Another Piece of the Puzzle on Cemetery Ridge

Moving the Battery F 5th US Artillery marker at Gettysburg National Military Park

Moving the Battery F 5th US Artillery marker at Gettysburg National Military Park

Yesterday, another piece of the puzzle was locked into place on Gettysburg’s Cemetery Ridge when National Park Service (NPS) staff moved the Battery F 5th U.S. Artillery monument back to the spot where it had originally been placed more than 100 years ago. In the early 1960s when Gettysburg National Military Park was preparing to build the Cyclorama building, the monument was moved. The spot where it had existed for more than fifty years would soon be covered in concrete.

About the monument: The monument represents the 116 men of Battery F, 5th United States Artillery who were led at Gettysburg by First Lieutenant Leonard Martin, a twenty-two year old West Point graduate. They brought six ten-pounder Parrott rifles to the battlefield and belonged to Col. Charles Thompson’s artillery brigade of the 6th Army Corps. On July 3rd,


following the repulse of Pickett’s Charge and the two-hour artillery bombardment that preceded it, the battery was ordered to limber up and report to the front. Around 4:00 p.m. the battery occupied a position in Ziegler’s Grove on the northern extension of Cemetery Ridge. They remained here as a reserve for the rest of the battle, not engaged and suffering no casualties. 10686766_10152722836952432_5278857524911311385_nBeginning in 1907 the United States War Department began marking the position of regiments and batteries belonging to the regular army. The granite marker indicating the position of Battery F, 5th US Artillery was placed during this time and is the battery’s only representation on the field.

One of the original goals of the park’s Museum and Visitor Center, which opened in 2008, was to return the center of the Union battle line on Cemetery Ridge to its appearance at the time of the fighting and to restore, preserve and protect historic and commemorative features where the two outdated buildings and their parking lots once stood. The other goals were to: take better care of the artifacts and archival collections of the park; ensure the long term preservation of the Cyclorama painting which was threatened by the conditions in which it had been displayed; and improve the museum experience for park visitors.

Demolition of the old Visitor Center in 2009.  NPS photo by Barb Adams.

Demolition of the old Visitor Center in 2009. NPS photo by Barb Adams.

Thanks to our partners at the Gettysburg Foundation we have continued to make steady progress. They have raised funds for and accomplished: the demolition of the old visitor center in 2009; the planting 41 apple trees to reestablish the Frey orchard (North) in 2010; and the demolition of the Cyclorama building in 2013, and the removal of the old Visitor Center parking lot in 2014.

Each one of these steps has helped to

Cyclorama building demolition in 2013.

Cyclorama building demolition in 2013.

reconnect the historic landscapes of the battlefield. By removing modern intrusions on NPS lands along the battle line of the Union army we have helped to reconnect the famous Union fishhook. As a result, we have improved the integrity of the battlefield landscapes and improved our visitors’ understanding of what happened at Gettysburg and why it’s so important. It doesn’t get more mission related than that for national parks… preserving the resources and improving public access and understanding.

There are a few more steps to come in this long project. The Gettysburg Foundation is now raising funds for changes to the National Cemetery parking lot which would allow the replanting of missing portions of Ziegler’s Grove, and rehabilitation of the historic terrain of Ziegler’s Ravine, a low point in Cemetery Ridge partly filled in to build the Cyclorama parking lot, which is now known as the National Cemetery parking lot.   This lot will be reduced in size to allow space to reestablish some of the missing terrain features as well as historic Hancock Avenue’s end at  Taneytown Road. In the meantime, in early 2015, volunteers and park staff will be rebuilding historic fences near the location of the old Visitor Center parking lot and along Steinwehr Avenue.

Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, September 25, 2014

Posted in Monuments at Gettysburg, Museum and Visitor Center | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Gettysburg in My Hometown: Lieut. Col. Taylor, 20th Indiana Infantry

The stories of the individuals involved in the battle of Gettysburg are profound. They are told and retold, written about again and again, and never cease to captivate audiences. Park visitors travel hundreds of miles, sometimes thousands, to be at Gettysburg so that they can stand and walk in the footsteps of those historical personalities. However, it is not always necessary to travel far to find a link to Gettysburg. Sometimes all you have to do is explore your own hometown.

Taylor Frockcoat

The frock coat of William Taylor. Image courtesy of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

Connections to the battle of Gettysburg and the people involved in that three day struggle may not be too far from where you are currently seated as you read this blog post. If you look close enough, you may find modern references to individuals who served at Gettysburg. Perhaps there is a school in your community named after a soldier who fought at Gettysburg, such as Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pennsylvania, which is named in honor of Col. Strong Vincent, who fell mortally wounded on Little Round Top on July 2. Maybe your county is named for a soldier who fought at Gettysburg, such as Sedgwick County in Kansas, named in honor of Maj. Gen. John Sedgwick, who commanded the Union Sixth Corps during the battle. Or maybe there is a cemetery near your home that serves as the final resting place for those who gave their lives at Gettysburg, such as Laurel Grove Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia, which was chosen as one of four locations to inter Confederate soldiers killed at Gettysburg. The list can go on and on. Today I would like to share a Gettysburg connection I made before I began working at Gettysburg National Military Park.

While a volunteer at the Tippecanoe County Historical Association located in Lafayette, Indiana, I was responsible for creating an exhibit of Civil War artifacts. Two of the artifacts I put on display were a Union officer’s frock coat and a carte-de-visite of the coat’s owner. Upon further examination, I discovered that the coat and CDV belonged to William Calvin Linton Taylor, a participant of the battle of Gettysburg. I was thrilled to find artifacts such as these – ones that belonged to a soldier who fought in one of the greatest battles of the American Civil War, and one that was possibly worn during that fight. There they were, right at my fingertips.

William C. L. Taylor was born in Lafayette, Indiana, on May 22, 1836, to John Taylor and Mary Ann Brown. John was a successful town merchant who “accumulated considerable property” before his death in 1865. Mary Ann was John’s second wife and passed away in 1847, when her son William was around 10 years old. John married a third time to a woman named Emma. By 1850 John and Emma were caring for eight children, Taylor being the second oldest.[1]

WCL Taylor

Image courtesy of the Tippecanoe County Historical Association.

William Taylor grew up along the banks of the Wabash River, not far from where the Battle of Tippecanoe was fought on November 7, 1811. He entered Indiana University at Bloomington, Indiana, when he was around 15 years old, and became a member of Phi Delta Theta in 1854. Taylor graduated with a Master of Arts in 1855, then studied law in the office of Orth & Stine in Lafayette and passed the bar the next year. From 1858 to 1859 Taylor was a common pleas prosecutor in Tippecanoe County.[2]

When the Civil War began Taylor, along with his older brother, Marshall, enlisted in the Union army. On July 21, 1861, the same day the Battle of Bull Run was being fought hundreds of miles away in Virginia, Taylor entered Company G, 20th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment as a private. The very next day he was commissioned a first lieutenant in that company. The regiment was mustered into Federal service on July 22, and then ordered to Cockeysville, Maryland, to guard the Northern Central Railroad. Marshall Taylor became captain of Company H, 10th Indiana Infantry, and saw service in the Western Theater of war.[3]

The 20th Indiana was ordered from Maryland to North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras in September, 1861, where it experienced hardships relating to military routine and coastal life. Taylor and the 20th Indiana went on to serve at various locations along the eastern seaboard until it was assigned to the Union Army of the Potomac on June 8, 1862, which was then confronting Confederate forces on the Virginia Peninsula. Taylor was promoted captain of Company G, his commission dating to November 20, 1861. He received another promotion on February 12, 1863 to serve as the 20th Indiana’s major, and was then commissioned lieutenant colonel on June 6, 1863.[4]

These Hoosiers served with the Army of the Potomac until October 18, 1864 when it and the 19th Indiana Infantry were consolidated and continued service as the 20th Indiana until July, 12, 1865. The 20th Indiana saw some of the worst the Civil War had to offer. The original enlistees and commissioned officers of the regiment participated in engagements on the Peninsula, at Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Overland Campaign, and the Siege of Petersburg.[5]

During the Gettysburg Campaign, the 20th Indiana was commanded by Col. John Wheeler and assigned to Brig. Gen. J. H. Hobart Ward’s Second Brigade, Maj. Gen. David B. Birney’s First Division, of Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles’ Third Corps. When Sickles made his fateful decision on July 2 to advance his corps west of the Union army, Wheeler and his approximately 400 men took up a position on Houck’s Ridge in George Rose’s Woods. Taylor, as lieutenant colonel, would have taken his position behind the left or right wing of the 20th Indiana so that he could lead and control that section of the regimental battle line.[6]


The regimental monument to the 20th Indiana Volunteers.

