Bechard successfully raised more than $2,000 through his GoFundMe campaign to help restore the granite monument that dates back to the 1880s. Several names of soldiers from the 20th Maine who died on Little Round Top are no longer readable.

Nearly 50 people, many Bechard has never met, were moved by his plea and contributed a total of $2,090 to help pay the National Parks Service to perform a special cleaning. Bechard hopes the effort will bring the names back to life.

The donations ranged from $10 to $200.

“It was fantastic,” Bechard said. “I couldn’t ask for a better response.”

A low-pressure, micro-abrasive wash to help restore the monument could begin as early as August, said David Cooper, the chief development officer for the Gettysburg Foundation.

A self-proclaimed history buff, Bechard visited Gettysburg for the first time in late May. After taking a tour of the battlefield, he made a special visit to Little Round Top, one of Gettysburg’s most popular sites, to see where Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine saved the day defending the left flank.

On July 2, 1863, on the second day of the three-day battle, the 20th Maine was at the end of the Union line at Little Round Top. Seeking to gain the high ground and outflank the Union, the Confederates attacked the position in continuous waves. After roughly two hours of fighting, running low on bullets and seeing another line of attackers form, Chamberlain ordered his men to fix bayonets and charge down the hill. 

The move surprised the Confederates and ended their offensive push on the flank. The bayonet charge allowed roughly 300 members of the 20th Maine to defeat two Alabama regiments, including the capture of nearly 400 Confederates.

Bechard was underwhelmed by what he found at the site. First, he had trouble locating the monument. Then, he was heartbroken once he found it and saw that several of the names of fallen soldiers were unreadable due to dirt, water and the ravages of time.

Bechard was so upset that he began a GoFundMe campaign to raise money. Donations poured in last weekend following an article published in the Sun Journal that raised more than $1,700 in less than five days. That brought his total above his $2,000 goal.

After GoFundMe collects its fees of roughly 7 to 8 percent, Bechard says he will send the money to the Gettysburg Foundation. 

Donations are needed because monument restoration is not included in the park’s annual budget. The stones get power washed once every three years.

The granite stone is slated for restoration as soon as the park’s Monument Preservation Branch finishes cleaning the Pennsylvania state monument — the largest one on the battlefield. Cooper said the 20th Maine cleaning is the next one scheduled for either August or September.

The special cleaning involves using a low-pressure, micro-abrasive wash — a method that uses pulverized glass particles, similar to glass beads, that does not cut into the surface. This is a step up from the park’s usual power wash. 

While there is no guarantee that the method will allow all the names to become visible again, Lucas Flickinger, Gettysburg’s Monument Preservation Branch supervisor, said last week that visitors to the 20th Maine will see a definite improvement in the stone’s appearance.

The cleaning will cost between $1,200 and $1,500, Bechard said.

Bechard knows where he wants the rest of the money spent.

“I want them to place a sign in front of Little Round Top pointing to where the monument is,” he said.

That may or may not happen, Cooper said. Just this week, plans are being developed for a complete overhaul of Little Round Top that was originally envisioned in the 1990s. Restoration plans for the heavily-visited part of the battlefield could be ready within a few months, with construction beginning within two years.

“The cleaning will use most of the money Clem raised,” Cooper said. “Anything left over, I’ll do my best to see what can be done. It has to fit into the project.”

Fresh off his first fundraising attempt, Bechard, who said he will visit the monument once the cleaning is complete, will likely continue helping the park with its Little Round Top plans.

“If they need help to upgrade the whole area, I might start another one next year,” he said.

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