I would like to make short vignettes of soldiers and civilians who were present at Gettysburg a semi-regular feature of this blog, both to post some of the hundreds of images that we have in the Gettysburg NMP collection, and also to illustrate the human side of the battle. However, these two images do not come from the park collection. They are posted here through the kindness of Ed and Faye Max, who own them and have given me permission to use them on this blog. Ed is the author of The 121st Pennsylvania at Gettysburg, a new edition of which will be published soon by Ten Roads Publishing, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The two images from Ed and Faye’s collection of the 121st Pennsylvania Infantry return us to the Harvest of Death photos, which I discussed in my previous three blog posts. They are Privates Tristram Campbell of Company G, and Henry James of
Company D. Both men were killed instantly in the fighting along eastern McPherson’s Ridge on July 1. What is immediately striking about both of their images is how young they are. Henry was 18 when he enlisted on August 23, 1862, and Tristram was 20 when he enlisted on August 30, 1862. Neither was identified after their death on July 1. Tristram was the only man killed in his company, although there were 16 other casualties in the company, including one mortally wounded. Someone sent word to Tristram’s father that he had been killed on July 1 because he immediately set out for Gettysburg from Philadelphia and arrived before the burial details reached the men of the 121st. He wrote afterwards, “I went to the first day’s battlefield [at] Gettysburg hoping to find the body of my son, but the corpses were too badly blackened and blotted by the sun.” Mr. Campbell’s letters helps us understand how difficult it was to identify dead men who had lain in the hot sun for days. He writes unemotionally about searching among the dead for his son, but I have no doubt the experience was devastating. The very fact that he immediately left Philadelphia for Gettysburg upon receiving word of his son’s death, and possibly traveled through
Confederate lines to reach the first day’s battlefield, speak to his love for his son. To be unable to identify him among the dead was a cruel outcome, but war often produces such tragedies.
Tristram and Henry speak to the sacrifice that young men make in war. In my next post we will meet Burlington Cunningham of the 19th Indiana, who illustrates their courage.