Gettysburg Museum Collections Now Available Online

The National Tower, a private tourist attraction loomed over the battlefield and the cemetery for nearly 30 years.  This historic image and many others are now available online.

The National Tower, a private tourist attraction loomed over the battlefield and the cemetery for nearly 30 years. This historic image and many others are now available online.

Researchers from all over the world can access the core of Gettysburg National Military Park’s collections remotely now that more than 40,000 images and catalog records for the Gettysburg collection are online.

To see the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum Collections page click here.  The online feature also includes archival finding aids a useful tool for learning even more about many aspects of the national parks through online PDFs and image collections.

Gettysburg’s new online resources include:

      • An extensive photograph collection capturing life during the period of the Civil War and beyond. The Civil War Soldier Collection displays the portraits of various soldiers who fought throughout the war.
      • A large collection of general photographs that record images taken by park staff to document park operations, events, property, and surroundings.
      • The William H. Tipton Photographic Prints, 1863-1931, are from original negatives created by William Howard Tipton in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was a prominent Gettysburg photographer who, as young boy, assisted local photographers in documenting the aftermath of the battle.
      • Maps and drawings comprise a large share of the finding aids within the Gettysburg collection. For example, Bureau of Public Roads Improvements Drawings from 1934-1936 describes blueprints received and approved by the National Park Service and Gettysburg National Military Park as part of road and walkways improvement projects.
      • The Gettysburg National Military Park Maps and Drawings describes maps, plot plans, architectural drawings, engineering plans, road layouts, and topographic sketches of various buildings, monuments, and land tracts within Gettysburg National Military Park and the surrounding area from 1933-Present.
      • The letter collection provides a vast assortment of letter written during this crucial period of American history and offers a detail and in-depth look at what life was like at this time. The Thompson Papers include the many letters and papers associated with Captain James Thompson, including the discharge letter for Captain James Thompson from the Pennsylvania light artillery volunteers on June 13th 1865. The William King Letters contain several letters written by William F. King of the 18th Massachusetts Volunteers during the Civil War. These letters offer valuable in-sight into the daily lives and struggles of soldiers fighting during the war.
The Gettysburg battlefield looking north along Emmitsburg Road, with the South End Comfort Station on the right.

The Gettysburg battlefield looking north along Emmitsburg Road, with the South End Comfort Station on the lower right. Much of this private development has been slowly removed from the historic battlefield landscape.

“This project will improve the public’s understanding of Gettysburg’s material culture, the events of the Civil War, and the efforts that have been made to preserve the battlefield since the guns fell silent.”said Ed W. Clark, Superintendent, Gettysburg National Military Park.

The NPS WASO Museum Management Program, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, ReDiscovery Software and park staff completed the project over the past year.

The project is an important accomplishment in the NPS’s “A Call To Action” initiative number 17, Go Digital, which calls for transforming the NPS digital experience by creating user-friendly online resources and social media opportunities.

A blog entry on the finding aids and archival collections of Gettysburg NMP can be found at http://npscollections.blogspot.com/.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 5/28/14

Posted in Museum and Visitor Center, Photography, Uncategorized, Weapons & Artifacts | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

“So that none might be left or lost:” Reflections on Gettysburg’s Confederate Dead

As winter finally fades, we are reminded by the appearance of flowers and greenery that Memorial Day must inevitably be approaching.  There is always special meaning to the promise in the rebirth of spring, often nowhere more so than at the graves of a nation’s soldiers.

The Gettysburg Campaign produced approximately 10,000 dead.  Of these, some 3,555 soldiers were buried within the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.  At the time, all were believed to be exclusively soldiers of the Union, as popular sentiment quite clearly backed segregating the Rebels from the Union soldiers. Unknown at the time to both William Saunders, landscape architect of the cemetery, and David Wills, the project supervisor appointed by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin,  a few plots did contain the remains of Southern soldiers; placed there purely by mistake.  The vast number of fallen Confederates yet lay in mass graves, spread across the fields where they fell.

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Confederate dead littered the battlefield, such as these men killed in the fighting at the “Slaughter Pen.”

In the spring of 1864, there had been scattered calls in the Gettysburg Sentinel to collect the “Rebel remains,” in the name of “a common humanity,” but the pressures and politics of war-time had forestalled such.  Even impressive poetry, published in 1864, had pleaded the point – yet failed to convince.  Finally, years following the close of the war and with waking opportunities presented by peace, in July of 1869, the old hero of Gettysburg, Gen. George Gordon Meade, stepped out to speak to the issue as part of his dedicatory address for the Soldier’s National Monument.

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Maj. Gen. George Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, urged for the proper reburial of Confederate dead on the Gettysburg battlefield.

“When I contemplate this field, I see here and there marked with hastily dug trenches, the graves in which the dead with whom we fought are gathered.  They are the works of my brothers-in-arms the day after the battle.  Above them a bit of plank indicates simply that these remains of the fallen foe were hurriedly laid there by soldiers who met them in battle.  Why should we not we collect them in some suitable place?  I do not ask that a monument be erected over them.  I do not ask that we should in any way indorse their cause or their conduct, or entertain other than feelings of condemnation for their cause.  But, they are dead; they have gone before their Maker to be judged.  In all civilized countries it is usual to bury the dead with decency and respect, and even to fallen enemies, respectful burial is accorded in death.  I earnestly hope this this suggestion may have some influence across this broad land…”

In spite of Gen. Meade’s publicly – expressed statement, seeking governmental endorsement for the respectful removal of the Confederate dead, evidence of contrary sentiment had remained heavy.  From the post-battle months into the early portion of the 1870’s, incidental retrievals of individual Confederates by determined Southern family members reflected the only inclination to address this issue. It would take the arrival of several elements – politics, money, and good intentions – to try and resolve it.

The immediate postwar period following any conflict is hard and filled with changes; this readjustment is significantly more so for the defeated, as those transitions often prove markedly more difficult. In the case of the beaten Confederates, their first priority was survival; accomplishing that, the task of replacing a war-ravaged infrastructure, and receiving the potential social and political implications of a Northern victory (all while attempting to reconcile the enormity of their previous sacrifices) lay ahead.

It was under this combination of pressures that a new form of entity entered the scene, collectively known as “Ladies Memorial” societies or associations. Differing and varied by region, they were yet united in their singular goal of rebuilding the shattered spirit of the Southern people.

War has not wholly wrecked us; still

Strong hands, brave hearts, high souls are ours–

Proud consciousness of quenchless powers–

A Past whose memory makes us thrill–

Futures uncharactered, to fill

With heroisms–if we will.

From “Acceptation
Margaret Junkin Preston

Not surprisingly, after a time, was that one of the earliest projects seized upon in their efforts called for the removal of the Southern dead from the Gettysburg battlefield.  In the absence of (often bankrupt or indifferent) state governments, these organizations took the lead in trying to recruit competent and connected individuals to assist them in achieving their goals.

In this instance, the Ladies latched onto the father and son team of the Weavers, Samuel and Rufus, who seemed best qualified from their knowledge of previous battlefield burials.  David Wills had first hired Samuel to retrieve the fallen Federals for the Soldier’s National Cemetery in the fall of 1863. The Ladies, as well, approached the elder Weaver, who died shortly afterwards, in 1871, as the new project began. They then turned to his reluctant son Rufus to continue his father’s work.

Heeding their entreaties, Dr. Weaver was induced to lay aside his young medical practice in Philadelphia for (as it turned out, only partially fulfilled) promises of payment, to assist in the honorable cause of returning the remains of approximately 3,000 Confederates to Southern soil.  He wound up devoting over three years to this effort.

For this particular project, his medical training proved an invaluable tool, as -

“(I) t required one with Anatomical knowledge, to gather all the bones, which [workmen could not do,] and regarding each bone as important and sacred as an integral part of the skeleton, I removed them so that none might be left or lost.”