Col. Wheeler and Lieut. Col. Taylor were both mounted, which was unusual for a number of reasons. First, though majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels were authorized to have mounts, an officer’s movements would be obstructed while moving around on horseback through a wooded grove. Secondly, these officers had proven their bravery and skill on previous battlefields. They must have known the unnecessary risk they were taking by riding during the fight. Why not secure the horses to a tree or send them to the rear? We may never know. Wheeler and Taylor must have been inspiring to see as the shouts of men and the sporadic but ever increasing small-arms firing grew louder and louder along their front.

The approaching danger to the 20th Indiana’s front could not be mistaken. Union skirmishers were driven back by over 450 Confederate soldiers belonging to Col. Van H. Manning’s 3rd Arkansas Infantry and Lieut. Col. Phillip A. Work’s 1st Texas Infantry, approximately 420 strong. These regiments belonged to Brig. Gen. Jerome B. Robertson’s Brigade of Maj. Gen. John B. Hood’s Division, Lieut. Gen. James Longstreet’s First Corps.[7]

The moments leading up to the encounter between the Arkansans, Texans, and Indianans would have been tense. The Arkansans and Texans would have experienced some difficulty advancing through Rose Woods while maintaining their formation. Further disrupting their organization would have been the sporadic  fire from the Union skirmish line, which would have caused gaps to open in the 3rd Arkansas and 1st Texas, prompting Confederate officers to encourage their men to step up and guide on their flags. The Hoosiers would have been waiting as the woods before them came alive with the shouts and cheers of human voices. Lieut. Col. Taylor would have been seen riding up and down a portion of the 20th Indiana’s line, encouraging his men to stand firm. The sulphuric smell from the black powder would have infiltrated the noses of the combatants, sweat would have stung their eyes, and their mouths would have turned dry from their growing anxiety. At about 4:00 p.m.the terrible clash came.


Rose Woods, Gettysburg National Military Park, looking towards the position held by the 20th Indiana.

The 20th Indiana fought with the 99th Pennsylvania Infantry on its right and the 86th New York Infantry on its left. Gen. Ward ordered his right regiments “not to fire until they could plainly see the enemy” in their front. When the Confederates arrived at the proper distance, the Union line began its destructive work. Ward wrote that the first volley fired by his men “checked the enemy’s advance suddenly, which gave our men an opportunity to reload, when another volley was fired into them.” The intensity of the firepower surprised the Confederates and forced them into “much disorder,” thereby allowing the 99th, 20th, and 86th regiments to advance to what Lieut. Col. Taylor referred to as a “brow of a small hill,” about 75 yards in their front. This was only the beginning of a see-saw motion by the Northerners and Southerners for control over the disputed ground.[8]

The new line taken up by the 99th, 20th and 86th regiments was difficult to hold, especially after the 99th Pennsylvania was withdrawn from its position and sent to the brigade’s left flank at Devil’s Den. In order to address this new danger on the 20th Indiana’s right, two companies – B and H – both under the command of Capt. Charles A. Bell, were deployed to secure the gap. Bell’s line was able to shoot into the left flank of the 3rd Arkansas and cause even more chaos, but the two lines held firm as the men loaded and fired as quickly as they could. Confusion prevailed as the contending forces fired into the other’s lines, and men fell either killed or wounded, including Col. Manning, who fell wounded, and Col. Wheeler, who was struck in the head and killed instantly. Wheeler’s death placed Lieut. Col. Taylor in command of the regiment.[9]


The Wheeler Rock. Image courtesy of the Adams County Historical Society.


The Wheeler Rock in 2014.

The desperate struggle in Rose’s Woods was destroying both the 3rd Arkansas and 20th Indiana. Lieut. Col. Taylor continued leading his men and cooperating with the 86th New York to his left and the 17th Maine Infantry, which had gone into position on Taylor’s right. Taylor was near the men of Company I when he met the usual fate of officers who ride on horseback into a battle. Taylor, leaning over in his saddle and in pain, approached the captain of Company I, Erasmus C. Gilbreath, and called out, “Gil, you will have to take charge of the line as I am wounded.” Taylor, after an incalculable amount of time leading the 20th Indiana at Gettysburg, was now out of the fight. The command of this regiment, as with all regiments, was typically reserved for those with a rank of colonel. Due to gradual attrition in camp, on the march, and in battle, however, command now fell to a captain. Taylor exited the battle as the fight continued on, but did receive some recognition for his performance in the fight from his superior, Gen. Ward.[10]

The nature of Lieut. Col. Taylor’s wound is not known, but it must not have been critical for Taylor returned to his regiment and led it for the duration of the Gettysburg Campaign. The beating that the 20th Indiana received on July 2 on Houck’s Ridge was severe. The regiment suffered 152 casualties, of which 32 were killed outright. Capt. Gilbreath recalled that it was a “sorrowful little band” after their participation in the battle.[11]

William Taylor was promoted colonel of the 20th Indiana on July 3, 1863, and continued in that capacity until he was mustered out on October 5, 1864. He had risked his life to defend his nation, survived, and would have to carry the physical and psychological scars as he prepared to make the great transition back into civilian life.[12]

Col. Taylor returned to Indiana and began working as an attorney once more. By 1870 Taylor was married to Elizabeth “Lizzie” McPheeters, and the two had a three year old girl named Mary. In 1874 Taylor moved his family to Bloomington where he served as a city attorney. He and Lizzie had a second child in 1878, whom they named Joseph, and in 1881 resettled in Taylor’s hometown, Lafayette, where he would serve one term as a judge in the Tippecanoe Circuit Court. Taylor passed away on February 18, 1901, at the age of 64, and was buried in Greenbush Cemetery in Lafayette, Indiana.[13]

Encountering a carte-de-viste of William C. L. Taylor and his officer’s frock coat at my local historical society came as a great surprise. Placing these artifacts on exhibit for the community to see helped preserve Taylor’s memory, and to tell of his involvement in numerous battles and skirmishes, including the battle of Gettysburg. Though I was 600 miles from the battlefield, these artifacts made me feel connected to that hallowed ground.

What Gettysburg connections can you find in your hometown? Please share your photos on the park’s Tumblr page at

Casimer Rosiecki, Park Ranger

* Gettysburg National Military Park would like to thank the staff at the Adams County Historical Society and Tippecanoe County Historical Association for their photographic assistance in this post.

[1] Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe County, Indiana (Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1883), 452-454. Accessed August 16, 2014; 1860 United States Federal Census, Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, IN; family 1367, dwelling 1360, lines 1-16; June 23, 1860; National Archives Microfilm M-653, Roll 300; Accessed via on August 16, 2014.
[2] Biographical Record and Portrait Album of Tippecanoe County, Indiana (Chicago, IL: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1883), 452-454. Accessed August 16, 2014; 1850 United States Federal Census, 5th Ward, Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, IN; family 1361, dwelling 1361, lines 33-42/1-4; September 24, 1850; National Archives Microfilm M-432, Roll 175; Accessed via on August 16, 2014; Walter B. Palmer, The History of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity (Menasha, WI: Phi Delta Theta, 1906), 157. Accessed August 16, 2014; Richard P. DeHart, Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana (Indianapolis, IN: B. F. Bowen & Company, 1909), 165. Accessed August 21, 2014.
[3] William H. H. Terrell, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, Volume 2 (Indianapolis, IN: W. R. Holloway, 1865), 178-193. Accessed August 16, 2014; Ibid, 67-74. Accessed August 16, 2014.
[4] William H. H. Terrell, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, Volume 2 (Indianapolis, IN: W. R. Holloway, 1865), 178-193. Accessed August 16, 2014.
[5] William H. H. Terrell, Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana, Volume 2 (Indianapolis, IN: W. R. Holloway, 1865), 178-193. Accessed August 16, 2014.
[6] John W. Busey and David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg (Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1986), 245.
[7] John W. Busey and David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg (Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1986), 280.
[8] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889), Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1, 493; Ibid, 506.
[9] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889), Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1, 506.
[10] Recollections of Captain Erasmus C. Gilbreath, Drawer 2-2, Folder 6IN-20, GNMP Library; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889), Series 1, Volume 27, Part 1, 494.
[11] John W. Busey and David G. Martin, Regimental Strengths and Losses at Gettysburg (Hightstown, NJ: Longstreet House, 1986), 245; Recollections of Captain Erasmus C. Gilbreath, Drawer 2-2, Folder 6IN-20, GNMP Library.
[12] Bloomington Daily Telephone (Bloomington, IN), No date. Bloomington History – “Looking Back on Old Bloomington,” Folder 2, Monroe County (Indiana) Historical Society, A post-war newspaper article states that Taylor was “wounded several times” during the war and was wounded “seriously at Gettysburg and at the Battle of the Po.”
[13] 1870 United States Federal Census, 4th Ward, Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, IN; p. 60, family 58, dwelling 57, lines 1-4; June 20-26, 1870; National Archives  Microfilm M-593, Roll 362; Accessed via on August 16, 2014; 1880 United States Federal Census, Bloomington, Monroe County, IN; pp. 26-27, family 275, dwelling 241, lines 48-50/1-2; June 14, 1880; National Archives Microfilm M-1254299, Roll 299; Accessed via on August 16, 2014; “Indiana Obituary – Judge W. C. L. Taylor, Jurist and Civil War Veteran,” Indianapolis Journal (Indianapolis, IN), Feb. 19, 1901. Accessed August 16, 2014.
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The Enduring Might of Melody and Verse: Songs of Victory!

