Sergeant Stouch Returns to Gettysburg

Stouch & family 1886

Union veteran George W.H. Stouch with his family at Gettysburg, July 1886. (Gettysburg NMP)

We at Gettysburg National Military Park are fortunate to have so many visitors who come to the park with unique documents and photos handed down through their families. Last week was no exception when a visitor from Texas walked through the door and showed the staff at the information desk the somewhat faded photo of an ancestor and veteran of Gettysburg, who returned in 1886 to have his photograph taken at the exact spot where he and some of his comrades nearly lost their lives in the horrendous fighting on July 2, 1863. What makes the story so unique is the handwritten description on the back, penned by a man who was actually a Gettysburg native and one of those few who fought near his boyhood home.

George Wesley Hancock Stouch was born in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in 1842, and moved with family members to Kentucky in the mid-1850’s. Mustered into service in Kentucky on November 30, 1861, Private Stouch was assigned to Company B, 11th United States Infantry and evidently found his niche in army life. Promotions rapidly followed and by January 1863, Stouch was wearing the stripes of sergeant major of the 11th United States Infantry, the highest ranking post for a non-commissioned officer in the regiment. Assigned to the Second Brigade commanded by Col. Sidney Burbank, Second Division under General Romeyn Ayres, in the Fifth Corps, his regiment had seen heavy action with the Army of the Potomac from Second Bull Run to Chancellorsville. By the evening of July 1, 1863, these footsore “Regulars” had marched through Maryland and into Pennsylvania in pursuit of Lee’s invading army, covering hundreds of miles since mid-June and they were probably thankful when the call came for a halt that evening, the bivouac approximately five miles from Gettysburg. The rest was brief; roused at 3:30 AM, the brigade marched toward Gettysburg where they went into a reserve position behind the center of the Union line. The scale of the fighting grew in intensity until 5:00 when the brigade was ordered to move to the field north of Little Round Top where, “we were ordered to advance in a line of battle, passing from the shelter of a wood across an open field, through which ran a morass.” (Report of Major Lancey Floyd-Jones, 11th United Infantry)

Burbank’s brigade reached a stone wall bordering the soon to be infamous Wheatfield, where they lay in line for a half hour before moving forward to relieve other Union troops engaged in the tumultuous fighting. Wheeling to the left, the entire line blazed away at Confederate troops in the woods ahead of them until a heavy column of southerners suddenly appeared on the right flank of the line. With his comrades of the 11th US, Sergeant Stouch could see the entire line was in jeopardy and under orders to withdraw, the regiment began to retreat. Leaving the ridge and into the valley behind, events quickly went from bad to worse when “we became exposed to a cross fire of the enemy, the effect of which was most deadly upon officers and men.” (Report of Major Lancey Floyd-Jones, 11th United Infantry). Unwilling to race away from the danger, most of the Regulars stood their ground or retired slowly, costing each regiment dearly. The Confederate force was overwhelming and raced into the valley after the now scattered soldiers. Among these was Sergeant Stouch who refused to leave a wounded soldier behind.

Twenty three years later, the aging soldier returned to the site where death had stared him in the face, to have his photograph taken at a very special place:

“I was Sergt Major 11th US. Infantry, at Gettysburg and was captured about 5 o’clock p.m. July 2d by ‘Cobb’s Georgia Legion’ of Wofford’s Brigade, McLaws’ Division, Longstreets Corps, at the repulse & retreat of our Brigade, the 2d (Regulars) of the 2d Division, 5th Army Corps. From this position on the crest, near the ‘wheat field’ and in the wood between the wheat-field and ‘Devils Den’, in front of Little Round Top, I was captured while helping to carry to the rear with us Luis Pettee (2d Lt. Lemuel Pettee) of our Regt, who was wounded while in the retreat(.) we were caught at the rock, and ordered by the Rebels to go behind it, to protect ourselves from the fire of our own men on Little Round Top, and those who had reformed at the foot, to resist the charge of the Rebels. With me behind the rock were Lieut Elder (1st Lt. Matthew Elder), Pettee, Sergt Price , Prvts Smith & Cooke all of the 11th Infty. Pettee & Elder, were wounded(.) Elder died from the effects of his wound on the 8th of July. We were prisoners until about 5:30 PM when we were recaptured by Crawford’s Division of ‘Pennsylvania Reserves,’ who drove back the Rebels beyond the wood we had occupied.”

Though about to be retaken by Crawford’s men, the true danger of their predicament was about to be realized: “To the right of us looking from Little Round Top, across a small ravine and on a rocky ledge running perpendicular to Little Round Top, between us and the Division, were a lot of Rebel Sharpshooters behind rocks(.) One of them about 50 yards from us… saw we were about to be recaptured, (and) commenced firing at us. I was sitting where Mamma (the woman in the center of the photo) is standing; on my right Cooke, next to him Smith and on the extreme right Price. Elder’s head resting on my lap(,) he lying on his back, Pettee in the same position with his head on Smith’s lap. The first shot fired at us struck Cooke in the fore-head killing him instantly, the next shot struck Price in the neck inflicting a severe wound, the third struck me in the left wrist, while I was supporting Elder’s head he drinking at the time from a canteen; in an instant after I was hit, we were recaptured and the Rebel Sharpshooters ran back over the rocky ledge towards the rear of Devils Den.”

Grateful to be rescued from their precarious position, Sergeant Stouch and his wounded comrades were taken to a field hospital. “My wound was very severe,” Stouch continued. The ball had struck his wrist and broken bones of the joint. “The surgeons want(ed) to amputate it that night, but I objected and did not have an operation performed until about 5 o’clock PM on the 4th, when they resected about 1 1/4 inch of the radius. It was about fourteen months before it was entirely healed.”

While he convalesced in York, Pennsylvania, Stouch was promoted to 2nd lieutenant and returned to the army the following year assigned to the 3rd United States Infantry. The end of the war was not the end of his military career. Lieutenant Stouch was eventually promoted to captain and then major as the Chief of Commissary and Subsistence for U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish American War. A grateful nation bestowed the rank of lt. colonel at the time of his retirement in 1904, and the old soldier retired to his home near Washington, attending a handful of veteran reunions. Colonel Stouch died in 1908 and is buried with his wife in Arlington National Cemetery.

For his entire career in military service, it had to be that one day at Gettysburg that held so much horror as well as fascination for the old soldier- so important that he revisit the field and that site of painful memories to share with his wife, son and daughter. “This Photo was taken about 4 P.M. the 2d of July 1886,” Stouch finished his descriptive note; “the 23rd Anniversary of the battle.”

Stouch wrote his description for the photo the following month and after 23 years, names of the soldiers who were with him behind that boulder obviously escaped his memory. 2d Lt. Lemuel Pettee of Co. B, 11th US Infantry, the first officer who was being assisted to the rear by Stouch, was severely wounded by a gunshot that shattered his leg “above the ankle”. Despite the injury that should have ended his career, Pettee remained in service, receiving a brevet promotion to Captain in 1865 for gallantry in action at Gettysburg. 1st Lt. Matthew Elder, the young officer cradled in Stouch’s lap, had been shot in the left knee, an injury that proved to be more severe than the glancing blow of the gunshot to his neck while behind the boulder. Elder’s leg was amputated above the knee by surgeons at the Fifth Corps field hospital, where he died on July 25. The other soldiers referred to in the narrative are inconclusive though “Cooke” who sat next to the sergeant major was probably Sgt. Alfred E. Cook, Co. G. Cook was not killed as Stouch recalled, but severely wounded in the left knee, shattered by a shot possibly from the sharpshooter who hit the others. His leg was amputated and though he appeared to rally, Sgt. Cook died August 10 at Camp Letterman. He is buried in the U.S. Regulars Plot, Row D, grave 21, in the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.

