- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) Heavy equipment tore into a brick motel at the edge of a Gettysburg battlefield last week, removing the last commercial enterprise from the site of one of the best-known, if disastrous, maneuvers in the history of war.
Wednesday's demolition of the Home Sweet Home Motel for years a goal of the National Park Service and preservation groups began when a 40-foot backhoe dodged piles of snow to knock the back off one of the five buildings that make up the motel.
Sinks and shower stalls were hauled onto the asphalt lot.
And a logger cleared trees lining the path of Pickett's Charge, the bloody, hourlong Rebel attack that ended the Battle of Gettysburg and, in the view of many historians, marked the beginning of the end of the Civil War.
Eric Uberman, owner of the American Civil War Museum down the block on Steinwehr Avenue, has been critical of preservationists and the park service. But he said the motel had to go.
"I think it's very nice that that part of the battlefield is going to be restored," he said. "The motel was a Class C it needed to come down."
The Home Sweet Home, a group of red brick buildings with green shutters and white cupolas, sat at the end of the heavily commercial Steinwehr Avenue.
The road is home to a string of shops, tourist attractions, motels and fast-food restaurants that some say make for an unfortunate contrast to the park's solemn setting.
As the motel began to come down the start of a process that is expected to continue this week a documentary filmmaker and residents of the town wandered by to watch.
Among them was Paul Funt, 60, a maintenance man at a tour center next door that is home to the General Pickett's Buffets.
Mr. Funt remembered combing the field for bullets after a rain as a boy.
"That thing was there for a long time," he said of the motel, watching the claw rip at its brick and glass. "But I can remember when it was houses all along here with big trees. … I've seen a lot of things come and go."
The Home Sweet Home was built in the late 1950s, when most of the strip was commercially developed in anticipation of the 1963 centennial of the Gettysburg battle, said Katie Lawhon, spokeswoman for the Gettysburg National Military Park.
On July 3, 1863, more than 200 Ohio men stood on what became the motel site, isolated from the main Union line on Cemetery Ridge and expecting to be overrun by the left flank of Pickett's Charge from Seminary Ridge.
About half the brigade was killed or wounded that day, said Richard A. Baumgartner, 49, author of the recently published "Buckeye Blood: Ohio at Gettysburg."
"Oh, the 8th Ohio was there during Pickett's Charge, all right," said Mr. Baumgartner, who said he stayed at the Home Sweet Home during one of his 60 trips to Gettysburg. "From 4 p.m. July 2, until an hour or so after Pickett's assault failed, the 8th Ohio was stuck out there."
They never received any order to pull back so they stayed, even as the Confederates advanced.
Soldiers rested their rifles on the fence rails near where the motel would be built, said Becky Lyons, a Gettysburg park ranger.
"They drove back two brigades of advancing troops," she added.
"The reason that area ended up playing a significant part in the battle is that it allowed them to fire into the Confederate flank which has a tendency to unnerve one."
Two decades later, Pvt. Thaddeus Potter of the 8th Ohio, Company H, wrote:
"It was a fearful ghastly sight to see men slaughtered so," according to Mr. Baumgartner.
More than 5,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in Pickett's Charge, which ended Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North and eventually led to the Union victory.
By the 140th anniversary of the end of the battle on July 3, the park service hopes to have the 1-acre motel site restored to the way it looked back then.

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