In our final post examining music inspired by the battle of Gettysburg, we have three songs about the Union victory: Gettysburg!, The Heroes of Gettysburg, and George Meade: The Hero of Gettysburg.


Sheet music for Gettysburg

Gettysburg! (Library of Congress)

Another song commemorating the Union victory at Gettysburg is Alfred Delaney’s 1863 composition, Gettysburg! The exuberant song celebrates in a taunting manner how the Southern army was bested at Gettysburg through seven whole verses!

  1. The boldest and the bloodiest raid
    The Southern Legions ever made,
    Was when their countless thousands strayed
    To Gettysburg!Laden with spoils upon each back,
    A wolf-like and ferocious pack,
    How few e’er found the homeward track
    From Gettysburg!
  1. Exultant with their bold career,
    And flushed and gay with goodly cheer,
    They rushed, with little thought of fear,
    To Gettysburg!But there they met upon the path
    The lion North inflamed with wrath,
    And roused for Liberty or Death
    At Gettysburg!
  1. On! As a mighty throng they came;
    On! Like a hurricane of flame,
    To conquer or to fly in shame,
    From Gettysburg!Horsemen and foot of all degrees,
    Of Southern hives and haunts the lees,
    They came, our Northern homes to seize,
    At Gettysburg!
  1. Fearful and bloody was the shock,
    A whirlwind battling ‘gainst a rock,
    And human life an empty mock
    At Gettysburg!Thousands on thousands fought and fell,
    And many a wild and fearful yell
    Rose o’er that fratricidal hell,
    At Gettysburg!
  1. Yes ‘twas a fierce and bloody fray,
    A glorious yet a gory day
    The dead in dread confusion lay
    At Gettysburg!
    On like an avalanche they came!
    The low in birth, the high in fame,
    The champions of a cause of shame
    At Gettysburg!
  1. But when the fearful strife was o’er
    And night and silence reigned once more
    At Gettysburg!
    And while it streams upon the air,
    Oh! Let no human heart despair,
    For God was surely with us there,
    At Gettysburg!
  1. And Waterloo itself shall fade,
    Before the nobler, mightier deed,
    The victory achieved by Meade,
    At Gettysburg!
    The lion conquered in his lair,
    The Braggart flying in despair,
    God help the souls that perished there,
    At Gettysburg!

The Heroes of Gettysburg

Heroes of Gettysburg

The Heroes of Gettysburg (Library of Congress)

Dedicated to the friends of the heroes who fell in the battle at Gettysburg, The Heroes of Gettysburg was composed by James A. Scott and Max J. Coble in 1864.  The song touts Gettysburg as holy ground, and urges all who come to Gettysburg to honor the sacrifices of the soldiers that fought and died here.

  1. From the bloody Rappahannock,
    Where in myriads lie!
    Whose who perished for the nation,
    That it might not die!
    Came our glorious patriot army,
    Once again to meet,
    Traitor hordes in shock of battle,
    And their hopes defeat.


Up!  Shake off thy slumber, Mighty nation, rise!
Marshal forth thy hosts for battle, Under Freedom’s skies.

  1. And they fought as those fight only,
    Who defend the right;
    Whom the cause of truth and justice
    Nerves with double might;
    ‘Till the foe, dismayed and beaten,
    Were compelled to yield,
    With their broken columns flying
    From the bloody field.


  1. And the spot is now immortal,
    Where our heroes died,
    ‘Mid the awful roar and carnage,
    Of the battle’s tide.Their dear memories in the nation,
    Never shall decay;
    It shall bear in fond remembrance,
    Gettysburg’s proud day.


Pause! The earth is holy
Where our heroes lie!
And the winds are ever whisp’ring
Of their victory.

  1. Blessed heroes! Here forever
    Rest ye from your toil.
    Now is o’er, “life’s fitful fever,”
    Trouble and turmoil;
    In the soil you died defending,
    Take you last, long sleep!
    While your loved ones o’er ye bending
    Bitter tears shall weep.


  1. O’er the earth your deeds are sounded,
    To its farthest part;
    And your battlefield is bounded
    By a nation’s heart!
    To the latest generations
    Shall your names go down,
    Clothed with Glory’s bright creations,
    Honors and renown.


  1. Here shall come to offer incense,
    Braves of every clime;
    And your tomb shall be a Mecca
    To the end of time.
    Oft in future song and story,
    Shall your deeds be told,
    With new pride until the heavens
    Be together rolled.


General Meade: The Hero of Gettysburg

Hero of Gettysburg score

The Hero of Gettysburg (Library of Congress)

Published on July 4, 1865, this piece honors the victor of the battle, George Gordon Meade.  In fact several of the songs from this series are dedicated to Meade, including Jenny Wade: The Heroine of Gettysburg, The Battle of Gettysburg, and Gettysburg!.  While history has not been kind to Meade, the citizens of the time knew who the victor of Gettysburg was.  To honor his deeds during the war, the song General Meade: The Hero of Gettysburg was composed, and set to the tune of “Hail to the Chief.”

AIR.— Hail to the Chief who in triumph advances.

  1. Hail to the chieftain who comes in his glory,
    With all his fresh laurels wreathed on his brow,
    Which tell to the nation the great thrilling story,
    How bravely he drove back the proud Southern foe.


When through the woodland shade,
And up the mountain glade,
Echo carried to the winds the loud martial strains,
And along the sounding shore,
Where Susquehanna’s waters pour,
Was heard the cannon’s dreadful roar,
From Gettysburg plains.

  1. He comes like a conqueror, with bright armor gleaming,
    Fair hands to greet him like white lillies wave;
    Long may the chief, on whom mild eyes are beaming,
    Live in the hearts of the fair and the brave.


He comes in his warrior pride,
Spread the tidings far and wide,
Let them resound through country and town,
Raise high the banners gay,
Spread flowers in his way,
And gather the choicest wreaths,
The hero to crown.

  1. Columbia, we honor thy noble commander,
    And give to the patriot the applause which is due;
    May we from thy shrine ne’er be tempted to wander,
    But ever give praise to the valiant and true.


Let shouts of welcome rise,
In loud exulting cries,
Let the nation’s chorus swell in boldest of strains,
And every passing breeze,
Which sweeps through the forest trees,
Tell of the victories,
Of Gettysburg plains.

Many popular songs came out of the American Civil War, but only a few were inspired by the battle of Gettysburg.  The next time you listen to a CD, mp3 player, or even a record, remember that music is powerful; as such, music is a powerful way to commemorate.  While there are many forms of commemoration at Gettysburg, monuments, markers and such, there are also musical tributes.  This form of remembrance…music…is something that we all can take joy in, both today, and during the American Civil War.

