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The ACTUAL hero of Gettysburg never got his credit
Episode 4823rd January 2023 • Talk With History • Scott Bennie
00:00:00 00:22:19

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Brigadier General Strong Vincent played a KEY ROLE in winning the Battle of Gettysburg. We'll give you one guess who told the now famous Joshua Chamberlain where to hold the line at Little Round Top.

Yup...(then) Colonel Strong Vincent. Join us as we explore the life and history of a lawyer from Erie, Pennsylvania - turned hero at Gettysburg.

The Life and History of Strong Vincent

Strong Vincent at Little Round Top the Battle of Gettysburg (on location)

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Transcripts

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And they start to fall back and it's Vincent.

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exposes himself, stands up on that Boulder, grabs the writing crop,

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and says, don't give him an inch.

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Boys don't give him an inch

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welcome to Talk With History.

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I'm your host Scott, here with my wife and historian Jen.

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On this podcast, we give you

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insights to our history inspired world travels YouTube channel

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journey, and examine history through deeper conversations with

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the curious, the explorers and the history lovers out there.

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Now, Jen, , I do wanna ask our listeners, if you're watching the live

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stream, please give us a, like . And if you're listening to this on the

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Apple Podcast or Spotify, please give us a review because it really does help

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us grow and it really does help the.

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Jen, why don't you tell us what we are talking about

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tonight on Talk With History?

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We are going to talk about who I consider the unsung hero of

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Gettysburg and that is Strong

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Vincent, so, so strong, Vincent.

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Now this was actually, and you were just reminding me before we started mm-hmm.

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that this was like, like our act real first.

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. It's technically our second video, but it's our first real video

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that we did just for the channel.

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It's

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our first real video for the channel.

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So if you wa watch our YouTube channel Walk With History, our first

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video is Nathan Bedford Forest.

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Right?

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Because we were in Memphis and the statue was there at the time, and I wanted to.

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Inform people who he was and educate people.

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So we repurposed that video.

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This is our first video that we actually went to locations and filmed

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and told you the story, and it's because we lived in Erie, Pennsylvania

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and you had been working, you know, or doing kind of like an internship for your

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graduate program at the Erie Maritime Museum and been learning about Yes.

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A lot more history about the whole Erie

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area.

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Well, what really did it was, I think you had a.

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Enlistment at the Erie Maritime Museum and we left and there was a statue

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in front of the Erie Maritime Museum.

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Yeah.

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And you had left.

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And I was like, who's the statue?

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I'm gonna look up Who's the

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guy?

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It's the statue of a guy.

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He's got like this hero, hero pose.

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He's kind of like one foot up.

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Yes.

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Like almost on like you would see like some on the bow of a ship.

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Yeah.

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But he's got this writing crop.

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What you kinda like, you know what jockeys have when they're, when

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they're racing their horses and then big like lamb.

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Yeah.

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And definitely a soldier.

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He's wearing a, like a uniform and it said Brigadier General Strong, Vincent.

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And I was like, who is this guy?

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And it said, hero of Gettysburg.

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And I'm like, Erie, Pennsylvania has the statue to Strong Vincent here.

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You So I learned all about him and I was blown away.

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So a lot of people will, will hear Gettysburg.

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Mm-hmm.

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and they'll, they'll, they'll hear Hero of Gettysburg.

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So they'll think about Gettysburg, the movie.

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So Chamberlain, 1993

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movie with Jeff Daniels.

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Jeff Daniels, which actually we just watched a little bit about

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him and his family history.

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But you, so we learn about this, but the more you started learning about Strong

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Vincent who was from the Eerie area, the more you were just like, oh my gosh.

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He actually was involved at Gettysburg and so lead us up to Sure.

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How he got the statue.

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Who is, who is strong Vincent.

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Right.

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And what a great.

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Right.

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What a great name.

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Born in Waterford, Pennsylvania, 1837.

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And his father's last name is Vincent, but his mother's maiden name is Strong, so

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that's where he gets his first name from.

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So strong.

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Vincent is his mother's maiden name and then his father's last name, and

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he becomes a lawyer and he's a lawyer.

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In Erie, Pennsylvania, and we go to not only his birthplace,

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but we go to where he practiced law in Erie, and he graduates

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from Harvard College in 1859, and then starts to practice a law.

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And then the war breaks out.

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Yeah.

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And he feels very called to do his duty.

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So he joins the 83rd Pennsylvania, and he's in a couple battles.

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He's in the Battle of Chancellorville.

