Posted By Norman Gasbarro on August 27, 2014
In August 2012, here on this blog, a post was published entitled “Correcting Errors on the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monument.” That post was written following the discovery by Patty Shoemaker Giroult that the National Park Service (NPS) was no longer correcting errors on battlefield monuments. This information came to her as a result of an attempt to get the spelling of a name corrected on the monument – a soldier she was researching who died at Gettysburg. She was told the following by Katie Lawhon of NPS:
When errors such as misspellings and omissions are discovered on monuments in national park areas, it is the policy of the National Park Service (NPS) not to change or correct the monuments or their inscriptions. NPS management policies state: “Many commemorative works have existed in the parks long enough to qualify as historic features. A key aspect of their historical interest is that they reflect the knowledge, attitudes, and tastes of the persons who designed and placed them. These works and their inscriptions will not be altered, relocated, obscured, or removed, even when they are deemed inaccurate or incompatible with prevailing present-day values.”
The park has created a full listing of Pennsylvania soldiers present at the Battle of Gettysburg, including corrected spellings and names that were omitted from the memorial. The list is kept in the park’s archives, with a copy available for visitors to review at the park’s Museum and Visitor Center. If you have not already provided information concerning your great-great grandfather’s service for this listing, you may send copies of your documentation to the Historian’s Office, Resource Planning, Gettysburg National Military Park, 1195 Baltimore Pike, Suite 100, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 17325.
Although that policy was clearly expressed in an e-mail to Patty Shoemaker Giroult, it apparently was not transmitted to park rangers. In a recent visit to the monument, Donald Triplett, “noticed some scratched off names, added names, etc., on the plaques… [and] tried to get some answers from the park rangers that were there, and they weren’t very knowledgeable as to the policy for correcting such errors….” After doing some research on his own, he located the above-mentioned blog post, but wanted more information.
After communicating with Katie Lawhon at NPS, he found out that most of the “noticeable changes… came about before the [NPS] took control of the upkeep of the battlefield… [and] the last few changes came about in the 1970s-1980s, which is when the NPS decided to – system wide – stop correcting errors on monuments like the ones at Gettysburg….”
After filing several Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and a request for a fee waiver, the scope was narrowed as follows:
Records related to the removal and/or addition of names to the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg from 1970 through 1989.
Records related to the policies and procedures for correcting errors on the Pennsylvania Memorial during the period 1970 through 1989 and records related to the current policy regarding correcting names on the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg National Military Park.
The fee waiver was granted because Donald Triplett agreed to “distribute any information received to historians… who may be interested in a more in-depth look at the changes made to this monument.”
The results of the FOIA request are posted at : https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/gettysburg-military-park-memorial-errors-12645/. Included are documents pertaining to the specific changes that were made to the monument tablets in the 1970s and 1980s, the last such changes made to the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg. The documents can be accessed by scrolling to the bottom of the page. They are “scanned in and text searchable.”
The FOIA request made by Donald Triplett is a significant step forward. In follow-up discussions with Donald Triplett and Steve Maczuga, who maintains the only known on-line, searchable database of names on the Pennsylvania Memorial at Gettysburg, Steve agreed to add notes to his database that would supplement or correct information on the monument. Steve’s searchable index can be accessed at his web site, Pennsylvanians in the Civil War. While Steve does not maintain an “official NPS” list, cooperation with the Historian’s Office at Gettysburg (address noted above), could result in a fairly accurate representation of the changes that have been approved and are on record at the Historian’s Office per the policy change made in 1989 – and, with the number of visitors to the park who have smart-phones and other internet-connective devices, provide an on-site index to the monument – provided, of course, that there is a posting of the URL at the monument site, and that park rangers can also access the information and provide it to visitors who do not have mobile internet access.
Information on how to use Steve Maczuga‘s searchable index can be found at: A Searchable Index to the Pennsylvania Monument at Gettysburg. Contact Steve by e-mail.