P.S.  Just for fun…two immensely entertaining if somewhat inaccurate modern musical tributes to the Battle of Gettysburg…showing even in our own modern generations Gettysburg continues to inspire musical composition…

The Brandos: Gettysburg

Iced Earth: Gettysburg (1863)

-Nate Hess
Gettysburg National Military Park

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The Enduring Might of Melody and Verse: Instrumental Pieces

We continue our look at music inspired by the Battle of Gettysburg, and today present two instrumental pieces: Pickett’s Charge March, and the Battle of Gettysburg.

Pickett' s Charge March

Pickett’s Charge March by John Prosinger (University of Virginia Library)


Pickett’s Charge March

While the Battle of Gettysburg was a defeat for the South, pride could still be taken in the bravery of Southern soldiers.  The following march was composed by John Prosinger of the Hollins Institute of Virginia sometime between 1863 and 1865; this song commemorates the bravery shown by those sections of the Army of Northern Virginia that made Pickett’s Charge.  Please note this is an instrumentalist piece.  All the music comes from instruments, and there are no verses.

Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg

The Battle of Gettysburg (Library of Congress)

Another instrumentalist piece commemorating the Battle at Gettysburg, in this case the Union victory, is the song Battle of Gettysburg composed by J.C. Beckel in 1863.  In the piece, Beckel tells the story of the battle through melody alone; once again, there are no words.  Even so, certain sections represent the various events of the battle.  In the sheet music, there are notations describing the various events that go along with the music.  Note the incorrect parts stating that general’s Darius N. Couch and William F. Smith attacked the Army of Northern Virginia from the rear, as well as a combined assault by the Union army.  The notations for the song are as follows:

  1. March of the Grand Army of the Potomac under Major General George Gordon Meade into Pennsylvania July 1st. 1863.
  2. The Rebels approaching under General Lee (cavalry advance).
  3. Halt.
  4. Attack on the 1st and 11th Corps and fall of General Reynolds.
  5. Genl Reynolds killed.
  6. Tremendous firing of the Rebels, answered by the Union forces.
  7. Shells flying.
  8. Retreat.
  9. Drums beating.
  10. The 3rd Corps advancing gallantly (music as if approaching in the distance, gradual cres.).
  11. Drums.
  12. The 5th & 6th Corps come up bravely to the tune of Yankee Doodle.
  13. Drums.
  14. The New York Volunteers and Pennsylvania Militia, under Genls Couch & Smith cross the Susquehanna and attack Lee in the rear.
  15. Grand combined attack of the whole Army under Genl Meade.
  16. Terrific Cannonading.
  17. The Rebels retreat, flying in all quarters.
  18. Cannon.
  19. Grand victory of Genl Meade.
  20. The old flag floats again over Gettysburg.
  21. Three grand hurrahs and a tiger.
  22. Cries of the wounded.
  23. The Rebel prisoners marching to Baltimore.
  24. Grand Finale. Star Spangled Banner.

In the next and final part of the series, we’ll be looking at “songs of victory.”

-Nate Hess
Gettysburg NMP

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The Enduring Might of Melody and Verse- Sentimental Songs of Gettysburg

Confederate commander Robert E. Lee has often been quoted as stating: “I don’t believe we can have an army without music.”  If he were to issue that statement again today, he might change it to: “I don’t think we can have a teenager without an iPod.”  Music utterly permeates our culture.  Individuals worldwide have access to the medium of music through mp3 downloads, internet streaming, and CD’s.  Music is used to express pleasure, pain, and everything in-between.  Different styles of music have told these tales throughout the decades: various varieties of pop, rock and roll, and jazz…yet even before these more modern genres the Civil War soldier used music as well.  Music gave soldiers a way to fight boredom, both in camp and on the march.  Music not only helped give orders in battle, but also sometimes assisted in rallying men.  Soldiers and civilians across both North and South expressed political opinions through music; they also took inspiration and solace in song, just as they do today.  Furthermore, song can be used to commemorate major world events.  The most famous American example of this might be our own national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the verses of which were inspired by the British attack on Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  Even so, there are other examples…and nothing seems to capture the American imagination quite like the Battle of Gettysburg.  The events surrounding the Battle of Gettysburg, fought for three days on July 1, 2, and 3 of 1863, leave a plethora of incidents to inspire song and verse.  Indeed, there will be several songs composed during the Civil War in the wake of America’s bloodiest battle, about America’s bloodiest battle.  The information and sheet music images for the following songs in this series of blog posts are drawn mostly from the Library of Congress; the information and image for the Pickett’s Charge March comes from the University of Virginia library.

The Children of the Battlefield

Children of the Battlefield

(Library of Congress)

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“The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter” Revisited, Part III

Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg

The body behind the sharpshooter’s “covert” with extraneous equipment placed in the scene by the photographers for better effect. (Library of Congress)

Can the uniform of the dead soldier in “The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg” provide us with additional details about his identity? Possibly, but understanding how Lee’s vast army was uniformed in the summer of 1863 is a challenge unique to itself.

By the spring of 1863, a majority of the soldiers in the “Army of Northern Virginia” were clothed in uniforms provided by their home states, shipped to the army from state-operated depots located in major southern cities. Georgia, for example, had clothing depots in Atlanta, Columbus and Athens where uniforms based on a state-adopted pattern were manufactured, gathered for inspection and shipment to Richmond where these items were then distributed to Georgia units serving in Lee’s army. When compared side by side to the uniform patterns adopted by other southern states such as North Carolina and Virginia, there were distinctive differences.  “Uniformity” of the army was anything but and without doubt, the variety of styles and intermittent issue of clothing were some of the primary reasons for the somewhat ragged appearance of southern ranks; that as well as the different material and dyes used for coats, jackets and trousers made from southern manufactured cloth or material imported from Europe. Even so, the logistical nightmare of getting clothing to Richmond warehouses followed by transport to the army caused countless shortages and more often than not, soldiers were forced to improvise by acquiring clothing through other means, primarily from sources directly at home, by purchase or even through theft. Though the old commutation system (towns and counties provided uniforms for their own volunteers) had failed by early 1862 in favor of the state depot system, home-made uniforms still came to the army through the kindness of ladies’ support groups, sewing circles, and individuals. As it turned out there was little on any Confederate uniform that identified its source other than a distinctive pattern or a state seal impressed on the buttons.

The individual in this photograph wears a skirted coat (commonly referred to as a frock coat) of a design often seen worn by troops from states where skirted coats were first adopted in 1861 as a state pattern- Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia troops come to mind. And though the typical short-waisted jacket was more common by the summer of 1863, contemporary photographs of Confederate soldiers from Tennessee and Texas reveal men from those states in skirted coats as late as 1864. Yet those examples appear to be a state-issue pattern and quite different from the coat on the Devil’s Den “sharpshooter”, which appears to be made of a coarse jean material with an uneven six button front, large exterior pocket on the left breast and unadorned collar and cuffs. Large exterior pockets similar to this example show up in photos of Confederates wearing battle shirts (a large overshirt, meant to be an exterior garment) and some early commutation jackets, but those examples slowly disappeared after a few month’s wear and it’s doubtful any could have existed in the Army of Northern Virginia’s ranks at this time of the war.

Uniform detail

Detail of the uniform coat with its large exterior breast pocket.  The black canvas bag at the shoulder is the deceased’s haversack. (Library of Congress)

A very good examination of this  soldier’s uniform has been previously offered at “Blue and Gray Marching”, a site hosted by James M. Schruefer specializing in study of army uniforms and logistics at and many others have also tried to analyze the coat and compare it with known examples. Mr. Ben Tart, who has a degree in textile history and many years of research into southern cloth and historic dyes, has likewise studied these photos and points out that the material composition of this soldier’s coat and trousers appear to be the typical jean cloth produced by southern mills- a wool mix on a cotton warp, the pattern having an effect of “dizziness” with its single direction of weave. Unfortunately, it is impossible to identify what mill produced this cloth or the region from which it possibly came since this style of weaving was common in numerous southern mills. Remindful of the early commutation days of supply for southern regiments, the coat is quite possibly one manufactured by the ladies of a small town, shipped with other coats of a similar pattern to the army quartermaster for eventual issue to Georgia soldiers serving in Virginia. Or could the uniform be one made specifically for the soldier who wears the garment? In either case, the coat’s details are certainly not typical when compared to uniform coats and jackets in photos of soldiers taken in 1863, including those that still cling to the bodies of dead southerners photographed elsewhere on the battlefield.