Ultimately, these remains were destined to be placed into four large Southern cemeteries. Hollywood, in Richmond, received by far the largest number of fallen Confederates, at over 2,200 bodies; Oakwood, in Raleigh, was the recipient of 137; Laurel Grove, in Savannah, Georgia, saw the return of some 40; and Magnolia, in Charleston, South Carolina, with 82.   Once brought home to be placed among their own, the remains of these men were predictably welcomed with all the respect and ceremony their fallen cause represented.

However, these organized Confederate removals did not mark the end of the story. By one estimate, over some 119 years following, there were at least thirty-nine later discoveries of remains, individually or in groups, Union, Confederate, or unknown.  The hasty nature of warfare, coupled with the passage of time and scanty or unkempt records, made proper identification of these postwar reclamations nearly impossible.  Even determining the former soldier’s allegiance often became something of a forensic challenge.

Many of these bodies were discovered in the battlefield area during the park’s Memorial Period, when the installation of modern avenues, digging for roadways, placement of curbs and gutter drains, etc., caused their accidental discovery. Some of them, believed to have been Federal soldiers, were removed to the National Cemetery, while on occasion, those thought to have been Confederates, once rediscovered, were often reburied near where they were found.  A few of these were taken to Rose Hill Confederate Cemetery in Hagerstown, Maryland, while one was moved to Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Other nearly forgotten soldiers, all casualties of that summer of discontent, now sit quietly in a wider circle of distant cemeteries, reflecting the larger scope of military operations during the summer of 1863. These isolated cases mirror the ebb and flow of the complex and messy endeavor that had formed portions of the Gettysburg campaign throughout central Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.

Some of these may be found in the far–distant reaches of the traditionally presumed boundaries of the movements of the armies, such as Chambersburg, or Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Other less-encountered Confederates rest in such places as Mount Holly Springs, PA, outside of Carlisle,

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A lone Confederate grave in Mt. Holly Springs, PA.

…or in Fairview Cemetery, in Mercersburg, PA (three CS dead, note the interweaving of the Confederate grave marker, the “1861” shield markers,  Union and CS battle flags.)

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The graves of three Confederates soldiers, Mercersburg, PA

Closer to Gettysburg, three residents “of the old gray gate,” rest around a single monument in the Old Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary Cemetery in Emmitsburg, MD.

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A trio of rebel graves, Emmitsburg, MD.

Further north, three other Confederates are buried in a churchyard in Manada Gap, (near Hershey, PA); battle captives who perished in an unrecorded disaster connected with an iron furnace

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Unknown dead of the Army of Northern, Virginia, Manada Gap, PA

and finally at Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, along the southern bank of the Susquehanna River, where a lone Confederate of those divisive days rests.

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A Confederate soldier rests on the banks of the Susquehanna River, near Wrightsville, PA.

In varied ways, scattered, but in keeping with General Meade’s stated request, these lonesome souls had been buried “with decency and respect,” far from their native land; just as the term “native land” itself was being re-examined. This process had accelerated primarily as a result of the questions more sharply defined by the War itself.

This immense sacrifice, highlighted at each Gettysburg soldier’s grave, signifies a long and torturous process that continues even to this day, as we as a nation began to more precisely discern the freedoms that we now presently possess as Americans; and on occasion, the price we will pay to define and preserve them.

Unfortunately, distilling those answers is not always cleanly done; on occasion, the cost of doing so is high.  As Abraham Lincoln stated, “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”  As we acknowledge the passage of just over 150 years from the issue of the Gettysburg Address across a war-ravaged countryside to the present Memorial Day, think upon the lessons of the stones that mark every American soldier’s grave, recalling the words from Lincoln’s Second Inaugural – “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away” – and reflect upon the meaning of the day.

Park Ranger Bert Barnett

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Ranger programs at Gettysburg begin June 7

From June 7 through August ­­10, Gettysburg National Military Park will offer a variety of free ranger guided programs that explore the Battle of Gettysburg, care of the wounded, the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, the monuments of Gettysburg and much more.

Spangler farm program

George Spangler farm program

New this summer – LIVES LOST AND SAVED AT THE GEORGE SPANGLER FARM. This farm served as the Union Army’s 11th Corps field hospital with more than 1,900 Union and Confederate wounded.  Park Ranger programs tell stories of the wounded soldiers and the doctors and nurses who struggled to keep them alive.  Civil War encampments will showcase soldier life and medical care.  Costumed interpreters will demonstrate farm work and crafts of the Civil War period.   Recently preserved by the Gettysburg Foundation, the George Spangler farm is one of the most intact Civil War field hospitals from the battle of Gettysburg.  Open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays only, from June 6 to August 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Access to the farm is by free shuttle bus from the Museum and Visitor Center only.

Programs take place, on the battlefield, in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and at the Museum and Visitor Center and last between twenty minutes and three hours, depending on the program.    Begin your visit to Gettysburg at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, 1195 Baltimore Pike.  During your visit, be certain to pick up a copy of the park summer newspaper that lists all of the programs. Check the park website www.nps.gov/gett, and www.facebook.com/GettysburgNMP for updates. For questions by phone call 717/ 334-1124 x 8023.

THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG – Ranger programs that focus on the three days of the battle of Gettysburg, perfect for our first-time visitors.

THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG: AN OVERVIEW (30 minutes) – Want to understand the basics of the battle before you get out on the field? This is the program for you! Meet in the Ford Education Center inside the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

GETT_150_FacebookSort_Volume28_012THE FIRST DAY (1 hour) – Why did the battle start at Gettysburg? How did the fighting on July 1, 1863 shape the rest of the battle? Find out on this program. Meet at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 2, daily at 10 a.m.

THE SECOND DAY (1 hour) – What were the key decisions that shaped the fighting at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 and what resulted? Join a ranger and discover the events that unfolded on Gettysburg’s bloodiest day. Meet at the Peach Orchard, daily at 2 p.m.

THE THIRD DAY & BEYOND (1 hour) – What happened during “Pickett’s Charge” on July 3, 1863 and what did its outcome mean for the Union and Confederacy? Meet at the “Ranger Program” sign in the National Cemetery parking lot between Taneytown Road and Steinwehr Avenue, daily at 4 p.m.

FIRST SHOTS ON McPHERSON’S RIDGE (1 hour) – New this year! The Edward McPherson farm witnessed the opening shots of the Battle of Gettysburg, initiated between Union cavalry and Confederate infantry. How did the fighting on this simple farm shape and influence the strategy of the battle in the coming days? Join a ranger on this hour-long walk to discover the answers. Program begins at Auto Tour Stop No. 1. Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at 1:30 p.m.

MONUMENTS OF GETTYSBURG (45 minutes) – The Gettysburg battlefield contains the world’s largest collection of outdoor sculpture. Who created these monuments and decided where to place them? What do they symbolize? Hear the extraordinary stories behind these memorials during this ranger-conducted program held in the Ford Education Center classroom of the Museum and Visitor Center, Saturday and Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

GETTYSBURG IN-DEPTH – Perfect for returning visitors, and for those who want to join a ranger and explore the battlefield on foot.

2011 DSCN7196BATTLE WALKS (2 hours or more) – Want to experience the battlefield from the same vantage point as the men who fought here? Walk the fields and woods that were fought over a century and a half ago to get a closer look at the famous and not so famous places and people that shaped the battle. Check at the information desk for a complete schedule of daily topics and where to meet the park ranger. Water, a hat and proper foot gear are highly recommended. Daily at 3:30 p.m.

HIKE WITH A RANGER (3 hours) – This informal battlefield program examines Gettysburg’s fascinating layers of history, extending from the battle to present day. Water, hat, and proper foot gear are highly recommended. Check at the information desk or park website for a complete schedule of topics and where to meet the ranger. Water, a hat and proper foot gear are highly recommended.  Wednesdays at 9 a.m.

“KEY MOMENT” – These ranger-guided programs offers visitors the opportunity to explore climactic moments and turning points during the three days of battle.

LITTLE ROUND TOP (1 hour) – What made this small, rocky, hill crucial to the outcome of the battle and why has it become one of the most famous hills in America? Meet at the General Warren statue on the summit of the hill, Auto Tour Stop 8 to find out. Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 11 a.m.

