The Battlefield Foray 2016: Spring Arrives in Gettysburg

Over the past two days Gettysburg National Military Park hosted the inaugural “Battlefield Foray,” a series of free hikes and walks that traversed nearly the entirety of the park. It was a great way to welcome the return of spring to south-central Pennsylvania and the kickoff to what we hope will be a great year of walks, talks, and hikes out on the battlefield. We were incredibly grateful and fortunate to have so many of you out on the field with us.

1st Day Panorama

Cars line Reynolds Avenue for the first program of the Battlefield Foray.

Each of the different hikes on Saturday and Sunday examined a unique aspect of the two armies that fought at Gettysburg. In particular, the different arms of the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac (infantry, artillery, and cavalry) were discussed and explored on a part of the battlefield where that particular branch played a prominent role.

Saturday began early, with Park Historian John Heiser leading a tour focused on the backbone of both armies; the infantry. Though Union cavalry initiated the fighting outside of Gettysburg on July 1st, the day as a whole was dominated by the infantrymen. Though the skies were slightly overcast, and a brief drizzle momentarily moved through the first days field, nearly one hundred visitors followed John as he discussed the opening shots of the battle, as Union infantry regiments in Maj. Gen. John Reynold’s I Corps confronted elements of Confederate Gen. Harry Heth’s command. Tromping through Reynold’s Woods and down McPherson Ridge, the story of units like the 24th Michigan, 26th North Carolina, and 2nd Wisconsin were brought to life on the ridges and in the woodlots where those units fought.

John H. 2

Along Meredith Avenue at the northern edge of Reynold’s Woods. The monument to the 7th Wisconsin is on the left. 

John H.

Park Historian John Heiser discuss the afternoon fighting on July 1st between the Iron Brigade and Johnston Pettigrew’s  Confederate regiments.

Later in the day Ranger Matt Atkinson delved into the role artillery played during the fighting on the 2nd Day. Confederate artillerymen E. P. Alexander wrote of the fighting on July 2 that, “I don’t think there was ever in our war a hotter, harder, sharper artillery afternoon than this.” From Warfield Ridge to the Trostle Farm, Matt explored and discussed the Union and Confederate batteries that dueled for supremacy on the bloodiest day of the battle of Gettysburg.

Matt at the Peach Orchard

The exploits and service of units like Battery F, Pennsylvania Light Artillery, better known as “Hampton’s Battery” was discussed from the vantage point of their position on July 2nd. Hampton’s Battery lost roughly 18 men killed and wounded during the fighting at Gettysburg, most of it during the hour they were engaged at the Peach Orchard.

Peach Orchard

By the late afternoon the rain and overcast clouds of the morning gave way to a blue skies and warm weather. The final program of the first day of the Battlefield Foray brought participants to the East Cavalry Battlefield where Ranger Tom Holbrook described the clash of Union and Confederate horsemen that took place their mid-day on July 3rd, 1863.

Sickles Avenue

On Sunday Licensed Battlefield Guides Garry Adelman and Tim Smith led an all day hike that brought the story together. Leaving from the Visitor Center, they led participants on a hike of the entire position of the Army of the Potomac on July 2nd and 3rd, 1863. By walking the entirety of the Union “Fishhook” at Gettysburg, visitors gained a greater appreciation for the size of the battle and battlefield, and that the fighting that took place at individual locations throughout the battle was in actuality part of one, interconnected, struggle.

Tim and Garry on Little Round Top

Licensed Battlefield Guides Tim Smith and Garry Adelman near the monument to the 155th Pennsylvania on Little Round Top.

We want to thank all of those that showed up and explored the park with us. Hopefully we will see you all out on the field again soon. For more information on ranger led programs, and future events at Gettysburg National Military Park, visit our website at

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Conspicuous Gallantry, ‘Medal of Honor’ Spotlight Exhibit opens today

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of one’s life above and beyond the call of duty. – Medal of Honor Citation


Museum staff put the final touches on the new Medal of Honor exhibit at Gettysburg National Military Park

The new Spotlight Exhibit in the lobby of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center is showcasing Gettysburg National Military Park’s collection of six Medals of Honor, including Alonzo Cushing’s, awarded in 2014. This free exhibit opened today and will remain on display for six months.

One of the primary goals of the National Park Service at Gettysburg is to tell the compelling stories of the Battle of Gettysburg and the American Civil War – creating memorable visits. Merely preserving and protecting these resources is not enough if the public does not believe the stories are relevant and important. We must continue to make the case that Gettysburg still matters. And we must tell these compelling stories to every one of our 1.2 million annual visitors.

The key to history is the story. Nothing can be more compelling to our visitors than the stories of valor and sacrifice illustrated by the Medal of Honor recipients in this exhibit. In all, 64 soldiers received the Medal of Honor for their actions at the Battle of Gettysburg. For each of these outstanding acts, there are untold numbers of soldiers on both sides who committed acts of bravery and self- sacrifice for their comrades and their cause.