Boulder in Valley of Death

The granite boulder where Stouch and his fellow soldiers of the 11th United States Infantry took shelter on July 2, 1863, photographed in June 2015. (Gettysburg NMP)

One of the greatest gifts of working at a historical park like Gettysburg is that so often we rediscover some long-forgotten story about the men who served on this symbolic battlefield, thanks quite often to the humble offerings of a park visitor. Every element of the park tells a story, not only in text and photographs, but in the physical elements that still survive 152 years after. On a warm June day as I stood in the high grass near the boulder by which then-Captain Stouch posed with his family in 1886, another piece of the fascinating puzzle of battle-related history fell into place. Most importantly, the personal story of Stouch and his fellow soldiers in the thick of deadly combat came to life thanks to his scribbled note on the back of an old photo and the cold gray granite boulder that still sits quietly and unnoticed in the “Valley of Death”.

John Heiser
Historian, Gettysburg National Military Park

Thanks to Ashley Miller, Penn State University and summer intern at Gettysburg National Military Park, for her assistance with the transcription of Stouch’s narrative and park volunteer Rob Shoemaker for his assistance with the visitor who brought this to our attention.


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Join in the Action: Finding Your Park at Gettysburg

Misty morning at Gettysburg NMP2016 is the Centennial of the National Park Service.  Parks are being “Called to Action” to connect with and create the next generations of park visitors Supporters and advocates.

Primary_FindYourParkLogo_URLThe programs center on the theme of Find Your Park – a public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 and setting the stage for its second century of service.

Through “Find Your Park” we are inviting you to see that a national park can be more than a place — it can be a feeling, a state of mind, or a sense of American pride. Beyond vast landscapes, the campaign highlights historical, urban, and cultural parks, as well as the National Park Service programs that protect, preserve and share nature, culture, and history in communities nationwide.

Team Dover volunteer Airmen work to clear and rebuild a 300 yard fence line Oct. 10, 2014, at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa. More than 100 volunteer Airmen showed up to the event which was organized by the Dover Air Force Base First Sergeants Council. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

Team Dover volunteer Airmen work to clear and rebuild a 300 yard fence line Oct. 10, 2014, at Gettysburg National Military Park, Pa. More than 100 volunteer Airmen showed up to the event which was organized by the Dover Air Force Base First Sergeants Council. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class William Johnson)

We introduced some of the Gettysburg National Military Park’s Centennial programs in an April blog post.  Since then, momentum has been building and we have several new ideas and programs we are putting together and, thanks to our partners at the Gettysburg Foundation, quite a few more innovative programs and events that we’ll be bringing forward in the coming months.

Guide to Service Learning Projects – We want to enhance volunteerism in the parks. This project would augment the wonderful array of learning opportunities at Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site by connecting groups and individuals with volunteer work they can accomplish while they’re here.  Together with the Gettysburg Foundation, the park is creating a guide that matches up the skills and abilities of volunteers with service learning projects in the parks.  This guide will become available in 2016.


Living history at the George Spangler farm.

Construct trail from Museum and Visitor Center to Power’s Hill and the George Spangler Farm to provide pedestrian and bicycle access to newly restored landscape features at Power’s Hill and to new interpretive venues at the historic George Spangler farm. The Spangler Farm is owned by the Gettysburg Foundation and served as the Union Army’s 11th Corps field hospital with more than 1,900 Union and Confederate wounded. The park has applied for Centennial funding to construct this trail we will find out late in 2015 or in early 2016 if it is selected.

There are so many ways to “Find Your Park” at Gettysburg – whether it is going on a Ranger program with friends and family, or stopping by Little Round Top to watch the sun set, or even just remembering your last visit and the stories of valor and sacrifice at Gettysburg in your own quiet moments of reflection.  To find out what’s happening this summer go to:

We’ll provide updates here on many more ideas and programs that are developing.  This summer, whether you live near or far, please go out and Find Your Park.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, June 11, 2015

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Courage on Trial

July 27, 1863 was not a good day for Seraphim Meyer. The Eleventh Corps of the Army of the Potomac, of which Meyer’s 107th Ohio Volunteer Infantry was a part, was that day encamped around the village of New Baltimore, Virginia. Active campaigning having subsided, time allowed for a General Court Martial to convene.

Photograph of Seraphim Meyer

Seraphim Meyer, Colonel of the 107th Ohio at Gettysburg. Image courtesy of Santa Cruz Public Library

Meyer, then approaching his fifth decade and suffering from a bout of illness, appeared before the officers detailed for the court and was arraigned on the charge of “misbehavior in the presence of the enemy”… an offense serious enough to warrant his removal from command, brand him with a mark of shame not easily removed in 19th century America, and theoretically warrant punishment of an even greater severity.

There is nothing particularly unusual about this case. Meyer’s arraignment was one of hundreds of such that occurred during the American Civil War. What is perhaps unique is that the accusations brought against him stemmed from the battle of Gettysburg, a fight not often associated with cowardice on the part of Union officers. Additionally, there is the fact that the 48 year old Colonel was the only federal officer saddled with such a charge as a result of that engagement.

The case, which took the better part of the following two weeks to decide, essentially pitted two men, and two versions of the same event, against one another. On the one side was Col. Meyer, who alleged that no misbehavior or cowardly action ever occurred on the field of battle at Gettysburg. On the contrary, Meyer maintained that he had behaved with the utmost coolness and gallantry, a fact attested to not only by himself but by a number of his subordinate officers as well.

Gen. Adelbert Ames

On the other side of the issue was Brigadier General Adelbert Ames, Col. Meyer’s direct superior. Ames was a professional soldier, a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a man widely admired for his abilities as a leader. On July 1st, 1863 Ames led his brigade, numbering a little over 1,300 men, into combat in the fields directly north of Gettysburg. They were soon advanced upon by Confederate infantry and after a brief but ferocious firefight, forced back into what devolved into a chaotic route.  The brigade spent the remainder of the battle occupying a position on Cemetery Hill south of town, and Ames himself was elevated to division command replacing the captured and severely wounded Francis Barlow.

The chaos and confusion of the fighting at Gettysburg was not sufficient enough to distract Gen. Ames from certain failings he had witnessed on the part of Col. Meyer on July 1st. During the fighting north of town Ames noticed that Meyer had the habit of ducking and dodging in a cowardly and agitated manner whenever he heard the sound of a bullet whistle past. On another occasion Ames noted that the Colonel would crouch behind the neck of his horse, seemingly using the animal as a shield to guard him from projectiles coming down range.

In his testimony Ames also alleged that Col. Meyer bungled nearly every order given him, taking far longer to execute the desired movements than any of the other three regiments under his command. This was due in part to the extremely panicked and frantic manner in which Meyer vocalized his orders. Capt. J.M. Brown, one of Ames staff officers, testified that Meyer’s method of relaying commands “…seemed to me more like screaming – the words could not be distinguished.”

When disaster descended on the 11th Corps regiments north of town, and the surviving Union soldiers were forced to retreat towards the safety of Cemetery Hill, Col. Meyer was no-where to be found. At one point Ames and his staff officers witnessed the colors of the 107th Ohio in the hands of the adjutant of the regiment near the Alms House, along with a small contingent of men. Meanwhile, Col. Meyer was sighted near the train station on Carlisle Street, roughly ½ mile away and removed from the most immediate danger.

The monument to the 107th Ohio on East Howard Avenue, near where they were briefly positioned on July 1, 1863.

A host of witnesses for the defense were paraded before the court, most attempting to chip away at the version of events related by Ames and his cronies. For instance, the surgeon of the 107th Ohio stated that Col. Meyer had a severe chest ailment. The crouching on the neck of the horse witnessed by Ames was not an act of cowardice the surgeon explained; rather it alleviated the discomfort caused by his illness. Another man in the 107th testified that the screaming and peculiar manner in which Col. Meyer gave orders had nothing to do with fear or panic, but actually stemmed from Meyer’s own eccentricities. It was simply his way of issuing commands. While it may be comical the soldier admitted, it was not a sign of cowardice.

Meyer and his friends were most adamant in their denial that he had abandoned his command. He was with his men during the entirety of the retreat and precisely followed and executed the orders given to him by Gen. Ames.