21st NC INF, Mast, p. 45

Cousins Nathan Gwynn and Alexander Chatham, 21st NC Infantry in 1861. (Mast, State Troops & Volunteers.)

Is this soldier’s coat truly a-typical? Maybe not. As Mr. Tart pointed out, a remarkably close match to it appears in a wartime photo of two cousins from Surrey County, North Carolina, published on page 45 in the excellent study by Greg Mast, State Troops & Volunteers, A Photographic Record of North Carolina’s Civil War Soldiers of North Carolina (NC Division of Archives & History, Raleigh, 1995). Cousins Nathan Gwynn and Alexander Chatham both served in Company H, 21st North Carolina Infantry and stand for the camera in uniforms that certainly do not fit any typical pattern of the style provided by the North Carolina state quartermaster, and are very similar to the coat on the body of the individual in Devil’s Den. The dress and equipment in the Gwynn and Chatham photo suggests it was taken sometime in the summer months of 1861- Chatham was elected 3rd lieutenant in September 1861 and Gwynnn was discharged that December. But could any coat like this have survived after two years of hard campaigning and wear? It’s possible, but given the conditions of average field wear, a uniform item such as this would exhibit a lot more discoloration and wear to the material’s finish than what is revealed in high resolution versions of the Gardner photographs.

So does this possibly identify the man as a North Carolinian? Doubtful, since there were no soldiers from North Carolina in Hood’s Division or in the battalion of sharpshooters that occupied this area of the field on July 2 and 3, 1863, and the uniform is not typical of North Carolina-issue clothing in 1863. As noted before, Devil’s Den was occupied by Georgians. Could this soldier have acquired this early, non-typical coat from a North Carolina soldier? Also doubtful, given that Georgia (like North Carolina and Virginia) was very successful at manufacturing and providing clothing to its native troops on the east coast throughout the conflict. Why would a Georgia soldier draw clothing from the North Carolina quartermaster’s stores?

Thomas Kitchen, 8th GA INF

Cpl. Thomas Kitchen, 8th Georgia Infantry, sits for his portrait in the Georgia state regulation uniform. (Library of Congress)

As discussed previously, this deceased soldier was most likely a member of a Georgia regiment, a state that in 1861 adopted “a single breasted frock coat of Georgia Cadet gray, with a skirt extending one half of the distance from the top of the hip to the bend of the knee,” as the official dress uniform for enlisted men. The early coat, seen here as worn by Corporal J. Thomas Kitchen, Company I, 8th Georgia Infantry (at left), indeed has some similarities in style and design to the uniform coat in question. In an effort to stretch the supply of material, the regulation was modified in 1862 or early 1863 and the short-waisted jacket adopted for enlisted men, but that first regulation coat evidently survived within companies of Georgia regiments as well as among some individuals. While the sharpshooter’s coat is not a 100 percent match, it does have some characteristics of the early Georgia regulation coat and unlike the common depot pattern jackets, was most likely produced by seamstresses in a small Georgia town, meant for one of the native sons from their area.  (For more on early North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia uniforms, visit the informative pages at

Little can be discerned from the trousers or additional clothing items other than being examples of Confederate-issue trousers and private purchase clothing (the shirt), though this individual’s shoes are not typical of the examples of Confederate shoes found on the battlefield that have survived in museum collections, including those at Gettysburg National Military Park. A well-known post-battle account written by Isaac Moorhead about his visit to the battlefield in October 1864, included his discovery of a skeleton in Devil’s Den and retrieval of one of the dead man’s shoes, “a ‘Georgia state shoe’ made from canvas, with leather tips and heel stiffeners.” (Isaac Moorhead, “A Visit to Gettysburg – October 1864”, GNMP Library) It’s unclear how Moorhead knew or could identify that relic shoe’s heraldry to Georgia. The state had 125 shoe and boot makers producing footwear for the state’s troops during the war, but any specific pattern in Georgia that substituted canvas for the leather top is unknown to this author. Moorhead’s discovery of the bones and shoe in 1864 was most likely not this individual. Our deceased soldier’s footwear is a low-quarter shoe with leather tops, more common to civilian attire than military.

Though nothing in particular about this man’s uniform can help identify the state from which he came, it does technically provide us with a possible clue when combined with other data gleaned from the Official Records and objects found in the series of photographs taken by Gardner and his associates. We rely on the course of battle action and subsequent events that occurred in the area where his body was first discovered and where casualties were incurred as late as the afternoon of July 3, 1863, when the 15th Georgia Infantry made a desperate race to extricate itself from the grasp of a substantial Union force.

Was this man a Georgia soldier? Most likely, yes. Was he member of the 15th Georgia Infantry? Again, the answer is most likely yes. Was the 15th Georgia Infantry uniformed in the same fashion as this soldier? Possibly, but photographic evidence outside of these images at Devil’s Den have not yet come to light. Will we ever know the true identity of this “sharpshooter” whose image in death is so closely identified with Devils’ Den and the Battle of Gettysburg? Probably not. His name, company and regiment were lost the moment his comrades raced away to safety on that warm July afternoon, leaving him on the field to the care of other men who only saw him as just another “dead Rebel”. His living record lost, only later would the riddle of his post-mortem service at the site where he fell and later as the primary subject of “the covert of a rebel sharpshooter”, (Gardner, Sketchbook, plate 41) be recognized by Frederick Ray and explained by William Frassanito.

Home of a Rebel Sharphooter, Gettysburg

A long time battlefield curiosity, the stone barricade where the “sharpshooter” was photographed stands today, though not in its original form. Re-built several times after the war, the stones were last cemented in place during the 1950’s.

Comparable to the subjects in other pitiful scenes of the dead photographed at Gettysburg, this young southerner had a name, unit and state affiliation. His family lived somewhere in Georgia, praying for his welfare and for a safe return home possibly on the same day and at the same hour these images were being preserved on glass, their son or father destined to become the dead sharpshooter in “The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter” at one of the deadliest sites on the Gettysburg battlefield- Devil’s Den.

Yet, did he ever sit for a likeness in some photographer’s studio or field camp and could that photo, with a faded name scribbled on the back or in the case that holds the glass, be hidden away, long forgotten in a box in someone’s attic or closet? The possibility of such a discovery keeps us searching and hopeful to finally answer the question, who was that young Rebel sharpshooter found by Alexander Gardner and his photographers in Devils’ Den so long ago?

John Heiser
Gettysburg National Military Park

Posted in 15th Georgia Infantry, Historical Memory, Photography, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

“The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter” Revisited, Part II

There are several points to consider in our attempt to identify the regiment to which the deceased “sharpshooter” belonged, which also tells the story of his death on this hillside at Devil’s Den. The first begins with the Confederate regiments that fought in this specific area- the 1st Texas followed by the 15th, 17th and 20th Georgia regiments passed through or were positioned here on July 2-3, and suffered casualties here. That leaves a wide choice of units though we can also narrow this to the regiments remaining here after the initial fight on July 2 when the area was occupied by General Benning’s brigade and the handful of sharpshooters attached to Hood’s Division sent here to do harm against the Union soldiers occupying Little Round Top. Those clues, as discussed in our last blog entry, come from the official reports and first-hand accounts from battle participants, favoring the final battle action at this location that involved the 15th Georgia Infantry.

Half of Gibson stereoview

One of several photos taken of the body where the photographers found it. In this view, discarded clothing has been thrown into the foreground to add more content to the scene. (Library of Congress)

More clues can be derived directly from the photographs taken by Gardner’s crew at the initial or original location of the body on the western slope of Devil’s Den. Reliant upon Bill Frassanito’s timeline as published in Journey in Time, and the action that occurred in this area on July 3, the initial series of four photographs were exposed where the soldier fell in battle. As previously noted, southern dead on this western side of the slope of Devil’s Den were carried away and buried by General George Benning’s men overnight of July 2, so it’s doubtful this man would have remained here uncared for if he had been a casualty on that day. Indeed, what appears to be the remains of a small campfire is no more than a foot or more above the deceased’s head, the small patch of white ashes prominent in the flattened grass surrounded by sticks and branches not used to feed the fire, giving weight to the idea that this area was one of brief refuge and safe enough to have at least had a small fire for preparing a meal. Few soldiers would have bothered to find some small comfort by a campfire with a dead comrade but a few inches away. Likewise what appears to be a discarded square bottle or flask, the round spout of the container obvious in the debris of the foreground, is another clue to what may have been consumed here and then the container tossed aside. Did this dark colored flask hold liquor, molasses, powders or was it a bottle of liniment taken from a nearby home?