Jason_4-13-16_0054_1At Gettysburg, so often we talk about leaders, but it is really the acts of individuals that make the difference.  Battles are individual struggles on a large scale.  Through the ages, the highest calling of man has always been to put one’s own life at risk for the benefit of others, and to perform above and beyond the call of duty.


This whole exhibit came about in December 2014 when President Obama honored Alonzo Cushing with the Medal of Honor.  Cushing’s descendants and the National Park Service committed to continuing to tell Cushing’s story at Gettysburg.

The National Park Service is tremendously grateful for the opportunity to continue to honor these soldiers.  We’d like to thank the donors of the artifacts who helped make this exhibit possible and the Gettysburg Foundation for supporting this exhibit.


Medals of Honor now on display at Gettysburg are:

Daniel P. Reigle, Corporal, Company F, 87th Pennsylvania Infantry. At Cedar Creek, Virginia, October 19, 1864. Date of issue: October 26, 1864. For gallantry while rushing forward to capture a Confederate flag at the stone fence where the enemy’s last stand was made.

Edward L. Gilligan, First Sergeant, Company E, 88th Pennsylvania Infantry. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1, 1863. Date of issue: April 30, 1892. Assisted in the capture of the flag of the 23rd North Carolina Infantry.  The 88th Pennsylvania attacked the retreating Confederates of the 23rd North Carolina, capturing nearly the entire regiment.  Captain Joseph Richard fought with the regimental color bearer, who only gave up when, according to Gilligan “I reasoned with him with the butt of my musket.”

 James J. Purman, Lieutenant, Company A, 140th Pennsylvania Infantry. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 2, 1863. Date of issue: October 30, 1896. While engaging troops of the 24th Georgia Infantry in the woods south of the Wheatfield, Purman voluntarily assisted a wounded comrade to a place of safety while the enemy was in close proximity, hence narrowing his route of withdrawal.  In attempting to withdraw across the Wheatfield, Purman received the fire of the enemy and a wound, which resulted in the amputation of his left leg.

 Wallace W. Johnson, Sergeant, Company G, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 2, 1863. Date of issue: August 8, 1900. As Union forces of the 3rd Corps became actively engaged with Confederate forces near Little Round Top and Devil’s Den, regiments of the Pennsylvania Reserves from the 5th Corps arrived to reinforce them.  The Pennsylvanians came under sniper fire from the John Weikert farmhouse.  Johnson and five other men from the 6th Reserves volunteered to assault the house and neutralize the Confederates.  They rushed the structure under thick fire, broke down the barricaded door, and captured the Confederates.

 Alonzo H. Cushing, First Lieutenant, Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery. At Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 3, 1863. Date of issue: November 6, 2014. Distinguished himself by acts of bravery above and beyond the call of duty while serving as an artillery commander in Battery A, 4th U.S. Artillery. . .  He refused to leave the battlefield after being struck in the shoulder by a shell fragment. . .  As he continued to direct fire, he was struck again — this time suffering grievous damage to his abdomen. . .  Still refusing to abandon his command, he boldly stood tall in the face of Major General George E. Pickett’s charge and continued to direct devastating fire into oncoming forces. As the Confederate forces closed in, Cushing was struck in the mouth by an enemy bullet and fell dead beside his gun.

In 2013, we posted a blog with more information about Medals of Honor in the Gettysburg collection.

This post is based on Gettysburg National Military Park Superintendent Ed W. Clark’s remarks at the opening of the Medal of Honor exhibit at Gettysburg National Military Park’s Museum and Visitor Center, April 14, 2016


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Pin(n)ing For the 2016 Season – Thoughts by a Ranger of the Line





Reader mine, the spring season is once again upon us in the park!  Soon, the park interpreters will be out on the resource giving programs, greeting the numerous visitors pouring in from near and far.   Roaring lawn mowers groom the cemetery, while ticks annoy the determined explorers.  The ancient rituals renew.

Some comments, often repeated by sharp-eyed guests as they encounter uniformed staff are observations as to the overall state of the park; the vast majority of them are very positive.  “The monuments look great!” or “You always manage to keep the cemetery nicely trimmed.” As an interpreter, that’s usually an awkward moment for me, as I strain to point out that I did not do that hard work the visitor presently so admires; but that other individuals in our NPS team did.  Lord knows, I wouldn’t want to wrestle with trees, repoint those monuments, or re-weld, polish and paint all those cannons.  But here, I fiercely thank those who do.  Sometimes, I fear my explanations insufficient on that score.  Even though some of us might appear more “visible” to the public at large, in our own way, through our diverse gifts, we all strive to participate equitably in fulfilling the mandate of the 1916 Organic Act:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby created in the Department of the Interior a service to be called the National Park Service,… which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

I started out in “the Service” in 1982 as a Volunteer, when I earned my first, “old-style” VIP pin.

volunteer pin

From that date, I’ve always had an historical interest in NPS pins and badges.  For this Centennial year of 2016, the NPS chose to further highlight the occasion by offering a special badge, which could be worn only for the anniversary year.  Outside of Law Enforcement, which got a distinctive design of their own, four potential styles were voted on.  The one I favored, a more traditional sort that combined elements of the early to mid-1900’s and the present – issue badge, was rejected.