In the end, the court agreed with Meyer’s version of events. On August 2nd, 1863 Col. Seraphim Meyer was acquitted. He was duly released from arrest and resumed “his sword and his duties.” Though exonerated, his time with the United States Army was short lived. Wracked by illness he took leave one week after the conclusion of the trial. In November of that year an examining board investigated Meyer. They found him wanting in knowledge of tactics and administrative duties and a result found him unfit to occupy the rank of colonel and to command a regiment, giving a degree of credibility to the testimony of Adelbert Ames. In February of 1864 Meyer resigned his command and returned to civilian life.

When studying the Civil War it is far easier, and far more gratifying, to focus on stories of courage and gallantry than it is to examine moments of cowardice and fear. That being said, nearly every visitor to Gettysburg wonders, if only subconsciously, how they would have reacted had they taken part in the battle? Would the carnage and fear of battle overwhelm the senses or would some hidden and untapped source of strength reveal itself? While everyone would like to think themselves cut from the same bolt as Henry Burgwyn, Rufus Dawes, and Alonzo Cushing, chances are there are more than a few who would play the role of Seraphim Meyer.

The Meyer case also reminds us of the challenge of studying history. Historians having to piece together the events of July 1-3, 1863 often have multiple and entirely contrary perspectives on any one issue or event. Whose version of events on July 1st, 1863 was the more accurate? Was Ames motivated by some form of prejudice against the German born Meyer or was he simply trying to remove from the field an officer whose lack of skill and fortitude would only cost young men their lives? Was Meyer truly afflicted by a chest ailment that made riding difficult? Was his high pitched and panicked tone really just an eccentricity, or was it born in the fear of battle.

The staff of Gettysburg National Military Park invites you to come to the battlefield and explore the story of Seraphim Meyer in a new interpretive program called “Courage on Trial.” Every Saturday throughout the summer you’ll have the chance to retry the case of Col. Meyer, as we recreate his court-martial. Hear the evidence and question the witnesses yourself, before deciding the fate of this Union officer who fought on the fields of Gettysburg. We hope to see you there, every Saturday at 1:00 PM at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center.

Christopher Gwinn, Gettysburg National Military Park

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The Top 6 Civil War Books According to Dr. James McPherson

Listeners to National Public Radio may be familiar with the popular show hosted by Diane Rehm. Rehm tackles a host of topics and issues on her segment, from current happenings and world news to human interest stories. The May 14 episode featured renowned Civil War historian and Pulitzer Prize Winner, Dr. James McPherson.  The entire program is well worth a listen and can be found online in its entirety here:

The bulk of the interview was focused on McPherson’s most recent work, The War that Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters. The Civil War, according to McPhersonMcPherson, was the central event in American history, catapulting the country into a new era. Many of the most divisive, challenging, and pressing issues which we currently face as a nation, have their roots in the traumatic and tumultuous happenings of the 1860’s. In addition, McPherson states that the American Civil War forever determined the illegality of secession, ultimately strengthened the national government and turned the country from a loose Union of states into a true nation that would in time become the most powerful on earth.

As a companion piece to the radio interview, McPherson also outlined his picks for the top six books students of the Civil War should now be reading. His picks are an interesting and varied collection of works from some of the most recognizable names in the field of Civil War history.

1) Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution by Eric Foner
2) The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner
3) Confederate Reckoning by Stephanie McCurry
4) Appomattox: Victory, Defeat, and Freedom at the End of the Civil War by Elizabeth R. Varon
5) Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865  by James Oakes
6) After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War  by Gregory P. Downs

Any such list is bound to create conversation. What do you think of McPherson’s selections? If you had to create just such a list, what would your six book be, and would they feature more traditional works of military history than McPherson’s compilation? We look forward to reading what works you would recommend.

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Gettysburg Details – Rehabbing Cemetery Ridge

Primary.FindYourParkLogo.FullColorA few weeks ago we happily announced that National Park Service funding for Centennial projects will provide matching funds for a $1.3 million dollar project to rehabilitate Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg National Military Park.  The nonprofit Gettysburg Foundation will provide a grant of $700,000 to match National Park Service funding of $600,000 for this stewardship project.  Click here for the news release.

The 1923 Hancock Avenue gateway at Taneytown Road, then and now

The 1923 Hancock Avenue gateway at Taneytown Road, then and now

This blog post will provide details for the historic features that will be returned to Cemetery Ridge, including moving some monuments to their original location.  They were moved during the construction of the Cyclorama building, which has now been demolished.

The Hancock Avenue Entrance Gate – We will be rebuilding the Hancock Avenue entrance gates that were built in 1923.  There were earlier gates of different designs.  In 1882, the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association created an opening in the stone wall on the west side of Taneytown Road for access to Hancock Avenue.  The first version, in 1889, was a wood and wire gate.  A later version, in 1896, included iron fencing (see photo) from the original fence that had

The 1896 version of the Hancock Avenue gate at Taneytown Road used pieces of the old Lafayette Square fence from Washington D.C.

The 1896 version of the Hancock Avenue gate at Taneytown Road used pieces of the old Lafayette Square fence from Washington D.C.

surrounded Lafayette Square Park in Washington, D.C. – the same iron fencing that now forms the boundary between Evergreen Cemetery and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. The park’s monument specialists have the majority of the historic stones need to rebuild the 1923 gateway.

Ziegler’s Grove – During Pickett’s Charge, the left flank of General Pettigrew’s division engaged Union forces in Ziegler’s Grove.  Because Battery I, 1st U.S. Artillery was located in Ziegler’s Grove it was heavily shelled during the pre-assault bombardment, inflicting numerous casualties on the battery’s infantry support, the 108th New York, and other nearby infantry units. This project will allow us to replant the

A battle action map of the area

A battle action map of the area

missing portion of Ziegler’s Grove.  We plan to plant approximately 125 trees including Black Cherry, Shagbark Hickory, Black Gum, White Oak, Red Oak, Tulip Poplar and Honey Locust.

Ziegler’s Ravine – Documentation for reestablishing this ravine comes from a number of sources, including a grading plan in the National Park Service files showing the area before the Cyclorama building parking lot was developed. In addition, archaeology helped establish the exact location of a portion of the original Hancock Avenue during testing completed by the park when we replaced a water line extension in 2006.

Looking toward the the National Cemetery along the old commemorative walkway, this shows the dip known as Ziegler's Ravine.  Hancock Avenue cuts across the far side of the ravine.  The 88th Pa. Marker, in its original location is on the left.

Looking toward the National Cemetery along the old commemorative walkway, this shows the dip known as Ziegler’s Ravine. Hancock Avenue cuts across the far side of the ravine. The 88th Pa. Marker, in its original location, is on the left.

The profile of Ziegler’s Ravine will be especially noticeable to those driving on Hancock Avenue as the road will proceed down a dramatic dip and then come back up for an approximately six  foot change in elevation. We will also rebuild some stone walls near Hancock Avenue and a long commemorative walkway that was surfaced with crushed stone.

The Monuments – In 1960 when the park started construction for the Cyclorama building, a number of monuments in this area were

moved, some only a few feet.  In September 2014, park staff returned the granite Battery F, 5th US Artillery monument to its original location.  The original spot had been completely covered over by the Cyclorama building.

12th Massachusetts Infantry Marker

12th Massachusetts Infantry Marker

12th Massachusetts Infantry Position Marker (Webster Regiment) – This granite marker was erected in September 1885 to indicate the line occupied by the regiment in Ziegler’s Grove while protecting the ravine and the Union center on the night of July 1 and during July 3. The marker was removed in 1961-1962 during grading and development of the Cyclorama building, and relocated to a slightly different location within the parking area by NPS.

