Memories from the Men in Green: Part 3 of 3

 

Monument to the 2nd USSS

Monument to the Vermont Companies of the 2nd United States Sharpshooters, Slyder Lane. Image courtesy of Stone Sentinels.

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. Sharpshooter Slyder Lane Program. The program is scheduled for July 2nd at 6pm and will be led by Licensed Battlefield Guide, Gar Phillips. Find out more about the program and our summer schedule online: http://www.nps.gov/gett

Gun and Cap

A Berdan cap and .52 caliber Sharps Rifle in the collection of Gettysburg National Military Park.

For the final installment of “Memories from the Men in Green” there is an account from the perspective of William C. Beard, better known as Cornelius Beard. Beard was a Corporal of the 2nd New Hampshire Regiment of Berdan’s USSS, Company F. He was born September 29th 1841 in New Boston, Hillsborough County, NH to Eleanor M. McMillen Beard and William Beard, Jr. He had one brother,  James Moore Gregg Beard, who was just three years younger than him. Cornelius is reported to have died on July 4th, 1863 at the age of 22 , just a few months before his 23rd birthday at the battle of Gettysburg. However, according to the diary of George W. Lamprey, a member of 2nd Regiment of the U.S. Sharpshooters Company F as well, Beard died the night of July 3rd. The account is therefore written from July 2nd, the main day of the engagement for the Berdan’s in the Gettysburg campaign.

We were also lucky enough to find one of his letters written during the war. Here is a transcription of the letter, which was written before the Battle of Chancellorsville, the battle the Second Regiment of the U.S. Sharpshooters would have fought in before the Battle of Gettysburg:

Camp near Falmouth VA April 8/63

Dear Mother,

 

I will pen you a few lines and let you know that I am still in the same place and enjoying good health and good spirits. We shall probably move tomorrow and I think I am safe in saying that before ten days more goes by we shall have the handle better of the war and where old fighting Joe Hooker once gets at the rebels he will get most awfully whipped or annihilate them. The boys are in good spirits and will fight well no doubt. A great battle is near, how it will terminate, God only knows, but a victory for us I hope.

Have you heard from James yet, and how does he like the West and the frontier? I saw Ethan Smith’s marriage in the paper and a day or so ago. I saw David Colborn’s marriage beats  /_/ how they are getting married? I never have felt the confidence in war general as that I do in General Hooker and I am almost sure that we can whip them and whoever lives to see next winter will see the war ceased and one favorable to us. I will write a letter for the occasion you spoke of if I live through the next battle, I never have felt so cheerful about giving into the next one although it will fame to be the most terrible one of the war.

How does John Gilmore and father get along now a-days have and how are the rest of the folks around New Boston as they say anything about the conservative bill, it will make them laugh,  I reckon, don’t you? I want you to write me all the news and as often as you can and give my love to all that may ever yearn for me.

From your son,

 

Cornelius W.Beard

P.S. I have sent you fifty dollars a day or two days ago and write me as soon as you get it. Sent home some card photograph taken with my cloak on before I left N.H. (New Hampshire) I want you to send me one of them; be sure if you have one taken with the cloak on to send it and one dollars worth of Postage Stamps, now let me know soon.

 

Gun

Serial number on the .52 caliber Sharps in the collection of Gettysburg National Military Park.

_________________________________________________________________

Memories from the Men in Green (Series 3 of 3)

 

William Cornelius Beard
Gettysburg, Adams County, Pennsylvania
July 1st and 2nd 1863

It has rained all day, and even now, into the night I can feel those soft percussive droplets hit the tarp above me and roll onto the grass at my side. I was, and still am, thoroughly soaked from the rain and muck in my boots, to the mud caked on my gaiters, to the damp heavy wool still hanging from my body. The flesh of my face and fingers are raw with the cool wet after walking so many hours. The rain started yesterday evening just before we made camp, and we have been marching through it since five o’clock this evening. We started at the border of Maryland, some place called Emmitsburg, and marched along the pike for some ten miles. We finally made it to Gettysburg, where the 1st Corps have been fighting all day, not too long ago.

