The “Memories from the Men in Green” series is a trilogy of fictionalized accounts based 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 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 second installment of “Memories from the Men in Green” is an account from the perspective of sergeant Henry L. Richards. The Sergeant enlisted at age 39 and was from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was much loved by his company and was known for being an even-tempered and kind man. It was taken as a bad omen by the company apparently, when he said while marching into Pennsylvania just before the battle of Gettysburg, “G— d— your Pennsylvania. The Rebels ought to destroy the whole state if you can’t afford better roads/ The road is worse than Virginian roads!” According to the diary of George W. Lamprey as well as an account by first sergeant Wyman Silas White, Richards was wounded on July 2nd, 1863 and died the next day. It is recorded that he died from an overdose of ether, as he did not revive after the amputation of his leg. According to his obituary, he is recorded to have died on the 2nd of July after being operated on. Keeping in mind this date discrepancy, the account is given from July 3rd, the most probable day of the sergeant’s death, given the date of the 2nd Regiment of the U.S. Sharpshooter’s engagement in the battle.
Henry Lakeman Richards
Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania
July 3rd, 1863
The pain is so enormous, I can hardly tell where it comes from, except…
Except that I remember it is was my leg that was shot.
I tried to sit up not long ago. It was extremely difficult, but I was able to push up enough to see that there is a hole straight through the knee.
As I did so, my head was all filled with buzzing and my eyes felt fuzzy with light, although it was still quite dark , the only illumination through the trees was by moonlight. My ears rang out as if clouded by cannon fire, and the ground beneath me seemed contorted and rolling, as if it were an ocean.
The sight was enough to make me vomit, and I did.
That leg is shattered; the hole must have been made by Minie ball, as it is clear and open, void of flesh. I know this. I know this.
I am going to lose my leg, I whisper or think over and over, although I have to strain to remember that it is mine at all. That thought recurs and recurs or fades out, as darkness fades away in feathery shades while dawn rises. I may die; I know I may well die from this.
I thought I would die when I was hit in Antietam last year. I thought they wouldn’t let an aging man like me fight again.
These thoughts of mine feel useless. Should I cry out for help? Are the rebels near?
I can not know.
I fear that I am making too much noise, I can not be sure these groans are from me. They must be. I am so out of sorts. Swimmy-headed.
From where I lay on the hill in the woods I can see no one. I can hear no one. It is very early still and the luster of dawn is just beginning to creep up over the trees in brilliant shades of pinks and reds. Perhaps I hear the stirring and chirping of birds in the trees overhead. But then again, that may be imagined.
All of my limbs begin to feel heavy and I have no comfort, no reassurance that anyone will come for me. It is becoming difficult to keep my heavy lids from falling.
I close my eyes. What they see does me no good, and I am too tired to do anything else but listen. I think back to Portsmouth, to Auburn Avenue where the stretch of trees I planted must be growing tall and strong. What a lovely little avenue. In my mind I see the warm sun shining through their branches. A cascade of light across my face, warm and white. I see rivers of time pass as the trees grow out and upward; their branches swell with leaves, as if met with an eternal summer. What an awfully pleasant view to come to me now.
All too quickly the warm light of memory, of imagination, fades from me.
Out of the silence of the early morning, I hear a rustling in the trees. There is the distinctive fall of feet on soft ground which seems to surround me.
Someone has come for me.
I feel my whole body being lifted.
There are voices, but their pitch is skewed and I can hardly make out their words. It is as if my ears are underwater or filled with wax. Thoughts fade in and out as tides until I am blank.
The smell of blood is all around me, there are groans and cries as well, my senses are trying to rouse me. I lift a hand, flicker an eyelid. Nothing. I can not sit up, although I try.
I smell something faint and sweet.
Brown sugar? No. No. I remember.
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.