88th Pennsylvania Infantry Marker

88th Pennsylvania Infantry Marker

88th Pennsylvania Infantry Position Marker – This is one of three monuments erected by the survivors’ association of the regiment and designates the position held by the 88th Pennsylvania on July 1 – 2 and at the close of the fighting on July 4. The granite marker, about two feet in height, was mounted on a large boulder within the northwest corner of Ziegler’s Grove. Erected in the summer of 1883, this is one of the oldest regimental markers in the park. The monument and the boulder on which it is affixed were both relocated by NPS during the development of the Cyclorama building. The face of the boulder was broken off causing the granite marker to be reset.

1st Massachusetts Sharpshooters Marker

1st Massachusetts Sharpshooters Marker

1st Massachusetts Sharpshooters Position Marker – This position marker is located at the northwest corner of Ziegler’s Grove and consists of a granite marker about two feet in height onto which is affixed an aluminum narrative tablet. The marker, erected in 1913 at the request of company veterans, indicates the position occupied by these marksmen while defending Union batteries in Ziegler’s Grove. The marker was relocated during development and regrading of the Cyclorama

This photo was taken on May 20, 2015 at the site of the Hancock Avenue gate at Taneytown Road.  The footing of the old stone gate is clearly visible today.

This photo was taken on May 20, 2015, at the site of the Hancock Avenue gate at Taneytown Road. The footing of the old stone gate is clearly visible today.

building grounds.

NPS Centennial – To prepare for its Centennial in 2016, the National Park Service is funding legacy projects that will preserve resources for the future.  In March, the National Park Service launched “Find Your Park,” a national public awareness and education campaign celebrating the milestone centennial anniversary of the National Park Service in 2016 and setting the stage for its second century of service.

Previous Rehab work on Cemetery Ridge

Before the Cyclorama building was constructed, there was a War Department observation tower at the site near the Brian farm, shown here on the right.  This view of the Brian farm house shows post battle additions that have since been removed.

Before the Cyclorama building was constructed, there was a War Department observation tower at the site near the Brian farm, shown here on the right. This view of the Brian farm house shows post battle additions that have since been removed.

For six years, the Gettysburg Foundation has funded and implemented important earlier phases of the rehabilitation of Cemetery Ridge including demolition of the Visitor Center in 2009; demolition of the Cyclorama building in 2013; and removal and rehabilitation of the former Visitor Center parking lot site in 2014.

Timing – The project will be underway later this year and will be completed in early 2017.

Thanks to Chris Gwinn and Jason Martz for the photos.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 5/21/15

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Trials and Triumphs: A New Opportunity to Explore the Abram Brian Farm


At the northern end of Hancock Avenue, almost at the very tip of Cemetery Ridge, is a small, inconspicuous, white-washed farmhouse.  With only two rooms, along with an upstairs loft, the home makes Lydia Leister’s more famous abode look downright palatial. It’s easy to miss, but for those visitors who do spot it, and who take the time to read the wayside in the front yard, the small building soon transforms into one of most interesting and powerful structures on the battlefield.

Very little is known about Abram Brian, the owner of the house. Even the proper spelling of his name is up for debate:  Abram or Abraham followed by Brian or Bryan or Brien.  The man himself left us no clues. Being illiterate, he signed his name with a simple “X,” which makes following any sort of paper trail all the more difficult for those delving into his past.

We do know this: He was born the son of slave parents in Maryland in 1807. The first time his name appears in connection with Gettysburg is in the census of 1840. By 1860 he had made his home, along with his wife Elizabeth and two children, in the small white house that would forever associate his name with that of the battle of Gettysburg. The twelve acre farm upon which he worked yielded up a crop of corn, wheat, and oats. The family also had a smaller vegetable garden and by 1863 a barn that sheltered two horses, two cows, a pair of mules, and three pigs.

1860 Census

Despite the modest nature of the Brian farm, and the postage stamp size footprint of the main house, it’s difficult to view Abram Brian and his family as anything other than wildly successful. He owned his own home, worked in fields that belonged to no one but him, and by 1863 was prosperous enough to have a second structure that he rented out as a tenant house.   As one of the relatively few African-Americans in Adams County, and given the racial climate that then existed, Brian’s accomplishments are nothing short of remarkable.

A simple glance out the front window of his house might have brought his success into sharper focus. Easily discernible through the glass of Brian’s southern facing front window is the high hills and mountains of the Catoctin Range.  Following the hills to the left, or south, would have brought Brian’s eye to the most distant elevation. Near that spot and at the base of the mountains, is the community of Emmitsburg, Maryland. In 1860, the same year the Brian was listed on the rolls of the 1860 census in Gettysburg, 47 enslaved human beings resided in and around that district. The slaves ranged in age from 70 to 1, and represented a small portion of the 87,000 slaves that were held in Maryland on the eve of the American Civil War. The view from Abram Brian’s front yard was one of striking contrasts, where freedom and enslavement seemingly existed side by side.

During the Gettysburg Campaign of June and July 1863 the Brian family fled, hoping to escape the path of the Confederate army, and the dangers that follow soldiers on campaign. They left their home and property behind to the mercy of the two armies and returned only after the Union victory at Gettysburg had successfully decided the fate of the Confederate invasion.


This then and now comparison shows the house shortly following the battle, and how it currently appears.

The Brian Farm, situated virtually in the center of the Union battle line, was riddled with shot and shell, more so than perhaps any other structure on the battlefield. In addition his crops were destroyed, his animals taken, his orchard badly damaged, and his tenant house along the Emmitsburg Road all but destroyed. According to the Elliot Map, over 106 hastily dug graves pock-marked his property.  In his damage claim, which he submitted to the government in hopes of compensation, he figured his loss at $1028. The only money he received following the war was a paltry sum of $15 from the Quartermaster Department for 1 ½ tons of hay that was absconded with by the Union Army.

Brian did his best to rebuild but perhaps because of his advancing age, or the enormity of the task involved in returning his farm to working order, sold off his property in 1868. He spent the remaining years of his life working as hostler at a nearby hotel. He died on the 30th of May, 1879 and is buried in Gettysburg’s Lincoln Cemetery.


The two interior rooms of the Brian House.

The Brian house that stands on Cemetery Ridge today has gone through significant alterations over the years. Additions were built and removed, beams rotted and replaced, foundations re-dug and repaired. Despite this, the essence of the building remains. During the summer of 2015, for the first time ever, the Abram Brian house will be open for visitors to explore on a regular basis. A new interpretive program, entitled Trials and Triumphs: Gettysburg’s Farm Families will bring visitors to the farm and house of the Brian Family. We hope you can join us to explore the enormous challenges Gettysburg’s civilians faced following the battle, and to take in for yourself the view through the Brian families front window, where for a few days in July of 1863 a thin blue line of Union soldiers, stretched down the length of Cemetery Ridge, was all that stood between their home and the specter of slavery.

Christopher Gwinn, GNMP


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Gettysburg Battle Anniversary: July 1-4, 2015


The three day Battle of Gettysburg marked a turning point not only in the course of the American Civil War, but also for the future of the United States of America. Join Park Rangers and Licensed Battlefield Guides during the 152nd Anniversary for a series of free guided walks and talks that discuss, explore, and reflect on this important chapter in our nation’s history.

Note: On all park avenues please park your vehicle on the right side of the road, unless otherwise directed, with all wheels on the pavement. Schedule is subject to change.

Daily Ranger-Guided Programs
Wednesday, July 1 – Friday, July 3

Battlefield in a Box: An Overview (30 minutes) – Become part of the battlefield in this interactive overview program! Join a National Park Ranger and build a map of the battlefield using props. This program is perfect for the first time visitor wanting a better understanding of the battle. Meet at Ranger Program Site 1, daily at 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M.

Lincoln and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery (40 minutes) – Explores the meaning and cost of the Battle of Gettysburg, and of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Find out how the National Cemetery was established, who is buried there, and why Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address still has meaning for us today. Meet at the Taneytown Road entrance to the National Cemetery, daily at 11:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.

Care of the Wounded (1 hour) – Over 27,000 soldiers were wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg. Explore how these men were evacuated, treated, and ultimately, how most of their lives were saved. Meet at Ranger Program Site 2 behind the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 3:00 P.M.