We are very close to the enemy, so we must bivouac this night. It was nearing dark when we finally stopped marching, and there was no time to set up tents. Instead, myself and the others lie on the ground betwixt tarps and quilts. I can hear the quiet snores of Brixby beside me, and the scribble of pen on paper from Lamprey on the other. Writing a journal, he does this nightly by the light of the moon or matches. Is it madness to try to document this war? What can a few lines nightly really tell of this? Who is it for? I write letters to my mother often, and to my brother. I think that is much different though. I don’t talk about all this, I talk about home and coming home. I want to be home again with them. I did not expect to be out here for so long.

I know there will be a battle tomorrow, that and we must march a bit more. The pleasant truth of rain soaked earth is that it is soft and gives way easily to the shape of the body. Rest seems to be a long, empty field I march towards, but never reach most nights, but as I lie here in the damp darkness the sound of rain fades and I drift into effortless sleep.

***

            In the early light, the sun stretches out over the hills to the east of us. A light fog has rolled over the valley in the night so the air feels thick and heavy with moisture, but the rain has stopped at least. It is already getting hot, although the sun has barely crested over the ridge of hills. Yesterday we ran out of rations, so there is no breakfast, not that there is truly time for it this morning, as the rebels have moved closer to our line in the night. I simply roll up my tarps and quilt, put on my shoes and gaiters and get into line.

***

            We marched a bit until we reached a small farm, about two o’clock. A very handsome property with a stone house, barn, and quite a few other buildings, all very good for shooting from, although those of our company have formed a skirmish line not far from the road we came in on. Growing here are peach and pear trees. Pleasantly, I have found a few peaches are just shy ripe, so I have been eating those I can find. For now I am holed up in a stone wall with the others between the house and the barn, I think we’ve been waiting about two hours now. I take a large bite of peach and let what juices there were spill down the sides of my cheeks.

Starr nudges me in the side and I look up. Suddenly, a great yell could be heard coming from the other side of the road. I drop the fruit beside me and pick up my gun. Rebels. All of them butternut and brown. From such a distance, they looked more like a cloud of dust rising over a field than a line of men. It was time to stop waiting.

They weren’t firing yet, the rebels, as they couldn’t see us. I load my gun and fire. One. Pull the lever down. Load the cartridge. Bring up the breech. Fire. Two. Pull lever. Load cartridge. Bring up. Fire. Three. Pull. Load. Up. Fire. Four. Pull. Load. Up. Fire. Five. Many men dropped to the ground in front of me. Closer and closer the mass swarmed and swelled, despite the shots from our side. They fell and fell. Six. But we were far out numbered. Seven. Pull. Load. Up. Fire. Eight. Not much longer now. Pull. Up. Load. Fire. Nine.

The rebels break into battle lines. Maybe three or so men deep. There are so many of them, and they stretch out so far along the road that I can hardly see them all. Pull, up, load, fire. Ten.

I hear the call to fall back.
I’m running.

About The Staff

Staff of Gettysburg National Military Park
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4 Responses to Memories from the Men in Green: Part 3 of 3

  1. Jeannine Trybus says:

    Okay, you resized the image of the Vermont sharp shooters monument, and in doing so you made it very difficult to see who actually took the shot.. It’s by Steve Hawks, as are quite of few of his photos used by the Park Services. Check out his websites stonesentinels.com to see pictures of ALL of the monuments plus so much more at Gettysburg.

  2. soldierking says:

    I guess my only question concerning this series is, with the wealth of actual first person accounts of Gettysburg, why are we wasting time with fictionalized accounts? Not seeing the value, from a historical perspective, of this series.

  3. Timothy Orr says:

    Just an interesting fact. The April 8, 1863, letter written by W. C. Beard mentions “David Colborn’s” marriage. This is 1st Sergeant David W. Colburn, Co. C, 2nd N.H. Infantry. Colburn was from New Boston, same as Beard. Colburn was killed on July 2, 1863, at the Peach Orchard. It’s just an incredible example of the way Gettysburg’s violence killed men from the same town, even though they served in different regiments. BTW. Photos exist of Beard and Colburn. There’s a beautiful picture of Beard taken in April 1862 when he was on sentry duty in Falmouth Virginia.

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