DEVIL’S DEN (1 hour) – More famous today for its unusual rock formations and stories of Confederate sharpshooters, discover why Devil’s Den was vitally important to its Union defenders on July 2, 1863. Meet at the parking lot on Sickles Avenue at Devil’s Den, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 3 p.m.

CULP’S HILL (1 hour) – Walk the wooded slopes of Culp’s Hill to experience where the most sustained fighting of the entire battle took place. Meet at the Culp’s Hill Tower on Slocum Avenue. Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 3 p.m.

CEMETERY HILL: THE KEY TO GETTYSBURG (1 hour) – Find out why Cemetery Hill was one of the most important pieces of terrain on the battlefield. Before it became known as the site of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery and President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, it figured prominently in all three days of combat at Gettysburg. Meet at the Baltimore Street (Rt. 97) entrance to the National Cemetery. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1:30 p.m.

EAST CAVALRY FIELD (1 hour) – Visit the scene of one of the largest cavalry battles of the war, where Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart was stopped by a Union cavalry force that included a new general named George Armstrong Custer. Meet at the parking area on Confederate Cavalry Avenue. Take Route 116 east to reach this site. Wednesday and Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD – Ranger programs that reveal the human cost and significance of the battle of Gettysburg.

LINCOLN & THE SOLDIERS’ NATIONAL CEMETERY (40 minutes) – Explores the meaning and cost of the Battle of Gettysburg, and of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Find out how the National Cemetery was established, who is buried there, and why Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address still has meaning for us today. Meet at the Taneytown Road entrance to the National Cemetery, daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

CARE OF THE WOUNDED (1 hour) – Over 27,000 soldiers were wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg. Explore how these men were evacuated, treated, and ultimately, how most of their lives were saved. Meet at the Ranger Program Site behind the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 3:00 p.m.

GETT_150_Jul1_Voices_NA_001SUNSET ON CEMETERY RIDGE (1 hour) – Walk this historic ground at sunset and explore what happened when the battle ended and the clean-up and care for the killed, wounded and captured began. Hear compelling stories of courage and suffering, resiliency and memory. Meet at “Ranger Program Begins Here” sign in the National Cemetery Parking lot Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.

AN ARMY FIELD HOSPITAL: THE GEORGE SPANGLER FARM (1 hour) – Travel to the George Spangler Farm, the Union Army’s 11th Corps field hospital, where care for over 1,900 soldiers wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg was provided. Discover their story and the stories of the doctors and nurses that struggled to keep them alive. Take the shuttle from the park Museum and Visitor Center for this program, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m.

LONG REMEMBERED (1 hour, 15 minutes) – Explore the impact of the battle upon the Gettysburg community and walk in the footsteps of President Lincoln. This 75-minute program meets at the historic train station on Carlisle Street near the Majestic Theater. Sundays at 6 p.m.

THE CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCE – Programs that focus on the Civil War experience beyond the battle of Gettysburg.

CIVIL WAR SOLDIER (1 hour) – Over 160,000 soldiers participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. Find out why they enlisted, why they fought, and what they endured during the four years of the American Civil War. Meet at the Ranger Program Site behind the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 2 p.m.

A VISIT TO THE PAST (45 minutes) – Step back in time with costumed interpreters who portray men and women who witnessed and participated in the events of 1863 at Gettysburg. Programs offered daily at the Visitor Center or beginning at the Ranger Program sign at the National Cemetery Parking Lot between Steinwehr Avenue and Taneytown Road. Schedule available at www.npg.gov/gett.

CAMPFIRE AT PITZER WOODS (1 hour) – Take a seat by the campfire at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater as darkness falls over the Gettysburg battlefield. Evening campfire programs discuss a wide variety of topics on the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War. Held nightly at the park amphitheater, Auto Tour Stop 6, at 8:30 p.m.

GETT_150_FacebookSort_Volume12_019PROGRAMS FOR YOUNG VISITORS – Children and families are encouraged to explore the battlefield through these special programs and activities.

JOIN THE ARMY! (1 hour) – Children “enlist” in the army and discover something about what it meant to be a soldier in a Civil War regiment. This program is for children ages 6-12 only, and held outside of the Museum and Visitor Center. Sign up at the Visitor Center information desk. (Limited to 25 participants). Daily at 11 a.m.

JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM – This free family-oriented activity allows children (ages 5-13) to become Junior Rangers by completing an activity guide as they visit the park and museum. Ask for details and the program guide at the park information desk in the Visitor Center.

Hands On History Cart

Hands On History Cart

HANDS ON HISTORY CART – Want to feel what it was like to wear clothing from the 1860’s? Play mid-19th century parlor games? Discover what soldiers did during their spare time? Children and families are encouraged to find the Hands on History Cart inside the Museum and Visitor Center daily at 2 p.m.

Gettysburg National Military Park is a unit of the National Park Service that preserves and protects the resources associated with the Battle of Gettysburg and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery, and provides an understanding of the events that occurred there within the context of American History.  Information is available at www.nps.gov/gett.

Thanks to Christopher Gwinn for compiling this information.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant

Posted in Abraham Lincoln, Battlefield Farms, Burials, Interpretive Programs, Monuments at Gettysburg, Museum and Visitor Center, Soldiers' National Cemetery | 2 Comments

“Killed at Spotsylvania”

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After an all-night march, Union soldiers of Maj. Gen. Gouvernor Warren’s 5th Corps arrived not far from Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia on May 8th, 1864. The men were exhausted and bloodied, having trudged through the night and having for the previous two days taken part in the bloodletting known as the Battle of the Wilderness. Waiting for them down the Brock Road were infantrymen of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia who had beaten them to the field. Those who hoped the 8th of May would bring a reprieve from fighting were to be severely disappointed.

The battle fought that day, known as the Battle of Laurel Hill, was the opening round of the more protracted and obstinate battle for control of Spotsylvania Courthouse that would rage until the 21st of May. If the battle of Gettysburg fought the previous year was some sort of cathartic turning point for the fortunes of the Army of the Potomac, it certainly did not seem as such to the exhausted, worn, and bleeding Union troops. These men had seen flames engulf their crippled comrades at the Wilderness, and would, in a few short days, fight a battle in the pouring rain so ferocious that the storm of bullets would literally fell trees.

Our colleagues at Fredericksburg – Spotsylvania National Military Park have spent the last week, and will spend the next couple days, commemorating the first two battles of the Overland Campaign of 1864. Today at 10:00 they presented a program focusing on the death of Major General John Sedgwick, commander of the 6th Corps, Army of the Potomac, who was killed there on May 9, 1864. Sedgwick was the highest ranking Union officer to die during the Overland Campaign, and one of literally dozens of officers who had served during the Gettysburg Campaign, and would succumb in one fashion or another to the violence that marked the battlefields of 1864.

Silent testimonies to this are the monuments that mark the Gettysburg battlefield. On most regimental monuments the place names “Wilderness” and “Spotsylvania” can be found etched in granite or bronze, alongside descriptions of their service at Gettysburg. On those honoring individuals the words, “Killed at the Wilderness,” or “Mortally Wounded at Spotsylvania” comprise an all too common epitaph.Image

John Sedgwick’s equestrian statue at Gettysburg briefly relates his war time service, and acknowledges his demise at Spotsylvania. Sedgwick had previously suffered a  debilitating wound  at the Battle of Antietam in 1862. His recovery was so prolonged and painful that he made the remark that, “If I am ever hit again, I hope it will settle me at once. I want no more wounds.” The Confederate bullet that struck him 150 years ago today did just that.

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Brigadier General John C. Robinson, who survived his division’s fight on Oak Ridge at Gettysburg, was severely wounded on May 8, 1864 at the Battle of Laurel Hill, a bullet striking the joint of his left knee. Robinson was later seen by General John Gibbon, lying on a litter by the roadside with a broken leg. Robinson would survive his wound, and the war, though it would cost him most of his left leg. For his courage at Laurel Hill he would later be awarded the Medal of Honor. His monument stands along Oak Ridge on the Gettysburg battlefield.