Civil War Soldier (1 hour) – Over 160,000 soldiers participated in the Battle of Gettysburg. Find out why they enlisted, why they fought, and what they endured during the four years of the American Civil War. Meet at Ranger Program Site 1 behind the Museum and Visitor Center, daily at 2:00 P.M.

Family Activities and Hands on History
Wednesday, July 1 – Friday, July 3

During the 152nd Anniversary children of all ages can visit the Family Activities and Hands on History station at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Discover hands-on history stations, hourly special guest appearances called “Guess Who’s Coming to 2015”, and “Join the Army” programs to learn more about the people involved in, and affected by, the battle of Gettysburg.  You can also pick up and check in your Junior Ranger activity booklets.  After your visit, get involved in Junior Ranger programs in other parks and online at!

Family Activities and Hands on History Hours: July 1 – 3 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Group Lobby.

Hands On History Cart

Special Programs – Wednesday, July 1

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.

10:00 a.m.
Striking Stone & Cutler: The Attacks of Junius Daniel’s Brigade on July 1 

On the afternoon of July 1, 1863, while other Confederate attacks either foundered or were turned back, Brig. General Junius Daniel exhibited superb leadership in skillfully maneuvering his five North Carolina regiments against Union troops positioned both atop Oak Ridge and in the Railroad Cut. Launching a series of desperate assaults, Daniel and his Tar-heels demonstrated remarkable grit and determination, earning the plaudits of those who observed their gallant assaults. Confederate division commander Robert Rodes, watching from atop Oak Hill, recorded that “The conduct of General Daniel and his brigade in this most desperate engagement elicited the admiration and praise of all who witnessed it.” Join Park Ranger John Hoptak and Daniel Vermilya and follow in the footsteps of Daniel and his North Carolinians.

Meet at the Eternal Peace Light Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 2. Park at the Eternal Light Peace Memorial. 

2:30 p.m.
Buford, Birney, Humphreys and Geary: Defending the Emmitsburg Road on July 1.

Join Ranger Troy Harman and explore the various divisions and corps that defended the far Federal left along the Emmitsburg Road in the early evening of July 1. Generals Hancock, Slocum, Sickles and Buford gave it much attention to secure the Cemetery Ridge position on July 1, while General Lee and Pendleton explored options there until dark of the same day. The posturing near the Peach Orchard on July 1, established boundaries for severe fighting there the next day.

Meet at the Peach Orchard for this 2 1/2 mile hike. Park on Sickles Avenue. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

6:00 p.m.
“Plant Your Flag Down There!” – The Defense of Cemetery Hill

After nearly nine hours of stubborn fighting on July 1, Union troops were forced from the fields north and west of Gettysburg in full retreat towards Cemetery Hill – the ground they had been protecting through their actions that entire day.  Numerous command changes and devastating casualties nearly proved disastrous, but because of invaluable leadership and a persistence to hold on, the Army of the Potomac would live to fight another day.  Join Licensed Battlefield Guide Britt Isenberg and examine those tumultuous, but crucial hours on the evening of July 1 on Cemetery Hill, when everything was still hanging in the balance and nothing seemed certain for the exhausted soldiers of the Union Army. This program will look at how the momentous command decisions made that night affected the next two days of fighting and ultimately culminated in a Union victory at Gettysburg.

Meet at the Flagpole in the National Cemetery Parking Lot. Park in the National Cemetery Parking Lot or along North Hancock Avenue.

Real Time Programs
These 30- to 45-minute programs provide a brief overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time they occurred, 152 years ago.

9:00 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.      The Battle Begins – Dan Welch            
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 1, McPherson Ridge. Park on Reynolds Avenue.

10:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.  Cutler’s Brigade Arrives – Tom Holbrook        
Meet at the General Wadsworth Monument on Reynolds Avenue. Park along Reynolds Avenue.IMG_4480

2:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.  The 26th North Carolina vs. the 24th Michigan  – Karlton Smith
Meet at the John Burns Statue on Stone Avenue. Park on Stone and Meredith Avenues.

3:45 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.    Collapse of the 11th Corps  – Chuck Teague
Meet at Barlow’s Knoll, East Howard Avenue.

5:00 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.    Retreat to Cemetery Hill: End of the 1st Day – Caitlin Kostic
Meet at the Baltimore Street Entrance to the Soldiers’ National Cemetery

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the three days of the battle anniversary Park Rangers will present hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the events 152 years ago. Held nightly at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater.

Letters from the Battlefield: July 1st, 1863 Ranger Karlton Smith
A battle begins, a town is occupied, fields, farms, and streets are littered with the dead and dying. What was it like to experience and witness the first day of the battle of Gettysburg?  Join National Park Ranger Karlton Smith and hear the words of the men and women who experienced the ferocity of combat on July 1st, 1863.


Special Programs – Thursday, July 2

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.   

10:00 a.m.
“Our little brigade fought like heroes” –The Irish Brigade at Gettysburg.

A Union officer observing the Union line on Cemetery Ridge could not help but notice one small group of battalions, barely 200 men apiece, the smallest brigade in the Second Corps. Veterans of countless battles, they relax in neat rows by their weapons, quietly talking while the booming of cannon and ripping musketry grows louder and louder. Suddenly a staff officer arrives; orders are shouted, the men rise, and the flags are uncased revealing the famous green flags with symbolic gold harp and shamrocks of Ireland. Though emblazoned with the state names of New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, a majority of the soldiers arrayed by these flags are native born Irishmen, banded together by nationality and the strength of their faith in the Catholic Church, fighting for the cause of Union in their adopted homeland. Absolution granted, the columns of dirty blue march southward to an appointment in the center of a whirlpool that was the “Wheatfield”. Join Park Historian John Heiser in retracing the route of the famous “Irish Brigade” on July 2, 1863, and the legacy of this fighting brigade in the famous Wheatfield at Gettysburg.

Meet at the Father Corby statue, Hancock Avenue. Park on the pavement on the right side of Hancock and Sedgwick Avenues. Walking distance of this program is approximately 2.5 miles over moderately rough terrain, fences, through high grass and seasonably wet areas.

2:30 p.m.
Myths, Memories, and Martyrs: The Battle for Little Round Top

Few episodes of the American Civil War have been mythologized as much as the ninety minutes the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia struggled for control GETT_150_Jul3_BattleforCulps_JM_042of the rocky slopes of Little Round Top. Legends were born, martyrs were made, and the fate of the nation was said to have hung in the balance. Join Supervisory Ranger Christopher Gwinn and explore the hill, separating fact from fiction, and memory from mythology.

Meet at the John Sedgewick Equestrian Statue on Sedgewick Avenue. Park on the right side of Sedgewick and Hancock Avenue. Walking distance of this program is approximately 2.5 miles over rough, rocky terrain.

6:00 p.m.
Gun Fight at the Peach Orchard

The fighting on July 2nd, the bloodiest of the entire battle, was preceded by what may have been the sharpest, largest close-action artillery “gunfight” of the entire Civil War. In most artillery engagements, including the climactic cannonade of July 3rd, most guns were far outside their effective range or lacked a direct view of a target. On July 2nd at the Peach Orchard, Union and Confederate guns, were placed quite by accident within “direct fire” range of each other. Join Licensed Battlefield Guide Ralph Siegel and explore the Union and Confederate gun line, concluding at the Peach Orchard.

Meet at the Louisiana Monument on West Confederate Avenue. Park along West Confederate Avenue. This hike will involve roughly a mile of walking over easy terrain.

Real Time Programs

These 30 to 45-minute programs provide an overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time at which they occurred 152 years ago.

8:30 a.m. – 9:15 p.m.    Lee Plans for Battle – Chuck Teague
Meet at the North Carolina Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 4.

Park on West Confederate Avenue.

12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Berdan’s Sharpshooters in Pitzer Woods  – Caitlin Kostic
Meet at the Longstreet Equestrian Statue, near Auto Tour Stop 6.
Park on West Confederate Avenue.

