Men retread the road to Gettysburg


By Alyse Horn

Sometimes people make questionable purchases.

Take Jim Smith, a military veteran and drum aficionado, who said he once bought a snare drum that looked like a piece of coal.

“It had been stored in an attic. It was covered in soot and bird dropping,” Smith said.

When he took the drum home he noticed a strange rattling noise coming from inside, and discovered a single silver-tipped drumstick. This single drumstick led him to unveil the previous owner of the drum, Peter Guibert.

Guibert was a soldier in the civil war, part of Company F and the 74th Infantry, and fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. Guibert also resided in the Northside.

For the 50th anniversary of the infamous battle, Guibert and Jon Conroy left West Park and walked all the way to Gettysburg following the Lincoln Highway. The pair left on May 26 and arrived on June 13, 1913. It took the two 18 days to make the 200 mile trip, and at the time Guibert was 70 years old.

The Pennsylvania Railroad offered a free ride to Gettysburg 50th Anniversary Reunion for Union and Confederate soldiers, but mysteriously, Guibert walked.

“I was marveled of the thought of this old man marching over these hills to Gettysburg,” Smith said. “A few years ago it really sunk in.”

Smith was talking about Guibert’s story with a few friends and how Gettysburg 150th Anniversary was coming up, and “the fella’s just looked at me and said, ‘Well?’”

After that, Smith was committed to making the same trek Guibert did 100 years ago.

Smith set out from West Park on May 26 with friends Ray Zimmerman walking beside him and Len DeCarlo following the duo in a car. The three traveled the route of the old Lincoln Highway, Smith brought Guibert’s drum to play during the walk, and Zimmerman his bugle.

Zimmerman said the first week of the walk it was 90 degrees.

“With every step, at least once a day, we would ask ourselves why in the world [Guibert] would do this,” Smith said.

Arriving at Gettysburg on June 13, 2013, Smith and Zimmerman had recreated Guibert and Conroy’s journey 100 years later, even down to the littlest details.

On the tail end of the 1913 journey, Guilbert and Conroy hitched a ride on a horse-drawn wagon with a Bell Telephone logo, so Zimmerman arranged for that to happen near the end of the 2013 journey, without telling Smith.

Upon approaching the wagon, Smith said he was “speechless.”

Taking a step back and looking at the journey, Smith said “it was one of those things that had to be.”

Guibert was born on January 4, 1844. Smith was born February 2, 1944. The two men were born almost an exact 100 years apart and both made the 200 mile walk to Gettysburg at age 70.

Before Smith and Zimmerman left for Gettysburg in May, they stopped at Guibert’s grave in Highwood Cemetery and grabbed a handful of soil.

“We interred the soil from Peter’s grave at the 74th PA monument in the National Cemetery [when we arrived] on June 13,” Smith said.

Smith has tried to find out more information on Guibert and Conroy, and a reason as to why the pair made the walk, but most clues lead to dead ends.

Smith has his speculations, but without a journal from either man, nothing can be confirmed.

Smith and Zimmerman are veterans and members of the Armbrust Veterans Association Honor Guard.

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