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Brigadier General Alexander Hays, known for his explosive temper and love of battle, commanded many of the Union men that defended Cemetery Ridge on July 3rd, 1863. He survived Gettysburg, but not the fighting in the Wilderness of Virginia the following year. When U. S. Grant learned his old friend Hays had been killed, he responded, “I am not surprised that he met his death at the head of his troops; it was just like him. He was a man who would never follow, but always lead in battle.”

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Alexander Webb, the young general who led the Philadelphia Brigade during the repulse of Pickett’s Charge was horrifically wounded on May 12th, at Spotsylvania. While leading his men forward on horseback he was struck in the corner of the right eye by a rebel bullet. The round exited behind his ear, exposed the bone along his temple, but miraculously did not cause his death or affect his mental abilities.

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Lt. Gen. James “Old Pete” Longstreet’s equestrian statue can be found along West Confederate Avenue at the edge of Pitzer’s Woods. He overlooks the scene of tremendous fighting on July 2nd, 1863, fighting that would claim thousands of men but leave Longstreet unscathed. Longstreet’s luck ran out in the Wilderness on May 6th, 1864. In a scenario eerily similar to that which claimed the life of Stonewall Jackson, Longstreet was accidentally shot by his own men. The bullet had entered his body near the throat and traveled into his right shoulder. A nearby surgeon was able to contain the massive hemorrhaging, and Longstreet managed to survive the wound, though it would cost him much of the use of his right arm.

Many other officers who survived Gettysburg would not make it through the Overland Campaign. Men like Henry Abbott and James Rice who fought on Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top would be killed at the Wilderness and Laurel Hill. Abner Perrin, Jesse Williams, and J.E.B. Stuart, men who had seen the horrors of Culp’s Hill and Seminary Ridge, would breathe their last at the Mule Shoe and Yellow Tavern.  Alongside them, thousands of common soldiers, most of them veterans of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg would not live to see peace, as the war in the spring and summer of 1864 devolved to a level of unrelenting brutality previously unseen in the war.

Christopher Gwinn – Acting Supervisory Historian

Posted in Army of Northern Virginia, Army of the Potomac, Historical Memory, Interpretive Programs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gettysburg’s Lincoln Train Station

Gettysburg's Lincoln Train Station on Carlisle Street just north of Lincoln Square

Gettysburg’s Lincoln Train Station on Carlisle Street just north of Lincoln Square

Since 2009, legislation has been pending in Congress to expand the boundary of Gettysburg National Military Park to include Gettysburg’s historic Lincoln Train Station.  This would allow the National Park Service to preserve the site and improve our interpretation of the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg and President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.

For the last ten years, the Borough of Gettysburg owned the building but did

The station served briefly as a hospital after the battle of Gettysburg.

The station served briefly as a hospital after the battle of Gettysburg.

not have the funds to operate it.  To temporarily resolve concerns about preservation of the site and public access, the Gettysburg Foundation purchased the train station in January 2014 from the Borough of Gettysburg.  The Foundation plans to donate it to the park once the boundary legislation is passed.

The Lincoln Train Station was built in 1858 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  It served as a hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg and the wounded and the dead were transported from Gettysburg through this station in the aftermath of battle. Abraham Lincoln arrived at this station when he visited to give the Gettysburg Address.

The park’s general management plan calls for expanding cooperative relationships within the Borough of

Several models of the 1863 station are on display.

Several models of the 1863 station are on display.

Gettysburg and other sites “to ensure that resources closely linked to the park, the battle, and the non-combatant civilian involvement in the battle and its aftermath are appropriately protected and used.”  Another example is the David Wills House on Lincoln Square, which is now part of Gettysburg NMP, serves as a museum and is operated by the park and the Gettysburg Foundation.

For many years the train station has

Destination Gettysburg staff provide information about Gettysburg and Adams County.

Destination Gettysburg staff provide information about Gettysburg and Adams County.

served as a downtown information and orientation center showcasing historic attractions in the town of Gettysburg and Adams County, Pa., including the David Wills House.  Destination Gettysburg (formerly the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau) operates it.

Once the legislation passes and the Gettysburg Foundation donates the train station to the NPS, park plans call for Destination Gettysburg to continue to operate an information and orientation center in the train station on behalf of the NPS, thereby alleviating the park of most staffing and operational costs.

IMG_4193The legislation also adds 45 acres of environmentally sensitive land near Big Round Top to the boundary of the park.  This unimproved parcel abuts the boundary of the park and is within the congressionally authorized Gettysburg Battlefield Historic District.  Cavalry skirmishes occurred near this site of the southern end of the battlefield, but the primary real significance is environmental.  The tract has critical wetlands and wildlife habitat related to Plum Run.  Wayne and Susan Hill donated it to the Foundation in April 2009.  The Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit educational organization working in partnership with the National Park Service to enhance preservation and understanding of the heritage and lasting significance of Gettysburg, plans to donate the land to the NPS once it’s in the park boundary.  It abuts land already owned by the NPS.

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NPS Passport stamps are available for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area in the station.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 5/1/14

 

Posted in David Wills House, Gettysburg Borough, Hospitals | Tagged , | 2 Comments

“The Pen is Mighter than the Sword” – Gettysburg and the Poetry of Battle

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The monument to the 123rd New York Volunteer Infantry depicts Clio, the Muse of History, recording the deeds of the men who fought on Culp’s Hill.

Who among us has not heard the age-honored phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword?” Throughout the United States, April is designated as National Poetry Month.  Across the Gettysburg battlefield, as one reads the casualty statistics on the various monuments, it is easy to find indicators reminding us of the power of the sword.  Harder to uncover, yet still powerfully present, if one knows where to look, remain the opinions, insights, and beliefs of the generation that fought the battle, and those Victorian-Americans who dedicated monuments to those soldiers in the postwar period. Carefully fashioned in poetic verse, these creations, either encountered on the monuments themselves or, more commonly, presented as part of a dedication ceremony, add a deeper depth and texture – the power of the word - to the meaning of this special place. That certainly was the intention of their various contributors.

In 1866, the Southern poet William Gilmore Simms published War Poetry of the South.  In the preface to his work he noted a basic, non-partisan truth regarding the value of historical poetry.  Simms observed,

“The emotional literature of a people is as necessary to the philosophical historian as the mere details of events in the progress of a nation… The mere facts in a history do not always, or often, indicate the true animus, of the action. But, in poetry… the emotional nature is apt to declare itself without reserve–speaking out with a passion which disdains subterfuge, and through media of imagination and fancy, which …glows or weeps with emotions that gush freely and freshly from the heart.”

The same truth might well have come from Oliver Wendell Holmes or Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, men possessed of entirely different political temperaments. It was the essential truth of the statement itself that makes the study of this poetry so necessary to a richer and more complete understanding of this complex period.

Following the battle, Gettysburg bred its own memorable brand of commemorative works, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address pre-eminent among them.  Often described as “poetry in prose form,” Lincoln, a poet himself, utilized poetic techniques, particularly repetition, to reinforce larger meanings behind his words.  His choice of terms, and their precise placement to his living audience that day, is significant. For example, Lincoln’s use of the term “people” in his closing line – “of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” is designed to strongly reinforce his ideas about equality, democracy, and the indissolubility of the Union.  As he spoke to a living audience, not merely writing for posterity, his choice of words was precise and specific. Referring to the memory of the battlefield, he noted,“[W]e can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground,” acknowledging the sacrifice of the Union soldiers at this place was paramount above all ceremony.

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Abraham Lincoln, President and Poet.

To accentuate this point, Lincoln employed the art of contrast. “The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.” Indeed, the country did not forget – battle losses remained heavy throughout the remainder of the war, and the memory of these sacrifices was preserved [and enshrined] during the post-war generations. Memorial poetry of all types flourished. Iconic Gettysburg examples included:

Edmund Clarence Stedman’s Gettysburg – 1871 (“They yield, they turn, they fly the field: we smite them as they run;/ Their arms, their colors are our spoil; the furious fight is done!/ Across the plain we follow far and backward push the fray:/ Cheer! cheer! the grand old Army at last has won the day!”) and Will Henry Thompson’s The High Tide at Gettysburg1888 (“A thousand fell where Kemper led/ A thousand died where Garnett bled.”)