1:30 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.  Sickles Moves Forward – Evangelina Rubalcava
Meet at the Peach Orchard. Park on Sickles Avenue. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.  Longstreet Prepares to Attack – Karlton Smith            
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 7, near the Alabama Monument.

4:15 p.m.  – 4:45 p.m. Crisis on Little Round Top – Zach SigginsRanger Rubalcava 2 at Gettysburg NMP
Meet at the Warren Statue, Auto Tour Stop 8, on Little Round Top.

5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. The Valley of Death –  Chuck Teague
Meet at Devil’s Den. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

5:45 p.m. – 6:15 p.m. Into the Wheatfield with Col. Cross – Bill Hewitt
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 9, The Wheatfield. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Barksdale’s Mississippians take the Peach Orchard – Matt Atkinson
Meet at The Peach Orchard. Park on Sickles Avenue. Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

7:20 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Redemption of the Harpers Ferry Cowards – Philip Brown
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 12, The Pennsylvania Memorial. Park along Hancock Avenue.

8:15 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. Greene’s Brigade on Culp’s Hill – Daniel Vermilya
Meet at the Culp’s Hill Tower, Slocum Avenue.

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the four days of the battle anniversary Park Rangers will present hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the s events 152 years ago. Held nightly at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater.

Letters from the Battlefield: July 2nd, 1863 – Bert Barnett
The second of July, 1863 marked the largest and bloodiest of the three days of fighting at Gettysburg. No one who took part in the fighting, or witnessed it, would ever forget the experience. Join Ranger Bert Barnett as he offers a glimpse into the experience of combat on July 2nd by sharing the words and memories of its participants.

Special Programs – Friday, July 3

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.   

10:00 a.m.
Hancock at Gettysburg – July 3rd   

General Winfield Scott Hancock – the very name personifies leadership.  On July 3rd, 1863, fate placed Hancock’s Second Corps on Cemetery Ridge, in the center of the line of battle of the Army of the Potomac. As the fate of the nation hung in the balance, Hancock rose to the occasion. He was everywhere issuing orders, directing troops, and rallying the men with his mere presence.  Join Ranger Matt Atkinson and follow in the footsteps of this American icon and retrace the route of “Hancock the Superb” during Pickett’s Charge.

Meet at the Abraham Brian Farm on North Hancock Avenue. Park along Hancock Avenue and in the National Cemetery Parking Lot.

2:30 p.m.
Pickett’s Charge  

Visitors are invited to follow in the footsteps of the Confederate soldiers that took part in Pickett’s Charge, the climactic moment of the Battle of Gettysburg. Who were the men that made this assault, what motivated them, and what did they experience in the fields between Seminary and Cemetery Ridge? Join Ranger Philip Brown and Bill Hewitt and retrace the route of the most famous charge in American military history.

Meet at the Virginia Memorial, Auto Tour Stop 5. Park along West Confederate Avenue.


Real Time Programs

These 30- to 45-minute programs provide a brief overview of key moments during the Battle of Gettysburg at the time at which they occurred 152 years ago.

8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.  Slaughter in Spangler Meadow – Brian Henry
Meet at Auto Tour Stop 13, Spangler’s Spring.
Park on East Confederate and Williams Avenue.

8:45 a.m. – 9:15 a.m.  Confederate Failure at Pardee Field – John Nicholas
Meet at the Auto Tour Stop 13, Spangler’s Spring.
Park on East Confederate and Williams Avenue.

9:45 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.  Lee and Longstreet at Odds – Troy Harman
Meet at the Peach Orchard. Park on North Sickles or United States Avenue.
Do not park on Wheatfield Road.

10:30 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.   First Fire on East Cavalry Field – Chuck Teague
Meet at the Ranger Program Sign, on Confederate Cavalry Avenue.
Park on Confederate Cavalry Avenue.

11:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.  Alexander Hays and the Fight for the Bliss Farm – Nate Hess
Meet at the Abraham Brian Farm. Park on Hancock Avenue.

1:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.  Alonzo Cushing and the Cannonade – Bert Barnett
Meet at the High Water Mark, Auto Tour Stop 15. Park on Hancock Avenue.

3:30 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Alexander Webb and the Defense of Cemetery Ridge – Emma Murphy
Meet at the Meade Equestrian Monument.
Park on Hancock Avenue or in the National Cemetery Parking Lot.

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the four days of the battle anniversary Park Rangers will present hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the events 152 years ago. Held nightly at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater.

Letters from the Battlefield: July 3rd, 1863 – Chuck Teague
“You must recollect that at Gettysburg the fate of a country depended upon individuals.” So wrote Brig. Gen. Alexander Webb as he reflected on the significance of the events of July 3rd, 1863. What did the battle at Gettysburg accomplish? What did it fail to accomplish? Join Ranger Chuck Teague and examine the story of July 3rd through the letters the survivors of the battle wrote home.

va memorial at night

Special Programs – Saturday, July 4

Battle Walks
These special 2- to 3-hour programs explore key episodes and phases of the battle and involve significant hiking and walking, occasionally over rough terrain. Water, headgear, sun protection, insect repellent and comfortable, sturdy walking shoes are highly recommended.   

3:30 p.m.
After the Storm: Gettysburg’s Experience

On July 2 and 3 1863 numerous citizens of Gettysburg felt the full weight of the Civil War as their farms and homes became the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the battle.  Hear their stories from during and after the battle as Ranger Dan Welch takes you to the very site of their most trying struggles.

Meet at the Mississippi Monument on West Confederate Avenue.

Campfire at Pitzer Woods
Over the four days of the battle anniversary Park Rangers will present hour-long presentations, offering unique perspectives on the significance of events 152 years ago. Held nightly at 8:30 p.m. at the Pitzer Woods Amphitheater, Battlefield Auto Tour Stop 6.

Voices of the Aftermath – Caitlin Kostic
The battle of Gettysburg left in its wake the largest man-made disaster in American history. How did the residents of Gettysburg deal with the aftermath of battle and how did the doctors, surgeons, and soldiers left behind cope with the enormity of the suffering and carnage? Join Ranger Caitlin Kostic and hear the stories of the aftermath of battle.

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Creating a new Lincoln

The center section of the plaster cast of Lincoln - looking very fashionable for all his years

The center section of the plaster cast of Lincoln – looking very fashionable for all his years

Monument specialists at Gettysburg National Military Park and the NPS Historic Preservation Training Center are working in Gettysburg to prepare for the casting of a new life-sized bronze statue of a standing Abraham Lincoln for the Saint-Gaudens National  Historic Site, in Cornish, New Hampshire. The cast will be of Saint-Gaudens’ 1887 “Abraham Lincoln: The Man,” the original of which is in Chicago, Illinois’ Lincoln Park.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens stands with a plaster model of

Augustus Saint-Gaudens stands with a plaster model of “Abraham Lincoln: The Man” in his Cornish studio.

This complex project is being performed in steps.  First a 1965 plaster cast of an original, Augustus Saint-Gaudens sculpture is being conserved. The plaster casting will then be used to create a new bronze, 12 foot tall statue of Lincoln.

Gettysburg’s monument specialists have an impressive track record of caring for and completing major restorations of sculptural work on monuments and memorials, including the repair of the 11th Massachusetts monument and the monument to Smith’s Battery at Devil’s Den.

This week, restoration of plaster patterns continued at the Gettysburg maintenance facility.  Work focused on chair patterns and the torso section of the statue.  The plaster patterns that

Plaster casts of the chair legs.

Plaster casts of the chair legs.

were completed this week were set up for the mold making process which will be used to pour the bronze casting later in the process.

Work will continue at Gettysburg throughout the spring and summer months.  The bronze casting will be done off-site at a foundry.  Patina and other finishing touches will be completed at Gettysburg and the finished sculpture will be shipped to Saint-Gaudens’ home and studios in time for a

Brian Griffin creating a rubber mold of part of the plaster cast.

Brian Griffin creating a rubber mold of part of the plaster cast.