Photo 1 Nps Badge 1946

NPS Badge, 1946-1960

The official Centennial badge, for non-Law Enforcement personnel, appeared much different than the standard badge (below.)

Present Day badge

Present NPS Badge

Centennial Badge

2016 Centennial Badge

In fact, to my eye, it first looked like a giant version of the “Ranger Tie-Tack” that is worn with the winter uniform.  I wasn’t all that happy with it.  Nonetheless, I ordered one.  When it arrived, however, I was struck with a flash not unlike General Warren’s “Moment of Recognition.”  It was the ubiquitous Park Service arrowhead, first designed in the 1950’s, and decorated with a few Centennial motifs. But at its most basic, it was designed in the shape of an arrowhead, the prize Native American relic I had often hunted relentlessly as a boy.

Not only on the Centennial badge, then, but in every NPS arrowhead insignia and patch are the artistic incorporations of those words from 1916, “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein” But the real meaning lies deeper. For no more appropriate artifact than an arrowhead could possibly have been chosen. By itself, an arrowhead is naught but a sharpened rock.  To be useful, it must be firmly lashed with sinew to a carefully selected piece of wood, carefully fletched at the rear to fly straight and true to accurately hit its target; in the hands of a skilled archer, with a clear eye.

What was with a real arrowhead, remains truthfully embodied in our emblem today.  Many in the NPS, given the nature of their assignments, do not even wear a uniform or a badge; yet their functions for the parks are as essential today as the shaft or the feathers were in guiding the arrowheads of old. Working as a team, perhaps we’ll see another 100 years, continuing in the delicate arc between preservation and use of the precious places that are our trust.  I probably won’t be here for that one.  But others will, and I wish them all my best.


Ranger Bert Barnett,
Gettysburg National Military Park


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When the Martians Visited Gettysburg

It was very soon after the Battle of Gettysburg when the recounting of battle events and experiences evolved to become battlefield legends, which flourished as the tourism industry in Adams County grew.  Most were quite sentimental- blue and gray calling an informal truce to share the water of Spangler’s Spring, the forgotten body of the Confederate sharpshooter at Devil’s Den, the message to Jennie Wade that was never delivered, and the like. These were good stories, published in battlefield guidebooks and souvenir pamphlets, or told again and again by battlefield guides, historians and other interested parties. Of course the more recent phenomena pertains to the numerous ghosts and spirits purported to be haunting both town and battlefield, shamelessly promoted through countless books, magazines, television programs and the numerous “ghost tour” companies who themselves seem to be haunting the streets of downtown Gettysburg.  Yet somewhere between the period of battlefield legends and the current ghost tour craze were the fairly complacent years after World War II when the only real threat to America was the great “Red Menace” and invaders from outer space.

Gettysburg Times July 9, 1947

Did Aliens Visit Gettysburg in 1947? (Gettysburg Times, July 9, 1947)

Outer space, you ask? We may look back on the 1940’s and 1950’s Science Fiction craze with a smile and a wink, but for many it was deadly serious! Even the small community of Gettysburg was not immune from invaders from outer space.

On July 8, 1947, a group of visitors were picnicking at the Pennsylvania Monument when they witnessed half a dozen silver objects fly over the battlefield and disappear in the east, not once but twice. Aghast at the site of these unknown objects slicing across the sky, the couples reported their experience that would be logged up as one of numerous suspicious sightings of “flying saucers” throughout the country that year, described as everything from saw blades to round, silver disks that made little or no noise as they whirled across the sky. Little did this group know at the time how this odd observation was only one incident of the tantalizing craze that would not only grip Adams County, but the nation as a whole- earth was being invaded. Was Gettysburg on the intergalactic list of places to visit?

Gettysburg Times, July 8, 1947Not since 1938, when Orson Welles’ infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast gripped many Americans in fear of alien invaders, had America thought for one moment about the threat from beyond the cosmos. But here it was, flying over the Pennsylvania Monument in the broad daylight of a sunny July afternoon.

The post-World War II era saw an explosion of strange sightings, reports of flying saucers, and other bizarre events seemingly beyond reasonable explanation. It was the new science fiction, which extended itself beyond radio broadcasts and books to movie screens all across the country. There was something flying around up there and though no one had any idea of what it may be; “it” had finally made an appearance over Gettysburg National Military Park.