Soon afterwards, monumentation began to appear on the battlefields, including, of course, at Gettysburg.  At their various dedication ceremonies, it was quite common to have a “poetic contribution” of some sort given; some grand, some not-so-grand, but all heartfelt recognitions of the bravery and sacrifices endured by the men for whom their monuments were intended.

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The monument to the 120th New York Volunteer Infantry on Sickles Avenue.

These verses of poetry are much more than mere patriotic rhymings, however.  Often, they harken back to the ancient, Biblical tradition of a poet crafting a “victory song” following a great battle – in some cases, for the glory of a very specific unit. Consider the case of the dedication of the 120th New York monument, a regiment of General Daniel Sickles’ ill-fated corps.  [3rd Corps, 2nd Brig., 2nd Division.] As the pressure of the Confederate attack began to mount on the afternoon of July 2nd, and the regiments of the “Excelsior” Brigade began to move forward to engage General William Barksdale’s Mississippians, the One-hundred and twentieth likewise did so, offering what resistance it possessed to the Southern advance.  Positioned in the reserve line, the men were treated to the discomfiting sight of a disaster in the making.  Reported Capt. Abram Lockwood of the regiment,

“Our brigade was ordered to a position in the left center, to support the First Division (Birney’s) of our corps, and in doing so we advanced across an open field, exposed to a terrific and murderous artillery fire from the enemy, which was kept up without cessation during the rest of the day…The enemy at last broke the first line, and we advanced to meet him.”

Major-General George H. Sharpe, delivering the dedicatory address, clarified the moment. “[Gen.]Doubleday says that that when [Gen.] Birney assumed command of the Third Corps, after the wounding of Sickles, he ordered Humphreys to move his left wing back…and that he (Humphreys) was obliged, while executing the difficult maneuver of a change of front to the rear, to contend with Barksdale’s Brigade; and Humphreys was there, in the rear of our regiment and with ours only.”

This determined stand, which slowed the Confederate advance towards Cemetery Ridge, cost the 120th the highest number of casualties in the 2nd Brigade (203 men, out of a total of some 427.)   It was recalled, on a dreary June day in 1889, with justifiable pride, as the survivors of the regiment gathered in Gettysburg to dedicate their memorial.  As a part of that ceremony, a six-stanza poem, “The Men Who Held the Line,” was read.   A portion (v. 1,6) appears below.

v.1

Right brave the clash of the Calvary’s dash,
As it sweeps o’er hill and plain,
While bugles sing, and banner fling
Their smiles to the glorious slain;
With footsteps solemn the serried column
May grandly cross the field,
While red gaps made by the ball’s round blade,
By heroes are swiftly healed;
The charge’s story is full of glory,
In history-wreaths to shine;
But bravest of all, we still must call
The men who hold the line!

v.6

The battle is done; the smoke-veiled sun
Creeps low to a misty west;
Fair Victory’s crown sweeps grandly down
On those who have fought the best.
Once the tide of the foeman’s pride
Is rolled, like a torrent, back;
Rebellion’s way, from this very day,
Will creep on a downward track.
Lift proud the head – O living and Dead!
Ye have compassed Heaven’s design!
In every zone you shall e’er be known
As the men who held the line!

 – Will Carleton, 1845 -1912

Unfortunately, poetry of this sort, and the broader images it once inspired, is no longer a portion of the popular literary landscape.  A once widely-shared appreciation of our poetic culture is now nearly lost.  On the battlefield, there are approximately 1,300 monuments.  A handful actually boast portions of poems upon them (for a variety of reasons;) many more, like the 120th N.Y., had an independent dedication ceremony; a goodly  number of these were attended by the reading of a “Dedicatory Poem.”  They need only be rediscovered to enhance our understanding of who we as a people have been, and may yet aspire to be.  As such, they are a part of our shared literary and cultural heritage.

Bert Barnett, Park Ranger

 

 

 

 

Posted in Gettysburg Art, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The busy season: a Gettysburg chore list

Rotted window sills at the Codori farmhouse will be repaired this summer.

Rotted window sills at the Codori farmhouse will be repaired this summer.

Got some spring cleaning to do around your home?  Imagine the tasks involved in sprucing up 1320 monuments, 410 cannon, 148 historic structures, 33 miles of paved historic avenues and roadways, 8 miles of historic dirt and gravel lanes, and much more.

The maintenance staff at Gettysburg National Military Park does so much more than “sprucing up” for springtime.  Their mission is to provide preservation maintenance to ensure these Gettysburg resources are left unimpaired for this and all future generations.  It’s an inspiring and awesome mission and Gettysburg’s maintenance team is always hard at work accomplishing projects – winter, spring, summer and fall.

This week on “From the Fields of Gettysburg,” we’ll take a peek at Gettysburg National Military Park’s hardworking maintenance crew’s chore list for 2014.

Landscape Preservation:

Replace water and electric lines National Cemetery:  This project includes replacing the outdated and non-functioning water and electric lines in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.  The installation will be done through directional boring to minimize ground disturbance.

The park will replace this fence along Stone Avenue.

The park will replace this fence along Stone Avenue.

Fence Repair/Replacement:  This year the project area is the First Day battlefield landscape.  Areas targeted for replacement are the post and rail fence around McPherson Barn and the Virginia Worm fence extending from Howard Avenue area west toward the Harman farm area.  Included is the routine replacement and repair of fences using both park staff and volunteer labor.

New Fence Construction:  Through our partnership with the Gettysburg Foundation and their June 7 Volunteer Workday, the park plans to build the significant missing fence lines at Harman Farm.  This project will help give visitors a better understanding of the troop movements in that area.

The former Hull residence on Mummasburg Road is now owned by the park and will be demolished to return the site to its battle era appearance.

The former Hull residence on Mummasburg Road is now owned by the park and will be demolished to return the site to its battle era appearance.

Demolition Contracts:  This year the park plans on following through with the demolition of the former Hull residence on Mummasburg Road west of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial and the Welcome Traveler house and barn located on Baltimore Pike southeast of the Museum and Visitor Center.  The Welcome Traveler was a campground purchased by the National Park Service in 1994.  The house and barn are not historic.  Nearby the park has already cut nonhistoric trees to reestablish sightlines from Spangler’s

The Welcome Traveler house on Baltimore Pike.

The Welcome Traveler house on Baltimore Pike.

Spring to Power’s Hill and vice-versa.  We plan to combine both of these properties into one demolition contract.

Roads and Lanes:  This past winter was very rough on our paved and non-paved roadways.  All of the non-paved roadways will be re-graded and have stone added as necessary to remove the potholes that developed with the freeze thaw this winter.  This was last done two years ago.  We only had one paved surface break down over the winter on Wheatfield Road and this has been repaired.

Mowing and Trimming:  The “class A” mowing will be reduced from last year’s 150th efforts back to what it was in 2012.  This is a reduction of about 20 acres.  Due to the vacancy of a full time gardener position, the mowing crew will be short one tractor operator as he will be tending to the gardening duties at Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Signs:  The park received funding last year to bring all of its signs into current reflectivity standards set by the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.  The entire sign inventory is currently on hand and installation will occur throughout the year.

Monument Preservation

The 58th New York Infantry monument on Howard Avenue.

The 58th New York Infantry monument on Howard Avenue.

Monument Preservation:  We have received federal funding for preservation of the Lincoln Speech Monument, general monument care, and cannon carriage preservation.  Planning for summer 2014 includes: sphere restoration to the 7th Indiana, 3rd Massachusetts Artillery, and Weidrich’s Battery.  We are hopeful that we will tackle the 58th New York Infantry monument on Howard Avenue this year.  We will have to disassemble the monument, create stone dutchmans (repairs), and rebuild it.  A lightning strike in 1943 spalled out several areas in the middle of the monument.  A car accident in 2004 shifted the monument.  Through all of this the monument has remained very stable.  Last year we were able to find a stone source for Quincy granite (no longer quarried) from a historic salvage company in Massachusetts.  This allows us to complete

Spalled stone from the 1943 lightning strike on the 58th NY.

