Was Little Round Top Really Used for Target Practice By Tanks in World War 1?

Joined
Jun 7, 2021
Sacrilegious? I find it disgusting that they soiled this Hallowed ground.
It certainly is a contrast to read how Civil War battlefields were treated even 100 years ago. Maybe to some degree society has to be removed from the violence before it can want to revisit it, and debate lessons learned. After the last CW veteran had died, we needed the battlefields to continue telling their story, because they weren't here to tell it anymore.
 
All fair points. After millennia of battles, humans are perhaps hard pressed to find any soil where a fight has not taken place. But the U.S. has had only one Civil War, and I think Lincoln summed up rather nicely why Gettysburg should be special to Americans.
We also have a lot more open land to choose from that wasn't a known battlefield.
 

John S. Carter

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 15, 2017
As I recall it was Big Round Top that was used . I can't find my references right now , but on Gettysburg Daily , Dec. 16th 2011 it says weapons ( possibly machine guns mounted on trucks ) were "fired on targets positioned in front of BRT." I also remember reading about artillery fire , but Eisenhower did not get any artillery (or tanks) for awhile so the MGs were mounted on trucks and used for training . The Renault tanks carried either an MG or a 37mm cannon . It's hard to believe they would actually fire artillery rounds there with visitors on the battlefield but maybe that area was cordoned off . I think if there was any damage to LRT it was inadvertent .
The question is who gave the military the permission to use this ground for military exercises.? Did these people ,Secretary of War, or Interior [if it existed} know of this ? Was the state of Pa. notified of this ?Was this not even then a National Historical Park ? Valley Forge would have made a better training site ,it was more open for tanks or artillery practice on those old cabins . May be the Navy could have taken the Constitution out as gunnery practice by the Navy or for aerial bombardment. What role did Dwight have in the selection of this battlefield ? Personally, as a Southerner , I would preferred that they had used the area of Pickett's Charge with the firing onto the Union front., with tank and infantry attack across the same terrane .Revisionist history at it ultimate. Just have to be sure that the troopers came from Va.
 

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
May 18, 2011
Location
Carlisle, PA
The question is who gave the military the permission to use this ground for military exercises.? Did these people ,Secretary of War, or Interior [if it existed} know of this ? Was the state of Pa. notified of this ?Was this not even then a National Historical Park ? Valley Forge would have made a better training site ,it was more open for tanks or artillery practice on those old cabins . May be the Navy could have taken the Constitution out as gunnery practice by the Navy or for aerial bombardment. What role did Dwight have in the selection of this battlefield ? Personally, as a Southerner , I would preferred that they had used the area of Pickett's Charge with the firing onto the Union front., with tank and infantry attack across the same terrane .Revisionist history at it ultimate. Just have to be sure that the troopers came from Va.

The Federal government owned the land which is why they used it as they saw fit.

Ryan
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
The question is who gave the military the permission to use this ground for military exercises.? Did these people ,Secretary of War, or Interior [if it existed} know of this ? Was the state of Pa. notified of this ?Was this not even then a National Historical Park ? Valley Forge would have made a better training site ,it was more open for tanks or artillery practice on those old cabins . May be the Navy could have taken the Constitution out as gunnery practice by the Navy or for aerial bombardment. What role did Dwight have in the selection of this battlefield ? Personally, as a Southerner , I would preferred that they had used the area of Pickett's Charge with the firing onto the Union front., with tank and infantry attack across the same terrane .Revisionist history at it ultimate. Just have to be sure that the troopers came from Va.
The National Park was established in 1895. There is a lone pine tree standing next to the Emmitsburg Road near the Angle. That tree was basically the middle of camp. There´s a plaque on it that details that soil from all 48 states was placed around that tree when it was planted by the troops who were trained there.
Although the United States made a mint of money in the munitions business between 1914-1917, the shocking truth is that the country was completely and woefully unprepared to go to war when it grandly declared war in 1917. Small army, few training centers, ¨no tanks, no planes, no artillery pieces¨ as a later piece of WW2 doggerel would go. We had to bum guns and planes from the French, uniforms and rifles from the British,etc. Troops left rifles behind when they left for France so the guys coming behind them would have something to train with. It was a genuine mess. Look at training pictures: you´ll notice that they show a lot of marching and bayonet drill. Those were cheap training activities that required little equipment. The heavy tank battalion never actually go heavy tanks at Camp Colt. They maneuvered trucks and fired machineguns mounted on them. (Sadly, this training poorly prepared the doughs for the reality of combat in France in 1918. American casualty returns look low until you realize that the bulk of American battle casualties were incurred in about a six week period.) This is waaaaaaaaaaay OT, but part of the reason Gettysburg gets to be a training camp is that the US was poorly prepared to raise an army and was grasping at straws.
 

