The “Memories from the Men in Green” series is a trilogy of fictionalized accounts based on the real events of the Battle of Gettysburg and the accounts and records of three men who fought with the Second Regiment of the United States Sharpshooters (USSS), Company F. Each installment features a first person perspective account from a different member of the company. These men are: George W. Lamprey, William Cornelius Beard, and Henry L. Richards. Accounts, although fictional, are constructed from letters, diaries, newspaper articles, and public records of the men and others from within their regiment in order to create the most whole and realistic account possible. This series is brought to you in preparation for the Second U.S. Sharpshooters in Slyder Lane Program. The program is scheduled for July 2nd at 6pm and will be lead by Licensed Battlefield Guide, Gar Phillips. Find out more about the program and our summer schedule online (https://www.nps.gov/gett/planyourvisit/interpretation.htm).
The U.S.S.S. were made up of two regiments and were a part of the Union Army of the Potomac. They were recognized as elite units of the Federal Army. The U.S.S.S. regiments, though volunteers, were given distinction of US designation as though they belonged to the Regular Army. Sharp Shooters were used in battle as snipers or skirmishers and in order to become one of these expert rifleman, one had to complete a test that required them to place ten consecutive shots within a ten inch circle at two hundred yards and the remaining shots at one hundred yards off hand. Their uniforms consisted of a dark green hat, coat, and pants, which allowed them to be somewhat camouflaged. This tactic was almost unheard of in this time period. The Berdan Sharp Shooters carried .52 caliber Sharps breech loaders. These weapons allowed them to load and fire their weapons three times faster than an infantryman using a muzzle loader. A few Sharpshooters were also outfitted with a heavy muzzle loading telescopic rifle to better snipe rebels from a long distance.
The Second Regiment of U.S. Sharpshooters played a pivotal role on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. This regiment was positioned at the Slyder Farm, about a mile south of Devil’s Den, and was able to divide the advancing Confederates of John Bell Hood’s division,, mostly men from Texas and Alabama,, into two factions, one that went towards Devil’s Den and one that went to Little Round Top. This division diverted some 850 confederate officers and men away from the Union flank on Little Round Top , buying time for Federal troops to occupy the hill. Further details involving the battle tactics and role of the Second U.S. Sharpshooters will be provided on the program given by Gar Phillips.
The first account is from the perspective of George W. Lamprey, who survived the Civil War entirely. He was mustered in November 26th, 1861 and mustered out November 16th, 1864. He married Celinda Claflin Trussell on January 29th, 1865 and had two children with her, Ella Stone Lamprey and John Johnson Lamprey. He was from Orford, New Hampshire where he lived until his death in 1911.
George William Lamprey,
Orford, Grafton County, New Hampshire
May 29th, 1873
In the mornings, just before the sun comes up, I like to sit and watch the sun rise over Mount Cube and across the Connecticut River. It truly is a peaceful sight, how the early pink light stretches up and over the summit and into those rosy narrow clouds that hang right above it; the brilliance of dawn making them look like so many berry stained fingers. I think of my Ella and how those clouds look like her pale, little hands after they’ve reached into wicker baskets of blackberries, the purple-red juices running from her fingertips to her elbows. The skyline is that breath of life and exuberance I see in her. Simultaneously though, the red stain easily becomes the color of death, and I strain my mind to remain here, in the quiet of the early morning. Still, I like to sit out here a spell, even some twelve years later, and thumb my way through my war diary. I wish sometimes that I had written more. That I had said something more poetic, that I written something other than a record of where we went, who I got letters from, and who owed me money, who lived and who died… But my mind is jumbled with the story. I wonder often if there even is a story, if a coherent narrative can and should be formed. Every memory is either fleeting or dried up or takes me fully back to it, so much so that I can see and hear nothing else. It scares me how easily I can jump into that other time, like the flick of a fishing rod; my mind is a hook on a line sinking into a pool of memory, immersing me fully, drowning me in that once forgotten moment. I know couldn’t have written more at that time, I was just trying to survive the day to day, trying to keep my sanity. To go back and embellish now, well, I don’t know that I could make it honest.