Spalled stone from the 1943 lightning strike on the 58th NY.

the repairs from the lightning strike and reset the monument back on its proper footing.  General preservation will continue with monument cleaning, bronze waxing, and repointing work.

Cannon Carriages:  Work for the Monument Preservation Branch for this period focused primarily on cannon carriage restoration and planning for the upcoming summer season.  Carriages 312 through 316 (Out of a total of

400 carriages.  We started with cannon #1 in 1999) are receiving preservation treatments

The 2004 car accident at the 58th NY.

The 2004 car accident at the 58th NY.

Two carriages removed from the Peace Light area to deal with paint failures and repairs were returned in early Feb. Twenty-two avenue signs have been restored and returned to the field with what we hope is a longer term coating.  Cannon have been reset recently at Bachman’s battery on South Confederate Avenue and Gibb’s battery on the north slope of Little Round Top.  We will soon reset Garden’s battery on South Confederate Avenue.

Structures Preservation:

Benner Spring House:  The stabilization of this historic stone spring house is nearly complete.  The Benner farm is on old Harrisburg Road just north of

Rock Creek.  When the park acquired the property in

The Benner springhouse in 2010.

The Benner Spring House in 2011.

2011 the spring house was in such poor condition that the park started an emergency project to stabilize it.

Slyder Summer Kitchen and Farmhouse:  The exterior restoration of the summer kitchen is complete. We have replaced the roof on the main farmhouse, have reconditioned the windows and have completed the mill work necessary for the exterior rehab of this farmhouse.

Snow Gates:  We have rebuilt and reinstalled these large oak timber snow gates associated with various entrances to the park.

The Benner Spring House today.

The Benner Spring House today.

Culp FarmhouseCompleted interior rehab work for tenant occupancy. Work included painting of ceilings, walls, trim, doors, etc., as well as plaster work in the basement, installation of a new 2nd floor bathroom, installation of a new hot water system and parging of interior basement walls.

CampgroundsWe built 14 new heavy-duty picnic tables for the campground sites. The existing tables had deteriorated to the point where they were a safety concern.

McClean Storm Doors:  Completed repairs associated with the three storm doors on this structure.

Maintenance Roller Building:   Removal and resetting of all masonry stone caps along the roof line of this structure and a complete exterior cleaning of this brick building.

Deteriorated logs at the Slyder blacksmith shop.

Deteriorated logs at the Slyder blacksmith shop.

Slyder Blacksmith Shop:  Work will include replacing deteriorated square oak v-notch logs and removal and reinstallation of daubing associated with these logs after a complete mortar analysis is done to match this historic daubing.

Slyder Farmhouse:  Installation of new porch windows that more appropriately match the style of window found on the Historic American Buildings Survey drawings.

Weikert Summer Kitchen:   Work will include replacing deteriorated square, oak, v-notch logs and removal and reinstallation of daubing associated with these logs after a complete mortar analysis is done to match this historic daubing.

Bushman Smokehouse:   Work will include replacing deteriorated square, oak, v-notch logs and removal and reinstallation of daubing associated with these logs after a complete mortar analysis is done to match this historic daubing.

Klingel Farmhouse:   Finish reintroducing the new daubing mixture approved by the northeast region’s historic architect.

Specially Funded Projects:

Shutters at the Culp house.

Shutters at the Culp house.

GETT Door, Window and Shutter Project:  The purpose of this project is to restore/rebuild window sash, interior/exterior doors and exterior shutters on historic farmhouses, barns and outbuildings throughout GETT.

Roof Replacement:  The purpose of this project is to replace deteriorated cedar shingle roofs on barns, farmhouses and outbuildings throughout GETT and EISE. Also, any stabilization of structural elements will be performed as needed

The Brian barn roof will be replaced this summer.

The Brian barn roof will be replaced this summer.

once the roofs are opened. Some of the scheduled replacements include Trostle barn, Culp farmhouse and outbuildings, Brian barn and farmhouse and Weikert farmhouse.

Building Foundation Work:  The purpose of this project is to repair/repoint historic stone foundations and to create a water infiltration system around these foundations to shed the underground water that continues to cause damage to these structures.

Thanks to Gettysburg NMP’s maintenance supervisors: Randall Hill, Lucas Flickinger and Dan Mazzotti for providing the information for this blog.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 4/16/14

 

 

Posted in Battlefield Farms, Monuments at Gettysburg | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Finding Connections

Over the past nine seasons, while working as an interpretative ranger at both Antietam and Gettysburg, I have met dozens —if not, hundreds—of visitors whose ancestors fought in the Civil War. Usually it is a great-great-great grandfather or great-great-great uncle, but on at least half a dozen occasions, I have had the great pleasure of meeting folks whose grandfathers served in the war. This happened most recently during the Sesquicentennial Anniversary weekend in September 2012 at Antietam when an elderly gentleman inquired of the location of the 9th New York/Hawkins’s Zouaves Monument. He was looking for it because, as he said, he wanted to stand upon the same ground where his grandfather had fought 150 years earlier.  Talking further with this gentleman, I discovered that his grandfather was born in 1840 and that he had passed away at the age of 95 in 1935. The soldier’s grandson, who in September 2012 stood before me at the desk at Antietam, told me that he was ten years old when his grandfather died. Curios, I asked if his grandfather had ever discussed the war with him when he was a young child. The man simply shook his head no and said that it was something they just didn’t talk about.

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Monument to the 9th New York Zouaves, Antietam National Battlefield.

To be able to point out and physically connect a visitor to a particular part of a battlefield where their ancestor—or at least their ancestor’s regiment—served, is a great and satisfying feeling and one that I have had the privilege of doing countless times over the years. Many times the visitor’s face will light up when I circle on a map where their ancestor served; other times, their eyes swell with tears knowing that they would be able to stand where their ancestor fought and where, on some occasions, their ancestor fell. Usually after doing this, I am myself asked if any of my ancestors served in the war. It is a question I have been asked many, many times over the past nine years. And the answer is a simple no.  Indeed, as far as I’ve been able to discover, none of my direct ancestors were even in the United States during the 1860s. They were, instead, many thousands of miles away, scattered across Eastern Europe, and another five or six decades would pass even before any of my ancestors finally made the long journey to America.  

I, thus, may not have any direct, ancestral ties to the Civil War but there are still many personal connections I can make to the war’s great battlefields. During my years at Antietam, for example, I had a strong connection to the southern end of the battlefield, to the famed Burnside’s Bridge and to the ground where the 9th Corps made the final Union attack on that bloody Wednesday, September 17, 1862. It was there where the 48th Pennsylvania served and where they lost some 60 men. The 48th Pennsylvania was recruited from my hometown, from my native Schuylkill County, in the east-central portion of the Commonwealth. Growing up, studying the Civil War, I focused in on this particular regiment. I studied its service, its experiences, and the soldiers who composed its ranks. I frequently visited their graves. Indeed, in my hometown of Orwigsburg, a small community of just 2,500 or so people, lies buried the remains of Corporal Lewis Focht while only a few miles away, in Cressona, lies the remains of Private George Dentzter. Across Route 61 from Cressona is Schuylkill Haven and there is buried Corporal Daniel Moser while only a few miles further north, in Port Carbon, is the grave Lieutenant William Cullen. All of these soldiers were members of the 48th Pennsylvania, and all gave their lives at Antietam. For me, finding something of a personal connection to Antietam was thus not that difficult. But Gettysburg would be a little bit harder, for the 48th Pennsylvania—and the entire 9th Corps for that matter—was simply not there, not present during the battle. I would thus have to dig just a little deeper to find those personal connections.

Of course, by the time I began working with the NPS at Gettysburg, the place was already very—very—familiar to me. As a young kid, growing up only two hours away, I came to the fields of Gettysburg countless times on family vacations or on simple day-trips, and in 2004, my wife and I moved here, years before my first season began in the Gray and Green at Gettysburg. So, there has always been a connection for me to Gettysburg—but it was a deeper connection I was seeking and, during my first season here, I found it. I found it while developing an interpretative program on the National Cemetery when I came across the name—and the story—of William Beaumont and his brothers.