Story

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 5, 2011
Location
SE PA
This is waaaaaaaaaaay OT, but part of the reason Gettysburg gets to be a training camp is that the US was poorly prepared to raise an army and was grasping at straws.

Not at all, 7th!

History is a tapestry woven across the ages. What happened *then* shouldn't be isolated into a four-year bubble, but also considered with what happened during the time *between now-and-then*.

The Civil War set the stage for westward expansion (and it's shortcomings), Reconstruction (and it's failure), the Span-Am War, &etc, &etc.

What is problematic is templating 21st century values onto prior events.

Now let's see what the National Park Service says about Camp Colt
https://www.nps.gov/articles/the-armys-first-tank-school-camp-colt-at-gettysburg.htm

Oops - credit where credit it due, J.D. posted that link first. Note the photos of the Renault sent to Camp Colt show that it's the machinegun armed version.
For those inclined to follow Alice down the rabbit hole -
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renault_FT
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotchkiss_Mle_1914_machine_gun
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
Thanks. See what I mean? French tank... French machinegun... The FT-17 is one of my favorite vehicles, but it´s certainly not a heavy tank. Take a look at the Liberty, the tank that was supposed to be the breakthrough vehicle should the War stretch on into 1919.
The history of Gettysburg as a National Park and as a tourist destination is interesting to me. I love old Gettysburg souvenirs and kitchy stuff like that.
 

rob63

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Location
PA, but still a Hoosier
I think people are so used to the idea of the government owning huge tracks of land and the military being a large permanent force with numerous bases that they forget that it wasn't always like that. There really was a time when the sudden expansion of the military required them to use the land that was available to the government at the time, and it included Civil War battlefields. It is an interesting aspect of history that can be learned from, what is the point of getting upset by it? Frankly, I think it is a hoot to learn about the oddities like the casino, bar fights, dancing halls, etc.

The thing that I always find astonishing is just how unprepared the US was to join a war that had already been going on for three years. I can understand that they were trying to stay out of it, but it seems like they didn't even consider making any plans for what they should do, just in case, if they did get involved.
 
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pamc153PA

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Location
Pennsylvania
I understand the outrage that the government used the Gettysburg battlefield for WWI camps, tank practice and a German POW camp, but I’d ask you to consider a few things, as someone who has spent two decades studying the battlefield from a view that includes the changing of the battlefield and the attitudes of the times over the years.

Before the battle, the locals used the area as a picnic area, to grow crops, and to raise farm animals. After the battle, they continued to do so. Ever hear of Tipton Park? It was located in the area of Devil’s Den and the Plum Run valley in the early 1900s and included a baseball field, picnic pavilions, and a dance hall. Or Roundtop Inn, located at the intersection of Sykes, Sedgwick and Wheatfield Road? Or the Peace Light Inn off Buford near the Eternal Light Peace Memorial? Or the several airfields on both north and south areas of the battlefield? Or the car dealership off Howard Avenue? The Stuckeys restaurant near the Peach Orchard? The electric trolley line?

A surprising amount of what we call the battlefield today was privately owned up through the 1990s, believe it or not. The Park Service has bought the private land as it becomes available. But you also have to take into account that the locals who owned property on the battlefield actually LIVED there, and needed to make a living or make changed to their houses just like everyone does—they weren’t deliberately disrespecting the battlefield or the men who fought there, they were just living. They couldn’t afford to not plant crops on hallowed land, or build a business that would support them on. As for the govenment, they owned the land and used the land as they saw fit. It was just a resource for them, though we may not agree with that perspective.