There never was a full explanation or official disclosure about the 1947 sighting over the park. It was simply chalked up as one of the numerous sightings of unidentified flying objects that flourished around the country over the ensuing decades and certainly those picnickers who were enjoying their afternoon in the park on that day in 1947 had no idea they would part of the national sensation of observing “Flying Saucers” and quite possibly the beginning of an alien invasion!

And barely four years later, Hollywood would produce the epic film, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” where a flying saucer landed on the national mall in Washington, DC. Isn’t it unfortunate the script writers did not see this story in the Gettysburg Times first and have Klaatu’s ship land on the lawn beside the Pennsylvania Monument? That’s probably for the best given the nation’s capital was a more pertinent choice in those early years of the Cold War.

Park employees will sometimes be questioned as to the existence of ghosts or spirits on the battlefield, but few have ever asked if any of us have seen or witnessed UFO’s coursing across the park sky. Hopefully the interest in that phenomenon faded a long time ago, along with drive-in movies and bell bottom jeans.

John Heiser
Historian, Gettysburg NMP

Posted in Battlefield Legends and Lore, Romances of Gettysburg | 4 Comments

Centennial Volunteer Challenge

Centennial%20VIP%20CoinThe National Park Service’s centennial year is here, and we want to encourage everyone to take part in the celebration! We invite people of all ages to find their park and discover the national parks in their community through volunteerism. Registered volunteers who contribute 201.6 hours of service between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016 can earn a Centennial Volunteer Challenge Coin (CVCC)!

How it Works:


  • Recipient(s) must be registered national park volunteers (youth, adults, groups).
  • CVCCs are issued for service hours served between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016.
  • Awards are issued for volunteer service only.
  • Court-ordered community service does not qualify.
  • Volunteers must track their own hours and provide dates, hours served, and a brief description of the service provided (See attached optional form).
  • Service must be approved and verified by the park or program volunteer manager/coordinator.
  • Volunteers should submit their hours to their supervisor by December 31, 2016.


  • Only hours served during the 12-month period of the centennial year will count towards the award.

  The Award

  • A custom-made, antique bronze coin, featuring a raised image of the NPS volunteer logo on one side and the 2016 NPS centennial logo on the opposite side.
  • In addition to the coin, recipients will receive a congratulatory letter from the Director of the National Park Service.
  • The coin and the letter will be sent by the National Park Service Washington Office directly to the qualifying volunteer.

To find out more about Gettysburg volunteer opportunities go to:

Many thanks to Ernestine White, National Park Service Washington Office, for this article.

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The Bitter, Lingering Taste of “The Last Battle:” Columbus, Georgia, April 16th, 1865, and Its Unseen Aftermath

The 16th of April, 1865, is not a terribly singular date in the history of the American Civil War.  By then, the conflict had pretty much been decided.  Lee had surrendered, Johnston would shortly be on his way to doing so, and President Lincoln had been assassinated by a mad Marylander. Yet, given the failure of cell-phone communications in the Deep South, the war continued to rage there, with all its attendant consequences.  Yet a singular event that occurred on April 16th would consequently flavor the world as we now know it.

Following the disastrous Battle of Nashville in mid-December of 1864, scattered bands of Southern leftovers were determined to protect isolated fragments of a once-possible

James Wilson

James Wilson

Confederate military resistance.  Selma, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia, might yet prove troublesome in the hands of such elements; and were therefore targeted by Union forces.  Proceeding south from Middle Tennessee into northern Alabama in the spring of 1865, 13,000 Federal forces under the command of General James H. Wilson arrived in the former Confederate capitol of Montgomery on April 12th. These easily overwhelmed the no more than token resistance forces remaining before it.  Deep in war-torn Alabama, all were unaware that Richmond had fallen on the 3rd, or that Lee had surrendered on the 9th.  Each side, therefore, continued their planning.

It was thus at Columbus that a comparatively few Confederates, seemingly determined “to die in the last ditch,” fought loyally on, and in doing so, unconsciously participated in the creation of  something far more famed than the  “Last Battle of the War,” a distinction occasionally confused with a violent outburst of gunfire at Palmetto Ranch, Texas nearly a month later.

On May 5th, Jefferson Davis officially dissolved the remnants of the Confederacy during a hasty meeting in Washington, Georgia, prior to his capture and arrest at Irwinton, Georgia on May 10th.  By description, any fighting following this date is more accurately held as “post-war resistance” than battle.  The May 13 clash in Texas falls into that category.   With this established, let us return to Columbus.