Detail of the Sharpshooter's Last Sleep

Detail of O’Sullivan’s photo with the remains of the small campfire (white area), unused sticks, the bottle or flask, and wandering tin cup.  The discarded clothing item in the foreground will be shifted again for the Gibson stereoview image, shown at the top of this blog entry. (LOC)

Unlike the series of images of dead southerners taken by Gardner on the Rose Farm where the burial process had been interrupted, the body was not dragged into a row with others for a burial never completed or any attempt made to leave an identity with his remains. His clothes are in disarray, frantically pulled aside in his final minutes to locate the injury he suffered while most of his equipment and other belongings are strewn about him, indicating a hastiness displayed by his comrades in withdrawing from this area. With no time to do anything more for him, his fellow soldiers raced away from his side, leaving his corpse as the sole testament to the last fight that occurred at this location on July 3 when the 15th Georgia raced through this area in their fighting retreat.

Another clue as to the time of his death has to do with the level of decomposition that has occurred. The shattered, bloated bodies photographed on the Rose Farm and in the nearby “Slaughter Pen” exhibit all of the grotesque details of decomposition, accentuated by the warm, humid conditions of the area during and after the battle. The case of the Rose Farm dead has to do with the interrupted burial process on July 3 while the situation in the Slaughter Pen was markedly different. Southern troops who occupied the Pen area and the foot of Big Round Top were constantly exposed to the deadly accuracy of Union sharpshooters positioned around Little Round Top, making any movement outside the protection of boulders and trees an invitation to certain death. Concern for the dead in that area was outweighed by the conditions of battlefield survival, so the results of July 2’s battle action remained. The marked difference between those bodies and the lone soldier in Devil’s Den is obvious and does add some weight to the timeline of his death, twenty four hours after those men killed on the Rose Farm and in the Slaughter Pen.

Rose Farm image

Southern dead on the Rose Farm, probably photographed the same day as the Devil’s Den “sharpshooter”. (Library of Congress)

As Frassanito theorized, the physical condition of the dead soldier may have influenced Gardner and his team to take so much time photographing the initial scene followed by the relocation to the “sharpshooter’s covert” several yards away. But there was obviously something more about this setting that attracted Gardner and his men, possibly the loneliness of the soldier’s death site, isolated from the other locations where battle scars were so evident? There are evidently no other bodies scattered nearby on the hillside; otherwise Gardner would have also included them in his series of photographs. Union dead left behind from the fight on July 2 were buried by details of Union troops on July 4-5, leaving the southern dead for later work. Photos of Union graves near this area were not Gardner’s priority at Gettysburg when there were other opportunities to capture, such as this lone figure.  Gardner’s labors did, however, alter evidence as to when and where he fell in battle including the addition of items to the scene as each of the four photographs was taken here. Discarded clothing appears in the foreground of one of the Gibson stereoviews while these same items are not there in a second photo from the same camera position. Relocating the tin cup or an adjustment of the discarded rifle’s placement were simple attempts at artistic license.

Gardner photo of dead Confederate

The body from another angle. A discarded garment lying on a rock in the background will be moved by the photographers to the foreground for subsequent photos. (Library of Congress)

In all probability, it was a combination of things that made the scene so photographically interesting though it was not until the body had been moved uphill to the “sharpshooter’s covert” when the head was turned toward the camera that the youthful face of the dead man could be seen by the viewer did the body display something more than the loneliness of a battlefield death some 72 yards away. And again, additional personal and military items were added to the scene- a cartridge box, broken bayonet scabbard, a discarded knapsack under the man’s head; a combination of many things that would tell a different story to the viewer than just the sight of a bloated, abandoned corpse. Though it’s impossible to know what Gardner’s thoughts were at the time this series was taken, it was probably not long after when he realized the potential story he could fabricate that made “The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg” so romantically tragic and typical of many published sentiments of the Victorian period.

Was this man actually a “sharpshooter” as identified by Gardner? Since members of southern sharpshooter battalions were not uniformed differently from other infantrymen, there is nothing in this man’s dress to identify him specifically as a member of the small sharpshooter group that occupied this area during the second and third day of battle. Nor does the equipment scattered about him make his role in the army specific other than that of a volunteer infantryman. Likewise, the rifle, a US Model 1861 Springfield, a prop weapon carefully placed by the photographers for composition purposes, finishes the scene.  As we know now from memoirs and studies, the Springfield was not a favorite of southern sharpshooters who relied on a wider variety of specialized weapons, including imported rifles such as the highly valued Whitworth Rifle and this rifle had no personal connection to the dead soldier.

With nothing specific in any photograph to point to, we can conclude that his only specialty was that of a regular Confederate infantryman. It’s only the soldier accounts and post-battle guide books describing sharpshooting activities at Devils’ Den that identifies the deceased as a sharpshooter, the genesis of which came from the pen of Alexander Gardner. But is there more in this soldier’s uniform to tell us about who he was and perhaps where he came from? To be continued…

-John Heiser
Gettysburg National Military Park

Posted in 15th Georgia Infantry, Historical Memory, Photography, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

“The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter” Revisited, Part 1

One of the most iconic images of Gettysburg is the photograph of a deceased young Confederate soldier lying behind a stone barricade at Devil’s Den. This graphic image was first published in 1866 in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War, a collection of wartime images taken by Alexander Gardner and his team of photographers. Entitled “The Home of A Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg”, Gardner describes the melancholy scene as he discovered it with the young sharpshooter lying prone behind a stone barricade, and wondered in his narrative if thoughts of home and loved ones filled the young soldier’s mind as he perished.

1-home of Rebel Sharpshooter

“The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg” by Timothy O’Sullivan (Library of Congress)

There is more to this tale of course, but suffice it to say that we now understand the scene depicted in the photo was staged by the photographers and was not, as Gardner claimed in his narrative, to be a scene untouched since the end of the fighting a few days previous. The careful observer would have noticed that this rebel sharpshooter looked very similar- nay, identical to the corpse photographed in a rocky field on the previous page of the Sketch Book in a photo entitled “A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep”. Gardner’s explanation of the scene is just as fanciful and imaginative as the narrative is for “The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter,” but perhaps more misleading in using this photo to describe the role of sharpshooters not only at Gettysburg but on other battlefields as well.

2-Last Sleep

“A Sharpshooter’s Last Sleep”, one of the first photographs taken of the dead southerner where his body was discovered by Gardner and team. (Library of Congress)

Whether anyone in 1866 noticed the similarities of the body in these photos is undocumented, but for well over 90 years viewers took in these dramatic scenes and believed this individual to be two different soldiers. Then in October 1961, Frederick Ray, artist and illustrator of Civil War uniforms and subjects for Civil War Times Illustrated magazine, published a short article in which he highlighted the similarities of the deceased soldier photographed in two different locations, though offered no theory as to how or why this would have occurred. It was not until 1975 when historian and author William Frassanito took Ray’s article and further developed the story behind the sharpshooter’s home in Gettysburg, A Journey in Time, and again in his 1995 book, Early Photography at Gettysburg (Thomas Publications, Gettysburg, PA, 1995). Based on his knowledge of the 1863 battlefield photographs and area where Gardner’s team worked, Frassanito described the course taken by the photographers to set up the scene by transporting the body from the first site where the soldier fell to a position behind the stone barricade, a distance of some 72 yards, where two photographs were taken, the first by James Gibson with his stereoview camera (two lenses) followed by Timothy O’Sullivan with his single-lens camera. It is O-Sullivan’s sharply focused image most often reproduced in books and magazines.

But why would Gardner choose this particular corpse over the many others probably still scattered about the area for this staged scene? “Ironically,” Frassanito wrote, “one of the primary reasons for this fascination may well have been related to the fact that this body was not disfigured by bloating, thereby providing the cameramen with a more ‘life-like’ subject- or at least a subject that was less grotesque than most of the other bodies they had previously encountered on the field.” (Early Photography at Gettysburg, p. 271) As seen in the other images taken in this area of the battlefield on July 5 or 6, 1863, the unburied dead, exposed to the elements for a minimum of three to four days, were grotesque beyond description. Yet, the corpse found near the large boulders on the western slope of Devil’s Den did not exhibit such extreme disfigurement, so it was almost the perfect model to place behind the “sharpshooter’s covert” that Gardner considered to be “an ideal backdrop for this soldier”. The addition of discarded equipment and a US Springfield rifle made the photograph complete and, more importantly, believable; rather than a disfigured corpse it was a handsome young soldier asleep in death, the perfect tragedy as Gardner described it.

