Gettysburg 150th – July 4 Battlefield Experience Programs

    Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’Sullivan and James F. Gibson were photographers. Gardner had managed the Washington, D.C. branch of Matthew Brady’s photographic gallery from 1860 to 1863, when he left to establish his own studio in the city. When news of the battle at Gettysburg reached them, Gardner and his team assembled their equipment and set out for the battlefield. They arrived on the battlefield on July 5. Of the sixty negatives the team would produce between July 5 and July 7, when they departed, twelve, or twenty per-cent, were created on the farm of George Rose. The Rose farm, which is about two miles south of Gettysburg, off the Emmitsburg Road, was the scene of very heavy fighting on July 2. Rose’s farm included the infamous “Wheatfield.” But much of the heaviest fighting occurred in Rose Woods, which bordered the Wheatfield to the east, south and west. By the time Gardner and his team arrived, the Union dead from the fighting in this area had been buried, but many Confederate dead remained unburied, particularly on what is called Rose Hill, a piece of high ground south of the Wheatfield that straddles Rose Woods and Rose’s pasture south of the woods. Here, Confederate soldiers of G. T. Anderson’s, Semmes’, and Kershaw’s brigades battled with men of Colonel John R. Brooke’s brigade from Caldwell’s division of the Union 2nd Corps. On July 3 the survivors of Anderson’s, Semmes’, and Kershaw’s brigades gathered their dead for burial, and in some instances, even prepared head boards marking graves, but before the burials could be completed the brigades were ordered to withdraw back to Warfield Ridge, and the dead had to be left to the Federals to bury.
    The dead, and the wreckage of battle, were the primary subjects of Gardner’s team. Photographs of the war’s carnage were immensely powerful and disturbing to a public who primarily saw the war through heroic and sanitized lithographs and woodcuts in magazines and newspapers. Through his photographs Gardner could convey the ugly reality of war. His series of photographs from the Battle of Antietam, in September 1862, exhibited in New York City, created a sensation. So too would his team’s photographs from Gettysburg. They remain unforgettable and haunting even at the distance of 150 years.

One of the series of images captured by Gardner's team.  These are Confederate dead of Kershaw's brigade who their comrades had prepared for burial but had to abandon when they were withdrawn to Warfield Ridge.  LC

One of the series of images captured by Gardner’s team. These are Confederate dead of Kershaw’s brigade who their comrades had prepared for burial but had to abandon when they were withdrawn to Warfield Ridge. LC

    On July 4, 2013, Licensed Battlefield Guides Gary Adelman and Tim Smith, who have studied Gardner’s, O’Sullivan’s and Gibson’s series of photographs in depth, will present Gettysburg Aftermath in 4D – The Rose Farm. Gary and Tim will discuss the importance of Gardner’s team’s work at Gettysburg, and that of the other photographers that came here after the battle, and specifically, the powerful series of images they recorded on Rose Hill on July 5, 1863. You will need to rise early to catch this program. It starts at 7 a.m. and lasts until 9 a.m. Meet on Rose Hill opposite the 53rd Pennsylvania Monument on Brooke Avenue. Park along South Sickles Avenue or Ayres Avenue and walk over. Do not park along Cross, Brooke or DeTrobriand Avenue. See the map for details on program start and parking. 

July 4 7 a.m. Battlefield Experience program locaiton and parking.  NPS

July 4 7 a.m. Battlefield Experience program locaiton and parking. NPS

    The Slyder Farm and Family – Before, During and After the Battle of Gettysburg
The John Slyder farm of 88 acres was nestled at the base of Big Round Top, not far from the farm of George Rose. Slyder purchased the farm in 1849. In 1852 he built the stone house that stands today. Slyder was of German heritage. His farm and buildings were tidy and well constructed. His wife Catherine, was the sister of Lydia Leister, whose small farmhouse on the Taneytown Road would become the headquarters for the Army of the Potomac during the battle. The couple had five children by the time the war came to