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He's in Fredericksburg.

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He really takes command at Gettysburg and he's, he gets to Gettysburg on

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July 2nd, like as the battle is already going on, and he's commissioned

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first as a lieutenant colonel.

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He makes Colonel in June of 1862, and then in May of 1863, he takes command.

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I wanted to get this right of the third BRI grade, first division,

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fifth core Army of the Potomac, and that includes the 20th

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Maine, which is, which is Chamberlain, which is very, very, very famous.

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Now, Rome, remind me, right?

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As, as the non-story buff of, of the duo here.

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Mm-hmm.

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was it still kind of back then where because he was educated,

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he already came in as an officer?

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Yes.

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Yes, he came in.

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Okay, so because he was a lawyer, he was an establi, established

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as a lieutenant colonel.

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Mm-hmm.

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. He came in as a lieutenant colonel.

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Yes.

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And then made colonel.

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Okay.

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So, so quick right.

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Commission.

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Sure.

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Educated.

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Right, and and honestly that goes a long way cuz when we talk about what

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he did that was so instrumental in which I believe gets a lot of credit

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that he doesn't get recognized for.

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I think it's because he sees a bigger picture.

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That was incredibly common back then.

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Well that's how Nathan

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Bedford Forres did it too.

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We talk about him and you buy a commission cuz you have to pay for your commission

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That's how it was done.

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. , you have to be educated and then you have to buy your commission.

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Right.

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You know, so you have to kind of pay for your commission.

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You have to be a, a person of means.

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It's usually someone

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educated.

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So, so he came in, educated, right?

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Was mm-hmm.

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someone who was able to see the bigger picture.

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Mm-hmm.

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. Got all the way out to, to

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wanna kind of set the stage a little bit more before we start talking.

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You know, totally about Gettysburg.

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We are in Erie, Pennsylvania.

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If you picture Pennsylvania in your mind, , yeah.

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Think about the top left corner.

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Not too far from Buffalo, New York.

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Think about all the snow up there.

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That's where Erie, Pennsylvania

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is.

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Yeah, it's, so basically Pennsylvania could have access to the lake.

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Yeah.

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And Gettysburg's a lot closer to like the middle southern part of the state.

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It's, yeah.

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In,

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in that direction.

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It's close to State College.

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I, I went to Penn State so it's a little bit to the, to

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the right and south of that.

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So a little bit farther To the corner.

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Yeah.

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To the right southern corner, right in that

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area.

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They get to Gettysburg now, kind of run through.

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Kind of what happened there and what we did, what you did in

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the, the videos, cuz you did a

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couple videos.

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So if you wanna watch both videos on our channel, I do a video from Erie,

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which we follow his life from his birth to where he worked to the, and we'll

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get to the story to end of his life.

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And then I, I do Gettysburg, so I do where he stood and what happened.

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So let's get into what happened.

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Yeah.

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This is what I find so fascinating about Strong Vincent second day.

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He gets to the area where battle is taking place.

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And what has happened is Major General Sickles, who we've talked about

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before, , I, I want to learn so much more about, was it, is it Dan?

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Yeah.

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Daniel Sickles it.

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Daniel Sickles.

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. I wanna do something about Daniel Sickles because we did another podcast.

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We interviewed he's very colorful Civil, civil war, week by week.

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And he talked about Dan Sickles.

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Super interesting character.

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Yeah.

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We'll do it.

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They need to make a movie about this

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guy.

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Yes.

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So he's kind of, we'll move past this.

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He's a man of his own you know, demise, I will say.

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Yeah.

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Because he deviated from his orders.

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Yep.

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And leaves a very instrumental location, unprotected.

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, it's called Little Round Top.

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And if you know anything about Gettysburg, it is a pinnacle point

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in the battle of that second day.

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And it's where a lot of people go to visit because of the terrain.

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And you can see it ha, it's close to Devil's Den right now.

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It's closed for renovations at Gettysburg, but Sickles leaves little

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round top exposed and the chief engineer of the army of the Potomac.

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Brigadier General Warren, who's the statue that's standing there on Little

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Round Top is the one who recognized the tactical importance of this area.

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And so he's trying to find somebody to defend it and he's trying to give orders.

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And what happens is he has an aid.

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So Warren, you know, is giving orders and he has an aide

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Vincent, without consulting his.

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Superior officers decides to take his brigade and go and defend

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little round top and he says, I will take the responsibility and

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I will take my brigade there.

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So he heard,

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he came across, or, or the, an aid.