Howell Cobb

Howell Cobb

As the Union forces of Major-General James H. Wilson’s Cavalry Corps approached, Confederate General Howell Cobb was already seeing to the defenses of Columbus.  At his command were roughly 3,500 remaining forces – mostly local militia and home guard troops from Georgia and Alabama, to occupy a series of breastworks, earthworks and forts.  Feeling the numerical imbalance, however, Cobb chose to withdraw most of these from the outer defenses, relying more on a concentrated, inner defense, and utilizing the Chattahoochee River itself.  Although the stream provided a measure of vulnerability to an invader when forced to attack bridges, it would not, however, prevent the bombardment of Columbus by Wilson’s men from adjacent high ground, mostly on the Alabama side of the line.  With rumors of approaching Federals, the April 16th morning edition of the Columbus Daily Sun had called for citizens to take prudent measures.

The public is hereby notified of the rapid approach of the enemy, but assured that the city of Columbus will be defended to the last.  Judging from experience it is believed that the city will be shelled. Notice is therefore given to all non-combatants to move away immediately.

Just opposite Columbus, along the western banks of the river, stood the town of Girard,

Emory Upton

Emory Upton

Alabama.   Around 2 p.m. on Easter Sunday, 1865, General Emory Upton’s Fourth Division of Wilson’s force appeared, and peremptorily launched its assault on the southwest side of town.  While not exactly unexpected, the afternoon timing of the attack was unanticipated. Though the towns of Girard and Columbus were bound by four pathways across the river, not all four routes would prove militarily useful, as the Confederates had taken steps to defend themselves.

On the lower, or “wagon” bridge, as it was known, Confederates had removed much of the floor planking of the bridge.  Additionally, turpentine-soaked cotton had been placed along the length of the bridge’s superstructure.  As six companies of the 1st Ohio Cavalry, in column of fours, approached the bridge, a sudden artillery fire emanated from the opposite end of the covered structure, followed shortly thereafter by roaring flames and smoke.  Captain Christopher C. McGehee of the local defense battalion had crawled out onto the still-shaking structure to set it alight.  When the Union cavalrymen saw the bridge burst into flames, they broke off their all-out charge.  The first assault upon Columbus had been repulsed.

In a creative acknowledgement of reality, Brigadier-General Andrew J. Alexander, commander of the Second Brigade of Upton’s forces, reported,

Upon a careful reconnaissance of this position it was deemed impracticable to attack from my front. My command was therefore withdrawn, by direction of the brevet major-general commanding, and took no further part in the capture of Columbus.”

However, the Federals, maneuvering in this region did not proceed light-fistedly.  Additional Union cavalry, having gained a river crossing slightly further north at West Point, Georgia, were already approaching in support.  The focus of the fighting would renew from this new direction around 9:00 p.m. Brigadier-General Edward F. Winslow, commanding the 1st Brigade of the 4th Division, was directed to descend upon the town from the northwest.

Thus, Gen’l. Cobb’s decision to withdraw into such a close defensive ring around the city would come to haunt him.  Abandoned high positions to the east and north, in concert with the evening dark and the earlier loss of Forrest’s cavalry screen outside the area, gave the Union troops freedom to shift and maneuver.  The two spans that crossed the Chattahoochee on the town’s northern side, a railroad bridge and a smaller foot-bridge below it, would be stoutly defended, yet would be overwhelmed by this new determined Federal assault.

Map 2

The primary point of attack as combat resumed was the Brodnax –Franklin Street Bridge (now known more commonly as the 14th Street Bridge.)  A force of Union horsemen pushed forward, winding up momentarily in the rear of the Confederate defenses near the bridge. The Southerners returned this fire, slashing the night with musketry and determined shellfire.  Into the mix, Federals pushed forward, now generating a swirling blend of advancing attackers and desperate defenders.  Although the bridge-way was protected by two artillery pieces, the proximity of friend to foe as they surged backward across the span rendered the chance of a “clean kill” negligible, so the defenders declined to fire, abandoning their positions as the Unionists poured in.

As the fighting across the bridge turned close and intense, its result would have world-changing consequences, however.  In the face of the mounting disorganization, confusion and chaos, the majority of the mostly inexperienced defenders of Columbus hastily fell back into the teeth of the focused and victorious Federal troopers.  At such a critical moment, it was the job of the officers to rally their men to the defense of home and flag.  Fighting mounted in the thickness of this melee, Lt. – Col. John Sith Pemberton of Robinson’s Twelfth Cavalry, Georgia State Guards, found himself painfully wounded by a pistol shot, and the subsequent slash of a Union saber across his torso.  For Pemberton, the pain of these wounds would echo beyond the fall of Columbus, and into the distant future.

By 10:00 p.m., on the evening of April 16th, 1865, the Battle of Columbus was considered to be over.  Statistically, the casualties yielded up by the struggle at Columbus were fairly unimpressive.  General Wilson’s official report read “25 men killed and wounded,” although the differing numbers hint upwards to slightly more (33.)  Not surprisingly, battle accounts of this engagement disagree, with actual losses of both sides at a variance. Detailed losses, reflecting the killed, wounded, and captives, were notably higher, numbering somewhere around 1,200.  Lt. – Col. Pemberton was one of those.  Unlike the other suffering wounded, however, Pemberton’s pre-war education had prepared him, he believed, a way to change his destiny.