On this day, ten years ago, I wrote that I received a letter from Frank. We were moving into Pennsylvania, there wasn’t much time from me to say much of anything, save a few fragments of sentences. Frank… Frank Trussell? Frank Lamprey? Frank Tallman? I didn’t bother to say which it was then. Even now I struggle to remember which it could have been; there were so many days and so many deaths that a man can’t stand to remember them all. I thought back then, that all I would need to remember were a few sparse words, that those fragments would be enough to jog my mind. In some ways I wasn’t wrong. In some ways those memories are a prison I am left in.
Now, Tallman… David Franklin Tallman. He was one of my buddies from back before the war. The things we used to do in this town… When I think of him, I can feel the sides of my lips curve up into a compuserary grin. He enlisted just a month before me and was put into New Hampshire’s 5th Regiment, Company C, like so many of my buddies from Orford. There were so many even in my own company… Asel Griggs and George Lane …Guess Frank Tallman would have been there though, in the area of Gettysburg that is, if he had lived long enough to see it. The letter, I realize, must have been from Benjamin Franklin Trussell, Celinda’s older brother.
“Papa,” a soft voice says from behind the screen door of the house. I turn my head to see John sleepily sticking his head out from around the door frame.
My mind is dizzy with memories, and so I strain to ground myself in the here and now. “What’re you doing up so early?”
“It’s not early,” he says, pushing the screen open. He comes and sits next to my chair on the porch. “The sun’s most up already.”
“I suppose it is.” I reach down and tousle his hair with the palm of my hand.
After a moment he says, “What were you doing out here Papa? Reading that book of yours again?”
“Hmm? Yes, you know I like to come out here and settle my thoughts with this.”
“I just don’t see how it helps you. Papa, those things passed by so long ago…”
“And you’re only just shy a decade! But these things, these memories… they aren’t something I can leave behind easily.” Every face, every body, every bloodied piece of earth like a weight and a hook in my flesh.
“Can’t you tell me a story Papa?”
“A war story?”
“Yes!” John nodded, a flush of excitement spread across his face. “I would like that very much, Papa.”
“Don’t—“ I began, wagging a finger at him, “expect too much though. I’ve never really tried to tell one before.”
John nodded again, this time, solemnly.
“And it’s hard to tell about a battle. A battle is filled with nothing but smoke and screaming, the whirl of bullets, the thunder of cannon, and the banging of drums. We used to call it ‘seeing the elephant’.” I’m afraid that my eyes get that lost look in them, the kind of look that makes John and Ella and Celinda scared, when I begin to talk about the war.
“Okay, okay, I get it!” John said impatiently. “Where are you gonna start? The beginning?”
“I don’t know… I don’t think so…” I picked up my war diary, which was still open to the pages from late June and the start of July of 1863. “I’ll tell you all about how I got into the Berdan’s another day.”
“I was a sharpshooter, you know? I picked rebels off like flies,” I laughed, “not that it shows much now.”
“Well, yes… but never you mind that, I’m going to tell you about Gettysburg.”
“Gettysburg, well…” I begin slowly, like the trickling of a stream, but then all of the sudden, there’s a flash flood in my mind and I find the words form, “Gettysburg was, I do believe the bloodiest battle of the whole war. It’s when, well, I guess it was when things started to really turn around for the Union. It’s ten year anniversary is coming up, so it’s also timely. It’s what I was just thinking on anyway. And, and well… I lost a pard, and one of the finest officers I knew in that battle.”
“Well don’t give it all away! You haven’t even told the story yet!”
“Oh!” I put my hand to my mouth in an overly comical way, “You’re right boy, it won’t do if you already know too much of the ending now would it?”
John shook his head and looked at me expectantly.
“Alright then. It was the end of June when we began moving through Maryland and into Pennsylvania. Our last major engagement was in Chancellorsville, which ended in early May. The days leading up to the battle were hot and sunny. I remember that even sergeant Richards, who was also so soft-spoken, was so uncomfortable in the heat, oh, boy, he was fit to be tied! Richards, he, outright cursed those Pennsylvania roads. It was odd to see him that way, but it was the nature of the situation, you see…”
By Ela Thompson
Ela Thompson is a Social Media Intern at Gettysburg National Military Park, has an English Writing B.A. from Gettysburg College, and currently studies Creative Writing [Poetry M.F.A.] at George Mason University.