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The aid came across, mm-hmm.

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, you know, strong Vincent.

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And he asked the aid, Hey, what are you trying to do?

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And he kind of told him, Hey, I'm trying to find somebody to go hold this position.

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Yep.

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And strong Vincent's, like, I got it covered.

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Yep.

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I'll take, I'll take my folks.

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Yep.

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Which includes Chamberlain and all the whole, all the famous stuff.

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So strong.

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Vincent was in charge.

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Of these units.

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Yeah, so he was in charge.

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I wrote them all down.

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20th Main, 44th, New York, a hundred and 40th, New York Infantry, 83rd

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Pennsylvania, and the 16th Michigan.

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So 20th Main, you're gonna know Chamberlain.

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16th, Michigan will also be significant.

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So, The 20th main led by Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain.

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He receives his fame because this is like the left side of the flank.

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This is the far left side of the battle, and the rebels are advancing

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and they see them at Devil's Den.

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And if you know anything about little round top to Devil's

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Den, that's not much space.

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So if he can see them advancing, he's trying to get his people in

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place right as they start to come up.

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Vincent does.

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That's I think another strategic thing is he lines up his men kind of.

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At the spur of the ground.

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So rate where the ground starts to rise higher.

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He doesn't, he doesn't put them at the top.

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He puts 'em at the spur, which is strategically, we know good.

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Because if you fall back, you fall back to high ground.

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Right, right.

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And so, such a smart thing to do because at one point when I talked about the 16th

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of Michigan, they start to get hit a lot.

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Yeah.

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And they start to fall back and it's Vincent.

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exposes himself, stands up on that Boulder, grabs the writing crop, which is

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a gift from his wife who is pregnant at the time and says, don't give him an inch.

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Boys don't give him an inch.

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Yeah.

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And inspires everyone to not fall back.

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But unfortunately Vincent sent is mortally wounded in that moment.

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Yeah.

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And, and in the, the second video, so we talked about kind of our,

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our second video on the channel.

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Was really kind of our first real one, but 35 videos later.

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Yes, we, you get to, we make it to Gettysburg.

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It's so great.

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So we make it to Gettysburg and she actually walks through Devil's Den

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and I'll link to that particular video in the description of this video.

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She walks through Devil's Den, she finds strong Vincent's statue.

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So there's three things.

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If you go to Getty, To honor strong Vincent, I will tell you right now, you

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can go into every gift shop and say, do you have anything for Joshua Chamberlain?

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And they're like, oh, we have this shirt, we have this mug, we have this

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key chain, we have this postcard.

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Do you have anything for strong Vincent?

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No, but we should.

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Yeah.

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That's the response I got from everybody.

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So a lot of the folks there, they know of him and they know what he did.

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Yeah.

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If you're

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a, a historian of Gettysburg, you know, strong Vincent.

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Yeah.

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But he's not revered like Chamberlain is.

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If you go to Gettysburg, there will be statues everywhere to Mark different.

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. Armies and infantries.

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And brigades.

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Yep.

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Where they stood, where they were and each one, some of them are

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really unique and beautiful.

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And the one for the 83rd, Pennsylvania is on that spur where he, where

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Vincent was and put the 83rd.

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Now that statue is to.

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Commemorate all of the 83rd, but it looks like strong Vincent.

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It's made in his likeness.

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Right?

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It doesn't say his name on it, but it has the lamb chops.

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It has the, the writing crop.

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The writing crop.

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It has the hat.

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It's, it's almost like the, the statue at Erie.

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Yep.

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But it's there at Gettysburg.

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Now there's another white marker, a little bit farther back, higher up

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on the slope of little round top that says, this is where Vincent fell.

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It's like a cross and it's like a white marker you can't miss.

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It looks almost like a tombstone.

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. Then if you're close to the top of little round top, there's a boulder that you

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can't see unless you know it's there.

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That's like engraved.

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That's they, it cut into the stone and they did this in 1864.

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And it says, Colonel John Vincent fell here.

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Yeah.

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So there's three things that

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you can find.

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And then he was, was it, is he posthumously promoted, or he was

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promoted just before he died?

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So to Brigadier

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General, commander of the Army of the Potomac major General Mead recommends

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Vincent for promotion to Briga General on the evening of July 2nd.

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So that same day after the battle, after he's injured, after he's taken

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back to it's the, the Bush farm.

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He recommends him for Brido General.

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And so then he's promoted on July 3rd, so Lincoln approves it That's right.

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That next day.