The story of the Beaumont brothers really struck a chord with me because of its connection to my native Schuylkill County and its connection to my own family’s history. As alluded to previously, it was not until the early 1900s before any of my own ancestors arrived on America’s shores, with the hopes of carving out a new life for themselves and for their families. On both my paternal and maternal sides, it was my great-grandparents who made the journey, settling ultimately in Schuylkill County where my great-grandfathers immediately went to work in the coal mines. It would be an occupation followed by their sons as well, including my maternal grandfather—my mom’s dad—Nicholas Mitsock.  

Nick Mitsock was born in Schuylkill County in April 1927 and raised in a coal patch near Minersville. He went to the local schools before service called him away to Europe. He served in Germany during the waning days of World War II, a truck mechanic, or so I have been told. Following his discharge from the army, Nick Mitsock returned to Schuylkill County and once more took up the pick and shovel of the coal miner. He met my grandmother. Soon after they were married and five children followed as a result. Their first—my mom—was born in 1951 and was thus only six years of age when her dad—my grandfather—left home one late May morning in 1957 and never came back. Nick Mitsock was only thirty-years old when he was killed in a mine collapse, leaving my grandmother a widow, my mom fatherless and forcing her to help raise her four young siblings. After several days, his body was recovered and his remains laid to rest in the town of St. Clair.

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Nick Mitsock, grandfather of the author.

So, what, then, does this have to do with the Battle of Gettysburg and the story of the Beaumont brothers?

Some eighty or so years before my great-grandparents immigrated to America and found a home in Schuylkill County, a Mr. William Beaumont arrived. Born in England in 1811, William Beaumont immigrated to America, presumably in the late 1820s or early 1830s. He found a home in St. Clair and went immediately to work in the coal mines.  He met a young lady named Mary and the couple had six children. Their eldest son, George, was born in 1834. Their second son, William, arrived six years later. In 1842, John was born and their youngest son, Charles, was born two years after John, in 1844. As the boys got older, they followed in their father’s footsteps, finding work in the coal mines near St. Clair. Then the war began, and all four sons made the decision to leave their picks and shovels behind and take up the weapons of a soldier, fighting in defense of their father’s adopted country.

George, William, and John Beaumont volunteered their services first, soon after the outbreak of hostilities, when all three enlisted into the ranks of Company A, 88th Pennsylvania Infantry. As the youngest of the Beaumont boys, Charles was only 17 when the war began and thus could not officially enlist until the following year. He did so, joining up first with the 129th Pennsylvania Infantry in the summer of 1862 and later with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, seeing considerable service in the war’s Western Theater before returning safely home in 1865.

Having offered their services, it was not long before George, William, and John Beaumont became good soldiers. Fighting side-by-side, the three brothers made it unscathed through the Seven Days’ Battles, 2nd Manassas, and Antietam, where the 88th sustained heavy losses in the infamous Cornfield. By the summer of 1863, they were battle-hardened, experienced soldiers fighting in a well-seasoned, veteran regiment, which, by the onset of the Gettysburg Campaign, had been whittled down to fewer than 300 soldiers remaining in its ranks.

At Gettysburg, the 88th Pennsylvania formed part of General Henry Baxter’s Brigade of General John Robinson’s Second Division, First Corps. The regiment arrived on the field sometime before noon on July 1, 1861 and was initially assigned to a reserve position near the Lutheran Seminary. As a defensive measure, the men, including the Beaumont brothers, immediately began throwing up fence rails, erecting make-shift barricades. But when Robert Rodes’s Confederate division arrived on Oak Hill, further to the north, General Abner Doubleday—who had taken command of the First Corps following the death of John Reynolds—needed troops to meet this new and developing threat. Robinson got the nod and Robinson, in turn, called upon Baxter and sometime after noon, Baxter’s men—the 88th included—raced their way northward along Seminary Ridge, across the railroad cut to Oak Ridge, where they settled into position behind a stone wall. It would not be long before they became heavily engaged. After helping to turn back several Confederate attacks, the soldiers of the 88th Pennsylvania ran low on ammunition and their spot on the front would be taken up by soldiers of Robinson’s Second Brigade under Gabriel Paul. Relentless pressure from Rodes’s Division, however, simply became too much for Robinson’s men to bear and sometimes around 4:00 p.m. orders from Doubleday arrived to retreat. Driven from the field and back through the labyrinthine streets of Gettysburg, Robinson’s men ultimately rallied on Cemetery Hill.

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                                                           88th Pennsylvania Monument, Oak Ridge

In its action that day, the 88th Pennsylvania lost more than a third of its men, killed, wounded, captured, and missing. Panting, exhausted, George Beaumont made it safely back to Cemetery Hill. As he looked around through the wreckage—through what was left of the 88th—he could not locate his two younger brothers, for both William and John Beaumont were among the regiment’s casualties that bloody Wednesday. At some point during the battle on Oak Ridge, William was shot through the neck, while John was captured in the streets of town. Carried south with the Army of Northern Virginia in the aftermath of the battle, John Beaumont remained in captivity for just three weeks before being exchanged. He would return to the ranks of Company A, 88th PA, but brother William would not be so fortunate. His wound proved mortal, and he passed away on July 13. Later that year, William Beaumont’s remains were interred in the newly-established Soldiers’ National Cemetery, in the Pennsylvania plot, Row B, Grave #73.

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                                     The grave of William Beaumont, Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

It is not known whether William Beaumont’s grave had been dug by the time Lincoln arrived in mid-November to deliver his “few appropriate remarks” but his words, when they heard or read them, surely resonated with brothers George and John, still in the ranks of the 88th PA. Lincoln admonished the people of the nation—including those on the home front and those on the battle front—to rededicate themselves to the great task remaining before them, to see the war through to its conclusion, for there was still hard work ahead. In the winter of 1863-1864, both Beaumont brothers still in the 88th decided to reenlist for another three-year term of service and in a February 1864 letter to the editor of Schuylkill County’s leading newspaper best summarized the reason why when he wrote: “I have been in the service of my country two years and six months, but I am not tired of it. . . .I entered the service when the rebellion first began, and I am determined to see it ended.”

Sadly, John Beaumont would not live to see the end of the war. On June 18, 1864, four months after writing this letter, John was killed in action at Petersburg.

Next year, the war, at last, came to an end. George Beaumont was the only one of the three brothers who served in the 88th Pennsylvania to make it back home. He returned to St. Clair and to his family. He was married by then and may have had at least one child. He also returned to the mines. He sought, as best he could, to return to normal. But tragedy still hovered over the Beaumont brothers and on November 30, 1868—just three-and-a-half years after Appomattox—George Beaumont was at work in the mines when a large lump of coal fell down a 500-foot shaft that George just happened to be standing under. The coal struck George and he was instantly killed. A few days later, George Beaumont’s remains were laid to rest in St. Clair.

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The grave of George Beaumont, St. Clair, PA.

Some four score and nine years later, in 1957, my grandfather—Nicholas Mitsock—who like George Beaumont had been killed in a coal mine accident shortly after returning from war, leaving a widow and a young family behind—was also laid to rest, in St. Clair, very near the grave of George Beaumont.

It is important for all of us to find our connections—physical, emotional, or both—to the past and to its places, such as Gettysburg.  You can find them if you look hard enough, even if you believe there are none to be found. Many visitors to Gettysburg have a direct, ancestral connection to the battlefields here; many do not. None of my ancestors fought at Gettysburg; indeed, none even served in the war.  But there are still strong connections. I am reminded of this every time I walk past the grave of William Beaumont in the Pennsylvania section of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Seeing his name inscribed upon his granite footstone, immediately makes me think his brother George and of my mom’s dad—my grandfather—Nicholas Mitsock whom I never had the privilege of knowing; who, in fact, died long before I was even born.  