September 2015 ribbon cutting to commemorate the park’s 50th birthday.

Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site is New Hampshire’s only national park. The park preserves the studios, home, and gardens of American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907). The placement of the 12 ft. bronze cast on the grounds will be the centerpiece of the park’s golden anniversary celebration. The Standing Lincoln will be the first new sculptural addition to the park’s landscape since the Shaw Memorial bronze was unveiled in 1997.

Read more this project on the blog of the Saint-Gauden National Historic Site.

Primary.FindYourParkLogo.FullColorNPS Centennial Initiatives – Creating a new Lincoln is one of several arts initiatives Gettysburg NMP is undertaking to engage new audiences and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates.  We have also created Arts in the Parks Residencies at Gettysburg.  In March, we announced this new opportunity for artists, co-sponsored by the National Parks Arts Foundation and the Gettysburg Foundation.

The program will host three different artists for one month residencies at on the Gettysburg battlefield in one of the historic houses. The artists, who will be selected by National Parks Arts Foundation’s curators and advisors, will use the residencies to create artwork inspired by their stay at the Gettysburg battlefield, the surrounding woods, memorials monuments, and the Soldiers’ National Cemetery.  Three residencies will be selected for this summer, one in July August, and September.  To learn more go to:

For more about the NPS Centennial go to

We’ll be posting updates on creating a new Lincoln on Gettysburg NMP’s Facebook page too at

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, April 30, 2015

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A Belated Apology

When the terrible shock of Lincoln’s assassination first echoed forth on the morning of April 15, 1865, carrying the word to an as-yet unknowing world, friend and foe alike took pause to reflect upon the meaning of it all. One of the most interesting facets of such an historical moment is how it may tend to freeze, reveal, or reverse the true feelings of one person about another.  At such a time, much of note, from the abhorrent to the altruistic, may come to light.  Such was the case with the death of Lincoln.

After four years of intense conflict, the war had left virtually nothing untouched.  Emotions, already frayed in border communities, finally snapped in Maryland.  Nine days before the President’s death, the outspoken, and increasingly unpopular, Southern-leaning editor of Westminster’s Western Maryland Democrat, Joseph Shaw, had called upon “Providence” to relieve the country of its burden, to clear the way for Andrew Johnson.  After Booth struck, a mob destroyed Shaw’s newspaper press, and he was subsequently murdered by a group of five men, who beat, shot and stabbed him to death.  Given the larger mood of the country at the moment, it is perhaps unsurprising that while all five were later tried, they were acquitted of the charges.

Word of the President’s murder quickly spread “a thousand directions,” and by April 26th it was known across the Atlantic.

From the April 26, 1865, London Times

“The intelligence of the assassination of President Lincoln and of the attempt to assassinate Mr. Seward caused a most extraordinary sensation in the city yesterday. Towards noon the news became known, and it spread rapidly from mouth to mouth in all directions. At first many were incredulous as to the truth of the rumour, and some believed it to have been set afloat for purposes in connexion with the Stock-Exchange.”

The “excitement caused by the intelligence was manifest in the public streets, and the event was the theme of conversation everywhere.”  It was reported “there was no face in which grief was not depicted, no sentiment uttered but that of abhorrence at these foul crimes.”

up a tree

“Lincoln as A Treed Raccoon,” Feb. 11, 1862, during the Trent affair.

One English location, however, where the reaction to Lincoln’s death was hotly debated was the boardroom of Great Britain’s Punch magazine.  This publication, famous for searing editorials and scandalous cartoons depicting various political figures of the day, had paid special attention to “the war across the shore,” given the impact the American conflict had played on cotton imports, the Union blockade of the American coast and subsequent mill shut-downs in Britain, arms exports, the Trent affair, and other international matters generally.  While Punch took no favorites, delighting in satirizing the failures and foibles of both combatants, Mr. Lincoln had long been a particular target of the magazine’s editorial staff.

Now, with the American war all-but concluded, and the victorious Northern commander-in-chief struck down in such in a manner, a debate arose.  Should, and if so how, might Punch honor this fallen foreign leader who had often been their target?

One writer, Thomas Taylor, felt a public acknowledgement of his loss should be made.  At a dinner discussion for the upcoming May 6th issue, he read portions of a memorial that not only eulogized the slain President, but chastised Punch itself for having treated Lincoln the way it had during his career.


C. Shirley Brooks

The editor, Mark Lemon, listened as his senior writers fought out the battle before him, voicing opposition to Taylor’s view.  Another contributor and future Punch editor, C. Shirley Brooks, recorded the struggle this way later in his diary:

“Dined [at] Punch.  All there. Let out my views against some verses on Lincoln in which T.T. [Tom Taylor] had not only made P[unch] eat humble pie, but swallow dish and all.

Ultimately, however, when the shouting was all through, the decision was made that the May 6th issue of Punch would bear tributes to the man it once had actively mocked.  Two primary elements composed it: a striking editorial cartoon –


In this editorial cartoon from Punch’s May 6th edition, Lincoln’s recumbent corpse bears two mourning wreaths; the first from the still deeply-mourning Columbia (left,) while the somewhat-more detached Britannia places the second. To the right, a recently liberated slave also mourns.

…and Tom Taylor’s remarkable poem, entitled simply Abraham Lincoln, Foully Assassinated, April 14, 1865.

Composed of nineteen verses, it was both a paean to Lincoln the man and to the leader, as he had matured on the frontier and through the fiery furnace of four years of terrible national conflict. In this respect, it was not unusual.  What makes this work stand out, however, is what else Taylor put into the work – and what put some of his fellow writers so ill-at ease.  Apology does not come easily to political satirists.  But Taylor was insistent, and he won the day.  Lincoln had proven himself worthy, and had lost his life in the cause of his country.  Perhaps, just, once, Punch could do the right thing.  So before the body of the memorial poem truly commences, the poet clears his conscience (v. 1-5) –

You lay a wreath on murdered Lincoln’s
You, who, with mocking pencil, wont to

Broad for the self-complaisant British sneer,
His length of shambling limb, his furrowed

His gaunt, gnarled hands, his unkempt,
bristling hair,
His garb uncouth, his bearing ill at ease,
His lack of all we prize as debonair,
Of power or will to shine, of art to please;

You, whose smart pen backed up the
pencil’s laugh,
Judging each step as though the way were
Reckless, so it could point its paragraph
Of chief’s perplexity, or people’s pain, –

Beside this corpse, that bears for winding-
The Stars and Stripes he lived to rear anew,
Between the mourners at his head and feet,
Say, scurrile jester, is there room for you?

Yes, he had lived to shame me from my
To lame my pencil, and confute my pen;
To make me own this hind of Prince’s peer,
This rail-splitter a true-born king of men.

This self-condemnation was further accentuated by the praiseworthy tones struck in Taylor’s closing verses (v. 16 -19)

The words of mercy were upon his lips,
Forgiveness in his heart and on his pen,
When this vile murderer brought swift
To thoughts of peace on earth, good will to

The Old World and the New, from sea to
Utter one voice of sympathy and shame.
Sore heart, so stopped when it at last beat
Sad life, cut short just as its triumph came!

A deed accursed!  Strokes have been struck
By the assassin’s hand, wherof men doubt
If more of horror or disgrace they bore;
But thy foul crime, like Cain’s, stands darkly

Vile hand, that brandest murder on a strife,
Whate’er its grounds, stoutly and nobly
And with the martyr’s crown crownest a
With much to praise, little to be forgiven.

Tom Taylor

Thomas Taylor

So why, from the nest of Punch, this sudden need to conciliate?   What drove Thomas Taylor to fight so determinedly for the artistic expression to print these words?   For the present is always upon us, and a satirist’s work is never done. Surely there would soon be fresh personalities upon the horizon for the picking.