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And he's promoted on July 3rd, and he's commissioned to Brigadier General.

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On his deathbed.

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There is conflicting testimony whether he knew, oh, okay.

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He received the commission.

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I think he knew because he dies five days later.

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I mean, he.

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Just, he

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got shot in the leg or like in the gro

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through the groin.

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Yeah.

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So hit that artery there and that artery there.

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And so he's nursed and he's, he is lucid, he is coherent and he

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is talking until the very end.

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But he just, He lingers for those five days, it must have been just miserable.

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And then at the end when he's passing away, , he's muttering

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the Lord's Prayer as he dies.

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Yeah.

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It's so, so

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it, it was powerful.

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It was really neat to kind of almost go full circle.

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Mm-hmm.

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with strong Vincent.

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Right.

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And.

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One of the things, if you guys follow Jen on Instagram or anywhere and Gettysburg

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comes up, she will bring up Strong

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Vincent's.

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I will.

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Because I don't think a lot of people know him or give him credit.

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And there are people who will acknowledge, oh yeah, he, he's important.

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I'm like, no, no, no, no.

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Without strong Vincent and I don't I really push this.

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An officer taking his agency upon himself to hold a line knowing that this

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is a strategic part that's important.

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We were both officers in the military.

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Yeah.

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And.

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To, to make those determinations on your own.

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I mean, you're taught that and you're taught that there will be moments when

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you're gonna have to decide, but you're also gonna have to defend that decision.

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And he does it.

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He sees it, he knows it.

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He, he sees the, the opening, he sees the vulnerability, he sees the

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confederates coming, and he has a brigade.

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And so he's like, I'm gonna put them all up.

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It's like he gets everyone in position just as they come up.

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And I don't think people realize they do this in the 1993 movie Gettysburg.

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And it's important that he does stress to Chamberlain.

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They show that scene, they show that scene.

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That's a real moment.

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He does stress to Chamberlain.

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You have got to hold the line.

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You are the far left flank of the army, of the Potomac.

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One of the other things that I think we should talk about is there's another

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reason that you like that particular scene of Gettysburg is because the

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actor who plays strong Vincent Yes.

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In Gettysburg is an actor that you like

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Maxwell Caulfield.

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He is in

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Grease two.

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Yeah, he's,

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he's, he's, he's one of the love interests.

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He's the guy.

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He's the guy.

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Yeah.

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He, he's the,

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he's the

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main guy.

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He's the main guy from Grease two.

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So we, we make a joke about that I think in our first, yeah,

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we actually show him in every we song,

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we show the greasy and stuff like that.

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I kind, I kind of cringe when I watched some of our earlier videos.

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I know, yeah.

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Because we were learning quite a, quite

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a bit.

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Yeah.

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Michael Carrington, so you might know Grease two.

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Michelle.

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That's run for early, early movies.

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Yeah.

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But you don't see Maxwell Caulfield a lot.

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He does things here and there.

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Yeah.

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He's not like a, a big a list actor.

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Yeah.

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But when I watched that scene, I'm like, oh my gosh, that's

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Maxwell Caulfield from Grease two.

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Yeah.

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So he plays strong Vincent in the movie, and they do have that moment.

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He's talking to Jeff Daniels and he, who's Joshua Chamberlain, and tells him,

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you know, you, you are the fall of flank.

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You've gotta defend.

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With your death.

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Basically, this is everything.

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And he says

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, Because Chamberlain is a professor.

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Okay.

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It's not because not because Vincent is Vincent's a lawyer.

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But Chamberlain's a

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professor.

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Well, and you have to think about it too, right?

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It's not like this is the first time he's ever two have met.

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No.

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Right.

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Because, and

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or fought.

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He's, he's been

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in, he's been in charge of this unit for quite a long time.

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So strong Vincent.

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Very familiar and proven with, with Chamberlain and Fredericksburg.

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Right.

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And so Chancellorville that these, these guys had already

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been fighting together mm-hmm.

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for, you know, weeks if not months.

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And, and longer than that.

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So these, the men like from Chamberlain and everyone else there trusted Yes.

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And knew.

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Trusted their leader, right.

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Trusted, strong, Vincent to be like, we trust him enough.

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He's been successful enough that we're gonna stay here.

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We're gonna hold this

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line.

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And I think it goes to show too, he, they're holding the line to the extent.

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where they're running out of ammunition and they're fixing bayonets.

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Yeah, I mean, that's, that's not something that you do just because you're like,

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yeah, I think this is a strategic spot.