Fortunately, in large part, that perspective has changed over the years toward preservation, and combined with the acquisition of private land and groups such as Gettysburg Foundation and the American Battlefield Trust, the battlefield you know now is pretty safe. But even those of you who can remember what the battlefield looked like at the battle centennial, or the National Tower over near the National Cemetery, know that the battlefield is changeable, will remain changeable, and it’s usually not because of some disrespectful malicious intent. It will always be hallowed ground, but keep in mind that there is much more involved with the term than the battle that was fought there.
 

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
May 18, 2011
Location
Carlisle, PA
I understand the outrage that the government used the Gettysburg battlefield for WWI camps, tank practice and a German POW camp, but I’d ask you to consider a few things, as someone who has spent two decades studying the battlefield from a view that includes the changing of the battlefield and the attitudes of the times over the years.

Before the battle, the locals used the area as a picnic area, to grow crops, and to raise farm animals. After the battle, they continued to do so. Ever hear of Tipton Park? It was located in the area of Devil’s Den and the Plum Run valley in the early 1900s and included a baseball field, picnic pavilions, and a dance hall. Or Roundtop Inn, located at the intersection of Sykes, Sedgwick and Wheatfield Road? Or the Peace Light Inn off Buford near the Eternal Light Peace Memorial? Or the several airfields on both north and south areas of the battlefield? Or the car dealership off Howard Avenue? The Stuckeys restaurant near the Peach Orchard? The electric trolley line?

A surprising amount of what we call the battlefield today was privately owned up through the 1990s, believe it or not. The Park Service has bought the private land as it becomes available. But you also have to take into account that the locals who owned property on the battlefield actually LIVED there, and needed to make a living or make changed to their houses just like everyone does—they weren’t deliberately disrespecting the battlefield or the men who fought there, they were just living. They couldn’t afford to not plant crops on hallowed land, or build a business that would support them on. As for the govenment, they owned the land and used the land as they saw fit. It was just a resource for them, though we may not agree with that perspective.

Fortunately, in large part, that perspective has changed over the years toward preservation, and combined with the acquisition of private land and groups such as Gettysburg Foundation and the American Battlefield Trust, the battlefield you know now is pretty safe. But even those of you who can remember what the battlefield looked like at the battle centennial, or the National Tower over near the National Cemetery, know that the battlefield is changeable, will remain changeable, and it’s usually not because of some disrespectful malicious intent. It will always be hallowed ground, but keep in mind that there is much more involved with the term than the battle that was fought there.

And the POW camp was a CCC camp from the 1930s. The government uses what it has when it needs it.

Ryan
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
It´s important to remember that Gettysburg is still a living community. People have jobs that have nothing to do with the Civil War, or tourism related to the Civil War, raise families and go to school. Some folks go to college there (ehem...Class of 1984), and it´s a major agricultural area. Those residents, in turn want to be able to buy things at stores like Walmart, and go to restaurants like everybody else. (¨If you cut us, do we not bleed?" :smile: ) If you get a few blocks from the touristy parts of town, you could be anywhere in small town USA.
 

Grant's Tomb

Corporal
Joined
Apr 4, 2020
The question is who gave the military the permission to use this ground for military exercises.? Did these people ,Secretary of War, or Interior [if it existed} know of this ? Was the state of Pa. notified of this ?Was this not even then a National Historical Park ? Valley Forge would have made a better training site ,it was more open for tanks or artillery practice on those old cabins . May be the Navy could have taken the Constitution out as gunnery practice by the Navy or for aerial bombardment. What role did Dwight have in the selection of this battlefield ? Personally, as a Southerner , I would preferred that they had used the area of Pickett's Charge with the firing onto the Union front., with tank and infantry attack across the same terrane .Revisionist history at it ultimate. Just have to be sure that the troopers came from Va.
It was in the 1930s that the National Park Service added took charge of all the major Civil War battlefields. Horace Albright, the second director of the Park Service and had been a protege of Stephen Mather who had been appointed the first director of the NPS in 1916, convinced Franklin Roosevelt to over operating and administering the battlefields as well as other historic sites like the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, as well as American Revolutionary War battlefields.
 
