GETTYSBURG, Pa. -- Two ground-rumbling cannon bursts followed by the sorrowful sound of a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace" accompanied the unveiling yesterday of a Maryland memorial at Gettysburg.
The memorial honors Marylanders who fought here 131 years ago in the pivotal battle of the Civil War. Maryland was the only state that had soldiers who fought in organized units for the Union and the Confederacy.
But yesterday's ceremony was about healing. The memorial depicts two wounded soldiers -- one Union, one Confederate -- helping each other off the battlefield.
"Why'd it take so long?" asked Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who unveiled the monument to the delight of thousands of enthusiastic Marylanders.
He explained that bitterness among Marylanders in their divided state festered long after the Civil War. A monument to reconciliation was not feasible for many years, he said.
"Now is the time to erect this great sculpture of a nation bringing itself together," the governor declared.
The wave of Marylanders who besieged the country's most famous battlefield agreed, with a burst of applause.
Crowd estimates ranged from 5,000 to 8,000 people. They overflowed the large parking lot between the visitor center and Cyclorama center -- the memorial stands in one corner of the lot -- and lined the stone wall along Taneytown Road and stood among the headstones in the National Cemetery.
The afternoon ceremony merged past with present: fighter jets flying overhead and cannons bellowing on the ground, Civil War re-enactors dressed in blue and gray standing next to National Guard soldiers wearing camouflage uniforms.
About 800 Civil War re-enactors, some on horseback, lent an authentic but surreal aspect to events. A re-enactor on horseback thundered across a field and carried a Confederate flag.
A man dressed as Gen. Robert E. Lee looked more like the revered Confederate leader than Martin Sheen, the actor who portrayed General Lee in the movie, "Gettysburg."
Speakers addressed the crowd from a raised stage next to the monument. Governor Schaefer said it was a highly emotional day.
Many in crowd weep
He was right. Tears rolled down many cheeks as the National Guard band played "Battle Hymn of the Republic," a fife and drum corps broke into "Dixie" and a National Guardsman played Taps.
Lawrence M. Ludtke, the memorial's sculptor, choked back emotion as he spoke to the crowd. One of the foremost figurative sculptors in the country, he was chosen over 82 sculptors to create the memorial.
"This is a solemn occasion," said the 6-foot-5-inch, 65-year-old Texan.
"It is my prayer that this bronze memorial depicting two Marylanders with different beliefs, yet coming together after the whirling winds of war, will reinforce our will to honor our heroes and to see and carry with us the healing force necessary to keep our nation great."
Jim Holechek of Towson, who will turn 65 tomorrow, led the drive to build the memorial. He owned an advertising company in Baltimore and has a history of community work and fund raising.
"For 131 years, no one has done what we've done here today," he said.
When he first saw Mr. Ludtke's sculpture, Mr. Holechek said, he nearly wept.
"When people come up here from Maryland, they're going to weep too," Mr. Holechek said. "It is just so full of emotion."
He launched the campaign for a monument after touring the battlefield in 1989 and discovering Maryland had no state memorial. Seven small monuments at Gettysburg honor specific units of Marylanders, but none honors all soldiers who fought on both sides.
More than 3,000 Marylanders saw action at Gettysburg -- about 2,000 for the Union, about 1,000 for the Confederacy. Most fought in the brutal battle for Culp's Hill, which was the right flank of the Union position -- the barb of the famous hook-shaped defensive line.
Marylander faced Marylander. The 1st Maryland Infantry Battalion, Confederates, attacked within 30 yards of the state's 1st Potomac Home Brigade, Union.
A Confederate color-bearer from Trappe in Talbot County was wounded and captured by a Union regiment from Trappe that included his cousin.
Garth Bowling Jr. had three ancestors at Gettysburg -- his great-great-grandfather, Wallace Bowling, and Wallace's two brothers, Frank and Ben.
Garth Bowling, 46, drove to Gettysburg for the ceremony from his home in Charles County. He is principal of John Hanson Middle School in Waldorf.
The three Bowling brothers were in their 20s when they left the family farm in St. Mary's County, crossed the Potomac River into Virginia and joined the Confederate army. They became part of the 1st Maryland Infantry Battalion, which evolved into the 2nd Maryland Regiment.
At Gettysburg all three were part of the Confederates' "suicide charge," as Mr. Bowling described it, up Culp's Hill.
"They knew, they all knew, it was going to be fatal," Mr. Bowling said, "but they went anyway. It's hard to imagine we're descended from people with such courage. What valor those people had."
Three brothers survive
Two of the brothers were wounded and captured by Union troops. All three survived the war. They would approve of this monument, Mr. Bowling said.
"It couldn't be better," he added. "One soldier is not superior to the other. It shows them both as equals."
The memorial is 13-feet high. The 8-foot bronze statue stands on a base of granite, which in large letters in front reads "MARYLAND." On the back, it reads:
"More than 3,000 Marylanders served on both sides of the conflict at the battle of Gettysburg. . . . Brother against brother would be their legacy, particularly on the slopes of Culp's Hill. This memorial symbolizes the aftermath of that battle and the war.
"Brothers again. Marylanders all."
CIVIL WAR REPORTS
During the Civil War, thousands of Marylanders fought for the North and thousands fought for the South. And The Sun brought the story to its readers on both sides of the conflict.
From The Sun archives, we've obtained excerpts of eyewitness accounts published about the Battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863. To hear them, call Sundial at 783-1800, then punch in the four-digit code 6162.
For other Sundial numbers, see the SunSource directory on page A2.
To hear Jason Robards' reading of the Gettysburg Address, from Ken Burns' "Civil War" series, punch in the four-digit code 6161.