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This is like, you hold this or we lose it all.

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Yeah,

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exactly.

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And that's, that's exactly what happened.

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They never, the rebels were never able to advance.

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They held the line, and even though strong Vincent is, is injured early

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and brought to the back of the line and the rest of his brigade don't give up.

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They all stand their positions.

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I don't know.

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You know, you can say you were inspired by your leader.

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We talk about George Washington leading from the front a lot.

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Yeah.

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And the inspiration that Vincent gave to his men with, getting up

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there with the writing crop and saying, don't give her an inch boys.

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Don't give her an inch.

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And then getting injured.

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A lot of people might have felt like my.

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Boss, my leader, it just got injured.

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I'm gonna fight for him.

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I'm going to defend him.

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I'm gonna protect him

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. We do visit him in this, his final resting place.

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He's, yeah, he's an Erie.

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Erie.

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He's brought back to

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Erie.

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He's, he's buried in Erie with a bunch.

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He's like a family plot.

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Yeah, it's a

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family plot.

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His wife was pregnant at the time, but she has the little girl, but

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the little girl doesn't live past the age of one cuz of sickness.

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Her name is Blanche.

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She's, he's buried right beside her.

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And then his wife never remar.

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She dies in 1914, so he's buried between the two of them.

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But his grave, if you watch our video, it is.

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Honored.

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Yep.

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It is an honored grave.

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He has a gar, he has the, the, the Grand Army of the Republic Star.

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He has medals on it.

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He had a ton of pennies.

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He,

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he, he was actually, you can tell in the Erie area.

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Right.

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He was one of those famous historical figures Yes.

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That people just knew about.

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Mm-hmm.

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, they learned about kind of what he did

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at, well, there was a high school name, strong Vincent High School.

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That's right.

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That's where every, if you live in eer, epa, you went to

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Strong Vincent High School.

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It is now strong.

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Vincent Middle School.

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, but it was the high school for about 70 years.

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Yeah.

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And now it's the

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middle school.

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I remember we actually when.

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. It's either the first video or second video initially came out.

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People started commenting who had gone to Strong Vincent High School.

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Yes.

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Eventually we got comments from people who had lived in e epa,

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you know, and grown up there and actually attended that high school.

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And, and there were a couple folks who said, Hey, I never knew this much about

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Strong Vincent, thank you so much Yes.

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For making this video.

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I just think he's, I mean, I don't wanna like be crass, but I think he's all.

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Badass.

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And he looks cool.

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If you can look at our videos and look at the pictures.

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He looks like a confident cool guy.

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Yeah, and even there's testimony of how he was, they said he

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was a big gentleman, but quiet.

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I just think more people need to know who he is because really he could have changed

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his decision making, if or lack thereof, could have changed the entire outcome

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of Gettysburg, which could have changed the entire outcome of the Civil War.

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So a lawyer.

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from Erie, Pennsylvania.

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When you think Josh Chamberlain, I want you to think of strong Vincent,

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because Chamberlain survives.

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We always talk about this.

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Yeah.

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Chamberlain survives.

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He gets to tell his story and Vincent doesn't.

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Who knows how much higher he would've went, but.

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I just, I'm so honored to, for him to be our real first video

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and to still tell his story.

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Yeah.

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he's, one of those gems that you unearth and the more you learn about

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this person, the, the, the more inspired this more inspired that you get.

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So as we talk about strong Vincent, you, you think back and there are so

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many heroes throughout history that receive recognition for their heroic.

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in the United States, we look back on our relatively short history compared to other

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countries and nations around the world.

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We talk about larger than life characters like

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George Washington,

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Abraham Lincoln,

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Ulysses S, grant

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General Douglas MacArthur,

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buzz Aldrin.

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I bet you can name a hero across any age of American history but little.

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Do many folks know of the pivotal role..

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That a lawyer from Waterford, Pennsylvania played in the American Civil War.

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This lawyer served in the Army and took initiative to hold the line at Gettysburg.

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No, he didn't charge with anyone with bayonets himself.

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But how could a soldier not be inspired by a colonel rallying

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his troops from the front yelling?

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Don't give him an inch, boys.

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Don't give him an inch..

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Thank you for listening to the Talk with History podcast, and please reach out to

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us at our website, talk with history.com.

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But more importantly, if you know someone that would enjoy this

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particular podcast, shoot 'em a text and tell 'em about Talk with History.

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Because we rely on you, our community to grow, and we appreciate you all every day.

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We'll talk to you next time.