John S Pemberton

John S. Pemberton

John S. Pemberton was the nephew of Confederate Lieutenant-General John Clifford Pemberton, by now of Vicksburg infamy.  John C. Pemberton’s brother was James Clifford Pemberton, John’s father.  Born in 1831, in Knoxville, Georgia, (near Macon,) the young John S. had followed a medical career in his youth, and worked to establish a wholesale-retail pharmaceutical business in central-western Georgia.  Locating in Columbus, he spent some time organizing a home-defense unit upon the eruption of the conflict.  He entered the service in May of 1862, yet later tendered his resignation, effective November 8th, 1862.  Perhaps the production of medicines was then deemed a higher priority as a war industry.  Returning to irregular periods of local defense service, he too, now bore the scars of combat.

As a veteran in the post-war era,  suffering the painful effects of his wounds, Pemberton became determined to utilize his working knowledge of pharmaceuticals in order to benefit himself, and the many like him, now forced to fight yet another, more private, war – the war between pain and drug addiction.  All-too closely now, pharmacist Pemberton had experienced the pernicious potentials of addictive pain-killing medicines, especially the morphine and opium-based sorts with which he had been initially treated. Upon returning to his practice in the months following the war, he began to tinker with the possibilities of a variety of opiate-free mixtures.

This took some time, and concoctions such as the “Globe Flower Cough Syrup” and “French Wine Coca,” first sputtered forth from the spouts of Pemberton’s lab.  However, Pemberton zealously attended to the improvement of his products, following the lead of others in his field, specifically one W.H. Bentley, whose use of coca showed great promise.   When a local prohibitionist law took effect in 1886, the wine was removed, leaving the undiluted strength of the other main element to shine through – the stimulant extracted from fresh, healthy coca leaves.  The powers of cocaine were less well-understood in the latter-1800’s, and Pemberton viewed it, perhaps through the lens of some personal denial, as a safe alternative to the well-documented evils of opiates. In a series of business interviews with the Atlanta Journal in March, 1885, Pemberton commented,

I am convinced from actual experiments that coca is the very best substitute for opium…It supplies the place of that drug, and the patient who will use it as a means of a cure, may deliver himself from that pernicious  habit.

At another occasion, Pemberton stated,

I wish it were in my power to substitute the Coca and compel all who are addicted to the use of opium, morphine, alcohol, tobacco,  or other narcotic stimulants to live on the coca plant…It is perfectly wonderful what coca does.


In all fairness, one must pause here to recall that in expressing these sentiments, Pemberton is more than a businessman hawking a product.  He was, at his deepest level, an intelligent man turned addict by circumstance, like thousands of other wounded Civil War veterans.  Given his background and training, however, he thought he had an answer to a serious problem.    But his search failed him, and he remained an addict. Opium continued to be easily available to Pemberton, and there is some indication that he used it, in part to combat the pain of stomach cancer, as well as the old war wounds.  His drug habits continually impaired his judgement.

Although he wished to transfer at least a portion of his “Coca- Kola” (so named at the time for the kola nut) creation to his son Charley, he had also introduced his son to morphine/opium addiction. Now needing to finance his ever-growing habit, Charley instead convinced his father to sell off the vast majority of his holdings, save some dubious naming rights, for a mere $550 (approximately $14,000 in 2016 dollars) shortly before his death in 1888.  The ill-tempered Charley, a suffering addict himself and second-generation rich man, followed his father into the grave a mere six years thereafter in 1894, at the age of forty, reputedly comforted at the moment of his death only by a stick of opium at his side.   The inventor’s widow, now childless, bereft of husband and income, would later die in South Carolina as a pauper, in 1909.

It took a modicum of advertising, but the company’s new owner, Asa G. Candler, and the Woodruff  family that followed him, thoroughly transformed  Pemberton’s  product into the renowned “Coca-Cola” Company” so instantly recognizable throughout the world today, (albeit now bereft both of both wine and cocaine since 1905.)


Since then, it has created its own legacy and legend, both of which it guards very carefully.  Proud to recount the tale of its’ creation by a Georgia pharmacist, it thence trails off into the dust, without accurately recounting the vain hopes of its creator to relieve him from the cruelties of  his combat-inflicted drug addictions that ultimately claimed not only him, but eventually destroyed his family.  In their own way, therefore, those prolific red vending machines are perhaps the most ubiquitous of all Confederate monuments.

