Saturday, August 17, 2013

Forget Hell

In honor of my Confederate Ancestor who was captured at Gettysburg I decided to take a trip and retrace his steps. Stephen A. Corker was captain of Company A, Burke Guards, 3rd Ga. Regiment. He led the 3rd Ga charge on July 2, 1863. He was captured and sent to Johnson's Island prison and spent the rest of the war there.

Previously I had retraced Corker's steps at Sharpsburg, the bloodiest day of the war which occurred September 17, 1862. I was able to get a Park guide there to show me the battle field and he even handed me a map showing the precise movements of the 3rd Georgia that day by timeline. Corker had his sword shot in two that day. The minnie ball killed the man next to him and wounded another.

At Gettysburg the 3rd Georgia went further than Pickett's charge the day after. This plaque is located on the Gettysburg battle field in front of the hill that was charged. It explains what happened.

I decided to beat the 150th crowd so I went to Gettysburg on June 21st. In addition to honoring my ancestor I am writing a book about Corker's letters. Hence the reason behind trips to Sharpsburg and Gettysburg as they both played a pivotal part in Corker's activities during the war. His letters detail life in the South from the period right before the war all the way through his term in the 41st US congress in 1871 and during reconstruction.

When we arrived at the visitor center I milled around and approached the front desk. A portly park ranger was at the desk. As I tried to ask some questions he made motion for me to step aside as there were people behind me. I was surprised at the lack of interest in my wanting to gain knowledge. But this was nothing compared to my interaction with a guide who just happened to be sitting nearby at the front sitting by himself at a small table.

I approached the man and recognized his official looking status. He had a uniform on and was a park guide. I asked if I could sit with him and he obliged. No sooner had I sat down that he said I was "Wearing the wrong hat." He was referring to my Confederate Kapi. He then stated that it was the "Loser's hat." I of course took it in stride as I felt he surely was jesting.

I then pointed to my shirt which features the 3rd Ga Battle flag. I only wear this shirt on special occasions because of the good quality of the shirt. Here I am wearing the shirt at the point where the 3rd Ga advanced at Bloody Lane at Sharpsburg.

This flag never had the stain of the enemy on it per my historical research for my book and was saved at the surrender of the 3rd Ga at Appomattox.

When I asked the guide if he knew what regiment the Confederate Flag was he called it "A rag". Now I was beginning to wonder how much of this man's "kidding" I was going to take. 

He proceeded to open up a white binder with pictures of his union ancestor who won the congressional medal of honor at Gettysburg. I of course was interested in the history behind his ancestor but waited patiently to discuss the rudeness of his comments to me. Before I could confront the gentleman he got a call for his next tour. As he quickly gathered his things and left he said "We are all Americans by the Way."

Now I understood what he had said and done. He was serious about his comments and basically put the South and my ancestor down. Obviously he has not forgotten the war!

 It was never my intention to put forth my Southern Partisan feelings. I wish I had a chance but this man made off before he could be dressed down properly. I certainly did not want to hear about his ancestor who fought mine. I only was being nice doing my research.

I subsequently made comments about this incident online and was told by another former guide that I needed to apologize for putting the guides at Gettysburg in a bad light. That did it. 

I subsequently decided that the person who needed to apologize was the proud yankee. So I contacted the US park service and this is the response I got below.

Subsequent to this letter I wrote back stating that surely they had a schedule and could pin point a guide who had an ancestor who won the congressional medal of honor. But alas, the apology is not forthcoming per my last conversation.

Many years ago I owned a store in Roswell, Georgia. I had an elderly gentlemen who was a customer from a state up north. One day I was joking around about the war between the states and made a comment. His response was as cold as Ice and made me realize that sectional feelings still run deep especially in older generations still connected to that past time. While the standard mention of Forget Hell speaks of Southerners continuing to fight the war, It appears that Forget Hell is not just a Southern Thing.

PS : I did find out that park guides are not employees of the National Park system. They are outside contractors who go through training and are not supposed to be partisan. Apparently this one is and while I won't be getting my letter of apology I hope he eventually will be called out and terminated as a park guide. Let that be my response to his boasting of his ancestor so he won't be able to shove it in another Southerner's face. Meanwhile I will finish my book and proudly recount Captain Corker's fighting for Dixy.

My home is an 1873 Confederate Veteran's home. Click here to see the blog on the restoration.


  1. What a bizarre experience, especially so near the 150th, when they should have been on their very best behavior. I'm sorry this happened to you. It sounds like your ancestor had a fascinating life.

    1. Thanks for your comment Kurt....he did lead quite a facinating life.....stay tuned!

  2. Sir, we of Confederate ancestry are almost universally vilified by many. This is why I like hearing about people like the Virginia Flaggers who are willing to stand up for our heritage, and who exemplify the best qualities of sincere believers in the cause of our southern fore fathers. It is good that you demand an apology from the NPS, as in my experience they are most often skewed in their representation and interpretation of history. Best of luck!

    1. Burl.....After the other former guide said I needed to apologize I decided to pursue...before that I just wrote it off to yankee hospitality...btw..nice profile of my favs on dealing with "Those People"

  3. Thanks for yall's comments...never been to I know....they ain't forgot ever....

  4. I was there at the 150th, the weekend before the 4th, doing the artillery work at the Blue Gray reenactment. I have heard so much about the tour guides there. I have had enough of the BS and for years now when I here it I do away with my Southern manners and just lay it out for them. If they keep on I just give them a well that tells a lot about Yankee education, so STFU. I use to be nice about it, but they have gotten much worse, so so have I.

    1. Thanks for the reply on this.....seems yankee hospitality is what it always has been.....

  5. As a resident of Gettysburg, I find your story really disturbing! I believe the business owners and residents go out of their way to be welcoming and helpful to ALL visitors -- and then to have a park ranger act so rudely is truly an embarrassment. I know how many people go through the Visitor's Center and can only imagine how many Southerners this man has offended. I sincerely hope something was done behind the scenes to reprimand him. Good luck with your writing and your book!

    1. Jessica...thanks for you reply...what the rude gentlemen did not realize is that on my grandfather's side was a Captain of the 66th Indiana. He rode through Atlanta with Sherman!....Captain Girdner's letters are at Emory University in Atlanta. When I am done with the Confederate side book I will write the union side!

    2. Sir, your experience is enlightening.
      Down in Florida, we are fighting the "Second Battle of Olustee" against Yankee revisionism and rudeness at the oldest state park.
      "Forget Hell" lives on the SUVCW.