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Lost Cause

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Sep 19, 2014
I understand the outrage that the government used the Gettysburg battlefield for WWI camps, tank practice and a German POW camp, but I’d ask you to consider a few things, as someone who has spent two decades studying the battlefield from a view that includes the changing of the battlefield and the attitudes of the times over the years.

Before the battle, the locals used the area as a picnic area, to grow crops, and to raise farm animals. After the battle, they continued to do so. Ever hear of Tipton Park? It was located in the area of Devil’s Den and the Plum Run valley in the early 1900s and included a baseball field, picnic pavilions, and a dance hall. Or Roundtop Inn, located at the intersection of Sykes, Sedgwick and Wheatfield Road? Or the Peace Light Inn off Buford near the Eternal Light Peace Memorial? Or the several airfields on both north and south areas of the battlefield? Or the car dealership off Howard Avenue? The Stuckeys restaurant near the Peach Orchard? The electric trolley line?

A surprising amount of what we call the battlefield today was privately owned up through the 1990s, believe it or not. The Park Service has bought the private land as it becomes available. But you also have to take into account that the locals who owned property on the battlefield actually LIVED there, and needed to make a living or make changed to their houses just like everyone does—they weren’t deliberately disrespecting the battlefield or the men who fought there, they were just living. They couldn’t afford to not plant crops on hallowed land, or build a business that would support them on. As for the govenment, they owned the land and used the land as they saw fit. It was just a resource for them, though we may not agree with that perspective.

Fortunately, in large part, that perspective has changed over the years toward preservation, and combined with the acquisition of private land and groups such as Gettysburg Foundation and the American Battlefield Trust, the battlefield you know now is pretty safe. But even those of you who can remember what the battlefield looked like at the battle centennial, or the National Tower over near the National Cemetery, know that the battlefield is changeable, will remain changeable, and it’s usually not because of some disrespectful malicious intent. It will always be hallowed ground, but keep in mind that there is much more involved with the term than the battle that was fought there.
No better way to commemorate Pickett’s charge than indulging the Pre-Covid eatery at General Pickett’s Buffet. Perhaps, more fitting at Five Forks, it is a pure representation of Americana, squarely on the battlefield.
 

redbob

Major
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Location
Hoover, Alabama
At what point did the War Department (who originally oversaw Military Parks) pass control to the Park Service?
 

shooter too

Private
Joined
Mar 4, 2021
At what point did the War Department (who originally oversaw Military Parks) pass control to the Park Service?

Despite numerous calls for it over the agency’s early years, the transfer of battlefield parks into the National Park Service did not occur until 1933. NPS officials Stephen Mather and Horace Albright had long argued for the change, explaining that while the War Department was doing a good job at the time, the National Park Service was the government agency that had expertise in park management and interpretation. These arguments fell on willing ears, as government officials in the 1920s and 1930s realized a changing clientele was now visiting these battlefields, one that was no longer made up primarily of veterans or military officers. A more mobile civilian American public was now visiting these historic sites, and these individuals needed a different kind of experience than that provided by the War Department.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/land-national-park-service-began
 

Tony Z

Corporal
Joined
Jan 3, 2021
Location
DuBois, PA
My first visit to GB was August 1963 and I've been "infected" ever since. I happen to be in GB at the moment, and besides what has been mentioned, I have other memories, such as the old Visitors Center, the Cyclorama Building, to name a few (I just can't get used to the new Visitors Center). There were also retail establishments I miss, such as The Conflict, or Graystones. But things and times change.

To me, the history since the battle, is as interesting as the battle.
 

Johnny Shafto

Private
Joined
Jun 21, 2021
This post by pamc153PA is absolutely fascinating. So much so it leads me to wonder if something exists that details the metamorphosis of the area as it developed before and after the battle up to a date of publication? Naturally those fateful days from early June through mid July of 1863 have been well documented. Bradley Gottfried’s excellent atlas of the campaign comes immediately to mind. But a Stuckeys near the Peach Orchard! A book replete with photos of such examples would surely be well received. Or does it already in exist? Proceeds to The Gettysburg Foundation and The American Battlefield Trust perhaps? Wondering. JS
 
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