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Play ball! A final pitch for the 196th
STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff
, Staff Writer
Here we are, 150 years removed from the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of America’s Civil War.
And here we are, celebrating American independence with a 196-year Lititz tradition that was nearly benched in 1863. A baseball game was played to celebrate the Fourth during that tumultuous year. No queens. No candles. No fireworks. Just a game among boys at the springs as the cannon fire of war 60 miles to the west was fresh in their heads.
Baseball’s bridge between Lititz and the Civil War is a fitting theme for this year’s anniversary. The annual Lilacs softball tournament, Lititz Day at Clipper Stadium, a decorating contest for homes and businesses, and Abbott and Costello’s "Who’s On First?" routine are all part of the program. So, grab a hot dog or an apple pie – or both – and join this All-American celebration.
The Record Express publishes early this week, so while the date on our pages reads "July 4," we called last page on this edition early Tuesday morning. The timing throws us off, coverage-wise, so images and stories from Wednesday’s parade and Thursday’s park program will be in next week’s paper.
A slight change to the July 4 plans came to light last week when event co-chairman Bill Dussinger sent out an alert that emcee Lisa Landis was no longer available. After a few stressful hours of scrambling, Steven Courtney stepped in to save the day. Everything else is on as planned. Lititz Night at the Barnstormers, in which the Queen of Candles court is scheduled to throw out the first pitch, is July 2. The Lions Club parade is July 3, starting at 6:30 p.m. And the full day of entertainment and fireworks in Lititz Springs Park starts at noon on July 4. For more details, visit the park website at lititzspringspark.org.
1863 in Lititz
The following history has been compiled by Ron Reedy:
Preparations were being made for the community of Lititz observance of the nation’s birthday which would take place on Saturday, July 4, 1863. But because of the Civil War battle in Gettysburg, public attention was focused on this crucial confrontation and its ultimate outcome. So, the celebration’s only event was the first base ball game ever played on the grounds of the Springs.
Excerpts from the Columbia Spy newspaper of June 27, 1863
Because of the conflict that was taking place in Gettysburg, the Columbia Bridge was burned June 28, 1863, to prevent the Confederate Army from entering Lancaster County. The day before the Columbia Bridge was burned, June 27, 1863, an article appeared in the Columbia Spy…
"An excursion would run over the Reading and Columbia Rail Road (in addition to the regular trains) to Lititz on the Fourth of July, leaving Columbia at 6:40 p.m., reaching Lititz at 8:10 p.m. The return trip will leave Lititz at 10 p.m. and arrive back at Columbia at 11:30 p.m. The object of this excursion is to give an opportunity for witnessing the illumination, fireworks, etc. at Lititz Springs Park. The York Band would accompany the train. This no doubt will be a delightful excursion."
Because of the crisis in Gettysburg, no record has been found to indicate that the trip was ever done.
Excerpts from the
Lititz Record of July 8, 1923
Only one man at Springs grounds on July 4, 1863:
John Carpenter, then a boy, came to Lititz during stirring days of Civil War:
"On July 4th, 1863, John Carpenter came to Lititz after supper and walked to the Springs grounds. He failed to see another person there. It was right after the burning of the Columbia Bridge and the Battle of Gettysburg and people were too much exercised over the events of the past few days to think of the Fourth, and in fact, probably a little scared, keeping indoors. It was at that time that families with their household goods, loaded on wagons, even some driving their cattle passed through town, coming in advance of the rebel invasion, Wrightsville marking the most northern part of the advance. Mr. Carpenter was then fifteen years old, enlisting when he was sixteen years of age."
100 years ago:
Lititz GAR veterans participate
in 50th anniversary of the battle
Almost all of the Grand Army of the Republic veterans from Lititz and surrounding area attended the exercises held in the honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.
The local veterans received from the State of Pennsylvania railroad transportation on either the Reading Railroad or the Pennsylvania Railroad along with lodging while in Gettysburg. Most of them left for Gettysburg on Monday, June 29th and returned July 3rd, so they would be part of the Fourth of July celebration in the park. Those veterans who attended were: Allen Hacker, John Gable, Samuel C. Seaber, John Wommert, John C. Crall, John Long, Samuel Stark, Jacob Garner, Michael Bear, Israel Bear, Henry Bear, Frank Weidman, William Kahler, James C. Brobst, William Smith, Hiram Demmy, George Arehart, George Foster and Samuel Breison.
More FOURTH, page A3