So what does this suggest for historians with little expertise on the science of forensic pathology? To me, it suggests this individual was killed in action much later than those poor souls who fell in the fighting that swept around the Den on July 2. In that case, what additional event occurred here to cause this young soldier’s death?


Henry Benning, photographed after the war. (Generals in Gray)

The site where the body was first photographed on the western slope of Devil’s Den was occupied by Henry “Rock” Benning’s Georgia brigade after the fighting had ended as evening fell on July 2. During a short span of three hours, the Den and surrounding ground was witness to some of the most savage and chaotic fighting of the battle. Scattered behind boulders at the western base of Big Round Top, the 2nd Georgia was ordered to sleep on their arms while the groans of wounded men lying beyond their reach filled the night. “(We) slept that night… at the foot of the mountain,” Lt. James Lewis wrote, “on ground that there was scarcely a place to lie down without touching a dead soldier.” (Memoir of 2nd Lt. James Ferrell Lewis, GNMP library) The 17th, 20th and 15th Georgia regiments occupied the bloody ground of Devil’s Den, massed in the pasture and rugged low ground on the west side of the ridge. Despite apparent exhaustion, details used the cover of darkness to remove wounded comrades and bury the southern dead. After passing through the danger of that day, Private William Fluker, Company D, 15th Georgia Infantry, remembered the night: “We began to realize that we were surrounded by death and suffering that no pen can picture. Our determination to destroy life had changed to sympathy and sorrow for the suffering ones about us. Men risked their lives crawling on the ground to carry water to their suffering foes. Other spent the night silently digging graves (for) comrades… a dear brother, a loved messmate or officer.”(Robert Willingham, Jr., No Jubilee, The Story of Confederate Wilkes, pp. 33-34.) Among those men involved in that sad task was Private William Ware of Company G, who buried his fallen brother Thomas under a willow tree, scribbling a short prayer in Thomas’s preserved diary as an epitaph. (Thomas Ware Diary, Southern Historical Society Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill). Accordingly, the dead were quickly buried in the woods near the western base of the ridge adjoining the J. Weikert (also known as Timbers) farm and on the nearby John Slyder Farm.

J. Weikert Farm

Fields owned by Philip Snyder on the west side of Devil’s Den where Benning’s regiments sheltered from Union sharpshooters on Little Round Top throughout July 3. (NPS photo)

By the morning of July 3, this western slope of Devil’s Den was one of the few safe areas for Benning’s Georgians where they could remain out of view of Union sharpshooters and cannon deployed on Little Round Top.  If anything, the site where the body was first discovered had been a place for the living to gather, to rest and find protective cover.

It was after the failure of Pickett’s Charge and Elon Farnsworth’s failed cavalry charge that afternoon when orders were received for Benning to withdraw his command with the rest of the division to a defensive line on Seminary Ridge. Yet, Benning had a dilemma- only a few minutes before the dispatch arrived, he had sent the 15th Georgia Infantry, under the command of Colonel David M. DuBose, into the Rose Farm woods on his left flank after receiving word that troops there had been withdrawn, leaving his left uncovered. Benning observed as Colonel DuBose march his men into the woods and reinforced his orders to DuBose by mounted courier- hold that position on the left flank. Now Benning had no recourse other than to begin withdrawing before he could recall the 15th Georgia.

15th Georgia on July 3

The 15th Georgia in Rose’s Woods, late afternoon of July 3, 1863. (NPS Staff)

Orders to return may have been sent but they never reached DuBose, who unknowingly was leading his men to a headlong collision with part of two Union brigades just then on a reconnaissance toward the Peach Orchard. Skirmishers spotted the southerners and one Union brigade quickly turned toward them, sweeping around the Georgians who were just then positioned near the top of the wooded ridge between Devil’s Den and the Wheatfield. An exasperated Colonel DuBose had only received additional orders from General Benning to hold the hill he then occupied, yet, “The enemy came up rapidly in heavy force, turning my left entirely and also advancing in front and moving upon my right in the space between my right and the… position where I had left the balance of the brigade.” (Official Records, Vol. 27, Part 2, p. 423) Faced with overwhelming odds, DuBose ordered his regiment to fall back to the relative safety of the brigade line where his fellow regiments could provide assistance. Unfortunately, DuBose arrived to find the brigade gone along with every other southerner who could offer anything to help with the colonel’s predicament.

Utilizing the stonewalls that divided the fields south of Rose Woods, the 15th Georgia first made a determined stand at the stonewall bordering the woods before retiring to other parallel walls and eventually to the relative safety of the woods on Warfield Ridge, the same woods from which they had begun the attack the day previous. During the course of the withdrawal, the regiment passed through the boulder-strewn hillside where barely a half-hour before they had enjoyed some shelter from Union guns, leaving behind prisoners, the wounded and the dead. Though the running fight was all but brief, the cost paid by the regiment was high. “How any of us escaped I do not see,” Du Bose plaintively added in his report followed by his casualty figures including 101 officers and men lost in the action on July 3. (OR, Vol. 27, Part 2, p. 424.) Though Benning somewhat downplayed this episode in his official report, he did heap praise on Colonel DuBose’s fighting abilities was apparently satisfied that only “about 80 or 90” men were lost considering that it could have easily been a disaster. (OR, Vol. 27, Part 2, p. 417)

Gibson stereoview 02-a

Gibson stereoview of the “sharpshooter” where Gardner and team discovered the body. (Library of Congress)

Two or three days later, Alexander Gardner and his photographers came upon Devil’s Den where they discovered near several large boulders, the body of a single soldier lying as he fell, his haversack slung across his body just as he had hung it over his shoulder on the day he was killed.  Unlike the grisly and horribly bloated corpses found nearby, this lone body exhibited only the first stages of deterioration, his features still youthful and only slightly distorted. Federal soldiers had already passed through gathering arms and burying their own dead, but the ground was still strewn with equipment and personal belongings, signs of a hasty retreat. None of the living standing there that day had any idea of what had occurred on the site, only that a great battle had been fought over this very rugged landscape and one body remained among the scattered refuse on the hillside.

Was this lone man one of the 15th Georgia’s casualties from July 3, 1863? We’ll take a closer look in a future blog post.

-John Heiser
Gettysburg National Military Park

Posted in 15th Georgia Infantry, Aftermath, Burials, Historical Memory, Photography | Tagged | 8 Comments

Decoding the Invasion: Part 2 – A Gettysburg Mystery Solved

Last week we highlighted a Gettysburg Campaign related letter found by our research intern Nick Welsh in the Pennsylvania State Archives. The letter, while intriguing, was completely unreadable as a result of the 151 year old cipher in which it was encoded. Wishing to solve this Gettysburg mystery, we turned the challenge of figuring out its contents over to the readers of this blog. A number of you responded with thoughts and suggestions, though we are most indebted to the expert sleuthing of Ranger and Law Enforcement Officer Maria Brady. Ranger Brady rose to the challenge and has humbly submitted the work below, proving that even old mysteries can be solved. 


Cipher 1

I love mysteries, puzzles, codes and ciphers. When I saw the blog post about the enciphered message Nicholas Welsh found, I was hooked. I had to find out what the message said, and I decided that knowing who the sender and receiver were would be a good starting point.

Sees Pension

A portion of Oliver W. Sees pension file, listing him as a former Chief of Transportation and an Aide de Camp.

I began by entering G. W. Baldwin from Baltimore, MD into, but that provided very little information. So I moved on to O. W. Sees in Pennsylvania and was rewarded with Oliver W. Sees, born about 1836, living in Harrisburg, PA in the 1860 United States Census. Occupation – telegraph operator.  That sounded like a good match. Further online investigation brought me to a transcribed entry from the Historical Review of Dauphin County, provided by the Dauphin County Genealogy Transcription Project for Major Oliver Washington Sees, born October 27, 1835 in Philadelphia, PA. Sees began working as a messenger in Harrisburg’s first magnetic telegraph office at the age of 12, and over the course of time became a proficient telegraph operator himself. So good was he at his job, that on December 23, 1861, PA Governor Andrew Curtin appointed him Chief of Telegraph for the state, with the rank of major. He was later named Chief of Transportation in addition to his telegraph duties. During the Gettysburg Campaign, Sees was appointed to the staff of Major General Darius Couch, in command of the Department of the Susquehanna, and stationed in Harrisburg, PA.