Bert Barnett
Gettysburg National Military Park

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Spring Battlefield Foray – A Weekend of Special Hikes and Walks on April 23 & 24, 2016

Hike to Seminary Ridge

On April 23-24, 2016, Gettysburg National Military Park will host their inaugural Spring Battlefield Foray, a special weekend of free hikes and walks that will focus on the organization, tools, and tactics utilized by the two armies that fought at Gettysburg. These hikes will bring together park rangers, historians, and licensed battlefield guides to provide a special and in-depth experience.

The programs will explore the battlefield on foot and provide an intimate view of the Gettysburg landscape and the soldiers of the two armies who fought upon it.
All programs are and open to the public. No registration is necessary. 

“April is a great month to explore the battlefield,” said Toni Dufficy, Chief of Interpretation at Gettysburg National Military Park. “Not only will these programs visit less explored areas of the park, they will also offer something new to students of the battle and the war.”

On Saturday, April 23, special programs include 2 1/2-hour in-depth hikes exploring key episodes and phases of the battle from the perspective of the different branches of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia. The hikes involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.

8:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. – “It was nothing more than a stand-up fight” – Infantry vs. Infantry on July 1st.  From the firefight in Reynolds Woods to the savage combat at the Railroad Cut, the foot soldier dominated the fighting on July 1, 1863 west of Gettysburg. Advantages and disadvantages of terrain, arms of the combatants, and the ability of unit commanders to make quick decisions made the difference in victory or defeat on the field that day. Join Park Historian John Heiser on a 2 ½ hour, in-depth hike examining the tools and tactics of the Union and Confederate regiments involved in the opening clash at Gettysburg. Meet at Reynolds Woods, Auto Tour Stop 1. Park along Reynolds Avenue.

July 1

11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. – “A Spirited Duel” – The Artillery on July 2ndConfederate artillerymen E. P. Alexander wrote of the fighting on July 2 that, “I don’t think there was ever in our war a hotter, harder, sharper artillery afternoon than this.” From Warfield Ridge to the Trostle Farm, follow Park Ranger Matt Atkinson as he explores the various Union and Confederate batteries that dueled for supremacy on the bloodiest day of the battle of Gettysburg. Meet at the Peach Orchard. Park on Sickles Avenue. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

Kostic  (17)

3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Clash of Cavalry – The Battle at East Cavalry Field. After two days of stubborn fighting, the Battle of Gettysburg began anew during the early morning hours of July 3, 1863. Though the fighting at Culp’s Hill and Pickett’s Charge is more famous, the pitched cavalry battle fought three miles east of town represents a compelling chapter in the Gettysburg story. Join Park Ranger Tom Holbrook and explore the fields, farms, and crossroads where cavalrymen once crossed sabers. Meet at the parking lot on Confederate Cavalry Avenue.  Park along Confederate Cavalry Avenue.


Sunday, April 24, the Foray offers “Hiking the Union Fishhook,” a Special Program from 8:55 a.m. to 4:55 p.m.  In better understanding the numerous battles within the Battle of Gettysburg, it becomes clear that the various fights were interconnected and walking from place to place is the best way, bar none, to grasp this. Led by Licensed Battlefield Guides Tim Smith and Garry Adelman, this rigorous hike will cover the Union fishhook as it was generally positioned on July 2 and 3, 1863.  Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield and Cemetery Ridge is the goal by lunchtime with Cemetery Hill, Culp’s Hill, Spangler’s Spring  and more rounding out the day. This hike not only entails eight miles of walking up, down, around and along hills and ridges, but requires a relatively fast pace. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes and a packed lunch are highly recommended. The hike will begin and end at the flagpole at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. All participants should park in parking Lot 3 of the Museum and Visitor Center.

Garry and Tim

For more about the book series, the park’s Winter Lecture Series, Ranger programs, and other events go to

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Exercising the First Amendment at Gettysburg

IMG_6338The Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Private J.W. Culp Camp, and Scott Hancock, got permits today, March 5, 2016, to exercise their first amendment rights at Gettysburg National Military Park. The events took place at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.

The permits were requested under the first amendment of the United States Constitution which grants all citizens the rights to freedom IMG_6300of speech.  As custodians of land owned by the American people, the National Park Service has a responsibility to make that land available for exercising those rights.  The Code of Federal Regulations (36 CFR 2.51), the Director’s Orders on Special Park Use and the Management Policies of the National Park Service all provide clear guidance on First Amendment activities in the parks.

IMG_6364The National Park Service mission in preserving and protecting the historic resources at Gettysburg includes making them available to all Americans, even those whose views are contrary to the majority of the American public.

National parks host hundreds of first amendment activities each year, the majority of which take place in our nation’s capital.  Some, like Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, reflect the prevailing mood of the American people, while others deliver a more controversial message whose validity is ultimately judged by the American people. The one constant of all of these assemblies is the professionalism of National Park Service and its staff in administering these activities.

