Gettysburg National Military Park Just Got a Little Bigger

During the early morning hours of July 3rd, 1863, Confederate skirmishers and sharpshooters stealthily made their way along the boulder strewn east bank of Rock Creek, across the farm of C. Zephaniah Tawney. These men, mostly members of the 2nd Virginia and 1st North Carolina, short on sleep, wet from repeated water crossings, and strained by the pressures of battle, found favorable locations amongst the stone farm buildings and rocks, drew aim on their blue clad opponents across the water, and opened a brisk and deadly fire. Their intended targets, the men of the 13th New Jersey, 27th Indiana, and 2nd Massachusetts, hunkered down behind what protection their position in McCallister’s Woods afforded, stacked their log and earth breastworks ever higher, and returned the fire when they could.

Photo 1

For much of the fighting around Culp’s Hill, Rock Creek was a dividing line between Union and Confederate troops. The water was much higher at the time of the battle but remains difficult to ford today, as demonstrated by Ranger Dan Vermilya.

The 13th New Jersey, the only unit in Colgrove’s brigade directly facing Rock Creek, was particularly annoyed by the sniping taking place. One member of the 13th, Samuel Toombs  of Company F, recalled the moments following the disastrous advance of the 2nd Massachusetts and 27th Indiana into Spangler Meadow,  “…We moved back to our works fronting the Creek, and the other regiments took up their old position. The enemy threw out a strong line of sharpshooters, who devoted their time to picking off every man whose head appeared above the works. A squad of these men established themselves in a small stone house on the opposite side of the Creek, and they annoyed us terribly by their skillful marksmanship.”

The Virginians and North Carolinian’s across the creek wounded more men than they killed. Yet one of those they shot dead was the stretcher bearer of the 13th New Jersey, a circumstance that served to further enrage the New Jersey men. Lt. Charles Winegar, of the Battery M, 1st New York Light, was called forward. After surveying the position of the Confederates on the Tawney farm, he opened fire with one of this Parrott Rifles, briefly causing the skirmishers to flee for cover, scoring a few direct hits on the Tawney buildings themselves, and giving the beleaguered men of the 13th New Jersey a reason to cheer. Confederate casualties among the 1st North Carolina and 2nd Virginia in this action were light, but one of those killed was Gettysburg’s own Wesley Culp.

Photo 2

Boulders and woods line the east bank of Rock Creek. Soldiers in the 2nd Virginia and 1st North Carolina occupied this position during the morning hours of July 3rd.

The fighting on the east bank of Rock Creek, and the skirmishing and pot-shots taken across it, have always been but a footnote to the larger, bloodier, and more significant fighting that took place on Culp’s Hill proper. The comparatively low numbers engaged, the inaccessibility of the position of the 2nd Virginia and 1st North Carolina, and the relatively scarcity of first hand accounts of the fighting have further contributed to its obscurity. Nevertheless, for the men that fought there, for those who called that tract of land home, and for those wishing to understand the Battle of Gettysburg in all its complexity, the fighting that took place there is of the utmost importance.

Significant steps were taken this week which will ultimately enable visitors to Gettysburg National Military Park to view the fighting around Rock Creek, Spangler Meadow, and McAllister’s Woods, from an entirely new perspective. Thanks to our friends and partners at the Civil War Trust, over an acre and a half of land was purchased, preserved, and this past week transferred to Gettysburg National Military Park.

The yellow tract of land just south of the Z. Taney farm has been purchased and preserved thanks to the work of the Civil War Trust.

Located south of the Zephaniah Tawney farm site (the foundation of which is still visible inside the boundary of the National Park today), the heavily wooded and rocky terrain retains much of its 19th century appearance.

Photo 3

The land in the low ground behind the prominent boulder is a portion of the land preserved by the Civil War Trust and transferred to the GNMP.

The paths and old road beds have been spared from heavy use, long forgotten rock walls, covered with grass and leaves, still crisscross the landscape, and its easy to imagine the prone figure of a Confederate soldier drawing aim at the distant enemy. We are grateful to the Civil War Trust for allowing us to safeguard this battlefield landscape for future generations of visitors to Gettysburg National Military Park.

Christopher Gwinn,
Supervisory Ranger, Gettysburg National Military Park


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11 Responses to Gettysburg National Military Park Just Got a Little Bigger

  1. Phil Spaugy says:

    I Had the fortunatat experience just this past Sunday to ford Rock Creek and explore the area around the Z.Taney farm on a tour lead by Garry Adelman and Tim Smith along with the amazing Dean Schultz It is a pristine piece of land with a great battle history. Would make a great location for a living history area.

  2. Raymond Land says:

    You have two different spellings for the Tawney farm. On the map the name is Taney. Does the Tawney family still own the farm or land today.

    • The Staff says:

      Raymond, like a lot of Gettysburg place names, the Tawney farm has been spelled in a couple of different ways. Tawney is how it is spelled on the 1870 census. The C. Z. Tawney house site is within the bounds of Gettysburg National Military Park and is no longer owned by the family.

  3. If Lee would have taken the Baltimore Pike,,,It could have been a different story..,.!

  4. Rachel Wilson says:

    CZ Tawney was my great, great grandfather. Was he, or were any of his family, present during this skirmish?

    • The Staff says:

      Apparently not. The majority of civilians living within the battle area left their homes for the safety of relatives’ homes outside of Gettysburg and though there is no written account we know of penned by Tawney or any of his relatives, we believe he took his family and left his farm once the armies concentrated at Gettysburg and Union skirmishers appeared on his property.

  5. Rachel Wilson says:

    Also, would there be research done by your staff on the family and the homestead that would be available to view?

    • The Staff says:

      Research information on the Tawney family is rather sparse. We suggest you contact the Adams County Historical Society for information they may hold on the Tawney family in Adams County.

  6. George Ziegele says:

    I’m related to Henry Dammig of the 13th New Jersey.To the best of my knowledge, he was the only man from his regiment killed on day 2. Was he the unnamed stretcher bearer for the 13th New Jersey mentioned in this article?

    George Ziegele

    • The Staff says:

      Private Henry Dammig (Damig) of Company G was the only soldier of the 13th New Jersey Infantry killed at Gettysburg and was most likely the “stretcher bearer” referred to in this article, though his exact role in the regiment at Gettysburg cannot be confirmed. He was most likely appointed to assist wounded from the field or volunteered to retrieve wounded under fire. He was initially buried on the William McAllister farm “near the (Baltimore) pike” behind the site where the regiment was positioned. His remains were later relocated to the New Jersey section of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Gettysburg, grave B-12.

  7. Brian says:

    “There is urgent need for a new avenue leading from the southeastern
    base of Culp’s Hill, across Rock Creek, to the extreme right flank of
    the Union and left flank of the Confederate forces, respectively, and
    this should be laid out with a view to its extension to the cavalry
    field, whither a good road is much needed. ”

    from the annual report of the Gettysburg National Military Park Commission to the Secretary of War, 1897.

    So happy and proud to see these acquistions…my favorite part of the park. I continue to support all preservation efforts of our national battlefields, but part of me gets a bit sad when I read about a need to connect that part of the battlefield to the rest…an need unanswered for over 100 years now…There should be no “Lost Lanes” at GNB. (Neill Ave).

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