The Slyder barn with the hog pen and chicken coop in the foreground.  NPS

The Slyder barn with the hog pen and chicken coop in the foreground. NPS

Gettysburg. It was not ideal farmland. The soil is claylike and filled with granite boulders, but Slyder made the most of it. He had 2 horses, 5 milk cows, 4 cattle, 16 swine, chickens, meadows, an orchard and abundant timber on the slopes of Big Round Top. Like many of the farmers in the area, Slyder did not earn his living solely from farming. He was a skilled blacksmith and carpenter, and his farm included a blacksmith shop. Daily life on a farm like the Slyder’s was rewarding but the work was physical, hard, and continuous. There were fences to be built, animals to be cared for, blacksmithing, cows to be milked, grain to be cut, fruit to be canned, wheat to be threshed, grain to be sacked – the list went on and on, the rhythm of life changed only by the seasons. But then the war came to Gettysburg and the Slyders farm fell between the opposing armies. They were advised to leave their farm for safety. If you were John or Catherine, what would you do? This was your home, your life, everything you had worked for. Now, it was all in jeopardy. All across the battlefield other farm families were confronting the same gut wrenching decision. Most, like the Slyder’s, chose safety and left their farms. It was the right choice for the Slyders for on July 2 the battle would sweep directly through their farm. Union sharpshooters would use Slyder’s walls and buildings for cover to fire upon advancing Confederates.
    The battle changed the Slyders lives as it did the lives of so many civilians who lived in and around Gettysburg. That story and the story of the Slyders life on their “Granite farm” in the years and weeks before and after the battle is the subject of our last Battle Experience program of the 150th anniversary. Rangers Barb Sanders, Chris Gwinn and Caitlin Kostic

Building fence worm fencing on the Slyder farm.  NPS

Building worm fencing on the Slyder farm. NPS

will lead this hands-on special program from 10 a.m. to noon. To participate, park along South Confederate Avenue and follow the trail to the 1st Vermont Cavalry monument where the rangers will meet you. From this point, you will walk a quarter-mile down the old trail to the Slyder farm. You will learn about the Slyders and the battle that impacted their lives, but you will also have the chance to participate in some of the chores that were part of the family’s daily routine. This is not a passive program!
    The Slyder farm seems little changed from 1863. Tucked away from the main avenues of the battlefield it is quiet and serene, yet the echoes of the family that lived here and the battle that changed their lives can still be felt.
    July 4 will be the final day of our special 150th anniversary programming.  We hope you can join us.

D. Scott Hartwig

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5 Responses to Gettysburg 150th – July 4 Battlefield Experience Programs

  1. carol houser says:

    will PCN be taping the walks this year.

  2. Rob Jeffries says:

    Scott.. Want to take this moment, as I anticipate my 5 day trip to Gettysburg. Kudos to you and John, Troy, Tim and Gary and many more, some of which I am familiar with and some, not so. The programs offered this year are an awesome conglomeration of ideas put together by you and the crew. I’m actually overwhelmed with things to do and can only think it’s too hard to choose an itinerary. I can only recommend to the visitors, not only to get to the fesivities early and prepared, but to take this time to go over such an awesome array of presentations and plan well. If left to myself to not make a plan, I will be stopped every hundred yards with enthusiasm for what is going on as I make my way along and will miss the things I want to make a point to see. Thank you, the crew, PCN and the state and local officials who have made Gettysburg my favorite spot “ON EARTH” to visit.
    P.S.- R.I.P Blue and Gray fellows of old..Never forget our honored dead…

  3. I agree with Rob–kudos to all the Park Rangers for such outstanding and varied programs. And also his comment to plan ahead–we acquired our Commemorative Guide at the Visitors Center this past Saturday and are planning our itinerary!

  4. Rob Jeffries says:

    I have a copy of the 1963 100th Commemorative Issue of Civil War Times of Gettysburg in a hardback, condensed volume of that years issues. I’m almost certain one of you rangers have this or have seen it, but if not, you are very welcome to view mine while I am at Gettysburg from 6/30 to 7/4. I will be along on the tours of Scott Hartwig, Troy Harmon, Matt Atkinson, Tim & Garry. Rangers and my two favorite guides, Tim and Garry are more than welcome to peruse or borrow. Arrangements can be made for it’s return to me. I could also leave it under proper care at the Visitor’s Center or Ranger Station for your perusal. In return, I would like to have the advantage to open a tour with the display of my upper back tattoo saying, “GETTYSBURG” and below, “1863”. Lol, reality Gettysburg. Of course, I am only joking about letting me do the opener and you are still welcome to the use of the book. If I recall correctly, I had obtained a few volumes of many being sold by Ollie’s Outlet Store a few years ago. Who knows, someone may get lucky to find some of these hardback gems.
    P.S.- I will be bicycling to the tours and events. Am I permitted to push or carry the bicycle along with me across the NPS grounds? I think that Scotts Walk is the my only program that is not directly returning to it’s starting point, by foot and would be a huge advantage for me to be able to bring it respectfully along with me.

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