 John Hoptak, Park Ranger

        

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A new future for Gettysburg’s Armory

The Armory on West Confederate Avenue with the Round Tops visible in the background

The Pennsylvania National Guard Armory on West Confederate Avenue with the Round Tops visible in the background

A few years ago, the 1938 Pennsylvania National Guard Armory along West Confederate Avenue within Gettysburg National Military Park was declared excess property by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its significance as an early armory of the Pennsylvania National Guard.  In January 2014, the Commonwealth donated the 3.67 acre property to the park’s non-profit partner, the Gettysburg Foundation.   It includes the historic art deco armory building plus a three bay garage and a storage shed.

A vew if the armoryfrom the south west with Hills' artillery reserve.

A view if the armory from the southwest with Hills’ artillery reserve.

The Gettysburg Foundation has agreed to fund and manage the rehabilitation and fit-out of the three-bay garage for a new cannon carriage and monument preservation shop for the park and rehab the main building for park offices. Once the facility’s rehab is complete, the Foundation will donate it to the park.

 

The art deco design of this main doorway was popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

The art deco design of this main doorway was popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Foundation’s fundraising is continuing for the project which will be completed in phases. The first phase will be the rehab of the garage as a monument and cannon carriage restoration shop. Since 1998, the Foundation has rented a warehouse in downtown Gettysburg to serve as the park’s cannon carriage shop. Use of the armory’s garage would allow the Foundation to dedicate this funding (currently $30,000 per year) to other

The main floor

The main floor

preservation and education projects for the mutual benefit of the Foundation and the park.

Rehab of the main armory building will follow in a later phase. Using the armory for park offices would meet a long standing need for consolidation of office spaces from five locations throughout

The lower level has office space and other features likes this storage safe.

The lower level has office space and other features likes this storage safe.

Gettysburg NMP, including administration, law enforcement and resource management.

National Park Service (NPS) ownership of the armory would meet the shared goals of the park and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to preserve the National Register property and would improve operational efficiencies in the park. Long term operational efficiencies and benefits to the park far outweigh the cost of the rehab project for the historic structure.

This view of the south side of the armory shows the three bay garage that will become the park's cannon carriage restoration shop and a smaller building that we may eventually use as a paint shop.

This view of the south side of the armory shows the three bay garage that will become the park’s monument and cannon carriage restoration shop and a smaller building that we may eventually use as a paint shop.

If the armory had been sold to a private-sector owner or developer, its new uses would have been unlikely to achieve the park’s preservation goals. The property’s mixed use/residential zoning allows for uses that had the potential to significantly detract from the park’s efforts to maintain the historic character of the site and its context in the nationally significant battlefield landscape.  

Incidentally, the armory has a unique association with at least one aspect of Gettysburg battlefield history, the housing of World War II prisoners of war (POWs). In 1944, 50 prisoners were housed temporarily in the armory while they constructed the POW compound along Emmitsburg Road on the fields of Pickett’s Charge. The POWs eventually housed on the battlefield provided labor in the apple orchards and the fruit processing plants in Adams County. For more information, check out this link on the Gettysburg Discussion Group.

 

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 4/3/14

 

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Barksdale Remembered: A Georgia “High Private” Reflects on Gettysburg

From primary sources such as letters, diaries, and memoirs, to a volume of secondary studies on almost every aspect of the field, Gettysburg is possibly the most widely documented battle in the Civil War.  Barring a miracle, our understanding of the “big picture” is not going to change.  This leaves to Gettysburg buffs those small kernels of new information that do not change our knowledge of the battle, but simply adds more color to what we already know -such is the case with William Barksdale and his Mississippi brigade.

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William Barksdale, a politician turned soldier, led a brigade of 1,600 Mississippians against the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg, July 2nd, 1863.

Hailing from Tennessee, William Barksdale attended the University of Nashville, later becoming a lawyer in Columbus, Mississippi.  He branched off into journalism and became the editor of the Columbus Democrat.  In 1852, Barksdale gained election to the United States House of Representatives and ardently advanced the South’s constitutional rights.   In 1861, he became colonel of the 13th Mississippi, assumed brigade command a year later and led his men at Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. On the afternoon of July 2nd, James Longstreet’s First Corps attacked the Union left flank.  Barksdale’s brigade was one of the last units to enter the fight, but the first to achieve a significant breakthrough.  The gallant Barksdale, leading his men onward on horseback, pierced the Union line at the Peach Orchard, wheeled his brigade to the left and proceeded to roll up the rest of the Union position along the Emmitsburg Road.  These facts are well known. Every once in awhile, a new source emerges in the most unlikely of places.  In the early 1900’s, E. H. Sutton penned a short but interesting memoir titled Grandpa’s War Stories.  His narrative is in the same style as Sam Watkin’s Co. Aytch with witty tales of camp life, foraging, and close calls. E. H. Sutton enlisted on June 30, 1862, in the 24th Georgia, a “high” private from the rocky hills of Batesville, Georgia.  Sutton arrived in Virginia in time for the Battle of Second Manassas.  He remembered many of the boys were barefoot during the campaign.  “A shoemaker would cut moccasins from beef hides and the raw hides would be stitched together on the foot of the poor fellows,” Sutton recalled later.  “They saved their feet and did very well till it rained, then they stretched and got out of shape and were soon discarded.”

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E. H. Sutton served as a Private in Co. K, 24th Georgia. On July 2nd he was a member of W. T. Wofford’s brigade.

On the subsequent march into Maryland, Sutton recalled that many soldiers were afflicted with chronic diarrhea, including him.  As a result, he struggled to keep up with his unit and barely made the trek to South Mountain as the battle commenced.  After a load of “buck and ball” passed between his legs, grazing his inner thigh, Sutton decided that was all he wanted and “ignominiously fled to the rear, and realizing that we were defeated I kept going.” Due to his dysentery, Sutton made his way back to Virginia, missing the Battle of Sharpsburg.  He was back in fighting form though for the Battle of Fredericksburg three months later and again at Chancellorsville in May, 1863.  In a bid to end the war, Lee turned his columns north toward Pennsylvania and E. H. Sutton marched along with his comrades in W. T. Wofford’s brigade. On the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Wofford deployed his men into line behind Barksdale.  A simple twist of fate now brought the two men together in Pennsylvania; the well educated lawyer, editor, and politician next to the home spun “high” private.  Sutton recalled the moment: “There was a field just in advance of us, and Barksdale’s Mississippians were in the edge of the woods some forty paces to our front.  I got leave of my Captain to go forward to the edge of the field and reconnoiter, promising to return at once if the line was formed.  When I reached the edge of the wood, Barksdale’s men had formed line in the edge of the field, preparing to charge.  General Barksdale came back to near where I stood, hidden  by the undergrowth, and stepping behind a large white oak tree, uncovered his head, and with his right hand and face lifted up, began his silent prayer.  I could see his lips move, but heard no sound.  Before his devotions were ended a courier came with an order.  One of his aides went to him and touched him and gave him the message.  He replaced his cap, walked rapidly to his horse, mounted, and gave the order….”

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Barksdale galloped to the front of his brigade and personally led the charge from the front.  He finally fell from multiple wounds along with 46% of his 1600 man brigade.  During the evening of July 2nd, Union stretcher bearers removed the General from the field.  Barksdale’s last words addressed his love for his family, “God ever watch over and care for my dear wife and my boys may God be a father to them, tell them to be good men and brave and always defend the right.” We will never know what Barksdale uttered in his prayer or the thoughts that crossed his mind as he prepared for the charge.   The prayer scene recorded by Sutton helps to transform a fearless warrior into a mortal man – a man worried about the future. Sutton, captured by a “burly Irishman” at the close of the fighting, would spend the next twenty-one months in such notorious Union prisons as Fort McHenry, Fort Delaware, and Point Lookout. Upon his exchange in February, 1865, he eventually made it back all the way to Batesville, Georgia to share his tale. In this case, history was not written by the gallant general, but by the “high” private. A story that Sutton did not think overly important at the time now provides us another window into the narrative of Barksdale’s charge at Gettysburg. His small book lending its own layer to the story we know so well.

Matt Atkinson, Park Ranger

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