The answer, as it often does, perhaps lies in the small print.  While Taylor eventually aspired to a myriad of careers (as an art critic, biographer, professor of English at University College, London, and so forth,) one facet, and one moment of his life binds him inextricably to Abraham Lincoln.  You see, Taylor was also a playwright, with eventually one hundred or so works to his credit – and it was his creation, Our American Cousin, the President had gone to see that fateful night, and during which, had fallen “foully murdered.”  If you were Tom Taylor, then, how would you feel?

Ranger Bert Barnett

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How Not to Conduct a Reconnaissance: Capt. Samuel R. Johnston, July 2, 1863 – Part 2

This is the second installment of a two part series which examines the mystery and controversy surrounding the early morning reconnaissance of the Union position at Gettysburg conducted by Captain Samuel Johnston on July 2nd, 1863. Read the first part of this series here.


Several questions have arisen over the years concerning Johnston’s reconnaissance, not the least of which are where exactly he went and what he saw or did not see. It is this writer’s belief that Johnston did not get to Little Round Top as he claimed but instead was on the slopes of Big Round Top. There were also plenty of Federal troops in the area between the Round Tops and the Emmitsburg road for Johnston to have seen.

The U. S. Signal Corps had made several attempts on July 1 to establish communications between the Round Tops and Emmitsburg, Maryland. Due to atmospherics, this was not accomplished until 11:00 p.m., July 1. This line was “maintained during the subsequent battle.” There was thus a signal station on Little Round Top at the time of Johnston’s reconnaissance.

Brig. Gen. John Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division bivouacked on the Federal left on the evening of July 1. His main line was at or near the Peach Orchard. The 6th New York Cavalry bivouacked in the Peach Orchard, and the 3rd Indiana Cavalry bivouacked in “the woods (possibly Rose’s woods) near Round Top.” Battery A, 2nd U. S. Artillery under Lt. John H. Calef was also stationed near the Peach Orchard. Buford received orders at about 10:30 a.m. July 2, to withdraw to Taneytown, Maryland, and began to leave the area about an hour later.

Most of the 3rd Corps (about 7,000) had bivouacked in the area of the George Weikert farm along the southern extension of Cemetery Ridge. Brig. Gen. J. H. Hobart Ward’s brigade was southwest of the farm while Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Carr’s and Col. William R. Brewster’s brigades were located north and west of the farmhouse. This area was, and is, clearly visible from both Round Tops.

Captain Johnston claimed to have reached the summit of Little Round Top during his morning exploration. A Union signal station occupied the hill at that time. How did Johnston not notice their presence?

The 4th Maine Infantry was on picket duty during the night of July 1 in the fields west of the Emmitsburg road and was supported by the 63rd Pennsylvania lying in the Emmitsburg road. The 2nd Corps (about 11,000) had halted for the night about three miles from Gettysburg along the Taneytown road, or about one mile south of the Round Tops. They were ready to march by daylight of July 2 and first took position near the intersection of Granite Schoolhouse lane and the Taneytown road, about three-quarters of a mile south of Little Round Top. The head of the column should have been in this area by about 5:30 a.m. with the rest of the column on or near the road to the south.

Brig. Gen. John W. Geary, with two brigades (about 3,000) from his 2nd Division of the 12th Corps, had been sent to the area of the Round Tops late on the afternoon of July 1. Two regiments (5th Ohio and 147th Pennsylvania) were located on the north slope of Little Round Top. The 5th Ohio deployed “as skirmishers in our front across an open valley to a light strip of woods, and in front of that timber facing an open field” to help guard against a possible flank move by the Confederates. Geary was relieved by the 3rd Corps sometime between 5 am and 7 am of July 2.

Did fog in the valley below Little Round Top obscure Captain Johnston’s view of the true position of the Army of the Potomac?

While there was probably little or no dust because of the damp conditions of the previous days, fog was reported by at least one officer of the 3rd Corps. There was, however, no reason for the Federal troops to have remained quiet. A staff officer in the 3rd Corps wrote that at daylight the “clear notes of a single bugle broke upon the ear, and before its echoes had lost itself among the hills a dozen had taken up the call, and the drums added their sullen roll.” It is usually assumed that Johnston somehow missed seeing all these troops. But did he? Johnston never wrote that he had not seen any Federal troops. He wrote that when he arrived on Warfield Ridge with McLaws, there was a “force ready to oppose us.” Johnston may have seen Federal troops in the Peach Orchard area but not in any force, in his opinion, to stop a strong Confederate advance.


Did Captain Johnston actually reach the summit of Big Round Top, seen in the far distance in this Timothy O’Sullivan view?

From Johnston’s description, it seems that he started his reconnaissance from Lee’s Headquarters position along the Chambersburg Pike. Johnston may have accompanied Brig. Gen. William N. Pendleton, Chief of Artillery, who was making his own reconnaissance. They may have ridden together along Seminary Ridge until just past Spangler’s Woods. Johnston, trying to stay out of sight of Federal patrols, may have ridden on the reverse slope of Seminary Ridge and not been in position to directly observe the Peach Orchard area. He probably crossed the Emmitsburg Road further south than he thought, perhaps somewhere in the area of the Michael Bushman and John Slyder farms. He then went up the west slope of Big Round Top. An officer in the 118th Pennsylvania, who was on Big Round Top on July 3, reported, that like Johnston, he had “a commanding view” of the area. Johnston could then have travelled through part of the John Slyder farm and skirted Bushman Hill before re-crossing the Emmitsburg road in the area of Biesecker Woods. The Slyder Farm was the scene of Brig. Gen. Elon Farnsworth’s ill-fated charge on the afternoon of July 3. By this time Lee was no longer at the headquarters along the Chambersburg Pike but had moved to the area of Herr’s Ridge.

Lee was receiving reports from other sources besides Johnston’s. As stated, Gen. Pendleton reported that he “surveyed the enemy’s position toward some estimate of the ground and the best mode of attack.” Confederate officers, from the Point of Woods at Spangler’s Woods, could have seen the Federal 3rd Corps skirmish line on the west side of the Emmitsburg road and the Peach Orchard area before the road crossed the high ground at the Peach Orchard. They also saw the Federal signal station on Little Round Top. They could have seen the 2nd Corps moving into position along Cemetery Ridge and 3rd Corps troops moving up the Emmitsburg road. Brig. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw, commanding a brigade in Longstreet’s corps and stationed along Herr’s Ridge, wrote that he had a commanding view of the Alexander Currens farm along the Emmitsburg Road. Kershaw also observed a “large body of troops, with flankers out in our direction, passed over that point and joined the Federal army.” The Currens farm is approximately ½ mile south of the intersection of South Confederate Avenue and the Emmitsburg road. The report with the most impact, however, was that of Capt. Johnston.

Historian Douglas Southall Freeman felt that the Confederate reconnaissance was “inadequate” and that Johnston’s reconnaissance “was accurate, so far as he went.” Either Johnston got as far as Little Round Top or he did not. If he had been on Little Round Top it is hard to believe that he could have missed the Signal Corps station, part of Geary’s division, the 3rd Corps troops north of Little Round Top, troops along the Emmitsburg road, or heard the movement of the 2nd Corps along the Taneytown road. He appears to have failed to give Lee any detailed information about the terrain or the roads in the area of the attack. While Johnston stated that it was part of his duty to find a route over which troops could be moved unseen by the enemy, when he conducted Longstreet’s march he seems to have failed to have noticed that when the column crossed Bream’s hill they would be spotted by the signal station on Little Round Top. He then knew of no alternate route on which the troops could move. Johnston’s report was not accurate enough and should not have been the basis for a major attack.

Despite a less than stellar performance at Gettysburg, this does not seem to have affected Johnston’s post-Gettysburg career. An artillery officer remembered seeing Johnston on July 5 “looking for favorable ground in our rear to lay out a line of battle.” After the pontoon bridge had broken at Falling Waters during the retreat, Longstreet praised the work of Johnston and other who had “applied themselves diligently to the work of repairing the bridge.” Johnston was promoted to major on March 17, 1864 and to lieutenant colonel on September 15, 1864.

Karlton Smith, Park Ranger


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