. Thomas Caltagirone, D-Berks, pledged that the seven-member House delegation from Berks County will raise funds to preserve more than a dozen monuments and markers that recognize the actions of troops recruited from Berks County.
Frank Keena, an eighth grade student at Abington Heights Middle School in Clarks Summit, presented a check for $107 that he raised to fund the preservation of a marker noting the position of the 107th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Readshaw presented Keenan with a citation on behalf of state Rep. Frank Serafini, R-Lackawanna.
In place of honor were 17 fifth grade students and their teacher, Austin Willi, from East Pennsboro Middle School in Cumberland County. They pledged to raise $1,000 to preserve a monument to the 148th Pennsylvania, which was recruited from Central Pennsylvania. The announcement prompted three hearty cheers from the assembled 148th Pennsylvania reenactors.
Also recognized was Anna Marie Amendola, a seventh grade history teacher at Westlake Middle School in Erie. Her students raised $103.30 for one of the first donations to the Gettysburg project.
Additionally, authors Richard Rollins and Dave Shultz made a pledge. The two will donate a portion of the proceeds from sales of the new edition of their book, "Guide to Pennsylvania Troops at Gettysburg," to the monument preservation effort. Readshaw penned the forward to the new edition.
Before concluding the event, the speakers and audience moved outside on the front steps of the Capitol. There, a troop of four mounted riders presented Readshaw and Clymer with a check for $4,000 for the restoration of the 17th Cavalry Monument. The funds were raised by the Camp Curtin Historical Society of Harrisburg. Larry Keener-Farley, the society president, pledged that the organization will raise an additional $4,000 to fund a perpetual endowment to pay for restoration work needed in the future.
"The most significant aspect of today's ceremony was the children," said Readshaw. "That's what this is all about -- to ensure that the Pennsylvania monuments are intact for them and the many generations to follow. They are the legacy of Gettysburg and the legacy of the Pennsylvanians who fought there. Because of the men honored by the monuments, those who follow us will grow up in a free and united country."