IMG_6361Gettysburg National Military Park staff staffed the event to ensure the safety of everyone involved and to protect park resources and visitors.

Katie Lawhon, management Assistant, March 5, 2016

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Gettysburg’s Operational Update, Spring 2016

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These Honored Dead: Samuel Fitzinger, 106th Pennsylvania


Nat. Cem

No visit to Gettysburg National Military Park is complete without stopping at the Soldier’s National Cemetery, arguably the most important location on the battlefield. Many travel to the quiet location upon Cemetery Hill to look upon the graves of the fallen and see the site where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famed Gettysburg Address.While generations have looked to Lincoln’s rhetoric to define the meaning of the Civil War, we must never forget that Lincoln’s speech was the result of the sacrifice of thousands upon the fields of Gettysburg in July 1863.

The sacrifices which were made at Gettysburg were not just those of soldiers. Mothers, fathers, wives, children, brothers, and sisters sacrificed as well by giving up their loved ones to the cause of the Union. Lincoln proclaimed that, while the world would one day forget the words spoken at the cemetery dedication (an unlikely occurrence, given the lasting fame of the Gettysburg Address), it could never forget what the soldiers did at Gettysburg. What they did here meant that thousands across the country received letters such as this one, posted below.

Corporal Samuel Fitzinger was a member of Company B, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. On July 2, 1863, as the Confederate brigade of Ambrose Ransom Wright launched an attack on the Union center on Cemetery Ridge late in the day, the 106th Pennsylvania was one of the Union regiments tasked with repulsing the Southern charge. On the same fields made famous the following day by Pickett’s Charge, Pennsylvanians clashed with

Monument to the 106th PA

Relief on the monument of the 106th PA showing their advance toward the Codori Farm.

Georgians late in the day of July 2nd. As the Southern tide began to break, the men of the 106th Pennsylvania surged forward from the stonewall along Cemetery Ridge, making their way toward the Codori farm, where a number of Wright’s Georgians were taking refuge. It was here, on the fields near the Codori barn, where Corporal Fitzinger was killed in action. His body was buried near the barn, which by the time the battle was through, had seen some of the most ferocious combat in all of American history.

Several weeks after the battle, once the pace of campaigning had slowed sufficiently, Captain James Lynch of Company B wrote this letter to Margaret Fitzinger, Samuel’s mother.

106th Pa Vols.

July 27, 1863

Mrs. Margaret Fitzinger,


I take advantage of the first opportunity which offers itself to send you the only relic found upon the body of your deceased son, Samuel [the relic was Samuel’s Testament]. He died a soldier’s death while bravely fighting on Pennsylvania soil in defence of the glorious institutions which our fathers won for us by their blood. He was a good and faithful soldier and any mother might well be proud of such a son. His body was buried where he fell in a field near a barn which was burnt during the engagement and immediately in front of the position held by the 2nd Corps on Granite Ridge [Cemetery Ridge]. His grave is marked by a head board with name and Company on it. He fell on the 2nd during an attack by my company on the barn which was then filled with Rebels. While sympathizing with you in your bereavement I cannot but reflect that he died as I would wish to fall, with his face to the enemy and his last moments were rendered happy by the knowledge that he had done his full share in the accomplishment of a Glorious Victory.

If I can be of any service to you, do not hesitate to command me.

Very Truly Yours,

James Lynch, Captain, Company B, 106th Pennsylvania Volunteers

P.S. I send the testament and this letter by Samuel Reynolds one of his comrades who can probably give you any further information you may desire.

Dan at the codori farm

The author, with the Codori Farm in the background.

For Margaret Fitzinger, the loss of her son was devastating. Her husband, John Fitzinger, had passed away before the Civil War, meaning that she was entirely reliant upon Samuel for her support. Margaret married John in 1837 when she was just 16, and it does not appear that she received any education, as the documents in her pension file have a simple “x” for her mark in lieu of a signature. Samuel worked and lived in Philadelphia, and every Saturday night he brought home his weekly earnings from his job and gave them to his mother, whom he cared for. When he enlisted in the army, he did the same with his monthly pay. Thus, Samuel’s death on Cemetery Ridge meant that now Margaret had lost her husband and her son, and no longer had any means of supporting herself. In March of 1864, she was awarded a mother’s pension of 8 dollars a month, commencing from the date of her son’s death in July 1863 and continuing for the rest of her life. Margaret was in her early forties when Samuel died at Gettysburg; it is unknown how long she lived while mourning the loss of her son upon the battlefield. While Samuel was initially buried on the Codori farm, his remains were later reinterred in the Soldier’s National Cemetery. Today, Samuel rests in the Pennsylvania Section, Row F, Grave 51.

It must be remembered that, without grieving mothers receiving letters such as this, the “new birth of freedom” at Gettysburg would not have been possible.

Ranger Dan Vermilya
Gettysburg National Military Park

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