My research then led me to telegraphy in the Civil War, specifically the United States Military Telegraph Corps. While the name implies that this was a military operation, it was not. Civilian operators were assigned to armies and general staffs, but reported directly to the War Department, functioning outside the immediate authority of the military officers to whom tMIlitary Telegraphhey were assigned. The USMT strung telegraph lines and manned telegraph keys for the Union Army, with the main telegraph office located in the War Department. Numerous articles about the USMT referenced a book published in 1882 by W. R. Plum, a former telegrapher with the USMT, entitled The Military Telegraph During the Civil War in the United States, With an Exposition of Ancient and Modern Means of Communication, and of the Federal and Confederate Cipher Systems, of which I purchased a copy. In it, Plum mentions G. W. Baldwin, assigned in June of 1863 to General Schenck’s headquarters in Baltimore, MD. Baldwin had been involved with the USMT since at least June of 1861, and would serve until the end of the war, ending as one of the four primary cipher operators in the War Department office.


Anson Stager

At this point in the war, the USMT was sending messages using the Stager Cipher, developed by Anson Stager, Department Head of the USMT. Stager began his career as an apprentice printer, but when his employer switched from printing to telegraphy, Stager did as well, becoming the first General Superintendent of the consolidated Western Union Company in 1856. Once the Civil War broke out in 1861, Stager was requested by Ohio Governor William Dennison to devise a cipher that would protect telegraphic communications between Dennison and the Governors of Illinois and Indiana. Word of the cipher reached General George McClellan, who asked Stager to devise something similar for military communications. By December of 1861, Stager had been appointed general manager of military telegraph lines by the War Department, and one year later was named the Superintendent of all telegraph lines and offices.

The Cipher itself is based on writing the message in a matrix of varying sizes, and then assigning a route through the matrix that would comprise the transmitted message. Simple, right?

I thought I was ready to tackle the message itself. I wrote each word on a numbered index card so I could keep track of the routes I was using. Having found a number of routes on the Internet, and having the complete Cipher #9 as an appendix in Plum’s book, I thought it would be relatively easy. It was not.Not so fast. In addition to the route through the matrix, the messages also contained “key” words, which designated which Cipher was to be used for that message; “null” words, which were extraneous words thrown into the message to confuse anyone trying to decipher it; and “code” words or “arbitraries”, which were substituted for terms, people, and places deemed too sensitive to transmit in the clear. Over the course of the Civil War, ten different cipher groups were created, each one more complex than the last.

The next day I spoke with Nicholas about the message and found that he had a number of deciphered messages from the same record group at the State Archives. He provided me with copies of them in hopes that I could apply the “routes” from those messages to our mystery transmission. Looking at the dates, senders and recipients of the messages, one caught my eye: a message from General Meade to General Couch, dated June 30th.  Upon opening and reading this message, I realized that the words sounded very familiar to me. I knew I was on to something when I saw the word “physique”. Really, how many military telegrams were floating around in 1863 using that particular word?  I began comparing the solved message to the enciphered message and lo and behold, that was it.

The message is actually broken into five different ciphers, using the key words: Wise, Halleck, penny, Sibley, and guard. The code words are after, Francis, Mohawk, Ida and leghorn, which stand for General Couch, 11 AM, Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. In the transcription below, the key words are marked in orange, the null words in blue, and the code words in green.

Wise thirtieth in advancing hold between three my northern well speed day trains with force me brigades Chambersburg hill enemy Emmitsburg after water Taneytown I + the Cashtown their are + is all eleven the moving my between five + P the between for coal Francis position upon a Gettysburg to right central concentrated that this the tolerably the on cavalry pass enemy Westminster am June Halleck to in in Ewell to am July physique soft of without the the front good your local push is be + as I + number the definite whereabouts latter of spirits relief Cambridge the we the presume long positive will order men + of I you + or caps shall army to street information bear roads penny movements dispositions you I likely indicate + information the flag enemy we while as to am + of so pirate as enemy information to to prudent the during circumstances first engagement + the marches + ultimate hear of + [  ] far the get anxious lead most on receive as hunger of the day may most success from the his Sibley movement Susquehanna line to I or them do if otherwise should be of as may address my the the accumulated Mohawk communication know Frank you with like thrown the circumstances make cloth advisable require central me + Ida in hand are leghorn supplies to northern may most Blake or or on spies + Telegraph you guard Eckert Meade am enemy my the communications to house period the with Cavalry right from very major boats to G I the on by my dispatch B please general him of can crossing respectfully Gen’l apple sent George river keep enemy interrupted chief my miles communicate in are the you the signed have fifty.

Translated, this becomes (punctuation added for ease of reading):

Taneytown, June thirtieth, 11 AM, for General Couch. I am in position between Emmitsburg and Westminster advancing upon the enemy. The enemy hold (A P Hill) Cashtown pass between Gettysburg and Chambersburg. Their cavalry, three to five brigades, are on my right between me and the Northern Central. My force is tolerably well concentrated moving with all the speed that the trains, roads, and physique of the men will bear. I am without definite and positive information as to the whereabouts of Long Street and Ewell, the latter I presume to be in front of you. The army is in good spirits and we shall push to your relief or the engagement of the enemy as circumstances and the information we receive during the day and while on the marches may indicate as most prudent and most likely to lead to ultimate success. I am anxious to hear from you and get information of the disposition of the enemy and his movements so far as you know them. If you are in telegraph communication or otherwise with Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, I should like supplies and spies accumulated to be thrown to me on the line of the Northern Central of the Susquehanna as circumstances may require or my movement may make most advisable period. Please communicate my dispatch to the General in Chief. My communications with him are interrupted by the cavalry of the enemy on my right. Can you keep the enemy from crossing the river? I am, very respectfully, signed George G. Meade, Major General. Have sent to Eckert.

Eckert was Major Thomas Eckert, in charge of the War Department telegraph office.

My problems with solving the cipher stemmed from three areas. First, I had mis-transcribed about half a dozen words, two of which were key words, leaving me unsure as to where to split the message into its component parts. Second, the key words and code words in Cipher # 9 did not match up exactly with this particular message. Wise, for example, should have started a six column, nine row matrix, but actually started a 6×10 matrix. Third, I missed out on valuable clues on the handwritten copy of the message. The null words were all marked with an “x”, and the key words with a kind of loop. I was having too much fun playing with my index cards.

Cipher #9 was issued in January 1863, and used through February 1864, so it was possible that this message was using Cipher #9, but the number of differences is too great. While “Francis” does denote 11 AM, the remaining code words found in the message have very different meanings. For example, Ida would have been Abingdon, leghorn would have been Helena, and Mohawk would have been Newburn. As mentioned above, the key words are found in #9, but they do not denote the same matrices as #9. I do not have access to Ciphers #10 and #12, which would also have been in use at this time, so I cannot determine exactly which codebook was used.

Given enough time, I’m sure I could have cracked it on my own.

No, really, I could have.

– Maria Brady, Park Ranger

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“A Fighting Withdrawal” – Humphrey’s Division on July 2nd, 1863: A Gettysburg Battle Walk with Ranger Karlton Smith

The almost half a mile stretch of the Emmitsburg Road, where Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys and his five thousand Union soldiers were positioned on the afternoon of July 2nd, 1863, is one of the overlooked locations on the Gettysburg battlefield. Humphreys and his three brigades were attacked on the left flank by Mississippians under Confederate General William Barksdale, and along the front by elements of General Cadmus Wilcox and Colonel David Lang’s Floridians. The brutal fighting along that roadway, and the stubborn withdrawal of Humphrey’s men, cost over two thousands federal casualties and represented a stubborn resistance to the Confederate onslaught which tore across the southern portion of the battlefield that day. Follow along as Gettysburg National Military Park Ranger Karlton Smith explores the story of Andrew Humphreys, the men he commanded, and the trying ordeal they went through at Gettysburg on July 2nd, 1863.

Map 2 Humphreys Division


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